21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Eon. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to you, Mr. Speaker, in relation ‘to a decision which you gave in the House yesterday, in which you indicated :that, in the future, if any honorable member accused another honorable member of being under the influence of liquor, .the House would immediately decide that question. The point I should like you to clarify for me, at any rate, is whether that means that .a vote of the House will be taken immediately to decide the question, or that a debate will ensue on whether a member of this House is under die influence of liquor, or otherwise. Unless the question is to be decided by a vote of the House immediately after the accusation has been made, I can see a very grave danger of a nasty situation arising in the House, if we are to engage in a debate lasting for some time in order to decide whether Mr. “X” is drunk or not drunk. I hope it is not intended that any such decision shall be arrived at as a result of a debate, but that it will be made as a result of an immediate vote of the House.
– They are matters for the House to decide, and I do not deal with supposititious cases. Each case will bp dealt with as it arises.
– ‘Can the Minister for Labour and National Service say whether there has been any appreciable increase of costs incurred by overseas shipping companies since the last general freight increase was made in 1953, either in Australian ports, or by reason of other increased operating expenses?
– I am unable to give a complete answer at this point on that matter, but I shall have inquiries made, and ascertain the facts as far as I am able to do so, and let the honorable gentleman have an answer to his question as soon as I can. So far as Australian conditions are concerned, I am not aware of any substantial increases of costs that would appear to justify any increases of freight rates. The one matter over which the Government has direct control is the charge levied by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, and this charge was actually reduced from lid. an hour to 6d. an hour in May of last year. This was followed by a reduction of freight rates in respect of coastal vessels trading in .Australia, but no corresponding reduction was made by shipowners who operate vessels trading overseas. I should have thought that, before any increase of rates is contemplated, this industry, which, from my experience, is one of the most inefficiently conducted of all industries with which I have been in contact, might well examine what could be done internally in order to provide a more efficient and economic service for the people who use its services. The rate of industrial disputes on the waterfront, which has a bearing on freight rates, is approximately 30 times the rate that obtains in industry generally. Then there is the aspect of non-productive time, which is the time for which stevedores are available for labour but whose labour is not used effectively. I understand that some 26 per cent, of the time that the men are available is regarded as, or is, unproductive time. That is not entirely within the control of either the men or of management. But a not inconsiderable percentage, I believe, is within the control ‘of more efficient management. The people of this country, and certainly this Government, would hope that before there is any contemplation of increased freight rates a more energetic endeavour will be made by all sections of this industry to develop a more efficient and economical service.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is it a fact that any further increase of overseas shipping freights would undoubtedly seriously disadvantage Australian exporters in their attempts to retain their overseas markets, despite present high costs of production? If that is so, will the Minister immediately have an investigation made of the present shipping freights and inform the House whether any increase at all is justified ? If, as a result of that investigation, an increase is found not to be justified, will he make it quite clear to the overseas shipping interests that this Government will take all necessary steps to end any exploitation of Australian exporters by London shipping interests, whatever the necessary alternatives might be?
– I said yesterday - and on this matter I speak for the Government - that I regarded most seriously a suggestion by the shipowners that there should be an increase of shipping freights of the order of 10 per cent. I say without hesitation that such an additional impost, cumulative upon the difficulties of selling our goods overseas at present, would have quite serious implications for Australian export industries and for the Australian economy. [ and the department which I administer will interest ourselves fully, promptly and seriously in this matter. The statutory marketing boards which represent the important export industries of this country will, in their capacity as members of the Australian Overseas Transport Association, the body on which export interests negotiate with the shipping companies, make sure that there is conveyed very fully to the shipowners the point of view of the export interests in this country. They will be backed, supported and aided by the Government. As the honorable member has used the word “ exploitation “, I assure him, the House and the shipowners that this Government will not tolerate exploitation of Australian interests.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. In view of the statement of the chairman of the Overseas Shipping Representatives Association that shipping freights between England and Australia are likely to increase by 10 per cent, in the near future, will the Minister inform the House of tb.8 probable effect of this plundering move on Australian exports and markets overseas ?
– I cannot add anything, in reply to the honorable member’3 question, to the reply that I have already given to the honorable member for Yarra, the Deputy Leader of the AntiCommunist Labour party.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a supplementary question which relates to another aspect of the proposed increase in overseas shipping freights. In view of the Minister’s strongly expressed concern about this matter, I ask him, first, whether he has considered invoking the provisions of the Australian Industries Preservation Act to protect the Australian community against this unjustified proposed increase of freight rates by the overseas shipping combine; secondly, is it a fact that shipping companies operating from other countries are willing and able to carry cargoes of Aus tralian produce at lower charges and on more favorable terms generally than those that prevail at present?
– I have not considered the question of invoking the Australian Industries Preservation Act. My understanding is that that act would not apply where there exists a schedule of freight rates reached by negotiated agreement between Australian interests and the shipping companies. Up to the present time, freight rates, at least in respect of Australia’s major exports, have been the outcome of negotiated agreements between the British shipping interests, or the conference shipping lines, and the Australian exporting interests. I am certainly hopeful that the Australian exporters will continue to be able to approve freight rates by agreement in this manner. Until the basis on which the rates are fixed is altered, there will be no occasion to consider the matter raised in the first part of the honorable member’s question. 1 understand that some shipping firms charge freights that are somewhat lower than, or are not in all respects comparable with, the rates charged by the conference companies. I think it. is always permissible for a company that operate* in special circumstances to quote a rate different from that of the other companies, especially where it does not assume obligations that are assumed by the other firms. Let us not forget that shipowners, by agreement, frequently assume obligations to maintain timetables and a given schedule of visits to specified ports of call. A company whose vessels may come and go, not being bound by such commitments, may on occasion obviously be able to quote a lower freight when it does not provide an assured continuous service for Australian interests. Therefore, the two situations are not exactly comparable. However, I am sure that all of this is in the minds of the Australian exporting interests which will be negotiating in connexion with this matter, and it is most certainly in the minds of officials of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, who on occasions have interested themselves, in a most useful and effective manner, when freight rates have been under discussion.
– I ask the Treasurer, who is at the moment in charge of the House, whether the Government proposes to renew, in the very near future, its endeavours to sell the Commonwealth shipping line to the overseas shipping monopolists, in view of the announcement that those monopolists propose to increase overseas freight rates, or whether the Government will use its own vessels in the overseas trade in order to compete with overseas-owned vessels, so as to keep freight rates on goods to and from Australia at a lower level?
– The Government supports the principle of keen and just competition, but the honorable gentleman’s question involves a matter of policy. As he is aware, it is not customary to deal with policy in replies to questions.
– I ask a question of the Minister for External Affairs in relation to two vacancies which will occur on the United Nations Security Council later this year. Has the Government considered nominating Australia for one of these vacancies? Does the Minister not think that the occupation of a seat on the Security Council would gain some prestige for Australia, and be advantageous in view of our proximity to South-East Asia?
– This is a matter of policy on which I do not think it would be appropriate for me to make an offhand statement to the House. I appreciate the reasons behind the honorable member’s question, and, in due course, I shall make a statement to the House on the subject.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform the House of the progress that has been made with the proposal to provide, by building or by acquisition, accommodation for the registrar of social services at Newcastle? If building is contemplated, will the Minister discuss with the Department of
Works the provision of additional accommodation for other Commonwealth officers scattered throughout the city, some of whom occupy private office space, thus causing discomfort to business concerns which need additional space?
– It is the policy of the Australian Government to decentralize the activities of the Department of Social Services as quickly as possible. It is thought that such a policy will result in greater working efficiency in the department, and that the work of the department will be performed much more rapidly. Within the last week or so a block of land has been purchased at Newcastle on which a building will be erected for the Department of Social Services. I am sorry that the honorable member has asked the second question. It has taken me a long time to obtain approval for this building to be erected and to obtain a satisfactory piece of land. I am sorry to have to say that if I tried to expand the building to provide for other departments there would be further delay. Therefore, I cannot agree to the suggestion contained in thihonorable member’s second question.
– I address my question to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Is it a fact that most of Great Britain’s 50,000,000 people refuse to buy Australian eggs, tinned meats, soups, wines and cheese because of poor quality and unattractive packaging? Is the Minister aware of the findings of ten independent inquiry experts who have just completed a national survey on how Australian foodstuffs are received in Great Britain? In view of the serious nature of this report, what action does the Government contemplate to improve the sales of Australian foodstuffs in the United Kingdom?
– I cannot too strongly deprecate this practice of knocking Australian production, which has been indulged in by honorable members on the Labour benches. All honorable members should be willing to receive constructive criticism regarding the merchandizing of our products overseas, but the newspaper report upon which the honorable member’s question is based goes far beyond the ambit of fair criticism. It is a general belittling of Australian production as to its quality and packaging. It plays right into the hands of those who want to buy our products at cheaper prices. It does nothing but harm to the Australian economy and Australian producers. The truth is that the products which go from Australia to the United Kingdom for sale are the same as those which we eat here. We are proud to boast that Australia is one of the best-fed countries in the world. Our butter that goes to Great Britain is the same as we eat here ; we send the same eggs, the same cheese, the same meat, the same canned fruit and dried fruit as we eat here. We are proud of our products here-
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order !
– In these difficult times such a joining of Labour supporters and a great Melbourne newspaper in deprecating the quality of Australian products does not serve the national interest.
– I ask the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture whether he will now answer the question that was asked of him by the honorable member for Hume and, if not, whether this is an indication that he cannot do so.
– I thought I had replied adequately to this. Labour representative of a country constituency who has brought into this Parliament the propaganda of an English-owned newspaper whose purchase from the Australian owners the Deputy -Leader of the Opposition has boasted that he arranged. We are passing through difficult days in the sale of our Australian products overseas. The interests of United Kingdom consumers were catered for by Australian Governments at a time when it suited that country to buy our commodities in bulk. Bulk purchase is not conducive to concentration on quality. I have in mind, for example, the sale of butter and cheese. Having rationed ourselves for butter and cheese in the interests of English consumers when we had’ quanti ties far surplus to our own requirements it seems to us poor thanks for an Englishowned Australian newspaper to publish on the front page the alleged comment of an English housewife that she has never heard of Australian butter and on principle would not buy a pound of it. It is poor thanks to the Australian Government for what it has done and poor thanks to the Australian producers that a country Labour representative should bring this matter before the National Parliament.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether, as has been suggested on various occasions, the living and office accommodation provided for Australian diplomatic missions in South-East Asia if inconsistent with the dignity of this country ?
– I am afraid there is a certain amount of truth in these charges. Accommodation for our diplomatic personnel is in many cases far short of what I should like. It is a very difficult matter and accommodation of the kind that we need is hard to come by. Such houses as are suitable are expensive either to lease or to buy. I am giving the matter a great deal of attention at the moment. The number of officers that we have had to accommodate in South-East Asia has doubled in the last five years. The department is soon to establish small posts in Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpor, and I expect that before the end of the year there will be at least another Australian consulate in. the area. All of this will add to our problems and to our costs. I should like very much to see more dignified accommodation provided in a great many places in South-East Asia. I believe the Government supports me in this, and am hopeful that before the end of the year it can be done.
– Has. the Minister for Immigration received any advice about when immigrants, recently selected under the immigration laws for sugar-cane harvesting in Queensland, will arrive in this country. ? Does he know how many immigrants were selected for this purpose? Were the selections made in conjunction with representatives of the Australian sugar industry?
– I think the House is aware that the Government, after discussions with representatives of the sugar industry, arranged for representatives of the industry to go overseas and, in co-operation with our own selection officers, select suitable cane cutting workers in Europe. We have arranged that the people selected for this purpose shall be disembarked at ports in north Queensland. I am unable to say offhand the dates on which the ships will arrive, but I shall obtain that information for the honorable gentleman. To the best of my knowledge, the selection process has gone ahead quite satisfactorily. I have been assured that the representatives of the sugar industry are quite happy about the calibre of the people they have selected for this work.
– Will the Minister for Immigration give consideration to the repeal of sub-section (1.) of section 13A of the Immigration Act, which places the onus on shipping companies and airlines to maintain, and return to the country of origin, any immigrant who, subsequent to his or her arrival in Australia, may be declared to be an undesirable immigrant and be deported? As all immigrants are required to pass a vetting committee, which consists of officers of the Department of Immigration, prior to their departure for Australia from an overseas country, does not the Minister consider that the responsibility for their maintenance and return ought more properly to lie with, his department?
– I am not prepared to give, at this point, the assurance for which the honorable member has asked. It is, obviously, a matter which would require very careful consideration. However, I shall obtain for him a statement indicating the reasons behind the policy which obtains’, at present, which may clarify the matter in his own mind.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether; it is- a fact that a well-known overseas criminal, who has recently been refused permission to enter Australia, has made a further application to land and has expressed his confidence of success? Can the Minister assure the House that he has the powers necessary to prevent this undesirable visitor from landing in Australia?
– I have no knowledge of any application along the lines mentioned by the honorable member. The action taken against the person, or persons, concerned has been taken under powers conferred by the Parliament which the Minister for Immigration must exercise. It is not merely a matter of discretion on my part, as Minister, that is involved, but a requirement of a statute which has been passed by the Parliament.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth intends to hand over the Lady Gowrie pre-school centres in the States to State instrumentalities. If that is so, will the Minister indicate to the House the reasons for the proposed transfer ? Will he also give consideration to the representations made on the matter by the Tasmanian Pre-schools Council, which has expressed itself as opposed to the transfer?
– About seventeen or eighteen years ago, I brought the Lady Gowrie kindergarten institutions into being. It had been suggested that if we established a kindergarten institution in each capital city, that would set an example for other cities and towns in the States. It was hoped that the States themselves would establish similar institutions. That has occurred. TheCommonwealth has continued to support the seven institutions that it established originally, and it has no intention not to continue to do so. However, if theStates want to accept the responsibility for the institutions, we should be quite ready to let them do so. I know that, in my own town of Grafton, a kindergarten centre has been established1 by the State that is about twice as good as any of the centres we were able to establish seventeen or eighteen, years ago.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether it is a fact that stoppages on Australian wharfs have not only added to the cost of goods in this country, but have also made it difficult for Australian exporters to secure and hold business, particularly in the case of flour-millers? Is there evidence of out-of-date wharfs and equipment, and are organizations such as the Maritime Services Board of New South Wales responsible in any way for this situation? If not, who is responsible for it? What is the position in States other than New South Wales, and can any steps be taken by the Australian Government to remedy the situation?
– As I believe I indicated previously, the unduly high incidence of industrial trouble on the wharfs has contributed to higher freight costs both around our coast and overseas. I repeat that the incidence of industrial trouble, or the number of days lost per man through industrial trouble on the wharfs, amounts to 30 times the number of days lost in the rest of Australian industry. That is a matter for which all sections of the industry must accept some share of responsibility. The equipment and facilities on the wharfs is a matter in which we have interested ourselves to some extent as a government, and I believe that most honorable members will recall that Mr. Basten dealt with that matter in the report that he furnished to the Government; but action in connexion with it lies almost entirely in the hands of the State instrumentalities which administer wharf facilities, or, in some relatively few instances, with shipowners or warehouse operators who have their own private wharfs. We have been able to render some assistance by the provision of amenities through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board, and through the provision of equipment under the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, but the modernization of wharf facilities is largely under the control of the State governments and of the instrumentalities that they administer.
– My question to the Minister for Social Services relates to the purchase of land and the erection of a building at Newcastle for the Department of Social Services. Will the establishment of that office at Newcastle entail the placing of a regional director of social services at Newcastle, and, if so, will that officer be responsible for administering the area north of the Hawkesbury River?
– I believe the erection of that building envisages the establishment of a regional director at Newcastle, but I am not certain about the actual area for which the regional director will be responsible. I know that the honorable member for Robertson has been keenly interested in this matter for the last two years, and therefore I shall ask the Department of Social Services to prepare a full reply for him so that he and his constituents may be informed about the matter.
– I direct to the Minister for Social Services a question which refers to a statement by him that pensioners who do not own their own. homes can, in certain circumstances, have a certain amount of their fluid assets considered to be not subject to the application of the means test if they satisfy the Department of Social Services that they intend to utilize such assets for the purchase of a home. I desire to know what steps are required to be followed by an applicant to prove to the department his or her intention to purchase a home, and also what documentary proof is required to be produced. I also wish to know whether there is a time limit within which the applicant must fulfil the promise to buy a home.
– I have no recollection of having made re-statement exactly mentioned by the honorable member in his question. However, as he is usually very accurate in these matters, I shall have to check my recollection with his, and obtain a precise answer for him. If the honorable member’s statement is accurate, I think the proper procedure for the applicant would be to approach the local director of social services in his own town and ask for the necessary forms. I am quite sure that, in this matter of delicate administration, that officer would be able to do a little more on the spot than I can do at the moment.
– Has the Minister for Social Services received any evidence to support allegations that some charitable institutions for aged people, which benefit under recent Commonwealth legislation, are making the grant of accommodation to aged people contingent on the prior donation by aged people of substantial sums to the institutions concerned ? Is he having those allegations investigated to establish either their truth or falsity? Will he make an announcement on the matter as early as possible?
– I have received two complaints that one organization which receives Commonwealth benefits requires three years’ rent to be paid in advance before a person may enter an aged person’s home. I have not as yet had an opportunity to check the facts, but they are being checked, and I shall take the proper action when I receive advice from the department. On the second matter raised by the honorable “member, I have received some information that a capital sum must be paid, but, again, that is a recent matter, and I have not yet been able to check it.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the House of tho progress made in providing homes for aged people under the provisions of the legislation for the giving of financial assistance from Commonwealth sources in the establishment of such homes?
– The scheme is developing in accordance with the highest expectations of the Government. It is with pleasure that I am able to state that many elderly people who previously were not able to obtain accommodation in such homes are now being provided with accommodation. I had intended to issue a press statement on this matter during the next few days. The asking of this question by the honorable member will cause me to hasten the preparation of that statement. Up to the present, the Government has agreed to pay £600.000 to churches and charitable organizations for the provision of homes for aged people. I think that, by the end of this week, approximately £150,000 will have actually been paid. Of course, that amount will increase daily. The number of elderly people who will receive accommodation is well over 1,000. As I have already stated in relation to the amount of money that has already been paid, the accommodation figures are not static, and the number of those who will receive accommodation will increase daily. I should like to add, for the benefit of the honorable member, that the Government is satisfied with the development of the scheme, and that many elderly people are finding security and contentment for the first time for many years.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral when a start will be made to erect a building at Nyngan to house trunk telephone line equipment, which is needed to improve the very unsatisfactory trunk telephone service in the west of Now South Wales.
– That matter is in hand, and will be proceeded with as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Having regard to the fact that the Commonwealth Statistician predicts that the Government will spend £50,000,000 less on defence than was estimated for the current financial year, will the right honorable gentleman consider contributing towards the capital expenditure involved in the establishment of a new order for mental health throughout Australia on a £l-for-£l basis instead of on the basis of £1 for every £2? Is the Treasurer aware that such a contribution would cost the Government £15,000,000 instead of £10,000,000, which represents an increase of merely £5,000,000 on the figure to which reference has already been made?
– The Government’s policy in relation to this matter has been disclosed unequivocally, and the Government will stand by it.
– ‘Can the Minister for External Affairs assure the House that all possible steps are being taken, through >ur diplomatic representatives in the free countries of South-East Asia, to publicize throughout those countries the fact that we, in Australia, desire to live in peace and friendship with them, and to i-.o-operate with and help them in every possible way?
– I believe those very necessary and desirable assurances are being promulgated in the countries of South Asia and South-East Asia. Such assurances are being given in a very material way through the implementing of the Colombo plan. All of our diplomatic posts have been instructed to make our views known at regular intervals to the countries to which they are accredited. During the next relatively few months, we shall be appointing at least two public relations officers to posts in South Asia and South-East Asia. Moreover, through Radio Australia, the voice of this country is reaching South Asia and South-East Asia in :a number of languages. Of course, the task is never completed. The business of informing the minds of a very large number of people is a difficult one. I appreciate the honorable gentleman’s question, and I can assure him that everything that it is possible to do is being done. If there should occur to his mind any directions in which he thinks we are not already discharging this responsibility, I should welcome any proposals he may care to offer.
– Can the Minister for Health give the House any particulars in relation to the recent outbreak of encephalitis in the .Northern Territory, as a result of which two native children lost their lives? “Will he inform the House of any steps “that have been taken to ensure that the outbreak will be confined to the particular locality and not allowed to spread .to other parts of the Northern Territory .and the southern States?
– In order to give a completely accurate and full account of the outbreak, I shall answer the question to-morrow.
– My question idirected to the Minister for Territories. Last week, I asked the honorable gentleman a question in relation to the estimated quality and quantity of phosphatic rock for the manufacture of superphosphate that was available on Christmas Island, in view of the probability of an increased demand by the United Kingdom from resources at Nauru and Ocean Island, which would eventually mean a reduction in th, quantity of rock available to Australia and New Zealand from these sources. Is the Minister now in a position to answer this question?
– I have been able to obtain the figures for which the honorable member has asked. When the leases at Christmas Island were purchased in 1948, it was calculated, in a fairly exact manner, that there were approximately 25,000,000 tons of phosphatic rock there. It is possible that improved methods of treatment may lead to the recovery of material that was previously discarded because of impurities, and this circumstance might add between 12,000,000 tons and 15,000,000 tons to the reserve figure. Taking into account the fact that since the working of the deposits began in 1949 the output has been about 1,800,000 tons, we may estimate the probable reserve at between 25,000,000 tons and 38,000,000 tons. As I assured the honorable member when he asked the question previously, the Government is taking action immediately, in respect of both the search for alternative sources of supply and the control of the rate of consumption of the existing supplies, in order to ensure that no long-term disadvantage shall be suffered by Australian purchasers.
Mr. -GALVIN. - I direct a question to the Minister for .Health respecting the Governments proposed subsidy of £10,000,000 to the States for expenditure in relation to mental health. In view of the fact that the Liberal Premier of South Australia has conveyed to the Prime Minister his view that the proposed subsidy is totally inadequate, and would not in any way alleviate the present position, and also in view of the further fact that the Government will not listen to Labour party proposals on the matter, Will the Minister consider the proposition made by the South Australian Premier that the same consideration be given to mental patients as is afforded to sufferers from physical ailments?
– I am not quite sure what the honorable member means by the “ same consideration “. If he has taken the trouble to read the report he will see that the State mental organiaztions are not paying the mme attention to mental cases as is paid to people who suffer from physical ailments, because there are most ghastly stories of people being overcrowded in mental institutions to a degree worse than the overcrowding of cattle in trains when they are being taken to the stock market. That has been a condition of affairs for which the States have the sole constitutional responsibility. During the last five and a half years, since this Government has been in office, the States have had no less than £600,000,000 in loan moneys which would have enabled them to give the .necessary priority to alleviation of the position in mental hospitals, which is an intolerable scandal in this country.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether it is a fact that a scientist of that organization has invented an improved spectroscope which has wide scientific and industrial application. Will this new development assist research work in our basic industries? I also wish to know whether its modification was undertaken as official work by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, or was undertaken by the scientist in a private capacity? Is it correct that royalties are now being paid to Australia by a manufacturer of scientific instruments in the United States of America for the incorporation of this modification in equipment produced by that manufacturer ?
– I am interested that the honorable member should know about this development. It is true that an improved spectroscope has been invented by a Mr. Walsh, who is a scientist in the Industrial Chemistry Division of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. That officer made this development in his official capacity, and not in his private capacity. It is believed, in fact it can be said now, that it has been proven that this improved spectroscope will be of wide application both in scientific laboratories and in industry, and. perhaps, in particular, in connexion with public health. Speaking from memory, two or three of these instruments are already in use in Australia and an increased number of them will be in use in the coming twelve months. About 200 of them are in use in other parts of the world, largely in the United States of America. Their applications vary from matters which will certainly be of assistance to primary production and secondary production to matters connected with public health, especially in the investigation of blood. It is true that royalties have been received. The royalties rous; by now be approaching A figure of 40,000 dollars from the United States alone. Certainly, there will be further royalties accruing from Mr. Walsh’s invention. One can say with truth that Mr. Walsh’s invention has been a notable contribution to Australian science and to world science, and it has added appreciably to the prestige of Australian scientific research.
– by leave - As I promised the House last week I am making a statement on the situation in Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia.
In the conflict between the National Government of South Viet Nam under Mr. Ngo dinh Diem and the political groups in active opposition to him, the first military phase is over. The Diem Government resisted the challenge to its authority by the Binh Xuyen sect by ordering the National Army to drive the Binh Xuyen forces out of their strongholds in the Saigon area. The actual lighting took place principally in the southern suburbs of Saigon, where there vas considerable loss of life and damage r,o property. The Binh Xuyen forces have now been pushed out of the city.
The Binh Xuyen is one of three sects, which, although they have some religious oasis, as the name implies, are essentially associations of political interests controlling extensive areas of territory.
The Binh Xuyen sect, like the other two sects, the Cao Dai and the Hoa Hao, has <i private army formed primarily to serve the personal interests of its leaders. The Binh Xuyen had been given control of she security services and police in the Saigon area by the chief of state, Bao Dai, shortly before he left for France last year.
The immediate causes of the Binh Xuyen revolt were these: This sect, in common with the other two sects, resented the Prime Minister’s efforts to incorporate its private forces into the National Army. Like the other sects, it greatly resented the cutting off of the privileges and the subsidies and supplies of arms which they had previously received from the French. Thirdly, the Binh Xuyen objected strongly when the National Government clamped down on their former revenue from gambling concessions and similar activities.
When the fighting flared up again at the >jnd of last month, Bao Dai, who is at present in France, intervened by ordering that the National Army should be removed from the command of the chief of staff and placed under the command of his own nominee. Bao Dai’s nominee was, however, forced to leave Saigon by a “ revolutionary committee “. The army as a whole remained loyal to Mr. Diem and continued to obey the orders of the chief of staff whom he had appointed.
This revolutionary committee, which later declared the deposition of Bao Dai, consists mostly of persons who had not previously been prominent in Vietnamese politics. One or two of its members have had some association with the Communist Viet Minh in the past, but claim now to have renounced communism and to be genuine nationalists. The role of the revolutionary committee in the present situation and its relation to the government is still not clear.
As I see it, there are three main dangers in the present situation. The first is that the Binh Xuyen who have escaped from Saigon might endeavour to get the other two sects to join them in a further challenge to the National Government’s authority. This could mean a civil war. The second danger is that the French expeditionary force, which still consists of some tens of thousands of troops and which so far has not intervened but has stood by to protect French lives and property, may become involved in the fighting either against the sects or the National Army. I am sure the French authorities are most anxious to avoid this. Thirdly, the position of Bao Dai, who as Head of State is the constitutional source of Mr. Diem’s mandate to govern, has been challenged. Whether this challenge is sustained by popular feeling only time can show.
The situation in South Viet Nam is a matter of grave concern to the United States and French governments - the two powers which are most directly concerned with the situation in South Viet Nam. Although these two powers share important responsibilities in relation to Viet Nam, they interpret local events in a different way. At meetings which have recently taken place in Paris between the American Secretary of State, Mr. Dulles, the French Prime Minister, M. Faure, and the British Foreign Secretary, Mr. McMillan, there has been full discussion of the situation in South Viet Nam. Although French and American differences of view have not yet been reconciled, it is hoped that these discussions will enable a common basis of policy to be adopted.
The tragedy of the present situation is that the struggle for power in Viet Nam can frustrate preparations for the elections which are planned for next year throughout Viet Nam. A civil war would be disastrous and would lay the country open to the Communists.
I may say that the personnel of the Australian Legation are all safe and have not been caught up in any of the fighting.
I turn now to the situation in Laos and Cambodia. As I told the House last week, the Communist-backed Pathet Lao regime remains in control of the two northern provinces of Laos. The Viet Minh delegation at Eandung is said to have told the Laotian delegation that the Viet Minh was willing to refrain from interference in the internal affairs of Laos and would base its relation with Laos on the Chinese-Indian “five principles of co-existence”. We have yet to see what this means in practice. Up till now the Communists have not allowed the authority of the Government of Laos to be re-established in the two northern provinces as provided by the Geneva Agreement, despite the efforts of the Iinternational Supervisory Commission to have the terms of that agreement observed.
In a speech in the Canadian House of Commons last week, Mr. Lester Pearson, the Secretary of State for External Affairs in Canada, gave a fairly full account of the impressions and the report of the Canadian members of the International Supervisory Commission, of which Canada is a member, the other two members being India and Poland. Mr. Pearson made a rather bitter complaint, which I would like to repeat here, about the lack of freedom of movement of members of the International Supervisory Commission, particularly in the Communist areas. He said, in effect, that this was a definite disability to the international commission in the carrying out of its supervisory functions in that country.
The Viet Minh also sought, at Bandung, to convince the Cambodians of their good intentions. Cambodia came out of the Geneva agreement in a better position than the other two States, as no zone in Cambodia was assigned under the Geneva agreements to the Communists. Nevertheless, the policial situation in Cambodia is by no means stable, and Communist efforts to influence or dominate some of the political parties must be expected. As was noted in the final declaration of the Geneva conference, the elections provided for by the Cambodian
Constitution are due to take place later this year.
Whatever the internal political situation in Cambodia, Cambodia’s security from communism will depend to a very great degree on what happens in Laos and, more particularly, in South Viet Nam. If South Viet Nam is taken over by the Communists as the result of elections or otherwise, the independence of Cambodia will be much more difficult to maintain. Honorable members will realize that the account thatI have given, particularly of southern Viet Nam, reflects the gravity of the situation. We have been closely and continuously informed by the Australian Minister in Saigon, who has kept in the closest touch with the Diem Government and with the American and French representatives in Saigon, and has acted throughout in the best interests of the achievement of peace and stability.
The free world has a most important interest in Viet Nam, and I trust that the Vietnamese nationalists in the southern zone will be able to settle their differences rapidly and constructively.
I lay on the table the following paper : -
Indo-China - Ministerial Statement - 11th May, 1955. and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Calwell) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 3rd May (vide page 328), on motion by Mr. Kent Hughes -
That the following reports be printed: -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Reports by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing into electoral divisions the Status of New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from the 20th April (vide page 44), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- My colleagues and I oppose this bill, which is the fourth of its kind. This is an overseas borrowing government. It borrowed its first loan in 1950, its second in 1952, its third in 1954 and now, like Oliver Twist, it is going to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and asking for another helping. The second and third loans were undertaken after an interval of two. years, but this time the Government has waited only twelve months. The proposed loan is of 54,500,000 dollars. Of course, the money has already been borrowed and this Parliament is merely being asked to endorse what is already an accomplished fact. One of the schedules to the bill sets out the agreement that was reached some little time ago between Mr. Eugene Black, the chairman of the bank, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies).
I intend to tell honorable members where the Opposition believes that the Government has failed, how it has misused the money, and why we should not borrow abroad if this country is half as prosperous as we are always being told that it is. Our total indebtedness to the bank will now amount to 258,500,000 dollars. It is true that after World War II. the Chifley Government borrowed 20,000,000 dollars from the International Monetary Fund. In 1952, this Government borrowed 30,000,000 dollars from the same source. Of the total of 50,000,000 dollars, 42,000,000 dollars has been repaid. This Government has, so far, borrowed 195,000,000 dollars from the International Bank. Because of its failure to maintain our economy and preserve the stability of our overseas balances it has had to make its way around the money markets of the world and has succeeded in borrowing a little more from the Swiss Government. It would have borrowed from the United Kingdom if the people of that country had not needed all their money to re-establish their industries and recover the trade that they lost as a result of their almost complete physical participation in World War II.
The first loan, for 100,000,000 dollars, was obtained in 1950. It was not fully used until some time in 1953. I mention that because the schedule to the loan pro vides that immediately a country is committed to the borrowing of money, it mus pay a commitment charge of. from f to 1 per cent, per annum on the principal not so withdrawn from time to time. Thi? Government was paying If per cent, as a commitment charge on portion of the first loan for a period of up to three years. If that is good finance it is the first time that I have ever heard it so described.
– It is not bad for thi* Treasurer !
– The honorable member has made a pertinent observation. The period of the loan is to be fifteen years. The interest rate is 4£ per cent., or & per cent, less than the rate at which Australia borrowed previously. It is a heavy rate for a country such as Australia to bear. It seems that Australia is being charged that rate because it is regarded as a. bad risk whereas, on the contrary, Australia is the best risk of all. but is made to pay more than is proper so that the bank can meet its losses on loans to some other countries. My colleagues and I have made that point whenever the House has debated bills of this kind, but the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has been either unable or unwilling to put to the bank authorities the case for a reduction in the interest rate.
My colleagues and I oppose this bill for much the same reasons as were advanced by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Tom Burke) on the 8th April, 1954, when the last measure of this kind came before the Parliament. First, as a party, we do not believe in overseas borrowing. We have learnt, from a sad and sorry experience, that this country should not pledge its credit overseas and bear interest and amortization charges for long periods. It is true that the earliest borrowings for our railways involved no amortization system at all and that every State still owes the original debt in respect of ral. ways that have long-since worn out. Every one of our Australian railways has been paid for at least twice by meetinginterest obligations’. It is true that this loan agreement does take care of repayments, but we say that the repayment, period is too short and that the interest rate is too high. Even though the Chifley Government had to borrow 20,000,000 dollars in 1949 under rather extraordinary circumstances, we have a very strong objection to borrowing at .all from overseas. We wish that we could finance the development of this country out of its production, but that would .be difficult to achieve, because it might involve, in certain circumstances, a reduction of the standard of living of the people.
– The honorable member is getting into deep water.
– I do not think I am, and, in any case, I should not want an estate agent to get me out of trouble.’ [ am not talking about estate agency finance. I am talking about national finance and the desirability of this country not pawning its credit anywhere, if it can possibly avoid doing so. We must get away from the borrow-or-bust policy of the 1920’s if we want to avert future depressions. If overseas money has to be invested in this country, we think it should come, not in the form of loans raised under the auspices of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or under the auspices of any other country, but in the form of investment in new industries which companies or individuals in the United States, Great Britain or elsewhere decide to establish in Australia. I could give the House some reasons why we think that is a better form of investment than that proposed by this legislation. If overseas interests lend us money, they are not concerned very much about how we spend it, so long as they are sure the money will be repaid on the due date and they will get all the interest they want. But if money comes into the country by way of investment in factories we get, not only the personal interest of the company and the country concerned, but also something that is most important to a nation such as this, that indefinable quality known as know-how. The big industries that have come to Australia since the war, the industries that grew and developed out of the war and those that were established before the war, such as the International Harvester Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, General Motors - Holden’s Limited, the Ford Motor Company of
Australia Proprietary Limited, and some of the great English concerns, have helped to develop this country more than has all the money raised by loans authorized by legislation of this sort. It is far better for us to say to those people who want to invest their money in this country - we do say it with great enthusiasm - that if they bring their industries here we shall be happy to see them.
– Apparently, the honorable gentleman thinks we do not want foreign capital.
– We do want foreign capital, but we do not want it on moneylenders’ terms, or in money-lender style, or as the equivalent, of key money, about which the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) knows a good deal.
– The honorable gentleman wants new industries to be established here so that a Labour government can socialize them.
– That is the sort of foolish and irrelevant observation for which the Treasurer is so justly notorious. The second reason why we oppose the bill is that we do not like the way in which the Government has been handling loan finance, internally and externally. We believe that the Government has failed to raise the loan moneys in Australia that could have been raised if it really had the confidence of the people. The third reason why we oppose the bill is that the Government does not give, and never has given, sufficient information to the Parliament to enable honorable members to judge how efficiently the money borrowed has been spent. All that we get are schedules to bills telling us that the money raised will be spent on the importation of tractors and machinery of all kinds for farms and railways and for other purposes. We never get a real report on how the money has been spent. We are told only how it will be spent.
We do not like the way in which this Government is discriminating in the allocation of loan funds. The Treasurer told us in his second-reading speech that 27,000,000 dollars of the money raised by previous loans had been used for both our overseas and domestic air routes. On that point, I -want to say that the Opposition believes there has been discrimination against Trans-Australia Airlines.
– The honorable pi lumber cannot prove that.
– I can prove it quite easily by telling the right honorable gentleman that Trans-Australia Airlines has had an application before the Treasury for a long time now for an allocation of dollars to purchase a DC6 airliner. To date, that application has been refused because the Government does not want Trans-Australia Airlines to be able to compete successfully with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited on the Western Australian run.
– Australian National Airways made a similar application, which was refused also. Do not talk about discrimination.
– The Government has discriminated against TransAustralia Airlines in the allocation of loan funds ever since it came into office. A former Minister for Air in this Government, Mr. White, who was then the member for Balaclava, had on his table for about six months an application from Trans-Australia Airlines for authority to buy four Vickers- Viscount airliners. He did not deal with the application because at that time there was a move in the Government parties to get rid of Trans-Australia Airlines altogether. There has never been any great enthusiasm by the Government to help Trans-Australia Airlines by allocating loan moneys to it. We say that the 27,000,000 dollars that has been expended on overseas and domestic air routes has not -all been expended as fairly as we think it should have been expended. I challenge the Treasurer to tell us at the committee stage the companies that were allocated a portion of that sum of 27,000,000 dollars. Let us know how the whole of it was spent. If we can show that TransAustralia Airlines got as much money as Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, we shall believe his statement that there has ‘ been no discrimination against Trans-Australia Airlines.
– I shall do that.
– I shall be glad if the right honorable gentleman will do so. He said also in his second-reading speech, that the Australian economy wasmarkedly more efficient as a result of goods paid for with International Bank finance, and that our economy had been assisted by the expenditure of 60,000,000- dollars on the purchase of tractors, agricultural machinery and earth-moving equipment for the improvement of farming techniques. If there have been marked improvements of the productivity of our primary industries such as the Treasurer has claimed, why is it that our overseas trade balance is falling, and that sales of our wool, both in regard to volume and price, are falling?
– That is not true.
– It is true. By the end of June of this year, we shall be down by £70,000,000 on the sale of wool,, compared with receipts last year. I can cite figures to show that, compared with, sales last year, sales of our wool this year, in regard to both volume and price, are down.
If the Treasurer is correct in his view that the use of this money is increasingproduction in Australia, why are we not selling more wool in the United States of America and more of all our products in the other markets of theworld? That is the point. Our tradebalance is decreasing month by month, and we are now about £150,000,000 worse off, in relation to the balance at this time last year. Therefore, I suggest that the Government will have to produce, not so much rhetoric, but more facts to prove its case that it is a good thing to go on borrowing in the way indicated by this measure. If our overseas trade balances continue to fall, and the state of our economy continues to worsen, the Treasurer will be bringing along more and more bills of the sort now before the House, and will seek authority to borrow more and more money abroad in order that our economy may be kept somewhere near the balance point, and in order that another depression will not hit this country.
If the money that the Treasurer has said has been used so efficiently and effectively to the present time has been so used, why is not the production of our primary and secondary industries continually increasing? In many industries production is not increasing; it is decreasing. The production of sugar is rising, but we are in some difficulty about selling our sugar. Our production is not increasing to the degree that the Treasurer claimed, because if it were we should be able to sell more of our products overseas. The plain fact is that we are not selling more of our goods overseas. We have wheat at present stored all round Australia in such quantities that the wheatfarmers will not be growing wheat to the same extent in future as they have been in the past. Yet the Treasurer has claimed that the use of mechanical farming equipment is encouraging those engaged in the rural industries to produce more and more - presumably because they can sell more and more.
Overseas borrowings have increased under the administration of this Government, whereas under the previous Labour Government overseas indebtedness was being continually reduced. Not only did the Chifley and Curtin Governments raise about £1,500,000,000 by internal borrowing during World War II. to help pay for that war, but they also repatriated about £400,000,000 that we owed in London. This Government has certainly reduced our indebtedness in London since it came to office, but during its six years of life it has only reduced that indebtedness from £370,000,000 to £350,000,000. Therefore, the reduction of indebtedness in six years has been about £20,000,000 in spite of magnificent wool clips, magnificent prices for our primary products and tremendous overseas trade balances. The Government has allowed vast sums of money to be wasted, and now we have to beg the Americans to lend us money in order that the Government might be able to fill its loan programmes.
The last loan floated by the Treasurer, which raised only the £40,000,000 sought, was advertised as having been oversubscribed by £5,000,000. But that alleged over-subscription came from the proceeds of some of those loans invested in the Trust Fund. The previous loan was a complete flop. The Government now has to borrow from the Americans to obtain the money that it could not obtain within this country. There is no confidence in the Government at home, and there will be no confidence in the Government abroad if it continues in the way it has been going.
In respect of the American indebtedness, at the 31st December, 1949, Australia owed America 216,000,000 dollars, whereas at the 30th April, 1955, Australia owed America 345.000,000 dollars. Although our London indebtedness has been reduced by about £20,000,000, this Government has added about 129,000,000 dollars to our American debt. Consequently, it can be seen that the position is not as the Treasurer would have the country believe. Our financial position is getting progressively worse. The real reason this Government is borrowing abroad is that it cannot borrow enough within the country. If it could raise the money that it requires here it would not need to seek it abroad. If we could build up big trade balances abroad we would not need to borrow abroad.
Although we are not borrowing in the way we did during the 1920’s, the trend ic still in the wrong direction, and, sooner or later, the Australian people will have to pay in some form or other. When we cannot sell our primary products abroad the effect will be felt immediately among the farming community, and gradually it will be felt by all sections of the community. In the end, the whole community will have to suffer seriously as a result of the actions of this Government. Therefore, it is necessary that we should now tell the Government that we do not agree with its borrowing policy, that it should increase production and do something to encourage our manufacturers and primary producers to put more goods on the market, for sale both inside and outside Australia. We should tell the Government to give depreciation exemptions for taxation purposes to our producers in order to encourage them to become more efficient, and to modernize their plants so that they can sell the good:that they produce or manufacture at competitive rates.
We have no overseas market now except in wool, and, to a lesser degree. in sugar and wheat. We have no overseas markets for manufactured goods, and even our home market for these goods is coming under fire from overseas competitors. Therefore, the borrowing programme of this Government is wrong in the eyes of the Opposition. Our financial problems should be tackled in a different way from the method of the Government. If we are to borrow and borrow, we shall merely put off the evil day of final reckoning. However, ultimately, the day of reckoning will arrive, and the people alive at that time will have to pay, by a reduced standard of living, for the mistakes that are being made to-day, and for which the MenziesFadden coalition of 194.9-1955 is responsible.
.- I was interested to hear the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in relation to this matter. There are one or two points that I desire to put to him and, also, to other honorable members. The honorable member for Melbourne stated that the loan contemplated in the measure is an accomplished fact. He should be alert enough to know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) could not pledge the credit of Australia on his own account and that approval must be given by this Parliament. Consequently, this bill is before the House, and it includes the agreement signed by the Prime Minister. The Government is seeking approval of the bill and the agreement.
I was astounded to hear’ the honorable member for Melbourne indicate that he and his colleagues oppose overseas borrowing. If we go back to the commencement of the overseas borrowing programme we shall find that the Opposition supported this Government’s first overseas loan, and also the second loan. It was only in relation to the third loan that the Opposition began to oppose the Government’s policy, and the measure now before the House is the fourth loan, which the Opposition also opposes. I direct the attention of the House to the fact that the matter of overseas borrowing is not one for determination by the Government, but is a matter for determination by the Australian Loan Council. Indeed, it is a part of the programme of that organization. Perhaps, the honorable member for Melbourne will recall that the Australian Loan Council is at present composed of. five Labour- representatives and three non-Labour representatives. The Commonwealth, which has two votes, and the Liberal State of South Australia, which has one vote, are opposed, if we may speak in terms of opposition, by five Labour States. The Labour Premiers of those five States have added their voices to the approval that has been given for borrowings from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
– The borrowings could not be arranged without that approval.
– The Australian Loan Council has nothing to do with the question.
– The Australian Loan Council has everything to do with it. It has to approve the borrowing.
– Order !
– It is remarkable that the honorable member for Melbourne, so soon after resuming his seat, should come to his own defence, and that he should try to defend himself against established fact and procedure as we in the House know them. The honorable member has also criticized the interest rate of £4 12s. 6d. per cent. The interest rate on internal borrowings is £4 10s. per cent. We discovered that we were unable to fill the second-last loan that was floated. There were many people in the com.munity who believed, at that stage, that a higher interest rate should have been offered. Very few people to-day think that an interest rate of £4 12s. 6d. per cent, is extraordinarily high.
– One per cent, of that rate represents a reserve.
– As the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has pointed out, 1 per cent, of the rate represents a reserve. The honorable member for Melbourne has offered comment also in relation to the handling by the Government of loan funds. Once again, to a very large degree, this is a matter for the Australian Loan Council; and I ask the honorable member what the attitude of Mr. Cain, Mr. Gair, or Mr. Cahill is in respect of the number of diesel locomotives that are being added continually to the State railway systems? Do these Premiers object to the use of loan funds in that way? As I have already indicated, they are party to them. The honorable member also pointed out that the Chifley Government borrowed considerably more money than this Government has been able to borrow; but let me remind the House that, for the first four years during which the Chifley Government was in office, it was operating under war-time controls, and that almost everything in relation to the economic life of the community was geared to a complete war effort. It was to be expected, therefore, that as private persons were unable- to expend money on items that they would normally use, they had surplus money that they were prepared to invest in Commonwealth loans. But let us not overlook the fact that, parallel with that state of affairs, private industry was starved of capital investment. I wish to say a little more later in relation to the capital problem with which Australia is confronted.
The honorable member for Melbourne also offered criticism in relation to the use of this borrowed money for increased primary production. It so happens that we are not receiving from overseas the amount of income that we would like to receive, but that in itself does not reflect on the production of our primary industries. Prom time to time in other countries - I refer particularly to the United States of America - because of good seasons, there is over-production in primary industries. Are we to take a short-range view of the position and say that because, at a particular time, there is over-production in another country we in Australia must restrict our primary production? Or are we to take a long-range view, realizing that Australia’s ability to obtain overseas funds rests upon its export of primary produce? I think I am correct in saying that primary production represents 90 per cent, of our exports. Should we not take the long-range view so that, when conditions perhaps are not. quite as good overseas, we may be in a position to export in creasing quantities of primary produce, and thereby build up our overseas resources? I believe that the honorable member for Melbourne too often comes into the chamber and offers his criticisms purely on the basis of temporary circumstances. He is not at all interested in what may happen in the future.
When the Treasurer introduced this bill, he stated that Australia’s first loan from the International Bank in 1950 for reconstruction and development amounted to 100,000,000 dollars, and that that sum had been used by the end of 1953. In 1952, we received a second loan of 50,000,000 dollars, which was used by the end of last year. Last year, we received an additional 54,000,000 dollars. Furthermore, licences have been issued for the import of certain goods, and most of the equipment that is covered by those licences is already in Australia. It is now proposed that Australia should borrow 54,500.000 dollars, and it is believed that that sum will enable us to obtain essential goods from overseas up to 1956.
It is desirable that we should look again at the points that have been made by the Treasurer in relation to the manner in which, earlier borrowings have been expended, and also see how it is proposed that future borrowings should be expended. Of the total sum that is represented in the first three loans, 60,000,000 dollars, or approximately one-third of the borrowings, has been, allocated for the purchase of tractors,, agriculture machinery, and earth-moving equipment. In the main, that machinery will be used in the improvement of farming techniques. I do not represent any rural industry, but I hope - in fact, I believe - that this agricultural machinery is being used to its maximum capacity. Of the sums that have been received, 20,000,000 dollars have been used for the modernization of railway systems. As every honorable member knows, that money has not been expended for Commonwealth purposes. It represents an expenditure, in the main, by State governments on the modernization of State railway systems. I think that every honorable member will agree that there has been a considerable improvement of railway services, particularly on the interstate routes and the longer routes within the States. In addition, 30,000,000 dollars has been expended in the purchase of electrical equipment, mainly package power plants. Surely, the Opposition will not object to what has been done over the last few years in improving Australia’s electrical equipment. There is nobody who has lived in a capital city during the last few years who has not experienced electricity blackouts. The equipment that has been received from overseas has been of considerable assistance in alleviating blackout problems. To-day, there are very few blackouts except of a purely temporary kind. Import licences to the value of a further 30,000,000 dollars have been issued for the importation of tractors and road construction equipment. Like most other honorable members. I have visited the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electricity scheme, and I have seen some of the equipment that has been used on that project. All will agree that it would have been impossible, without that equipment, much of which has come from dollar areas, to have carried out the scheme with the expedition with which it is being carried out. If the position in relation to roads throughout Australia is improving, it is because of the equipment that is coming from overseas. Forestry and mining industries will be allocated 5,000.000 dollars and 10,000,000 dollars respectively from the new loan. An amount of 20,000.000 dollars will be allocated for the purchase of equipment for the modernisation and expansion of manufacturing industries. The Treasurer has given a good account of the manner in which the funds raised bv the loan will be expended, and I firmly believe that the programme for the expenditure of the S4.500.000 dollars to be raised under the authority of this bill will commend itself to the vast majority of the Australian people, and eventually to members of the Opposition. The sum of 10.000.000 dollars will be expended on agriculture and forestry; 500,000 dollars will be expended on electric power; 14.000.000 dollars will be expended n-n road transport: 4.500,000 dollars will be allocated to rail transport; 9,500,000 dollars will be expended on air transport; and 7,000,000 dollars will be expended on industrial development.
I should like to emphasize again the point made by the Treasurer that Australia’s ‘credit stands very high overseas. Australia’s inability to obtain from overseas the funds that it required during tintern! of the Chifley Administration was to some degree due to the fact that a Minister in that Government frequently travelled overseas and, as Australia’s representative, acted so as not to improve Australia’s reputation in other countries. [Quorum formed.]
The loan to which the bill relates emphasizes the strength of Australian credit overseas, not only in the United States of America and the dollar area generally, but also in Switzerland, in particular, as honorable members will see when the House considers another measure in relation to a loan from Switzerland. No honorable member has any doubt about where this Government stands and where Australia, under its administration, stands in respect of the United Kingdom. It is appropriate thai I should mention that probably the best ambassador that Australia has ever had is the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who negotiated the loan that is the subject of this measure when he was in thi? United States recently. His efforts on his recent overseas trip and on previous journeys that he has made across the world have greatly improved Australia’s credit and prestige.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, stated -
The Government believes that a measure of externa] financial assistance is desirable if m satisfactory rate of development of Australia’s economic resources is to be maintained. Although the bulk of the resources, both financial and material, required for our development, is found locally, imported equipment of various kinds is essential for expansion and modernization in many fields. The larger part of these imports comes from nondollar sources. There remains, however, some vital equipment which can be obtained only from the dollar area, and International Bank finance provides additional dollars to pay fur part of this equipment.
That reference to the Treasurer’s speech will serve to introduce several matters in relation to the capital problem in Australia to which I wish to refer. I am sure that private individuals and representatives of private industry, and of both State and the Australian Governments, recognize that Australia Ls terribly short of capital. The two outstanding needs of Australia are, on the one hand, capital, and on the other hand, population. The honorable member for Melbourne has stated that the Australian people and members of the Australian Labour party are of the opinion that capital should be provided by the establishment of new industries. I wholeheartedly agree that it is most desirable that new capital should be provided by that means and in that form. However. [ remind the House that when this Government took that view in relation to the sale of shares in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited so that additional capital might be obtained in Western Australia, members of the Opposition strenuously objected to the proposal.
We shall do well to consider the situation in Queensland. The Queensland Premier, Mr. Gair, stated recently that about seventeen new industries had been established in Queensland, but one of the leaders of industry in that State observed, “ The number would have been 70, if proper co-operation had been received from the Queensland Government “. I consider that the increase of capital by the development of new industries in Australia with capital from overseas is being retarded by Labour governments in the States. If overseas investors received the assistance that they are justly entitled to receive, it would probably be unnecessary for this Government to borrow so much money from overseas. One of Australia’s first responsibilities is to produce its own capital, but with a work force of between 2,500,000 and 3,000,000 persons, in a population of approximately 10,000,000 people, it is clearly impossible for us to provide all the capital that we need if we are to advance at the rate that every Australian agrees is desirable. Capital comes from savings, and it is permanent in nature. Perhaps I might be permitted to say that Australians, particularly the younger members of the community and single people who do not have the responsibilities of maintaining homes, should save more. There is among the Australian people a great potential for saving for the accumulation of capital for the development of Australia. If we cannot obtain from the savings of individuals all the capital that we require, it is essential that we borrow. However, we must expend the money that we borrow in the most economic manner possible. We must, make more effective use of the labour and materials that are available to us. I am inclined to the opinion that at times we waste our available resources’ by putting uneconomic efforts into the use of materials and man-power, and. consequently, of the money that is available as capital.
– Television is an instance
– The honorable member might think so. but surely Australia should not lag behind other countries in making available to the public the benefits of scientific developments as they occur. It is essential that the greater part of any overseas or internal borrowings be expended on productive undertakings. In the past there has been a tendency for governments to spend too much money on non-productive work. I believe that what we have to do is, first, to find the interest, and secondly, . to get sufficient production from the investment of this capital to meet our redemption payments. But it is not sufficient that we meet our interest and redemption payments only. I believe that unless this capital can be invested in such a way as to produce new. additional capital, there will be an element of futility in the loan. All mem bers of this Parliament recognize that Australia is a small nation in terms of population, and I believe that it is necessary for us to try to have, running parallel to each other, an increase of population and an increase of capital resources. As I have said before, it if only by borrowing overseas that we will get the capital that we need, and it will be only because we have the capital we need that we will get the population we desire. The increased population will re-invest its savings, and I believe that in the years ahead we shall find ourselves able to supply our own capital requirements.
I sincerely endorse the action of the Prime Minister in signing this agreement when he was overseas, and I support the bill, which provides for the adoption of that agreement.
– It was obvious that the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) was uneasy while he was making his speech. He referred in glowing terms to the high standing of Australia’s credit overseas. Se was almost enthusiastic about it. That outlook, of course, encourages the idea that American financiers have looked on Australia with the eyes of the worst kind of usurers. They have looked at this scallywag, this wastrel fellow, and said, “ He is not doing his job. He would not be worth lending money to except that he has a rich father, and that makes a difference “. I think that if the honorable member for Petrie really looked deeply into the subject he would realize that Australia is at present in a very serious position. While I do not agree with the way in which all this overseas borrowing is being done, I also do not agree with the lame case that has been made out by the Opposition, or with the Opposition’s unrealistic antagonism to the bill. In the first place the loan is a fait accompli. It is something that has already been done, and the opposition to the bill is only a gesture. It is without imagination and is completely unrealistic.
My party has examined the bill, and the nation’s present financial position, closely, and considers that a great deal more could be done in this measure. Wo wish to improve the bill, and accordingly I shall propose an amendment to the motion, which is -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I move -
That all words after “That” be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to include a provision that expenditure of the moneys available under the loan should, in order that the maximum benefit to Australia will result, be under the scrutiny of an expert committee, including representatives of the Parliament, which shall report to the Parliament the details of such expenditure.”.
This is a most important subject. It bears very largely on our agricultural and rural programme, which affects every political party, because every party has a rural policy. It is surprising that so few members of the Opposition take an interest in such an important matter. The position in regard to the expenditure of dollars is most disturbing at present, and nobody knows it better than does the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). At the beginning of his speech the right honorable gentleman told us that the first loan of 100,000,000 dollars, which Australia obtained from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development in August, 1950, had been fully used by the end of -1953, and that the second loan of 50,000,000 dollars had been fully used by September of last year. The first loan was expended in three and a quarter years, and the second loan was expended in ten months. Of the third loan of 100,000,000 dollars, no less than 90,000,000 dollars was expended in twelve months, which is about double the rate of expenditure of the second loan, and triple the rate of expenditure of the first loan. Without doubt, the present loan of 54,500,000 dollars will be expended in a few months. The whole matter is therefore of great urgency, and must claim the attention of the House.
International finance is not an involved matter. Many people think that because we use long names to describe financial institutions and funds, such as “International Bank for Reconstruction and Development “ and “ International Monetary Fund “, international finance is a complicated matter which is far beyond their understanding. That is not so. International finance follows principles that govern the ordinary household budget. Everybody knows that the breadwinner of the family brings home the money he earns, and that he and his partner spend it on necessaries and on such items of a lasting nature, like furnishings, as they can afford. When they cannot afford to buy capital items like furniture and furnishings out of their earnings, they have recourse to time payment. The necessity to keep up the payments of instalments for goods that have been bought on hire purchase is a very serious problem for wage-earners, and it is essential that a family act very carefully to ensure that it is not spending too much of its income on timepayment purchases that it really cannot afford. We are facing a somewhat similar position as a nation. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the expenditure of borrowed dollars for capital items. That emphasis is entirely wrong. The emphasis should be placed on our total dollar expenditure, whether it be used for maintenance or for capital goods. Both must be taken together. The sharp division between capital expenditure and expenditure on maintenance and replacement is wrong. The Treasurer at the beginning of his speech referred to essential capital equipment from the dollar area. Later he referred to the use of dollars to assist export production. Still later, he referred to the dollars being used to help to reduce our dependence on imports. But the dollars will not all be expended on capital expenditure.
– The bank will lend only for capital expenditure. Its articles and its charter will not allow it to lend for anything else.
– I say that that is all a subterfuge and a ruse, and it is about time that it was uncovered. The road transport, rail transport and electric power supply systems on which all these millions of dollars are to be expended are wasting assets. They begin to waste from the moment they are first used. To a large extent expenditure on them will not be capital expenditure, but will be expenditure on replacements and maintenance. Our dollar expenditure must be regarded as a whole, and we must not continue this false division, even to satisfy the rules of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. We must be realistic about it and, whatever we say to people outside, let us make sure that the people inside know what we are doing. We should examine income and expenditure as a whole. If we look closely, we shall find that one of the most important items that looms very largely in connexion with this loan is interest and repayment of capital. As I have said, the ordinary householder must be careful that the payment of hire-purchase instalments which include interest, does not take up too large a proportion of the household budget. This country stands in exactly the same position in relation to the payment of interest and redemption on loans, and that position can become serious unless we are careful. The interest rate of 4f per cent, under this loan is a high rate, even if it is slightly lower than the rate that was previously quoted to us. We shall have to find about 11,000,000 dollars or 12,000,000 dollars a year in interest alone. I should say, from the Treasurer’s remarks on amortization payments, that we shall have to find, altogether, about 25,000,000 dollars each year to pay off the principal and interest. That is a very large sum for us to find every year out of our dollar earnings.
I ask the House to examine the statement of our dollar earnings and expenditure. It reveals a serious position. Trade with the dollar areas is shown at page 15 of the latest statement on the Australian balance of payments. That statement shows that exports to the United States of America in the first half of 1953-54 amounted to S1,000,000 dollars. Six months later they had dropped to 69,000,000 dollars. In the first half of 1954-55 the figure was down to 67,000,000 dollars. Our earnings from exports are decreasing while our expenditure is increasing. In the first half of 1953-54 merchandise imports from the United States and Canada amounted to 92,000,000 dollars. In the next half-year the figure rose to 122,000,000 dollars, and in the following half-year to 129,000,000 dollars. Those figures indicate a serious drift. It is time to endeavour to reduce our expenditure and build up our exports in order to gain some dollar income.
One of the largest items of expenditure of dollars is freight on imports. That item amounts to 2S,000,000 dollars, and it illustrates the lack of merchant shipping in Australia. The state of Australian shipping is deplorable. We are spending about £150,000,000 overseas for shipping freights, and very little money goes to Australian shipping companies. Of that sum about 28,000,000 dollars has to be found for payment in dollar currency. That amount could be reduced considerably by extending the Commonwealth line of ships. The Government should have attended to that matter long ago. It has had plenty of opportunity to do so. If our own ships could bring our goods, we would be saved the expenditure of a large sum in dollars. We must do more for ourselves. Such an extension of the Commonwealth shipping line might have to be paid for in sterling or in Australian currency,- but it would certainly save a considerable sum in dollars.
I draw attention to the item for films, which is shown in this statement at’ 5,200,000 dollars in the last year. That sum could be reduced by encouraging local film production. A great deal has been said about encouraging private enterprise, both by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) and the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). The Australian Balance of Payments statement for 1954 shows that profits and dividends remitted overseas amounted to 22,000,000 dollars. That occurred because of arrangements made to encourage the investment of capital in Australia. They were not very good arrangements, and they should be carefully considered from the point of view of the development of Australia. Let us consider the case of the Masonite Corporation. Under the conditions under which that corporation established its factory here I think that, of the profits made about 12 per cent, was to be paid to the Australian investors, and the remainder was to go to America. The Americans are making enormous profits out of that corporation, but Australian shareholders get very little, and the huge amount which the American investors receive goes from this country in dollar expenditure. The same thing occurs with General MotorsHolden’s Limited, and a dozen other American companies which could be quoted. I am in favour of overseas knowledge being used in Australian industry, but it should be introduced very carefully and under the best conditions for Australia. We should ensure that Australia is in a position to finance any dividends which have to be remittee! overseas.
Not only has an amount of 22,000,000 dollars been sent out of the country, but the Treasury has ear-marked another 22,000,000 dollars which might, and possibly will, be sent out of the country. That might be unnecessary if a little imagination were used. For instance, our own engineers could be encouraged. Only the younger engineers in this country are receiving anything like proper repayment for their efforts. There are plenty of very good professional men in Australia, and the older ones are grossly underpaid and are not encouraged. The result is that our good engineers go overseas. We certainly have the right type of engineers in Australia. Some of them have been engaged by the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, which is undertaking projects that are equal in importance to those in any other country. Australia has qualified scientists, engineers and administrators, and we should be doing far more for ourselves and encouraging our own industries.
The Government, of course, would throw up its hands in horror at the suggestion of encouraging private enterprise by the provision of government capital. That would savour of socialization. But some of these large undertakings will never be established except by government supervision and assistance. If the Government does not provide that assistance but, instead, elects to spend dollars, it should be ashamed of itself.
I now refer to the question of a possible increase of our dollar earnings. It appears that no attention has been given to this matter either by the Government or by the Opposition. I have made an examination of the items which Australia sells to America and Canada, and I have found that certain commodities which were formerly sold in those dollar areas are not now being sold. I refer to some small lines which did not produce a great deal of income, but collectively the income from them was very useful. I instance, first, fertilizers. At one time Australia received £45,000 a year from that item. From leather an income of £100,000 was received, and from milk and cream, £222,000. Those small markets have been lost. Surely an investigation should be made to discover the reason why those items are no longer earning dollars. There are other items the income from which has been considerably reduced. From mutton and lamb, for instance, Australia received, in 1953-54, only £92,000. At one time, however, the sales of mutton and lamb amounted to £41S.000. Another item in this category is sheepskins. Admittedly sheepskins earned £692,000 last year, but the figure has been as high as” £2,000,000. Rabbit skins now earn only £765,000, but Australia, in the past, has received up to almost £5,000,000 from that item. A committee should be appointed to investigate these matters.
As another instance of dwindling markets, I refer to the lead market. For our exports of lead we received, in 1953-54, £5,799,000, but in 1952-53 the income from exported lead amounted to more than £10,000,000. Other small items include preserved meat, for which we received £763,000 in 1952-53, eucalyptus oil, which brought us £72,404, and pearl shell £451,000 in the same year. Silver, silver lead and concentrates returned us £1,830,000 in 1951-52, but by 1952-53 the figure had dropped to £1,163,000.
The biggest export item, of course, is wool. For greasy wool and scoured wool we received approximately £30,000,000. Australia should try to sell more of these items to the Americans in order to earn more dollars.
– How much did we get for crayfish tails?
– I have not the figures before me. We should be able to increase the export of those also. The best method of arriving at a healthy economy and settling dollar differences is to increase exports and reduce expenditure. In the short term it is sometimes necessary to use gold and other acceptable currencies to close the gap. They are expedients and useful only for holding the wolf at bay. The experience of every country has been that they run out very quickly. The countries of the dollar area are rich, and go outside their area merely to supplement their own production. Their needs fluctuate considerably. We- supply only the crumbs that fall from America’s table. Therefore, we must expect serious fluctuations in our exports to that country. We must live more unto ourselves. Any trade that we have with the dollar area will increase our standard of living, but we must realize our limitations.
I shall deal for a few moments with the question of what expenditure should be funded, and how we can fund it.
Further exports is one solution; shortterm borrowing is another. After all long-term borrowing is only a short-term method of funding anything for it gives only a brief respite. It is not a satisfactory method of funding a vigorous economy. There are various sources from which funds may be drawn. The International Monetary Fund provides for current expenditure only and seems to be little used these days. Much of the money obtained from that source is to be spent on maintenance and should be provided from income. The fund is specially designed to meet current needs and its loans should be repaid from current income. All borrowings seem to be from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and at a comparatively high rate of interest.
The other dollar source is the mysterious dollar pool. Who runs it? How is it that in one year Australia can draw 96,000,000 dollars from it and in the next is told that it should borrow from the International Bank at an interest rate of almost 5 per cent.? The spotlight should be played on the dollar pool. All that I can find out about it is that its policy is decided on the highest possible level. Perhaps the Treasurer could tell honorable members what that means. I do not know whether he goes overseas and gets his orders, or whether he merely puts in a requisition for dollars. The Australian people are very interested in the dollar pool and would like to know these things. What sense is there in sending great quantities of wool to France, Germany and other Eurpoean countries when much of it is merely re-sold for dollars, which Australia must borrow at almost 5 per cent, interest? The dollar pool is most important at the present time, but the Government has not had a. word to say about it.
Our amendment asks that a committee be set up. This Parliament ought to know what is happening. It has a most important influence on rural production, mining production and production in secondary industries. It could increase Australia’s dollar income and reduce its expenditure and it should be in close touch with the situation. Too many factors are involved to enable these matters to be dealt with in a bill of this nature. The situation is constantly changing and the decisions of to-day are out of date to-morrow.
The drift in our dollar credits is serious. When a motorist fills his car with petrol he spends the equivalent of four or five dollars. In a year he will buy 250 dollars worth of petrol. No import licence governs that spending, yet a small importer of school books, or other commodities that mean a great deal to the community, cannot get an import licence for even 200 or 300 dollars. The community should be alarmed about this. I hope that the Government will accept my amendment and that Opposition members have not been so completely bashed by their hopeless leader that they will fail to see its worth.
– Is the amendment seconded ?
– I second the amendment.
.- My criticism of the Opposition will be directed not so much at the last speaker as at the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). I cannot understand why any one with the interests of Australia at heart would oppose the borrowing of the money proposed in this bill. Although I cannot agree with the amendment proposed by the Leader of the AntiCommunist Australian Labour party (Mr. Joshua), I am pleased to see that he does not oppose the loan. The honorable gentleman displayed an intelligent approach to the question. The honorable member for Melbourne said that Labour was opposed to overseas borrowing. Perhaps he has forgotten the bother that Australia was caused in the United States of America after a State Labour Premier had borrowed money at the extortionate rate of almost 7 per cent. I think we are still repaying some of those old loans. At least, we were doing so a few years ago. But apparently the Labour party has changed its policy since the days of Mr. Lang, Honorable members opposite have decided now that they do not agree with overseas borrowing. I say that that is an unreal attitude to adopt. It ignores the growth of this young country and the responsibility of this Parliament to assist its development. As the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) said in a very interesting speech, we are the custodians of a country with only 9,000,000 people in it, but it is a country that is destined to become a great nation. It has great natural resources. It is absorbing hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year, and millions over a period of years. If we do not do everything possible to ensure that the present high rate of national development and increase of population continues, we shall not deserve to hold this country and we shall not be able to do so. Our great natural resources must be developed, not only in the interests of this country itself, but also in the interests of all the democracies. The continued freedom of all the free peoples of the world depends upon the development of countries such as this, which are, so to speak, the boundary fence between, two conflicting ideologies.
Although the development of Australia is of vital importance, the members of the political party in opposition to the Government say that they do not agree with the policy of borrowing dollars overseas in order to acquire the machinery that is vitally important to national development. To my way of thinking, it is a great tragedy that a responsible political party has said that it disagrees with overseas borrowing. I do not suggest that the Government should borrow wildly from overseas for the purpose of obtaining money to buy all sorts of consumer goods. Nobody suggests that we should do that. But we all know that we need the machinery upon which the Government proposes that this loan shall be spent. If we adopted the policy of the Labour party, and refused to permit the Govern ment to raise this loan, we should have to buy that machinery out of current funds. If current funds were used for that purpose, surely the Labour party would raise a great hue and cry against the Government throughout the country; because it would then be necessary to curtail further the importation of much, needed goods. Therefore, I say that at the present time we should borrow money from overseas, and that we should be foolish not. to do so.
The honorable member for Melbourne said, I thought quite unreasonably, that although he did not agree with borrowings from overseas, he did agree that overseas investors should be permitted to establish new industries here. We on this side of the House also agree that they should be permitted to do so, but it seemed to me to be a little inconsistent for the honorable member for Melbourne to advocate that policy after he had said that he disagreed with overseas borrowing. After all, the shift of an industry from, say, the United Kingdom to Australia would involve a shift of capital from the United Kingdom to Australia, and doubtless some of the profits from the new industry established here would flow back to investors in the United Kingdom. Recently the Labour party raised a hue and cry about the proposal to establish television stations in Australia, apparently because it feared that some overseas capital might be invested in those stations. That is an example of the inconsistency of the Labour party’s policy in relation to these matters.
The honorable member for Melbourne laid some emphasis on the fact that the last Labour Government, during its period of office, reduced the amount of money owing by Australia to other countries and did not borrow further money from overseas. Let me remind the House that that Labour Government neglected the basic development of this country while it was in power. There is no question about that. It tried to persuade the people to believe that there was no need for them to save or to worry about the future. It devoted a great deal of its energy to its socialization policy, and did not give the attention to national development that should have been given. In the period immediately after the war, when the greatest possible emphasis should have been laid upon national development, the Labour Government then in power devoted its time to trying to nationalize the banks, with the object of getting its hands on the whole of the money resources of this country.
I’ think I echo the sentiments of most thinking people in Australia when I say that we should congratulate the Prime
Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on. what they have done to raise dollar loans: during the last few years. When this Government came into power in 1949, Australia’s stocks stood at a very low level internationally. We must remember that ability to borrow does not always depend upon the security that is offered. A fundamental factor in the negotiation of a loan is the confidence of the lender in the person or the country seeking the loan. When this Government came into power, the confidence of the United States and other countries in Australia was at a very low level, because of the policies applied previously by the Labour Government, policies which had been given much prominence in the press of the world. I believe that most countries take the view that a socialist policy is a very poor basis for external borrowing.
– The honorable member is having a nightmare.
– I am having no nightmare. I am stating facts. It is a fact that a country such as the United States of America will not have a bar of a country with a completely socialistic economy. Despite the policy applied by the Labour party before this Government came into power, the Prime Minister was able to negotiate overseas loans. He was able to do so only because of his personal contacts, the manner in which he presented our case, and the confidence which the leaders of other countries had in his guidance of the affairs of this country. The Treasurer, too, has been able to raise loans overseas. Those facts speak well for the leaders of this Government, and show that the United States has great confidence in our future.
What effect will this loan have on the development of Australia ? We know that, the people of many countries of the world, are living at starvation level, compared with the standard of living enjoyed in. this country. Australia can be a great arsenal for the production of food. There are enormous possibilities here for the development of agriculture and forestry., We should be neglecting our duty if we. did not develop agriculture in this country to a very high degree. We. have the good, earth.. I agree that we are somewhat. short of water, but I point out that some of the money raised by this loan will be used to provide water conservation schemes, which are of great importance to agriculture and forestry. The sum involved in this loan is a mere bagatelle compared with the sum we shall have to spend to develop those great industries properly. We are borrowing 54,500,000 dollars to purchase only specific items of machinery for specific purposes. Even so, the Opposition objects to the measure. 1 suggest that such a sum of money is only chicken feed in relation to the necessity to develop our great industries and build up our nation.
It is essential that we should get the equipment that we need in order to start our great developmental schemes. For example, power is greatly needed at present in this country, particularly in the rural areas. We cannot become a nation of modern agriculturists, and we cannot develop our rural industries along the proper lines, unless we have adequate power available in rural areas. Another very urgent matter, perhaps the most urgent problem in Australia to-day, is how to provide adequate road transport. All governments, whether they be Commonwealth or State, will have to consider the matter of road transport in the near future if this country is to continue to develop. It is futile to continue to rely upon local government bodies to look after our road systems and develop our road transport, because those bodies have not the financial ability to carry out those responsibilities. Therefore, I suggest that road transport is one of the developmental works upon which some of the money to be raised under this measure will be used.
In pursuance of the development that I have already mentioned, there is a need for the establishment of an international finance corporation. I understand that the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is now drafting a charter for such an organization. I believe that a corporation of that kind should deal with the development of private enterprise in countries throughout the world, particularly in countries like Australia. I suggest that no other country in the world is a better place to start encouraging overseas borrowing by private enterprise than is Australia. Such borrowing would enable private industries to import the basic materials that they need to establish their industries and to keep them going in the initial stages. At the same time, such a policy would not interfere with our current imports and would not reduce our trade balance. I believe that such a system could arise from the measure now before the House.
Only individuals with big minds who are prepared to work hard, and also to take a plunge, succeed in this life. The two ingredients for success are hard work and a willingness to take a chance. A country such as Australia is not different, from an individual in that regard. A young country like ours has to work hard and also take a risk if it is to develop quickly. Therefore, I suggest that we shall have to take a plunge and endeavour to get money for development as quickly as possible. I support this measure because in the last year or two it has become necessary to borrow from the International Bank because of the impossibility of approaching the people of the United States, or the people of Great Britain, in the normal way. However, I hope that this will be the last sum of money that we shall borrow in the way proposed, and that from now on we shall get the dollars we need from the people of the United States through properly floated loans.
I say that, because I have had some personal experience in relation to borrowing dollars, and I believe that all governments up to the present have failed to do what should be done in regard to borrowing of that character. For example, a government decides that it will borrow 20,000,000 dollars. It then gets in touch with its broker in the foreign country where it wants to borrow, and makes arrangements for the underwriting of the loan. Then the matter is left to the broker. Brokers are businessmen, and, as long as the government gets the money that it wants at the agreed rate of interest, it does not worry about credit accruing to the borrowing country. We make no specific effort to acquaint ourselves with the conditions of borrowing in foreign countries, nor do we attempt to influence the borrowing in any way. I .suggest that a loan flotation, if it is handled in the proper way, is a good propaganda medium for the borrowing country. The occasion can be used to inform the people of the lending country of the conditions in the borrowing country. When a government raises a loan, thousands of small investors subscribe the money, and they should be informed of the conditions in the country to which they are lending.
I believe the old methods of raising money are completely wrong. In the United States of America there are certain rating authorities. The principal rating authority is known as Moodies, and there are two other such authorities. The rate of interest for all external loans is based on the decision of the rating authority relative to the security of the borrowing country. If we examine that system we find that no effort has ever been made by Australia to try to lower the interest rate for its loans, or to try to influence Moodies’ rating of Australia’s security. I suppose that all such negotiations for the Government are handled by an officer of the Treasury, who is no doubt a worthy fellow, but, nevertheless, an employee. As far as I know, no one in authority has ever approached any of the rating authorities that I have mentioned.
When I was in America I was representing a Sydney body that was not guaranteed by any government. I approached Moodies, and to my consternation I discovered that at no time had Australia made any representations to these rating authorities. I made direct representations, and had the rate of interest on the money that I was borrowing set at a lower figure than had previously obtained in the history of Australia’s borrowing in America. On that occasion I borrowed 8,500,000 dollars on behalf of the Sydney County Council, and I got the money at a very low rate of interest because I departed from the orthodox system. This Government should follow much the same practice. If the Government wants to borrow 20,000,000 dollars, what is wrong with preparing a favorable atmosphere in the United States before we embark on our borrowing? Why should not an honorable member of this House, or two honorable members if the Opposition is to be represented, be sent with proper authority, not to sell the loan in America, but to approach the lending authorities and the people who have the means of disseminating knowledge of this country, and let them know how Australia is developing so that a favorable atmosphere may be prepared before the flotation of the loan?
– The Treasurer has been to America.
– Neither the Treasurer nor the Prime Minister could do the work that I have suggested should be done.
– Does not the honorable member consider that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are capable men?
– Yes, they are capable, but they cannot do what I am talking about. I suggest that it would be impracticable to ask the Prime Minister or the Treasurer to do that. However, a favorable atmosphere could be created by persons with authority, and that would have a great effect upon the success of any borrowing that we undertook. I believe that if this Government is allowed to remain in office, as I am sure it will, our credit will become so high in America and other countries that there will be no difficulty in borrowing money from the people of the United States, and elsewhere, to carry out our necessary developmental projects. I am sure that they would be very interested in it. There is a need, as the honorable member for Ballarat has stated, for every effort to be made to develop our markets, and to stimulate our export trade. Only in that way can Australia provide the real money that is needed to repay loans, or to pay for imports.
That thought brings me to one other vital aspect of Australia’s economy. Much more serious attention must be paid by the governments and the people of this country to the growing menace of our cost structure. It is of no use to us to live in a fool’s paradise, and watch our production costs rise to such a height that our products cannot compete with those of other countries so that, as a result, we lose our export trade. It is of no use to establish a standard of living, and be foolish enough to think that we can maintain that standard, unless we are prepared to bring our cost structure onto a more competitive basis. The time has arrived when the Australian people should shake off their lethargy, and direct. some attention to the country’s cost structure. That remark applies, not only to governments, but also to the respective oppositions, whose responsibility is just as great, to the unions, to -.the people who work, to the investors, to the managers, and to the people who control the different industries.
To strive to improve our cost structure is much more important than to strive for all the facilities that we may desire, or to fight for even greater profits. It is important that we should bring the economy of this country into line with those of other countries at a time when Australia is developing as a young nation. It would be a terrible thing for this country if, at this stage, its development were to be blunted. Yet that is what will happen unless we stem the spiralling of our costs. Much depends upon the good sense of the people of Australia if the increase of production costs is to be arrested, so that we may develop our export markets, and thus be enabled to repay this loan and other loans that we must inevitably raise. I hope the Australian Labour party will change its stupid attitude towards overseas borrowings, which are essential to the provision of the basic needs of a country such as ours, which is destined to be one of the great nations of the free world.
– The raising of a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is becoming almost an annual matter for the attention of the House. I should like to consider this matter in the light of the overall balance of Australia’s payments, which is the light in which it ought to be considered. Government supporters have suggested that all the items contained in the schedules to the bill are necessary for Australia’s welfare. That may well be so, but such a suggestion fails to take into account the possibility that we are drawing from dollar areas goods which are not essential to this country. I think it was the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) who likened this country to an individual who might sometimes say, “ We should like this and that “. But ‘it is -possible for us to have only this or that, and we must determine whether we shall have the ephemeral things which give immediate pleasure or the lasting things that will contribute to the country’s stability.
On the last two or three occasions the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has introduced similar measures, he has made the general reservation that the loan in question would serve two purposes. First, it would enable goods to be brought into Australia which could not be obtained elsewhere and, secondly, the goods were such that eventually .they would help to improve Australia’s overall dollar-earning capacity. I join issue with him on that point, as did the Opposition on the last occasion a similar measure was under consideration. The right honorable gentleman has not stated definitely the goods which cannot be obtained elsewhere. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for ‘ Ballarat appears to have the virtue of enabling honorable members to ascertain whether the goods that were stated to be obtainable only from dollar sources could be obtained in other parts of the world.
Such a suggestion is not an idle one. Recently in Great Britain, the Federation of British Industries was rather sceptical about some of the claims that were being made by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was stated that certain agricultural machinery could be obtained only from dollar sources. The federation was of the opinion that manufacturers in Great Britain were able to supply the same kind of machinery that the International Bank asserted could be obtained only in dollar areas. The federation discovered that, to a degree, the decisions of the International Bank were biased, inasmuch as the advisory council of the bank was staffed largely by American personnel. The engineers who advised on the availability of agricultural machinery were familiar only with the machinery that could be obtained in America. They did not know whether similar types of machinery could be obtained in other parts of the world.
I suggest that the claim of the Treasurer that the goods which are being sought can be obtained only from dollar sources is open to question. It is doubtful whether better aeroplanes can be obtained from dollar sources than can be obtained from sterling areas. Provision is made in the bill for dollars for the purchase of aircraft and aircraft parts. The schedule does not indicate the company which will receive that assistance. 1! ask the Treasurer to give the House some information about the kind of aircraft and aircraft parts that are involved, and state the aircraft companies in Australia which are to be favoured in the disposition of the dollars. I repeat that the asseveration of the Treasurer that the goods in question cannot he obtained elsewhere than from dollar sources is open to question. I submit that the House is entitled to more adequate information, and to a plain statement on the matter by the Treasurer similar to those statements he has given on one or two other occasions.
I refer now to another statement that lias been made by the Treasurer on the last two or three occasions on which he has introduced a similar measure. He has stated that the items which were being sought were of a kind that, it was hoped, would help to improve Australia’s dollarearning capacity. The latest available figures relative to Australia’s dollar position were supplied by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician only yesterday. They indicate that such a claim is not correct and that Australia’s dollar position, instead of improving, is deteriorating as a result of these dollar loans. The Government is camouflaging the difficulties into which Australia is getting. Those difficulties, in relation to the dollar area, are steadily becoming worse. The figures to which I have just referred are contained in a document entitled The Australian Balance of Payments, which gives the statistics for the first half of the financial year 1954-55. I quote from page 13 of this document, from the section headed “Balance of Payments with the Dollar Area “, as follows : -
The net result of Australia’s transactions on current account and on investment account-
Those are both current transactions and borrowings; - with dollar area countries in the first half of 1054-55 was a dollar deficit of 92,000,000 dollars. This represented a deterioration of 33,000,000 dollars in comparison with the. deficit of 59,000,000 dollars in the first half.’’ of 1953-54.
Honorable members will understand how disproportionately great this deficit is when they realize that the deficit on all of Australia’s trading transactions for the first six months of the financial year 1954-55 amounted to £96,000,000, that only a very small proportion of Australia’s total transactions involves the United States of America, and that the sum of 92,000,000 dollars is equivalent to approximately £44,000,000. The dollar position contributes substantially to Australia’s overall balance-of-payments difficulties.
This Government has failed to face up to Australia’s relationship with the sterling area, and, above all, with the dollar area. The dollar position becomes more alarming when one realizes how much of the deficit is attributable to what are called invisible items. Those items include the repayments of loans such as the one to which this bill relates. They include also the repatriation to the United States, shall I say, of the dividends and earnings of the subsidiaries in Australia of American companies. Continued dollar borrowing is making Australian industry more and more dependent upon American machinery, and the re-equipment of industry in this country will depend increasingly on American industry. Nothing is being done to counteract this trend by increasing Australia’s capacity to meet the burden of the invisible items as the payments from time to time become due.
The loan under consideration now, which will amount to 54,500,000 dollars, is comparatively small. It represents approximately one year’s dollar borrowings. Repayments of this loan will begin in March, 1958, and Australia will then be meeting interest and amortization payments in respect of a total indebtedness of about 260,000,000 dollars. As the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) has pointed out. the annual outgoing required to meet those debts alone will be approximately 25,000,000 dollars. In all seriousness, I ask how Australia can discharge its increased obligations, for the repayment of dollar loans?
As I have pointed out, the latest figures available indicate clearly that Australia’s dollar position is deteriorating. Proposals for the last two or three loans of this type have been brought to the Parliament by the Government for consideration on the assumption that the money would increase Australia’s capacity to earn dollars. ‘.But the reverse effect manifests itself, and Australia, economically, is becoming increasingly tied to the United States. I am aware that some people consider that, for Australia’s future welfare, this trend is inevitable. However, that view is not held on this side of the House. Members of the Opposi- tion consider that Australia has a great potential, great technical capacity and abundant supplies of skilled labour, and that it is capable of undertaking its own development and of orientating that development as Australia itself sees it in relation to the world.
American industry is beginning to pick the eyes out of Australia’s capacity. The American investor do.es not consider the possibilities in Australia and say, “ Here is a languishing industry that has not developed. It is not likely to yield dividends for ten or fifteen years, but, in the long run, it will be a good thing for Australia, and I shall invest in it.” Instead, he chooses to make his investment in the motor industry, the tobacco industry, the textile industry and similarly profitable industries that can well be developed by the use of Australian know-how, and by reliance on Australian skill and sources of supplies and on British rather than American industry. Year after year, it has been claimed in this House that it is a good thing for Australia and for its future development that we have America behind us. The time has come when we should seriously consider the whole position, and I suggest that it should be considered in its proper context and in the light of its relationship to Australia’s overall balance of payments. That is one matter on which this Government can be seriously indicted. It has from time to time hesitatingly and haltingly imposed import restrictions, only to remove them after perhaps six months in the belief that things have improved, and to reimpose them after a further period of six months has elapsed. That sort of administration does not encourage the development of Australian industry.
It is all very well for the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) to talk about Australia’s cost structure, and the inability of Australian industry to compete with the industry of other countries. Serious analysis of the situation reveals that there is not, and never has been, a great part of Australian secondary production exported in competition with overseas ‘ products. For the most part, secondary industry in this country has depended on the internal market. Australian exports to the dollar areas and other parts of the world have been chiefly primary products, and some metals, such as lead and zinc. The products of only a few marginal secondary industries have been exported from this country. The important consideration is that Australia can buy from abroad only in proportion to its sales abroad.
The position of America in .relation to the fluctuation of Australia’s export earnings also is important. Violent fluctuations have taken place which have affected commodities such as rubber, tin and wool, which are produced in the sterling area. Those fluctuations have been due to the economic policy pursued by America itself under the principle of what is vaguely called “ stockpiling “. That policy meant, that the prices of rubber and tin were halved almost overnight. Wool has been similarly affected because of the American wool market’s internal price support, and also by the vagaries of American buyers on the international market. I suggest that an obligation rests on America to take a broader attitude to those problems. We hoped, twelve or eighteen months ago. when America, established a commission known as the Randall Commission, that there would be some alleviation of the problem. Great hopes were placed in the possibility of a liberalization of America’s trade policy as a result of the work of that commission, but, unfortunately, those hopes were quickly dashed. The Randall Commission reported in accordance with its terms of reference, but when its submissions were dealt with by Congress and various congressional committees, they did not receive a very flattering reception, and there has been virtually no change in America’s economic policy. Perhaps, when the Treasurer goes to America, instead of talking to the president of the International Bank about another loan for Australia, he might talk to some of the more important people in the American Government, and ask them to be more realistic in their trade policies. A more realistic American trade policy would mean more to us in dollars than do loans from the International Bank.
It is timely at this stage to ask whether, in regard to the International Bank, Australia is playing the role that was envisaged when that institution was established. Here is one occasion when, contrary to what Shakespeare suggested, Australia can both a borrower and a lender be. As well as borrowing from the International Bank, Australia is in a position to lend to other countries from its resources. “We should, for instance, be lending money to some of the Eastern countries which require development. It is true, as the Government says, that there are still abundant prospects for economic development in Australia, but there is even more room for economic development in such countries as Burma, India, Pakistan. Ceylon or even Malaya. In comparison with those countries. Australia is indeed a favored nation. Whilst Australia is doing something through the Colombo plan to help those countries, it could also do a great deal in terms of its obligations as a lender in the International Bank. I submit that, in many respects, all that the International Bank has succeeded in doing has been to lend dollars to countries that are not in as great a need of them as are some other countries.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean that we should start an International Bank of our own?
– I do not mean that. America is not the only country in the International Bank. Each country which is a member of the bank is not only a potential borrower, but is also a potential lender. There has been no attempt by the Australian Government, on the occasions when it has sent emissaries to Eastern countries, to ask those countries whether there is a way in which we can help them. After all, an Australian loan to an Eastern country would be the equivalent of a sterling loan. Such a loan could be made available in the manner adopted on one occasion, when the Australian Government sent to India a certain amount of wheat which was sold by the Indian Government and the proceeds used to purchase capital equipment for developmental purposes. Such a device could again be used to assist Eastern countries that require economic development. As some writers have put it, the great test in Asia to-day is between two great countries, India on the one hand, and China on the other hand. India is attempting economic development under a democratic economic planning system, and China is carrying out its economic development virtually by forced labour. Yet it seems that, in per capita terms, the economic development of China threatens to overshadow the rate of economic development in India. I submit that that is a very important matter, insofar as the combating of communism in the East is concerned. Rather than thinking purely in military terms, we should think more broadly in terms of economic development as a means of combating communism in Asia. I should think that an Australian loan of £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 to an Asian country would pay far more, in progressive dividends, than would the despatch of one division or two divisions of Australian soldiers to any Eastern country. The lending of money is a more Christian and humane means of approach to this problem than is military intervention.
It is competent for Australia to examine its obligations in connexion with the International Bank, not as a potential borrower from the bank, but as a potential lender to Eastern countries. Meanwhile, the Government should not continue to overlook, as it has in the past, the serious deterioration that has taken place in Australia’s balance of payments position, which has been camouflaged to some degree by various devices, such as the present device of borrowing dollars wherever they can be borrowed. As the Leader of the Anti-Communist Labour party (Mr. Joshua) has said, dollars can be obtained in three ways. They can be obtained as a result of our own earnings, from the dollar pool, or from transactions of the kind with which this bill deals. In fact, I think the Treasurer has succeeded in finding a fourth way to obtain dollars, because recently he borrowed from Switzerland francs which are, in effect, the equivalent of dollars, because they “can be exchanged for dollars on the world market. All he has done in that transaction is to get the equivalent of £6,000,000 from Switzerland, sell it to the Commonwealth Bank in the form of foreign securities, bring it home to Australia, invest it in the National Debt Sinking Fund, and then say that when the next loan comes along there will be £6,000,000 in the fund to support it. That means that, apparently, Australia’s credit is better in Switzerland than it is in Melbourne or Sydney, which is a rather peculiar situation.
I should have thought that, since the Treasurer was able to borrow in Switzerland at an interest rate of 3J per cent., and as the International Bank’s loan carries an interest rate of 4f per cent., he would have borrowed twice as much from Switzerland at the low rate, and half as much from the International Bank at the high rate. Not only is the Swiss interest rate about 1 per cent, lower than the International Bank’s interest rate, but there are no strings tied to the Swiss loan as there are to this loan from the International Bank. Australia’s true position in world trade, particularly with the dollar areas, is being camouflaged. Almost half of Australia’s adverse balance in the past six months has been due to indebtedness to countries in the dollar area. One large item, which is increasing every year, consists of repayments of principal and interest on loans. The other important item is the repatriation of dividends from companies which have invested in Australia’s industry or established themselves here. Those companies appear to have reached the stage at which they desire to take a large part of their dividends out of the country. In the financial year ended the 30th June, 1954, the equivalent of about 20,000,000 dollars was sent out of Australia in the form of payments to American shareholders in companies established in Australia.
For those reasons, honorable members on this side of the House oppose the measure. The bill demonstrates a failure on the part of the Government to face up to the true situation, which threatens to cause, within a short time, a breakdown in the whole economic fabric of the Australian community. The position is far more serious than this Governmentappears to think. The Government should view with alarm the Balance of Payments Statement issued yesterday by the Acting Commonwealth Statistician. The information on pages 13, 14 and 15 of that statement, which deals with Australia’s trade relations with dollar areas, should be soberly considered. The bill will have the effect of bringing the evil day even closer.
.- The House is considering a bill for an act to authorize the raising of a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and for purposes connected therewith. I support the bill and point out that I have had an opportunity, as many other members have had, of seeing some of the beneficial results of previous loans that have been obtained, and the uses that have been made of them. The money has been used, for instance, to provide -equipment for the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority, equipment for State governments for the extension and maintenance of roads, and mechanical equipment for coal mines. I have seen some of the mechanical equipment in operation in the mines. I remind the House that during the general election campaign in 1949, members of the Labour party were travelling around the country and asserting that the Menzies Government would never get coal, because the miners would never co-operate with that government. Now, it is found that, because of the lead given by this Government in providing extra equipment for the coal-mining industry, we not only have coal sufficient for our needs, but also are seeking export markets. If the export trade in coal can be developed, we shall have accomplished one of the objects advocated by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) - the two-way traffic. The provision of the mechanical equipment in coal mines has made the job of the coal-miner much easier. That factor has assisted in increasing production, because industrial troubles have been greatly decreased.
So much national development requires to be done, and so many things need to be achieved at the one time, that we must obtain some assistance from abroad. More money and more men are needed. There are three main ways in which money may be obtained. The first way is by increasing taxation within the country. The second is by encouraging the people to save more money, and make bigger contributions to internal loans. The third method is by raising external loans. That is the method which we are now debating. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) tas said that the Labour party is completely opposed to external borrowing, but he has not told us what he would substitute for it. No member on this side of the House is advancing the theory that all our monetary needs should be supplied by external borrowing, but wc do advocate a balanced plan. As we cannot obtain sufficient money from within Australia for all our current needs, a balanced programme of external borrowing is necessary. That is why we support this bill.
I remember very vividly the plans put forward by the Opposition during the recent general election. Opposition members spoke of great sums of money that they would spend if they were returned to office, and I wondered how they proposed to raise that money. After having listened to the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne this afternoon, and having in mind the promises made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) during the election campaign, I came to the conclusion that the Opposition was proposing to use the method of inflation in order to increase the amount of available money. As is well known, that is only a short-term method, and it is one of the most vicious forms of taxation which can be introduced. That is why I have limited my remarks to three methods of raising more money - legitimate taxation, which, of course, has its limits, the encouragement of saving in the country so that internal loans can be raised, and, balanced with that, the obtaining of loans from external sources, in this case, from the United States of America.
I have mentioned a two-way traffic. I listened with great interest to the speech made this afternoon by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). I support the honorable member in regard to most of his remarks, and I shall not repeat the points that he has made, but I wish to mention the matter of the twoway traffic. This money will be made available for transport, the development of agriculture, food processing, and roads, and one sees great opportunities in those directions. If some of our food-processing industries can be mechanized, then the costs borne by our primary producers will be reduced, and they will be enabled to sell their goods in competition in the world markets. For that reason alone, the proposed loan will serve a useful purpose. I shall cite one small primary industry as an example. I have been told that passion fruit is in very great demand overseas. Certain districts in New South Wales have the best climatic conditions, and the proper environment and soil, for the growing of passion fruit. There is a great demand for this product in the United States Quite a number of growers of passion fruit live in my electorate, and, at present, they are looking for outside markets. Admittedly, the domestic market is by no means fully supplied, but they look to overseas markets to take their product when they extend their acreage. They would be grateful if the Government, through its Trade Commissioner Service in the United Kingdom, opened up new markets for them. Part of the dollar loan could very well be made available to the food processing industry. In that way, the Government could assist both primary and secondary industry.
– Where does the fruit come from?
– From the Mangrove Mountain area. Those of us who represent country electorates have conferences from time to time with representatives of shires responsible for the maintenance of roads. The responsibility of shires is different from that of municipalities, because of the greater road mileage within shires. However, the shires have great difficulty in obtaining money for the construction of new roads and the maintenance of existing roads. Similar difficulty is experienced by county councils in providing electric power and water to rural areas. They cannot obtain what they consider to be their fair share of the loan money available. They are required to make their applications to the respective State governments, which should recognize their needs, but do not appreciate them. Many of them may raise loans on their own account, but all too frequently the loan market is drained by the Australian Government, the State governments, and the large semi-governmental instrumentalities. It has been suggested that a representative of local-governing bodies should attend meetings of the Australian Loan Council to put forward the views of those who are responsible for what I may term the bread and butter work of country administration.
I support the bill, but I believe that a strict watch should be kept on the way in which the loan money is spent. It is essential that the capital equipment purchased should assist us to reduce costs. Much has been said about the need to export more and to import less, but if we are to restore our overseas trade balance, we must lower the cost of manufacture and production. The Government can only give a. lead in the matter by making equipment available. The real responsibility lies- with those who operate the machines, work on the farms, and manage the factories. A concerted movement on the part of all sections of the community will be needed if we are to compete on the world market, and terminate the process whereby the Australian consumer subsidizes our exports. This loan will assist us to achieve our national objective of expanding and strengthening our economy and thereby becoming a greater nation.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
.- As the honorable member for Banks, it is perhaps fitting that I should make some contribution to the debate on a bill dealing with banks. The purpose of the bill is to authorize the borrowing from the International Bank for Reconstruction, and
Development of 54,500,000 dollars, or approximately £24,000,000. The Labour party is opposed to the borrowing of this money. It is opposed to the borrowing of any money from overseas. We believe that to be unnecessary and unwise.
– The State Labour Premiers do not think so.
– I shall deal with that matter later. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has stated in his second-reading speech that, since this Government has been in office it has borrowed from the International Bank a total of 258,500,000 dollars, or approximately £115,000,000. This is the fourth loan that this Government has negotiated with the International Bank. It seems to be a habit of the Government to raise such a loan each year, and the annual report of the bank shows that Australia is the bank’s best customer.
The sum of 258,500,000 dollars does not. represent all the money that Australia has borrowed from the United States of America. The Americans have made us loans other’ than those negotiated, through the bank. The budget for 1954-55 showed that our outstanding debt to America at that time was £12S,600,000. That may not be the correct figure, because international loans are not brought directly into the accounts. However, accepting that figure as correct, this new loan will bring our total indebtedness to America this year to £152,600,000. Then we must consider the interest on the loans. Australia’s interest payments to America at June, 1954, amounted to no less than £5,626,000 a year. The annual interest chargeable on this loan will be £1,125,000, and our annual interest bill on debts to America will then be £6,751,000. The financial position, as I see it, is that after this loan has been completed, we shall owe to America £152,600,000, on which the annual charges will be approximately £6,700,000. That indebtedness will have an impact upon our already huge national debt and our already huge annual interest payments. The national debt last year, as shown in the budget, was nearly £4,000,000,000, on which the annual interest charges were £115,000,000. Less than twenty years ago the annual revenue of the Commonwealth was less than £100,000,000, but to-day the interest charges on debts exceed that figure. The sum which we must find for interest payments annually is colossal.
The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, said that this loan agreement provides for a rate of interest % per cent, less than that charged on the 1953 loan. That is not much of a reduction. Even with the reduction, the interest rate for this loan is 4f per cent., which, I believe, is too high. The International Bank was established after World War II. to assist in the rehabilitation of wardamaged countries and also to assist in the development of backward countries. I do not know whether the Treasurer considers that Australia is a backward country, but, as I have already pointed out, we have borrowed more money from the International Bank than has any other country. I think the charges made for this loan through that desirable institution are far- too high. I say the bank is a desirable institution, because it was established to lend money for international purposes. It could render great service to the world, but I feel that it charges too much for its services. According to the Treasurer’s secondreading speech, the repayment of the loan will be spread over a period of fifteen years. The right honorable gentleman also said -
As with precious International Bank loans, it is intended to pay the Australian currency proceeds of our fourth loan into the National Debt Sinking Fund. This is provided for in clause 6 of the bill, and clause 7 requires the National Debt Commission to meet repayments of principal to the International Bank as they fall due. In effect, therefore, the loan provides its own sinking fund. Payments of interest and other charges are to be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This is provided for in clause 8.
The Treasurer referred to principal, interest and other charges. I do not know whether the term “other charges” includes the exchange that we shall have to pay in making the repayments. If it does, the loan will cost us 25 per cent, more than would otherwise be the case. Under the terms of the agreement, we shall make annual repayments over fifteen years of the interest and principal combined. The payment each year will be £2,585,000. The total payment will be no less than £38,775,000. So a loan of £24,000,000 will involve repayments of nearly £39,000,000. In other words, the loan will cost us over £14,000,000. That supports my contention that the interest charges are too high.
If this Government intends to make a practice of negotiating these loans, we shall have to ask some questions. We shall have to ask, first, how Australia will finish up if this kind of borrowing continues, as it seems likely to do. The only answer that can be given to that question is that Australia will become bankrupt. It is rather like playing the one-arm bandits. If we play them, for long enough, they will take all that we have. The second question that we shall have to ask is what this Government is doing to improve Australia’s financial position in the dollar area. The only answer to that question is “ Nothing “. I believe the Government can, and should, do something to improve our balance of trade with America before it is too late. When I asked the Treasurer last year to state the reason why the Government continued to borrow from the International Bank, he said that it was necessary to do so in order to get dollars for the purchase from America of machinery and capital equipment to assist various industries. He stated that the loan was intended to aid agriculture, coal-mining, the iron and steel industry, railways, road transport and electric power production, but he spoke only in general terms.
I suggest that the Government’s policy of continually purchasing machinery in the dollar areas should be gradually tapered off, and plans should be made to manufacture, in Australian workshops, all the machinery that we require. The Department of National Development should do something in that direction. As far as I know, that department hardly justifies the money spent on it. About the only job that it has on its hands at present is an undertaking that was started by the last Labour government, the Snowy Mountains scheme. I suggest that that is the only real developmental work that is being undertaken by the present Government, and even that was originated by a Labour government. I suggest that the Government should encourage the establishment of industries to manufacture plant and equipment that at present we have to buy from dollar areas.. Moreover, the Government should help to remodel existing industries so that they can produce some of the important capital equipment that we need.
I do not disagree with the suggestion of the Australian Labour party (AntiCommunist) that a committee should be set up to investigate the expenditure of the dollars that we raise by way of loans. Such a committee should consider all the ramifications of our dollar loans, and ensure that our dollars are spent on essential equipment. For too long our dollar imports have exceeded our dollar exports, and that is why we have such a large deficit in our dollar trade. But this Government has done nothing to improve that position ; it has allowed it to remain static. The Treasurer claimed that all the dollars raised by Australia are used to purchase dollar-earning equipment, but Australian trade statistics show no evidence of that being a fact. Our exports to America are not increasing, and our imports are increasing rapidly. Consequently, our balance of payments is becoming more adverse year by year.
During the present year, portion of our debt to America will fall due, and about 70,000,000 dollars that we raised when the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development was established will have to be repaid. Apparently, we shall have to negotiate a conversion loan on the American market to cover that portion of the debt, simply because this Government has neglected its duty. I am prepared to wager that when such a conversion loan is raised, the interest that we shall have to pay will not be less than 5 per cent, per annum.
I now desire to refer to the speech of the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). He challenged, the Australian Labour party to put forward a substitute for the raising of dollar loans. I believe that I have put forward a satisfactory substitute in the contention that we should develop our own Australian industries until they are capable of making the capital equipment that we now need to buy for dollars. If we do that, we shall not need to raise any more dollar loans. I suggest that there is adequate capital available inside Australia to be used for this purpose. For example, there is over £1,000,000,000 deposited in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and almost a similar amount deposited in the private trading banks. Moreover, until recently, when the mismanagement of this Government reduced the balance, we had many millions of pounds to our credit in London. I believe that all those assets could be used to develop industry in Australia until it is capable of producing the capital equipment that we are now spending dollars to buy.
The honorable member for Robertson mentioned the coal-mining industry, and said that it was only because we obtained coal-mining capital equipment from the dollar areas that we were able to produce all the coal that we need. As a matter of fact, at present, we are producing more coal than we need, and much of the surplus is now lying at grass. If the Government intends to continue borrowing dollars to purchase coal-mining equipment, then it will only indulge in anextravagant waste of money, because we have more- coal than we need or can sell.
The honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer) has stated that there is great scope for further development of this country. I agree with him, but I say that the Government is not using the dollars that it has borrowed to develop Australia in the proper way. Other speakers on the Government side have maintained that we should use dollars to maintain our national assets. I believe that if we make machinery here and do not have to buy it from America, we can use that machinery not only to produce new goods but also to maintain our national assets. There is much merit in the suggestion by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) that a committee should be Set up to look into the whole matter of our dollar borrowing and spending. The Treasurer has spoken about the matter in very general terms and I believe that., for the information of the House, he should, have been much more specific.
According to the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) the proposed dollar loan- waa. suggested by the Australian Loan Council. That may be so, but I challenge the Government to say that it is not in favour of raising the loan, and that it is really the Australian Loan Council and not the Government that wants to raise these dollars. This Government has a happy knack of passing the buck. If it does not pass it to the Australian Loan Council it passes it to the States or to some other organization. Surely it is time that it shouldered its own responsibilities. The honorable member for Ballarat challenged the Government to say something about the dollar pool. That is certainly a. very mysterious pool, and we know very little about it. Perhaps later the Treasurer will inform honorable members of the nature of the control of this pool. However, I disagree with the remarks of the honorable member for Ballarat about Malaya, because Malaya earns more dollars for the British Commonwealth dollar pool than any other country in the Commonwealth, and it would not be in the best interests of Australia in particular, and the British Commonwealth in general, if we were to lose Malaya’s contribution to that pool.
I support the Australian Labour party’s opposition to the proposed loan. I believe that this Government is rapidly putting Australia in pawn, and I maintain that the interest that will be charged is far too great and that a new loan will only increase our already over-large overseas debt. I sincerely believe that we should learn to live on our own resources.
.- One would have thought, in a debate about development, a subject which honorable members from both sides of the House have frequently mentioned, that there would have been unanimous support from both Government and Opposition supporters for any measure which would lead to the further development of this country. One would have thought that the same thing would have happened as happened with regard to the first two loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. That is, that this loan would have been unanimously supported by honorable members of this House. Not only did the Australian Labour party support the raising of those first two loans, but, as was pointed out. by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the late Mr. Chifley, who I understand, fromwhat I have heard from honorable members of the Opposition, was a great Treasurer, himself borrowed money from abroad’.
One would have thought that Mr. Chifley having set the example in that way, the Opposition, with its great belief in Mr. Chifley, would have been prepared to follow his example. But, lo and behold, instead of supporting the loan, quite a different stand has been taken to-day by the members of the Australian Labour party. Their attitude was nothing more than an attitude of gloom. The first speaker on behalf of the Opposition was the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Ever since the end of 1949, his attitude has been one of gloom. Time and time again we have heard from the honorable member speeches that have had the same theme which has been that the country was going to- bits, that the Government did not know how to manage the business of the country, and that before very long, to use an expression of the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), the country would be bankrupt. But the House is used to hearing the honorable member for Melbourne, and the country is used to him. “We always get our laugh when he rises in his place, and we have had our laugh to-day.
– But honorable members opposite are not getting it to-night.
– Just wait. We will get our laugh again. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who is understood by honorable members to be an economist, used certain remarks that were somewhat surprising. They were to the effect that the proposed borrowing of this money was an irresponsible act on the part of the Government, that it would threaten the economic fabric of the Australian community, and that the evil day was being brought closer. Such statements are remarkable, particularly when they come from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. One wonders whether the economist was speaking, or whether the honorable gentleman had been led away by the honorable member for Melbourne. I think that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, having heard his remarks quoted, realizes that he went far beyond his real beliefs.
I suggest that it would be wise, in view of the statements that have been made by Opposition members to-day, and particularly in view of the fact that the Opposition supported the first two loans that were obtained from the International Bank, to examine the question of international loans. Having listened to the speeches that have been made, and having regard particularly to the notable remarks of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, one would like to ascertain whether there has been any irresponsibility or whether the Government has not rather shown a measure of statesmanship in obtaining more money for the development of this country. I submit, as a matter of fundamental principle, that the borrowing of money from abroad is not necessarily a bad thing. If honorable members opposite want any authority for that submission, one has only to give them the example of their former leader, Mr. J. B. Chifley. When one borrows money from abroad, a great deal depends upon the manner in which he intends to use that money when he obtains it. If he intends to squander the money, naturally that would, be a bad thing. On the other hand, if he were to put that money to vital developmental purposes, that would be a very good and sound thing to do. In the past, much valuable use has been obtained from money that has been borrowed overseas.
It is true that, when there have been times of economic stress in Australia, there has been difficulty in relation to foreign borrowings. That difficulty has not been associated necessarily with foreign borrowings because, as a general rule, those periods of economic stress and strain have been world-wide. To-day, the position is somewhat different, because there is now far greater monetary control than there used to be. Since the last depression, the governments of the world have learned to understand monetary control better than they formerly understood it. The experience of the last five years in this country has shown how monetary control can keep the economy of a country on a stable basis, and how it can bring it back from a condition of difficulty into one of great prosperity. Consequently, the danger that has existed in the past in relation to foreign loans vanishes almost entirely. In addition, the capital structure of Australia is very much stronger than it used to be. The industrial structure has been widened very greatly, and there has been greater production and a very much greater investment of capital than formerly. Because we have that stronger capital structure, we can carry, in a very much better manner, the stress and strain that might flow from trouble overseas in relation to foreign investments.
So far, I have dealt with the matter from the point of view of principle. Let us now see how far we can deal with the matter from the point of view of authority. When I say “from the point of view of authority “, I mean from the point of view of opinions which one should accept or which, if one does not accept them, should greatly influence one. I am saying nothing in relation to the Government because I am putting it, or perhaps the Opposition has put it, in the position of a defendant; but we know certainly that the Government, as I pointed out a few minutes ago, has brought the country back from a condition of wild inflation into a condition of great prosperity. Let us take, first, the views of the conference of British Commonwealth finance ministers of January, T954. That was a conference of financial ministers of the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations. There was present, at that conference, the greatest financial knowledge that exists within the British Commonwealth of Nations. That conference decided definitely that one of the weaknesses of our financial structure was our difficulty in getting money from non-sterling countries, and that it was essential, in order to secure proper development within the British Commonwealth of Nations, that we should be able to obtain more money from nonsterling countries. It will be observed that the greatest financial brains within the British Commonwealth are in favour of obtaining money from sources such as the International Bank.
Perhaps we have not the same financial geniuses when we come nearer home, but at least we have men who have had positions of responsibility in different governments, and who understand the responsibilities of government. I refer to the members of the Australian Loan Council, which is comprised of State Premiers who have behind them experienced Treasury advice. What do the members of the Australian Loan Council say in relation to this matter? The honorable member for Banks attempted to brush aside their opinion by saying that the Australian Loan Council had nothing to do with the matter, and that it . was the Australian Government that was responsible. The honorable member should inform himself better than that. Before the proposed loan could be raised, it was necessary that it should be approved by the Australian Loan Council. The Australian Loan Council included representatives of five State Labour governments, ‘ but the decision of the council was unanimous. The State Labour governments want this money for development. They will not thank the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, the honorable member for Banks, and the honorable member for Melbourne, for the speeches that they have made to-day. The State Labour governments regard speeches of that type as drawbacks, and they are well aware that there are quite a number of those drawbacks to hinder them.
This will be the fourth loan that Australia has obtained from the International Bank. It is true, as the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) has stated, that Australia is the greatest borrower from the bank, but the honorable member failed to tell the House also that Australia is the least financial worry of the bank, because Australia is so sound.
– We have a few worries though.
– I have left the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) severely alone. I can well understand that he has more than a few worries. It has been a condition of the three previous loans received by Australia from the International Bank that records be kept of the manner in which goods purchased with the proceeds of the loans are used, and of the progress of the development programme undertaken with the moneys. The very thing for which the honorable member for Ballarat asks - an examination of the position - is made by the lending authority, which requires to know whether the goods purchased with the loan are put to the proper use for which the money was lent. Having stipulated requirements similar to those of the previous three loans, the International Bank has now agreed once more to lend money to Australia.
Reference has been made to the great trouble that is alleged to occur in relation to the international balance of payments. The International Bank takes that matter into consideration. Honorable members will see that the agreement already entered into with the bank provides that information shall be given with respect to the international balance of payments position of the borrower, that is, Australia. That agreement was signed in the middle of March of this year. The International Bank was aware, up to that time, of Australia’s balance of payments position, and, notwithstanding the remarks of honorable members opposite, was, and is, prepared to lend this country another 54,500,000 dollars.
The principals of the bank are canny financiers, and are extremely hardheaded businessmen. The honorable member for Ballarat is well aware, as other members of this House probably are aware, that most bankers are hard-headed. The officers of the International Bank do not consider that Australia is a bad risk, and they do not doubt that the proceeds of the loan will be devoted to development projects. On the contrary, they are willing to allow Australia to become the bank’s biggest debtor. That fact will help us to obtain capital from abroad for investment in development works. When investors in other countries learn that the International Bank has so much confidence in Australia, they also will be prepared to invest money in this country to assist our development. Australia needs much development, particularly at the present time, when the huge immigration programme and the natural increase of population are increasing the total population by many thousands of people annually. All those additional citizens must be absorbed into our economy, and they must be given useful employment, [n addition, we must maintain our living standards. To do so, we must increase productivity in order to give full employment to the increasing number of people in this country.
We are providing for the most important types of development. An amount of 47,000,000 dollars of the proposed loan will be allocated, in equal proportions, to transportation and agriculture. Agricultural products constitute SO per cent, of Australia’s exports. We must do our utmost to develop agriculture in this country, not only to provide food for our increasing population, but also to enable us to maintain our considerable export trade in agricultural commodities. If our balance of payments is adverse, the need for us to .improve agricultural production becomes even greater. Therefore, it is essential for us to have this loan money for the development of agriculture.
A great part of the 23,500,000 dollars that will be spent on transportation will be expended upon roads. Many a time have various members of the Opposition stated in this House that Australia needs better roads, and many a time have they denounced the Government for not providing more money for the construction and maintenance of roads. Yet, when the Government decides to provide from this loan more funds for road works, the Opposition intends to vote against the proposal. More and better roads are needed. No really effective road planning has been undertaken in Australia. Approximately 75 per cent, of Australian thoroughfares are dirt roads. The volume and the weight of modern road traffic require wider and more strongly constructed roads than we have in Australia at the present time. Better roads are essential to effective decentralization and the development of rural resources. Defence requirements also demand that more and better strategic roads shall be constructed, and for a variety of other reasons, it is essentia] that we greatly improve our roads.
As I have stated, when members of the Opposition have an opportunity to support a proposal that will help to improve the roads of Australia, they refuse to give their approval because they have in their ranks a few so-called economists whose ideas are purely doctrinaire. The economists on the opposite side of the House declare, in effect, that the idea of borrowing from abroad is terrible, that it conjures up a vision of a horrible spectre, and that it is contrary to the sacred policy of the Australian Labour party. They admit it is true that their former great leader .borrowed from abroad, but they state now that they will not entertain the idea. When the authorizing legislation for the third loan from the International Bank was under consideration in this House, 44 members of the Opposition voted against it. By so doing, they voted against the further development of Australia, against full employment and against greater productivity; and every member of the Opposition who votes against this measure will vote against similar benefits.
.- I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), and, with all due respect, I should say that he was seen to much better advantage in his famous publication Joske on Divorce, than he has been seen in this debate. The honorable member reiterated the outdated and outmoded policy that was followed by the Bruce-Page Government in the 1920’s. The policy which he urged us to approve was for the continuance of overseas borrowing. That is the policy to which the Bruce-Page Government gave effect, and which took this country into the most tragic economic depression in its history. The policy advocated by the honorable member for Balaclava and his colleagues who have spoken to-night is a policy of “borrow, boom and bust”. A government of the political colour of the present Government, which continues to put such a policy into effect, will inevitably follow in the footsteps of its infamous predecessor, the Bruce-Page Government.
Tie Labour party is opposed to this loan. The honorable member for Balaclava claimed that the Government had led this country out of inflation into prosperity. I wonder whether people who to-day are paying 4s. per lb. for butter, for which they paid 2s. 2d. in 1949, will believe that the Government .has reduced the cost of living, and conquered inflation. The claim that it has done so is completely unsubstantiated. Any housewife, or any person in industry, irrespective of his or her financial position, will agree that never in the history of this country has inflation galloped at such a speed as that at which it is galloping under the present Administration.
The Government has claimed that the State Labour Premiers agreed to the raising of this loan. I should like to see some proof of that assertion. I should like the Treasurer to lay on the table the minutes of the meeting of the Australian Loan Council that gave effect to this policy of borrowing, because I believe that the Australian Loan Council vote on this matter was what might be termed a “ telegram vote”. I think that the Treasurer wired to the Premiers and said, in effect, “ The Government has lost the confidence of the people, and cannot raise a loan on the Australian market. You are urgently in need of money. Will you agree to our going to the International Bank in order to raise this finance ? “ I should like to see proof that this matter was considered round the table by members of the Australian Loan Council, and that the Premiers agreed to the proposal. I should like the Treasurer to table the minutes of the meeting in order to substantiate the claim that the Government has made. It is beyond doubt that the Government has lost, and cannot regain, the confidence of the people in respect of the raising of loans. This year, the Treasurer has raised by way of loan in Australia £27,000,000 less than he anticipated at the beginning of the year. Compare that with the fact that the Curtin and Chifley Administrations, which have been so strongly criticized to-night, raised from the Australian people loans totalling more than £1,500,000,000. That comparison throws into relief the sorry spectacle this Government makes in its efforts to raise loans in Australia. We on this side of the House believe that the policy of overseas borrowing enunciated by the Treasurer and other honorable members opposite is a tragic policy. We agree that development of this country is necessary, that capital goods are required for industry, and that dollars are necessary to buy them. But we can earn those dollars. The Treasurer, in his secondreading speech, used the following words : -
Recent marked improvements in productivity in our primary industries have undoubtedly been due, in no small measure, to the increased supply of modern American farming equipment, such as pick-up hay balers, combine, borage and other .harvesting .machinery -and specialized tractors.
Where is this increased production? Only yesterday, the Treasurer told us that our overseas balances were in an alarming condition. Our exports have never been lower, and every member of the Government knows that we face a real financial crisis because of the failure of production, and the failure to increase our exports in order to enable us to meet our commitments at home and abroad. We on this side of the House are not convinced that good use is being made of the overseas loans raised by the Government. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) said to-night that he had seen the results of the importation of machinery and capital goods acquired as a result of those loans. I think he is a miracle man, because, he is the only honorable member on either side who claims to have seen those results. We believe that production has not increased us a result of those loans, but that the Government has in some way squandered the money, instead of giving to the nation the benefits expected from the loan.
There are other important matters which are associated with the Government’s borrowing policy. The Treasurer made the following statement, in his second-reading speech: -
As I indicated in my press announcement of the loan, the International Bank has arranged to sell, without its guarantee, 10,400,000 dollars of the loan to eleven private banks in the United States.
The Government is bolstering up the profits of American private banks, and putting the Australian people in pawn to them, as it has put them in pawn to the private banking interests in this country. No honorable member opposite has yet indicated why that money is going to American private banks. None of them has given to the House any indication of why Australia should help to bolster the profits of those banks, at the expense of the Australian people, by having to make interest payments to them. I should like to know for certain that the Government has not sold Australia out, to that extent, to the American private banks. I should like the Treasurer to indicate to the House that we are not being used, as would appear from his speech, by the private banks in America for profit purposes, in the same way as we are being used by the private banks in Australia for the purposes of profits.
I contest statements by honorable members opposite, particularly the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), that Labour governments have made no worth-while contribution to the development of this country. I remind the honorable member for Bennelong and his colleagues that the great projects, such as the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, and housing schemes, which are now coming to fruition, were brain children of the Chifley Labour Government. A Labour government did all the planning for those projects, and the present anti-Labour Government is reaping the benefits, and is attempting to take the credit for them. This country is borrowing money from overseas countries to which we should really be lending money. The Vice-President of the Execu- tive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) tells us that the Government has been responsible for all the development in this country. The figures in respect of industrial development under the Labour Administration tell a different story. In 1940-41, before the Curtin Labour Government took office, there were about 27,000 factories in Australia. In 1947-48, during the Chifley Labour regime, the total had increased by 10,000 to more than 37,000. In 1940-41, more than 650,000 persons were employed in factories. When the Chifley Labour Government went out of office in 1949, more than 848,000 persons were so employed, which was an increase of more than 30 per cent. The history of Labour governments prior to the advent of the present Government shows that steady development took place under their administration in every section of industry. That development was the result of the great policies enunciated and given effect to by them, and of their wise methods of raising money. Great development also occurred in public works during the Chifley Administration’s term of office. The Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the State governments, has prepared extensive public works plans covering buildings such as hospitals, houses and schools, irrigation works, railway works, power schemes and the like to the value of £743,000,000. We did not rush to Switzerland or to the International Bank for money. We went to the Australian people for it, because they had confidence in the Chifley Administration. Labour governments raised more than £1,500,000,000 in order to finance the great schemes that they, instituted. What benefits have been obtained through wise Labour administration in the States? The electricity undertakings, the irrigation schemes, the roads and transport systems, of which the members of the Australian Country party and others take full advantage to-day, are the achievements of Labour governments which, according to the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), have made no contribution to the development of this country. It would take me hours to read through the whole volume of Labour achievements, but they are available in the library for perusal. I mention these matters in passing, in order to give the lie direct to honorable members on the other side of the House who take full credit for the achievements of to-day, without being alive to the fact that if there had not been a Labour government before them, they would have no policy and no achievements to boast about.
There are other matters which are worth mentioning in this debate. The honorable member for Bennelong said, in effect, “We must borrow for development all the time “. He stated repeatedly the policy of this Government in regard to overseas borrowing. I should like an explanation of why we had to go to the International Bank for this loan. Why could not the Treasurer have found the necessary finance in this country, and, at the same time, have speeded up production in order to produce goods for export which would return the amount that we are now borrowing from the bank at a high rate of interest?
Government supporters have said that the Chifley Government also borrowed from abroad. It is true that there was one borrowing episode, which involved a very minor amount, but those who knew the late Ben Chifley realize that his policy was the policy which has been clearly enunciated by the Labour party over the years. We are opposed to overseas borrowing. When the Labour party was in office from 1941 to 1949, we not only stopped overseas borrowing, but also considerably reduced our overseas indebtedness and interest payments. From the 31st December, 1941, to the 31st December, 1948, our overseas indebtedness was reduced by about £100,000,000 Australian, and interest payments were £7,200,000 a year less than when Labour took office in 1941. When it is realized that before 1.929 anti-Labour governments were borrowing from abroad at the rate of £30,000,000 a year, and that when that means of finance was cut off thousands of men and women were thrown out of work all over Australia, the soundness of Labour’s policy, which has been criticized by members of the Government, will be appreciated by the members of this Parliament and by the people of Australia.
It is beyond doubt that the borrowing programme of this Government, which will now bring the total amount to 258,500,000 dollars, is putting us in pawn to overseas interests in a big way. The time is rapidly approaching when Australians will be working, not to pay for imported goods, but to meet the interest payments to overseas bondholders and others. Thi3 country will find itself in pawn, as it was in the days of the tragic Treasurer in the Bruce-Page Administration.
Like other members of the Opposition, I am opposed to the borrowing programme of this Government, for the reasons that have been clearly enunciated by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and other members on this side of the House. It cannot be repeated too often that a continuance of the policy of the present Treasurer and those who sit behind him will undoubtedly spell financial ruin for this country. Therefore, I have endeavoured to-night to explode the furphies of the honorable member for Bennelong and others, and to bring the dangers of the Government’s policy to the attention of members of the Australian Country party, who are blind to the perils of borrowing so long as they can please the few wealthy pastoralists and others whom they represent.
I believe that the Treasurer has an obligation to tell this House to-night just when the Premiers of the States approved this loan, and when the Australian Loan Council gave its sanction to the loan. The Treasurer should produce the minutes of the Australian Loan Council meeting to this Parliament so that honorable members may ascertain the real attitude of the Australian Loan Council to these problems. I should like to ask the Treasurer whether he proposes to run again to the same source in the near future for more dollars, when he finds that the policy of the Government has not increased primary production, and has not increased the volume of .our exports, from which we hope to earn dollars and other currency abroad. Will the Treasurer give an assurance that some increase in production will follow this loan, and will he give details of how the money is to be spent? For all we know, it may result in another “Bell Bay “, and these, matters require investigation. If honorable members on this side of the House are being asked to give approval for a loan of this nature, then we are entitled to know how the money will be spent, where the machinery will be allocated, where the capital will be used, and in what way production will be stepped up.
With these few brief remarks, I voice my opposition to the measure, and I hope that the House will reject it.
– The various extravagant remarks that have been made about this loan of 54,000,000 dollars from the International Bank might almost lead one to believe that it is the first step in the downfall of Australia; but when the reality of the situation is considered, it is realized that this is the fourth dollar loan to be negotiated through the International Bank, and that the total of those four loans amounts to £160,000,000 Australian, which is less than half the value of the current Australian wool clip. If honorable members opposite will remember those facts, they will realize that they are endeavouring to throw dust, not only in their own eyes, but in the eyes of the people of Australia.
I am sometimes given to wonder about this attitude of Labour towards borrowing overseas. Perhaps the ideas behind it have originated in a recollection of the happenings in 1931, when a certain Labour government in New South Wales repudiated its obligations overseas, and when, had it not been for the intervention of the Lyons Government, which represented the politics of this present Government, Australia’s credit would have been - to use the phrase of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) - a very bad risk. Therefore, I think this House should examine the reasons for this loan more closely.
It is appropriate, even at this late stage of the debate, for me to examine the reasons for the necessity to borrow dollars. In earlier periods of Australia’s development, until World War I. and following it,, this country could rely, apart from its own resources. on extensive borrowing from the sterling areas. That borrowing provided the necessary finance for development. To-day, however, owing to the extraordinary reduction in Britain’s finances, due to the loss of its overseas credits and the necessity to build up her economy and her industries, British lenders are not in a position to finance the loans that we would normally have expected them to finance. Furthermore, Australia is faced with the necessity for obtaining goods from overseas which can be obtained only from dollar sources. In addition, this Government has to guarantee the general loan programme for the development of the States. Those two points must be the basis of any approach to the problem.
Various members on the Opposition benches have taken great credit to the Labour party for the fact that during World War II., and subsequently, the Australian market could finance the various loans which were required. That statement may seem accurate and fairly fundamental. But it is necessary to analyse why the Labour administrations of that period were able to arrange these loans from local sources. It would be no exaggeration to say that the government of that period had, as the result of its regulations, a stranglehold upon the financial resources of the country. Its regulations controlled mortgages, interest rates and capital issues, and restricted investment in that direction. The prices of stocks and shares, and the interest that could be obtained from them on the ordinary market, were also pegged. As a result, private investment was virtually channelled into government loans-. Honorable members opposite have taken credit for the large loans that were then raised within Australia, but their predecessors took fine care that they had no competitors on the loan market.
This Government has adopted an entirely different attitude. It believes that private investment should be directed through private channels for the development of Australia. At the same time, we realize our obligation, to assist government developmental schemes and we must, therefore, look elsewhere for finance.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) and. the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) suggested that such, loans as this had produced no visible results. I propose to tell honorable members what I have seen by keeping my eyes open as I have travelled in my large rural electorate. I have always been interested in the problem of fodder conservation. To-day there is in the great grazing areas of our vast continent a larger reserve of fodder than ever before. That may not mean much to honorable members who represent city electorates, but when one recalls the calamitous floods that recently occurred in New South Wales the importance of putting something away for a rainy day becomes more apparent. In fact, so much meadow hay and other kinds of fodder were available in the Victorian pastures that all the feed which was provided for stock in the stricken areas could not be handled by the railway system at Albury.
– Was it all by way of gift?
– I understand that it was, and, incidentally, the railways provided transport free of charge. People are too prone to forget these things. A reserve of fodder is a great asset to a country which is subject to flood, fire and drought. The latter condition especially 13 not unknown in Australia.
I have also witnessed the extensive mechanization of agriculture. This development can only result in greater production. The honorable member for Melbourne said that Australia’s production figures showed no improvement. The incorrectness of that statement can be shown if one examines our most important primary product, wool. The average weight of Australian greasy wool for the three clips in the years 1949 to 1952 was 1,113,000,000 lb. For the three following years, including the current year, the estimated production was 1,268,000,000 lb.; an increase of 155,000,000 lb., or 15 per cent. Those figures show how wild are some of the statements made by honorable members opposite.
The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean ) and other honorable members have mentioned road-making. The dollar loans have been of immense value in this field. Our municipal and State authorities have been able to purchase essential road-making machinery that can be bought only from dollar areas. Some honorable members appear to be blind, or they have not seen the work that is being done on such a vast scale in the Snowy Mountains and Eildon in Victoria. That work is being speeded by machinery purchased as a result of the dollar loans.
One aspect of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Australian Labour party (Anti-Communist) is worthy of examination. I do not agree with the amendment, because other means of examining expenditure are available to Parliament. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Bland) and his merry band of sleuths on the Public Accounts Committee could very well be asked by the House to inquire whether the loan was being spent as had been intended. Indeed, the honorable member for Warringah, as chairman of the committee, could doubtless take it upon himself to do so. I support the bill. We must adopt an Australian attitude and realize that we are the custodians of the future. If we allow ourselves to be hamstrung by financial limitations merely because that is the policy advocated by another party we shall be failing in our trust as guardians of the future.
.- This House and the nation are indebted to the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) for his brilliant speech, in which he reminded us of the grand record of the Labour Administration, which preceded this Government in office. He mentioned’ especially the splendid handling of Australia’s finances by the Treasurer who preceded the present holder of that office, and he warned honorable members that the policy now being pursued led to the disasters of the ‘twenties and ‘thirties. Overseas borrowing, which is gradually increasing, was the order of the day for Commonwealth and State governments right up to the early 1930’s. The fall in the prices of primary products, which is being repeated to-day, then led to a tragic depression which reduced industrialists, farmers and workers to bankruptcy and worse. However, the Government is like th« Bourbon kings of France; it never learns. We can learn some valuable lessons from the history of the depression of the 1930’s, but some honorable members opposite, although they- were members of the Parliament at that time, appear to have forgotten the evils of that period. I hope that the words of the honorable member for Grayndler will not be altogether wasted, and that his timely reminder will have some effect on the Government’s future policy.
The bill seeks to ratify the loan agreement entered into by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The agreement has been signed. Apparently, the Treasurer took the view that, as the majority of the members of the Parliament would accept his dictates, the matter could be proceeded with. Now, two or three months after the signing of the agreement, the Parliament is asked to ratify it. We on this side of the House register our protest against an unsound system of finance, but I am afraid that our protest will only be registered, and there is no hope that it will be effective. The Government will borrow 54,000,000 dollars. The schedule to the bill sets out the kinds of plant and developmental equipment on which the money will be spent. Because I regard the loan as an accomplished fact, I shall confine my observations to the purposes for which the money will be spent.
I have a vivid recollection of a press battle between the Premier of Queensland and the Treasurer of the Commonwealth over a scheme called the Burdekin irrigation and hydro-electric scheme. It is a vast project for the development of northern Queensland. If proceeded with, it would be larger than the Snowy Mountains scheme. I am informed that the Burdekin River is Australia’s greatest river. It discharges more water into the sea than any other river in this country. Competent officers of the Queensland Government, after careful investigations, have prepared a scheme for the damming of the river, the development of the area by means of irrigated farms, the expansion of the sugar industry and many other agricultural industries, and the provision of a most ambitious hydro-electric plant.
The Treasurer has said repeatedly that the scheme is uneconomic and financially impracticable, but the schedule to the bill reveals that some of the loan money is to be allocated for the development of the Burdekin River district of Queensland.
That part of the schedule and the statement made by the Treasurer to the Queensland press are contradictory. If the scheme was financially impracticable and economically unsound two or three months ago, why has the Treasurer made provision in the schedule to the bill for some of the money raised by the loan to be spent on the provision of developmental materials for this area? It would appear from the schedule that we have at last succeeded in getting the Treasurer to admit, unwittingly of course, that the scheme is sound. As the Treasurer has now admitted, in effect, the soundness of the Burdekin irrigation and hydroelectric scheme, I hope we shall see for the first time some co-operation in relation to it between this Government and the Queensland Government. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) suggests to me that the Treasurer is unaware of the contents of the schedule, but I am prepared to regard that part of the schedule as an admission by the Treasurer of the soundness of the scheme.
I listened with a great deal of interest, to the speech of the honorable member for Bennelong (Mr. Cramer), whose outstanding characteristic is modesty. I gathered from his remarks that he believed some members of the Parliament, or some Ministers, should go to the United States of America from time to time to endeavour to prepare the ground for the flotation of loans at the minimum rate of interest. The honorable member for Bennelong, through his long association with an electrical authority in New South Wales before he came here, is competent to speak of the evil effects of American dollar loans on Australian local authorities. Local authorities in this country are being bled white by interest charges on loans raised many years ago, when the Australian £1 and the £1 sterling were worth more in terms of dollars than they are now. Since that time the £1 sterling has been depreciated in relation to the dollar, and the Australian £1 has been depreciated in relation to the £1 sterling. So, local authorities which had the misfortune to receive a part of the dollar loans raised in the past, are now paying many times the capital value of the loans in interest charges to American bankers, and are unable to reduce the debt outstanding.
I speak with some bitterness on this matter, because during the time I was a member of the Brisbane City Council I studied the finances of that body and came to realize how, over the years, it was spending millions of pounds to pay charges on debts incurred by its predecessors. The honorable member for Bennelong suggested that some members of the Government parties should go to the United States with the object of obtaining the very best terms in respect of loans granted by the International Bank. The honorable member’s suggestion was, in effect, a castigation of the Treasurer, because the right honorable gentleman spent a considerable time in the United States prior to the negotiation of this loan. I know that it was only the modesty of the honorable member for Bennelong that prevented him from revealing who, in his opinion, was the honorable member most competent to handle such a task.
As the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) has said, we are gradually drifting towards a condition similar to that which this country experienced in the 1920’s and the early 1930’s. The workers of the nation, and only the workers, are being asked at the present time to carry the burden of inflation which the country is experiencing as a result of the administration of the present Government. Since 1949, inflation has got out of hand almost completely. The basic wage has been pegged by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court since 1953 in an endeavour to curb inflation but we know that that endeavour to curb inflation has failed. Costs have risen since that time because, as honorable members know, in the States where industrial courts have refused to recognize the wage-pegging principle adopted by the Commonwealth Arbitra tion Court, the basic wage has been increased in conformity with increases in the cost of living. The workers of this nation, as the result of wage-pegging, have contributed many millions of pounds to the effort to arrest the inflationary spiral. Since 1953, each worker who is employed under a Commonwealth award in Brisbane has lost £24 14s. In Perth, each such worker has lost £64 7s. I have before me the amounts that have been lost by workers under Commonwealth awards in other capital cities, but I shall not, embarrass the supporters of the Government by citing all of them. I content myself by saying that since the basic wage has been pegged by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, every person in the Commonwealth who is working under a Commonwealth award has lost £17 10s.
Those figures certainly support the statement made by the president of the Australian Council of Trades Unions that the workers of Australia have lost many millions of pounds because of the pegging of the basic wage by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The workers were the first to be attacked. The farming sections of the community are now rapidly approaching the stage when their incomes will be attacked. Overseas prices for primary products are dropping rapidly, and, indeed, they have already decreased to such a. degree that the Government has been compelled to make a belated effort to assist primary producers and others by imposing restrictions on the importation of goods. I understand that this year, the Government, under that system, will prevent the entry of about. £150,000,000 worth of goods. Notwithstanding that action, our trade position is deteriorating steadily. In the past nine months of this financial . year, the value of our imports exceeds the value of our exports by £51,000,000. The adverse trade balance in respect of “invisible imports,” is unknown.
A policy such as this Government’s present financial policy, which includes the raising of overseas loans, will accentuate our trade difficulties and add to the adverse position in relation to our invisible imports. I have no doubt that the position will continue steadily to deteriorate, and, as a result of the policy of the Government, we shall rapidly approach that state of affairs which we experienced in the depression of the early l93G’s. I take no pride in saying this, but each one of us can point the finger with- truth to the dual architects of this disastrous position. They are those very highly esteemed Privy Councillors, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer of this nation.
– in reply - There are one or two observations that I desire to make with regard to this debate, and one or two misconceptions that I wish to remove. The purpose of the bill is to authorize the raising of a loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. That borrowing could not take place unless it had the approval of the Australian Loan Council, which is composed of representatives of the six States of the Commonwealth, with the Treasurer of the Commonwealth as chairman.
– Where are the minutes of the Australian Loan Council?
– They are no more available to the members of this House than are the minutes of the squabbling caucus of the Labour party. Honorable members should remember that the five Labour-governed States are represented on the Australian Loan Council by the five Labour Premiers of those respective States, and the council has unanimously approved of this borrowing in every detail. Indeed, the members of the council have welcomed it, and cannot do without it.
In recent years, it has been obvious to anybody who has any responsibility in connexion with the matter, particularly to the Premiers of the developing States, that Australia has been passing through what is probably the most vigorous period, of development in its history. Partly as. a result of our immigration programme, our population has increased in the seven years since 1947 from 7,500,000 to 9,000,000 people. That is an increase of. no less than 20 per cent. To provide the basic services and other capital, equipment, required by that increased popular tion, and, at the same time, to overcome the shortages of capital equipment, caused by< World War II., a tremendous strain has been placed on our. economy. It. issignificant that, in recent years; public and private investments have absorbed at least 25 per cent., of the gross national production. We have made an immense effort to save and invest from our own resources,, and unless we. are prepared to lower our living standards1 - a course to which this. Government is definitely opposed - or vary our development plans, some assistance from abroad is essential. We cannot meet our own developmental programme and do all that we want to do from our own resources.
The policy of this Government has been to welcome overseas capital to Australia and to treat it properly when it comes here, particularly if it is intended for permanent investment and if it is likely to contribute to the desirable, development of Australian resources. During the term of office of this Government, it has been, interesting to note that private American investment, in Australia is estimated to have increased by between £60,000,000 and £70,000,00.0. That sum represents about a quarter’ of the net private investment in Australia from all overseas sources during that period. The United Kingdom, of course, has always been, and still is, a traditional source of overseas capital for investment in Australia and other parts of the British Commonwealth. However, there is. a limit to the responsibilities which the United Kingdom can assume in that way. Therefore, we have to look for- other avenues for capital for our everincreasing production, and to keep pace with the requirements of a growing, expanding and vigorous nation.
The dollar loans negotiated by the Australian Government with the International Bank have been of considerable assistance to Australia’s development. As a result of that borrowing, investment has been made possible both to private industry and public authorities; Both those sectors of our economy have gained access to urgently needed capital goods that are obtainable only from the dollar area. That is the basis upon which the Government has approached the matter, and. it. is this, realization, that has led the Labour-governed. States, which, are represented, on. the. Australian- Loan
Council, unanimously to approve what the Australian Government is now doing. We have heard a lot of. piffle from the Opposition to-night, and we have heard it stated repeatedly that the Australian Labour party is opposed to overseas borrowing. Quite apar.t from the fact that, for the reasons I have just enumerated, we cannot provide for development out of our own resources, what would be the effect if the policy of the Labour party were to be implemented ? The Labour party is opposed to overseas borrowing, but it still points to the late Mr. J. B. Chifley as its champion in the field of economic guidance.
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) says, “ Hear, hear ! “ I ask why did the Labour Government, under the leadership of Mr. Chifley, agree to Australia becoming a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, together with 56 other nations, and why has it placed this country under the obligation of a contingent liability of 200,000,000 dollars for membership of the bank and 200,000,000 dollars for membership of the International Monetary Fund ? Did the Labour Government place this country under such an obligation in order not to borrow from the pool to which it had contributed, together with the other 56 nations to which I have referred ? That is the position in relation to the financial policy of the Labour party. The position is exactly the same in relation to its other policies. It does not know where it is, and it does not know where it is going. It is consistent only in its inconsistency.
I must reply to one or two matters of detail that have been raised. There is a misconception about the manner in which the dollar loan is obtained. The AntiCommunist Labour party has foreshadowed an amendment which calls for vigilance in relation to the expenditure of the dollars that will be raised by virtue of this loan. The Australian Loan Council is responsible for the basic vigilance of the expenditure of such borrowings. Apart altogether from that fact, the whole question of dollar loans comes under the continuous scrutiny of a committee. Im ports arising from the loans are supervised by the same inter-departmental committee that was established originally by the Chifley Government to advise the then Minister for Trade and Customs on dollar import licensing and on the allocation of the materials and goods for which dollars were required. In addition, under the International Monetary Agreements Act 1947, the Treasurer is required, as soon as is practicable after the end of each financial year, to prepare and cause to be laid before each House of the Parliament a report on the operations of the act, and of the operations, insofar as they relate to Australia, of the International Monetary Fund Agreement, and of the International Bank agreement. In the discharge of my responsibilities, I laid such a report on the table of the House on Thursday, the 5th May, and it is available to every honorable member. It is a complete report, which deals with the categories of goods for which licences have been granted, and for which dollars will, be required.
It is very evident, despite the best intentions of honorable members, that a misunderstanding exists as to the manner in which the dollars are used, and how they become available. Australian importers, whether private, firms or governmental departments or agencies, that wish to import goods for use in the developmental programmes that have been agreed to by the Commonwealth and the International Bank, the categories of which are set out in the schedule to the bill, will apply to the Central Import Licensing Branch of the Department of Trade and Customs in the usual way for import licences. An importer who has been granted an import licence will then make normal arrangements with the American supplier to obtain the goods, and with, his Australian bank for the necessary payment in dollars to the supplier. The importer will then reimburse the Australian bank by payment of the equivalent amount in Australian currency. In other words, he buys dollar exchange from the Australian banking system in the normal commercial manner. Additional import licences which the Department of Trade and Customs will be able to issue as a result of the loan from the International Bank will result in an increased outgoing of dollars from the Australian banking system in return for which the banks will receive the equivalent in Australian currency from the importers. The dollar position of the Australian banking system will be replenished in the following manner: Details of the dollar payments that are made to the American suppliers will be notified to the Australian Consul-General in New York who, on the basis of information and supporting documents that are supplied to him from time to time, will submit applications to the International Bank for drawings. Dollar amounts drawn from the International Bank will be paid to the Australian Government’s bank account in New York. The Consul-General will then remit the drawings to Australia by selling the dollars to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia against credits in Australian currency in the Commonwealth Bank’s account in Australia. The result of those remittances will be that the Commonwealth bank, and thus the Australian banking system, will acquire dollars. That acquisition will offset the previous loss of dollars by the Australian banking system as a result of the increased issue of dollar import licences. At the same time, the Australian Government will acquire Australian currency. The substance of this procedure is that the Australian Government borrows dollars from the International Bank, remits them to Australia, and thereby makes the dollars available to the banking system. Thus, in general, drawings from the International Bank will not be made until after dollars have been paid in the ordinary way for goods of the types that are eligible for finance under the loan agreement.
It is the responsibility of the Government, through the inter-departmental committee, to ensure that licences for dollars are not issued in respect of goods outside the categories that are specifically defined in the schedules to the bill. I direct the attention of honorable members to the categories of goods for which it is proposed that dollars shall be available. Those categories include tractors and other agricultural implements and equipment. There is no need for vigilance in relation to those items. The people who want tractors will buy them, and pay for them, in the manner that I have just indicated. The same conditions and circumstances will apply to the import of industrial crawler tractors and earthmoving equipment. In relation to locomotives and rail cars, the State instrumentalities will be treated in the same manner as will be the ordinary purchasers of tractors, agricultural equipment, or any other goods for which dollars will be required. The same remarks apply to mining machinery, and to plant for the development of the productive capacity of the following industries : The textile industry, the paper-making and paperworking industries, including printing, the steel industry, the engineering industry, the building industry, the glass-making industry, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries, the food processing industry, the boot and shoe industry, and the electricity generating and transmitting industries. The suggestion contained in the proposed amendment is quite repugnant and quite unnecessary. The Government cannot accept it. To accept it would only cause delay, and would have no practical advantage or application. We cannot afford to delay the passage of this measure. The effective date of the loan is specified in the bill, and interest will be payable from that date. That is an obvious condition. If it were not made, funds might lie idle to the disadvantage of other borrowers who might urgently require them.
The honorable member for Melbourne alleged unfair discrimination on the part of the Government in its treatment of Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. I do not intend to discuss the details of that matter, but I shall state the main facts. The various decisions in relation to the import of aircraft have been made in the light of the dollar situation that obtained at the time at which each application was made, and not on the basis of an equal allocation of dollars over a long period to each airline concerned.
– What about the fair competition that the right honorable gentleman talked about?’
– I shall give it to the honorable member directly if he will only keep quiet. Since TransAustralia Airlines began operations, it has been allocated dollars for the purchase of nine heavy aircraft, four DC4 type and five Convair type; and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited has been allocated dollars for the purchase of nine heavy aircraft also, five DC4 type and four DC6 type. The charge of discrimination is completely false. This Government, in determining the goods that might be imported from dollar sources, has given due heed to the essential need for these imports and to Australia’s overall balance of payments position, with particular reference to the availability of dollars. Both the overall balance of payments position and the dollar position are subject to wide and frequent fluctuations. On both counts the position is sometimes easy, and sometimes it . is tight. As honorable members are aware, Australia’s general overseas trade position has noticeably deteriorated during the last nine months, with the result that the Government was compelled, in March last, to announce a curtailment of import licensing. That announcement was made some weeks after Trans-Australia Airlines applied for dollars for the purchase of a DC6 aircraft, but, at the time that that application was being considered, the growing difficulties with respect to the balance of payments position were very much in mind, and the Government necessarily had to take them into account.
I propose now to state the facts relative to the applications made by both Trans-Australia. Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for dollars for the purchase of aircraft. These facts clearly refute the assertion that the Government has discriminated against Trans- Australia Airlines in favour of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. As I have already stated, in the post-war period the amount of dollars available in Australia for expenditure on imports has fluctuated greatly. The issue of import licences for aircraft from the dollar area, in consequence, has to a considerable degree been influenced by the dollar position at the date on which applications were submitted. This ha3 held true whatever government has been in office. Late in 1946, licences were issued to TransAustralia Airlines for the import of five Convair aircraft. Although an order was placed immediately, Trans-Australia Airlines did not obtain delivery of those aeroplanes until the end of 1948. As a result, the airline was making final payments on the aircraft at a time when the dollar situation had deteriorated and when other airlines were being refused dollar licences.
The criticism now made is that the Government has taken the reverse view and refused licences to Trans- Australia Airlines. As I understand it, the criticism arises from the fact that, whereas, in 1953, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited received licences to import four American DC6 aircraft, an application made earlier this year by Trans-Australia Airlines for a licence to import one DC6 aircraft was refused. An interval of more than twelve months elapsed between the two applications. Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited sought the issue of dollar import licences at a time when the general balance of payments position and the dollar position were relatively easy. On the other hand, the application of Trans- Australia Airlines was made at a time when stricter economy in dollar imports, as well as in other imports, was necessary, and when all other applications for import licences were being closely scrutinized. It was, therefore, decided that since mediumrange aircraft suited to most domestic services were available from non-dollar sources, no further licences should be issued for the time being for aircraft for local airlines against the payment of dollars. In short, the decision to refuse the application by Trans-Australia Airlines for dollars to purchase a DC6 type aircraft was made in the light of the import position at the relevant time, and in like manner, Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited was refused licences for the import of two more DC6 type aircraft. This Government has entered into an agreement with Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and it will honour that agreement. 1 wish to make it perfectly clear that the Government has adopted a policy of establishing neither a public nor a private monopoly in domestic transport, and that it is making all possible efforts to ensure that fair and equal treatment shall be given to both Trans-Australia Airlines and Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and that Australia shall continue to be served by efficient air services.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Mr.
Joshua’s amendment) stand part of the question.
The House divided. (Mb. Sfeaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mb. Speaker - Hon. Archiecameron.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I object to the application of this loan, because I consider that a very vicious practice has developed because of the shortage of dollars. It is one thing to appreciate the Government’s difficulties in finding dollars, but it is another thing to condone practices that go on rigidly, and without any attempt being made to alter or modify them. I have found in my electorate, as no doubt other honorable members have found in their electorates, that small businessmen who require dollar allocations to enable them to import goods cannot obtain such allocations. In some cases, they have been established in business for four or five years, and wish to import lines that are useful to the community, and that are available to the community from other businesses, but are supplied through big suppliers who got in on the ground floor. The small man is kept right out of the business. He can act only as a subagent. It is about time that the Government gave him a break. The Government says that it is on the side of the businessman and the private entrepreneur. Arrangements could be made to see that such people are treated fairly and given a few dollars when they ask for them, especially when they want them to purchase such useful goods as school books and religious books. Their requirements are modest. I . therefore object to the application of this loan. The Government is not doing the decent thing for the community. I raise my voice on behalf of the small businessman.
– This loan is not for the purpose that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Joshua) has in mind. The point raised by the honorable member is outside the condition’s of this loan, and therefore outside the proposed legislation. If he brings any relevant matter to my notice I shall have it investigated. The matter that he has raised is one for consideration by the dollar committee and by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan). However, I promise the honorable member that if there is any justification for his complaint I shall have it investigated. This loan applies solely to the category of goods which are sufficiently defined in the schedule of the bill.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 20th April (vide page 56), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition opposes this bill. Whatever justification there may have been for the bill which the House has just passed, particularly as the Government said that the proceeds of the loan with which it dealt were to be spent on tractors and equipment and machinery, there is no argument in favour of this measure. The Government is merely trying to borrow wherever it can in order to pay the proceeds into a trust fund to make up a deficiency in the loan raising to which it is committed inside this country. The Treasurer told the Premiers at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council that he would commit himself to raise £200,000,000, but he said that he did not expect to raise more than £180,000,000 on the Australian market. Since that time some of his loans, or one of them at any rate, have failed, and he is £27,000,000 down on his estimate of £1S0,000,000. So now he has had to resort to Switzerland to get a few pounds. Next he will be depending upon Denmark or Mexico. I should not put it past the Treasurer to sound out the Russians, to ascertain whether they have a few pounds to lend.
– I shall leave that to the honorable member’s leader.
– He might even try the Poles, or any one else who may get him out of his difficulty. The Treasurer is the best friend that the international money lenders and pawnbrokers have had since the days of the tragic Treasurer of the Bruce-Page Government, when the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) helped to borrow so much money and helped to send this country broke. This Government is following the same line in borrowing from a little country like Switzerland 60,000,000 Swiss francs, but the Treasurer tells us with great eclat that that will represent a borrowing of £12,000,000 from the Swiss people, from a poor little country in Europe-
– Yes, relatively poor. Of course the Swiss people are comparatively rich if they have something to lend to the right honorable gentleman - at least that is what he thinks. We know that the evil results of excessive borrowing come home ultimately. The commitments that result from excessive borrowing have to be met by future generations and perhaps by many people now living. It was the policy of “ borrow and burst “ that helped to put 300,000 Australians on the dole between 1929 and 1939. All the bluff and bluster of the Treasurer cannot hide the truth that he and his colleagues are hawking the credit of this country round America and Europe, cadging a £1,000,000 here and a few more millions somewhere else, simply because they have failed to maintain or increase the volume and the value of our exports, and have failed to help the primary and secondary producers to market their goods overseas at more competitive prices than are now obtained. If the Government would tackle the problem of increasing production in this country there would be less need for it to be chasing money wherever it can be got. This Government has created a vast inflationary spiral of prices over the last five years which will place heavy burdens on future generations when the commitments of this and other similar legislation have to be met. If the present trend continues, those commitments will have to be met with a further depreciated currency.
The Opposition does not desire to waste too much time on what it regards as a contemptible little bit of legislation. It is a disgrace to the National Parliament that honorable members should be expected to consider and pass a bill of this kind, which consists of several pages drawn up by lawyers who seem to know how to use a great number of words to express a few simple ideas. I should not be surprised to learn that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) had been taken out of the divorce jurisdiction to help the Government to draft this bill, which covers seven or eight pages, to express the fact that the Government is borrowing a. further instalment to bring our total commitment to £A. 12.000,000, and is borrowing money for fifteen years at an interest rate of 3f per cent. The Government says, “Well, the terms are a little bit better than they were for the last loan. Instead of having to pay 4 per cent, or more, and having to float the loan at £99, we have been able to float it at 3J per cent, at £99 10s.”. The Government, should tackle the problem on the home front and it should cease sending people round the world to borrow wherever they can in order that the Government may be able to show some semblance of carrying out its responsibilities to the States. Up to date the Government has made a pretty poor job of the responsibilities of the Loan Council, which it administers, and its failures are growing larger as the months go by.
– What my colleagues and I have said about the earlier bill applies very largely to this bill also. The measure has been brought down to provide this country with a very small amount of hard currency. To use language which is well known to the members of this House it is “ ch-ch-ch-chicken feed “. If the Government had dollars it could buy the Swiss francs with them. The bill demonstrates its complete inability to do that. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has stated that the money will be used to provide certain desirable funds. Anything that one can buy with Swiss francs can be bought with dollars, which are freely convertible. Therefore, my feelings about this bill are precisely the same as my feelings about the bill which the House has just passed. If an amount of any consequence were involved we should move a similar amendment, but in order to show our opposition to this kind of thing, and to direct attention to the serious position into which the affairs of this country are drifting, we will join the Opposition and vote against the measure.
– Earlier I referred to the latest statement on the balance of payments whichshows that the sum of £6,000,000, the borrowing of which the House is now asked to sanction, has already been spent. It was raised in Switzerland and sold to the Commonwealth Bank which, doubtless, converted it into dollars. The Treasurer has put the equivalent in Australian currency into the National Debt Sinking Fund and has said, no doubt, “ When a new loan goes on the market I shall have £6,000,000 up my sleeve”. Perhaps he will tell honorable members how he can persuade the people of Switzerland to lend him money at 3¾ per cent. when he cannot induce the people of Australia to lend it at 4½ per cent. The bill provides a salutary lesson upon the present economic policy of this Government. As the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has suggested, this loan is so trivial that it places Australia in a humiliating position. It suggests that our balance of payments is so adverse that Australia must scrounge round for £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 wherever it can get the money. This is a petty measure which ought not to have come before the Parliament. However, it highlights the very interesting point that apparently Australia’s credit is better in Switzerland than it is here.
– The information that has been given by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) entitles honorable members to challenge this measure. We would welcome capital from abroad if it were necessary and we knew that it would be expended in developing the country. We ask the Treasurer to be specific and not merely to place on schedules sums of money that it is expected will be spent in various ways.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker. - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. . Adermann.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I want to deal with clause 6. I take advantage of this opportunity to reply to the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti). I point out that the purpose of this loan is to assist the Australian Loan Council’s borrowing programme. The proceeds of the loan will be used for the purposes of the States. They will be able to use it for whatever purposes they like, within their borrowing programmes.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) talked about poor little Switzerland and about Australia having to go there to borrow money. I direct the attention of the committee to the fact that since the beginning of 1954 South Africa has borrowed from Switzerland 60,000,000 francs, Sweden has borrowed 110,000,000 Swiss francs and Italy has borrowed 100,000,000 Swiss francs.Swiss currency is regarded as one of the most useful currencies, because it is convertible into any other currency. I repeat that this money is being borrowed with the approval of the Australian Loan Council, for the purposes of that body. It will be used entirely for the purposes of the States.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following bills were returned from the Senate, without amendment: -
Rabbit Skins Export Charges Legislation Repeal Bill 1955.
Consular Fees Bill 1055.
Meteorology Bill 1955.
Bill received from Senate, and (on motion by Sir Eric Harbison) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Sir Eric Harrison) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Sir Eric Harrison) read a first time.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I desire to raise the matter of interstate shipping. For about five and a half years, the Opposition has been fighting to ensure that the Commonwealth ships, which, I believe, total about 40 at the present time, should not be sold. From time to time, rumours have gone abroad that these ships might be sold, and questions have been asked about that matter in this Parliament. Members of the Opposition who have asked those questions have been told that the ships will not be sold. Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was asked by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) whether there was any truth in the story that the Commonwealth ships were to be sold, and the. Prime Minister said that they were not to be sold. If he was speaking the truth, and was not trying to deceive us or lull us into a false sense of security, we are probably now entitled to believe that the Government does not intend to sell the 40 Commonwealth ships.
Starting from that basis, I now come to the second point, which is that the logical outcome of the decision not to sell the ships is to form a Commonwealth shipping line controlled by a separate organization. Just before the preceding Labour Government relinquished office, it had decided to establish such a line of ships and, in fact, the proposed chairman of the new organization was on his way from England when that government was defeated. Perhaps such an organization could be called the Australian Shipping Commission, because at present there is an Australian National Airlines Commission to control Commonwealth airlines. For the last five and a half years or so, the Commonwealth ships have been under charter to private companies, and, consequently, they have been sent wherever those companies wanted them to go; that is, of course, wherever the profits have been the greatest, and not wherever the need has been greatest.
Tasmania being an island, is absolutely dependent on shipping. Air transport accounts for only about 4 per cent. of our exports, and the remaining 96 per cent. must be carried by private ships or Commonwealth ships under charter to private companies. “We are always experiencing difficulty in arranging transport for our main exports - apples, potatoes and timber - because we are not able to find sufficient shipping space at the right time for them. The secretary of the Tasmanian Farmers Federation, which is the biggest farmers’ organization in Tasmania, and has a membership of about 8,000 farmers, or 80 per cent. of all the farmers in the State, has been interesting himself in the potato marketing problems of Tasmania. Recently, he sent a letter to the Minister for Shippins and Transport (Senator McLeay), which reads as follows: -
Questions associated with interstate shipping, particularly from the aspect of the actual programming of produce vessels were debated at a recent meeting of my North Western Potato Committee. The meeting was disconcerted at reports which indicated that the shipping position appeared to be deteriorating rather than improving.
It was considered that this state of affairs would continue while the Commonwealth line ships were operated under charter to private shipping interests. It was felt that this fact alone prevented from providing the service to Tasmania which could be expected from them.
Subsequently a resolution was adopted which I have been asked to bring to your notice. It is self-explanatory and reads as follows: - “ That the Federal Government be urged to set up the CommonwealthShippiing Line as a separate trading entity with particular reference to the needs of the interstate produce trade “.
It was envisaged that the Commonwealth Shipping Line should be set up to trade in the same manner as the T.A.A. and that if this were done it would introduce an element of competition into the interstate shipping trade which would have the most beneficial effects.
T. Curtis, State Secretary.
I remind honorable members that the Tasmanian Farmers Federation is the most powerful farmers’ organization in Tasmania, and, politically, is conservative. Perhaps the Commonwealth ships might just as well be sold, for all the benefit they are bringing to Tasmania at present, while they are under charter to private companies. They are not operating as a shipping line, and there is no controlling body to send them where they are needed most. These ships are perhaps the best ships operating around our coast at present, but while they are under private charter, they are not being operated to their best advantage.
Another matter, which is connected with shipping, is the fact that the Premier of Tasmania has made an application to the Prime Minister for a Bass Strait ferry-boat to carry passengers and freight across that stretch of water. To date, the Prime Minister has not replied to that request. The idea is that the Commonwealth should build a special ferry-boat for use on Bass Strait.
– Why cannot the Tasmanian Government build it?
– The Premier of Tasmania has asked the Prime Minister, who is leader of the Government which builds ships-
– Why not ask the Tasmanian Government to build it?
– The opinion of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) is not worth twopence, even in Menzies’s money. I have seen overseas the great advantage of such a ferryboat. One operates between Canada and Prince Edward Island, and carries a complete railway train, 1,000 people and about 120 cars and trucks at the one time. That boat cost about 5,000,000 Canadian dollars. Recently, I also saw a ferry operating in Japan between the mainland and several islands off the coast. That ferry could also carry a complete train, together with cars, trucks and people. Such a service between the mainland and Tasmania would help to give to Tasmania a regular service, which it is not getting at present. A governmentowned vessel would be the ideal type of vessel to provide that service, lt is a pity that the Prime Minister has not yet thought this matter to be of sufficient importance as to warrant his giving a reply to the Premier of Tasmania. The regularity of shipping, the orderly programming of ships, and equity in shipping space allocations are Tasmania’s greatest needs. I believe that the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is sincere in his efforts to improve the service to Tasmania, but, until he is prepared to try to persuade the Government to operate the Commonwealth fleet as a government entity, a lot of the problems will not be solved. The Minister is skating around the problem instead of getting to the heart of it. Government ships could handle Tasmania’s potato crop and fruit crop, and its exports of timber, when the pressure was really severe. Therefore, I impress upon the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who is sitting at the table, the importance of considering this matter.
-Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I have listened with great interest to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), who has suggested that the Commonwealth shipping line should have its own offices in every port. About 60 years ago, the first of the private shipping companies to ply across the strait between Tasmania and the mainland commenced its business. Because of the fact that most of the business in those days, as to-day, came from the merchants, they were appointed to act as agents for the shipping companies, and that arrangement has continued over the period to which I have referred. If the Commonwealth were to appoint officers, and to establish office accommodation in the various ports of Tasmania in particular, there would be eight or ten such offices to handle the business. Even the private shipping companies do not establish offices in every district and port. They have their agents in the ports, just as the Government has its agents. The establishment of such offices would not result in the slightest saving, or the slightest improvement to the service. I do not think the honorable member for Wilmot should complain about the service that has been given to the people of Tasmania by the Commonwealth shipping line. Almost all of Tasmania’s exports of timber to the mainland are handled by Commonwealth ships. The whole of its imports of wheat are also handled by those ships.
– The timber banks up. though.
– The export of timber from Tasmania this year has been greater than that of any other year in the history of the State. If the honorable member for Wilmot were to examine the figures, he would learn that that is the position.
– At times 6,000,000 super, feet of timber is banked up.
– The honorable member has suggested also that the Commonwealth ships should handle the produce trade between Sydney and Tasmania, and between Queensland and Tasmania. In my opinion, some portion of the trade between Sydney and Tasmania falls within the province of the private shipowners. I do not think that a socialized shipping organization should take over Australian shipping.
– It would provide the private shipowners with genuine competition.
– I do not think it would jive them genuine competition, either. The Commonwealth has accepted responsibility for the passenger traffic and the mail traffic, and for the carrying of pyrites from the west coast of Tasmania to the mainland. The fact that the Commonwealth shipping line is handling all that traffic is something of which the people of Tasmania should be very proud. As the honorable member has stated, there ure 41 Commonwealth ships, and new ships are being brought into the trade. One was commissioned only this week, and it will be ready to go into service shortly. I do not know the name of that ship, but it is similar in size to Nilpeena, which was the last ship to be brought into service. The honorable member for Wilmot has also suggested the use, across Bass Strait, of a ferry boat, which would carry a rail train, but probably he is not aware of the fact that Tasmania’s rail gauge is not the same as that of Victoria.
– I did not make such a suggestion.
-Order! The honorable member for Wilmot has already had the opportunity of speaking.
– I want the truth from the honorable member for Darwin.
– Order !
– It is true that we must look for a replacement for the ferry boat that has been operating across the strait up to the present time. Very soon, Taroona will be undergoing a major overhaul, and there does not seem to be any possibility of a replacement of that ship for at least four months. As I have already suggested, the establishment of offices in the various districts would not result in a reduction of costs, or the provision of a better service. If the honorable member for Wilmot were to give, some further thought to the matter, I think he would agree with me that the appointment of a greater number of public servants who, for approximately one day a week or one day a fortnight, might have a ship to handle, would be an absolute waste of money. Goodness knows what those persons would do for the remainder of the time !
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Reports, with Maps, by the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing into Electoral Divisions the States of Victoria and South Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
National Fitness Act - National Fitness Council - Report for 1953, together with Report of Proceedings of the 13th Session of the National Fitness Council, 2nd-3rd September, 1 054.
Papua and New Guinea Act - Superannuation (Papua and New Guinea) Ordinance - Superannuation Board - Third Annual Report, for year 1953-54.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows- -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Mr.Ward asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of money has been provided by the Commonwealth with respect to the recent disastrous floods in New South Wales and Queensland for (a) immediate relief and (b) rehabilitation?
Is it intended to do anything further; if so, what are the details?
Has the Government any plans to deal with the problem of flood prevention and alleviation; if so, will he state what they are?
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : - 1 and 2. In the case of the floods in New South Wales, the Commonwealth agreed to a request by the State Government to provide up to £375,000 on a £l-for-£l basis with the State for the relief of personal hardship. Because of the catastrophic proportions of the New South Wales floods, the Commonwealth also agreed to meet half the cost of grants up to £1,000,000 made by the State Government to assist local authorities in the restoration of works and services damaged by the floods. In respect of the floods in Queensland, the Commonwealth has agreed in principle to contribute on a £l-for-£l basis with the State Government towards the relief of personal hardship, and is awaiting advice from the State Government of the estimated amount required for that purpose.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
Having in mind the importance of the work done by the Roads Safety Council and the great voluntary contribution made to this work by so many people, will he consider increasing the grant from. £100,000 to £150,000, particularly as the Roads Grant from which the Roads Safety Grant is voted has been lifted by £7,000,000?
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has furnished the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
This matter was raised at the last Premiers’ Conference and, after careful consideration, it was agreed that the amount of the grant as included in the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1954 should remain at £100,000 per annum.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 May 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550511_reps_21_hor6/>.