21st Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy SPEAKER (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– During the absence of the Treasurer and the Minister for External Affairs, the following ministerial arrangements will apply: - I shall act as Treasurer. The Minister for Defence will act as Minister for External Affairs and will represent the acting Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific .and Industrial Research Organization in this House. The Attorney-General will act as Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.’ The Minister for Supply will represent the Minister for National Development in this House.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in his capacity as acting for the Treasurer, two questions. Will he, before taking action or making a decision on proposals to be made to the banking institutions for the purpose of cutting down finance by way of hire purchase or time payment, inform this House of their nature? Secondly, is it proposed to introduce additional restrictions that will cut imports by an estimated figure of £70,000,000 per annum?
– I have the impression that each of these questions relates to a matter of policy and therefore I do not propose to answer them.
– In view of recent statements concerning the lag in recruiting for the regular armed services, and the increasing rate of discharges therefrom, can the Minister for Defence say by what methods the Government proposes to counteract this depletion of our forces? In particular, is he satisfied that the means being employed to attract recruits are sufficiently imaginative?
– It is true that there has been a temporary excess of discharges over enlistments, but I am happy to say that in recent times, for instance, since the 1st July, applications for enlistment have increased by 35 per cent., and actual recruitments by 24 per cent., compared with the same period last year. In addition, we are taking action to encourage re-engagement. I refer to such incentives as gratuity payments. I should also like to say that we are facing an exactly similar problem to that being experienced in the United States of America and the United Kingdom in this connexion. There are a number of reasons for it. The main one is the buoyant state of our economy.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister, as acting for the Treasurer, a question supplementary to that which I asked earlier. Before the Government makes its policy on the proposal to cut down finance for hire purchase transactions, will he consider informing the House of the proposed policy, so that judgment on it may be pronounced by the House?
– The answer is “No
– In view of the Government’s decision to supply an information handbook to Australian troops proceeding to Malaya, will the Minister for the Army consider supplying our troops with a small handbook embracing some important information relating to Australia? Would the Minister discuss the matter with the Minister for Immigration, with a view to including in such a booklet matters in relation to the Australian Government’s policy on immigration, in order, amongst other things, that an opportunity might be taken per medium of Australian troops to dispel from the minds of South-East Asians that the unfortunate phrase “ White Australia policy “ was not invented to react especially against Asian people on a colour-line basis ?
– I shall be very pleased to discuss with my colleague, the Minister for Immigration, the suggestion contained in the honorable gentleman’s question.
– Is the Minister for Territories aware of the shortage of divers in the pearling industry? If so, is it proposed to establish in the territories under his control diving schools at which island divers can be trained in deep-sea diving?
– It is not proposed, nor has it ever been considered, that the territorial administration should establish in either the Northern Territory or the Territory of Papua and New Guinea a school for the training of divers. So far as the pearling fleet at Darwin is concerned, arrangements have been made by this Government to enable it to obtain divers, and divers have been obtained for it. Matters relating to the administration of the act governing the pearling industry hi Commonwealth territories are under the control of my colleague, the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– “Would it be possible for the Minister for Supply to make a statement to this House concerning the discussions that he had with representatives of other countries during his recent visit overseas, and, if this is possible, will he include in that statement any information available with regard to the use of atomic energy for industrial purposes ?
– Let me know when he proposes to make it. I do not want to be here.
– The honorable member for East Sydney will remain quiet, or I shall deal with him.
– I had intended to speak during the budget debate and had thought that on that occasion I might usefully make some observations about those matters. I think that probably that will take place next week.
– The Minister for Territories may remember that just prior to the end of the last sessional period 1 asked whether it would be possible to arrange for a delegation of parliamentarians to visit Norfolk Island. He informed me that he would consider the matter but that he understood that transport to the island and accommodation on the island were difficult to arrange. Since then, I have been assured by certain people on the island that both transport and accommodation would be available for a small delegation. Under those circumstances, would the Minister now give further consideration to the matter and see whether it would be possible for a small delegation to visit Norfolk Island?
– It is the practice of this Government to arrange visits by parliamentary parties to all the territories. During the recent parliamentary recess, as the honorable member knows, parties were sent to the Northern Territory and to Papua and New Guinea. It was not possible during the recent recess to arrange a delegation to Norfolk Island, mainly because of transport and accommodation difficulties, and partly because we are bound by the limit of the provision made in the departmental estimates for such visits. The question of a visit to Norfolk Island is still under consideration. As soon as it is possible for the department to make arrangements within the funds available to it, such a visit will be arranged. The position now is much easier than it was, because a new weekly air service to Norfolk Island will be inaugurated this week, I think. That will give us greater freedom in handling delegations of this kind.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health. What financial benefit has accrued to hospitals in the States as a result of the Commonwealth insurance scheme? Can the Minister state, in particular, the amount that has been received by hospitals in New South Wales? Is it a fact that, prior to the commencement of the Commonwealth scheme, the finances of the hospitals were in a very parlous condition, and that the scheme has largely rectified that disability?
– When this Government assumed office, public hospitals throughout Australia were in a very difficult financial position. In fact, in Melbourne, the position was such that banks there were refusing financial accommodation for hospitals, with the result that some wards had to be closed. The same sort of thing was happening in New South Wales. As a result of the operation of the Commonwealth hospital insurance scheme, combined with the benefits associated with it, hospital revenue obtained from Commonwealth and fund sources has more than doubled. It has gone up from something like £5,500,000 to practically £13,000,000. In New South Wales, it has risen from £2,500,000 to £6,000,000, or has almost trebled, during the period this Government has been in office. That has enabled practically every hospital in Australia to get out of the red. It may be that some difficulties have arisen owing to the sudden demand of the New South Wales Government for extra fees from hospital patients. It will take some time for the insurance companies to reorientate their financial system to meet that position, but I trust that time will be given to them to do so. In addition, during the last three years the Commonwealth has given to the public hospitals in the States through the State governments something that was denied to them by the legislation of the Chifley Labour Government. It has given them life-saving drugs for public hospital patients free of charge., a benefit that was expressly excluded by the Chifley Government’s legislation. As the Prime Minister has announced, the Commonwealth is also making a contribution of about £10,000,000 to mental hospitals. Of that sum, New South Wales will receive approximately £3,800,000, because the money is being distributed on a per capita basis, and the population of New South Wales is 38 per cent, of the total.
– Has the Minister for Immigration perused the official list of over 100 gangsters deported to Italy from the United States of America, including the No. 1 man of the notorious Al Capone gang, and the head man of Murder Incorporated? If not, will the Minister investigate the matter, and take all precautions, to prevent any of these men from coming to Australia, where they would constitute a social evil, and cause pain and suffering to their peaceful and law-abiding fellow countrymen settled in this country?
– I have not seen the list to which the honorable member has referred. I am certain that the vigilance of our officers, including selection and .boarding officers and others, is such as to ensure that no undesirables of the sort mentioned are likely to enter Australia improperly.
– I address a question to the Minister for Supply. In view of a report from the recent conference on the peaceful uses of atomic energy, held in Geneva, that the mineral thorium can be transmuted into uranium 233 by “ an incredibly simple process “, will the Minister indicate whether Australia possesses adequate supplies of thorium suitable for conversion into atomic fuel?
– Australia has reserves of thorium, chiefly, I think, in the beach sands of the north coast of New South Wales and elsewhere on the eastern seaboard. I speak now subject to correction, but I believe that there are also other reserves. In any event, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, the Bureau of Mineral Resources and other public departments in Australia have the matter of thorium reserves very much under consideration at the moment. I point out that, although scientists understand the theory of the use of thorium in nuclear furnaces, there is a good deal of difference between the theoretical knowledge and the practical application of it.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Has the right honorable gentleman received representations about the construction of rolling mills in conjunction with the Australian Aluminium Production Commission establishment at Bell Bay, in Tasmania? Having regard to the advantages that would accrue from such a proposal, will the Prime Minister give favorable consideration to the making of a thorough investigation of the proposal?
– I am not aware of these representations, but I shall make inquiries.
– I address my question to the Postmaster-General. Is the PostmasterGeneral’s Department proceeding as quickly as possible with plans for the extension of a radio communications network in areas in eastern Australia that are subject to floods, with a view to protecting lives and property against any floods that might occur in the future?
– Yes. After the very disastrous floods that occurred recently in New South “Wales and Queensland, Cabinet decided, I think in February last, to have a radio communications service installed along the eastern coast of Australia in particular, so that communications might be maintained during the worst cyclonic weather. One of the great difficulties during the recent floods was that in many instances communications between important centres and large towns broke down for several days. We are proceeding with the work necessary for the provision of a radio communications network and the project is well advanced in respect of the acquisition of sites, the making of engineering surveys and the like. It will probably be twelve or fifteen months before the installation is completed.
– I address a question to the Postmaster-General. Is the Minister aware that the recently increased power of the national broadcasting stations in Western Australia still does not give satisfactory service to listeners in the Kalgoorlie gold-fields, Carnarvon, and Gascoyne areas? Will the Minister consider the matter with a view to providing the best possible service for listeners in these districts, so far removed as they are from many of the amenities of city life?
– The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has had the matter under consideration for some time. On my instructions, and in consultation with the board, arrangements have been made to increase the power of certain national broadcasting stations from 10,000 watts to 50,000 watts. Two of those 50,000-watt stations will be situated in Western Australia - 6WF at Perth and 6WA at Wagin. Their power is being increased from 10,000 watts to 50,000 watts, but as this work is of considerable magnitude it will take some little time yet to complete. In the meantime, there is a national station - 6GF - at Kalgoorlie which should give fairly satisfactory service to the gold-fields area itself, but when the increased power is supplied to the new national stations, it is anticipated that most of the areas of Western Australia to which the honorable member referred will be covered. At least it will give good night-time reception in Carnarvon, where there is already a short-wave station to provide daytime service. This is a very big problem in Western Australia, because of the huge area of the State and its vast population, as the honorable member realizes. However, we acknowledge the needs of the people of Western Australia, and we are endeavouring to provide the best possible service to them.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service inform the House whether it is a fact that, due to independent action on the part of individual States, and the expressed attitude of the trade unions, the complex machinery of wage fixation in Australia appears to be in the process of disintegration? Is the Minister able to state the Government’s attitude towards these developments, or outline any steps thatmight be taken to overcome wage fixation problems ?
– The problem to which the honorable gentleman has referred is a very important one, which includes some policy aspects with which I am not able to deal at the present time. They are difficulties arising largely from the fact that many people in Australia are demanding of governments at one and the same time three sets of circumstances, or three conditions, which are not compatible one with the other. They want brimful employment, stable prices, and free collective bargaining in connexion with awards. It does not require very much thought to show that we can have two of those things, but to get three at the same time is virtually an impossibility. There needs to be a wider recognition on the part of the industrial movement of the fact that if higher returns - higher wages - are to be received from the system, they must be directly related to increasing productivity and increasing profit. Until that elementary truth is appreciated, any form of wage fixation will seem unsatisfactory to those who are pressing for higher rates. I do not myself believe that the faults lie so much with the system as with the fact that some of the more elementary economic truths of the situation are not sufficiently widely appreciated.
– The question that I direct to the Minister for Social Services relates to the eligibility of ex-Army nursing sisters and other female personnel of the armed services for assistance under the War Service Homes Act. Is the Minister aware that because of the refusal of the Government to provide homes for these ex-members of the forces, they are compelled to pay high rates of interest to financial institutions in order to obtain housing loans ? Since banking and other financial institutions accept these people as clients, why cannot the Government make some provision for them? In view of the fact that many of these women have served their country in conformity with the highest traditions, will the Minister take immediate steps to end this anomaly and enable them to participate with other eligible ex-members of the armed forces in the benefits provided by the War Service Homes Act ?
– If the honorable member will bring to my notice a specific case, I shall be only too happy to consider it and furnish him with a reply. I am not aware of the law insofar as it relates to nursing sisters, but I shall have a look at the problem. If the honorable member cares to discuss it with me at a suitable time, I shall be only too happy to give him any information that I have on the subject.
– Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Social Services a question regarding the provision of Commonwealth assistance in connexion with the establishment of homes for aged people. The Minister indicated that he wished to check certain information before providing a reply. I now ask the Minister whether funds collected by church or other charitable organizations from all sources, such as donations, and proceeds from fairs or fetes, when used for the provision of homes for aged people, will permit qualification for an equal amount, of Commonwealth subsidy.
– Collections by churches and charitable organizations, whether they are the proceeds of fetes or whether received from private sources, will be matched on a £l-for-£l basis by the Commonwealth. But I think that the honorable member’s question related to a statement that was made by a member of the Queensland Government who said that these amounts would not be matched by the Commonwealth. May I say for the benefit of the honorable member for Darling Downs, and for all Queensland members, that not only will the Commonwealth match those contributions on a £l-for-£l basis, but there is a provision in the act which is an inducement to State governments to contribute on a like basis. In fact, the States can go much farther, and should they wish to contribute £2 for each £1, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. If the honorable member for Darling Downs would like to convey that information to the Queensland Government, I and the Government would be very appreciative of his action.
– In view of the reflection on Italian immigrants implied in the question that was asked by the honorable member for Leichhardt who, in effect, said that a special watch needed to be kept on Italian immigrants because of their proneness to gangsterism, will the Minister for Immigration assure the House that Italian immigrants have an excellent record and that they are no more prone to gangsterism than the native or any other section of the population ?
– I am very glad to convey that, to the best of my knowledge, the Italian immigrants who have come to this country have had an excellent industrial record and have contributed in a most valuable way to increased production. An analysis made by the department of statistics concerning serious misdemeanours committed by immigrants after arrival in Australia shows that, in proportion to their numbers, Italian immigrants have committed fewer misdemeanours than the Australian community in general. “Within the immigration groups, the record of Italians compares favorably with that of other nationalities.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question concerning delays in granting naturalization certificates to immigrants. “Will the Minister examine the possibility of keeping applicants for naturalization more accurately advised of the length of time that is likely to elapse after the lodging of their applications before a final decision is reached? Would not a periodical routine notification that the application is being examined, and a revised estimate of the time at which the final decision will be made, save a tremendous amount of time which is spent inside the department in answering queries about naturalization applications ?
– In recent times, my department has overhauled procedures associated with the naturalization process. It has been the desire of the Government to give every encouragement to immigrants to become fully naturalized as soon as they have served their qualifying period of residence in this country. In various ways, we have made the procedure simpler. We have reduced the fees charged for naturalization certificates. We have eliminated some of the requirements which applied earlier, and we have taken action to avoid the kind of delay to which the honorable gentleman has referred and which proceeded, not so much from an administrative hold-up in Australia as from queries which bad to be made overseas, as a result of the process that was then being followed. In addition, we have now provided an opportunity for immigrants to apply for their naturalization six months before the completion of their qualifying period of residence in order to enable us to carry out the preliminary administrative processes before their qualifying period has terminated. I think the honorable gentleman will discover that, as a result of those measures, most of the earlier grounds for complaint have been removed, and that applications for naturalization are being made and certificates are being issued much more rapidly than in the past. In July, the number of applications received and certificates issued was about three and a half times the number for the corresponding month of last year, and ten times the number for July in the year before that.
– My question to the Minister for the Interior relates to the road that leads from College-road in the Jervis Bay area to the settlements of Christian’s Minde and Sussex Inlet. By way of preface, may I say that this is a road in relation to which the Minister has declined to authorize departmental expenditure and on which the residents of the area have carried out considerable work to make it trafficable. In view of the fact that heavy traffic by the forestry division of the Department of the Interior in the establishment of a plantation at Christian’s Mind 0 and heavy vehicles that are used by millers for carting out logs from this area of development have cut up the road and have undone the work that has been performed by the residents, I now ask the Minister whether he will give fresh consideration to making available a sum of money to put the road in trafficable order, as it i3 the only land access to my constituents in that area.
– I shall be very pleased to ask for the papers to be forwarded to me, and to have the matter reviewed. I do not know the details at, the moment, but I shall certainly give the matter further consideration.
– I ask the Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that, during the Korean war Australian and Allied personnel, whether they were in the combatant or noncombatant sections of the forces, were granted certain preferential postage rates. Is it also a fact that, hitherto, personnel who have been serving either with the Red Cross or in the combatant sections of the Malayan force have not received the same privileges? As there seems to be a certain amount of confusion in the public mind about the exact procedure that the department has laid down, can the Minister inform the House whether the same privileges that were granted to Australian and other Allied personnel in Korea will be extended to members of the British and Australian forces and the Bed Cross in Malaya ?
– It is true that concessional rates were granted to personnel serving in Korea. I am not very sure about the position in Malaya, but I shall obtain the facts and inform the honorable member accordingly.
– Will the Minister for the Interior say whether the statement of the Premier of Victoria to the effect that the Victorian Government had been forced to raise rents because of the terms of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, and that the Australian Government had refused to pay the subsidy on Housing Commission homes unless rents were raised to the economic level, is correct? If it is correct, can tenants of Housing Commission homes in States that are parties to the agreement anticipate an early increase in rentals because of the policy and action of the Australian Government?
– I think I am correct in stating that the Government has been carrying out the terms of the agreement, entered into by the previous Government, a Labour government under Mr. Chifley, between the States and the Commonwealth, which ran for a period of ten years. Therefore, any terms and conditions are those laid down by the previous Government, which wc have been carrying out. I am not fully aware of the facts, because housing does not come within my ambit. It comes under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for National Development, to whom I shall refer the honorable gentleman’s question.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Defence Production. As the Canadian aircraft industry is represented in this week’s air display at Farnborough in England, will the Minister reconsider his decision not to have an Australian-built aircraft exhibited at that show, particularly as the Canadians have recently received an order for the supply to South Africa of Sabre aircraft that are inferior to those being built, and which could be exhibited, by Australia?
– Consideration was given to this matter at an earlier date when the honorable member asked a similar question. The circumstances have not altered since then, and accordingly the Government will not alter its decision.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that, due to the increased volume of mail matter handled at the General Post Office, Sydney - which, I understand, has doubled during the last six or seven years - if is impossible for the mail branch staff to cope satisfactorily with it, because of lack of space and out-of-date handling equipment? In answer to a question asked in 1953 the Minister said that he was pleased to state that a commencement would be made soon on the erection of a new mail branch building at Redfern, Sydney, which would be adequate to meet all needs, and that that building would be completed by 1956. Is the Minister aware that, the building of this project has not yet commenced? Is he also aware that more than 2,000 mail officers are employed in the mail branch at Sydney General Post Office in quarters that were never intended to be used as a mail branch, and in space that was originally intended for less than half the present staff, and less than half the present volume of mail handled there? Because the present building lacks proper lighting, ventilation and staff amenities, a fact which is causing discontent, I should like to know from the Minister what plan his department has in mind to meet the serious position at present existing, which is sure to deteriorate as time goes on.
– First of all, I do not recollect ever having said that the new mail branch building in Redfern would be completed by 1956. I am open to correction there, but I have no recollection of having made such a statement, and I do not think that I would have made it, because it could not have been a fact. The position is that, as the honorable member has stated, the mail branch at the General Post Office in Sydney is very congested, and it is a matter of some urgency that we make some new arrangements concerning it. In order to cope with the situation, which has been developing over the1 years, and which becomes more acute as each year passes, the Government acquired a large block of land at Redfern. One of the difficulties there, however, was that there were many people residing on this block of land, and adequate notice had to be given to them, and arrangements had to be made - I think they have been made now with the New South “Wales Housing Commission - for these people to be satisfactorily housed when they are compelled to vacate their present homes. Those arrangements have taken a very considerable time to make, but we have now reached a stage when the project can be referred to the Public Works Committee for examination. I have asked that committee to examine the proposal and report to the Government on its various aspects, particularly its urgency. It is a major project, because the building would cost in the vicinity of £3,500,000 or £4,000,000, and it is a work which would take a considerable time to complete. The department is fully cognizant of the acute position that exists at the Sydney mail branch, which is such that unless something is done we shall have a very much more difficult position there as the years go on.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. What success is meet ing his policy of promoting the employment of aged people in industry? Is ii possible for him to press that policy upon the various government departments as he has done in the case of private industry ?
– I think the best course I can follow is to supply the honorable member with the information which has been prepared in the department, giving details as to the scope of the problem, and the number of people who appear to us to be involved at the present time, and indicating the measures we are taking to assist in the placing of people in a category he mentions in suitable employment. The subject has been discussed at meetings of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, on which both management and unions are represented. We have also set up within the Government an interdepartmental committee which functions under my colleague, the Minister for Social Services, and which has been examining this problem, particularly insofar as it relates to government departments. Indeed, if extends beyond that, too, and a good deal of thought is being given to it. However, in a period of buoyant employment such as we have at the present time, the size of the problem is not so great as perhaps most people imagine. Many of those who, in an age group which, in ordinary times, would find considerable difficulty in securing employment, are now finding that their services are gladly availed of by industry, which is generally short of labour.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that applications are being invited from persons desirous of being appointed as letter carriers in his department. Does the Minister know that the introductory terms of the notification are, “Whistle while you work “ ? Would not improved conditions such as smaller rounds and a shorter stretch of shift, with a greater salary range and more opportunities for advancement than at present, be more conducive to whistling than a mere printed exhortation? Will the Minister investigate these matters with a view to improving the conditions of letter carriers ?
– There are very great opportunities in the department for advancement, and every letter carrier carries in his knapsack a PostmasterGeneral’s portfolio.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that the Department of Civil Aviation has recently taken steps to close two aerodromes on the South Alligator River which had been used by companies engaged in mineral prospecting in that area. Can he tell the House the reason for this, and can he say whether it is likely that the aerodromes will be brought soon into commission again? Further, is it a fact that there is still in operation one aerodrome at Sleisbeck on the Katherine River, which is a distance of some 25 or 30 miles away but which is connected with the area by an indifferent road? Does he consider that it is likely that the closing of these aerodromes will mean that prospecting for uranium in the South Alligator River region will have to be suspended during the wet season towards Christmas-time in the Northern Territory ?
– I am well aware of the honorable member’s great interest in mining for uranium and the development of the Northern Territory. As I understand the position, the North Australian Uranium Corporation, after consultation with the Department of Civil Aviation, still maintains the aerodrome at Sleisbeck It is a 4,000-ft. strip, and is kept in very good repair. Another uranium company, the Northern Uranium Development, without any reference whatever to the Department of Civil Aviation, put in two strips, one at a place called El Sharno and another at South Alligator Creek, to which the honorable member referred; but when the Regional Director for the Northern Territory examined these strips, he condemned them as being dangerous. As they had been constructed close to escarpments of rock, and were really hazardous to flying, he refused to license them. Then the company proposed that £60,000 should be provided for an allweather road to these airstrips, which had already been condemned. I should hardly think that, even if that were approved, it should be a call on the funds of the Department of Civil Aviation. We have no funds for that purpose. However, I will have a good look at the proposal and see whether anything can be done.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That Government business shall take precedence over general business to-morrow.
– I oppose the motion because for years now private members’ business has been passed over to make way for government business. I mentioned this to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) and his reply was that as the budget was being discussed, one could speak on any subject under the sun, and there was no need for time to be set aside for private members’ business. I do not agree with that point of view. The budget debate should not be a debate such as would take place on the departmental estimates. It ought to be confined to the financial policy of the Government and not reduced to the level of parish-pump topics, which can be discussed on the day fixed for private members’ business. I realize that the Vice-President’s somewhat stony heart would not be likely to be moved, even if I had the eloquence of the angels, but I put it to him that my view is also the view of many honorable members on his own side, who wish to discuss small matters that are associated with their constituencies. I oppose the motion in the hope that when next private members are due to have an opportunity to discuss either notices of motion or business generally, they will not be deprived of it. There is too much party machine politics in this Parliament. The Australian people can thank their lucky stars that they have here at least one independent party that is prepared to buck machine politics in this Parliament. I think we can say that yesterday we achieved a notable victory in bucking machine politics that had succeeded in concealing documents for many years. If Government supporters are to buck cabinet rule and exercise their rights as parliamentarians to discuss matters of concern to their constituents, they will support my protest against the action of the Vice-President of the Executive Council. I oppose the motion and hope that Parliament also will oppose it.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon), who is Deputy Leader of the Australian Labour party (AntiCommunist), has misunderstood the purpose of the Vice-President’s motion, which is to enable the debate on the budget Estimates to continue to-morrow. If the motion were defeated, the House would not be exercising its right to grieve because to-morrow would not be grievance day, but general business day. We see on the notice-paper -
Mr. Evatt: To move, That the Vote of the House, suspending the honorable Member for East Sydney, be rescinded.
That could occupy the whole morning or, if it were disposed of quickly - having been withdrawn by the Leader of the Opposition because the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has long since been re-admitted as an ornament in this chamber - the House would deal with the next matter, which is -
Mr. Keon : To move, That this House appoint a Select Committee to investigate the shortage of steel in Australia. . . .
And all that flows from that proposition.
– Do you not think that that needs discussing?
– I think that it does, but at the right time. Honorable members need not think that they would have an opportunity at any time to-morrow to talk about any grievance, real or imaginary. The Opposition believes that the budget debate should not be interrupted by the Government, or by members with public or private business to discuss. An opportunity will occur to discuss the activities of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber will have quite a deal to say about that. For my own part, I would disagree strongly with the proposition that the honorable member for Yarra has put forward. Let us see the position in true perspective. Either we shall continue to discuss the budget to-morrow or, probably, the question whether we ought to have a select committee to inquire into the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. The- Opposition thinks that the budget debate is of the greater importance and ought to be allowed to proceed.
– in reply - I am grateful to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, for rising so hastily to protect me. It is rather unusual to find the honorable member defending me in this House. One wonders what is behind it - possibly his love for me is greater than his hate for the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon). However, I am grateful for small mercies and hopeful that he will always take such a generous view when Government business must take precedence over, and therefore restrict, the rights of private members.
The honorable member for Yarra is certainly labouring under a misunderstanding. He spoke to me last week on the subject of “ Grievance Day “. I told him on that occasion that, during the debate on the budget and Estimates, honorable members would have every opportunity to air grievances, and that it was not customary to interrupt the budget debate to discuss such matters. Now he is confused regarding the situation to-morrow. It is not “Grievance Day “ but general business day, on which we do not grieve.
– I want to grieve about the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
– As we would deal to-morrow with the matters under the heading “ General Business “, he would have no chance to grieve - though doubtless he has many reasons for so doing at the present moment. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, it is customary in this House not to interrupt the budget debate. That practice is adopted in the Mother of Parliaments and in all parliaments that stem from Westminster. It is customary for such a motion as this to be submitted so that the budget debate may flow on without interruption. It is not an attempt to by-pass general business. The opportunity to discuss those motions will present itself. If the honorable member for Yarra feels that he would like a preliminary gallop there is nothing to prevent his speaking about the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited during the budget debate. The fact remains that, as it is customary that the budget debate be not interrupted, and as it will continue for some time, with consideration of the Estimates extending over a further period of time, the Government will provide an opportunity for general business to come on, and for motions of which notice has been given, to be debated, in due course.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from the 6th September (vide page 405), on motion by Sir Arthur FADDEN -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No. 1. - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £27,700 “. be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
Mr. McLEAY (Boothby) [3.27 J. -I am pleased to be given the opportunity this afternoon to address a few remarks to the subject-matter before the Chair. This is one of the few occasions on which some of us in the back benches have an opportunity to give some account of our stewardship so far as our obligations to our electors are concerned. At the outset, I shall make some reference, but only briefly, to the problems that confront us. First of all, I should like to lead with matters which have been the subject of very great pressure throughout the Commonwealth, sometimes by organizations and sometimes by an unbiased section of the press. I think that the most acute of all these matters has been the problem of pensions. Let me say that we owe a debt of gratitude to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) for the way in which he has handled this problem since he took over the portfolio only a short time ago. It is the responsibility of Government supporters to look at this matter in a calm way and try to justify the decisions made and the attitude taken by the Government from time to time. If we look back over history, we find that, in 1909, it was suggested that a pension of 10s. a week was adequate. It cannot be argued that that amount was suggested as adequate for the purpose of completely sustaining those above a certain age. Following the record of increases granted, we find that, in 1940, the pension had risen to 21s.; by 1949, to 42s. 6d.; and by 1954,. to 70s. a week. Owing to the generosity of this Government, it is now proposed that it shall be SOs. a week. The best yardstick of the value of the pension is that mentioned by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) in some sections of his speech, namely, the C series index. Let us examine the figures and take as a basis for comparison the position that existed in 1949, the last year of the Chifley Government. At that’ time the pension was 42s. 6d. a week. A study of the figures from that date onwards to 1955 reveals that, in 1950, this Government increased the pension to 50s., which was 3s. 3d. in excess of the amount required to give value equivalent to the amount of 42s. 6d. in 1949. “Working on the same cost structure of the C series index in relation to the 1949 figure, we find that, in 1951, the amount required would have been 57s. 10d., whereas in fact the pension awarded by this Government was 60s. In 1952, on the same basis, the pension would have been 66s. 7d., whereas this Government awarded 67s. 6d., or lid. in excess of that figure. In 1953, the relevant amount would have been 69s. Id. whereas the actual pension paid was 70s., again a variation of lid. In 1954, the amounts were 69s. Id. and 70s. respectively, the difference remaining at lid. This year, had the Minister for Social Services adhered to the 194’9 relationship of the pension to the C series index, the amount would have been 70s. 8d. a week, whereas the Government has decided that it will be 80s., representing a difference of 9s. 4d.
It is well known to all honorable members, but not widely known throughout the Commonwealth, that the C series index comprises 171 lines of domestic requirements, of which food, groceries and rent total 42, household utensils and fees 43, and clothing for a man, his wife and children 86. Those 171 lines appear in the ordinary budget of expenditure for the average family home in the Commonwealth. Since 1947, the C series index has risen by 95 per cent., whereas, because of various loadings and the ability of industry to pay, the basic wage has risen by 133 per cent. A point which has never been made clear by some sections of the press, and which has been covered only on odd occasions by certain honorable members, is the income entitlement of a pensioner. At present a man and his wife are entitled to draw £7 a week in pension from the Government. This Government, and, I am sure, all honorable members and people generally throughout the Commonwealth, are great believers in the ideal of selfhelp. Those persons who are willing to do something for themselves in the evening of their lives, and who are prepared to put by for that occasion, are entitled, as a family unit of two, to receive £7 a week as income from other sources. So that, under our present system, a man and his wife in receipt of pensions, backed by a policy of self-help, are entitled to receive £14 a week, together with free medical aid, free ownership of their home and its contents, and the right to own and use their own motor car. “When the legislation to give effect to the budget proposals is passed, that amount will automatically be increased to £14 10s. a week.
Nobody will suggest that certain sections of the community do not suffer a greater hardship than do the persons to whom I have referred. These sections include the sick, the very aged, those who are unable to work, and so on. Let us hope that this committee, and the people generally, recognize that the obligations of all citizens towards their parents should never be forsaken, and that the community will see that parents have some compensation for the enormous contribution they have made in bringing young people to the standard they enjoy to-day. There are indications that many young people to-day refuse to accept this responsibility and seek to pass it on to the general taxpayer.
I shall now deal with the subject of war widows. The Government has received a great deal of criticism in rela tion to its treatment of war widows over the age of 60 years. A war widow’s income, from her domestic allowance, pension, and entitlement under social services, is £7 a week. When the legislation has been passed, war widows over 60 years of age will be entitled to draw £7 10s. a week from the Government. That will be a very generous contribution to women who have made great sacrifices and have now reached the evening of their lives. The only regret that I have in this field is that war widows have been singled out for special treatment in respect of the payment of a broadcast listener’s licencefee. A war widow has to apply to the Department of Social Services before she can become entitled to a reduction of 10s. in the charge for a licence. It seems that in this matter the widows of exservicemen are being placed at a disadvantage compared with other pensioners. I believe that war widows should be entitled to receive this concession without having to approach the Department of Social Services.
While I am dealing with pensions, I want to refer to a group of ex-service personnel whose treatment I find it very difficult to understand. I am referring to service pensioners. If a service pensioner takes employment of any kind and earns more than the scheduled sum, at the end of the first fortnight of employment payment of the whole of his pension is suspended. If he continues to work for three months, payment of his pension is suspended during the whole of that period. However, if he finds at the end of the year that the amount of his earnings is less than that permitted to other pensioners, he is not entitled to claim payment of his pension for the time during which it was suspended. Therefore, in my view, a service pensioner may be placed at a great disadvantage compared with other pensioners. I can say with some satisfaction that I know the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) is studying this matter. He is very sympathetic to exservicemen, so I hope that by the time the legislation has been finalized, this anomaly will be rectified and a man who served his country in war and is now enjoying a service pension will not be at a disadvantage compared with other pensioners.
I want to say something about pensions for members of this Parliament. “We have heard a great deal of criticism of our retiring allowance. I am quite confident that there are many people throughout the Commonwealth who, like myself, were not fully aware, until it was drawn to their attention, of the true position in this regard. If honorable members will look at page 664 of the Commonwealth Year-Booh, they will find that in 1951-52 the 183 members of this Parliament, consisting of 123 members of this chamber and 60 senators, contributed £28,479 towards their retiring allowances, and that the Government’s contribution from Consolidated Revenue was £10,874. So, in that year, we contributed to our retiring allowance fund almost three times as much as was contributed by the Government from Consolidated Revenue.
Although I do not think we are under any obligation to defend ourselves in this regard, it is interesting to consider parliamentary pension schemes throughout Australia. If we look again at page 664 of the Year-Booh, we find that, throughout Australia, in 1951-52 there were 593 members of Parliament contributing to retiring allowance schemes. Their contributions for that year amounted to £60,618, and Government contributions from Consolidated Revenue amounted to £30,803. According to the latest figures available, in 1955 there is £180,635 in the fund for the Commonwealth scheme. I have referred to those facts because certain sections of the press have suggested to the people that we, as members of the Parliament, are acting dishonestly in this matter. They have implied that we are dipping our fingers into the treasury basket and are helping ourselves, without making any personal contributions to the fund from which our retiring allowances will be paid when we are no longer members of the Parliament.
The budget debate presents one of the few opportunities for members on this side of the chamber to express their reasons for continuing to support the Government. We on this side feel very proud when we look at the record of this Government since it was swept into office in 1949. If we compare what happened during the last four years of office of the
Chifley Government with what has happened during the last four years of the life of this Government, we find some very interesting figures, especially in relation to social services. The Chifley Government, in its last four years of office, provided £282,000,000 for social services - I am giving round figures only - whereas the Menzies Government, in the last four years of its period of office, has provided ‘£509,000,000, or £227.000,000 more than was provided by its predecessor in a similar period.
The payment of war pensions is an important part of the responsibility of any government. We find that during the last four years of office of the Chifley Government, the amount expended on war pensions, in round figures, was £75,000,000, compared with £137,000,000 during the last four years of office of this Government. We- have provided £62,000,000 more for war pensions during the last four years than was provided by the Chifley Government during a similar period. The figures relating to war service homes are even more interesting. The Chifley Government, during the last four years of its life, spent £31,000,000 on war service homes, compared with £107,000,000 - an increase of £76,000,000- spent by this Government during the last four years.
Turning to national health, let me say that, in my view, we all owe to the Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) a debt of gratitude for the great job that he has done in relation to tuberculosis, the provision of free life-saving drugs, assistance to hospitals and, last but not least, the contribution that he suggests we should make to assist the States to meet their obligations to the mentally sick. I think that if nothing else had been achieved by the Minister, he still would have proved himself worthy of a place in any cabinet in the Commonwealth.
I propose to say something about loans and, in doing so, to make some reference to the Australian Loan Council. It was rot until I became a member of this Parliament that I realized the obligations and the structure of the Australian Loan Council, as well as its responsibilities and its effect on so many sections of the people. When I was in Bombay, I had an opportunity to look at the Wall of Silence. I saw there the method of disposal of the dead adopted by the sect known as the Parsees. They place the bodies of their dead high up on a building and allow the vultures to devour them. I wondered what that reminded me of. Then I realized that it reminded me of the Australian Loan Council. It reminded me of the six Premiers descending on our Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and our Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and devouring as much as they can in a very short time. I believe that, in the main, the people of Australia are not aware of the structure or the responsibilities of the Australian Loan Council. Instead of being critical of this Government, every honorable member and every person in Australia should be grateful to the Treasurer and the Prime Minister N for the way in which they stand up to the Premiers at meetings of the Australian Loan Council and protect the interests and rights of the people as a whole. The State Premiers come to Canberra, backed by their own press, and act selfishly in the interests of their own States. Any concern for the general welfare of the people of Australia passes into the background.
I for one am very proud of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer for the stand that they have taken to protect the interests and the rights of the people as a whole. Those two right honorable gentlemen are responsible for providing the funds for the spending sprees of all the State governments. It is interesting to note that in the last four years during which the Labour Government was in office advances to the States totalled £205,000,000. The present Government has advanced to the States £663,000,000, or £458,000,000 more than was advanced by the Labour Government. The story cf advances to the States for housing is equally interesting. Labour, in its last four years in office, advanced a total of £56,000,000 for this purpose. This Government had advanced £115,000,000, or £59,000,000 more than was made available by Labour. Loans to semi-government authorities by the Labour Government during its last four years in office amounted to £88,000,000, whereas the
Administration has advanced to a total of £271,000,000, an increase of £183,000,000. Let it be said to the credit of this Government that it is the first administration to underwrite the loans of the States as was suggested by the Australian Loan Council and agreed to by the Commonwealth. It is now history that the present Government has underwritten out of revenue loans to a total of approximately £360,000,000. At the same time as it did this, it provided all the money required for its own capital works programme and for defence out of revenue. We on this side of the chamber are very proud of the record of the Menzies-Fadden Administration. The Prime Minister is held in higher regard, not only throughout Australia but also in all the free Christian world, than was any other Prime Minister in our history.
– The honorable member will get on.
– At my age I do not expect to get on, and I assume that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cur tin) is in the same category.
This Government’s approach to the big national problems affecting the future of Australia is such that, in the States and elsewhere, there is a high regard for the wise leadership of the Menzies Government. The Prime Minister is held in high esteem and great respect by his followers and the members of the party to which he belongs, and, might I say also, by the great body of trade unionists throughout Australia for the courageous stand that he has always taken in their interest and in the interest of all people who believe in the free way of life. It is a very great privilege for me to sit behind the Prime Minister and I take pride in commending his wise leadership to the people of Australia. I take the opportunity of making these remarks now, because there may not be another opportunity before the next general elections to express such sentiments. In order to maintain the standards that the Prime Minister has set and to preserve the high reputation that he has re-established for us overseas, the Australian people will. I am sure, stand behind him and give the rabble opposite an opportunity of becoming enlightened.
.- Any one who has heard the amusement that was infused into the previous speech would hardly believe that this place was anything but a house of entertainment. 1 have heard, I think, twelve budget speeches read in this chamber by various Treasurers. Of all the queer budgets that the present Government has brought down, this must be the queerest. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in his budget speech, declared that we are still living in an era of prosperity, and at the same time he stated that we are about to face a crisis. The Minister for Health (Sir Earle Page) indicated in no uncertain manner only the other day that we now face a crisis. The only cure that the Treasurer can propose for the crisis that he contends we are now about to meet is the old story that the wage-earner must pull in his belt. Did any one hear him offer any cure other than ah attack on the wage-earners? I heard him make no criticism of the huge dividends that are being paid by companies in Australia.
– Why should there be any criticism of dividends?
– Why should not there be any criticism of the huge profits that are being made and the tremendous dividends that are being paid? Let me ask Government supporters this question : Is there any sin in the Australian wageearner living under decent conditions? There is none.
– Who said there was?
– The Treasurer did. Government supporters may read for themselves his attack on the wageearners. He stated that wages are too high. But he did not say that dividends or profits are too high.
The Government parties are responsible for the high cost of living in Australia. Government supporters and I have been reminded on many occasions that the present high cost of living is the result of an event that occurred in 194S. Most of the people of Australia are reminded of that event every time they find that they can buy so little with a pound note. They then remember only too well the more favorable circumstances that existed under Labour administration. Labour had an opportunity, during the war and for a short time afterwards, by means of various war regulations, to control prices. It took advantage of its opportunity of controlling prices under an Australiawide system of control. Labour’s late leader, Mr. Joseph Benedict Chifley, realized the great tragedy that it would be to the Australian community if there should come a time when the Australian Government could no longer maintain prices control throughout Australia. That was the man whom Government supporters praise continually now that he is dead. That man stated in this Parliament that if a decent standard of living were to be maintained, it would be necessary for the people to authorize the Commonwealth to continue prices control under its administration. The Government admits that Australia is confronted with a crisis - and there is no doubt that, it is. Yet the Government’s supporters travelled throughout Australia and advised the people to vote “ No “ on the prices referendum.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) says “ Hear, hear ! “ I remind him that it was due to the efforts of honorable members opposite that the proposal to continue the control of prices by the Commonwealth was defeated, and it became necessary for the States to administer prices control. The States now admit that they are unable adequately to police prices.
Supporters of the Government prate about its great achievements since it assumed office in 1949. They say that Labour cannot govern. What an extraordinary assertion! I shall refresh the minds of honorable members about Labour’s ability to govern. As I have stated before - and as I shall continue to remind the people - the political parties now in office proved during Australia’s most perilous period that they were incompetent to govern. I refer to 1939, when war was declared. At that time the treasury bench was occupied by the Menzies-Fadden Administration. As that Government was incapable of organizing an all-out war effort by Australia, the responsibility to do so had to be shouldered by the Australian Labour party, which was elected to office, not only by Labour supporters, but also by the votes of persons who are not usually favorable to Labour, because of their dissatisfaction with the anti-Labour Government. Let us consider the task that confronted the Labour Government led by John Curtin. As the Menzies-Fadden Administration had run out on Australia in a most cowardly fashion during the most desperate period of Australia’s history, it was necessary for Labour to organize an all-out war effort. There is not an impartial Australian elector, or an international personality who has not proclaimed from the house-tops that the Labour Government did a grand job from 1940 until 1945 in organizing our war effort. There then followed the difficult rehabilitation period from 1945 until 1949.
– What happened in 1949?
– As the honorable member would not know what happened in that year, I shall tell him. After Labour had governed successfully throughout the war and rehabilitation periods - more than 1,000,000 service personnel and those in war work were re-established in peace-time occupations after the war ended - the Liberal and Australian Country parties got busy again. When all of the difficulties and dangers associated with the war had been overcome, and huge profits could once more be made and paid out in dividends, those who support big business in Australia set about defeating the Labour Government and returning to office the old Menzies-Fadden Administration.
Honorable members opposite refer to the condition of full employment as though they had brought about that happy state of affairs. Was it not a Labour government that made possible full employment for the first time in Australia’s history? Did not the Menzies Government inherit a condition of full employment when it came to office in 1949 ? I remind honorable members that when this Government was elected in 1949 the world was bereft of many commodities necessary for civilian peacetime living, because all industries had been engaged in the production of warlike supplies. A re-moulding of industry took place during the years 1947, 1948 and 1949. As Australian industries had only then recommenced the production of civilian goods, naturally there were shortages. But so outstanding were the accomplishments of the Labour Government, that when the Menzies Government assumed office in 1949 it was assured automatically of a continuance of prosperous conditions. At that time, there was a great demand for our primary products, for which overseas prices were high. I am sorry that our proceedings to-day are not being broadcast so that the people can hear my remarks. Just as Labour was called upon to administer the affairs of this country during wartime, so will Labour be called upon again in the very near future to overcome the difficulties that have arisen under the present Government.
– Do not be so pessimistic !
– What I have just said was the implication of a recent ministerial press statement, yet the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) adjures me not to be so pessimistic. I remind him that silos throughout the country are full of last season’s wheat, still unsold, and a record harvest is expected this year. It is tragic that last year’s crop has not been sold in order that the silos would be available to receive the forthcoming harvest, because this year’s crop is expected to produce a record yield.
– What about making a suggestion?
– It is not my job to make a suggestion; it is the duty of the Government to administer efficiently. I hope that there will not be a repetition of the bungling of previous years, when rats and mice made inroads on our wheat surplus while millions of people in other countries were starving. I urge the Government to take steps to ensure that our wheat shall not be allowed to rot on the stacks and in the silos.
– Would the honorable member again sell our wheat cheaply to New Zealand?
– Yes, I would sell it cheaply to New Zealand. Rather than see it rot in stacks in Australia, I would give it to people who are hungry in the world. Let honorable members opposite laugh that off if they want to do so. But the Government will not offer wheat to the countries that require it. It is worried about the situation in China, Russia, Japan and other places.
It is time that we offered to sell our primary products in any part of the world. I see nothing being done by the Government to ensure that our primary products do not rot in Australia. Responsibility lies with the Government, not with the Opposition. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) sneeringly suggested that there would be an election before December. I do not think that there will be, but I hope that there will be an election before 1957. I say that in all sincerity because I believe that, even by December, the economic state of this country will be such that the Australian people will know full well once more that this Government cannot govern in a time of crisis. It is remarkable, from day to day, from week to week, and from year to year, to hear members of the Government trying to influence the Australian electorate to believe that Labour cannot govern. We have proved over the years that Labour can govern, and it has always been the responsibility of Labour to govern in a crisis.
– If Labour has a leader.
– We have a leader. [ know that the Government has done its utmost in the last year or so to damn the leader of the Labour party. Let me remind the Government that, whilst honorable members opposite praise Ben Chifley now, on the very day on which he died he was being denounced from the other side of the chamber. I invite honorable members to look at a certain speech in Hansard in order to verify that fact. Now, the same method is being adopted to denounce the present leader of the Labour party. If the Government had a sound economic approach to our difficulties, and if it were able to govern, it would not want to spend half the available time in this House in trying to condemn the Labour party.
– The Labour party is condemning itself.
– It is not. That is the only defence that the Government has. It has no policy whatever. The Minister for Defence is sitting at the table. I remember the days when the Labour Government submitted a five-year defence plan to this House. Having evolved that plan, the Labour Government allocated a certain amount of money that was required for the implementation of that plan. What has the present Government done? For some six years now, it has allocated in the budget about £200,000,000 annually for defence. The Government has been in office for some six years, and in that time, it has spent approximately £1,000,000,000 on defence. I ask honorable members, what defences have we in Australia to the value of £1,000,000,000? The Government has no plan. It has simply said to the services each year, “ Here is £200,000,000. Now get out and spend it “. Prior to the 30th J June when only £140,000,000 had been spent by the services, the Government indicated to them that they must hurry up and spend more money. Let the Government deny that if it can ! The Government was then able to indicate, later in the year, that the services had spent about £170,000,000. If the situation were not so serious, it would be humorous.
Here is an illustration of the defence situation in Australia: Only two weeks ago, in some way or other, a pilotless aircraft got into the air. Some one rang up the Royal Australian Air Force and informed it that this aeroplane was in the air, and two fighter aircraft set out to intercept it. After chasing it around for half an hour, the crews discovered that a gun was jammed in one aircraft and that the fighter aeroplanes were too fast. Remember that I am speaking of the defence force that has cost the Australian taxpayer in the vicinity of £1,000,000,000 in the last six years! When the Royal Australian Air Force could not shoot down the pilotless aeroplane, somebody rang up the Royal Australian Navy. The Navy sent up some intercepting aircraft and, after much difficulty, they shot down the aeroplane.
What a grand thing for us that it was only a pilotless home aeroplane, and that it was not an enemy plane bearing a hydrogen bomb or an atomic bomb ! Honorable members laugh! The situation is laughable because, although the Government has led the Australian people to believe that it has an effective defence force, it took the Royal Australian Air Force and the Royal Australian Navy nearly two hours to shoot down one pilotless aeroplane. I think that these matters should not be taken humorously. They are too costly to the Australian taxpayer. Scientists have told us that one hydrogen bomb dropped in Sydney and one dropped in Melbourne would destroy one-third of Australia. If it takes us two hours to shoot one pilotless aircraft out of the skies, it will be a poor prospect for the mothers and children of this country if one day, unfortunately, one enemy aeroplane flies into Australia and drops one hydrogen bomb. I hope that the Minister for Defence, who is ready to sneer at the Australian Labour party and at the Leader of the Australian Labour party, will realize his responsibilities and let us have sane government in this country.
I want to say again that I believe, unfortunately, that a crisis is approaching, and that clouds are gathering in Australia. This Government is incompetent to deal with a crisis. I understand that Cabinet sat during last weekend, and again yesterday. The only information that I can get on this subject is from the newspapers. Over the weekend and yesterday, the newspapers indicated that those Cabinet meetings were being held in order to deal with a crisis that is approaching in Australia. How did the Cabinet deal with the crisis? It decided to handle the situation by indicating to the banks of Australia that they must restrict hire-purchase finance. That is the Government’s approach to a crisis towards which, as the press has told us, Australia is now heading. The men who left this country during World War I. were given an assurance by the government of the day that they would return to a land fit for heroes, but this Government is now adopting a policy similar to that adopted after the return of those men, and during the depression years. It has stated that, in this crisis, it will restrict hire-purchase finance. What will that mean? It will mean that the wage- earner who wants to buy a refrigerator, a washing machine or furniture, and who is entitled to such things, will not be able to do so. Statistics cited in this chamber recently and prepared, not by a member of the Australian Labour party or the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), but by a statistician who has studied such things, indicated that the Australian £1. is now worth the equivalent of 7s. in 1939. What is the first thing that will happen as soon as we start a recession of the demand for refrigerators, washing machines, household furniture, and such things? The men who are engaged in those industries will become unemployed.
As I have already stated, this Government proposes to deal with the crisis by adopting the very same method that was used during the last depression. It will gradually close down these industries, men will become unemployed, and soon another army of unemployed will be marching down the streets of Australia appealing to charity to maintain them and their wives and families. I support the motion that has been submitted by the Opposition which means, in effect, that the Government deserves the censure of the House. [Quorum formed.’]
.- The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) unfortunately did not speak as near to the truth as he has done on many other occasions. He concluded his remarks by saying that, with a recession on the horizon once again, there is a Liberal party-Australian Country party coalition in office, as there was during the last depression. If I remember correctly - and I was hit very hard by the last depression when a vast army of unemployed was marching through the streets of Australia - a Labour government was in office. I refer to the Scullin Labour Government. Not until the people turned the Scullin Labour Government out of office and elected a good government was Australia able to return to a condition of stability. I was very interested in the honorable member’s statement that people cannot obtain refrigerators and washing machines. He also referred to some statistics which indicated a drop in the value of the £1. Let me remind the honorable member, and the committee, that since this Government assumed office the number of refrigerators that have been installed in Australian houses has risen many times. I think, from memory, that approximately four times as many, refrigerators are now installed in Australian homes as were installed before we assumed office.
– Nearly all of them were bought with hire-purchase finance.
– At least, the people are able to meet their commitments. When Labour was in office, people were not able to purchase such items unless they bought on the black market. The large numbers of refrigerators, washing machines and other electrical appliances that are now found in the households of Australia have been made available over the last six years. I remind honorable members opposite of a question that was asked by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) during his budget speech, and which, as far as I remember, no member of the Opposition has answered in the negative. The right honorable gentleman asked -
We bemoan our living costs, our lack of amenities and refinements, but is there in fact any country with higher general living standards or greater opportunities for a secure and spacious life than ours?
– I shall be interested to hear what the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) has to say about it, because no other country has greater opportunities for a more secure and spacious life than has ours.
– What about the United States of America?
– The Treasurer further asked -
Is there any country where prosperity is more widely shared ?
Again the Opposition is silent because it cannot truthfully answer “ Yes “. In Australia, prosperity is widely shared. That is why I resent and bemoan the fact that the honorable member for Adelaide, in his opening remarks, stated that the Treasurer, during the course of his budget speech, had said to the workers of Australia, “ You will have to pull in your belts a little “. The Treasurer said no such thing. It was left to this Govern ment to reduce the taxes of the family wage-earner to a point where he is the lowest taxed man in the free countries of the world. It was left to this Government to encourage the family wage-earner by giving him an endowment for his first child - a benefit that the Labour party not only refused to give but also which it said was impossible to give. To-day, in Australia, 17S,000 more people are in employment than there were in 1953.
This Government was victorious at the last general election because it was able to win more votes from the wage-earners than were their so-called, self-named, champions, members of the Australian Labour party, which is in decay. We stand here because we have the confidence of the people. The honorable member for Adelaide said that Labour handed over to the Menzies-Fadden coalition a country that was good. The country was good, but the Labour party handed over also a lot of thing3 that the country did not want and is doing very well without. We have been able to do without the black markets that the Labour party left to us in 1949, and which existed because that party was not only power-hungry but also control-crazy. People were forced on to the black markets to purchase their goods. There were shortages of this and that.
– Petrol was rationed.
– There was rationing, and also controls, for which the Labour party has such a great liking. Butter, tea and sugar could not be purchased without ration tickets, and if one wanted to drive a mile farther in his car than rationing controls permitted, one just could not do so. We were all screwed down by the government of the day in its endeavour to socialize this country. It is no good for the Labour party to say that it handed over a good thing to us. A good country was handed over to us, and we have been able to make it a better country, as we have eliminated all those wicked, evil things that the Labour party forced on us in pursuance of its policy of socialization. Perhaps the most shocking act of the Labour Government was to leave us a Treasury in which no provision had been made for the payment of war gratuities. The Treasury was practically bankrupt when it was handed over to us.
All those problems had to be met by the incoming anti-Labour government, and in the elections since the defeat of the Chifley Labour Government, this Government has secured in increasing measure the support of the people of Australia. I am sure that as we go along the way in which we are going, putting honesty and national outlook first, instead of doing as the Labour party would do - introducing measures calculated, in the short term, to win votes, but in the long term to bring more of the chaos out of which we have brought this country since 1949 - we shall increase that popular support. The Treasurer has been able to bring down, year after year, a budget applicable to the circumstances of the day. We have been able thereby to achieve economic and general stability, and in my opinion the present budget is a promise of security in the months that lie ahead in this financial year. In contradistinction to the contentions in the wild, erratic and irresponsible statements that we have heard from the Opposition, the budget is a planned attack, in advance, on anything that might beset us. It gives an opportunity to the people to realize that we have a good standard of living in this country, and that by working in cooperation along the lines laid down in the financial policy of the Government, we can have security for all time.
There are other aspects of the economic affairs of this country to which, I believe, a greater degree of thought should be given than is given to them at present. I listened with a great deal of interest to the graphic description given by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay) of the workings of the Australian Loan Council. If there is one thing I worry about in the development of Australia it is the insincere approach of the State Premiers to the Loan Council. They gather in Canberra, each having brought with him a loan works programme which all of them know full well is over and above the capacity of the various States to carry out in the year that lies ahead. Year after year we have perpetual wrangling between the States and the Commonwealth at the Loan Council meeting, and the Premiers go back to their States with more money than they can spend, as has been evidenced by the amounts that they have been able to put aside. When they get back to their States they have the responsibility of carrying out developmental works with the loan money for which they have received authorization. I deplore the fact that the Premiers have never accepted the suggestion of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) that the Commonwealth and the States should co-operate in a development advisory council, or some such organization, which would attend to Australia’s developmental programme on a Commonwealth-wide basis, looking at it with eyes national in their outlook and not merely looking for votes, as State governments are prone to do.
I am very concerned about development in the north of Queensland. I find that development in Queensland is centred ‘ in the south-western part of the State, mainly in the City of Brisbane, where the population, over the last twenty years, has increased to more than the total population of the rest of the State north of the Tropic of Capricorn. More people live in the Brisbane area than in the rest of the State north of Brisbane. In the central part of Queensland, population has decreased by 17,000 in a period when the population of the Commonwealth has increased by millions. That is something which I deplore very much, and I know full well the reason for it, which I shall give to the honorable member for Melbourne, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who is sitting at the table now, and interjecting occasionally. I will give it to him because he may have some friends in the Queensland Labour Government.
– They are all my friends.
– Well, the honorable member had better tell them so, because they do not know it. In the matter of subsidizing the loan programme for Queensland - and I take that State as an example because I know something about it - over the last 22 years, a period of time in which governments both Labour and anti-Labour have held office in the federal sphere, loan programmes have been implemented in the form of subsidies to the various States, which made money available to towns and shires. The City of Brisbane contains 36.5 per cent, of the population of Queensland. Over a period of time the City of Brisbane has received, by means of subsidy, £12,309,000, which is 43.1 per cent, of the total subsidies paid to shires and municipalities by the State in that period. The other cities of the State, which represent only 18.1 per cent, of the population, have received £9,031,000 in subsidies, which is 31.6 per cent, of the total subsidies given. As a national government, looking to the development of our undeveloped areas, we should deplore the fact that the towns and shires in Queensland, which represent 45.4 per cent, of Queensland’s population, received only £6,964,000 by subsidy from the Queensland Government under its loan programme. Although they represent almost half of the population, they received only 24.6 per cent, of the subsidies paid by the Government.
How can we develop the country when the money made available by the Loan Council, and pumped out to the States, is used in ways that leave the outback towns and shires destitute of the cash that they need in order to carry out the valuable works that they have planned? It is not a matter of berating the Government, or looking at this thing from a trifling point of view. When we look at the total amount spent from the loan programme, and from all State funds in Queensland, we find some most disturbing figures. I shall cite the total of State loan funds for 1953-54, which is the last year in respect of which figures are available to me. No less than 54.7 per cent, of the moneys provided by that loan programme was spent in the southern part of the State, whilst the percentage spent in the northern part was 33.9 per cent. In the central part, however, which covers an area of 220,000 square miles, a tremendous area of rich country, only 11.4 per cent, of the total amount of loan moneys authorized by the Australian Loan Council was spent. Then the Queensland Government says, “ We should develop our north “. How can we develop the north when, between the goodwill of this Government and the people who need assistance, there stands a State government which tells the people in the centre of Queensland, which is virtually a third of the State, that they can have a mere 11.4 per cent, of the loan moneys made available by the Australian Loan Council to Queensland? We just cannot go on in that way.
Now let me deal with the position in relation to the total of Queensland’s funds, including loan funds, debenture loans and all the other moneys available to the State for public administration. We find that of that total amount, only 12.5 per cent, has been spent in the central area, and only 26 per cent, in the northern part of the State. I put it to the committee that this is a deplorable state of affairs, and somehow or other we have to work out a solution on an Australiawide basis so that we can put people into these country areas to develop them. Even when the Queensland Government starts on projects I am not satisfied that it carries them out properly. Take, for instance, the Burdekin dam scheme, which the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) mentions regularly in this chamber. I know that this scheme was initiated in 1945 and so far, out of an estimated expenditure of £70,000,000 the State government has expended only £2,500,000.
– It cannot get the necessary steel.
– It is not a matter of steel, or building timbers or anything of that kind. Again the Premier of Queensland does not agree with the honorable member for Melbourne.
– Yes, he does.
– The Premier says that the project is held up because of the shortage of money. At the rate at which expenditure on this project is being undertaken, and if the cost structure remains the same as it is to-day, the project will be completed in another 140 years.
– It is all right for the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), who has never been in the area, to say that my statement is nonsense. I repeat that if expenditure on the project continues at the present rate it will not be completed until 140 years from now. So much for the Queensland
Government’s much-vaunted Burdekin dam scheme. It is of no use to talk about shortage of money, or shortage of steel or of any of the other things necessary, because the Queensland Government has plenty of money in its coffers. Last year it increased its reserves by £6,000,000. It could well have devoted that money to any of those developmental schemes, but it did not do so. We hear a lot of talk in the north, and in this Parliament, too, about the Burdekin bridge, which is essential for the welfare, safety and security of the north. What is happening about that project? The Queensland Government started it in 1047. So far the Government has managed to spend nearly £2,000,000 on it, and has not completed it yet.
– Because the State Government cannot get the steel.
– The Premier of Queensland does not say so, and each year, he has reduced the amount of money that should be made available for this project. Each year, floods come down the river, and the people of north Queensland, and north Australia, are cut off from the south by road and by rail because of this silly attitude on the part of the State Government towards projects that should be developed in the northern parts of Queensland.
I shall now tell honorable members how the people of the north are being victimized in many ways by this Brisbane government whose policy operates against the welfare of the north. An air tax is levied in the State of Queensland. This is the only State, so far as I know, where one has to pay a tax in order that he may board an aircraft. I live in the City of Cairns, and if I want to go to Brisbane and back by air, I have to pay the State Government £4 in tax to get aboard the aircraft, otherwise I am not permitted to travel. Consider the situation ! A tax of £4 is payable if I am to board an aircraft, because I happen to live in an outpost of the country ! If I am in the north and want something essential sent u-p by air, I pay airfreight on it, because the Queensland Government allows it to be carried in aeroplanes that it does not own, and I also pay 10 per cent, tax on it. Each year the people of the northern part of Queensland pay £1.000,000 in tax for the privilege of using the airways, because they are in competition with the government-owned railways. The poor woman who lives in Cairns and wants to come to Brisbane for medical treatmen takes £4 out of her handbag, puts the money on the counter, and says to the clerk, “ Give this to the benevolent State government so that I may have the privilege of riding in an aeroplane “. These things annoy me, because they are unAustralian, and they are stopping people from moving into those northern areas. The roads are bad, the railways are bad and there are no signs of development in this part of the country.
We have to look at these condition? from the point of view of defence. What will be the position if Queensland has again to play the role it had to play in the previous war? The roads and railways must be maintained in tip-top order, and ready for service at all times.
If any indication of the bad condition of the Queensland roads is required, the experience of the Redex car drivers between Marlborough and Sarina a month or so ago provides it. They left behind them thousands of pounds’ worth of wreckage over this road that was scrubbed out many years ago. We have to look at these conditions, and realize the difficulties that exist, and the need for development. We should realize that over the last 30 years, the railways have not built any new lines, except a 12-mile stretch into the Callide coal-fields, and that actually the total length of track is some 40 to 50 miles less than it was years ago. I ask any Australian here in Canberra, Melbourne, or any other part of Australia, how we can face up to the threat that may come, how can we face up to the need for developing and populating the north of Queensland, when we have a government there-
– By throwing out your own Government.
– We want to’ throw out the Queensland Labour Government. If we can get rid of that Government, we can begin to develop. This is a matter of policy. The main development in Queensland has come about because of the encouragement that was given to dairyfarmers to produce butter and milk for the people in surrounding districts. The Queensland Government ha3 done all it can to wreck the dairying industry in that State. It refused to increase the price of butter when an increase was shown by the Commonwealth to be warranted. When the dairy-farmers said, “ “We will not sell below the cost of production and you cannot force us to “, the State government put legislation through Parliament and told them they had to produce and deliver milk, or drastic action would be taken against them.
The greatest menace that has threatened the dairying industry of Australia has been caused by the action of the Queensland Government which, three or four years ago, suddenly lifted the quota on the manufacture of margarine and thus allowed the manufacturers of margarine throughout Australia - because the other States, followed suit - to produce so much margarine that it is to-day a constant and growing threat to the dairying industry, not only in Queensland, but throughout the whole of Australia. The Queensland Government must know, in its own heart, that the development of the outside areas depends on .dairy-farmers and other primary producers, yet by its very action it allows a very strong and ruthless competitor into the field against the dairy-farmers How, in those circumstances, are we to develop this country?
– I thought the honorable member believed in competition.
– I believe in fair competition but I say to the honorable member for Brisbane that the sale of Australian butter in this country and overseas is vital to our economy. Every pound of margarine eaten in this country means one pound of butter less that is eaten. Every pound of margarine eaten in Australia means that we .are so much nearer to sending our dairy-farmers bankrupt, and causing them to walk off their farms, as they were on the point of doing in 1949, when a Labour government refused to give them justice, but made them put their -wives and kiddies into the dairy to produce cheap butter for the workers in the city, who presumably vote for Labour.
I ask this Parliament to give serious consideration to the matters I have brought before it, because I believe the State of Queensland must be developed if we are to have a healthy Australia. We must cease this stupid playing of politics, and change this ridiculous outlook of building up one city at the bottom of the State and allowing the rest of it to perish, if need be. I believe that our future depends upon the welfare of our primary producers, and the efficiency of our roads and railways.
Mr. Fuller interjecting,
– If the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Fuller), who yaps at me now, were to take a trip through Queensland, I think he would join the vast army of Labour men who are at this moment disgusted with the present Premier of Queensland, and who are planning to vote him out of office at the next election.
.- As you know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, the Kennedy electorate is situated in Queensland. As a Queenslander, I was very surprised, to say the least, to hear the most extraordinary speech that has just been made by an honorable member who represents another electorate in Queensland. He gave a great demonstration of what is commonly known in colloquial language as being a knocker. He knocked the .State, he knocked the railways, he knocked the roads, he knocked the margarine industry, and he even had a go at the Premier.
I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and I propose to discuss the budget. My first reaction to it is that only one section of the community is to derive any benefit from it. That section consists of the pensioners-
– And they get very little.
– Yes. Had there been a change of government in 1954. they would have received 10s. in May of last year, so that they are to receive it at least sixteen months after they were entitled to it, or should have got it.
In addition to that, there are to he no tax cuts of any description. All sections of the community were hoping that this much-vaunted prosperity about which the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) speaks would be reflected in the budget and that, as a consequence, some tax concessions would be made. But there was none at all. Sales tax was not reduced. Sales tax is a harsh tax ; a vicious form of tax ; a tax that hits the family man; a tax which hits the young people, who are desirous of getting married, at a time when they go to purchase their furniture. Sales tax, in addition to hitting the primary producers, also hits industry generally. The most vicious feature of this tax is that it is a special tax for the man with a family. In other words, this budget, by virtue of the fact that there is no reduction of taxation, either direct or indirect, is revealed in all its nakedness as a budget which is designed to assist those who have, at the expense of those who have not. In other words, this is an anti-worker budget.
Comment has been made upon the fact that there is no provision in the budget for increased depreciation allowances. Some time ago, the Treasurer announced with a flourish the formation of a committee, under the chairmanship of the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), to examine depreciation allowances on machinery and equipment. The Treasurer praised the committee’s report but did nothing to implement its findings. According to the press of this country, Cabinet has been very concerned at the fall in wool prices and the threat to the overseas balances. It has called in the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank to discuss the action that it should take to combat this threat to the community ; but it is reluctant to stimulate production by offering concessions to primary producers. We hear a great deal about the need to increase production. The Prime Minister has said that every one must work harder and produce more, but the Government will give neither primary nor secondary industry incentives to greater production.
The budget is reminiscent of a predepression budget. One would have thought that an economic crisis was imminent and that this country was in such a dire position that no concessions could be made to a long-suffering public. The Government’s policy is of the kind that, in the days before 1929, led this country into a sad and sorry situation. It is still persisting in borrowing abroad. It has been interested in obtaining overseas capital to assist the development of this country, but if conditions here are as good as the Government would have us believe, why has private capital not flowed into this country? The facts indicate that there is very little in the Government’s claim. Why must the Treasurer go abroad again to obtain a further loan? The depression revealed the results of the Bruce-Page Government’s policy of borrowing abroad, and to use the expression of those days, of “ putting this country in pawn to the overseas lenders “. Apparently this Government’s financial policy has not progressed since the days of 1926-29.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) spoke of the unemployed marching through the country during the depression days. He blamed the Scullin Government and said that, as a result, it was defeated. I remind him that the depression was world-wide and was precipitated by a financial crash in Wallstreet. The actions of the Scullin Government resulted in this country coming out of the depression quicker than other countries did. History reveals that whenever this country has been in a mess, the Labour party has had to get it out. That is true both of economic crises and wartime crises. It was Labour that came along in 1942 and organized this country for war. The honorable member for Capricornia is speaking twaddle when he denies this. If any one was responsible for the army of unemployed it was the Bruce-Page Administration which, for six years before 1929, occupied the treasury bench of this country. Mr. McCormack, the Queensland Labour Premier, saw the depression coming and so harboured his State’s resources that when the economic blizzard arrived, Queensland was able to lend £5,000,000 in propping up the antiLabour governments of Victoria and South Australia.
The honorable member for Capricornia said that the Labour Government was defeated in 1949 because it had permitted black marketing and shortages, and had retained controls and the rationing of such things as tea. In fact, it was defeated because misleading propaganda described it as being sympathetic to communism. Liberal party and Australian Country party supporters stampeded the public into believing that because they had at their disposal sufficient funds to enable them to use the radio and the press extensively. They persuaded sufficient of the electors to make possible the defeat of the Labour Government. The honorable member forgot to tell us that in 1949 his Government promised to put value back into the £1. Now the Treasurer says that tax concessions cannot be granted because inflation is still with us. No reference has been made by the honorable member for Capricornia, the Treasurer, or any other Government supporter to the fact that in 1949 the present Government promised £250,000,000 for development. The honorable member cited a number of figures on the development of north-eastern Queensland. I suppose that, knowing the honorable member, we may accept them as correct. I do not propose to answer them because I have not the details with me. He said that, in Queensland, development was concentrated south-east of Brisbane. It is true that in the immediate vicinity of Greater Brisbane, and for a few miles around it, one-third of Queensland’s population is concentrated. A man establishes his home where he can make his living. If private enterprise and the Government are interested in development, why has the Government not interested itself in the development of Queensland? The deputy leader of the Liberal party in Queensland, Mr. Hiley, two years ago said -
You cannot point to one project of a developmental nature in Queensland in which the Commonwealth Government is directly interested.
That is perfectly true. The Government is not directly interested in any developmental project. The honorable member for Capricornia has said that the major portion of money spent on development in Queensland is spent in and around the south-east corner of the State, where the great bulk of Queensland’s population is located. People have gone to that area because that is where they can obtain employment. The honorable member made some reference to the fact that only 33 per cent, of loan money is spent by the State Government in north Queensland. “When we consider developmental works being carried out in Queensland, we consider first the Burdekin bridge. It is quite obvious from the statement of the honorable member for Capricornia that he has not seen the Burdekin bridge. Only a few weeks ago I crossed the Burdekin River and saw the progress that is being made on that project. There is also the Burdekin dam, to which reference was also made by the honorable member for Capricornia. This developmental project is to cost £70,000,000, and has as its purpose the production of hydro-electric power, the provision of water for irrigation, and flood control. This Government is not interested in it. It says that the project is uneconomic. The honorable member has spoken about development. In the electorate of the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) are the Tinaroo dam and the Tully Falls hydro-electric project. He conveniently overlooked those projects. The Tinaroo dam is designed for the conservation of water to be used for irrigating tobacco farms. At Tully Falls there is an enormous hydro-electric undertaking. The honorable member spoke about the lack of development in the north - not in the Brisbane corner, not in the area where about one-third of Queensland’s population is concentrated, but in the far north, at least 1,000 miles north of Brisbane. In his attack upon the Queensland Labour Government, he made no reference whatsoever to the fact that, despite that Government’s limited financial resources, it has guaranteed an overdraft of hundreds of thousands of pounds to the north Queensland tobacco industry, to enable it to establish its factories and purchase tobacco leaf, so that leaf may be matured and the industry established on a sound basis. As I said at the outset of my speech, all he wanted to do was to “ knock “ Queensland. Apparently, his vision extends only from Brisbane to Bockhampton. He said that in Queensland the railways are bad, the roads are bad, and everything is bad. This Government is responsible for defence, but it is not interested in defence projects in Queens land except at Canungra, not far from Brisbane, where a jungle warfare training camp has been established. A few pounds have also been spent on the aerodrome at Garbutt, but from a defence point of view the Government is not interested in that field. Queensland, a State of about eight times the area of Victoria, has only one-half of the population of that State. The honorable member complained that the roads are not as good as they might be, because he read in the press that, during a Redex trial, drivers ran into a horror stretch at Marlborough. I have not been over the horror stretch, but I am given to understand that this horror stretch to which he refers is not part of the main road at all. I feel hostile when an honorable member from Queensland takes the opportunty of this debate to do nothing but “ knock “ that State, instead of trying to persuade the Government to co-operate with the Queensland Government in having something done in regard to Queensland’s development.
The budget provides for a defence expenditure of £190,000,000. It is £10,000,000 less than was provided last year, because the Government underspent last year’s appropriation by £22,000,000. If there is a surplus on the year’s transactions it seems that, when considering the budget, all the Government does is think of a number, double it, add something to it, and work round it. The Government has the experience of what happened in the past, and, despite the Treasurer’s admission that inflation is still with us, he is budgeting for an expenditure equivalent to the amount appropriated last year, notwithstanding that, of that amount, £8,000,000 was credited to a trust fund. If the Government expended £177,000,000 on defence last year, the difference between £177,000,000 and the £190,000,000 to be provided’ this year, or £13,000,000, will be the increase necessary because of inflation. My calculation is just as good as that of Government supporters, who year after year have cited the figure of £200,000,000 as the amount expended on defence. “We on this side have had experience as a government. We know that it is silly to make provision for so many millions of pounds for defence when the Government knows full well that such an amount cannot be expended. The physical resources are not available to enable the’ expenditure of that amount to be undertaken. If the Government is really interested in defence, if it wants to satisfy the honorable member for Capricornia, if it wants to remove the horror stretches on the roads of Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia, towhich reference has been made during the course of the Redex trial, it should consider assisting the State governments of Queensland and Western Australia in the provision of defence roads. It is true that the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia have spent money on main roads and access roads to minima: areas, that local authorities have spent money on shire roads, and that this Government provides, out of petrol tax, under the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act which will be discussed shortly, additional funds for roads, particularly in rural areas. This Government, knowing full well that Queensland is a very large State which occupies a strategic defence position, ought to interest itself, first, in. the development of that State, and secondly, in assisting the State Government with projects of a defence value, including the roads about which the honorable member for Capricornia has complained. This Government should interest itself in the problem of providing Queensland with roads with a defence value. The various roads authorities in Queensland have their spheres of activity, and this Government should take some action to provide defence roads.
Prior to 1939, there was a school of thought that any attack on Australia would be an attack on the east coast. That view was accurate. I do not know whether the present defence advisers of the Government take the same view. Cranium has been discovered at Mount Isa and Rum Jungle, and there is a possibility of further discoveries in the north of Western Australia. The iron oredeposits at Yampi Sound are being exploited by an Australian company. Those are assets on which people on the other side of the world would like to get their hands. We know that the view of this*
Government is that it is necessary to send Australian troops overseas in order to apply a brake to the movement of communism towards our northern shores. Road communication between the north and south of this continent is not all that it could be. It is true that a high-level railway bridge across the Burdekin River is in the course of construction, and it is to be hoped that it will be completed before the next wet season in Queensland. The bridge will be of defence value, as it will remove a rail bottle-neck, but this Government is not interested in the project directly. It has not contributed one penny directly to it.
When the Japanese were not far from our shores during the last war the Civil Construction Corps was mobilized. It consisted of men from all over Australia who were either above military age or could not serve in the forces owing to some physical disability. They were rushed to north Queensland to build a defence road. Surely we can learn from experience. In order to satisfy the honorable member for Capricornia and other Liberal party supporters in Queensland, this Government, if it is not interested in the general development of that State, should interest itself in defence projects there. It should provide the money with which to build a road to link the existing inland defence road with Mount Isa. From Mount Isa to Darwin there is a bitumen road. There ought to be another bitumen road running from Mount Isa, through Winton and Longreach, to join the defence road just west of Rockhampton. If it had not been for the fact that, during the last war, General Macarthur, with American and Australian forces, was able to push the Japanese back as quickly as he did, a railway would have been built from Charleville across to Blackall, to relieve the congestion at Clapham Junction in Brisbane.
If an attack were ever made on this country, it would come from the north. We do not expect the Kiwis to cause us any worry. We must take into account the fact that almost every major power to-day has large ocean-going submarines, as the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), a former Minister for the
Navy, knows full well. Submarines of that type would constitute a great menace to shipping along the east coast of Australia. Therefore, if we were attacked, railways and roads would be of tremendous value to the defence of the country.
We on this side of the chamber are becoming sick and tired of urging the Government to make the defence of this country secure. Defence is one of the chief responsibilities of any government, but the members of this Government learn nothing from the lessons of the past. They do not take cognizance of the fact that the present position in the Northern Territory and Western Australia is different from the position in 1939. There is no doubt that the air should be the first line of defence of the country, as the late John Curtin pointed out when he became Prime Minister. The basis of the defence policy of the Labour party is the development of an efficient air force, with the necessary airfields to support it. But this Government is not interested in the airfields in the north of Australia. I have suggested to the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) that the Government take over the aerodromes between Charters Towers and Cloncurry, towns which are 500 miles apart. The aerodromes in that area cannot be used in a wet season. They should be taken over by the Government and made into all-weather aerodromes. They could be used as satellite aero dromes in the event of trouble. At am rate, they would be there, and if trouble came we should not witness a repetition of what I saw in North Queensland in 1942. I saw aircraft taking off from the bare ground. In some places, not even a grader had been put over the strip. We were caught unprepared and undefended at that time, but apparently a similar outlook to the defence of Northern Australia still exists.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), in the course of an interesting speech, has drawn the attention of the committee to the defence needs of northern Queensland. It is on the defence of this country that I, too, wish to speak.
I shall not restrict my remarks to Queensland, but I shall direct the attention of the committee to the urgent need for reform and re-organization of the naval reserves of this country. Before I leave the speech of the honorable member for Kennedy, let me say that I was astonished to hear a former Minister for the Navy refer to the first line of defence of this country as being in the air. I regard the first line of the country’s defence as being at sea, and I imagined that the honorable member, as a former Minister for the Navy, would support that view.
For a long time now, I have been drawing the attention of the Parliament to the urgent need for drastic reform and re-organization of this country’s naval reserve. I believe that in the future Australia will have to depend very much more on its own resources for its naval defence than it has done in the past. The sad but undeniable decline in the strength and influence of the Royal Navy in the Far East makes that necessary. America’s obvious and understandable determination to avoid specific commitments in any particular locality in the course of its assumption of very wide responsibilities for the defence of western civilization also makes it necessary. We may well, in the future, have to depend upon our own naval resources for our defence in a way that we have not had to do in the past.
One thing about our naval defence that the Government has to decide, and has decided, I think, is : Are we to depend on a small, highly trained and efficient professional navy, or are we to rely in the future, as we have done in the past, on a capacity to expand our naval forces at a time of threat? Apparently the Government takes the latter view. In that case, we must have an efficient reserve, able to carry its share of the burden of the country’s defence. At the present time, we have not got one. Figures are available to those who seek them which show that there has been a serious decline in the number of serving reserve personnel since 1952. The committee may recall that naval reserve recruitment and training was not reintroduced after the war until 1950.
It increased with remarkable speed until 1952, and then the numbers engaged in naval reserve service began to decline steadily. Any one who takes the trouble to inquire for himself will find that the spirit and enthusiasm of those engaged in naval reserve service has declined just as markedly as the numbers of the serving personnel have declined.
There are, broadly speaking, two reasons for this. The first is a lack of enthusiasm, owing in the main to past neglect of the naval reserve forces. Governments, Ministers and naval boards all must bear their share of the responsibility for this situation. Important elements in this trend are the lack of interest of the permanent naval officers, particularly the senior ones, responsible for the direction of the service in what one might call the amateur and part-time side of the Navy, and the disinclination of those officers to see the resources of the service directed away from its permanent elements. I am afraid that the existence of that factor in the past is undeniable. 1 believe that the second general cause of this decline of interest and efficiency arises, for specific reasons, from difficulties which resulted from the introduction of national service training in 1951. These considerations are technical and J do not wish to bore the committee with them. The average age of the young men who joined the naval reserve in the years from 1950 to 1952 was about twenty years. It is obvious that, if the youths of the country from the age of eighteen are absorbed by national service training, the young men of the particular age group on which the naval reserve has depended in the past are absorbed by national service training. There is no pool of youths on which the naval reserve can draw if all the young men are absorbed by national service training.
It was hoped that the national serviceman, at the end of his period of continuous naval service, would join the reserve, but that hope has not been fulfilled. As I have said, many of the considerations behind this decline of interest and enthusiasm are technical. The committee may be interested to know that they have been considered very seriously by private members on this side of the chamber Among the innumerable committees in and about this Parliament is one known as the Government Members Defence Services Committee, of which I happen, for the time being, to be chairman. That committee has studied these problems at considerable length and, with the approval of the Minister for the Navy, has given him a comprehensive report on the subject, together with a number of recommendations. In the personnel of this committee is gathered together a wealth of service experience. It includes two members of the committee who served in the Navy during World War II. and have retained their interest and their activity in the naval service in the years since. The committee membership incudes also an air vice-marshal, a general and a number of other members of this Parliament with long service experience in war and peace. Their combined knowledge and experience, and particularly the fact that much of that knowledge and experience were drawn from services other than the Navy, have, I believe, provided the background on which useful recommendations could be and, indeed, have been made.
The recommendations of the Government Members Defence Services Committee have taken four main lines. I shall enumerate them quickly. The first recommendation was that the organization of the reserve be recast at Naval Board level ; that a member of the Naval Board be appointed with the specific duty to take charge of naval reserve recruiting, training and mobilization, and of reserve ships, and that he be given a staff of young promotable officers; and that there be a complete reorganization at that level. The second recommendation was that national service training be made the basis of recruitment to the naval reserve in the future. The third recommendation was that the naval reserve divisions in each naval port be reorganized to make them independent commands under senior reserve officers. The fourth important recommendation was that each reserve division be given a sea-going tender or vessel, for the use of the division, under the command of the senior officer.
I should like to deal for a few minutes with the recommendations in order. The committee suggested, first, a reorganization at Naval Board level and the appointment of a member of the board charged with the specific duty to take charge of reserve recruitment, training and mobilization, and of reserve ships. We do not suggest that the Naval Board member be himself a reserve officer. In a service so highly technical and professional as the Navy, it is obviously necessary that he be a senior officer of the permanent naval forces. In that matter there is a considerable distinction from the appointment of a citizen force officer to the Military Board some years ago, a practice that has been continued since. The member of the board whom we suggest be appointed to these duties should have a staff of young officers in their respective zones for promotion. I point out that, in a highly competitive service such as the Navy, where an officer’s future career depends on his successful accomplishment, of his duties in each of his successive appointments, it is important that those duties be discharged by young officers who are still on the promotion lists in their various ranks.
The Government Members Defence Services Committee recommended, secondly, that national service training be made the basis of future recruitment to the reserve. As experience has confirmed, it is extremely difficult to combine voluntary and compulsory service in the citizen forces. At the present time, national servicemen in the Navy serve one continuous period of 154 clays in ships of the fleet or in fleet establishments. They are extremely well trained, and on all sides one hears tributes to the effectiveness and the success of their training and the high standard that is reached in it. At the end of this period of continuous training, the young national serviceman has completed only his training as an ordinary seaman and has reached what is known as the third-class specialist qualification; that is to say, in whichever branch he has been drafted - gunnery, radar, plotting, or whatever it might be - he has qualified only to the lowest professional standard. It was hoped that the national serviceman, on completion of his 154 days’ training, would volunteer to join the naval reserve and would continue his naval service for some years, and that, from the ex-national servicemen who so volunteered to serve in the reserve, would be drawn the future leading seamen, petty officers and officers of the naval reserve. But that hope has not been fulfilled and, for a variety of reasons, the young national serviceman, on the completion of his continuous training, prefers to go back to civilian life and not go to sea again. One of the reasons is that he knows very well that he has had the highest and most effective form of training the Navy can give him, and he feels that, when he goes to the reserve depots, he will not find the same enthusiasm and high standard of instruction that he found before. Therefore, he feels disinclined to go further than his compulsory training. Also, he knows that he is legally compelled to do his 154 days’ training. Having discharged his legal obligations, he is inclined to say, in effect, “ I have done my bit. “Why should I bother to commit myself for further obligations in the years ahead? “ That is an understandable but regrettable attitude. I think the clear way out is to extend the legal obligations of the national service man who elects to serve in the Navy over several years, as is done in the Army. If a national service man in the Navy knows when he volunteers for naval service in the first instance that for three or four years after he completes his 154 days’ training he will have to serve a fortnight or three weeks every year, he will recognize his legal obligation, and will do his duty willingly and cheerfully. This would require an amendment of the National Service Act, and [ hope that the Government will very seriously consider such an amendment, ft has been suggested that the same result could be achieved by accepting as national service men for the Navy only those who volunteer to join the naval reserve for, say, three years after completion of their continuous service. But what a young man will volunteer to do at eighteen years of age he might not be so happy to carry out at 21 years of age. It may be possible to combine the compulsory and voluntary services by making compulsory service the basis of recruitment for the future naval reserve so that the national service men would have a legal obligation to serve for an extended period of about three or four years as I have suggested.
The next reform suggested is that the naval reserve divisions in each State should be reorganized, and that the headquarters of each division in each Stateshould be made a separate naval command - a separate establishment, divorced from other naval functions such as those of Resident Naval Officer, naval recruiting depots and things of that sort. Each reserve command should be made a separate naval establishment, and placed under the command of a senior reserve officer. This would give an enormous encouragement to the naval reservists, and provide some opportunity for them to show their enthusiasm and their ability. It is necessary, I believe, to create a milieu for the reserve trainee - the amateur who spends a part of histime in the naval service - until he can feel at home. If he goes to sea every year for a fortnight’s training in one of the ships of the fleet he feels at a. very considerable disadvantage compared to the professional naval ratings alongside him. I believe that past experience shows that he cannot in those circumstances develop assurance, and if he has the ambition and the enthusiasm to aspire to higher responsibilities, such as those of a leading seaman or petty officer,, or to seek a commission and become a reserve officer, he does not under the existing system get the opportunity to develop that assurance which would fit him to exercise authority and command.
If the reserve establishments were separated from other naval establishments, that milieu would be created. This is not as original a change as might at first sight be believed. It has applied for years in the Royal Navy, where the naval reserve has been nurtured and developed throughout the years. I think that the Royal Australian Navy would do very well to make a closer examination of the system that has operated in England, and see whether there are lessons which we could very usefully learn. This change, I know, is supported by many experienced and thoughtful reserve officers at the present time, and I believe that it would also be supported by the young regular officers who have had actual recent experience in training reservists, but I am not quite confident that that experience and thought - that knowledge - has really reached the board.
The final important recommendation made on this matter is that each reserve division should be provided with its own sea-going tender. This is an old claim and an old hope among naval reservists, but it has never really been tried out in this country. Again, it is a system that works extremely well in the Royal Navy. In the United Kingdom, each reserve division has its own sea-going tender, which puts to sea manned by its own personnel. There are no insuperable difficulties in doing this. In the past, suggestions have been made that there are difficulties about making reserve officers responsible for the stores and equipment of such a ship, but I refuse to accept the viewpoint that those difficulties cannot be overcome. They have been overcome in England, and they could easily be overcome here.
The committee also made some recommendations concerning the use of cadet corps to encourage recruiting for the naval reserve. There are in Australia two cadet corps - the Royal Australian Naval Cadets and the Navy League Sea Cadets. I make the suggestion that young men should be encouraged by being given a specific understanding that the way to be accepted as naval national service men is first of all to become sea cadets. I believe that that is already operating, and that they are given such encouragement. A further suggestion is made that in the sea cadet corps, which are run under naval regulations, a certificate of competence should be introduced so that in subsequent field training a sea cadet who acquires efficiency up to the required standard could receive this certificate, which would be issued after an examination conducted under naval supervision. Having received that certificate, he should be exempted from a short period of his national service training. This could be done quite easily, I am sure, by an amendment of the regulations. It does not require an amendment of the National Service Act. In that way, a tremendous encouragement and fillip would be given to the cadets who, if they got their certificates of competency, would be actually allowed to miss some of the preliminary training which, otherwise they would have to do as naval national service men.
This committee of which I have been speaking met the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Francis) and the Chief of the Naval Staff to-day, and had what was, I believe, a most useful discussion. We were quite satisfied that the report to which I have referred had been very seriously considered, and we were also satisfied that reform of the naval reserve system is on the way. The new Chief of the Naval Staff, who assumed his duties not very long ago, is obviously aware of the need for drastic reform of the reserves. All who are concerned with the welfare of the Navy, particularly all those throughout the country who are aware of the need for many of the reforms to which I have referred, will be glad to know that changes are coming. It is, therefore, most important that when these changes are being considered they should be correct. I am not so arrogant as to assume that the suggestions which I have put to the committee, or which the committee to which I have referred has made, are necessarily entirely right. Many of them are obvious enough, and we came to conclusions which anybody making a .serious study of the subject would necessarily come to. On the other hand, we may not necessarily be correct about some of them.
I want to make two suggestions to the Minister for the Navy and the Naval Board. I am glad that the Minister has found time to come into the chamber while I make these suggestions. The first suggestion is that the Naval Board and the Minister should make every effort to get the advice of senior experienced reserve officers who know the conditions of to-day. My second suggestion is that they should also get the advice of the young permanent naval officers who have been recently engaged in actual reserve training. Filtered information is no good. It is not enough that young officers should be asked for their suggestions, down through the long chain of command in the Navy, and that those suggestions should be passed back, from the bottom upwards, through the same long chain. Filtered information is no good because it is so easy, with the best of intentions, for the prejudices of the past to he reimposed as the information goes up through the long voice pipe. Therefore, I suggest that a service committee should he set up in order to consider proposed changes in the naval reserve system. I suggest that that committee should advise and report to the Naval Board and, through the board, to the Minister. It should have among its members some senior reserve officers with present-day training experience and at least one - and preferably more than one - young Royal Australian naval officer who has recently been engaged in training duties in a reserve depot or establishment. I believe that to be absolutely essential if the Naval Board is to reach the correct conclusions on this matter.
– What is the opinion of the Naval Board on this suggestion ?
– I am unable to say, but I am satisfied that it has been considered, and that some recommendations, which are obvious enough and would be made by anybody who seriously considered the subject, are possibly in the process of adoption. But I hope that, before the system is finally settled, the board will establish a committee of the sort that I have suggested so that the reserve officers with present-day experience and young regular officers with present-day experience may express their views directly to the Naval Board which will make decisions of such great importance to the future efficiency of the Navy.
The other appeal that I make to the Minister and to the Naval Board is that they should make at least one imaginative experiment. I suggest that a separate Naval Reserve Division should be established, either in Sydney or Melbourne or preferably in both cities, and that it should be placed under the command of a reserve officer. I do not suggest that such an officer could do without the advice and assistance of permanent serving naval force officers. Obviously, he would need it. But their proper place in the scheme of affairs is as training officers, not as a commanding officer or executive officers of the establishment. They should be provided for training duties. I hope that the Minister will listen to my plea to make one imaginative experiment along these lines, and that these very enthusiastic and able young men mal have a chance to show what they can do. In addition, a sea-going tender should be allocated to that reserve division. I feel sure that if this experiment were made the Minister and the board would be astonished at the success of it. [Quorum formed.]
– 1 wish to say a few words in support of the amendment that has been moved to the motion before the committee by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). He has moved that the proposed vote be reduced by £1, which is, in effect, an indication to the Government that the Opposition believes that the Government does not possess the confidence of the people. It is clear from the budget introduced by the Treasurer (Sir ArthurFadden) that the present Administration is incapable of administering the affairs of this country, particularly because of its incompetence in the financial field. In a time of prosperity, no more telling indictment of a government has been made than the indication contained in the budget papers that inflation is again on the march. Under this Government, inflation will undoubtedly once again bring many of our people, particularly those in the lower income groups, to a lower standard of living than has occurred in this country for many years.
I was interested to hear the address of the honorable member for Evans (Mr. Osborne), who spoke on the subject of defence. He is well qualified to speak on that matter, because he is a serviceman with a distinguished record. With other members of the Parliament, I was interested in what he evidently thought was constructive criticism of certain sections of the services. But he should have realized by this time, as a man with a fair amount of ability and intelligence, that the Government has completely failed the people in respect of defence. For the last two or three years, the Government has not been able to expend on defence the money that has been set aside for that purpose.
As the Leader of the Opposition has said, evidently the Government’s defence expenditure is not planned. The Government simply thinks of a figure - £200,000,000 to make it a round number - and spends as much as it can in any old way at all. From time to time, the Government realizes that it has failed in assessing how much should be spent. It cannot spend its defence vote, but it offers no apology to the Parliament, and we see the fruits of its efforts in the incompetence of the defence forces. It is common knowledge that there are almost more generals in the present Army than there are men in the ranks. It is rapidly reaching the stage at which the Japanese Army arrived - all generals and no rank and file. The present Army is top-heavy with administration because of the wild expenditure of this Government. It is known that high-ranking officers are resigning from the services. Men are refusing to enlist because the Government, despite its expenditure, cannot provide housing for the rank and file and the forces generally.
The Government would do better if, instead of producing all these “ hif alutin “ ideas about defence, it gave a little consideration to matters that are of vital importance and ensured that it spent effectively the money that had been allocated for defence. Its unfortunate contribution to the defence of Australia was illustrated a few days ago in the failure of the Royal Australian Air Force to shoot down a pilotless aeroplane, despite an allocation of over £200,000,000 for defence! The Government’s defence programme is such that every potential invader should give us a month’s notice so that we can take the air and shoot him down. Is that not a tragic state of affairs? “Was it not a tragedy to see the Minister for Air (Mr. Townley) apologizing because the Air Force could not shoot down, I think, a Tiger Moth aircraft flying at about 50 miles per hour over the suburbs of Sydney? In what manner is the allocation for air defence being spent. The Air Force was obliged to call in the Navy to assist. As the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Drakeford), a former Minister for Air, stated a few days ago, it is a wonder that they did not call in the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), as he apparently is the only one who could have hit the target. Such an incident shows that the well-intentioned criticism of the honorable member for Evans has been wasted. The Government has no plans for defence and, except for the haphazard spending of portion of the defence vote, can point to no direct results of its efforts.
The best contribution that the Government could make to our defence would be to ensure adequate allocations to the States for highways, railways and other developmental works that will be of value in the event of an invasion or in time of war, and yet be of productive value in time of peace. “Why should we not ensure that, for the purpose of stimulating production, £50,000,000 or £60,000,000 of the defence vote is allocated to the States instead of being used for such ignominious exploits by the Air Force as occurred recently over Sydney, and in making comfortable many generals and high-ranking officers in the Army? I wonder whether high-ranking army officers are driving about in the most expensive cars at our expense, or whether they are using Holden cars? “When last year’s budget was presented, I produced figures which showed that money was being expended by the Army on the importation of expensive cars when the Australian product could easily have been used with consequent great saving to the people. If we were to follow the whole pattern of the Government’s defence programme, no doubt we would discover that, if war were to break out in the near future, Australia would be as defenceless as it was in 1939, 1940 and 1941, when a Labour government was elected to rescue the nation from a state of affairs that had been brought about by the incompetence of a Liberal partyAustralian Country party coalition.
Having made those few constructive suggestions about defence, I shall pass to another aspect of the budget. I did not want the Parliament, or the people generally, to think that they were being afforded protection by this Government simply because an item of £200,000,000 for defence appeared in the budget. The true facts were never exemplified more starkly than in the failure of the Air Force to shoot down the pilotless aeroplane over Sydney. Last year, the Government had a surplus of approximately £70,000,000, and it has budgeted for a surplus of approximately 48,000,000 for this financial year. In other words, the Treasurer is taking from the people, in the form of direct and indirect taxation, money that he has no right to take. The Government is budgeting for an excessive surplus at a time when the purchasing power of the £1 has never been lower, and it proposes to give a miserable 10s. a week increase to pensioners who depend entirely upon social services benefits for their existence. Why should not the increase have been greater? Why should not portion of the £70,000,000 or the estimated £48,000,000 to which I have referred have been used for the payment of subsidies on butter and other vital foodstuffs to reduce the price of those commodities to the consumers? Why does the Government continually force up the cost of living for the lower income groups and at the same time budget for a surplus? I am pleased that it proposes to give 10s. a week extra to one section of the community, and a few additional benefits to certain other sections, but I say, naturally, that it has not gone far enough. What has it done about child endowment and the payment of benefits to the dependants of age and invalid pensioners and other people who are dependent upon social services benefits? Why should they not have been given some consideration when the Government was budgeting for a surplus of £48,000,000?
In 1948-49, when the Chifley Labour Government was in office, the price of butter was approximately 2s. 7d. per lb., whereas to-day it is about 4s. 2d. But the pension has not risen proportionately. The purchasing power of the 10s. that the Government proposes to give to the pensioners is no greater than that of 2s. in 1948-49. It must be remembered that the purchasing power of the increased social services benefits for which provision is made in the budget is about 75 per cent, less than was the purchasing power of money in 1948-49 when the Chifley Government was in office. The Treasurer, in his budget speech, and other honorable members, have stated that the Government, since its assumption of office, has reduced taxation in successive years and that it has given taxation concessions, both direct and indirect, that have not been equalled by other govern ments. Those honorable members are pulling their own legs, and I shall show why. In 1949-50, which was the last full year for which the Chifley Government presented a budget, indirect taxation amounted to £20 per head of the population, whereas it is now £38. Direct taxation in 1949-50 was £38 per head of the population, but to-day it is £68. Collected taxation, both direct and indirect, amounts to £102 per annum per head of the population as against £58 at the time when the Chifley Government was defeated. In other words, the Government is going out backwards !
– Will the honorable member tell us something about the average wage when the Chifley Government was in office?
– Taxation to-day is almost twice as high as it was when the Chifley Government was defeated, yet this Government says that it is reducing taxation. At the rate the Government is going, taxation will soon be at least three times as great as it was when Labour was in office. Despite the fact that figures show’ to the contrary, the Government still says that it is reducing taxation. The amount of taxation per head of the population will be £3 greater this year than it was last year. So how can the Treasurer possibly make, with justice, a claim that he is reducing taxation? One might truthfully say that the people must be longing for the good old days of Labour governments, when taxation was at a reasonable level, when the purchasing power of money was maintained, and when the value of the £1 was such that it was worth two or three times as much as it is under the present Government. There are many people in this country, particularly those on wages in the lower income groups, who long for the old days when they had security and full employment under the Chifley and other Labour governments when their purchasing power was at a level never equalled in this country, when the prices of commodities were lower than they had ever been in our history, and when there was a fair return to the producer and a fair price for the consumer. I do not want to go into all the advantages that the people had in the days of Labour government, but I remind honorable members that the present Government was put into office at successive elections on pledges to put value back into the Australian fl. All honorable members know as well as I do that never was there more proof than there is at present that that promise was just a false promise. The figures that I have given prove it to be so. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who has been in this Parliament a long time, and who has a fair amount of knowledge, ingenuity and experience, but who lacks knowledge of the facts in relation to certain problems, may ask, “ What about the basic wage ? “ The basic wage is now £12, as against £6 under the Chifley Government, and will buy, I suppose, about £4 worth of goods, whereas when the basic wage was £6-
– I did not mention the basic wage. I said “ the average wage”, which is £16 a week, not £12 a week.
– There are a lot of people who have to exist on the basic wage, and the Minister is only endeavouring to interrupt my train of thought in order to take my mind off the fact that, despite what he says on this subject, not everybody is getting the average wage. The basic wage of £12, which is received by the ordinary run of wage-earner, has less purchasing power than the basic wage of £6 which was being paid when the Chifley Government was in office.
– The increase is a barometer of inflation.
– That is so. I point out that to-day it is impossible, under this Government’s administration, to exist on the basic wage, but during the term of the Chifley Government the real purchasing power of the basic wage was maintained.
There are many other matters associated with the budget that should be considered. The fact remains that the present Government has failed to give effect to the promises on which it was elected. It ha3 failed to see that pensioners are protected. It has failed to see that the interests of people dependent entirely on social services are protected. Above all else, it has failed to maintain the purchasing power of the wage earner’s income, and while it has failed to do that it has allowed unlimited profits to the interests and the huge monopolies that put it into office, and financed its election campaigns. Is it not a tragic farce that the Government is telling workers that they are getting too much money while General Motors-Holden’s Limited struggles along to a profit of £10,000,000 ? You can pick up any one of the daily newspapers, or any one of the financial journals, and find that unlimited profits are being made by ordinary companies, let alone the huge monopoly companies. When this Government refuses adequate margins to the skilled workers, and criticizes the workers in relation to the 40-hour week, it has to answer the question of how it is possible, if wage costs and other costs are so high, that big companies can make such huge profits after allowing for the cost of wages and. other production costs. The Government has abolished prices control, but at the same time it has permitted wealthy companies to make huge profits and has failed to give any adequate protection, particularly in relation to prices, to people dependent on wages and social services benefits. It is idle for the Treasurer or any other Minister to tell people that they must let the Government spend their money for them, and to say that high wages paid to the workers in industry are ruining the economy, whilst at the same time the Treasurer tells us, in his own budget speech, that major industries have made higher profits than for many years. The facts show that, undoubtedly, this Government will protect wealthy interests. It is a sectional government, and does not care a jot for the welfare of the mass of the people.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I have given to the Government my constructive ideas on the inadequacy of this budget in respect of the nation’s economy.
In the few minutes at my disposal, I want to point out a few further shortcomings which justify the motion of censure submitted by the Leader of the Opposition against the Government for the presentation of such a budget.
This afternoon, I happened to be looking through the Treasurer’s financial report for 1954-55. In the course of this statement, he deals with many of those expensive trips abroad that members of this Government have taken since they have been in office. We all know the old saying, “ Look after the pennies, and the pounds will look after themselves “. The Treasurer’s report indicates that the Government is following that policy in some degree, and I shall outline for honorable members some of the savings that have been effected in the allocations that have been made for these trips overseas. I notice that under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “ in the Prime Minister’s Department, the Minister for External Affairs was allocated a sum of £5,636 in 1954, He spent a little over £5,635, and brought back a credit balance of 14s. 2d. Evidently he forgot to tip the butler.
I come now to the report on the visit abroad of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in 1954. We heard unofficially that he had business there ; the fact of a wedding in his family was purely coincidental. However, the fact remains that he arrived in London for that very appropriate occasion. He was allocated £3,570, he spent £3,569 19s. lid., and he brought home Id. It looks as if somebody missed a tip.
When we look farther down the list, we see the report on the visit abroad of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes). His allocation was £2,745. He spent £2,74*4 Ss. 3d., and we saved 14s. 9d. on the journey. It is good to see that the Ministers are cheeseparing at appropriate times on these trips in order to return something to the Treasurer.
The Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) brought back from his trip abroad in 1955 the sum of 4s. 5d. It appears to me as if he “ scaled “ some one.
The Minister for Supply, on his visit abroad, was evidently spending not too badly because, out of his allocation of £4,S00, he saved 7s. 6d. Officials who travelled abroad certainly did a lot better than the Minister. We got 19s. back from them.
I just point out these matters in order to show that out of the many, many thousands of pounds expended on trips abroad, the Ministers did want to show credit balances, and at least went to the extent of saving pennies in the hope probably that we would forget the pounds. I am not unduly critical of their visits. Perhaps they were necessary. When we have a good look at the members of the Ministry, they certainly do appear to be in need of experience. If the expenditure of this money will get it for them, if it will increase their knowledge and capacity to govern, perhaps the taxpayers will be ultimately rewarded for the money spent. At the same time, I point out these matters to show that the trips concerned did at least give us something in the way of a monetary return, because certainly we have seen nothing in the way of administration.
I wish now to refer to a few other matters relating to a very important aspect of the Government’s policy. The Treasurer has told us to spend less. He said that it is the nation’s duty to save. He said the people’s money should be kept by the Government in such a way as to cut down expenditure, yet when we check the allocations to the various departments, we find that each of them has been given an increased allocation this year in order that it may spend more. Evidently the Treasurer’s policy is, “ Do not do as I do, but do as I say”. To-day, the Government tells people not to spend money, yet more and more money is to be spent this year by every department.
In other aspects of the Government’s policy there are other great shortcomings with respect to finance. The States are responsible, in the main, for the development of this country, yet their loan allocations have been reduced this year by over £64,500,000. Therein we see the curtailment of money for housing, hospitals, schools, development and all those things so urgently needed in this country. It is part of the Government’s stability policy. It growls about the level of production. Take the Australian Country party, the most backward party in any nation in the world. The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Roberton) talks about lack of production. The Government says that men will not work. Listen to what the honorable member said about the farmers, the workers and everybody else in this country, a3 reported in the Australian Goal, Shipping, Steel and the Harbour of the 1st September, 1951. I shall read what the honorable member for Riverina said about his fellow Australians. It is no wonder they will not work -
Australia, once described as one of the world’s most reliant and resourceful nations, is crawling around the world market places begging for goods and services that we are too darned lazy or too socially stupid to provide for ourselves.
The world knows that he is only f.a.q., yet he makes a statement of that kind about the Australian workers. It is a slur, a gross reflection on the farmers, the producers and every one else. Is it any wonder that we are importing millions of pounds’ worth of goods in excess of what we should be importing? Is it any wonder that we cannot get the required production when the man who works in industry, primary or secondary, who is giving of his best is criticized by a member of the Australian Country party, a party whose only contribution to this nation has been to produce the most tragic Treasurer in the history of our Commonwealth.
Time does not permit of my dealing more specifically with these matters. I summarize by saying that the Government lacks a direct approach to the nation’s problems on finance. Its legislation to-day is inflationary in every way. Its budget is such that while it is possibly one of the biggest in the history of the country, those persons who are in receipt of any benefits from it to-day are the people who are really getting less and less for the money that they earn, because of this Government’s inability to control inflation. The people long fo.r the day when they will have a good Treasurer. They long for the days of Labour administration, and a stabilized economy. They also look forward to a government that will give men an incentive to produce and earn more, so that we shall have an adequate supply of those goods which are so urgently needed. I say to the country that so long as this Government occupies the treasury bench, it will be a question of boom and bust for the great majority of the people because this Government cares not what happens so long as the wealthy interests who put it into office benefits from its legislation. I, therefore, issue the challenge that was issued by the Leader of the Opposition. Let us have an election at this particular time. Let this House reject this budget. We have moved a vote of censure of this Government. Every citizen who really knows what stability means and who knows what good Labour administration means will be hoping it is carried in order that we might defeat and destroy this Government, which has destroyed everything Labour built up, and which is rapidly leading us again into the wildest inflationary spiral of all times.
.- The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said a few minutes ago, “ Take the Australian Country party”. Would he not be glad to have the Australian Country party ! Would he not be glad to have a policy that would earn the support of the Australian Country party ! Unfortunately for him, we are very glad that we have not to follow a man who, after all, is a renegade from the country, a man who has his roots in the soil and his head in the clouds. For twenty minutes before the suspension of the sitting and for ten minutes since, he castigated this Government in most extravagant language. Being accustomed to his language, I am convinced that he is very much in favour of this particular budget because he has not used nearly such extravagant language as I have known him to use on a great many other occasions.
– What does he think of the “Doc”?
– He has not mentioned anything about that. He will probably do so in his next performance. He said that the Government had displayed its incompetence in the financial field. That is a very sweeping statement, which is easily denied, because I think that most people are concerned with the public debt of the Commonwealth, and whether it is on the increase or decrease. After World War II., in 1946, the public war debt reached the peak figure of £226 a head of population. By 1950 it had fallen to £203 a head of population, and, by 1955 to £171.
– That was probably due to the increase of population.
– The total Commonwealth debt stood in 1950 at £1,662,000,000, but by 1955 it had fallen to £1,578,000,000. Therefore, irrespective of the increase of population the Government has succeeded in reducing our war debt. The same tendency is reflected in other debts. The total debt of the Commonwealth, taking into account works and other purposes, also shows a reduction, the figures being £223 per head of population in 1950, and £2.09 in 1955. The honorable member for Grayndler suggested that the States were not getting a fair deal, but I would point out that the debt of the States has increased from £132 to £199 a head. The reason is obvious. It was refreshing to find that the honorable member had looked at the budget papers this afternoon, but if he had looked more carefully he would have seen that both tax reimbursements and loan allocations to the States have been increasingly generous over the years. He would have found that this Government decided to forgo in favour of the States its entitlement to loan raisings. The honorable member castigated the Army generally and said that there were so many absentees that, like the Japanese army, it had more generals than privates. He should know that service establishments of ranks are built in war-time and in peace-time are much smaller. Indeed, there is probably a deficiency in many categories because, during peacetime, they are not required. My friend, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), reminds me that the Japanese army has first-class privates, second-class privates and third-class privates. It is a very convenient arrangement. If anything goes wrong the first-class private kicks the secondclass private, and the second-class private kicks the third-class private. There being no lower rank than this, it is probably a good idea for any stray dogs to get out of the way of the third-class private. That position does not obtain in the Australian Army.
The assessment of the worth of a budget depends on one’s point of view. The average man in the street classifies it good or bad according to whether it puts more money in his pocket or extracts more from him by way of taxation. One would not expect honorable members to assess a budget in that way. I am inclined to think that far too many are guided by their support for, or opposition to, the Government. One would expect honorable members to adopt a more national outlook. Many of them, like the honorable member for Grayndler, seem not to have had a look at the budget papers until this afternoon, if then. Some statements have been, not only extravagant, but also incapable of confirmation. Often, there is no evidence to bear out the wild insinuations that have been made. Governments to-day have much greater responsibilities than they did in years gone by. Under uniform taxation, the Commonwealth collects taxes and hands over the greater part of the revenue to the States. It does not collect taxes solely for its own use. This is especially true of income tax. Under a formula, it repays to the States a proportion of the tax revenue. As a matter of interest, the reimbursement grants determined under the formula are set out in the budget. They show how the States have benefited from the exercise by the Commonwealth of this particular function. In 1948-49, the first year for which figures are given, the total reimbursement was £53,744,000. In the current year it is estimated that the States will be reimbursed to the extent of £140,800,000.
Since this Government took office, it has been in the habit of making supplementary grants to assist the States. We are told that the Government is not assisting the States to the extent that it should, but this is not borne out by the figures. In 1949-50 when this Government came into office, the formula grant was £62,000,000, but supplementary grants raised that figure to £70,000,000. Supplementary grants have since been £20,000,000, £33,000,000, £27,000,000, £21,000,000 and £19,000,000 and this year they will be £16,200,000. In the seven years in which we have been in office we have paid, in supplementary grants, no less than £146,739,000. That, is a large sum of money. It is more than the States are getting this year under the formula. When the Commonwealth is criticized for collecting so much tax revenue, it should not be forgotten that all the States, irrespective of the political complexion of their governments, are participating in this arrangement, which is largely a matter of convenience.
The Commonwealth has, to-day, the very big responsibility of repatriation, which it did not have before the war. The cost of repatriation is high and this year will increase. This Government is subsidizing the States to the extent of £1 for every £2 that they spend on war service land settlement. This has bumped up the expenditure on this item alone by £4,000,000. We have a considerable responsibility in respect of housing. I shall not cite the figures, all of which are contained in the budget papers. Honorable members should have read those figures and noted that our assistance to State governments under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement has involved the expenditure of many millions of pounds. In addition, £30,000,000 has been provided in each of the last few years for war service homes. Social services payments have been increased, yet we have heard honorable members say to-day that the Government has not treated the pensioners fairly at all. No honorable member could possibly say that in the face of the tremendous amount of money, £200,000,000 in round figures, which the Government is providing for this purpose.
– The pensioners are not receiving round figures.
– I am not adding the pounds, shillings and pence. All the figures are contained in the budget papers and honorable members who examine the papers and see them will not make silly statements about the hard deal that this Government is giving to social services beneficiaries. I have mentioned these matters more or less in passing. After all, the big task that faces the Government is the maintenance of financial stability, the attainment of which is probably one of the greatest contributions we can make in the defence of the country. Another great responsibility is the maintenance of national solvency and the balance of payments between exports and imports. The very fact that to-day we are enjoying a period of the greatest prosperity that this country has known is evidence that the
Government has done a remarkably good job in both these directions during the last few years.
Another great contribution towards the defence of the country is the development in peace time of assets which may be used for defence purposes in the event of an outbreak of hostilities. I believe that we have done a remarkably good job in that direction also. It should be well known that ships, guns, aircraft, and atom bombs, are not the only requisites for the defence of this country. Many other factors enter into the matter. Any honorable member who sat in this chamber during the war years knows the tremendous demand made on the productivity of the country in order to maintain ships on the sea, aircraft in the air, and guns in the field. That is one of the greatest responsibilities of the civilian population in war-time. During times of peace we have an opportunity to ensure that we develop assets which may be used for the benefit of the community, not only in peace but also in war.
I think that we have overlooked one very important matter, namely, the mobility of our forces, munitions, and supplies. Greater consideration should be given to the provision of adequate roads. It is true that we are providing a tremendous sum of money to assist the State governments in their road construction programmes. When we came into office the amount by which the States were assisted by the federal aid roads grants was £8,800,000. This year that assistance has grown to the remarkable total of £25,500,000, but nevertheless I am of the opinion that it is not sufficient. I believe that, should it become necessary for us to move by road transport the men and materials needed for the defence of the country, we should be hard put to do a good job in view of the condition of our roads at present. Greater consideration should be given to road building and maintenance. I speak very feelingly on this subject, because I come from an outback area, where I see very little of bitumen roads. I know very well that there are sections of our main roads where bridges are needed across creeks, which are absolutely impassable in wet conditions. That state of affairs should not be allowed to exist in this country.
– In what State does it exist ?
– In New South “Wales. There are other States in which conditions are better in this respect than are those in New South Wales. It must be remembered that the motorist is the main source of the funds from which roads are provided to-day, by his contributions to the so-called petrol tax and other taxes such as that which is levied in New South Wales by the Commissioner for Motor Transport. The moneys derived from such taxes are used for road construction. Some contributions are’ also made by land-holders, but not to the same extent as was the case in the past. I think that there is a responsibility on the Federal Government from a defence point of view to construct good, solid, allweather roads. I do not suggest for one moment that the defence vote should be curtailed. I have heard honorable members say that allocations for various arms of the services should be restricted. I do not suggest such a course, but I think that the construction of good roads should be considered as a factor of our defence policy. Aero clubs, gliding clubs, and rifle clubs, which may be regarded as being of a sporting character, have a very definite value from the point of view of defence. I am very disappointed that the department administered by the Minister for Civil Aviation (Mr. Townley) has not received a greater allocation in the budget to enable him to make greater grants to aero and gliding clubs, as I know he would like to do. Those clubs can play a tremendously important part by training young men to fly and by keeping people air-minded. I know that clubs in my own division, which are doing a remarkably good job, are hard put to keep going, especially when they have the misfortune of losing one or two aircraft. One such club lost two aircraft, and it is very difficult for the club to replace those losses so that it might continue in operation.
There is another matter with which I should like to deal at some length, but unfortunately the time allowed in tb;, debate, when one is trying to cover a lot of ground in a very short time, is not sufficient, and I can refer to it only briefly
It is the question of whether we should not give greater consideration to the outside territories, particularly Papua and New Guinea, on which we cannot afford to permit a hostile foot ever again to trespass. In the past we have expended some money in the New Guinea area, but not a great deal. We have obligations, in the first place, to our own natives in Papua, and in addition, we have obligations to the natives of New Guinea, which is held by us under mandate from the United Nations. We have a personal obligation to the natives of both areas for their great services to us in the last war. Our boys who were in New Guinea during war-time could not look upon it as other than a rather forbidding place, not very friendly, wild jungle country, and they would not see it in the light that one can see it to-day. I have been privileged to visit it, in company with some colleagues from both sides of the committee. Those honorable gentlemen will agree when I say that the development which has taken place in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea over the last two years has been tremendous. I maintain that such development is justified because, after all, we have two responsibilities, the moral responsibility to the natives to repay them for what they did for us during the difficult war years, and a responsibility to make the territory secure by fostering friendliness in the natives so that an enemy would find it difficult indeed to make any headway should he land on its shores with the idea of attacking Australia. The grant that we made to the Territories of Papua and New Guinea before the war was £42,500. By 1949-50, it had been stepped up to £4,200,000, and in 1955-56 we are proposing to make a grant of £8,500,000. In addition, a considerable sum of money - the figures for the current year are not available, but probably it will be about £4,000,000- will be derived from the Territories themselves. From those two sources, there will be available this year, at the most, £13,000,000, for the tremendous job of work required to be done.
I see the matter in this way. When the last war broke out, very little was being done up there. I say that with no disrespect to the people who had lived and battled there for many years, assisted only to the extent of about £40,000 a year by the Commonwealth. The natives had not been brought into civilization to any great extent. I shall not use the words “ under control “, because, to my mind, the natives are not brought under control. They are brought into civilization to work with the European and grow to like him, not in any sense to be controlled by him. It is understandable that at the outbreak of the war the natives were in great doubt about where their sympathies lay. They did Dot know anything of the outside world, which was foreign to them, and they had not had very much opportunity to find out about it from our people, because of language difficulties. But great numbers of them who had been brought into association with Europeans through the missions were loyal to our cause. I was fortunate to be able to visit the Territories in 1950 and again this year. From what I have seen of the natives, [ think they are very solidly loyal to the Australians there and to the Administration, and that they are doing everything they possibly can to assist in the development of the Territories. They are being ably assisted by the Administration. There are some shortcomings that need to be corrected, but the overall picture is one of great development.
When. I visited Goroka, in the highland country, in 1950, I think there were only three or four Europeans there and just a few natives in huts round about who were associated with them. To-day, there are about 400 Europeans in the town of Goroka, and all the natives for miles around are friendly with them. When we were there, we associated and mixed with them, and had photographs taken with them. It was almost impossible to believe that about ten years previously those people were absolutely uncontrolled and that they were wild in the strictest sense of the word. I think the natives not very far away probably were cannibals. To-day, they welcome the white man and are co-operating with him to the greatest extent.
I noticed, in particular, how quickly the natives learned to speak the English language and how much they appreciated the opportunity to be taught. Previously, they felt that we were holding out on them, that we were not teaching them anything, that we were not showing them our books and that they were not being given an opportunity to learn the things they wanted to learn. All that is changing rapidly. The natives are developing their own local councils. They are getting together, as we get together in this country in our local organizations. They are developing a form of cooperative organization through which they buy and sell. They sell their products and buy their food through a kind of cooperative store, run by natives who have been trained by the Administration and are able to conduct the business in the way that a European would conduct it.
The roads that have been constructed are amazing. Transport facilities in the Territories are inadequate. A few years ago, transport was almost entirely by air, but to-day, with the development of the country and the opening up of roads, it is possible to traverse a great deal of the area without much trouble. There is a native regiment, the Pacific Islands Regiment, which, unfortunately, consists of only one battalion. The natives are most anxious that it be increased to three battalions. They are proud of their regiment.
– They have their own pipe band.
– They have a pipe band, which my Scottish friend was delighted to hear. The marching and drilling of the regiment is worth seeing. Some one remarked to me that the way in which the regiment carried out a march-past and went through its paces was reminiscent of Duntroon.
One of the great problems up there is to provide more roads of access to the land which is being thrown open. Land is not being thrown open with sufficient speed to meet, the needs of the people who want to go there to develop the country. The development that has taken place, particularly in cocoa and coffee production, is remarkable, but one of the great problems is to get into the blocks, which are fairly heavily timbered. It was suggested to me that the method by which the land is being developed is the best method, but I disagree with the Administration’3 present policy, and I believe and hope that it will be altered. There is a tendency to open up a fairly large tract of land and subdivide it into a number of blocks, more or less congregating all the Europeans in one area. Having regard to the limited number of Europeans available, I think it would be very much better if they could be given blocks spaced at fairly wide intervals, so that natives over a large area could get the benefit of associating with Europeans and seeing how they work their land. The natives are great imitators and they would profit from tha.t experience. But before that can be done, more roads of access must be provided, which means that more money must be granted by this Government.
There is another problem, the problem of the Chinese population. It relates almost entirely to New Guinea, because nearly all the Chinese are concentrated in Rabaul. In 1950, my colleague from New England and I saw the problem for ourselves. We saw the Chinese people, who are mostly of this generation. They gave every appearance of being very loyal. They had settled in New Guinea and had made it their home, but we saw them being treated almost as pariahs and denied an opportunity to play their part in the civic affairs of the country. The problem is growing in intensity and I think it requires careful consideration. Many of the Chinese come to schools in Australia. They associate with Australians in the schools here, but when they go back to their homes they find that they are more or less ostracized by the white population. The same applies to the half-castes. Many of them come to schools in Australia. They participate in sport here and become members of rifle clubs and organizations of that sort, but when they return to New Guinea they are not allowed to join in any activity of that kind there, because of their breed.
As I have said, this is a tremendous subject, a subject far too great to attempt to cover in a short speech. I feel that more finance should be made available to develop the Territories of Papua and New Guinea and carry on the good work of repaying the natives for what they gave to us during the war years, and, from our point of view, to educate them, teach them the English language and teach them to read and write, so that we shall know that, if hostilities ever break out which threaten the invasion of this country through Papua and New Guinea, no enemy will ever have an opportunity to establish himself there. I believe that if the principles that have been adopted so far are continued, that will be the result.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- We have just heard the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) make an abject apology for the budget brought down by the leader of the party to which the honorable member belongs. He would have been better engaged had he condemned the budget and deplored its effects upon the primary producers whom he is supposed to represent in this chamber. There is every indication in the present state of affairs that farmers throughout Australia will be wondering what is the position created by this budget. A number of honorable members from both the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have stated that they are very uneasy about Australia’s position and about the unsound economic conditions that are developing. All authorities seem to agree that serious economic problems confront Australia. The brochures distributed by the investing companies have warned the Government about these problems over the last twelve months. If further proof were needed, one had only to listen to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) delivering his budget speech to be convinced that it was the speech of a man with a guilty conscience, a man who was unsure and afraid of the future and of the consequences of his past bungling and the lack of foresight and the maladministration of the nation’s economic affairs exhibited by this Government to such a degree that, unfortunately, Australia now has the greatest measure of inflation in the world. As a result, most of our exports, both primary and secondary, have been priced out of the markets of the world. With our London funds rapidly diminishing, we are in a bad position from which to counter the serious consequences of the recent decline of the price of wool.
Twelve months ago, the Government was warned that the position was likely to become worse. One would think that, by now, action would have been taken by the men who are charged with the responsibility of dealing with the situation. After all, the Government is, in effect, a board of directors and is the guiding hand that steers the course of Australia’s economy. There is no indication in this budget of any practical measures that are to be taken even now to check the inflationary spiral, except the old proposal that costs must be reduced. By that suggestion, honorable members opposite mean that wages must be reduced. That is a very old cry. It goes right back to the days of the earliest governments of Liberals or combinations of Liberals and others, under whatever names they have masqueraded from time to time. We are now told by the Government that consumers must spend less. Let members of the Australian Country party, as representatives of primary producers in this chamber, imagine what must happen if that policy is adopted. We shall be in trouble as serious as we were in during the ‘thirties as a result of administration by men like the present Treasurer and other members of the Australian Country party who were Treasurers in those days. It seems strange that we always come to this critical stage. If the Government adopts a policy of requiring consumers to spend less, and reducing the purchasing power of the great consuming public, the first to be adversely affected will be the farmers. The primary producers, irrespective of the commodities that they produce, will feel a reaction immediately. Honorable members opposite seem to be advocating this policy, not openly and blatantly, but merely by hinting at it, in the hope that they will be returned to office and will have an opportunity to implement it. That would be a bad day for Australia.
I should have thought that members of the Australian Country party would be the first to attack this budget and to bring their influence to bear on the Government and force it to take action immediately for the public benefit. They have before them the example of the former Labour Government. The only real capacity that the Treasurer has shown is a capacity to frame alibis, make excuses and blame every one but himself and this incompetent Government for the existing measure of inflation. He is an expert at that sort of thing. Honorable members will recall that he first declared that the wool-growers had caused inflation. He later stated that high wages were the cause, but he had to forget that excuse when wages were pegged. Honorable members will recall also that profits were not pegged. The Treasurer now turns upon the consumers and blames them for the inflation under which we suffer. On the contrary, the blame rests on the Treasurer and on this Liberal party and Australian Country party Government, which took office a little less than six years ago, at a time when Australia’s economy was the soundest in the world. At that time, Australia had a smaller measure of inflation than any other nation, because the Chifley Labour Government had taken action to prevent inflation and had successfully combated it.
From the day that the Menzies Government managed to win office by misrepresentation and deceit, it worked to destroy the safeguards against inflation erected by the Chifley Government to protect the Australian economy. The present Government’s very first action was to remove those safeguards. One would think that the new Government would have acknowledged that the economy was sound, and that it would have maintained the safeguards that it had inherited. Two of those safeguards were very important. One was capital issues control. The position when this Government took office was much as it is to-day. There was more money than there were goods, because it was not long after the war. Such a condition always occurs after wars and must be controlled. Any one with common sense would have acknowledged the need to direct production into essential goods. That was what the Labour Government did. But there were greater profits in luxuries and nonessential commodities than in essential goods. The soldiers were returning home from the war and many young people were getting married. Large numbers of houses were needed. The Labour Government would not allow additional credit to be created so as to divert man-power and materials from the production of essential goods and for that purpose it refused to permit companies that were producing or would produce only nonessential goods’ to obtain capital issues. That was only common sense.
The first action of this Government and its Treasurer was to abolish capital issues control by means of which Labour had held inflation in check. Why did the Government take that action? It must have known that the effect would be to inject into the economy an additional £200,000,000- with what result? Immediately, materials and man-power were directed to the production of nonessential commodities. I recall that, within twelve months of the removal of capital issues control, the fruit-growers at Mildura found it impossible to obtain nails for fruit cases, although plenty of smokers’ stands, fruit trays and similar goods were available because companies’ made greater profits out of them. Twelve months later, after the damage had been done, the Government reimposed capital issues control. It subsequently promised to reduce taxation, but found that it could not do so.
The Treasurer, who is adept at making excuses, was able to find another excuse also. Australia had a stroke of great good fortune, which does not come very often. Other countries, for a few months, paid very high prices for our wool, and the Treasurer and his colleagues in the Government used this fact to account for the inflation that was caused by their own actions. They made the wool-grower out to be the villain and the Treasurer said, “We will take 20 per cent, gross from the wool-grower “. He outraged all the principles of taxation practice. Honorable members who belong to the Australian Country party made no protest. The Treasurer stated that all the money obtained from the wool-growers would be spent in one budget and he put another £100,000,000 into circulation. Expressed in another way, the Government collected and expended £110,000,000 some twelve months before it was due to be paid as tax. Consequently, when the next budget was framed the Treasurer could not anticipate revenue to that amount. As honorable members know, I am a woolgrower. When I submitted my certificate to the Treasurer he could not cash it because he was short of .that amount of £110,000,000. How did the Government make up that shortage ? It increased sales tax from £35,000,000 to £117,000,000, which had an immediate inflationary effect on prices. The Government does not accept any blame for the inflationary conditions that exist to-day. At the time the wool charge was imposed I called it a wool grab. As a sop to the wool-growing interests, the Government announced that it would impose an excess profits tax. But that tax was not introduced, because the masters of honorable members opposite withheld their permission. It is well known that the Government parties were assisted to gain office by large donations to their funds from huge monopolies both here and overseas. The imposition of an excess profits tax would have cleared the air in respect to machinery companies, which were making profits of 100 per cent., because the primary producers were obliged to buy machinery and spare parts from them. The Government of this country is supposed to administer the finances of the nation with justice to all sections of the community.
As a result of pressure that was brought to bear by certain groups, the Government then lifted the import controls which Labour had maintained in order to ensure that only essential goods would be imported. It granted import licences for the importation of tractors or any machinery that would enable us to increase production and, consequently, our wealth. Labour did not allow the importation of cutlery or other nonessential goods, and so built up enormous overseas reserves for a rainy day - in case the overseas prices of our primary products fell. Immediately after import controls were lifted about £500,000,000 worth of non-essential goods were imported into this country. The lifting of those controls was a deliberate action by the Government. In due course, after the damage had been done, control was again imposed on imports. Meanwhile the effect was to throw out of work about 100,000 Australians. I remember seeing imported court shoes displayed for sale in stores at £10 10s. a pair. Is it any wonder that our reserves dwindled?
A government functions similarly to the way that a board of directors functions, yet in 1949 the present Government parties so misrepresented the facts to the people as to bring about the dismissal of Labour’s board of directors, which had managed the country efficiently, as it was not influenced by pressure groups.
I come now to the question of government borrowing. The Labour Government borrowed only from the people of this country, not at high rates of interest, but at the rate of per cent. It was able to get all the finance it needed. It is significant that the Treasurer cannot obtain sufficient money from the people of Australia to fill public loans because he has raised interest rates and so depreciated the value of Commonwealth bonds, This has adversely affected small investors who, upon being forced through unfortunate circumstances to realize their securities, have received only £88 for each £100 bond. This Government’s policy in that connexion is quite different from Labour’s policy. Of course, as the bonds approach maturity date their market value rises. This Government has borrowed millions of dollars overseas. It has even borrowed francs from Switzerland. The Labour Government did not pledge the future production of Australia because it realized that if overseas prices for our primary products fell we would be unable to meet our interest commitments. Despite the warnings that the Government has received from this side, it continues to let things slide.
A good deal of attention has been directed to primary producers’ costs. I am sick and tired of hearing honorable members opposite assert that primary producers must cut their costs and produce more. In point of fact, the primary producers have produced more but their costs have increased and their returns have declined. As you know, Mr. Temporary Chairman, oil and petrol account for a big proportion of primary producers’ costs. Yet, one of this Government’s first moves was to sell the Commonwealth’s shareholding in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The Government now has no check whatever on the great oil monopolies. I have before me a booklet written by the late Mr. W. M. Hughes, entitled We Dare Not, Must Not, Sell C.O.B. It contains the reported remarks of the late right honorable gentleman on this subject during what was, I think, his last speech in this Parliament. On the second page, this appears -
Yesterday I read in the press a paragraph headed “ U.S. Probe of Oil Cartel which set out the position very clearly. It stated that investigators had already disclosed that the entire oil business of the world - not merely of the United States of America - was in the hands of seven companies, and that the people of America were greatly concerned about this matter because the United States is a great industrial nation.
The honourable member for Yarra has spoken of the need to increase the production of raw materials and foodstuffs. I agree with him. But population is limited by food supply. Man wants many things, but he must have food, and the food supplies of modern society depend largely upon oildriven machinery. Any one who wishes to buy oil to-day must buy it from one of the “ Seven Companies of the Oil Cartel “, and must pay the price fixed by the Cartel or go without oil!
We are a very small community compared with the United States of America, but oil is vital to us. Where can we get it? Are we to fall into the grip of this Giant Octopus? The Cartel rules the oil world. What it says goes. So we know now just what the “ private enterprise “ is, to which we are to sell C.O.R. !
At least the Labour Government had some check on petrol and oil, and at that time no objection to that check was voiced by members of the Australian Country party.
I come now to the subject of shipping freights. As we know, it was on the cards that the Commonwealth-owned ships would be sold by this Government. Despite the recent statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) that a 10 per cent, increase of overseas shipping freights was not warranted in the light of the figures prepared by his departmental officers, those freights are to rise by 10 per cent, and the primary producers can take it or leave it. What is the Government doing about the matter? I point out that the primary producers of Australia, not the wool-buyers, pay the freight charges. The buyers, when deciding the amount of their bids, allow for freight, so that probably the Australian wool-growers pay freight of from 25 per cent, to 30 per cent.
The rail freight on wheat in Victoria was increased recently to 7d. a bushel, which is the highest freight charge in the world. There is no reason why that should be so. The former Labour Government of Victoria, if they had remained in office, would not have increased freight charges for, under good management, overhead charges had been cut down. It is interesting to read a statement by Mr. Everett, a member of the Australian Wheat Board. He said -
If the Government persisted in the 20 per cent, rise for wheat, Victoria would have the eaviest freight rate in the world. Mr. Everett said the freight to carry a bushel of wheat 210 miles in Victoria will be 19. 10 1/2d The Canadian railways will carry a bushel of wheat from Scott to Fort William or Vancouver, 950 miles, for Is. 3d.
The Canadian railways haul a bushel of wheat 740 miles further than Victoria for 7id. a bushel less, and wages are higher in Canada than in Victoria.
As far as I can see, there is no justification for the Victorian railways having increased their freight rates. I believe that this move is a deliberate attempt to ruin the railways. The objective is to take the transport system out of the hands of the State Government and place it in the hands of the oil cartel. The result would be that the oil cartel would have a huge monopoly of transport. The increases that have been made in rail freight rates in Victoria have been terrific. The increase in the rate for the carriage of superphosphates amounted to 50 per cent, of the old rate. Yet the farmers have been told to bring their costs down. How can they bring their costs down when every action of the Government has resulted in increased costs ?
I remember that when the Chifley Government was in office it was severely criticized by members of the Australian Country party. Yet the Chifley Government would not allow steel to be exported whilst it was needed within Australia by primary producers. The steel companies, of course, wanted to get the better export price for their product. Now we find that the Government has permitted them to export steel, an action which has resulted in a shortage of fencing wire and other steel products that are required by primary producers. The Government has done this in order to increase its customs revenue from duty payable from imported steel. In this way, the Government has increased its revenue, but it has done so at the expense of the farmer.
No wonder honorable members heard the honorable member for Lawson, who represents the wheat-growers, make an abject apology for the Government. The Government pretends to represent the interests of the wheatgrowers, but it has deprived them of a substantial amount of money by refusing an offer of 1Ss a bushel for wheat. The Government hung out for an extra 5d. Now, only 13s. a bushel will be paid for that wheat. That is the sort of thing that the Government is doing to primary producers. Reports of such occurrences do not appear in the press which smothers them up. If a Labour government did such things, one would never hear the end of them. I feel that the members of the Australian Country party would join the Opposition in voting against the Government if they had the courage of their convictions.
There is nothing in this budget to prevent profiteering by companies. The Opposition does not mind companies making profits. But farmers’ incomes have fallen while company profits have risen by millions of pounds. As I said before, the Opposition does not mind companies making a profit, but we object to their profiteering, and they are profiteering at present. It is the farmer who has to pay the exorbitant prices that are charged by these companies. Yet th<» farmers are told to keep their costs down.
Action has been taken to peg wages. Why does the Government not peg profits ? When it was suggested that profits should be pegged, the Government found itself on the mat. The interests that dominate the Government prevented it from pegging profits. Now, the State governments have introduced price controls again. The country is returning to Labour’s policy. The Australian Labour party does not mind General Motors-Holden’s Limited making a profit; but last year, it made a profit of £9,000,000 and the Government gave that company a rebate of 2s. in the £1, which amounted to £900,000. Why has the Government not reduced income tax? Why has it not reduced costs by reducing sales taxes? Why does the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) gang up against the farmers? It looks to me as though you do not intend-
– I rise to order, Mr. Acting Chairman. Is it not a fact that when a man speaks in this chamber he must address you and not an honorable member ?
The TEMPORARY ‘ CHAIRMAN. - Order ! The honorable member for Wannon will continue.
– Let it never be forgotten that once costs are raised to a high level, they are likely to remain high for a long time. In the 1930’s, when wages fell and adjustments were made, the prices of necessaries-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mi. McLeod) has attempted to criticize the action of this Government over the last few years with what appeared to me to be a string of allegations which are not founded on fact. As an illustration of my contention, I shall mention one or two statements that he made which are definitely not true. In the first place, he made the charge that when any Government supporter spoke about bringing down production costs as a measure towards the alleviation of inflation, he implied that wages should be reduced. Nothing is farther from the truth. When Government supporters advocate the reduction of costs, they mean that the amount of production should be increased for the same cost. In other words, they suggest that it is a job for both the management and the workers.
Another wild assertion that was not founded on fact was that, when wool boomed, this Government, in some sort of panic and without any justification, took from the wool-growers 20 per cent, of the gross wool proceeds and injected approximately £110,000,000 into an already inflated economy. Exactly the opposite happened. The Government took £110,000,000 from the pockets of the woolgrowers, who would have spent it anyhow, and substituted that money for £110,000,000 which it would have had to raise from other sources to satisfy its budget commitments. In point of fact, that manoeuvre, if honorable members so like to describe it, actually avoided the injection of £110,000,000 into the economy at that time. One could continue to refute, from beginning to end, other assertions that have been made. Reference has been made to the activities of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. The activities of that organization did not act as a check in any form on the alleged manipulations of any oil companies. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was purely and simply a distributing organization, and honorable members opposite know that as well as I do. As I have stated, I could continue to illustrate the half truths with which the honorable member for Wannon has regaled the House to-night.
At this stage of the debate on the budget, there is very little to which reference has not been made in one form or another. Therefore, I propose to address myself to two or three items in particular which seem to me to lend themselves to not new, but unusual, thought. Having looked through the? budget, and the budget speech of tinTreasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), I am of the opinion that the Treasurer has given us an accurate and very clear description of our present financial and economicsituation.
– Could not the honorable member deal with the flight of the pilotless aeroplane over Sydney?
– I shall deal with that matter in due course. There is no doubt that we are faced with inflationary tendencies, and the budget reflects the. Government’s belief that this minor instability will probably right itself. Therefore, the budget has been more or less correctly described as a “ mark time “ budget. The Treasurer has presented such a budget so that the natural resiliencies of our economy may be allowed to rectify the slight instability that is evident. It. may or may not achieve that result. Probably it will do so, but, to my way of thinking, that is a rather nega- tive approach. We should consider a more active approach to the problem of ensuring a condition of stability in our national economy. I do not intend to bore honorable members by attempting to describe the cause of this unstable situation, but, to over-simplify it, I shall describe it as being a .situation in which we have too much spending money but not enough goods and services to satisfy the demand. To over-simplify the matter again, there are two ways in which the situation could be remedied. We could curtail the availability of spending money to balance the available goods and services, which is a negative corrective that would stultify progress, or, alternatively, we could increase the goods and services to match the additional spending money. The latter method seems to me to be a more positive and progressive method of dealing with the situation, and one which will lead towards improved standards of living and national prosperity.
In Australia, we have, overemployment, and I suggest that the bottle-neck which prevents the country from taking the positive step of balancing spending money with consumer goods and services is the lack of man-power. That fact has led me to ascertain from the budget how much of our national expenditure is productive. I candidly admit that I was startled to find that three items alone which account for more than half of the estimated expenditure for the current financial year are, in two cases, entirely unproductive, and in the third case almost entirely unproductive. Defence, the first of those three items, on which it is proposed to spend £180,000,000, is completely unproductive. There is no escape from that situation; we must face up to it. It is the price of our security, and I submit that no one in his sane senses would suggest that, at this stage of the world’s history, we should relax our defence efforts, i know that the results of the Geneva conference have tended to lull a certain section of the community into a sense of security. Indeed, I have heard honorable members opposite argue during this debate that, as world tension has eased and as Russia has seen the light, we should reduce our defence expenditure. The expenditure itself is not important.
The man-power that it absorbs is the crucial point. Surely we shall not take at their face value assertions of friendship and goodwill by a nation that believes that the end justifies the means, and whose writings state in so many words that at some stage it may be necessary to pretend goodwill to soften up the potential enemy which, in this ease, is the whole of that part of the world which has not been converted to international communism. In those circumstances, a reasonable attitude for us as sensible men to adopt would be, although we welcome that change of attitude at Geneva, to seek some concrete evidence that it was sincere before we accept it.
– What evidence would the honorable member require?
– Such evidence as the acceptance by the Russians of a workable and effective method of supervision of atomic weapons and all sorts of armaments.
– Such as what?
– Some method of effective inspection to ensure that reduction of armaments was really being implemented. For example, such a scheme as that proposed recently by the President of the United States when he suggested that the United States and Russia give each other the right to make an unrestricted examination of all establishments within the borders of the other. The Russians refused to accept that proposal.
– The President suggested aerial inspection only.
– Aerial inspection included. Until we get some concrete evidence that the Russians are sincere in their protestations we should be most unwise to reduce our defence preparations. Therefore, we cannot look, at this stage, to reduction of defence forces for any relief in our man-power position, and I believe man-power to be the crux of our economic problem.
The second expenditure which strikes me as being huge, for very little return, is that on the programme of national development. I shall not try to make a case to the effect that national development is not a very important and essential activity in any young country like
Australia, but I assert that no country, no more than any individual, should outstrip its means and that, I am afraid, is what we are attempting to do. Nobody would argue dispassionately that it is either correct procedure or, in fact, a moral procedure, to pay for long-term developmental works out of current revenue. There is no real justification for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Australia to-day to find the capital cost of developmental works that are to benefit future generations. I think it is accepted financial policy that works of that sort should be financed from loans so that, through interest and sinking fund payments, posterity, which will enjoy the results of the capital works, shall bear its share of the cost. Yet, over recent years, we have been paying very large sums out of current revenue to boost the loan moneys available. This year it was estimated at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, reliably I believe, and the Treasurer reiterated .in his budget speech, that we should be lucky to raise the same amount of loan money this year as we raised last year, which was £134,000,000. If we were to add overseas borrowings to the total loan moneys available on the local market this year, we might bring it up to £130,000,000. Yet we have embarked on a capital works expenditure for the States alone of £190,000,000. Offset against that we have a carry-over from last year of £45,000,000, which still means that for State capital works purposes we have to find £25,000,000 from this year’s revenue. That, in itself, is not so bad, but we find that the money for Commonwealth works, which will cost us £104,000,000, is to be provided, not from loans, but wholly from current revenue. So it looks on the budget figures, as if this year we shall have to provide from current revenue at least £130,000,000, to supplement loan raisings for capital works, from which during this year we will get very little return, and the total expenditure this year on capital works will be almost £300,000,000. In order to follow sound financial policy and finance our capital works from loans so as to distribute the expense over future generations, and accept the principle that we should not try to develop our country beyond our means, we should cut our capital works for this year to such works a3 can be financed from loan moneys. In other words, we should cut expenditure on capital works by nearly 50 per cent. By cutting it, I do not mean that we should discard capital works, I mean that we should slow them down. I know that it is difficult in come cases to do that, but it can be done. Apart from the money we shall save, which will amount to £±30,000,000 or £140,000,000 which can be injected for reinvestment into industry, we will also save approximately half the man-power employed on public works and make it available to supplement the reservoir of man-power available to industry which, as we all know, is at a low level. In other words, we would be reducing our long-range development plan in order to supplement the work force available for our current needs, and that seems to me to be an avenue which should be explored. I know my suggestion will not have any affect on this budget, but I believe that serious thought should be given to that sort of thing when the next budget is being prepared. I believe that it is sound finance and common sense, and since man-power is our bottle-neck and the crucial point in our difficulties, that is a way in which we can throw a really material proportion of the work force of this country into the industries that are producing our current needs.
The next item in the budget which I want to mention is one that is completely unproductive and costs us nearly a fifth of our national expenditure. I am referring to social services. The budget provides for an expenditure of £218,404,000 on the provision of social services this year. Last year the actual expenditure was £189,318,866. The year before it was considerably less, and next year, if we continue on the present course, it is likely to be considerably more than this year’s estimate. Expenditure on social services is growing at such a rate that it is inevitable that, unless something is done, our social services bill will become unsupportable. We have to face up to this. We just must look after our aged and incapacitated. It must be done; but to make the assertion that it must be aone, and then follow a policy which must break down in the course of time under its own weight, is not very helpful. So we cast around for some remedy. What can we do to enable us to fulfil our obligations under the social services ideal, and at the same time not break our economy with huge expenditure that we cannot afford? I am open to correction when I say that national insurance has been tried and has not been particularly successful. I do not think it is a solution. I think we have to direct our minds into a new channel. I believe that we are arriving at a stage where we have to reestablish the duties and responsibilities of the family unit, if necessary by legislation. At first flush, that may seem a rather stupid suggestion, but when we recall that nobody from time immemorial has ever questioned the responsibility of parents to look after their children - in fact, we have laws to force parents to do so if their sense of duty does not make them do so - and when we recall that we make provision through our social services, other than child endowment, for only those children whose parents are incapable of looking after them, then perhaps a proposal that we go to the other end of the scale and make the children look after their parents is not so wild.
– The Lyons Government tried that in the depression, but had to drop it quickly.
– I am quite sure it could be done. There is no reason, as far as I can see, why we should not have legislation, if that is necessary. I hope that it would not be necessary, although we could have it as a safeguard, for the responsibility to lie with the children to look after the parents, if the parents, through either age or invalidity, cannot look after themselves.
– Has not the State some responsibility?
– Yes, on the same scale exactly as the State takes some responsibility for looking after the children. If old people or adult invalids have no children to look after them, it then becomes the responsibility of the State.
– Is that the only case?
– The other case i* exactly parallel with the case of the children. Where the children are unable, through real financial difficulties, to look after their parents, then the parents become the wards of the State.
– So that in addition to child endowment, we would pay parent endowment?
– I think that might well be a refinement of the idea. In addition to paying child endowment, I see no reason why we should not pay parent endowment. I consider that we could get people to think along those lines. 1 know that to many of us, it is a strange idea. I regret that I foresee the necessity for legislation, but I believe that it will not be required in the great majority of cases. While we have this welfare state which is to look after the aged and the invalids, then, of course, the children will say, “ Why should we pay £4, £5 or £6 a week when we pay taxes for the Government to do so ? “ And that is a reasonable attitude. But withdraw these pensions and put the responsibility on the family unit to look after the aged parents, and we shall find that in 99 cases out of 100 the responsibility will be willingly accepted.
– I do not like the idea.
– The honorable member might not like the idea, but 1 suggest that he put up a better one, or another scheme. Believe me, this growth of expenditure on social services will make the present scheme fail. This country will not be able to bear the burden if it continues to progress at the present rate.
– The country will bear twice the burden without any difficulty.
– Then let the honorable member put up a better suggestion. As I said before, I know perfectly well that these ideas will have no influence on the current budget; but if they have done nothing more than inject into the mind of every honorable member some thoughts which will result in some constructive thinking on these very serious problems, then we shall have progressed quite a way, because it is better for u3 to think constructively for the future than just indulge in futile and destructive criticism of the past records of this or any other Government. . Mr. J. R. ERASER (Australian Capital Territory) [9.33]. - If ever I have heard the projection of tory ideals on social justice, I have just heard it from the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Bostock). He invited honorable members on this side of the chamber to put up a better idea than the one he tossed into the ring in the closing stages of his speech. I think the Labour party at least has constantly put forward a better idea than that espoused by the honorable member for Indi. He talks of the need for children to look after their parents in age and ill health. I have not the slightest doubt that the filial affection of Australian children is no less than that of the children in other countries and that where it is necessary, and where it is possible, they will do just that.
One point about this matter of social services that has intrigued me is what I think is the rather callous approach of the community to the whole question. It seems to me that we are prepared, as a nation, to do whatever we can for the child and for the infant. We establish and maintain child welfare centres and infant welfare clinics. We see that the child is given a proper diet, so far as that is possible. We see that it is provided with free milk during its school years. We insist that it must be properly educated. We provide that, although the child has parents who are presumed to care for it with love and affection, we make provision that, if the parent fails in that regard, the courts of the land shall step in and declare such child to be a neglected child, and it then becomes a ward of the State.
What is the purpose of all that i Surely it cannot be, as it would seem to be on the surface, a callous proposition that we shall look after the children until they reach the age at which they can be employed and contribute to the production and the taxation revenue of the country and then, when they become old and of no further use to the community, let them stand aside, or be cast aside, to live on the pittance that is provided by the nation. That, possibly, could be an explanation of the scale on which our social services are provided to-day. If it is, then it is vastly wrong. But to adhere to the viewpoint put forward by the honorable member for Indi, I think, would be recreant to the aged of the community and completely recreant to the responsibility of this Parliament to look after them.
– We cannot afford it.
– Any country can afford to look after the people who have contributed to its production and revenue throughout their working lives, and any honorable member of this Parliament should be thoroughly ashamed to say it cannot.
– The community cannot do it.
– Of course the community can do it, and should do it. It is completely possible for a community such as this to look after the people who have fallen by the wayside through age or ill health after their working lives have passed, or their revenue-producing lives for the country have passed. Of course, we can do it ! It is surely defeatist and callous to say that we cannot.
The honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), in his address on the budget last night, said that the proposal to contemplate the expenditure of £5,500,000 in the Australian Capital Territory during the present financial year was ludicrous. He referred to the speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who used these words -
The estimated increase of £2,148,000 in expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory makes provision for construction work connected with the proposed transfer of additional departments for Canberra.
That proposition was described by the honorable member for Deakin as ludicrous. He said this additional expenditure seemed inconsistent with the budget if we regard the present economic situation as the Treasurer obviously looks at it, and as most honorable members regard it. Well, here is an honorable member who does not look at the situation in the same way as the honorable member for Deakin would look at it. I think the criticism he voiced is not worthy of the honorable member, and I think that, unfortunately, it reflects the attitude of mind of many honorable members in this chamber who do not know Canberra as they should know it, and who have no real concept of the development of the National Capital here.
The matter of the development of the National Capital is not one to be assessed only in terms of pounds, shillings and pence, be they in round figures or any other type of figures. The task of developing the National Capital is surely a great task and a great trust. It is a trust that this Parliament must honour - to build here a national capital worthy of the country in which we live. The task of creating a national capital here is not a task for the little man, nor is it a task for the timid man. It is a task calling for men of vision and determination, who will see that the National Capital that we create will be worthy of this country.
The expenditure of £5,500,000 in the present financial year will not be excessive, even if one looks only at the immediate task. We are concerned not merely with the mass provision of homes, but also with the building of a National Capital. The immediate task is one with which I think every party will agree - the concept of the National Capital established here and housing all the functions of government and parliament. The task that confronts us immediately is the transfer to this place of those departments that are at present situated in Melbourne, Sydney and elsewhere. That transfer envisages the arrival here, within several years, of some 7,000 additional people - public servants who are to be transferred here, and their wives and their families. That calls for a vast programme, not only of home-building but also of the provision of schools, hospitals, streets, kerbing and guttering, community facilities, shopping centres, and the like. It has been reliably estimated - and the figures have never been contradicted by the Administration - that in the next five years we shall need 5,000 homes alone, as well as additional shopping facilities, schools and so on. At the present cost of building, the provision of 1,000 homes a year envisages the expenditure of something like £4,500,000. Therefore, the sum of £5,500,000, to cover not only the cost of home construction but also the other expenses of government is by no means excessive. It may even fall short of requirements.
There has been a great failure on the part of the body responsible for advising the Government upon the development of the National Capital. I refer to the National Capital Planning and Development Committee. That committee was appointed as a watch-dog that would guard the interests of the Commonwealth and of the citizens of this country in the development of the National Capital. The plain fact is that more mistakes in planning have been made in the last two years than in the whole history of Canberra. It is fortunate that although this watch-dog was asleep the Parliament itself was awake. The Public Works Committee, which is representative of all parties in both Houses, called evidence from the people of Canberra and found that the National Capital Planning and Development Committee, which was to safeguard the interests of the people, had reached decisions without giving proper consideration to the matters before them. It seems to me that the trouble is that the committee is composed of people who are not sufficiently alive to the Canberra situation, and that there should be places on it for local people with a greater knowledge of this city. Such people would be vigilant and ensure that the concept of the National Capital was not destroyed. They would not be afraid to ask questions, and demand answers to their questions, when administrations seemed to go beyond the proper bounds of worthwhile planning. Possibly these local citizens ought not to be public servants because, as public servants it has been shown that they must carry out the duties of government, they find it difficult to be as critical as they should be at times. There are in this community a substantial number of people who are not government employees and who have no interest in building or architecture. I say that because I believe that people with those particular interests should not serve on the committee. If persons without those . interests were appointed I think there would be a more vigilant watch over the development of our National Capital.
One recent mistake in the administration and development of Canberra has been drawn forcibly to the notice of the people and, I believe, honorable members also. I refer to the recent housing development in the southern suburb of Narrabundah. It has been variously described as being a future slum. The houses within it have been described as little better than hen houses, and it is perfectly true that if one looks at that suburb from a distance, one feels that all it needs around it is a high wire fence to make it look like a mighty fine poultry run. The houses have been constructed on one of the finest positions in this city - the slopes of Narrabundah Heights, or Mugga Heights. The position is well known and one need only mention either of those names and the local people will be able to place the position without any difficulty. From the day that development commenced there have- been protests, through letters to the press, and in the Advisory Council and every other public forum available to the people of this city. Their protests have been of no avail and the planners have gone on to perpetuate and aggravate their error. Yesterday I went with an architect from the Department of Works to inspect these buildings. I went there with my mind very firmly set against the type of building that was being erected. I had driven through the area before, and had gone up and down the lines of houses from the very days when the foundations had first been laid. This was the first opportunity I had had to inspect the houses themselves. I find that there are on the area 114 homes, that the width of the blocks varies from 50 feet to more than 60 feet, and that the great majority have frontages of between 50 and 55 feet. The homes are a mixture of brick veneer, monocrete and weatherboard. As I have said, from a distance they present a picture of drab similarity, with houses of the same type ranged behind one another for all the world like a poultry yard or suburban nesting house. However, the interior of the houses is extremely good. I do not cling necessarily to the conventional style of home building. I do not necessarily look for a gabled roof with a chimney here and there. I do not object to the butterfly type of roof which is becoming popular in some suburban home construction, nor do I object to the skillion type of roof, but in this development, unfortunately, we find not a sufficient admixture of those types of dwelling. We find a repetition of the skillion roof, the butterfly roof, and the conventional gabled roof, although it is only a slight gable. These houses, taken as individual units, are most admirable. They are well designed and thoroughly well constructed. They have the most modern layout and fittings. In the threebedroom homes, two of the bedrooms, for example, are provided with built-in cupboards, every room in the house is provided with a power point and the kitchen is provided with a three-plate electric stove of the most modern type and also with the built-in cupboards which are so necessary as a. furniture saver and as a convenience to the housewife. There are many attractive features about the buildings, the interiors being painted in most attractive colours, the bathrooms provided with electric water heaters, and the laundries with electric coppers. I think that the houses themselves would appeal, in general layout and design, to most housewives. Unfortunately, although they have been well designed and thoroughly well constructed by the Department of Works, through its architects, they have been placed on blocks far too small for the houses.
– What is the depth of the blocks?
– The depth varies. The ordinances prescribed a minimum area of 6,000 square feet to a block, but to me that is not important. It is not as important to have a block of a particular size in square measure as it is to have an adequate width of frontage to the street so that there may be proper garden development and some privacy for those who are required to live in the house. These homes are constructed on blocks with frontages which vary from 50 feet to more than 60 feet. Of the 114 houses, two have frontages of 50 feet, five of more than 60 feet, 65 between 50 feet and 55 feet, and 42 between 55 feet and 60 feet. Each house has a car port in the front, and it is necessary for the car port to be in the front, because it is quite impossible to drive a motor car past the side of the house into the backyard. It is quite impossible to have a garage in the back yard and to drive a car through to it. It is quite impossible to have a load of wood driven past the side of the house into the backyard. Canberra is not like Melbourne; there are no back lanes, and the only access to a street is at the actual frontage.
I measured the distance between the walls of neighbouring houses. It is 12 feet, which is the very minimum that the ordinances provide. The windows of one living room look into the bathroom and the lavatory of the house next door. There is barely 6 feet from house to fence, and a minimum of 1.2 feet from the wall of one house to the wall of the next house. That is not the type of development which we should be having in this National Capital. It is a type of development conceived by little men with timid minds and accepted by the administrators without sufficient thought. I believe that it is a type of development which should not be repeated in this Territory. The argument for it, of course, is that with wide frontages there must be expensive services, that it costs so much more to build water supply lines, electricity supply lines, sewerage lines, kerbing, guttering, and all the rest of it; but surely it is short-sighted planning to build homes and jam them up together in the manner of this development at Narrabundah Heights. I believe that it is a development which the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes) himself does not approve. I believe that it is a development which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) does not approve. But the plain fact is that we have it, whether the Minister for the Interior or the Prime Minister approves of it or not. We have that development because I believe that the planning of this National Capital, unfortunately, is falling into the hands of little men with insufficient outlook, not sufficiently watched by the committee which should be doing the watching, the National Capital Planning and Development Committee. I hope that this type of development will not recur.
That is one fault of the National Capital Planning and Development Committee.
I have referred to some of the mistakes it has made, and to the good fortune o’” this Territory in having an alert Public Works Committee of this Parliament, which found some of the committee’s mistakes and took action to correct them. In recent months a select committee of the Senate has also been sitting to investigate the planning and development of the National Capital. That committee lias taken a great deal of evidence from a great number of people, and it has given much attention to the evidence given by people who have spent many years iii this community, who know the development of the early years and have very firm ideas as to the manner in which future development should be carried out. I hope that when that committee’s report is presented it will be trenchant in its criticism of the development which has taken place, and I hope also that one of its recommendations will be for the appointment of a joint parliamentary committee, representing all parties in both Houses of the Parliament, to oversee the development of the National Capital. I believe that such a committee is a necessity, and I hope that a recommendation along those lines will come from tb* select committee of the Senate.
I shall refer now to another glaring fault, and here again I must place the blame on men who lack vision, men who see only the needs of to-day and who do not look to the future at all. We find in this National Capital that a great number of areas have been set aside, we believe, as park lands, plantations, and recreation areas, and we accept them and use them. Suddenly, one morning workmen arrive on the scene with tractors and wire rope.= and haul out the trees, to be followed by other workmen who put down foundations for more houses to be built in those park areas. When an outcry is made, we are told there is no dedication whatsoever of park lands in this National Capital. It is open to the planners, the bureaucrats, and the little minds to step in and build where they will. I believe that that is a matter which should be rectified and that this is an appropriateopportunity to mention it. It is shocking to think that there is no specific dedication of park lands and recreation areas in this National Capital. My attention was drawn recently to a very attractive little square in the housing development in the southern suburb of Griffith. It was called a garden, had been planted with trees by the parks and gardens staff, and used by the neighbourhood children as their playing area. Then the inevitable happened. Along came the gangs from the various departments, the trees were rooted out, and the ground prepared for the laying of sewer and water pipe lines to the houses that are to be erected there. If one makes inquiries from the officer concerned in the department as to why this is being done the answer is simply, “ I can tell you that houses will be put on that block “. That is the only answer that is given. The reason is obvious. If we have men who lack vision, men who cannot take a wide view, and if we charge those men with the responsibility of providing houses in a hurry because the Minister responsible for the Territory has been laggard in his care of the Territory, and if, coupled with that, we have the situation that there is no dedication of parklands, then we are bound to have the little mind which says, “ Ah, here is an open area. It may be that it is called a garden or a square. It may be that it has been used by the neighbourhood children. It may be that it has been planted with trees. But it is not dedicated. Because there are houses on three sides of the square, there are already water supply, sewerage, electricity, kerbing and guttering. We shall build houses on it”. That has happened in this capital city, not in one instance but in several instances. I believe that it is something that merits the attention of this Parliament, or of a committee of the Parliament, should one be established. There are many other matters that could be referred to such committee, and I believe that the establishment of such a committee would be most valuable.
There are many other matters that I could mention when I talk about this Canberra of ours. After all, it is this Canberra of ours, because Canberra belongs to the whole nation. We hear from time to time allegations of waste and extravagance, and in the early years of Canberra we heard talk of white elephants. But I believe that the people of this country want their National
Capital to be built as it should be built, a capital worthy of the people and a symbol of the nation. The interest of the people in this place is shown by the constant stream of visitors throughout the year. The people do not want a shoddy national capital. They want to see the capital developed as it should be. as it was planned to be and as it was envisaged to be. It is entirely wrong that the men of to-day should sacrifice vision to the expedience of the moment and destroy forever the opportunity to build a proper national capital because they are not big enough to look beyond the immediate problems.
The Minister for the Interior, who is also Minister for Works, must bear some of the blame, but I do not think he should bear all of it. In his capacity as Minister for Works, he is building on the site to which I have referred excellent homes, of excellent design and excellent construction, although perhaps they are not attractive externally and although certainly they are not attractive en masse. But as Minister for the Interior, he should never have permitted those houses to be built on those narrow frontages, with a repetition of designs.
Those are the matters that1 1 wish to bring before the committee on this occasion. I hope there will be no repetition of the ghastly mistake at Narrabundah. and that the Parliament itself will take the earliest opportunity to establish a body that will effectively oversee the development of the National Capital and ensure that such mistakes will not be permitted again.
.- There are two matters to which the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. B-. Eraser) referred to which I also want to make some reference. He dealt with social services and compared the provision made for children with that made for aged people, who have served this country well and truly. It is quite true that we provide for the children quite adequately. That is understandable, because, after all, the future of the country depends upon them. It is true also that we do not do all the things that we should do for the aged.
– Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear that interjection. I suggest that this is a matter in respect of which each individual must make a thorough search of his conscience.
– Have a look at yours.
– I will have a look at it, and I suggest that the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) have a look at his also. Whenever the honorable member has made a plea in this chamber for greater benefits to be provided for the aged, I have never yet heard him, or any other member of the community for that matter, tell the Government how much he was prepared to contribute towards those benefits. What is the position with regard to the provision of social services benefits? The Government is merely a collecting and distributing agency. When a plea is made for an increase of the age pension, for’ instance, it is up to the people, including the honorable member for Watson, to say to the Treasurer, “ You must pay the age pensioners more, and we shall pay more to you to enable you to do so. Increase our taxes so that you can pay more money to them”. I suggest that there should be a soulsearching by individuals to see whether we are trying to evade our responsibility in this matter and pass it on to some one else.
I did not want to enter into a debate on the provision made for aged people in British countries, but I heard the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, say that it was only the British people who had tried to absolve themselves from the responsibility of caring for the aged.
– Is the honorable member sure that he heard him aright?
– I am. It is true that it was in British countries that the institution called the workhouse started. It was an institution designed by people who wanted to get rid of the aged because they were an encumbrance to them. We have continued that horrible institution in this country by providing what we call homes for the aged. This Government did something of real value for the aged people when the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) provided a subsidy for organizations to build what I prefer to call Darby and Joan cottages, where aged people can live their lives in comfort together, where they can end their days as they have spent their years - in each other’s company. That is ideal. For the first time in the history of British government, we are getting away from the idea of the workhouse. As I have said, the institutions that we call old people’s homes are really only workhouses, where the old men are herded together like sheep in one place and the old women are herded together somewhere else. They carry on the old British workhouse idea - something of which the people in Britain who started it should be ashamed and something which, in my opinion, is a disgrace to the people who have allowed it to continue.
I repeat that we need to do a little personal soul-searching when we talk about increasing benefits for the aged. Let every individual decide how much he is caring for aged people. I remind honorable members that in the eastern countries, which are despised by so many people here, the place of honour in every home is occupied by the aged. In eastern countries, the aged are venerated, but in this country the attitude is, “Let us get them out of the way; they are only a nuisance “. That is not right. In order to ease our consciences and avoid our personal responsibilities in this matter, we run cap in hand to governments. What a disgrace!
The other subject referred to by the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory was Canberra. I was interested in his remarks. I congratulate him on his plea for an improvement of facilities in Canberra. I was concerned to hear him say that members of this Parliament do not know Canberra as well as they should. I agree, but I ask the honorable member how many people in Canberra endeavour to make honorable members better informed about Canberra. You, Mr. Temporary Chairman, know as well as I do that honorable members come to this place and are literally foreigners in this part of our own country. Are there any social life and amenities provided by the community here for us and our wives who are members of this community? I suggest to the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory and to the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Kent Hughes), to whom he made such an impassioned appeal, that it is more important to build a city with a soul than a city that is merely a show place. And Canberra is developing into nothing else but a show place. The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory talked about the transfer of various departments to Canberra. Woe betide us when that happens and when we have those people, for whom I have the greatest respect, settled in this wonderful city with every facility provided out of a seemingly inexhaustible Treasury - settled in this secluded place with their futures firmly secured and far removed from the vagaries of every-day life in other parts of Australia. This nation will learn to dread the day that such centralization occurs. I would sooner see this city develop as a city with a soul - and the people of Canberra must show us that it has a soul - than see it develop as the finest show place in the world.
I wish to refer to some of the salient features of the budget. It is a matter of regret to me that every department continues a practice that was initiated when the Commonwealth was established - the practice of annually increasing the vote for its administrative requirements. I am very much concerned about this matter. The departments require either a bigger vote or, in some instances, a slightly smaller vote than they had last financial year for items such as office furniture, office requisites, printing and stationery. I wonder whether we have not sufficient office requisites and furniture for several nations twice the size of Australia! We seem to be buying these items every year. Goodness knows what happens to them. Perhaps there is a shortage of firewood and they are used in the winter time to warm the bodies of the people who live in this place. There is something astonishing in this position, and I suggest that the treasury officers who are responsible and the Ministers who administer the departments should give greater attention to effecting economies.
– That is quite true.
– So it is. The Government that the honorable member supported is equally to blame with all previous governments for allowing this pernicious system to continue. There appears to be no yardstick by which these requirements can be measured.
– Why does the present Government not stop the practice?
– This is the only Government that has attempted to prevent wasteful expenditure. It appointed the Public Accounts Committee, a statutory body that is attempting to prevent the extravagances that I am complaining about. So the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) need not ask why this Government does not stop these practices. It is alarming to me to find that these items of expenditure, which of course, are relatively small, are increasing every year. I agree that salaries must increase, but I cannot understand why, every year, a department should have to increase its expenditure on items other than salaries, travelling expenses and subsistence allowances, which, possibly, are not entirely within its control. Anywhere except in a government service, those other items would be subject to control. Can any honorable member imagine a commercial firm whose annual expenditure on office requisites and furniture was steadily increasing, not making some attempt at economy? This is one field in which tremendous economies could be practised.
The budget is a document that reflects, or is intended to reflect, the economic position of the country. This budget has been received with mixed feelings, if we judge by public reaction to it. Strangely enough, the criticisms of it have been direct contradictions of one another. I shall deal with the Australian Labour party’s criticism in a moment. On the one hand the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) and the Government have been lauded to the skies because, as is demonstrated by the budget, they appreciate Australia’s economic circumstances so well. On the other hand, the Treasurer and the Government have been condemned because they have not increased pensions, because they have not granted depreciation allowances, and because they have not reduced taxation. Self-centred interests have condemned the Treasurer and the Government for not doing the very things that those same interests have commended them for not having done. It sounds Irish to me. I suggest that critics of the budget should take stock of the true position. The budget is either right or wrong. One cannot applaud the Government for appreciating the circumstances of the national economy and taking the action that one considers is correct, and at the same time howl because one’s own personal interests have not benefited from the budget. I have not heard from members of the Australian Labour party any substantial criticism of the budget. We have witnessed the spectacle of a party without a policy - a party in search of a policy and of leadership. Obviously, honorable members opposite have no real substance for criticism of the budget. The only criticism that they have offered damns themselves because they have failed to take a national view of the budget. Their failure to take a national view is’ evident throughout the Labour movement at present.
I think it opportune now to compare the outlook of members of the Australian Labour party in this country with that of the Labour movement in Great Britain. At the present time the biennial congress of the Australian Council of Trades Unions is meeting in Melbourne, and the following press report has been published : -
Congress is expected to endorse the decision of the Federal union’s conference asking the A.C.T.U. to apply to the Arbitration Court for a higher basic wage-
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I am glad to hear the exclamations. The report continues - . taking into account the increased productivity of the nation. . . .
The executive will recommend that congress declare that the *’ two and a half times “ formula of the Federal Arbitration Act does not satisfy the A.C.T.U. claim for the doubling of all margins.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I want to hear some more “ Hear, hears ! “ In the budget we are presented with a document that indicates the position that this country has reached, and the position that it is approaching because we are spending more than we are producing. A similarposition exists in Great Britain. Let ussee what the trade union and Labour movement in that country thinks about the situation. Let honorable memberslisten to the following extracts from a report about the views of the trade union, movement in Great Britain: -
The President of the eight million strong: Trades Union Congress (Mr. Charles Geddes) to-day called for a “ national trade union economic policy “ to prevent Britain committing industrial suicide. . . . This conference, he said, could formulate the nation** economic policy. Industrial suicide is quiteas momentous a decision as personal suicide; If we are pricing ourselves out of exportmarkets we are pricing ourselves out of ». job, and that is industrial suicide.
That is entirely contrary to the policy of our political opponents in this place. In other words, they prefer that we should commit political suicide by the method of pricing ourselves out of our export markets, and so become insolvent. The Australian Labour party, because of it* irresponsibility and international outlook, is not only not competent to make a reasonable criticism of this budget, but it is not entitled to do so. Surely to goodness some honorable members opposite read the documents which are presented to us. The Treasurer stated in hi* White Paper on National Income andExpenditure 1954-55 - at page 5 -
Farm income fell by £72,000,000 in 1954-55, following a fall of £41,000,000 in the previous year. After remaining stable at just over £1,100,000 in both 1952-53 and 1953-54 the gross value of farm output is estimated to have fallenby nearly £40,000,000 in 1954-55 . . Because of increased costs, the decline in that farm income exceeded the decline in the value of farm output by over £30.000,000.
It is obvious that we are steadily costing ourselves into a serious decline. Duringthis debate, much has been said about the primary producers. Of course, they are the ones on whose backs falls the burden of maintaining the solvency of thiscountry.
– They carry the honorable member, too.
– That is so, and I am sure that they are very happy to carry me. The primary producers have to meet- additional costs, but have not the opportunity to adjust their own economy and working conditions in accordance with those impositions. I am just about fed up with those honorable members opposite who exhort the farmer continually to improve his efficiency. Any honorable member who cares to study the statistical reports that have been furnished in connexion with primary production will see that the primary producers, by their energy, industry, concentration, and the Application of better methods-
– And the working of long hours.
– Yes, and the working of long hours, the primary producers have made two blades of grass - and in many instances more than two - grow where only one blade grew previously. The value of their production is indicated not so much by the area of their farms but by the application of efficient methods which result in a greater return for their labour. To-day, however, the farmers are in dire circumstances, because they are burdened with additional costs for every extra blade of grass that they grow on their properties; indeed, for every extra blade of grass that they make grow, additional costs take away from them the value of a blade and a half. Therefore the primary producers are no better off, despite the enormous contribution that they have made to the national economy, and their determination to keep not only their own heads, but also this country’s head above water. They are worse off than they have ever been. I suggest to Opposition members and their supporters that they should realize that if they persist in appeals for increased wages and margins, very speedily they will strangle the goose that lays the golden egg and will have to find another goose. The result will be, as the leaders of the Labour movement in England have said-
– No eggs!
– That is so. One of the troubles of this country - and it is a most disturbing one - is that in recent months there has been a decided increase in the number of industrial disturbances. This is an alarming feature, which will result in increased costs and make the continued maintenance of a sound national economy more difficult. I point out that the reappearance of industrial disruption dates from the time that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) attacked a section of the Labour party which had brought the disturbing elements in industry under control. Of course, I am not siding with one section of the Labour movement or the other; I do not know what goes on inside the party. I am merely submitting the facts of the case for examination. I am not concerned with the trouble over the industrial groups, but I am concerned with the fact that this Government gave to the moderate element in the trade unions a weapon with which to resist the damaging influence of our Communist enemies, and sabotage. The sanethinking element of the Labour party took advantage of that legislation, gained control, and so minimized the disruptive effects of that element. It is only since that sane-thinking group was attacked that industrial strife has re-appeared That is a trouble about which we need to worry at present, apart from the demands that are being made for increased wages, which add to the COS of primary products and the cost of keeping this country’s economy sound.
The Leader of the Opposition has suggested that we should grasp eagerly the hand of supposed friendship that has been extended to us overseas. I shall not direct my attention to the extent to which we should go in that direction, but it is gratifying to see a relaxation, even if only for a brief period, of the international tension that has existed. I fear, however, that the easing of the international tension will affect our export markets and the prices that we receive for our export commodities. I am sorry to have to acknowledge the fact that our most prosperous years from the point of view of export trade’ have been the years during which there has been intense international tension. I mention that at this stage, because I believe that those who would seek more than their fair share of the production of this country should realize that if the threat of war disappears entirely, the result may be a substantial reduction of the prices that we receive from overseas. I think that if people take stock of that position, they will not make demands on the community for an undue measure of reward.
The Treasurer has rightly been lauded for his understanding of the economic situation. His budget has been designed as an anti-inflation budget. But I am not completely happy about one proposed measure. The Treasurer, quite correctly, has refrained from giving tax benefits to a section of the community in order to avoid the serious consequences which would arise if too much money was left in circulation to continue to disrupt our national economy. But instead of taking money from people by taxation at a time such as this, would it not be better to have c system of compulsory saving ? I believe that to be the answer to our problem. That would stop excessive spending - spending for mere spending’s sake. Where is the bulk of the money being expended ? It is not being spent on actual needs. It is being spent for spending’s sake.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Opposition members appear to doubt that. I wonder, when they look at themselves in the mirror, if they doubt whether the object that they see is actually in existence. A compulsory saving scheme would effectively stop spending for spending’s sake. It would not deprive people of money ultimately, because their money would be available to them after a lapse of time. Possibly it would become available to them at a time when spending would be needed. Another good effect that a compulsory saving scheme would have is that it would not require the Government to search for ways and means-
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
On the 31st August, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) asked a question in the House which had a direct relationship to his correspondence and representations to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan). After I had heard the honorable gentleman, I made what I considered to be a most restrained reply, in which I told him that I hoped that I would be in a position, when the next motion for the adjournment was proposed, to give the honorable member a full answer to the insinuations and innuendoes that he put forward. I want to tell the honorable gentleman that I approached the Minister for Trade and Customs, and discussed the matter with him. The Minister said that he considered that it was a matter for him to attend to personally, as he was administering the department concerned. He said that he would correspond with the honorable gentleman, and that he felt that that would be a satisfactory way to deal with the matters raised by the honorable member. T feel that I have discharged the obligation that I entered into because, as the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs in this House, I naturally have no personal knowledge of the matters that were brought forward by the honorable member for East Sydney. I am perfectly certain that he now has received a letter from the Minister for Trade and Customs, and I hope that he will find it satisfactory.
.- During the afternoon, the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) asked a question of the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Holt) in this House. He referred to the immigration or intending immigration into this country of people of Italian blood. I am glad that the honorable member for Leichhardt is present now, because I do not wish to misquote him concerning the question. I shall try to repeat it as accurately as possible. It was in the following terms: - “Has the Minister - that is the Minister for Immigration - perused the list of 100 gangsters deported from the United States of
America to Italy including the number one man for Al Capone and Murder Incorporated so as to ensure that none of these people will come to Australia where they will become a potential source of unrest or of social unease ? “
Since then, that particular question was answered very satisfactorily by the Minister for Immigration, who referred truthfully to the fact that Italian immigrants had played a very valuable part in the development of the country, that their record as law abiding citizens is as good as that of any other class in the community, and that they have shown and are showing their genuine and wholesome desire to be assimilated into the Australian way of life. Later in the day, a further question was asked by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) and the Minister replied in a strain similar to that in which he answered the original question.
Since that question was asked I, who represent - as do a number of members of the Australian Labour party (AntiCommunist) - areas in which there is a great number of naturalized and unnaturalized people of Italian origin, have received a number of communications in which strong exception is taken, and rightly so, to the question that was asked by the honorable member for Leichhardt. I want to refer to two telegrams that I have received since the original question was asked on this subject. The first of the two telegrams reads as follows : -
Italian-Australian Association expresses strong indignation at the reflection on Italian people contained in the question asked by the member for Leichhardt today.
It was signed by Councillor A. E. Coloretti. who is associated with the Hospital Employees Union in Victoria. The next telegram that I received reads -
Deeply regret slur on Italian community by member for Leichhardt and urge you protest strongly.
It was signed by Allan Gobbo. Gobbo is a member of a large family born and bred in Australia, and his brother, who is an Australian Rhodes scholar, is at present at one of the universities of Great Britain. Those two representative members of the Italian community take strong exception to the question that was asked, and I, too, take strong exception to it. In the community that I represent, there are many people of Italian birth. They are a credit to the community and are doing their best, which is a very good best, to be assimilated into the Australian way of life. They resent the implied slur that Italians who have come to Australia under the present immigration scheme, or who may be selected under future schemes, may include potential marauders. I ask the honorable members who sit behind the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) whether they believe in the veracity of the question that was asked by the honorable member for Leichhardt.
– We believe that you are a humbug.
– Let me ask the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) whether he subscribes to the sentiments that were expressed in the question, and whether he would like the Italian people who live at “Werribee to believe that he likes the question. Let me ask the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) whether he subscribes to the question that was asked by his fellowmember from Queensland. If those honorable members subscribe to the question, let them say so. If, on the contrary, they do not subscribe to it, let them rise in their places and repudiate the implied allegations of the honorable member for Leichhardt. I say quite truthfully that honorable members who sit in this Anti-Communist corner of the House welcome Italians and all those members of other races who are prepared to take a place in this community and to be Australians of the future. I, like other members of my party, strongly repudiate the suggestion contained in the question, and challenge its veracity. I am ashamed to think that a member of the Australian Parliament should rise in his place and ask such a question, and I am amazed that the honorable member for Lalor should associate himself with it. If the question does not represent the sentiments of the honorable members concerned, let those honorable members say so now. Throughout the current session there have been implications against the parity to which I belong, of, let us say, certain prejudices. But the intolerance that animated the question asked by the honorable member for Leichhardt is the stock-in-trade of those who follow the character from a Thwaites story, the right honorable member for Barton. Let the members of the Australian Labour party repudiate, if they can, this insult to a great nation, to the Italian community in Australia, and to that great class of people who are doing so much to help Australia along the path to true nationhood.
Mr. BRUCE (Leichhardt) [1.0.45 J Mr. Deputy Speaker-
Mb. Mullens. - Where is the honorable member’s leader?
– I am the leader on this occasion. The honorable member for Hoodie (Mr. Cremean) has worked himself into a fine fury, and has expressed certain opinions that are based on false premises. He has entirely misrepresented the question. As I have stated, he has worked himself into a wonderful fury, but I am quite sure that we can answer anything that he has said. The honorable member was not in the House-
– I wa3 in the House.
– I thought somebody else had given the question to you. If you were in the House, you were definitely untruthful in stating the question.
– What did the honorable member say?
– I shall tell you in my own time.
– Order ! The honorable member for Leichhardt will address the chair.
– The honorable member has been getting some free whisky tonight.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, will you check the interjectors while J speak? If they continue to interject, 1 shall not be heard. The honorable member for Hoddle correctly stated the following part of my question. I asked - “ Has the Minister for Immigration read a published statement in regard to 100 gangsters deported to Italy from America, among whom were Al Capone’s No. 1 man and also the head man of Murder Incorporated?”
– Where did they come from?
– From America. They were deported. The next part of my question was: - “I ask the Minister for Immigration will he investigate this matter and take all steps to prevent any of these men coming to Australia. If they come to Australia - the gangsters I am talking about - they would create a social evil and they would cause pain and suffering to the decent law-abiding Italians who are at present resident in Australia.” T do not know whether the members of the corner party on this side of the House are defending the gangsters or not, but if they are, they will find that they will have a great deal in common with them when they come into contact with each other. I have been in areas that have a greater Italian population than have areas represented by any other honorable member. The Italians are excellent citizens. I have had as personal friends hundreds of Italians who came to Australia in their youth and who have been educated in the State schools and convents. They are the most hospitable people that one could possibly meet. In the olden days, but not so much today, a visitor to their homes was asked whether he would have a glass of wine. If one did not wish to have a glass of wine, one could have a cup of tea. They kept almost open house. They are people of the very highest character. The honorable member for Hoddle gives lip service to them, but I have given real service to them. The honorable gent’s lip service would not carry him very far in the electorate that I represent. I have done real service for these people. I have seen that they got a chance, assisted them when they required assistance, and in every way I have supported the decent law-abiding Italian.
My reason for asking the question is because we know the history of what happened in America in regard to Italian gangsters. Here in Australia we have been able to prevent that kind of thing from happening, and the reason that I asked the Minister for Immigration the question, was because of my anxiety to prevent any of the men referred to coming here and bringing about the same conditions as exist in America. In stating the terms of my question, I spoke from memory, but I have now the original written copy of my question which [ shall read, and we shall see how my memory tallies with it. ‘ The question was, “ Has the Minister perused the official list of over 100 gangsters deported to Italy from America, including Al Capone’s No. 1 man and the head man of Murder Incorporated. . . ? “
– The honorable member for Gellibrand.
– Order ! The honorable member for Watson will withdraw that remark.
– What remark? 1 merely said, “ The honorable member for Gellibrand”.
– The honorable member attributed something unworthy to an honorable member and he will withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
– My question continued -“If not, will the Minister investigate the matter and take all precautions to prevent any of these men coming to Australia where they would constitute a social evil and cause pain and suffering to their peaceful and law-abiding fellow countrymen settled in Australia? “ I do not think it is necssary to go any further than that.
.- f want to return to the subject that was mentioned by the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) when he proposed the motion for the adjournment of the House, because I am not at all satisfied with the reply that he has given to the observations which I made one week ago. The change of front of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) is rather amazing. He now says that he will give me a reply by correspondence to my questions.
– The honorable member has had it.
– I have not received a reply from the Minister other than the letter I received from him which was dated the 17th August, which appeared to me to be couched in such terms as to be intended to close completely the incident that I had mentioned. This is what he said in his letter -
Coming as it does from a former Commonwealth Minister the tenor of your letter is rather amazing. However, I have nothing further to add to that conveyed in earlier correspondence.
Those words meant that, as far as the Minister was concerned, he had told me all he had intended to tell me. I am rather surprised that the Minister has evidently had second thoughts about the matter. It is amazing that a Minister of the Crown should send to a member of this Parliament a letter couched in such extraordinary terms when there was no warrant for it. Last Wednesday evening I read to the House the letter that I sent to the Minister. It was couched- in most respectful terms. In it I merely asked the Minister some questions about a rather strange transaction in respect of the importation of motorvehicles into this country and the expenditure thereon of badly needed dollars.. I wanted to know something about that transaction. Honorable members will recollect that I referred to two barges that were towed to this country from Honolulu loaded with American motor vehicles which were being brought in., according to the Minister’s own statement, to a market where they were not required, because he said there was no great demand for vehicles of that kind in Australia. I wanted to know why, if they were not required here, and if there was no urgent demand for them, the Minister had made possible their importation and the expenditure on them of valuable dollars. In my letter of the 11th August, to which the Minister took strong exception, I asked for an answer to a question which I stated in the following words : -
I should be pleased if you would let meknow whether the issuance of the licence in this instance was recommended by the Customs officers in Sydney, or whether it was referred to the head office of your department in Canberra and subsequently approved from that quarter, or whether you exercised your Ministerial powers to grant or secure approval of the application.
The question was couched in quite respectful terms and I expected the Minister to answer it. Now the Minister says that he will give me, in correspondence, the information that I asked for. As to the alleged innuendoes in my earlier statement on this matter, to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has referred, I assure him that there were no innuendoes. I merely related the facts. As my questions have now been directed to the Minister in this Parliament, in my opinion the answer ought to be given in this Parliament and not in correspondence to me which, no doubt, the Minister will want to be regarded as being strictly confidential.
We have heard a good deal in recent days about the tabling of documents, files and various papers. I suggest to the Vice-President of the Executive Council now that in this instance he might table the papers concerning this particular transaction because it appears to me from the backing and filling of the Minister for Trade and Customs, and his vacillation over the whole matter, that there is something that he does not want to reveal. The Minister could have stated quite directly who was responsible for the issuing of the licence for the importation of these vehicles, but he did not do so. He also did not say that what I have stated to be the facts are not supported by the documents. I said in this Parliament, and I repeat, that the information furnished to me was that the Customs officials in Sydney failed to recommend the issue of the licence in this instance and that the papers were subsequently referred to the head office of the department in Canberra which supported the attitude of the Sydney office in refusing to recommend the issue of the licence. I said that if both offices, that in Sydney and that in Canberra, had refused to recommend the issue of a licence, it could have been issued only in one other way, and that is by direction of the Minister. I want the VicePresident of the Executive Council to tell this House whether the license was issued on the direction of the Minister for Trade and Customs against the advice of his own officers in Sydney and Canberra and, if he did direct the issue of a licence, 1 want to know the reasons why he departed from the recommendations of his own officers. That appears to be a fair proposition. I have not received the letter to which the Vice-President of the Executive Council has referred, and I do not know its contents, but I say quite plainly that the questions which I have now directed to the Government and the Minister for Trade and Customs were directed in this House and that this is the place where they ought to be answered. Furthermore, I still look to the Vice-President of the Executive Council for an answer to the questions. He promised me last Wednesday night, in answer to my remarks on the motion for the adjournment, that he would have the information available for me on the following evening. I waited in vain for it, and perhaps I would have had no reply this evening had I not raised the matter again during the debate on the motion to adjourn the House last night. I hope that, as I have not received a satisfactory reply to-night, the VicePresident of the Executive Council will be able to furnish me with a reply before the House adjourns for the week-end because not only I, but also other honorable members, are interested to hear the answers to the questions that I directed to the Minister for Trade and Customs.
– I want to refer to the speech of the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr. Cremean), which grossly misrepresented the question asked by the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) this afternoon.
– It did not !
– That misrepresentation to-night by the honorable member for Hoddle. and also the misrepresentation during question time today by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Keon) followed the question asked by the honorable member for Leichhardt-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) states that I had misrepresented a question asked by the honorable member for Leichhardt, and that the honorable member for Hoddle (Mr.
Cremean) likewise had misrepresented the question. The honorable member for Leichhardt again read his question to-night, and the quotation was word for word a repetition of the original question.
– The question read by the honorable member for Leichhardt was completely opposite to the interpretation placed on it by the honorable member for Yarra this afternoon, and the statement about it made to-night by the honorable member for Hoddle was equally deliberately misrepresentative of what the honorable member for Leichhardt had said. It was an attempt not merely to misrepresent the honorable member for Leichhardt here but also to try to do him. damage in his electorate.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Of course, people like you peddle the same misrepresentation as your friends in the corner have been guilty of. I heard the question of the honorable member for Leichhardt and I went to him and suggested that he should make a personal explanation immediately after the Minister answered the question of the honorable member for Yarra.
– Scandalous J
– I wish the honorable member would keep out of this because his interjections are never helpful. Indeed, they are somewhat confused and confusing.
I saw the honorable member for Leichhardt get his proof back from the Chief of the Hansard staff. The question that he read to-night was identical with the report in Hansard, and we shall wait with very great interest until to-morrow morning, when we shall see that the honorable member’s speech to-night is in no respect different from his question to-day.
The honorable member for Hoddle waxed indignant over this matter, trying to stir up feeling amongst the Italian community in Australia against the Labour party. My standing with the Italians, as well as with the Estonians, Latvians and all the rest of those who come into this country in recent years is as high as that of any other honorable member of this House, and I shall certainly see that the position is put right with respect to the honorable member for Leichhardt in the Italian press of this country.
– So will we.
– They quoted a man named Councillor Coloretti He is one of their supporters down in Richmond, Victoria.
– What is wrong with that ?
– Why did the honorable member not mention that? He is put up to-night as a representative of the Italians, but he is one of their own group in Victoria. I do not want to attack these gentlemen over unpleasant matters of this sort, but if they deliberately set out to attack and misrepresent a most respected and honorable member, such as the honorable member for Leichhardt, then I shall and must come to his defence immediately.
The honorable member for Leichhardt has a long, proud and distinguished record as a Minister in Queensland. He has represented many of the ItalianAustralians in the Parliament of Queensland. I have been with him in north Queensland and I know the respect in which he is held. Therefore, I say to those who. have been guilty of the misrepresentation, and to people like the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme), who seems to go around like a fowl ready to pick up anything that he can, that they will not be able to do any damage to the reputation of the honorable member for Leichhardt.
I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who is the Leader of the House, if he will try to devote some of his spare time - he has a good deal now - to the question of restoring to the States and municipalities in the States a lot of the federal property that was taken over during the war in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and other places, and was continued in use by the Commonwealth-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order ! The honorable member for Henty and the honorable member for East Sydney are both contravening the rules of the House. If they continue I shall have to deal with them.
– 1 ask the Leader of the House if he will see that these properties are vacated at the earliest possible moment. It may not be possible to let some of the properties go for some time, but there is a good deal in the justifiable protest on the part of quite a number of people in State governments and municipalities against the continued occupancy by the Commonwealth, allegedly for defence purposes, of quite a lot of land, some of it park land, in and around our capital cities. I am sure that if the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) will see the service Ministers they will surrender these properties as quickly as possible to the States because they should not be held one moment longer than is necessary.
– Such as Fawkner Park.
– The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) is gurgling something about Fawkner Park. 1 want to see Fawkner Park-
– And Albert Park.
– Yes, I want to see that Fawkner and Albert Parks and any other park lands that were taken over for war purposes in 1940 and are still being used by the Commonwealth, are handed back. The Commonwealth should get other land.
.- I have an intense and deep sympathy with the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce). I am sure that question did not come out of the blue. He is the innocent victim of circumstances. But all the same, he adequately reflects in his question, and the atmosphere surrounding it, a typically persistent, tenacious prejudice - tho steeped-in racial prejudice of his leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt).
Why the question? Why not Latvian gangsters, Lithuanian gangsters or Estonian gangsters? But Italian gangsters! I have heard often, and so have you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the right honorable member for Barton refer, with a bitter touch of venom in the voice, to fascist-minded Italians. I have heard an Italian name bandied around here. That is a reflex of the bigotry and intolerance of those who were using it.
– No doubt, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) will have his explanations to offer when he confronts his constituents. These apostles of justice, freedom and the rights of small nations must single out an Italian. Evidently the only crime of the union secretary, Mr. Coloretti. is that he 13 opposed to the right honorable member for Barton.
– That groan, of course, is reminiscent of the activities of the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Curtin) in other days. It reminds me of the indigestion that follows from excessive prawn eating. All I have to say is that again I want to refer to my original proposition. I absolve the questioner of malice aforethought. I do not absolve the designing brains on the front bench. I do not absolve the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in his enthusiastic attitude on these matters. I remember his obsequious subservience, his deference, his diffidence, his votecatching solicitude when he used to approach the Italians of Werribee, Victoria. Now we know them, and others for what they are.
– Name them.
– I challenge the groaner at the back to mention the name that is so often insinuated by interjection to me. It happens to be an Italian name.
– A bullfighter.
– Your only episode with a bull was in New Guinea, and you fled from it.
– Order ! The honorable member will address th, Chair.
– The Italian community really has no defence. The Italians have made a positive achievement to our way of life. They have brought a new type of culture into this community. They are industrious, they are close to the soil, they are an example to us all. Therefore, I again ask why single out such people, why vent on them, indirectly and obliquely, that racial intolerance and spleen that is a characteristic of so many followers of the right honorable member for Barton.
.- It is regrettable that any honorable member, no matter with which party he may be allied-
Honorable members interjecting, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER- Order ! If honorable members will remain quiet the debate will proceed much more smoothly.
– It is regrettable that any honorable member should stoop so low- one could not get lower except to crawl - as to suggest that a question posed by an honorable member who is respected by all in this House was intended as au attack on the Italian citizens of this country, and of Italy itself. The question simply asked those responsible for the entry of immigrants to this country to ensure that a number of Italians who had been excluded from America because of their criminal record should not as a result of any carelessness be admitted to this country where they would not only be an irritant to the body politic, but also an embarrassment to reputable Italian citizens. No honest member of this Parliament will deny that there are obviously many honorable members with foreign blood in their veins. They are none the worse for that, and my purpose in speaking is to emphasize that simply because some one in the electorate or anywhere else, has foreign blood in his veins-
Honorable members interjecting, Mr. POLLARD. - Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am wondering whether you can control the House.
– I hope that the honorable member is not reflecting on the Chair. Government members must remain quiet. I remind the House that Standing Order 303 is still in operation,
– Every honorable member will admit that the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce),  took a reasonable course in asking that these people who had been adjudged, in the United States of America, guilty of gangsterism should not be allowed to enter this country. I was fortunate enough to spend the best part of my life in a district to which, in the ‘fifties, Italians came from the Italian portion of Switzerland and from various parts of Italy itself. Those people, whose names I could give by the score, married Australians and reared families which are sprinkled far and wide throughout Victoria to-day. I cannot recall any occasion upon which they appeared in the police courts in the district in which I lived. They did honour to their country, and made great contributions to our culture and national welfare. No doubt the honorable member for Leichhardt has had a similar experience to my own. Honorable members interjecting, Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER,- Order ! Will the House come to silence !
– The members of the Anti-Communist Labour party can speak for themselves, but I am sure that every member of the Opposition fully appreciates the contribution that has been made by foreigners to the welfare of this country. I recollect, many years ago, reading a book by a man named Lyng Its title was The Foreigner in Australia and it illustrated very well the remarkable contribution that had been made to the progress of this fair Commonwealth by people from every part of the civilized world. Any attempt to suggest that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), the honorable member for Leichhardt, or any other member of the Opposition is anti-Italian is a disgraceful lie of the most damnable character.
– Order ! The honorable member must restrain his language.
– It is of the most damnable character. I throw back in the teeth of the honorable member forGellibrand (Mr. Mullens) the allegation that I have ever pleaded to the Italians for votes. One does not need to plead to them. They recognized long ago that it is the Labour party that has provided fair working conditions, and has protected the life, liberty and social welfare of all who have come to our shores. It will be the honorable member for Gellibrand and his cohorts who will need to go down on their knees at the next election, pleading not to the Italians but to good Australians to return them to this Parliament. They will get the answer that they deserve. They will deserve that answer if only for their shameful attempt to-night to appeal to racial prejudice. In that attempt, they have misrepresented one of the finest members that this Parliament has ever known, the honorable member for Leichhardt.
Motion (by Sir ERIC Harrison) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
E asked the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Wales Society for Crippled Children, £780; the Victorian Society for Crippled Children, £107; Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children, Sydney, £641 ; Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, £854; Far West Children’s Health Scheme, Manly, £214; the Crippled Children’s Association of South Australia, £616 ; the State of Western Australia, £10,829 8s. 9d. (i.e. £6,250 plus £4,579 8s. 9d. accrued interest) for additions and improvements to the orthopaedic ward at the Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, Perth.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 7 September 1955, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1955/19550907_reps_21_hor7/>.