22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon.. Archie Cameron) took the chair at 10.30 a.m. and read prayers.
– I have to advise honorable members that the Right Honorable S. G. Holland, C.H., Prime Minister of the Dominion of New Zealand, is within the precincts of the House. With the concurrence of honorable members I shall ask the right honorable gentleman to take a seat on my right hand on the floor of the House.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
Mr. Holland thereupon entered the chamber, and was seated accordingly.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether an overseas company, Silver City Airways, whose parent company is the British Aviation Services group, and in which the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company is believed to have an interest, has made application to conduct an air freight service to Australia. In view of the importance of this matter to the Government-owned Qantas Empire Airways Limited, will the Minister indicate the Government’s attitude to this application ?
– I know of no application having been made by Silver City Airways to conduct a freight service to Australia.
– Can the Minister for Trade say whether Great Britain is likely to reconsider its decision about becoming a member of the International Wheat Agreement? Can he also say what are the terms and conditions of that agreement under which Britain might reconsider joining?
– The representative of the United Kingdom Government at the conference in Geneva has made a statement on behalf of his Government on this matter. I have not yet had the benefit of seeing the transcript of the statement, but I have read elsewhere what I have no doubt will prove to represent a substantial reflection of the attitude of the United Kingdom Government. It appears that the United Kingdom Government has said that it will not join the International Wheat Agreement on terms of the character of those of the current agreement, and that it considers there should be an agreement in which price terms are fair from Great Britain’s point of view, but which also ought to include some provisions for the disposal of surpluses and the avoidance of the generation of unsaleable surpluses. This latter view, is, in fact, identically the attitude of the Australian Government, and, in fact, the Australian representative has already made that point clear at Geneva. I also make it quite clear that, whilst the Australian Government believes it to be greatly to the advantage of not only Australia but also of world trade that there should be stability in international trading in wheat, no stability can be achieved merely by having a price formula and ignoring completely the fact of uneconomic production of wheat. The truth of the matter is that the United States of America, the United Kingdom itself, Prance, the Argentine and certain other countries, have pursued policies which have resulted in the production of vast quantities of wheat at costs quite out of line with prevailing world values. This wheat cannot possibly be sold in world markets except with the benefit of heavy export or domestic subsidization by the governments of the countries concerned. That is a practice to which this Government is entirely opposed and we shall make our position very clear in that regard at Geneva.
– I address a question to the Treasurer, or the Minister for Primary Industry, whoever is the appropriate Minister. I mention the Treasurer because he originally announced that the honorable member for Dawson, who is now the Postmaster-General, had been appointed chairman of what is known a« the Air Beef Investigation Committee. I now ask the appropriate Minister the following questions: - “Will the committee continue under another chairman and, if so, when will a. report on this question be made available to honorable members? Alternatively, has the committee been abandoned because it was only appointed to stifle the demand for a railway from the Northern Territory to Queensland? Is the Government opposed not only to the building of this railway but also to undertaking or assisting any works of a developmental and . defence value in Northern Australia? Is it only concerned about works of a defence nature near Sydney?
– The Minister for Primary Industry, in reply to a question on a matter of policy.
– The Treasurer has forwarded to me a report made by the committee on the transport of air beef through Queensland and has asked me if 1 will peruse the report and find out what the department is prepared to recommend to the Government. This report is fairly lengthy and compendious and, so far, I have only got through about 100 of the 120 pages, but when time becomes available I shall confer with my departmental advisers and forward certain submissions and recommendations to the Government for consideration. Everyone in the department, who has read the report thinks that it brings out the facts clearly and shows the degree of efficiency of air transport, and makes a genuine comparison between that and other forms of transport. “We think it will be a notable contribution to the Government’s being able to decide which is the most effective way of transporting beef from some of the back areas of the Commonwealth. I should like to congratulate my colleague on the job that has been done, and I am quite certain that if the honorable member for Kennedy was genuinely interested in this problem he, too, would read the report thoroughly and would also congratulate the Postmaster-General.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Supply whether it is a fact that a number of by-products are now being produced and marketed from the uranium field at Rum Jungle in the
Northern Territory. Have supplies of copper concentrate already been shipped to Port Kembla from Darwin? If so, is this trade in by-products likely to prove a valuable adjunct to the returns from uranium oxide?
– Copper has been found in association with uranium at the Rum Jungle mine, and some of it has been mined and treated. Some of it also has been sent to Port Kembla for treatment, and for testing. It is too early to speak as to the economic effects of this byproduct on the uranium industry, but we are hopeful that it will make an extra contribution to the profitability of the enterprise.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the activities in New South Wales of a firm called Walton-Sears. which represents certain Sydney money lending interests and certain Chicago retailing interests, which is attempting to obtain possession, by devious means and unfair practices, of at least one prosperous, wellmanaged Australian business and which might attempt to seize control of other businesses and thus deprive Australian shareholders of the results of good management and effective control of their interests over a number of years? If he knows anything of the activities of this company, will he indicate what action the Government can take to prevent people outside of Australia from attempting to get control of Australian industries so that they may loot them, as has happened in recent times in certain American States ? If the Commonwealth has not adequate powers to deal with this kind of activity, will the Prime Minister list control of capital issues, and other such matters, for consideration by the proposed committee on the Constitution? Further, will he bear in mind that if Walton-Sears can continue to do what they are doing, Krupps of Germany, Bethlehem Steel of America, or large corporations from England or elsewhere could, by the use of such devious practices gain control of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, after looting the shareholders of that great company?
– I think that the questions put by the honorable member deserve a considered answer. I will prepare one.
– In view of the pledges, given by both political leaders in the New South Wales election campaign to increase substantially the grant to the Surf Life Saving Association of New South Wales, in acknowledgment of its everincreasing voluntary service to the community, the increasing population, the growing popularity of surfing and the increased cost of replacing and maintaining essential equipment, will the Treasurer also give earnest consideration to increasing this Government’s subsidy to the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia ? The subsidy has been static since 1953.
– The honorable member’s question follows his personal representations to me in connexion with this very important activity. I would remind him, and the House generally, that the Government has been sympathetic, in a practical way, to the needs of the Surf Life Saving Association of Australia. The Menzies Government was the first to make grants to that organization. That policy will be continued, and the extent of the grants is a matter for review when the next budget is being considered.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government or the Commonwealth Bank has decided to hold an inquiry into discrimination by the private banking institutions against primary producers in the granting of necessary credit facilities. Will the Government have a public and full-scale investigation of the issuing of credit by private banks, with special regard to its inflationary effect?
– The whole question of credit policy is constantly under discussion between the Central Bank, the trading banks and my colleague the Treasurer, and occasionally myself. It is one of the matters being discussed at present by the economic advisory committee, the names of whose members I mentioned yesterday. I cannot see how any good purpose can be served by having a public inquiry which would, very largely, merely give opportunity for the ventilation of individual grievances. It is far better to try to establish a sound, general principle on the matter.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services what steps have been taken to meet the increase of applications for war service homes, and to overcome those outstanding.
– I am glad to be able to tell the honorable member that the number of applications for war service homes has steadily fallen during this year. That was, after all, what the Government expected. It thought that by this time the number of applications would gradually have been reduced and that towards the end of next year, effective applications would approximately equal the number of homes that could be provided. I have no doubt that the honorable member would like to know that last year there were about 29,000 homes, and for the benefit of the honorable member for Parkes, I inform him that the applications-
– Order ! The Minister is not addressing the honorable member for Parkes, be is addressing the Chair.
– The honorable member for Parkes raised this matter last night. Of the applications received only 60 per cent, are effective. This year, it is thought that the number will be reduced to between 21,000 and 22,000 which indicates that the number of applications is being steadily reduced and the back-log of homes is being steadily overcome.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether it is a fact that quite recently supporters of the Government very strongly objected to the action of the Leader of the Opposition in writing to Molotov, the Russian Foreign Minister, about whether the Prime Minister’s pet, Petrov, was telling the truth when he made allegations of espionage by members of the Department of External Affairs when that department was under the control of the present Leader of the Opposition. If the Government was sincere in its objection to the Leader of the Opposition writing to the Russian Foreign Minister, and was not using that objection for political purposes on the eve of the last election, in an endeavour to demonstrate that the Labour party was fraternizing with the Russian Communists, why has the Government not strongly protested to the Government of the United Kingdom for extending an invitation to Mr. Bulganin-
-Order ! The honorable member must not mention names.
– And other high Communist leaders to participate in talks in London next month? It is well known that the object of these talks is to try to organize a peaceful co-existence between communism, and capitalism. Why should not the Government now object to this proposed conference being held unless it again proposes to follow the British lead, as it has always done?
– Probably due to the acoustics in this House, I must admit that I am not quite seized of what the honorable member is seeking. So far as I am capable of absorbing the question, I should say that there is a difference between correspondence and co-existence. I do not know whether that statement is too obscure, but I do not think that it is as obscure as the honorable member’s question. In order to do the honorable member justice, if he will put his question in writing, on the notice-paper or otherwise, I have every confidence that I shall be able to give him a satisfactory reply to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade, and it concerns the discussions on the International Wheat Agreement that are now taking place at Geneva. I ask the Minister whether, at the preliminary conference held at Geneva in about November of last year and attended by representatives of the United Kingdom, was any indication given by the United Kingdom of the likely attitude of its government at the conference which is now being held. If an indication was given at that time of the attitude of the United Kingdom, and it was reported to the Minister, did he convey the information to the people of Australia who would be most vitally concerned, namely, the wheat-growers and their representatives? If he had the information and did not so convey it, why was it withheld from the interested parties? Further, in the event of negotiations at Geneva breaking down, will the Minister endeavour to arrange a conference of the exporting nations with a view to reaching an agreement which will avoid the possibility of cut-throat competition among those nations, and also some acceptable arrangements for the disposal of the carry-over stocks of wheat now being held by those exporting nations? I refer to the three major nations - the United States of America, Canada and Australia.
– There was a preliminary conference held at Geneva, I think in October or November last, to discuss the future of the International Wheat Agreement. At that conference there were no basic policy declarations by any of the member nations. Therefore, the answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is that the United Kingdom Government did not indicate at that conference an attitude which is the attitude at present reported. On the contrary, T think my memory is correct when I say the United Kingdom broadly indicated its willingness to join in an Internationa] Wheat Agreement on terms acceptable to itself but without stipulating those terms at all. It thus became clear that the conference which has now commenced would be the critical conference in this regard. I made it my business to see that the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Wheat Growers Federation became completely acquainted with all the facts and all that the Government knew of what other countries were thinking, together with our own Government’s broad views on this matter. I invited the growers of this country themselves to consider what in their judgment would be best for the future of this industry. 1 asked the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, Sir John Teasdale, to go to that conference. He has gone. He is the alternative leader to Sir Edward McCarthy, who is the leader of the Australian delegation and. unlike anything that was ever done while Labour was in office, I invited representatives of the Australian growers to attend this conference. The president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, Mr. S. O. Cowlishaw, and Mr. T. C. Stott, M.H.A., of South Australia, who has been for many year* general secretary of the federation, are to he present at the conference in Geneva, so that the interests and views of the Australian growers shall be, while this Government is in power, fully represented at the place and at the time when the future of their industry is being discussed.
– I desire to ask the Minister a question supplementary to the answer given by him four or five minutes ago in connexion with the International Wheat Agreement in the future. May ive take it that the Minister or his Government now advocates a. reduction of wheat production in Australia ? If not, what is the Minister’s view in relation to that?
– That is a very pertinent question, and I have no trouble whatever in answering it. The view of the Government is that there ought not to be generated in any country, by artificial governmental subsidies, a production of wheat for which there is no commercial market. To analyse the implications of that statement, we say that so far as Australia is concerned, the acreage planted to wheat is substantially lower to-day than the pre-war average acreage-
– And the production per acre higher.
– Yes. Due to certain policies of this Government, the average production is higher and the average cost of production of wheat in Australia is probably the lowest in the world, so that the Australian wheat-grower ought to be able to dispose of all his wheat at at least his cost of production and, therefore, at a level profitable to himself. What we object to is the practice of other governments, through export subsidies or domestic subsidies, generating the production of a quantity of wheat in excess of any evidence of world demand and at a cost of production on the farm vastly higher than any likelihood of recoupment by actual sale. That applies in the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Argentina and most of the wheat-producing countries in the world, but it does not occur in this country. Therefore, we are in a position to advocate, with every logical ground to justify us, that there are important wheat-producing countries which ought to reduce their production, but there can he no valid argument as to w-hy Australia ought to reduce its production because we are the most economical producer of wheat in the world.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise by briefly directing his attention to the well-known fact, which, has been brought to my attention by certain authorities in Victoria, that certain types of objectionable and, indeed, in many instances, obscene gramophone records are freely available on the Australian retail market. Those I have in mind are, in the main, made overseas and, most regrettably, are in rather keen demand by certain sections of our younger generation. I appreciate that this is a censorship matter, but I ask the Minister whether he will examine it with a view to prohibiting the import of these most u n d es rabi e recordings.
– I do know about the sale in Australia at the present time of large numbers of gramophone records, which, in ray judgment, can be fairly characterized as indecent and obscene. I have had the doubtful advantage of hearing a series of these records played. I assume that the honorable member refers to the series known as the Ruth Wallis party records. It is because section 52 of the Customs Act prohibits thu importation of blasphemous, indecent or obscene material that my department has been concerned with the matter. In fact, the records of which the honorable member complains are made in Australia, and some thousands of them have been sold. Investigations made by my department show that one long-playing disk was brought into Australia, allegedly as a free and unsolicited gift, and that some thousands of records have been made from it by one of the largest recording companies in Australia. The Customs Act also gives the power to prosecute an importer of indecent works, but I am inclined to think that it is hardly the proper approach to attempt to take action over the import of a single disk when the real offence has been the making and selling of large numbers of the records in Australia. I think the records being made in Australia come more properly within the province of the State governments, which have power to deal with these matters. I should like to add that the need to examine this case has caused me to consider very seriously the proper application of these powers. I approach the matter on the basis that censorship, being an interference with the rights of individuals, should not be exercised lightly or unnecessarily heavily. But, in cases where the material complained of is clearly, in the opinion of ordinary people of good sense, indecent, and is likely to reach the hands of young people, and has no artistic value - where those conditions exist - there is a clear case for censorship. I assure the honorable member that my department will look out for the import records of this kind and do its best to prevent them from beingimported.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 17, I lay on the table my warrant, nominating Mr. Bowden, Mr. Falkinder, Mr. Freeth, Mr. Lawrence, Mr. Lucock, Mr. McLeay, and Mr. Timson, to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
Debate resumed from the 22nd February [vide page 164), on motion by Mr. CHANEY -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency:
Wo, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address t<> Parliament.
Before the House adjourned last night, we were privileged to hear speeches by four new honorable members, two of them on this side of the House and two of them on the other side, and I think I can say without fear of contradiction that those were four of the best maiden speeches we have heard at any time in this House. I only hope that those honorable members will make their future contributions on such a high plane, but being one of the older members here and possibly a little more cynical, I am afraid that in time to come they may find themselves becoming more frustrated and disillusioned. As [ was listening to them last night, I could not help recalling what was probably the final speech made in this House by the former honorable member for Henty, Mr. Gullett, in which he said that this Parliament had become, or had tended to become, merely a franking machine which was here to rubber stamp the various hills which were sent to it by the Government. So to-day, in considering the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I desire to consider what action this Parliament as a whole, and this Government, should take in order to get away from the feeling that we are here just as votes in a party machine, as people who will follow the Leader of the House from one side of the chamber to the other when he decides to take his party across the floor in a division. It is a problem that occurs not only in Australia. I was reading in The Listener, a magazine produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, an article entitled “ The Decline of Legislatures “ by Mr. K. C. Wheare, in which he says -
What does worry me is that so few back benchers, and particularly on the Government side, have any significant share in the actual making of laws, in comparison with members nf representative assemblies in foreign countries.
So I feel that this House should consider what steps it can take to safeguard the rights and privileges of private members of Parliament, because I think that they have very considerably declined in the last fifteen or twenty years. We know that every one is entitled to say that things were very much better than they are now. It is human nature to say that things were better than they are, but I do think that there has been a considerable wearing-away, a usurping of the privileges of private members. We can understand how it happened in the days when the Labour party was in power, because members of that party at heart do not really believe in the country being ruled by Parliament. I have never been able to discover which one of their interpretations is really the correct statement of policy. Sometimes it is the Blackburn interpretation, and sometimes it is not. If the Blackburn interpretation is not the policy that they follow, the 1921 policy was that the country should be ruled not by Parliament but by a supreme economic body. On the other hand, if we say that that is not very likely to happen, we consider the position when the .Labour party is in office. Its policy is then directed primarily by the executive of the Australian Labour party, and within that very broad policy framework caucus makes its decisions. When a matter is brought into the Parliament there may be discussion of it, but no amendments are accepted, no Labour members criticize it. and they vote in this House as the majority voted in caucus. So we can understand private members’ rights being usurped and pilfered by the Government when the Labour party is in office, but I feel that it has continued while our Government has been in office. Only last week, there was an open vote in the House of Commons on the question whether hanging should be abolished. A private member proposed a motion, and a free vote was taken on it. The way in which members voted had nothing to do with their party allegiances. As a result of that vote, it is almost certain that hanging will be abolished in the United Kingdom. I wonder how many honorable members here now have ever seen a votetaken in this House in which the voting was not on party lines.
– There may’ be some of the old and bold who have seen such a thing. I was going to say that probably the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was the only member who had seen a free vote taken, but I understand that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard”) also has seen it. That has certainly not occurred during recent years. During the six years that I have been a member of the Parliament, I have never seen such an occurrence.
In a period of seven years, 16 per cent, of the bills introduced into the House of Commons were private members’ bills. Oan we say that even 1.6 per cent of the bills introduced into this House have been private members’ bills? Let me point to the three occasions in the life of the last Parliament when private members’ bills or motions were introduced. I want to show that definite steps were taken to try to prevent honorable members from proceeding with them. My colleague, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) is, I think, recognized throughout Australia as the greatest authority on Australian divorce laws. Knowing that the Commonwealth has power to make laws with respect to divorce, the honorable member for Balaclava spent considerable time in drafting a bill that was designed to remove the chaos and confusion in relation to divorce that we see in Australia at present. Each State has its own divorce laws. The intention of the bill drafted by the honorable member for Balaclava was to average out, so to speak, the grounds for divorce. The intention was, not to increase the grounds, but to take an average. If we did that, w-e might find that in one State the grounds were increased and in another State they were decreased. But I felt that the overall purpose of the hill was very sound. I thought there was considerable wisdom behind it.
Did that bill see the light of day in this House, as a private member’s bill should? Not at all. It was taken first “to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer), in whose department it stayed for many months. Then it went before Cabinet. Eventually, Cabinet said, “We do not think you should introduce it “. In my humble opinion, Cabinet has no right to dictate to private members in respect of bills that they desire to introduce. I believe that private members should be allowed to introduce bills. If an honorable member who has introduced a bill can command a majority vote of the House, well and good. We know of cases where a private member of the House of Commons has brought in a bill which has been accepted immediately. The Government has said, as it said of the Corneal Grafts Bill just recently, “ This is an admirable bill”. It was adopted by the Government and passed through every stage that day. But we have seen nothing of that kind here. As a sop to the honorable member for Balaclava, finally he was allowed to bring in a bill on divorce which, although it may help a. score of people, was completely different from the bill he had in mind.
Let me refer also to my colleague, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. McLeay). He proposed a motion in which it was suggested that the Government should pay local rates on Commonwealth property in the States. The honorable member for Boothby was particularly well qualified to propose such a motion because, as we all know, he was once the Lord Mayor of Adelaide. Probably he has a greater knowledge of local government affairs than has any one else in the House. Let us remember that all wisdom does not reside in Cabinet. There have been times when I have wondered just how much wisdom does reside there, Although the honorable member for Boothby was particularly well qualified to propose such a motion, only a brief discussion was permitted. The item was placed on the notice-paper and never saw the light of day again. The same thing happened to my other colleague, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Went worth), who drew up a bill which was designed to establish a committee to report to the Government on the action it should take in preparing defence against atomic attack. Honorable members may have quarrelled with the size of the committee, or the scope of the bill, but, for heaven’s sake, let us have discussions of that sort in the Parliament and not outside. Again, we had the spectacle of the Government taking active steps to see that that bill was not proceeded with in the Parliament. In fact, the Government went so far as to say that if it was passed the Government would have to hand in its commission. Surely the introduction of a private member’s bill is the inalienable right of any member of this House.
Secondly, I wish to direct some attention, as did the former honorable member for Henty, Mr. Gullett, before he felt himself impelled to resign from this place, to the failure of the Government ever to take action as a result of the debates which occur here. It is necessary, under the Standing Orders, for one Minister to be present in the House during debates. At the present moment there are three times that number of Ministers in the chamber, but it is unusual for great interest to be taken by Ministers in the debates on the Estimates, which I consider to be a most important part of the work of this House. During the debate on the Estimates a period of four hours is allotted for discussion on each department. I consider that each Minister concerned should be in his place in the chamber for all of that period of four hours in order to listen to the debate and so be able to reply to criticism of his department. There must be something wrong with the priority allocation of their time. Ministers say that they are very busy. I know that they are very busy, but surely they should be most busy in listening to criticism of their departments so that they can take action to remove the causes of such criticism when it is fairly based. During the last debate on the Estimates I spoke on the proposed votes for six different departments, and in respect of only one of them did I receive the courtesy of a reply from the Minister in charge of the department - and on that occasion the Minister concerned was in Tokyo at the Dime I spoke. Perhaps he got a better understanding of my criticism from the report of it than he would have gained had he been in the House at the time. I consider that when private members bring up matters in this House they have the right to expect at least a reply from the Minister concerned. I do not say that Ministers should reply during the debate, because they would thereby be taking up the valuable time of private members, which is limited, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who is now laughing, knows. Surely a Minister could either write to the honorable member concerned, or could see him and tell him why his suggestions would not work, if they will not work, as Ministers always seem to think they will not.
Thirdly, a matter to which I wish to direct the attention of the Government in this connexion is the almost complete abolition of the opportunity for a discussion of private members’ business. Early in the sessional period, when the Government has no bills on hand, and wants us to go on talking, we begin by having discussion of private members’ business. In fact, I can recall a Whip once going to a colleague and asking him whether he would mind speaking for 40 minutes. The colleague asked, “What about?” Later in the session, however, we find that legislation is brought in with a rush, and the Government says, “ We cannot possibly have a private members’ day. We are frightfully busy. Look at this bill ! We have to get it on the statute-book. It is intended to make sovereigns coinage of the realm, and we must abolish private members’ business in order to get it through”. In the House of Commons I think every second Friday is set aside as private members’ day, and if any one wishes to grieve he may grieve on that day. In this Parliament we should have a statutory provision that the assent of a two-thirds majority of the House, or something of the kind, is necessary before private members’ day can be dispensed with. I know that the Leader of the House (Sir Eric Harrison) will probably reply to that, “If you want to sit here that much longer I am prepared to let you do so”. I think that the right of private members to discuss their business should nol be taken away from them.
Fourthly, I wish to mention the failure of the Executive to give private members of this Parliament information that they seek, and to which I believe they have a right. I have mentioned instances of questions having been put on the noticepaper by me, to which the reply I received was that if I saw the Minister concerned he would have a talk to me about the matter. Surely it is a Minister’s duty to give the information sought directly to the member who has asked for it. Most of my questions to which I have referred concerned the use of public funds by statutory bodies established by this Parliament, particularly statutory bodies such as the Australian National University, the Commonwealth Bank and the government airline. If one thinks that waste is going on in this country, that Commonwealth funds - and after all Commonwealth Bank funds are Commonwealth funds because the bank pays half its profit into the Consolidated Revenue Fund - are being squandered without justification, we are entitled to raise the matter. For instance,- we are entitled to say that we feel that there is no justification for having Swiss organdie on the walls of the Commonwealth Bank in Hobart. We are entitled to ask what it cost, and how much less would have been the cost if some more usual decor had been adopted. So I say that the Government should give deep consideration to the fact that private members who ask questions about expenditure of that nature by statutory bodies should be given an appropriate answer. Naturally, we do not wish to have the right to go to the Commonwealth Bank and ask why Smith has been allowed an overdraft whereas Jones has been refused one. Such matters are completely beyond the control of this Parliament. But when the question involves the expenditure of public moneys, I think a private member has a right to obtain the information that he seeks. After all, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) realized that fact when he was in opposition, because I well recall one occasion when he approached Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister and Treasurer, and asked him about the use of funds from the Commonwealth Savings Bank to support a Commonwealth loan. I think that Mr. Chifley at the time did not wish to give the light honorable gentleman that information, but he was forced to give it to him. He realized that it was right that the information should be given. An honorable member has just handed me a note which reads, “ What about Coombs’s bush fire ? Could you mention it, too ? “
The other two matters I wish to bring up are not so much concerned with the rights of private members as with the rights and privileges of the Parliament which, I consider, are being usurped by the Executive. I mention particularly the appointment of temporary chairmen of committees. I recall that on one occasion, shortly after the death of the former honorable member for Corangamite, Mr. McDonald, a person came to me and said, “ The Prime Minister is going to appoint me a temporary chairman of committees “. I did not say anything at the time, but when Mr. Speaker heard of it, he said, “What right has the Prime Minister to appoint any one a temporary chairman of committees? The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that the Standing Orders provide that the Speaker shall appoint temporary chairmen of committees “. Although, in that case, Mr. Speaker realized where he stood in relation to his rights and privileges, a weaker man might not have insisted on those rights and privileges. Mr. Speaker is strong enough to realize what his position was, and stood up for his rights.
Finally, I wish to mention the accommodation in this building which, after all, is a House of Parliament, of many administrative employees who have nothing to do with the Parliament. We have seen more and more accommodation taken ‘up by Minister’s secretaries. I do not mind a Minister having his own room. I think that he is entitled to it. But why should he have a room for his secretary, his press attache, and so on ? Some honorable members have to wait for years for any sort of accommodation, and never get proper accommodation. Others, after years of waiting, are shoved inro some back corner where two or three other members who are also trying to do their work are crammed in with them. This place is the Parliament and not an administrative sector. There are administrative blocks for the housing of administrative officers. A new one is just nearing completion. I hope that Ministers will be able to house their staffs there. I hope that they will consider this matter find I think that their offices should be in the department and not in the Parliament.
So I hope that the Parliament itself will take some action on these matters that 1 have raised and it is not necessary to appoint a committee to do this. I feel that the correct committee to look into these matters is the one that was set up yesterday, the Standing Orders Committee, which comprises Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the House, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Clark), the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison), the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) and the honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page). What is wrong with these people getting together and saving, “Let us have a bill of rights”? There has been a lot of talk about bills of rights lately. What is wrong with our having a bill of rights for private members? Let us decide what they are entitled to, otherwise this Parliament will be only a futile debating organization.
– I should like to join the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) in congratulating those new members who last night made their first speeches in this House. I think that they made the most interesting set of new speeches that has been made in this House for some time. It is gratifying also to see that there has been some minor rebellion from the tyranny-ridden back benches of the Government. The open confession that was heard from the honorable member for Farrer is indicative that on the back benches there is considerable discontent as to the methods that the present Government is using in the government of this country. The honorable member feels that his rights as a private member are being rapidly eroded away ; that the few rights that nominally exist are denied by motions to move the suspension of the
Standing Orders on ‘ Grievance Day “’. The ordinary member, particularly when he sits on the Government side of the House, now has very little opportunity to express any discontent that he may feel. It is gratifying to hear the open expression of this discontent from members such as the honorable member for Farrer.
However, to-day, we are considering the Speech of His Excellency in opening this Twenty-second Parliament of the Commonwealth. I suggest that the document is more important, perhaps, for the things omitted or the’ things that have been understated, than it is for the matters it contains. I draw the attention of honorable members to page four of the Speech of His Excellency where certain things are indicated about the economic situation in our country. His Excellency pointed to the fact that we have limited powers with regard to the overall economic control of this country; and that because inflation is so present in our situation at the moment, it threatens to destroy what His Excellency calls our true prosperity. One of our new members last night, the honorable member for Tarra (Mr. Cairns), indicated that perhaps it was well sometimes to look at the distribution of what is called prosperity in the aggregate. He suggested that not all people share equally. Some may have too much, but we, on this side or the House at any rate, feel that there are some sections of the community who have too little; and that before we talk about reducing consumption in the aggregate, some attention should be given to increasing the consumption capacity of certain sections.
During our election campaign, we drew attention particularly to the plight of some 400,000 Australians who were entirely dependent on a pension, and also to the economic plight of the family groups in Australia, particularly the average wage-earner, a man with a family, getting perhaps £16 or £17 a week. To suggest that he is experiencing unbounded prosperity seems to us to be straining the meaning of prosperity. Therefore, if the Government feels that consumption in the aggregate has to be reduced, we should at least be careful regarding w7hose consumption is to be reduced, and what methods are going to be used to bring about this reduction.
His Excellency has said that there must be some balance between demand and resources. That is true enough. I think the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) discussed that matter last night. The aggregate that a community can have is determined by the way in which it utilizes its man-power, resources and technical capacity. It is necessary to have a certain amount of investment and a certain amount of consumption. Just what is the proper balance is, of course, somewhat difficult to determine, but how it is determined is ir portant for the different sections of the community. We say, at the moment, that there can be some redistribution of the total production of this country in favour of the less fortunate sections of the community, and at the expense of people who are more fortunate than they. How that U to be brought about is a question for financial policy, monetary policy and the taxation structure.
It is hinted in this document that, if reed be, appropriate fiscal and other measures will be taken by the Government. There has been no indication as to what those appropriate fiscal and other measures are. I suggest that we are entitled to ask the Government, which has suggested that it is trying to take the people into its confidence, to be a little more enlightening on the subject of these appropriate fiscal and other measures. On the introduction of the last three or four budgets, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has said that the problem of inflation is still with us. That seems to be the eternal prayer of the Treasurer. He says that the problem of inflation is still with us and asks reverently for our deliverance from it. But, so far, he has taken few definite steps to abate its evils. In fact, I think it may be said that the evils of inflation are becoming greater and greater. Then again, I believe that we need to be careful when we talk about the evils of inflation. There are some people in the community who profit by inflation. Perhaps “ profit “ is a very apt word to use in the circumstances. At the moment there seems to be a difference of opinion between the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), on the one hand, who regards our present circumstances as a consumption boom, and on the other hand that important body in the community, the Institute of Public Affairs, which regards the present situation as a development boom. I am inclined to the view that what we are really experiencing at the moment is an extreme profits boom. Profits, after all, are only a reflection of prices and, because profits are rising, the just share of the total going to the wage-earning and fixed income groups of the community is declining at the expense of the profitmaking section of the community.
– How does the honorable member justify that statement?
– If the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne) will allow me to develop my theme in my own way, he may get an answer to his question. I am simply suggesting at the moment that there are sections of the community who are getting too much and I have indicated that there are sections of the community who are getting too little. It must be conceded that inflation and full employment tend to be rather closely linked. I read in the Financial Be view of a week or so ago an address by a Swedish economist. Professor Erik Lundberg, to the -Economics Society of Sydney. I think that his remarks are important and hold a lesson for us all. He said -
A full-employment economy lias to always work close to inflation.
My colleagues and I believe in a full.employment economy. We believe in the right of every individual to work if he wants to do so. Apparently even the Government believes that, because His Excellency said -
There are three features of the industrial position in Australia which deserve mention. The first is that vc have no unemployment. . . .
I do not know why that should be highlighted in His Excellency’s Speech. Full employment is something that surely we ought to be able to take for granted. Certainly it is something that we on this side of the House will not yield upon. But financial writers both here and abroad are beginning to talk about “ overfull employment “. I am not sure what is meant by that, but if one reads between the lines, the apostles of this theory mean that, there will not be a return to normalcy until there is 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, of unemployment. That may not sound very much to the 97 per cent, or 9S per cent, who are still employed, but it is a very real problem for those who are unemployed. If, as the learned professor says, full employment and inflation tend to run together, it would seem that inflation is the problem that governments ought to be grappling with, but the Treasurer has certainly not grappled with it successfully. Last night I happened to pass him in the passage behind your chair, Mr. Speaker. He pointed to my undistributed middle and said, “ You have a little bit of inflation there, Frank “. I said, “ At least I can get rid of mine “. I would suggest that the Treasurer has not been very successful in getting rid of his.
The Prime Minister intimated recently that, in order to increase our knowledge of the state of the economy, he proposed to have produced periodically a document that was to be known as the Treasury Information Bulletin. The first of these bulletins was produced last month and I do not think that much mention of its contents has yet been made in this debate. I would like to draw the attention of the House to one or two matters that are contained in it because they seem to indicate that the very process that the Treasurer says should be attacked is accelerating rather than slowing. As I said earlier, we must endeavour to preserve some kind of balance between what is called investment, on the one hand, and consumption, on the other. I think we must take into account the fact that in this country, because of the very nature of its geography, more investment has been undertaken on the public scale than is perhaps customary in a country such as the United States of America. For instance, here railways are Governmentowned, but in the United States they are private concerns. In this country investment in railways ranks a=. public investment. In the United States of America it ranks as private investment; but in each case the purpose is the same - that of improving the transport facilities. Therefore, comparisons between the ratio of public and private investment in this country and the ratio in the United States are not very reliable. There must, I feel, be more rather than less public investment in Australia.
I would suggest that if the pattern of investment is out of balance, it is because there has been too much private investment in channels that are not to the best advantage of the community. We have not in this country overriding capital issues control. Therefore, if an individual can get financial accommodation from a bank, or if he has cash resources of his own, he can invest the money in any way he likes. For instance, no restriction is placed upon the person, wishing to invest in housing. If one has enough money to pay for a house one can buy it, but there is, in the aggregate, a limit to the total number of houses that can be built in this country.
War service homes provide an example. Although we are building 80,000 new homes each year, the people who most deserve them are not necessarily getting them. They are going to the people who can afford to pay for them. That is why a black-market has grown up in regard to war service homes. It is also the reason for the lag between the time when an application is made and the clay when finance is made available. If there is physically in existence, a home to which a war service applicant is eligible in terms of the act, no financial difficulty should stand in the way of his getting it. Surely, if the obligation that is written into the War Service Homes Act means anything at all, it means that an eligible serviceman shall get a home, not when he is an old man but when he is a young man. Surely, it does not mean that some unscrupulous financier who can lend him £300 or £3,000 at 10 per cent, for the twelve months period during which he has to wait should -be able to do so ; but that is what is going on here. Last night the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) indicated that he did not think that anything could be done about it. He said that the lag would gradually be overtaken, but I cannot see that it would be any more inflationary for the
Government to exercise control over investments and say to the ex-serviceman, “ You can have the money for the house “,. than it is to say that the private financier can have money to lend at between 8 per cent, and 12 per cent. Such a financier, having exploited one individual for twelve months, lends the money to some one else and gets 10 per cent, or 12 per cent, interest on it once again. He does this year after year. That is the kind of investment that this Government should be attacking rather than fall back on what are called the “ physical shortages “ in the community.
The statistics in the ‘Treasury Information Bulletin, if read closely, will be seen to indicate that fewer building workers are now engaged on private housing than hitherto, and that more are engaged in private building which is neither housing nor public works. We learn that the biggest expansion in capital expenditure is expected to be in the engineering and vehicle groups. I doubt whether there is, as the Government implies, too much consumption in the aggregate, and whether more resources should be going into building for the vehicle and engineering groups. I am not sure that it is just and socially desirable that fewer people should have been engaged in private home building, or that fewer homes should have been started or completed, in the September quarter of 1955 than in the previous quarter. I suggest that what is taking place is that some of those private concerns that are earning large profits are able to offer higher prices for labour and materials than persons who are building homes, and that there has been a shifting of activity from the most socially desirable channels into channels which are less useful in the aggregate. Therefore, this Government should indicate to us the appropriate fiscal and other measures which it proposes to take to abate the situation in which we find ourselves.
During the recent election campaign, the Labour party indicated that if it were returned to power, it would impose higher taxation on companies. The sections who represent the Government threw up their hands in horror at this proposal and indicated that if that were done, our whole economy would tumble about our ears. I point out to the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), who is interjecting, that company profits in this country are considerably lower than they are in the United States of America, yet that country seems to go from strength to strength in industrial development. Similarly, I think the time has come when there ought to be a total reconstruction in Australia of the field of income taxation. For instance, the concessional deductions for a spouse and for dependent children have been at a constant figure for a number of years, despite the fact that the real intrinsic value of those concessions has declined. One place in Australia where economic hardship is being felt most keenly is in the family group, and one way of lightening the burden on the family is to increase family allowances for dependent wives and dependent children. A good case can now be made for doubling those concessions and on that foundation erecting an entirely new rate structure. It may be that this would mean less taxation on the lower income groups and those with large family commitments, and higher taxation on those enjoying higher incomes, but income tax, after all, is the fairest tax because it is based on a progressive scale, upon the ability of the taxpayer to pay. There has been very little basic alteration in the taxation structure in Australia for more than ten years.
In Great Britain, this important matter has been the subject of considerable discussion. Royal commissions have inquired into the taxation of income and the taxation of profits, and I suggest that the time has come when similar action should be taken in Australia. If, as the Government implies, there is to be an overall reduction in consumption, an endeavour should be made through our fiscal policy to bring about that reduction fairly. We must be careful to see that the burden falls on those who have the ability to pay, and does not always fall, as it does with indirect taxation, on those who, for one reason or another, have to consume more of a particular article. The time has come when we should recast the income tax structure as it applies both to individuals and companies, or corporations, as they are sometimes called. Such a recasting could result in greater aggregate income to the Government while at the same time the burden on those least able to afford it would be reduced, and those who had greater capacity to pay would have to bear a greater share. The Government should indicate whether these arc the kind of fiscal measures it has in mind or whether it proposes, for instance, to introduce a general sales tax - a tax that falls upon the people according to how they spend their income on certain articles. Recently, in Great Britain, there has been a move away from a limited sales tax to a general sales tax, but 1 suggest that such a step i3 regressive in its implication. It casts additional burdens upon those least able to bear them. Is that the policy that this Government has in mind if the remedies that it has foreshadowed are to be used? Is the Government’s fiscal weapon to be an income tax progressively applied on the principle of ability to pay, or is it to be a ruthless sales tax levied arbitrarily on most articles consumed? Is it to be an arbitrary sales tax on articles which the Government calls luxuries but which we on this side regard as essentials in this day and generation? Is it to be an arbitrary sales tax on s’uch things as washing machines and refrigerators which ought to be in every home in Australia and which ought not to be brought within the field of the fiscal measures that the Government foreshadows ?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The basis of this Address-in-Reply debate is the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General at the opening of the Twenty-second Parliament. That Speech gives us the widest possible scope. It enables us to speak on many subjects. In fact. I have heard it said that there is practically no subject upon which one cannot speak in this debate. It is something like a budget debate, because it gives us an opportunity to deal with all kinds of matters. Sometimes I have noticed that honorable members have not referred to the Governor-General’s Speech at all in their contributions. [Quorum formed.’] You, Mr. Acting Deputy
Speaker, will understand that the necessity for the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) to call for a quorum - if it could be considered a necessity - was no fault of mine, because, since I began to address the House, not one honorable member has moved in his seat. Therefore, I take none of the responsibility for the House being somewhat deficient in numbers.
Before the quorum was called for, I was pointing out that the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech allows us to encompass a vast number of subjects and is somewhat akin to the budget debate. But it is even better than the budget debate, which is directed to the discussion of the budget and the financial commitments that the Government has entered into. During the ten years that I have been a member of this House, it has not mattered what fault honorable members may have found with the budget or the Government’s financial proposals, because there has never been a change once the budget has been brought down. I am told on good authority that, since federation, the budget has never been changed once it has been presented. That is not difficult to understand. The simple reason is that the government, having entered into its financial obligations in the budget, cannot reasonably make a change.
The Address-in-Reply debate, coming at this period of the political year, gives us a wonderful opportunity to discuss various matters that need attention and cannot be discussed to advantage during the budget debate. I have found that the only way to get something done in this Parliament is to keep hammering away at it year after year until finally some notice is taken of one’s efforts. Honorable members may recall that, a few years ago, whenever I rose to address the House, Opposition members became very vocal in calling out “ rabbits “. However, since I advocated that myxomatosis be tried in a certain portion of the Murray River valley, near Kerang, and it proved successful for the first time, members of the Australian Labour party have ceased to raise that subject. Recently, I have been advocating, almost alone, a stabilization scheme for the dried fruits industry, and Opposition members have vociferously called “ dried fruits “ whenever I have risen to address the House. However, since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) announced that the Government intends to introduce a satisfactory stabilization scheme for the dried fruits industry, Labour members have stopped calling “ dried fruits “, because they know that my advocacy has been successful.
– We never opposed the stabilization scheme.
– Certainly not, but Opposition members tried to ridicule the plan’s best advocate. We have heard many theories about the way to overcome our financial and economic difficulties. I read the Governor-General’s Speech after I had heard it delivered, and I now wish to read to the House the following portion : -
And that is what we are seeking - is that the decline in our overseas balances is primarily the result of inflation at home. Private incomes and total purchasing power arc at record levels. Our local production falls far short of satisfying the demands so established. There is, therefore, a call for imports and, in recent times, at a level which we cannot as a nation pay for out of our current earnings. We have, therefore, been drawing upon our reserves. It needs no economist to tell us that such a process cannot go on for long.
All the money needed to provide amenities that make for a higher standard of living must come from the efforts of labour, not from law, but, in the time that I have been a member of this House, I have not heard a Labour member, whether in government or in opposition, advocate a little more work on the part of labour, and greater industry. Our standard of living is wholly and solely dependent upon the industry of our population. The standard of living of any country is founded on and maintained by the industry of its people.
– Every one knows that.
– It appears that the honorable member for East Sydney always forgets that fact, for the simple reason that he is always ready to start anything that will reduce production. A number of new members have addressed the House during this debate, and, for obvious reasons, I shall not at this stage name the honorable member who stated that he was proud of bis support for the waterside workers in their recent strike. The honorable member for East Sydney has forcefully expressed his support for the strike in speeches and in the newspapers. What is the true story of the strike? lt was not the result of an argument whether the waterside workers were or were not justified in their claims. The real issue was whether we were to return to the law of the jungle or to abide by arbitration. Why should Labour want to abandon, in favour of direct action, the system of arbitration that has done so much for the people who work with their hands on the wharfs, in the factories, and elsewhere. The change would get the workers nowhere. What has Labour gained by the waterside strike or by the railway strike in Western Australia and other holdups? It has gained absolutely nothing. Some of the union advocates may have achieved publicity and won praise for their public statements, but the man working on the job bears the brunt of the struggle. It does not matter whether the honorable member for East Sydney and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) make, in this House, speeches in which they emphasize the rights of the allegedly down-trodden workers of this country and express great concern for them. Only a very small proportion of the workers want to strike. Most of them know that strikes do not pay. Although I have not made a calculation, I am told on good authority that, if the rough tactics of the advocates of waterside workers could have won for them everything for which they asked, they could not have made good what they had lost by the strike, even though they worked for the next 25 years.
– The honorable member for Mallee forgets that the strike was of some value to the Communistcontrolled trade unions in their efforts to disrupt the economy.
– Of course, we know that the economy was disrupted. I am not amazed that the Communistcontrolled trade unions want strikes and lower production, but I am amazed that some of the elected representatives of the people in this Parliament support such strikes. I know that Opposition members are divided over that issue. They were deeply divided over it during the term of the Twenty-first Parliament, and they are still divided, although they are trying to patch up their differences.
I was pleased to hear one honorable member discuss the Australian Constitution. He considered that it should be amended. Although I, as every honorable member knows, do not delve into the inner details of the Constitution, there is probably something in what the honorable member said. He stated that copies of the Constitution should be distributed to the people free of charge, and that he had seen some copies marked at the price of 2s. 6d.
– 2s. 3d.
– That was the amount. The honorable member in question considered that copies of the Constitution should be distributed free. I suggest that it would be a mistake to remove the price marked on the copies. Let us give them away free, if he likes, but leave the price marked on them. This would make the people read the Constitution all the more keenly, because, to a large extent, many Australians are always anxious to get something for nothing.
The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) yesterday refused to cooperate in the appointment of the Foreign Affairs Committee. He stated that he would not co-operate with the Government in any way. I am amazed at his present attitude, because I have in my hand a copy of a pamphlet published by him. It bears on the front cover the inscription “ Cooperation - a national responsibility. The author is “Arthur A. Calwell, M.H.R.” On the back of the booklet appears “ Price 6d. “, although he has been giving it away. It is all very well for the honorable member for Melbourne, who is the deputy leader of the party, and who, we know, is saturated with the party line, to say; in his party way, “ I will not co-operate with this Liberal-Australian Country party Government “. He is saturated with that doctrine. But it is a tremendous shame that, when there are many new honorable members, young men of great promise, according to what I have heard, he, their deputy leader, should make such statements. According to the honorable member for Melbourne, if this Government brought forward the best legislation that the country has ever known, which would right all our troubles and lead us on to great progress, he is pledged to oppose it.
Opposition members interjecting,
– I know that honorable members opposite do not like my speeches. The more interjections I hear, the more I know that I am impressing them with the wrongdoings of their deputy leader. He wants co-operation, but the co-operation is not on a very high plane.
– What is in the book?
– It is all about the great need for co-operation in this country, as a national emergency. It is written only to establish that the honorable member for Melbourne will cooperate with anybody who might come to Australia, but in this Parliament he makes statements which are poles apart from what has been written in the book.
We cannot increase wages, reduce hours, and produce the same quantity of goods as if we retained the hours and wages which operated formerly. Since I spoke in this House last year I have come to represent approximately 2,000 more people and a much larger area. There has been an inflation in my votes; they are not of the same value now. If I speak for 2,000 more people and a larger area and have one vote in the Parliament, there has been inflation in the vote. My vote is not as valuable as it was in the last Parliament, but the vote of some honorable members is more valuable than it was formerly. I represent the entire north-west of Victoria, the vast primary producing electorate of Mallee. Although it is the largest electorate in Victoria, its size has been increased by the addition of two more subdivisions. Rainbow and Jeparit.
Mr. Ward interjecting,
– It is a logical conclusion, which I think even the honorable member for East Sydney can grasp, that if the size of the largest electorates is increased, the size of the smaller electorates is decreased, and it appears to me that is at the base of all
our troubles. I do not want to exhibit unnecessary party-political bias; I have never done so. I have been fighting to obtain for Victoria a better deal in the distribution of the proceeds of the petrol tax. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page), and Labour members, have said that the petrol tax formula is such as will benefit Australia and lead to the development of this great country. It is a formula based on area plus population. I know that the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) is a great advocate of the retention of that formula, because, under its operation, Western Australia receives a remarkably good deal, as does Queensland. If it is such a fair proposition, why could not our electoral system be based on the same formula? If it is true to say that the petrol tax formula will assist the development of Australia, is it not reasonable’ to say that if the voting strength is allocated where it is most needed, on a basis of population and area, the effect will be the same?
– Hear, hear !
– Either both propositions are right, or both are wrong, because one follows logically from the other. Some honorable members represent metropolitan areas, and others represent country electorates. They have differing interests, which the parties try to smooth over, but if some vital issue arose, with a conflict of city and country interests, the city would carry it. The greater the number of people in the cities, the more members they are entitled to, and the more members they are entitled to the more are the amenities which are provided in the cities. The more amenities that are provided, the more people go to the cities, which are then entitled to still more members. That is the vicious circle which operates in this country. The Governor-General’s Speech referred to a committee to consider constitutional reform. I suggest that one necessary reform is the redistribution of electorates on a basis of population and area combined.
Let us develop the country. Last night the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) referred to the need for opening up thousands of acres in the
Dergholm area. He said, in effect, “ Goodness knows when it will be opened up “. If my electoral plan were adopted, the present electorate of Wannon would probably be entitled to three representatives instead of one. I know there is no chance of achieving that, as city interests would not allow it. I compliment the honorable member for Wannon on his speech. Tor a long time I have been advocating that the Minister for Shipping and Transport and the Minister for Supply should do all they can to develop the great port of Portland. I have been receiving little assistance. I do not suggest that the honorable member for Wannon will assist me, but I shall assist him, because he represents the area where the port is located, and I represent Mallee, which hopes to send and receive goods through the port. The great octopus of Melbourne is pulling against, us. It is hard to open up a port. As the honorable member for Wannon said, the port of Melbourne is crowded and goods cannot be taken in and out to advantage. At Portland is a great natural port, in the area where the Hentys turned the first sod in Victoria. It can be developed into as good a port as any in the Commonwealth. I am tremendously pleased that the honorable member for Wannon advocated that the Government should take a greater interest in that port.
I now come to the subject of industries with which I am most familiar, and those engaged in them, whom I represent. There is talk of an international wheat agreement, irrespective of whether or not the United Kingdom will join. During the last general election, some Labour candidates said that Labour would negotiate an international wheat agreement with the United Kingdom as a member. How did Labour candidates know that? Some honorable members have said that the United Kingdom would have been a party to the existing international wheat agreement but for the attitude of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and the advocacy by Australia of a higher price. Nothing could be further from the truth than that, because if Australia had withdrawn from the agreement, other countries, which are far larger producers, would have carried out its terms.
The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to say a few words in a very weak way in support of his attack on the Government for sending troops to Malaya. It sounded just like an echo. He said, “ We think that our policy is right “. Previously he said that it was right; now he only thinks that it is. The Malayan people have welcomed our troops. They are not on a quest in search of gain or to invade a weaker nation. Their mission is as pure and noble as has ever been undertaken - to rid a country of would-be tyrants. Everybody knows that. But having heard the Leader of the Opposition speak, one would think that our troops were not welcome in Malaya and that they had been sent there to rob the Malayan people of their nationhood. That nationhood is nearer now than it was perhaps for the very reason that Australian troops are in Malaya.
In foreign policy, I believe that we have to show strength. From my experiences of the Malayans and other peoples in what we call the Near East, I know that they are greatly impressed by force and strength. I do not mean that we should try in any way to bring them to heel, as the saying goes; but I do believe that we must be prepared always to fight with them against the scourge of communism, because the Communists are eager to use Malaya as a spring-board. I supported the move to send Australian troops to Malaya and, so far, I have not heard anything said by any one in this House that would make me change my opinion on that matter.
In the short time that I have left, I want to say a few words about the dried fruits industry. I have been advocating the cause of that industry for some time. I have been rather surprised to hear some people say that, if one goes to Mildura, the heart of the dried fruits industry in Sunraysia, one finds an air of great prosperity. That is partly true. But last year was a bad year for picking and drying fruit. As a result, much more money has had to be spent on packing and processing the fruit - perhaps twice as much as usual. Therefore, much more money is being distributed to the people who do the work of processing the fruit. That money is not going to the growers, who are the very heart of the industry; it is coming from them. I can say without fear of contradiction that in my area, which produces about 70 per cent, of the dried fruits produced in the whole of Australia, 70 per cent, or 80 per cent, of the growers are in a dangerous financial position. Therefore, I was tremendously pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that it was the intention of the Government to have a satisfactory scheme for the stabilization of the industry in operation during the selling season for the crop that is being picked now.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron). - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- lt has been my pleasure to listen to a number of addresses of the kind that was delivered by the Governor-General when he opened the Twenty-second Parliament of the Commonwealth last week. However, I was somewhat perplexed by the contents of the address on that occasion. Indeed, I was sorry that the GovernorGeneral had been called upon to make such an address, because it was as close to a political harangue as it was possible to get. I hope that, in the future, addresses of that kind will revert to type, and so prevent considerable embarrassment to all.
Before proceeding to deal with the matters about which I rose to speak, I shall make some observations on the speech just delivered by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). He stated, ‘first, that the Labour party was opposed to the stabilization of the dried fruits industry. That statement was inaccurate. The stabilization of primary industries is a major plank of the platform of the Labour party. Labour has always supported stabilization of the dried fruits industry. I hope that those remarks will effectively clear up any misapprehension that exists in. the honorable gentleman’s mind.
Then he took to task a member of the Opposition who had said that he supported the waterside workers in their recent dispute. Let me remind the House that the Australian Council of Trades Unions also supported the waterside workers in that dispute. I would add that I believe every member of the Opposition in this Parliament supported the attitude adopted by the Australian Council of Trades Unions. The honorable member for Mallee singled out one member of the Opposition for criticism, hut, if support for the waterside workers were a fault, all members of the Opposition were equally guilty.
Let me remind the House of the honorable member’s own attitude to certain matters. He went to great pains in endeavouring to prove how interested he was in some subjects. I do not question his sincerity, but I think it would be well to point out that he has not always been so persevering in relation to some matters as he tries to make out. I well remember that, during the last term of office of the. Chifley Government, when the honorable gentleman was a member of the Opposition, he occupied much of the time of the House over a period of many months by advocating that certain action be taken on some matters, but, when the. present Government parties came into power, his attitude underwent a startling change. Although he had made a great issue of some things when he was in Opposition, he made no reference to them when he became a supporter of the Government. He has put himself forward to-day as an unswerving advocate of certain causes. Although I do not question his sincerity, I point out that there are some matters in which he was very interested when he was a member of the Opposition, but which he forgot when this Government came into power.
– Because he had got what he wanted.
– I do not think he had. I have in mind particularly the attacks that he made on the Chifley Government in connexion with the prisonerofwar question. That question still has not been resolved, but I have not heard the honorable member make a speech on it since the present Government parties came into power over six years ago.
In this debate, some honorable members have delivered their maiden speeches. I join with other honorable members in congratulatingthemontheir splendid efforts. In view of the quality of those speeches, I have no doubt that the new members will make a great contribution to raising the level of debate in this House. Perhaps some honorable members are overcome with nervousness at the prospect of making their maiden speeches. If it is any encouragement to them, let me say that nervousness at the prospect of making a speech is not confined to those who are about to make their maiden speeches.
I shall direct my remarks now to a question that has been ventilated in the House on a number of occasions, but which is still unresolved. When is the Government going to table the papers relating to the double dissolution granted in1951 by the then Governor-General, Sir William McKell? Requests in questions andspeeches for the tabling of the papers have proved abortive so far. The attitude of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been most abject. The first reason he gave for not tabling the papers was that it would be undesirable to do so while Sir William McKell was Governor-General. Surely that cut across precedent. On the only other occasion in the history of the Commonwealth when a double dissolution was granted, the government of the day made public the reasons for the dissolution on the tenth day following the day on which it was granted. The then Prime Minister did not advance the rather unique arguments that have been advanced by the present Prime Minister.
The position taken up by the present Prime Minister is untenable. Sir William McKell’s term of office expired some years ago, but we are still waiting to learn the reasons for the double dissolution of 1951. During the last year of the life of the Twenty-first Parliament, the Prime Minister promised on more thanone occasion to table the papers, but I regret to say that the promise has not been honoured. In view of the evasive attitude adopted by the Prime Minister to the requests that have been made, the matter is becoming the subject of suspicion. Why does the Prime Minister refuse to table the papers? I submit that they are of historical significance. The impediment to which the Prime Minister referred no longerexists. For how much longer will the House be treated in this rather shabby fashion on such an important matter? If the Government is accused of trying to cover up something, ithas only itself to blame.
Constitutional reform was mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. I am happy to see, even if it is a belated recognition, that the Government intends to move in this matter. However, I shall not be convinced until definite proof of the. earnestness of this intention is available, because constitutional reform has loomed largely as a talking point for the Government in the past, although the Government has failed miserably to do anything about it. It is possible that after June of this year the Government will find its position in another place less secure than it is now, and this possibility gives rise to some very interesting speculation. I am quitesure that, whatever proposals are forthcoming, the Opposition will deal with them on their merits. The Government should not politicize on this question. If it does so. it must accept the consequences. It is agreed that constitutional reform is urgently required and, indeed, is long overdue. The Commonwealth is suffering to-day from the fact that its founders were too rigid in their views, and because circumstances and conditions have altered vastly since, the Constitution was framed half a century ago. That observation is not intended to be a criticism. It is merely a statement of fact. I am sure that, if the average citizen realized how little authority this Parliament possesses in comparison with that possessed by the parliaments of the States, he would be amazed. It is true to say that all parties have to bear some degree of responsibility for the failure to amend or alter the Constitution. To-day, we are all paying for this folly. In the interests of the nation it is to be hoped that the Government will forget party considerations or advantages in this connexion, because it is a matter that stands in desperate need of attention.
Some months ago, following applications made by them, the Government gave permission to some of the private trading banks to establish themselves in the savings bank field. I disagree with this action, which can very seriously impair our economy in a number of ways. The reason why the private trading banks wanted to enter this field is that they wish to accumulate funds to permit them to move into the field of hire-purchase on a grand scale. This field indirectly offers them a range of higher profits, which has made the establishment of savings bank subsidiaries attractive to them. I do not agree that the only function of banks is to make profits, although this dictum is strongly held by members of the Government. It is a catastrophic belief. The action of the Government in this matter will have adverse affects on all. It will prove disastrous, in time, in relation to the provision of housing for the people.
The Commonwealth Savings Bank has borne, until now, the burden of provision of finance for housing. The Government’s new policy means that less money will be available for home-building activities. In the past, the amount that the private trading banks have made available for homes has been scandalously low, but it will be lower still. The contribution made by private banks has, indeed, been disgustingly low, and promises to be still lower. It is true to say that if the people had to depend on the private banks for assistance with finance for housing, almost four-fifths of those who have obtained financial accommodation to purchase homes through building or housing societies would still be awaiting it. This is confirmed by the following quotation from the annual report and balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Savings Bank for the year ended the 30th June, 1955 -
Loans approved for co-operative building and housing societies amounted to £7.2 million in 1954-55, most of it from the Savings Bank. This was about four-fifths of the total amount received by these societies from all lending institutions, and brought total allocations for this purpose ,by the Savings Bank and Trading Bank since 1044 to £73 million. Most of this money was used by the societies to enable their members to build or buy new homes, although they were permitted to allocate a reasonable percentage of the funds for the purchase of existing homes. lt is paradoxical that, while the banks cannot find money for hospitals, homes, schools or churches, they can find money to enable race clubs to effect improvements to their properties. The Govern ment’s financial policy is such that we either have a flood or a drought in the financial sphere.
In 1952, taxation a head of population was. £377 9s. 3d. ; at the 31st December, 1954, it was £409 4s. 3d. In the same period the public debt increased by £431,000,000.- It is idle for the Treasurer to assume a Pilate-like attitude on this question, because the policy that the banking and financial institutions of this country pursue is the one that he permits.
The Government has decided to increase the tempo of immigration. I shall not advance any criticism on that score, because this country must increase its population. However, an aspect that should be discussed is the effect of such a policy on our housing problem. Our present rate of building is hardly sufficient to meet our natural increase of population. “With a large-scale immigration programme operating, surely it is not unreasonable to expect that the Government would be taking steps to provide homes for the intake. But, instead of that, it is dealing with the housing problem as though no immigrants were being admitted to the country. We are told that we must take risks with our immigration policy. I believe that, -as a result of the Government’s financial policy, one of the risks we are taking is quite unnecessary. A more enlightened financial policy in dealing with the housing problem would remove that risk. For the last two years the allocations to the States for housing have remained unchanged. The War Service Homes Division will, if it is fortunate, build in 1.955-56 about the same number of houses as it built in 1954-55. If such a policy is to prevail. our housing situation will become chaotic. It is bad enough now. If the Government were to give some indication that it was aware of the alarming lack of homes and of the number of people requiring them, as well as the effect that the shortage of housing is having upon our people, there would be no need to talk of risks associated with immigration.
Another matter involving policy which I believe could be investigated concerns the development of our territories. The Government’s policy is, I believe, having a retarding influence first, on development and, secondly, on defence. One of the primary reasons why the development of our territories is not proceeding as fast as it should do is the lack of continuity in works programmes. The Government will argue that it has a policy on this question. I say, from personal experience, that the Treasury also has a policy,, and in all cases it is the view of the latter which prevails. The attitude of the Treasury officials has wrought havoc with developmental plans and, in many cases, has slowed projects and works down to a mere trickle when it should he a strong and vigorous stream. The works programme for our territories is almost unlimited, but with the “ start, cut and stop “ policy operating, contractors are not interested. One can hardly expect a contractor to take plant, equipment and staff to a place like Darwin, for instance, for one project alone. Unless there is continuity of work available, contractors are not interested.
This has been a major fault in the past. There is any amount of work to be done but there is a never-ending change of plans always being effected. This all stems from Treasury policy. The Government and the Treasurer in particular, must accept full responsibility for this disquieting and disappointing state of affairs. If the Government would lay down a reasonable works programme for our territories, thus ensuring their development and thereby ensuring continuity of work in these particular areas, it would soon find that more people would lie willing to undertake such work in these places than are willing at the present time.
In summing up, Mr. Speaker, I have referred, first, to the policy of the Government concerning the tabling of the papers relating to the double dissolution that was granted in 1951. I submit that this question has some disquieting aspects. The Prime Minister, notwithstanding the fact that he has given assurances to this House, has so far refused to table these papers. I have pointed out that his attitude is untenable and that when a. previous Governor-General granted the first double dissolution of this Parliament, the relevant papers were made available within ten days. Five years have passed since that momentous double dissolution was granted by Sir William McKell. Why has the Government continually hedged on this subject? I sincerely hope that it will end this delay and lay the papers on the table of the House.
I have pointed out that the attitude of the Government in granting permission for private banks to enter into the savings bank field will be detrimental to the interests of housing. I have shown conclusively that the building societies of this country have received four-fifths of their finances from the Commonwealth Savings Bank and that the competition from, the private savings banks, the only interest of which is to make profits, will considerably reduce the amount of money that the Commonwealth Bank will be able to make available to building societies. Here is a classic example of how the Government is going to permit, private enterprise and private finance to walk into a field merely for the sake of making profit for themselves, although in doing so they will curtail the building activities, not only of the Commonwealth and the States, but also of private institutions.
I have pointed out, in connexion with immigration, that there is a considerable risk which we willingly take and which applies to housing. I believe that if the Government had a more enlightened attitude to this subject, many problems associated with immigration would disappear. I have proved, I believe, that one of the things that has retarded the development of our territories is the lack of continuity of work there. This is brought about mainly by the change of policy that occur? ad infinitum, on the part of Treasury officials. Of course, in the last analysis, the Treasurer must accept responsibility for that situation because no matter what policy the Treasury proposed, it could not become effective unless the Treasurer and the Government gave consent to it. The fact that they consent to it makes them a party to that policy.
Sifting suspended from 12.35 to 2.50 p.m.
.-I desire to join with other honorable members who have already spoken and add ray congratulations to the new member0 who have made their maiden speeches in this House. I should like also to say that the House is fortunate in the men who have entered it as a result of the last general elections. In making my contribution to this debate on the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I should like to mention several matters that were referred to in the Speech. In outlining the background to those matters, I wish to say that the GovernorGeneral said quite a number of things concerning the importance of Parliament and its position in the life of Australians. As I mention this matter, I should like also to congratulate the honorable member foi1 Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn), who addressed the House this morning. I agree with many of the statements that the honorable member made. My only comment is that many members of the Ministry would agree with what he said. 1 suggest that his comments should not have been directed against the Ministry, because the matters of which he spoke have not suddenly become apparent. They are the result of a sequence of events that has occurred in this and other democratic legislatures. This is a trend of which we should take notice.
May I add to the remarks of the honorable member for Farrer by saying that I also think it is necessary for members of Parliament to have greater opportunity to visit other countries. I have mentioned this matter several times during the last few years. I understand that, last year, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) discussed the matter with the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). I hope we shall be able to make arrangements under which members of both Houses of the Parliament will be able to travel more widely. Other countries and various organizations in Australia are able ro make such arrangements. In the commercial and business world, a man who is promoted to an executive position is immediately sent overseas on a factfinding mission so that he may inform his mind about what is happening in his own line of business in other countries. If it is wise and good that this should be done in business and commerce, it is even more important that it should be done in the parliamentary sphere. I know that, on various occasions, honorable members have had the opportunity to visit other countries, through the medium of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, but those opportunities do not occur sufficiently often and they do not enable enough members of the Parliament to gain the necessary experience of travelling overseas and studying other countries. Broadly speaking, that is the argument. 1 cannot at the present time go into great detail, but I should like to mention just one factor of importance, which has two aspects. First, if we are able to send our parliamentary representatives overseas, we should realize that it is necessary for them to visit not only other countries, of the British Commonwealth of Nation 3 but also countries geographically close to us that encounter problems similar to ours. Secondly, we notice from time to time that various missions are sent overseas. I do not direct an attack at any particular department. Merely as an illustration, I mention the announcement several days ago by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) of the persons who are to go overseas to represent Australia at certain trade conferences and discussions. Officers of the Public Service and representatives of the industries concerned were included in the mission, but there was no member of Parliament. I believe it would be wise to include both Government and Opposition members of the Parliament in missions that go overseas for these purposes. Not only would this be wise, because, by their election to Parliament, members are in themselves representatives of the people, but also it is true to say that, having attained the position of members of Parliament, it is evident that they have had wide experience. If they had not that experience, which is necessary to the job of being a member of Parliament, they obviously would not be in the Parliament. A man’s experience increases by his being a member of Parliament. That, also, is necessary to the job of being a member. For those two reasons alone, I hope that the Prime Minister, in consultation with the Minister for External Affairs, will agree to the proposal that I and other honorable members, including my friend from Angas (Mr. Downer), the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) and many others, have recently made. At this juncture I bring the matter again to the Government’s notice.
I should now like to address myself to the Governor-General’s comments about Australia’s present economic position, lt is very difficult, in some ways, for the Government to say what should be done. I know that certain legislation may be enacted. But even more important is the need for the Government to create the right atmosphere and to lead and assist us in solving our economic problems. 1 consider that the Government has been doing this. The Prime Minister and the other Ministers have been doing it. However, in addition, we must endeavour to inculcate in the mind of the nation as a whole the understanding that it is necessary for us to reduce the costs of our products. It is obvious that we live on our exports, which are few in number. Most of them come from the primary industries. Before World War II., we were able to export a few of the products of our secondary industries. At the present time our export of secondary commodities is very small in point of quantity, and is confined to our traditional markets, such as New Zealand and islands close to Australia. Our trade with those islands is solely on the basis that we should give them products which they are unable to produce themselves. In other words, we are maintaining them, and we do so because of the things that we have in common with them and because of our friendship with them. We provide these commodities, not so much because we can afford to export them, but for the reasons that I have given. Therefore, it appears to be clear that we live on the export of our primary products, and in order to compete on the world market it is necessary for us to bring down the costs of producing secondary goods. Apart from anything else, we have a very large freight factor to make up in the initial selling prices of any goods that we produce, and so we must give a great deal of thought to improving the efficiency of the production of our goods.
I was very interested to read that a few months ago one of the speakers at the annual meeting of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce was reported in the press of the 25th May, 1955, as having said that the 40-hour week in Australia is not the clear 40 hours that the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration stipulated, but is estimated to average only 32-J- hours a week per man per year. During his speech, the speaker drew comparisons between Australia and other countries, and quoted figures from the statistical statement of the International Labour Organization of December, 1954, on the hours of employment in certain countries. He stated that the hours of work were 46 a week in the United Kingdom, 40£ in the United States of America, 45 in Prance, and 50.6 in Japan. I understand that in mentioning those figures the speaker did not quote the figure of 39.95 hours for Australia, which was Australia’s figure shown together with the figures of other countries that I have already quoted. I made some inquiries regarding this announcement, and I discovered that it has been estimated that under the metal trades award the hours per week per man per year are approximately 36. That figure was arrived at after deductions for sick and annual leave, public holidays and various breaks allowed under industrial awards. Having made some further study of the matter, my own appreciation of it is that the figure quoted for Australia is low in comparison with the figures quoted for overseas, but the fact remains that our man-hour production in Australia is low compared with production in those countries with which we have to compete in the selling of our products. It is quite right to say that we on this side of the House in no way debate the introduction of the 40-hour week as long as 40 hours are worked, and worked efficiently. We must work those hours efficiently in order to enable us to sell our products overseas, and by that means to maintain our national income.
I referred at the beginning of my speech to the remarks of the honorable member for Farrer, and what he said is linked with what I have been saying, because I believe that there is a certain responsibility on this House to set an example to industry and to encourage the right atmosphere. Honorable members from time to time suffer from public criticism. It seems odd to me that the people should criticize an honorable member because, after all, the people put the member in his place. If they do not like the member whom they have elected, they have the obvious remedy at the next general election. But the member himself has certain responsibilities, and he should remember all the time the necessity to maintain the dignity of the Parliament, the importance of the Parliament - which might be called democracy at work - and the important part that he has to play in its working.
I was very disappointed to find that a member of this Parliament supported a recent strike. That strike was of no benefit to the strikers themselves, because they ultimately went back to work on the same conditions that they were working under when they went on strike. Irrespective of whether one has sympathy for the causes of the strike, we in this country believe in the way of arbitration, and we should uphold that system. We believe that disputes should be referred to arbitration, and the power to arbitrate should lie with the court. I ask the Opposition whether it still believes that. I can well remember that during the recent strike on the waterfront, the union concerned in that strike stated that it intended to levy Labour members of the Parliament £5 a week as a contribution towards the strike funds. Did honorable members of the Opposition contribute to those funds? 1 was under the impression until recently that the Labour party supported our industrial arbitration system.
– My word, we do !
– Do honorable members of the Opposition not now support arbitration ; do they support direct action? Let me now quote from an independentauthority to show how far independent industrial action has gone in this country. I emphasize that I am not debating the merits of the case, I am solely indicating that industrial disputes should go to arbitration and not be solved by direct action. The 23-day stoppage on the waterfront cost the shipowners more than £3,500,000 ; it cost the members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia almost £3,000,000 in lost wages ; and an amount, which we have not yet been able to estimate, as the cost to the Australian ,,nm- munity of not being able to transport our goods overseas at the time we desired to do so. An independent authority on this strike said -
The federation sooner or later will have to go to the court. When it does, the owners should go to the limits of prudence to meet it. That not only would be the fair thing to do, it would be the commonsense and patriotic thing to do.
I should like to know where the Opposition stands on these matters. Is encouragement given to people to go on strike? The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) appeared on the public platform doing just that sort of thing. Was that the official action of the Australian Labour party? Did he have the consent of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in going on to the platform and supporting a strike which was Communist-led? Where does the Labour party stand on these matters? When people refer to the responsibilities of a member of Parliament, to the dignity of Parliament and to all the matters to which the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) mentioned this morning, it is time for the Opposition to state quite clearly where it stands on these questions.
– We stand all the time behind the men. You stand for the owners all the time.
– The honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson) says that we stand for the owners all the time. The complete answer .to that interjection is to be found in a study of the actions of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). Apart from what the Minister has done in previous disputes, I think the honorable member for Port Adelaide will admit that he has done a great deal to solve the problems of the present waterfront strike.
– You are asking where we stand as a party. We would not stand where you stand.
– I should be very glad to hear where the honorable member does stand.
– Behind the men. ill. DEAN. - I want to know whether the Opposition stands for direct action. 1 want to know whether honorable members opposite stand for arbitration.
– When answering those questions, I should like honorable members opposite to tell us what they have been doing during the last few months. I should also like to know how many of them have been contributing the levy of £5 a week that they were asked to pay.
His Excellency the Governor-General also referred to primary industry. I am very glad to know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his re-organization of Cabinet, has appointed a Minister for Primary Industry. 1 should like to express my appreciation to that Minister (Mr. McMahon) for the way in which he is tackling his new job. 1 represent an electorate which has a great number of what I term smaller acreage farmers - the dairy-farmer, the poultry-farmer, the pig-farmer, the fruit-grower, the vegetable market grower, the timber-getter, the fisherman and so on-
– Has he looked after all those sections already?
– That type of industry is encountering severe problems at the present time. Already the Minister has been good enough to go and discuss some of those problems with some of those industries. I fully realize that a great number of their problems are related to marketing, and that marketing itself is more the responsibility of the State Government than the Federal Government, but there are other ways in which the Federal Government can help these smaller acreage farmers. It can assist by its’ extension services,, and by aid through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. As the House knows, a great deal has already been done for the dairying industry, if I may give an example.
In the area of which I speak, we have a present problem with relation to the passion fruit growers. It may seem to the House that passion fruit growing is not a very large industry, but it is a fact that there is a demand overseas for passion fruit pulp and juice. The area to which I refer is one of the most suited in Australia, because of its climatic conditions, to the growing of passion fruit, but one finds a rather extraordinary thing happening. While production is increasing in that district, and while the area under cultivation is becoming larger each year and the growers are now having difficulty in selling their summer crop, we have been importing passion fruit pulp and’ juice from Africa. At the request of the growers, I brought a deputation to Canberra in the middle of last year. As a result of that deputation, a case was established for a Tariff Board inquiry into the importation of passion fruit pulp and juice.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Normally, one expects to find in the Governor-General’s Speech something different on the industrial side from a mere comment on the waterside workers. I listened with a great deal of interest to the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean). He seemed to have two bugbears. The first was that study groups from this Parliament should be sent overseas. The second was his concern as to where the Labour party stood in relation to arbitration and conciliation. When I think of the two matters in association, I say to my friend that he should be asking, first, for study groups from this Parliament to go throughout Australia in order to get a first-hand knowledge of the circumstances of the Australian workers before attempting to go out of this country. If these study groups will adopt my suggestions, they will come back to this chamber with a broader Australian outlook and a fuller appreciation of what has to be done to bring producer and master together so that this country may get out of the morass in which it is now. The honorable member chides this party as to where it stands with respect to arbitration. Why does he not first have a shot at the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who tried to persuade the shipowners, most of whom do not belong to this country at all, to practise conciliation ? The Minister himself admitted that he is disappointed with the shipowners; and the honorable member expects us to support the very people who were disappointing even to the Minister. Let the honorable member first make a study of the Australian worker’s requirements before he speaks as he did in this chamber.
But I did not come here this afternoon to debate this matter. Last night, a subject of top-line importance to one section of our community was raised in this House. I refer to the returned servicemen to whom the former Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon), advisedly or inadvisedly, gave a completely incorrect statement. This afternoon, I propose to show to the House, particularly to those members who are returned servicemen, that the greatest racket ever to be developed in Australia has been developed as a consequence of this Government’s approach to the people on war service homes. His Excellency refers in his Speech to two important matters and I propose to link them. One refers to housing, and the other to public services generally. I repeat that I am disturbed by the rackets that have grown since the former Minister for Social Services, who was responsible for war service homes, made a statement on policy in this chamber on the 19th October last. He said -
Government policy has been to permit temporary finance to cover the waiting period, subject to prior approval by the division, in respect of the purchase of a newly erected home, hut not in respect of the purchase of an old existing property.
Continuing, the Minister said -
In view of the increase in the waiting period forall classes of assistance, the Government has decided to permit temporary finance to cover the waiting period in respect of old existing houses as well as in respect of new existing properties, subject to the applicant obtaining the prior approval of the division.
He went on to say -
This decision, which should be of oonsiderable benefit to the applicants who desire to purchase old existing properties, will notbe applied retrospectively.
Let us analyse for a moment the result of that decision by this Government. Last night the Minister said -
Although I have heard many accusations about usury, it is an amazing thing that so far not a single member of the Opposition hasbroughta concrete case to me and asked me to look at it to see whether anything could be done.
He was referring to this very question of what is happening in the provision of war service homes. He made that statement in this House on the 19th October. On the 21st October, only two days later, the following advertisement appeared in the Sydney afternoon press: - 10% Investment on
Deferred Home Loans. £100,000 Required
In amounts of £2,750 or more,
Money repayable6 to 18 months.
All inquiries: T. B. Butler, Norris & Co.,
That advertisement appeared within 48 hours of the Minister’s announcement in this chamber that the Government proposed to extend the operation of the present system. The matter has travelled a long way since then. The Financial. Review, of the 29th January, 1956, shows how far the racket in short-term loans for ex-servicemen has gone. It stated - “ Attention Bondholders “.
Many holders of Commonwealth bonds have been mystified by an advertisement appearing in a Hornsby district paper offering to arrange a sale, at full par value, of certain bonds now at a substantial market discount. . . .
The idea is to provide temporary finance for home buyers eligible for War Service homes. . . . Basis of the deal is an interest rate of 10 p.c. paid by the borrower - if the bond realises, say, £90, then the borrower takes the loss, roughly equivalent to 10 p.c.
The whole business certainly is a neat idea, and one which will probably interest many disgruntled bond holders.
The final paragraph read -
As such, it may be a way out for the bond holder. But it is a sad commentary on the benefits of war service that an ex-serviceman must pay the additional cost of this temporary finance to obtain a home loan to which he is legally entitled.
I am pleased to see that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who previously was Minister for Social Services, is in the chamber. Last night he said that not one concrete case of this sort of thing had been brought to him by the Opposition. Immediately after the elections last year, I received a letter dealing with this subject from a constituent of mine who lived in a sub-division that had just been brought into my electorate as the result of the electoral redistribution. It was dated the 6th December, J 955, and it read - 1 was given permission to raise temporary finance but found it extremely hard unless I paid a high rate of interest. My wife and two sons aged 7 and 2-J and myself were living in a room at the time and there was nothing else to do but take the best terms available. 1 finally arranged temporary finance at the rate of 12i per cent, and am now paying £(i 12s. per week interest.
It is rather hard to think that the War Service approved of my application and 1 have to wait 12 months from the time I applied and pay out approximately £2(10 in !) months in interest alone.
I repeat that the Minister said deliberately last night that not one case had been brought to his notice. A copy of that letter was sent to him and on the 9th January he replied in the following terms : - . . It is noted that your correspondent, has obtained temporary finance by means of a pre-arranged mortgage at a very high interest rate. Unfortunately, there are many applicants who are finding themselves in a similar situation and whilst I am sympathetic with their plight, I regret that I cannot approve of such applications being dealt with other than in order of priority.
Therefore, the Minister did have such a letter last December, and replied to it in January. He signed the letter himself. To say in this chamber that no cases had been brought to his notice indicates that he is either forgetful or untruthful. I want to deal with this particular case first because after I received that reply from the Minister, numerous other ex-servicemen came to see me because they were faced with the same situation and were having their loans delayed. The Minister need not ask me this man’s name because he has had it on his files since December. I wrote to the ex-serviceman and asked whether [ could use his name and cite his case. He replied on the 30th January as follows : -
I have thought of a few more things which may help in your investigations. When I first applied for the loan and was told I could raise temporary finance, it was suggested by the War Service that I approach any of the hanks.
My brother and uncle are managers of branches of the Commonwealth Bank and through them 1 had introductions to people in the Rural Bank and Bank of New South Wales. My firm approached their bank, the National, and it was all with the same result.
Through various channels I obtained names and phone numbers of people who had finance, and I could have arranged for any amount at 18, 20, 24 and 25 per cent. One new Australian named Ronikier - 12fi Flinders Street, Darlinghurst, wanted 0 per cent, cash just to arrange the loan.
The temporary finance I accepted is really 13 1 per cent, reducible to 12* per cent, if paid within three days of date due.
This young fellow and his family are in such a position that when the letter arrived from the Minister his wife became very upset and went back to the War Service Homes Division to see whether her pleadings could bring about any better result. The officials listened to her very patiently, but, after all, they were only carrying out government policy, and they said that there was no guarantee that the loan would be granted in August. The husband in his letter to me said -
The mortgage 1 have taken falls due on the Jl.fj.5fi, so if the loan is not forthcoming by then, I do not know what- the position will be as far as the mortgagee is concerned.
He knows, and we know, that if his loan is not available by the 31st August he will be lucky if he gets away with paying not ISi per cent., but 25 per cent, for the remainder of the period. Men who have been prepared to give their lives for this country have been the victims of the greatest racket ever perpetrated in the history of this or any other government in Canberra. It is not enough for the Minister to say that £30,000,000 has been provided this year. It is the Government’s job to protect ex-servicemen from usury, and from those who would fleece them because of the shortage of homes. Such people are taking the butter from the bread of Australian children.
This morning, the Minister for Primary Industry said that fewer applications were being received this year. Why is that? Perhaps if we read a letter from another ex-serviceman we may find the answer. The Minister has not received a letter about this case yet. My constituent applied ‘for a loan in August, 1954. He was informed that he would be on the waiting list for nine months. Plans were submitted by the architect on the 5th September, 1955, and he was informed that he had approximately one month to wait. Inquiries made on the 18th October, 1955, brought the answer that the plans had been passed and filed awaiting the director’s signature. It was expected, he was told, that they would be through within a month or six weeks. He made inquiries early again in November and was informed that his plans had not been passed and that it would probably be another month before they were. He wrote a letter to the Director of War Service Homes on the 23rd November, 1955. In it he said -
As the position stand-, now, my builder has given me a quote on my home that exceeds the loan by over one hundred and fifty pounds. With every penny invested I can raise the money, but with the cost nf building rising at frequent intervals I can visualize my home passing quite out of my reach if my loan is not through shortly.
This man had been promised his money within nine months. His letter was answered and he was asked to ring a certain number. The letter read -
With reference to your application under the War Service Homes Act, I shall be pleased if you will kindly telephone BO 234 Ext. 251 in order that matters in connexion therewith may be discussed.
Naturally, he did so. He wished to obtain his loan. He rang the office on the 14th December, and he was informed that the file would go before the board within nine days and he would be informed of the result. Receiving no word, he rang again on the Srd January, when he was informed that he would hear the result any day. He received no advice, and he rang the office again on the 9th January. To cap it all, he received from the department a letter dated the 13th January stating that there was no possibility of his receiving a loan before May, 1956, so he has to shelve his plans, because the builder cannot wait any longer to construct the house. As a consequence of the dawdling of the department, and the Government’s policy in respect of making finance available, although he had been promised, in July, 1954, that he would have to wait only nine months, he now has to wait until May. I do not know what the Minister had in mind when he spoke last night, but I ask the incoming Minister to make a plea to the Government to bear in mind the responsibility it has to the men who served their country, and to take these operations out of the hands of the vultures who are bleeding these men white. If these applicants can obtain n certificate from the War Service Homes Division, why cannot the Commonwealth Trading Bank or the Commonwealth Savings Bank accommodate them during the waiting period? No inflation is involved in such a procedure. Inflation stems from the imposition of 10, 13, and 20 per cent, interest charges on poor unfortunate people who have children to rear and who are being fleeced as a result of the policy being followed. I say quite frankly that if that is the type of meddling with finance that the Government desires to engage in, surely there will be retribution for those who follow. An investigation should be made into the activities of some of the persons associated with these loans, and those who support the Government should not be allowed to make capital out of financial accommodation made available to ex-servicemen.
I desire now to refer to public services generally. In 1956 we are attempting to develop Australia in the style of the horse and buggy days in relation to our commitments to the community and the attitude of the Australian Loan Council to local government. I am concerned with what is happening in respect of health. Little purpose is served by the Government spending £16,000,000, and the New South Wales Government spending £25,000,000 on health this year, if, as a result of shortage of loan funds made available, corporate bodies are unable to provide drainage and sewerage in our new suburbs. A month or so ago, a statement appeared in the Sydney press to the effect that, as a consequence of the shortage of loan funds, pipe laying for sewerage would have to be restricted from 3 miles to 1-J miles a week. I do not want to be regarded as parochial in this matter, which affects the electorates of Banks, Werriwa, Reid, Lang, and Blaxland. What is happening in the Bankstown municipality is a classic example of what is going on in the outer suburbs of all our cities. In Bankstown, there arc 134,500 people in four wards. Even when loan funds were coming forward in the amounts required by the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board, it was acknowledged that many areas would not be serviced for ten years. In one ward there are 3”, 000 people, and under present conditions there is no possibility of that area being sewered for 25 years, unless some radical change is made. It is of no use for the Government to spend all the money it is spending on health, if breeding grounds of disease and ill health remain under our noses. In those areas there are schools attended by more than 1,000 children, each requiring up to 100 sanitary services weekly. Nobody need have any doubt about what happens when some germ strikes in that area. In making this plea, I am not working the parish pump ; it is a plea in the interests of the future generations of Australians. Let us be big enough to forget the measures that were good enough when Australia had a population of only 4,500,000 people. Let us realize that a small corporate body cannot meet the requirements of these rapidly expanding areas, and let the Australian Loan Council face up to its responsibilities in regard to public health, as allied to national development. There is a great deal of ill-feeling in these areas at present because the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board received about £180,000 more in its last loan than it had asked for but, because of Australian Loan Council policy, it was not allowed to utilize the excess amount, which must be returned. Here is an area threatened with disease and ill health as a result of an outmoded policy which has outlived its usefulness. I propose to read a communication and, for the information of my good friend, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), let me say that it does not emanate from the ranks of my own party but from a progress association which covers every shade of political thought to be found in these new areas. It reads -
The Yagoona Progress Association wishes to draw your attention to the desperate needs of a great number of your constituents in regard to sewerage. We know that you would realize the lack of this necessity, but in view of the recent Sanitary Carters strike we feel we should draw your attention to our plight with the following statistics, and that you should do all in your power to expedite the extensions necessary to give your constituents this convenience which, as a civilized community, should be our birthright. In the area to be served by Duck Creek Fall there are at present 7,500 services by Bankstown council and 1,500 services by Auburn council. In the past twelve months there have been an increase of 1,200 in Bankstown council and 200 in Auburn council. As the Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board has given a ten-year plan to this area, you can see just how many services would be required at the present rate of increase
I pause there to say that this is not a matter which anybody likes to discuss in this House, but it has to be faced. The number of services in the Bankstown municipal area last year, despite the sewerage which was proceeding, rose by almost 1,500. There is a backlog of 1,500 every year in spite of the work that is being done. This constitutes a serious threat to the health of the community. The letter continues -
This area is a new residential one, and the schools in this area are some of the largest of the metropolitan area and will continue to grow as the population increases from both new homes and new families. The size of some of these schools are Regents Park, 900 pupils, Chester Hill, 1,020, Villawood, 600, and are still growing.
To those I may add North Bankstown, with 1,000 pupils, and a new school to be built on the East Hills line, with no fewer than 1,200 pupils. All of these are without facilities for drainage and sewerage. We can no longer talk about the development of Australia, unless there is a connecting link on the top level between the local commitments of municipal councils, water supply and sewerage boards, and the Australian Loan Council. No purpose is served by saying that this is a State matter, because it is not. The Australian Loan Council controls loan funds. This work can only be done with funds provided by the Australian Loan Council. The responsibility for it rests with the Government and the Australian Loan Council.
I put these problems to the House with all the sincerity I possess. I stress the first matter. I plead with the Minister for Social Services, the Prime Minister, and the Government to launch an inquiry immediately into the subject of racketeering in relation to war service homes. I make this plea on behalf of men who are being strangled financially as a result of what is happening. The letter which the Minister has on his file was written by a man who is only one of many who are in the same position.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- My first remark is addressed to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder). I take this opportunity to congratulate you. sir, upon this, your first assumption of the position of Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, and also to congratulate you upon your appointment as Temporary Chairman of Committees. With your very distinguished war record and your outstanding service to the Parliament, I am sure you will add to the dignity of the offices to which you have been appointed. I also take this opportunity to express my appreciation and, I am sure, the appreciation of all honorable members, of His Excellency’s good wishes to us in the discharge of our high and important office in this Parliament. I should like, further, to express to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the other members of the Government, my appreciation of the outstanding work which the Government has performed since 1949. It has led this country from uncertainty and chaos to the greatest prosperity we have ever known. The great task now before us is to maintain that prosperity.
Time will not permit me to deal with the all-important questions of international affairs and defence, so I shall devote my remarks this afternoon to the Litter part of His Excellency’s Speech, in which he referred to the economic situation in Australia. First, I should like to warn the people against undue panic. The problems facing Australia today, great as they are, are not the problems of depression, nor are they the problems of an oncoming depression. They are problems which arise essentially from the high prosperity, the high standards of living and, consequently, the high purchasing power of this country.
I have noticed recently statements about the appointment of a committee of economists and leading business and commercial men outside the Parliament to assist and advise the Government on these matters. Although I believe that the Government should seek all the expert advice that is available to it, I want to make it perfectly clear that I think it wouk! be very unwise if the Government were to ignore the advice of the Parliament on those matters. After all, the private member of parliament is the one who is constantly in touch with the people. The people come to him with all their problems. In other words, their problems are canalized through the private member of parliament. Therefore, he is in an excellent position, not only to take a broad view of the problems that exist at any particular time, but also to seek advice on how to work out a solution of those problems. So I trust that, when the Government has informed itself, with the help of these experts, on the economic problems that face us, it will seek the aid and assistance of private members in evolving a plan for a solution of those problems.
As I see the economic problems that face Australia at the moment, they all come back to a question of capital and the question of saving. I do not think I could express the nature of the problems better than by saying there is too much spending and too little saving. When electors come to us and ask about war service homes, we go to the Minister. He tells us that, although the Government is making the greatest appropriation ever made for that purpose, there is no more money available to expedite the acceptance of applications. When we discuss matters of this kind with our colleagues in the State parliaments, they tell us that the State governments cannot build more schools, cannot put in more water retriculation systems and cannot provide more electricity services, because they have not got. enough money. When an elector conies to us and says that he has been waiting for a telephone for a long time, we go to the Postmaster-General. We are told then that telephones are being connected just as fast as money becomes available for that purpose.
Tn any young, developing country, capital is all-important. Capital can come from only two sources - the savings of people overseas which they are prepared to lend to us, or the savings of our own people. I believe that the Australian Government has explored every avenue for raising loans overseas. It has been particularly successful in that respect. It has obtained substantial loans from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as from Switzerland and from other countries. Our ability to get more money from overseas is limited strictly by the amount of money that overseas countries have and are prepared to lend to us. Therefore, if Ave want to maintain or accelerate the rate of our development, it is essential that we save from our own resources.
Let us consider the methods by which additional funds could be made available for capital works. A method suggested recently by a number of economists was to increase taxes and use the additional money derived from taxation either for capital works or to pay off treasury-bills and so bring about a kind of deflation. I do not support that method, because high taxation has a depressing effect upon industry and commerce. It has the effect of slowing down, production. In my opinion, increased taxation would do more harm than good as a method of dealing with the problems with which Australia is faced to-day. Another method of securing loan funds is that of compulsory loans. In my opinion that method is much preferable to taxation for the purpose of securing capital. However, I do not think it is the best way, or the right way, in the present situation.
The third method, which I believe to be the Liberal way of doing it, and the best method, is that of encouraging savings by giving prizes and incentives, by making it profitable for people to save. During its life this Government has almost unknown and unrealized, adopted a quite revolutionary approach to the relationships between government and people. Instead of doing as the socialists would do when they believe a certain course of action is necessary, namely, forcing the people in a certain direction by legislation, the Liberal approach which has been adopted by the Government, is, having decided that a certain objective is desirable, to help the people to help themselves. An instance in that connexion is the national health scheme, which is recognized to be the finest health scheme in the world. The Government has not told the people that they have to insure themselves under the scheme. It has told them that health insurance is a desirable objective, and that if the people will help themselves the Government will help them to help themselves. As a result of subsidized health insurance the great majority of the Australian people to-day have removed from their minds the fear of financial loss resulting from sickness.
I see that the Minister for Social Services (Mr. McMahon) is at the table. I think he will agree that one of the most successful pieces of legislation in the last few years is the act which authorizes the provision of government assistance for the building of homes for the aged, under which the Government provides a fl-for- £1 subsidy to charitable institutions which build such homes. The result of that legislation has been that people have readily and willingly subscribed money to charity, and that to-day more than twice the number of aged people are housed than was the case only two years ago. I believe the same sort of approach should be adopted by the Government, in order to meet our economic problem, as it has adopted in relation to health insurance and homes for the aged. The Government should declare, first, that if we are to develop our country at the present rate we must have more capital. That is more or less an accepted fact. To have more capita] means that we must have more savings. The Government should declare that it. will take steps to help the people and encourage them to save. The most successful method, in my opinion, and one which has been used successfully in the past, is to encourage people to take out more life assurance which, after all, is only a method of saving. At the present time the Government encourages people to take out life assurance by allowing as a permissible deduction for tax purposes insurance premiums up to £200 a year. Say, for example, the Government decided to increase that allowable deduction to £300; and say, that 500,000 people, realizing that they could save by the act of insuring their lives to a greater extent than previously, each agreed to invest an additional £100 in life assurance. Half a million people each investing another £100 a year in life assurance would bring in an additional £50,000,000 in in-come to the insurance companies, and that income would pass from them into investment in government bonds, and would go a long way towards providing finance for capital works for the States and the Commonwealth. In addition to that, I suggest that the Government should make it perfectly clear that saving is a desirable object. It might even go so far as to say that for the next two or three years anybody who saves £100 or puts that amount into government bonds will either get the benefit of an allowable tax deduction for that amount of saving or, alternatively, that the saving will be subsidized by the Government in the same way as insurance premiums under the health scheme are subsidized.
Another avenue of saving which has been demanding action for many years is the establishment of a contributory scheme of national insurance free of means test, in order to provide retiring allowances to people in their old agc. Years ago, I stressed, over and over again in this House, perhaps to a nauseating degree, the public demand for a scheme of retiring allowances free of means test. I pointed out then that if something were not done in that direction people would not save, because the means test is a penalty on thrift. To-day, all over Australia, people are saying, ““We must have more capital and more savings “. The reason why we have not more capital and more savings is that all governments in the past have penalized the thrifty person instead of encouraging him to do what is essential for the welfare of this country - that is, to save.
As I said at the opening of my remarks, there is no need for panic. We are proud of our rate of development in Australia, but we shall see it come to a fairly abrupt termination unless something is done to overcome the shortage of capital. It is no good saying that we want more telephones, more war service homes, more roads and reservoirs. Of course we do ! But Ave cannot consume all our incomes and also have the savings necessary to supply those capital goods. T believe that the people would be prepared willingly to cut down their consumption of goods by, say, 10 per cent., if they knew that the money so saved would provide them with a retiring allowance in their old age, or with government help in building up their capital resources. In other words, if the whole economic approach to the people could be expressed in the words, “We shall give prizes to the thrifty. We shall not penalize them, as governments in the past have done “, then I believe we would have an entirely different reaction on the part of the people to the manifest desirability of saving. At present it is commonplace in many industries, on occasions when employers offer their employees superannuation schemes subsidized on a 50-50 basis, for the employees to refuse with the words, “ That is no good to us. If we get superannuation when we retire, we shall lose our pensions “. In other words, the whole attitude of governments of the past has been to treat the thrifty person as a villain and thus destroy the very desire to save which it is essential that the people have if we are to develop this great country.
I believe that the solution of our economic problem is quite simple. It rests in the hands of the people themselves. If the people will spend a little less, and save a little more, we can go ahead with all our loan works, we can go ahead with the great development that is so essential to us, and we shall continue to have in this country the highest standard of living in the world and the happiest and most prosperous people.
.- Like the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), I wish to congratulate you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker (Mr. Falkinder), on your occupancy of the chair. I think that this is the first time I have seen you occupy that very eminent position, and, so far, you have graced it most admirably. I shall be able to confirm, or possibly to revise, that impression after I see how you treat me during the course of my remarks.
We are dealing with the Addressin.Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. That Speech had much, in common with similar speeches on the occasions of the opening of former Parliaments in that it left more unsaid than it said. But there are a number of things in the Speech which are left unsaid that I would very much prefer to have been said. A number of things have been stated regarding the Government’s intention which, frankly, I do not admit as being of sufficient importance to warrant their inclusion in the Governor-General’s Speech.
The Governor-General was good enough to refer to the fact that it was the Government’s intention to do something about settling the unsatisfactory relations between this House and another place, because of the change in numbers which will take place in the other place from the 1st July. I do not consider that the adjustment of the relationship between the two Houses to be nearly so important as the adjustment of the relations between the Commonwealth and the State governments. Unfortunately, no reference was made to that matter in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech.
In 1949 this Government, led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made much of the fact that something had to be done to straighten out the chaotic conditions which prevailed in this country as a result of the ill-defined powers of the Commonwealth and the States. In the past six years, because of this position, both this Government and the State governments have developed, to a great degree, the habit of getting out from under, of passing the buck, of leaving anything undone that could have been done by either government on the excuse that it was the other fellow’s responsibility. That position is unsatisfactory. As long as it continues, this nation will suffer. I believe that it is the responsibility of this Government and the responsibility of this House to take the lead urgently in calling a conference with a view to straightening out this very unsatisfactory position. I agree with one of my colleagues who has mentioned the lack of co-operation between the parties. I agree that there is a lack of cooperation. There has been a definite indication of a tendency on the part of the Labour party, for instance, not to co-operate in tentative suggestions that have been submitted to it.
This is a subject on which the parties must sink their political differences. I appeal to the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), to whom reference was made earlier this day by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), to exercise the co-operative tendencies which he professed to have in a publication which he distributed free of charge, although the price of 6d. was shown on it. I appeal to him to exercise that spirit of co-operation to bring an end to the existing tragic circumstances in this country whereby so much is left undone that should be done, on the pretext, first by the Commonwealth that it is a State responsibility - and correctly so - and secondly by the States that after all is said and done, they cannot do anything about the matter because the Commonwealth has to do something about it by providing the wherewithal.
I have been privileged to hear some excellent speeches by new members in this opening session of the Twentysecond Parliament. But we have a repetition and misunderstanding of the position. Appeals have been made to the Commonwealth to provide more money for education. I suggest to honorable members who make that appeal that they should look at the position in a plain, commonsense light. Of course, the States want, more money for education ! The States want more money for everything. But I suggest that honorable members should apply their own personal practices in connexion with this matter. Are they in the habit of handing out, willy-nilly, huge sums of money to anybody to spend without any control over it whatsoever? The Commonwealth. as a nationally responsible body, must develop the samp commonsense practice. To hand over to the States X million pounds without any indication by the States of the method by which that money will be spent would be just foolish and irresponsible. There is no necessity for the States to deprive themselves of any powers in connexion with this matter, but there is a necessity on the part of the States to trust the Commonwealth, and there is a necessity for the Commonwealth to trust the States. It can be done by mutual-
– Let us abolish the States.
– That is a silly sort of remark. “Let us abolish the States”, says the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin). What a mess there would be! Imagine Canberra, because there would be no State administration in Western Australia, deciding whether a school should be built at a little place called Gobblegutten and what type of school it should be ! How foolish and how silly it is to say, “Let us abolish the States “ ! I suggest that one of the most urgent needs that face this Government and this Parliament is the calling of a constitutional conference. “We have spoken about it in the past, we are talking about it now, and unless we continue to speak about it . on all sides of the House, we shall be speaking about it years hence, and, in the meantime, conditions will become worse and worse. Let us try to close the existing gaps by making a satisfactory arrangement between the Commonwealth and the States.
According to newspaper reports, the Prime Minister himself, at a partyconference held in Canberra, made reference to the unsatisfactory position existing between the Commonwealth and the States. The matter is also mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech, as follows : -
The direct powers of the Commonwealth ure both limited and sketchy.
Addressing himself to the unsatisfactory definition of powers, particularly in regard to industrial matters, the Prime Minister was reported on the 6th February as having said that he did not believe that sweeping constitutional changes were the only things by which uniform policy could be achieved. Divisions of powers and authority under our federal system were one of the great safeguards of democracy because balanced use of powers prevented abuse of powers. I suggest, with all respect and due humility to our Prime Minister, that he said too much or too little on that occasion. I feel somewhat disappointed that he did not amplify what he said. I agree that the federal system is the only system which can work satisfactorily in this country, but our system was devised nearly 60 years ago. Since then, conditions have changed considerably and some alteration is vitally necessary. I agree that there has to be a diffusion of powers between the Commonwealth and States if we are to maintain a real, true democracy and avoid, as the Prime Minister suggests, abuse of power. That does not mean to say that there should not be a better definition of the powers, and an arrangement or agreement as to whose powers they are and who will be responsible for exercising them. The technical position that exists in this country is that this Government - this Parliament, in the end - is responsible for the economic welfare of the country. Yet it has not the power to do a darn thing about the matter, except indirectly. It is within the power of any individual State government to nullify and negative any direct action taken by the Government and by this Parliament for the benefit of the nation as a whole and for the sake of its economic prosperity and development. That situation cannot be allowed to continue, and I hope the Prime Minister will either amplify what he has said or, in respect of the relations between the Commonwealth and the States, do the things that the people of Australia are crying out to have done. If there is one thing the Government can do and for which it would go down in the annals of history as a government that had achieved something, it is at least to attempt to clarify the relations between the Commonwealth and the States. So far, we have done nothing in that field.
Another matter to which reference has been made during this debate, and which I should like to mention, is the reconstruction of the Ministry. Let me make it perfectly clear that what I am about to say is not intended as a reflection upon any member of the Ministry, whether in the Cabinet or not. I have the greatest respect for all Ministers and their personal attributes and capacities. To those who have been newly appointed to the Ministry, and to those who have been elevated to the eminence of the Cabinet, I extend my hearty congratulations, t do not criticize the increase of the number of Ministers from twenty to 22, because I have no knowledge of the extent of their duties. I can only look on from the outside. I should say that, in the past, every Minister has been very much overworked, and I am sure that, in the future, the larger Ministry will be very much overworked. Therefore, I have no quibble about the number of Ministers.
In considering the reconstruction of the Cabinet, I am somewhat alarmed by the fact that the Ministers who control what seem to be the most important departments have not been included in the Cabinet. For instance, it will not include the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), the Minister . for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson), the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne), the Minister for Social Services designate (Mr. Roberton), the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Fairhall) and the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale). I am not concerned about any of the Ministers as persons, but I am concerned about the absence from the Cabinet of the Minister for Repatriation, the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Services. The departments administered by those three Ministers control more than onethird of the budget expenditure. I think about £340,000,000 is the estimated expenditure on social services and war and repatriation services for the current financial year. Surely the three Ministers that I have mentioned are of sufficient importance to be included in a policymaking Cabinet, if only for the reason that the expenditure controlled by them is directly governed by revenue raised. If the Cabinet is to be charged with the responsibility for formulating Commonwealth policy - and that policy will naturally include the raising of revenue and the control of the economy - the Cabinet must be charged also with the responsibility for expenditure. I do not see how it can have one responsibility without the other. Certainly, as I understand the Prime Minister’s explanation, it is intended that Ministers not in the Cabinet will be called into conference with the Cabinet when matters affecting their departments are under consideration.
Surely the Minister for Repatriation, :he Minister for Social Services, and the Minister for Health, who administer departments that are so vital to Australian economy, must be equally concerned when the Cabinet is discussing proposals for raising revenue by taxation, because the expenditure of their departments relates directly to the amount of revenue to be raised and the means by which it is to be obtained. It is of no use for those Ministers to propose increases, reductions or the maintenance of existing benefits, unless they are aware of and are able to participate in discussion: relating to the raising of revenue. It is of tremendous importance that the Ministers in charge of the department? that control these services should participate in those policy discussions. Because those services are of great importance in our national economy and in the consideration of national affairs in this Parliament, those Ministers should be included in the Cabinet. I ask honorable members to recall the questions raised in the debates in this House. They will find that the subjects most often discussed, and apparently of the greatest concern to honorable members, are those with which the departments administered by the Minister for Repatriation, the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Health are concerned. Social services include pensions and many other benefits, and the question of pension benefits has been a major factor in two general elections at least, because the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) attempted to bribe the electors, in order to get them to return him to office, by promising to increase pensions by the use of fictitious money.
– How was he going t,n pay for his proposals?
– He would have printed more treasury-bills. Such a proposal is a policy matter, and would have to be discussed in Cabinet.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
– I mention that matter, with all due respect to my friend from Kingsford-Smith, to indicate the tremendous importance of the Department of Social Services alone in the eyes of honorable members and of the people. The people did not ask .for the great additional benefits that the Leader of the Opposition so generously promised to put on their plates, and they did not ask him to set himself up as the new auctioneer for the buying and selling of votes. Nevertheless, they interested themselves in the proposal at least to the extent that they rejected the right honorable gentleman’s offer. Surely the important Ministers thatI have mentioned should be in the Cabinet. When they make statements or reply to questions in the Parliament, they refer not merely to the administration of their departments but also to policy matters in which they, as Ministers in charge of the departments concerned, should have some say.
– What about the Department of Primary Industry?
– I am coming to that. I wish to refer also the the exclusion from the Cabinet of the Minister for Primary Industry. No one would suggest for a moment at this stage, although so many people are attempting to turn Australia into a country of secondary industries, that we have attained such a degree of independence from the efforts of the primary producers as to permit the Government to hold its thumb to its nose when it has discussions with the primary producers. The primary industries are not only the backbone but also the very stomach of Australia.
– And the brains.
– That is quite correct. The secondary industries are appendages. Some of them are useful and some are useless, but all are something of a drag on the backbone and stomach. Surely the very guts of Australia should be included in a policy-making cabinet. It cannot be denied that, when it comes to policymaking, one cannot ignore the primary industries and the interests of those engaged in them. They are of vital concern to Australia. I believe that because of that importance, the Minister for Primary Industry should be included in the Cabinet. Consider what the primary industries contribute to the national revenue by way of taxation, and compare it with what comes from other sections of the community. Such questions as the state of primary industry, what contribution must be made by primary industry, and indeed, everything related to primary industry must be taken into consideration, and discussed. There is no avenue in which the Government can act and in which primary industries do not play some part. This means that, in almost every discussion on policy which takes place in Cabinet, in all discussions on matters of government policy, the primary industries are concerned, and the Minister charged with the welfare of those industries, and the sponsoring of their interests, is surely one man who should have a place in the Cabinet.
– Nobody should be out of it.
– I agree with the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who says that no Minister should be out of the Cabinet, because all departments are so completely interrelated.
That brings me to my next point, which is the need for a clear understanding by everybody of the particular responsibilities of each Minister. In the past, it has been the practice - it is almost legally compelling - for the responsibilities of Ministers to be defined by what is known as an Administrative Arrangements Order. So important is this Administrative Arrangements Order that the Public Accounts Committee held an investigation into it a few years ago. That committee found that although some difference of opinion existed about the meaning of this Administrative Arrangements Order, there was a definite importance and legal significance attachedto it. The following is a summary of the conclusions of the committee as published in its report for the year 1952-53 -
That report was presented in 1953, but, unfortunately, the outdated and outmoded Administrative Arrangements Order which existed then is still in operation. It has not been adjusted. In order that honorable members, the Parliament and the public generally may clearly understand who is responsible for the administration of the various acts of Parliament, I believe that it is imperatively necessary, apart altogether from any legal implications, for an up-to-date Administrative Arrangements Order to be prepared, gazetted and circulated almost within hours. Further, it is necessary that arrangements be made to ensure that the order shall be kept up to date in future, and that it shall be altered and modified according to requirements.
Another urgent requirement that I should have liked to see mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech relates to the Audit Act. I understand that amendments to the Audit Act have been prepared by the former Auditor-General, Mr Brophy. They are with the Treasury. They are of urgent importance, and I believe they should be introduced at the earliest possible stage.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence) . - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am deeply indebted to the very intelligent electors of the division of Griffith, in Queensland, for returning me to act as their spokesman in this, the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. Notwithstanding the efforts that were made by members of the Government to persuade the people of Griffith to cast an unintelligent vote, I am delighted to know that they were not swayed by the charms of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who charmed the elder gentlemen of another chamber yesterday.
I have in mind the most important function that this Parliament has yet performed. I refer to the opening by the Governor-General, on “Wednesday of last week, when we were treated to the spectacle of a procession of wigs, buckled shoes and all the other things related to medieval pageantry. Of course, the Speech delivered by His Excellency was prepared by his advisers, and, to my mind, the most important feature of it was Hi3 Excellency’s reference to the position that exists as between the upper chamber and this House of Representatives. Here let me emphasize that I make these comments in complete charity. The Governor-General, on the advice of his advisers, has decided to have an all-party committee so that any possible differences which may arise may be dealt with and ironed out on an all-party basis.
Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, I speak today not as a good parliamentarian, but as a good, honest member of the Australian Labour party, and I am not prepared to subscribe to the proposition that anything should be done to make for harmonious working as between the Senate and the House of Representatives. I sincerely subscribe to the belief that the Senate should be abolished. Only a few hours ago, I heard the very highly respected Prime Minister of New Zealand speak within the walls of this building. He reminded us that he struck a blow for democracy some two or three years ago when his government abolished the legislative council, which was the equivalent in New Zealand of the Senate here. I gather from the newspapers and from Mr. Holland’s speech that the dominion of New Zealand has not suffered because of that excellent move.
As 1 look to my left, I see my political godfather in this place and my friend, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson). He was a member of what I am pleased to say is the now defunct Legislative Council of Queensland. He was a member of what the tory press was pleased to call “ the suicide squad “. He was appointed to that rest.ingplace of elderly gentlemen who were there to stifle the voice of the people. He was appointed specifically for the purpose of helping to abolish the Legislative Council. He was honest enough to record his vote in the right way at the proper time in 1922, with the result that that chamber has been consigned to political oblivion. Queensland, the sunny State of the north, leads the other States of the Commonwealth in political development, thanks to men like the honorable member for Brisbane. I am confident that on analysis it would be found that all intelligent members of this Parliament, particularly those of this chamber, are prepared to admit that the Senate is completely obsolescent.
On the 10th December, 1955 - two months or so ago - an election was held. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) led the Government parties to the country and was returned with an overwhelming majority. The combined Liberal party and Australian Country party representation in this Parliament now exceeds that of the Labour party by 28. It was an overwhelming victory; but it is ti tragedy, and a denial of democracy that, notwithstanding that the Prime Minister has won a resounding victory in the House of Representatives, in another place, where there is a peculiar form of election - proportional representation - he will, as from the 1st July, be in danger of defeat.
I feel that when the people have voted for a particular government, even though I have opposed it to the best of my ability - and successfully, in my own electorate - democracy demands that that government shall be permitted to govern, and to be responsible. The tragedy of the situation is that the Government has won the election but cannot govern because of the peculiar system of election of members in another place. I made a survey of the election results within a week or two of the election and found that, in New South Wales, the Communist party candidates for the Senate, merely because they held the first position on the ballot-paper, received an overwhelming number of votes. Under proportional representation it would be possible for the Communists, given the same position on the ballot-paper, to have a representative in the Senate. The splinter group in Victoria, which calls itself the Australian Labour party (AntiCommunist), will, after the 30th June, have a representative in the Senate. The position could deteriorate and the democratic principle of government by majority could be absolutely denied. I hope that during the all-party conference which the Governor-General has said will take place, no effort will be made to continue the present system of election to the Senate. One -cannot help recalling that His Excellency said last year also that a conference on constitutional reform would take place, and that it did not. As a democrat, I believe that if a government is elected, it should be per mitted to govern. None of us know what the Prime Minister’s suggestions are, because he is the arch expert at concealing his mind from the people. In December last, he was successful in winning the elections though he gave the people no promises. I have before me some cuttings from the Courier-Mail, the principal newspaper in Brisbane. They reveal that no undertaking was given by the Prime Minister in his speech in Melbourne, and that he merely sought endorsement of his economic policy. He said that he intended to deal with problems, as they arose, and in the maimer in which they had been dealt with in the past. That appeared to be the only issue involved at the election. One must certainly admit that the Prime Minister has received the endorsement of the people in this regard.
I feel that in this debate on the Address-in-Reply I follow up some observations that I made when I appeared in Queensland on one or two occasions with my leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) who has, incidentally, again been elected to that position by an overwhelming majority. The election campaign in which I took part was not fought on a smear basis, as was that of the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), but on a basis that was very fair and democratic. On every occasion on which I made a speech I made an issue of trade, as I did in this House before the elections. 1 must say that the people of Queensland, and Brisbane in particular, appeared to be interested in the situation because, with my leader, I addressed very large meetings in the City of Brisbane. Queensland makes a notable contribution to the export income of the Commonwealth. Sugar, beef, dairy products and the like are exported from that State in very large quantities.
The nation must continue to promote the production of exportable goods. There are on the other side of the chamber honorable members who, if they support the policy enunciated by the Prime Minister on the 2’7th September in this chamber, will agree with me that Queensland is possibly the only State in the Commonwealth which is producing export goods in sufficient quantity to provide the income that the nation requires. The Prime Minister Said that he was alarmed at the deterioration in Australia’s trade. He gave an undertaking that by the 30th June. .1 0 .3 6, he would effect a balance in our overseas trade. As a result of that announcement there lias been a severe restriction of imports. The Prime Minister announced that a deficit of £256,000,000 had to be made up within a year. Import restrictions were imposed, and the Prime Minister told us that many conferences were held with traders, bankers and business people, so that they might advise him, on the line he should follow in order to attain economic stability for the country. With the return of the Treasurer at the end of December, we found that we were nor, proceeding so very well along the road towards the attainment of economic stability and a favorable balance of trade. We are still very much behind, and we are importing far more than we are exporting. From time to time I have advocated the promotion of a policy of producing to export, because Australia is among the great trading nations of the world. I was pleased when, after the general election, the Prime Minister announced the appointment of a Minister for Trade and the establishment of a Department of Trade, in an effort, I sincerely hope, to promote trade with other countries. If honorable members peruse the greencovered document dealing with overseas trade, issued by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, they will ascertain that the situation is far from happy. Our principal customer at, present is Great Britain, but Great Britain is not as good a customer to-day as it was twelve months ago, and is still less important than it was two years ago. Trade with Great Britain is sadly deteriorating and, according to the newspapers, the internal economic position of Great Britain is very unsatisfactory. If we are searching for trade, we must go to fresh fields and pastures new. We must improve our trading position with other countries. I am. guided by newspapers such as the Brisbane Courier-Mail and the Sydney Morning Herald, which might, of course, be misleading me as so many orv papers do, but for the present I am prepared to accept the observations which they have made. The situation in Great Britain is deteriorating; it is going from bad to worse. To improve our export, trade we must look to other countries. I have made this point before, and I shall make it again, hoping that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) may - I make this observation very humbly - read my remarks and take some notice of them. Adjacent to our coastline are countries which contain the greatest density of population in the world. I refer to the Far East. We must do all that is humanly possible to create good feeling with those countries so that we may sell our products to them. The Government imposed a restraint on trade in the early stages of this financial year.
Air. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER. - Order ! There is too much noise on the front ministerial bench.
– In October the Government imposed even greater import restrictions, but the position has not materially improved, so it would appear that Ave are to experience the imposition of even harsher import restrictions. It is all very well for us to restrict imports, but as a Government supporter said, in the course of one of the excellent maiden speeches delivered last night by new members, the manufacturing industries of Australia are responsible for the importation of 60 per cent, of the goods entering the Commonwealth. If we restrict our trade any further,, we shall be restricting the goods that come here for processing by what we call the secondary industrial undertakings, and this will mean a restriction of the production or processing of goods within the Commonwealth.
What, must we do to meet that situation? I suggest, in humility, that we must produce within the Commonwealth the goods which are being imported. I am reminded by the Queensland Department of Agriculture that it has established, as a result of very close investigations, that it is possible to produce in Queensland two commodities which count very largely in our trade deficit. As you know, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, Australia is the greatest tea-drinking country in the world. Here is an avenue by which Queensland may be given the opportunity to correct the unfavorable position in relation to trade. Quite recently in Canberra I had the privilege of meeting an employee of a tea company who had worked in Ceylon for many years. He had been in Queensland as the guest of the Queensland Government to inquire into the ability of that State to produce tea. After he had made his report to the Queensland Government, he told me that an area north of Mackay, a place 1 shall be in nest week, is capable of producing tea of the best quality in the world. He also said that, from the economic point of view, taking into consideration the hilly nature of Ceylon, the fiat terrain of the area that he had surveyed, and mechanical picking, the Queensland area could produce tea comparable with that of Ceylon. As honorable members know, Australia spends many millions of pounds a year on importing tea. Although I could continue for some considerable time, these must be my concluding remarks because the period allotted to me is about to expire. If the Australian Government desires to do something to meet the position in regard to the balance of trade, if it desires to promote internal production, the earliest immediate step that it can take is to promote the growing of tea in Australia and assist the Queensland Government in the development of the tea-growing industry. Every one of us knows that this is a most important industry, at the moment unfortunately only on the distribution side. Something should be done to promote tea-growing in Queensland, to the benefit of the Commonwealth of Australia.
– Order ! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I congratulate you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, on your elevation to your present height, even if it is only in an acting capacity. It is very pleasant indeed to hear your melodious . voice sounding through the chamber. I congratulate you also upon having achieved the ambition of every private member. A few moments ago, from an impregnable position, you were able to chastise a couple of Ministers. That must have given you great satisfaction.
The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), in his opening remarks, stated what has been the policy of the Labour party for many years. He said that he, anyhow, believed that the Senate should be abolished. He referred to the time when the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) was a member of a suicide squad in Queensland. Then he went on to say how regrettable it was that this Government would not have control of the Senate after the end of the present financial year. Having listened to the honorable member’s brave words to-day, I shall listen carefully to what he says when this Government is not in control of the upper chamber. 1 am not a betting man, but I should be willing to bet a few bob that he would not find many supporters for his policy then, either among present Labour senators or among those who take their seats after the end of the financial year. Although members of the Labour party are pledged to a policy of abolition of the Senate, many Labour senators showed a marked reluctance to implement that policy when Labour had control of the Senate. In that respect, they differ from the honorable member for Brisbane, who performed his task. We shall watch with interest to see what Labour does to abolish the Senate when it has the opportunity to do so.
There is one part of Labour’s policy which is being vigorously advocated today. It is causing me great concern, and I believe it should cause concern to the people of Australia generally. I refer to the gradual drift from the federal system. I ascribe that drift largely to the fact that the Labour party, in co-operation with other socialistic movements in the community, has been preaching a policy of unification continually for a period of years. As a result of those activities, the people of Australia are turning from the federal system towards the unified system, which is Labour’s aim and objective. .1 believe that nothing would be more calamitous to the Australian nation than to discard the federal system. Let us improve it, if we can. But Labour does nothing to promote the welfare of Australia by preaching the stupid creed of unification. The Labour party has not accepted the defeat that it suffered at the “ powers “ referendum. Every time this proposition has been put before the Australian people, they have rejected it wholeheartedly, but Labour persists in its insidious endeavours to undermine and then to destroy the federal system in order to set up in its place a Communist regime, with one government in complete control of the country. Every member of the Labour party is pledged to a policy of destroying the federal system. [Quorum formed.’] The work that Labour has been doing to cause a breakdown of the federal system may eventually do much harm to the Australian nation. When I say that, I refer to the Labour party as a whole.
A part of the drive to destroy the federal system is being carried on by various State Labour governments. They have been trying to destroy the faith of the people in the federal system. In Queensland, the Premier and the State Treasurer continually wail and whine about what they allege to be the inadequacy of the funds provided for Queensland by the Commonwealth. There is a continual wail and whine from them, hut there is no truth in what they say. During the short period that the Menzies Government has been in office, the Queensland Government has been able to salt away about £26,000,000. It has been able to put that money in the kitty. Yet, knowing that they have that money in hand, the Premier and the Treasurer of Queensland deliberately say that the Commonwealth is starving Queensland of money, and that they cannot get enough money for this or that project. They know that the Queensland Government has a surplus each year. Towards the end of each financial year, they go out of their way to spend money here and there. They throw money away with both hands, like a drunken sailor. They try to get rid of it to help their election chances.
In every State where Labour is in power, that government, betraying its trust to govern the State properly, seeks to undermine and destroy the federal system. As political parties, we must face this problem. Are we to have a federal system in Australia, or are we to move towards what is, after all, the Communist objective - that is, one government in complete control of the whole of Australia? That is the objective of the Communist party and also of the Labour party. Once again, we see that those two political parties are in complete accord.
The drift towards unification is being helped, probably unwittingly, by businessmen and primary producers who continually come to Canberra with their problems. I have said before, and I say it again now, that as often as people come to Canberra and ask Canberra to decide’ on this or that matter, and as often as Canberra says yes or no to their propositions, so often is power taken from the people and taken unto itself by the Government in Canberra. We must beware of that. Ry acting in that way, those people are playing a part in the destruction of the federal system in this country.
I believe that the federal system would be strengthened considerably by the creation of new States. I think the time for the creation of new States is long overdue. In this matter, I find myself in accord with the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, who wants numerous new States to be created. It seems that the honorable gentleman i3 trying to turn a political somersault. I do not know how he can reconcile his belief in unification and his disbelief in the federal system, which he says is on the way out, with a desire for the creation of new States. However, that is typical of the cross and double-cross that we have got so often from Labour supporters during the last six years. We do not try to follow them in their tortuous arguments now.
I firmly believe that the federal system would be strengthened considerably by the creation of new States, particularly in Queensland. I believe that Queensland should be divided into a northern state, a central state and a southern state. If that, were done, the people living in each of those areas-the people with special knowledge of the areas - would have the right to govern them. They would be able to control their own affairs then, but now their affairs are controlled by a State government which is dominated by Brisbane interests. At present, we have the spectacle of a government in Brisbane governing parts of Queensland that are 1.000 miles distant from that city. Similar considerations apply to 2Vew South Wales, where the selfish interests of a Labour government, predominantly controlled by city interests, dominate country interests, of which the Government has no knowledge.
I believe that the time has come for existing States, and new States, if created, to accept responsibility, not only for accounting for every penny of the money that they spend, but also for raising money. There is nothing more stupid in modern political history than the fact that State governments, which have no responsibility for raising money, are trying to destroy the federal system by blaming the Commonwealth for not giving them something which they already have. That sounds very Irish, but that is the present state of mind of the Labour governments in the States. This is a problem which I believe the proposed committee to review the Constitution might well examine. It might help us to overcome the difficulties apparent in our federal system, and give the people an opportunity to decide now, before the drift goes too far, whether they want a federal system or the Communist-Labour objective of unification. There exists in Australia a great need, as the GovernorGeneral pointed out in his Speech, for intelligent co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States, and between employees and employers. I believe that such co-operation should exist, particularly between the State governments and the Australian Government. The approach to our problems should not be one-sided. The States boast about their sovereign powers, yet when the State Premiers come to Canberra all they want is more sovereigns. That is a pretty silly sort of a way to try to govern a country, with State governments having no responsibility, but being hungry for more money which, when they get it, they spend as a drunken sailor would spend it. So we must, somehow or other, achieve a state of affairs in which the Premiers come to Canberra to deal with the Commonwealth, not from their own selfish standpoint, not looking towards the next election, but looking to the future welfare of Australia.
A great deal remains to be done in this country, but it will be done only as a result of intelligent co-operation between the various forms of government in Australia.
There must also be a greater degree of co-operation between the Australian community generally and the Australian Government. There are only three possibilities to this. If we do not have cooperation we face the alternatives of chaos or controls. The socialists believe in controls. The present Government believe? in co-operation, the alternative to which is chaos. So there is a need for co-operation between the various forms of business activity in Australia. There is room also for more co-operation between governments in Australia and between employers and employees. If relationships in industry are to be strengthened - and I believe that they can be strengthened - then, first of all, the Labour party has to drop its hymn of hate and its hymn of class distinction in Australia. The sooner the Labour party does so, and drops its hymn which runs “ Hate the employer. You must regard him as an enemy and must not help him “, the better off we shall be as a nation, and the sooner will Labour start to achieve something in the way of helping to save Australia. Labour’s role, which we have seen it play in this chamber, and on the hustings, is to sing a hymn of hate in an effort to sow in the minds of the people the idea that there is class distinction in this country when, in reality, there is no class distinction here. We have the most democratically minded people here in the world. Yet the Labour party has subsisted for years on its creed of class hatred and class consciousness. This is an unreal and pseudo creed which does not serve the good of Australia.
T believe that the Labour party will have a great deal to answer for when the history of this generation is written, and people can look at it in retrospect and in perspective, for the doctrine of hate that it has been pouring into the minds of the people for so long.
There is room also, and I acknowledge it, for greater earnestness on the part of employers. I have listened at times to employers complaining that they cannot get the proper amount of work out of their men, but next day one can see them playing bowls while their workers are on the job. That sort of thing also has to stop. We must have an intelligent approach by both sections in industry in order to achieve the nation-wide co-operation that is required in these times. Australia is facing a very difficult time, and we must realize that the deeds of political parties, individuals,” business concerns and all groups in the community should be measured, not by What a small section of the community will gain from them, but by how much benefit the nation as a whole will gain, or bow much harm the nation as a whole will suffer, as a result of those deeds, because benefit to an individual must not be allowed to cause harm to the Commonwealth as a whole.
Australia has immense, and largely untapped and unknown, mineral resources in a world which is rapidly overtaking the present apparent sources of supply. A demand for more and more minerals such as copper, zinc, lead, tin and all the other minerals which we take for granted these days, is growing steadily. A wild scramble is starting for raw materials in the mineral field. Recently, I was interested to read a speech by Viscount Bruce in the House of Lords, in which he drew attention to the problem of raw materials. The speech was reported as follows : -
Viscount Bruce of Melbourne drew attention to the seriousness of the raw materials problem looming ahead, but emphasized that the British Empire was in an incomparable position to meet future needs. He advocated as a first step the formation of a competent group which should be given the task of examining the raw materials position in relation to (a) the world, (Z>) the sterling area, and (c) the British Empire. Once these facts had been obtained, the group could go on to survey the Empire’s resources and the possibilities of developing them. The objectives of the proposed survey would be to decide where development would be really economical, and whether it would save us dollars by supplying our own needs or earn us dollars by meeting the unquestioned needs of the U.S.
The report continued -
In view of the importance of the time factor, it was urged that immediate action should be taken by the U.K. Govt, who should at the same time communicate with all the governments of the different parts of the Empire, offering them representation on the group.
I hope that the United Kingdom Government will readily accede to Viscount Bruce’s suggestion and implement it, because there is no way in which we can more readily adjust our falling balances than by the export of minerals. An intelligent survey of our hitherto untapped mineral resources is very much called for, and it is time something was done about it. Viscount Bruce went on to say-
The need for a long-term, co-ordinated approach to the development of the Commonwealth’s mineral resources becomes increasingly acute as world consumption of raw materials continues to expand. There is every reason to anticipate that, irrespective of the temperature of the cold war, the coming year will witness a further substantial increase in the requirements of the United States, which now absorbs over ten times as much copper, lead, zinc and aluminium per capita, as the average throughout the rest of the world. The ever-growing United States demand on available mineral supplies is likely to be paralleled by an even greater increase in the Commonwealth’s own needs, due not only to industrial expansion in Britain and the dominions but also to the development of backward areas and consequent improvement in living standards.
The time has now come for us to make a more determined, more active and more rapid approach to that problem of our mineral production, so that we may put in hand an extensive survey of our mineral resources, and make use of them in retrieving our balance of trade position. In this respect I believe the mining industry itself can give the Government a greater measure of co-operation by bringing into being a federal secretariat which could co-ordinate activities throughout Australia. I believe that this is urgent because, at the present moment, the mining industries in Australia are not united. They do not speak with one voice, and the Government cannot go to one place, and outside of a government department get all the information it requires: I hope the time is not far distant when the mining industry in Australia will set up something in the form of a federal secretariat so that it may, in an advisory capacity, help this Government to achieve the benefit of those resources which at the present moment are not being developed to their full extent. An intelligent approach must be made to these problems.
In the past, the Government has endeavoured to help these industries. My mind goes to the help that the Government has tried to give to the development of our pyrites industry. Various mines throughout Australia are producing iron pyrites, or copper pyrites, which could be used and which, I believe, should be used in the production of sulphuric acid in order to serve Australia. As a parliament, we passed a bill to provide taxation relief for the industry. Then, following a Tariff Board report, the Government introduced the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Bill, which is now being implemented. However, I regret to say that it is not being used for the full development of the pyrites resources within Australia, and I believe it is time that the Government took a real look at this problem. I do not think that the sulphuric acid manufacturers have been altogether co-operative in this regard.
– What about the pyrites at Mount Morgan?
– I think that there are S,000,000 tons of pyrites readily available at Mount Morgan, which should be used. The ore has about 56 per cent, pyritic content. At present, the sales from Mount Morgan, so far from increasing, are decreasing. Instead of more orders coming in, orders are being cancelled. There is a deposit of 8,000,000 tons of pyrites which could be used, but which is not being utilized because the Sulphuric Acid Bounty Act has not brought about the result that we desired.
– An immense works was started in South Australia recently.
– I agree. But, to a great degree, the pyritic sulphur used in Australia is brought from abroad. I am talking over-all. Last financial year, we imported nearly 4,000,000 cwt. of free sulphur, or brimstone, from the United States of America and spent nearly £A. 3, 000,000 on it, at the same time as the pyrites in South Australia were being used.
– I was at the works only a few weeks ago.
– There are other works. We want to see the full utilization of pyrites in Australia, and it can only come about if there is an intelligent approach by the Government and the acid manufacturers. Whilst it is true that the manufacturers have converted their plants to produce 60 per cent, of their sulphur from pyrites, in reality they are only producing about 27 per cent. If, suddenly, disaster were to overtake the world and our means of communication were cut with the United States of America, from which we obtain, in the main, our free brimstone and sulphur, Australia would be placed in a parlous condition in procuring sulphuric acid. It would not be possible to solve the problem by suddenly deciding to take pyrites from Mount Morgan, and tee up the necessary transport around the coast to the various sulphuric acid plants. The preparations entail a programme extending over at least two years. If disaster suddenly comes to us, we shall, for two years, have a shortage of sulphur, a shortage of superphosphate, and a shortage of sulphuric acid. Apart from the necessity for doing something about the position for security reasons, I believe that we cannot, as a nation, afford to spend millions of dollars on the importation of sulphur when we have in Australia natural supplies of pyrites which could be and should be utilized.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, the story was once told about the young man who murdered his mother and father and then went to the court and pleaded for mercy on the ground that he was an orphan. I often think of that story when I hear the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) at work. He has developed a most extraordinary habit of saying the most violent things against people, and usually they come from Queensland. After having done that, he then puts on a sanctimonious, innocent front and says, “ I could not be guilty of meaning the things that I have stated “, referring to what he has said about the Queensland Government, the Labour party or the organization he may have been attacking.
As a Queenslander, I want to offer my congratulations to the new member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). I sincerely trust that the honorable member will not follow the line of the speaker who has just resumed his seat. I wish him well. It is unfortunate for the Labour party that he was able to beat us at the election, but I wish him well. I wish him good health, and I sincerely trust that when he requires advice from, anybody in this place, he will not go to the honorable member for Capricornia for it. It is unfortunate that such a young, virile man as the honorable member for Capricornia finds it necessary always to be so politically dishonest, so wickedly untruthful and so deliberately insincere. That is what I think of his approach, and, having said so, I will leave my reply to his remarks to a later stage.
The Address-in-Reply debate always produces a considerable number of topics, and this particular debate has not been any exception to the general rule, except that, apart from the speeches of the new members and the speeches that have been made by members on this side of the House, including my own, of course, the debate has been a flop. All that we have heard from other honorable members has concerned something that happened in connexion with the waterfront workers’ strike; or they have asked us to state when the Australian Labour party intends to tell the workers that they must produce more.
– When ?
– This is not new.
– Answer it.
– I shall answer it in a moment. Give me time. Nobody interjected when the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) was speaking this morning. I shall deal, first, with the subject of the waterside workers’ strike, and I shall come at once to the information sought by the honorable member for Mallee. He wanted to know this morning the cost to the nation of the waterside workers’ strike. The question was repeated by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) later in the day, although I do not know how they expect anybody here to give them the answer.
– I did not mention that.
– Wait a minute. The honorable member has made his speech.
– Do not put words into my mouth.
– I am prepared to accept the apology of the honorable member for Mallee and acknowledge that he did not ask the question. The honorable member for Robertson most certainly did ask the question. He dealt with it at great length this afternoon, implying that members of the Opposition were the cause of the waterside workers’ strike.
– We want to know where the Australian Labour party stood.
– I shall tell the honorable member where I stood. I stood squarely behind the waterside workers. The honorable member need have no illusions about where I stood. The honorable member for Robertson asked Opposition members what was the cost of the waterfront strike. I suppose there is no honorable member on this side of the House who is able to state the cost of the strike. The honorable member’s question was not asked in the right place. I ask Government supporters, from both the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, what, was the cost to many thousands of workers of the decision of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to abolish, if not at the Government’s request, at least with its concurrence, the quarterly basic wage adjustments and peg the basic wage for a number of years. That is a fair question. What has the loss of their margins cost the waterside workers? The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) stated last evening that, although the argument between the waterside workers and the employers was about an increase of ls. an hour, the amount of the increase should have been 2s. Id. an hour. What has the loss of that additional ls. Id. an hour cost the waterside workers? Government supporters talk about increased production and defend the employers day in and day out year by year. They always attack the man who works for his living. Did any Government supporter rise in defence of the waterside workers when they lost their margins, and attempt to do something to restore them?
– Does the honorable member nol believe in arbitration?
– The honorable member for Mallee has had his say. Most of the debate seems to be* concentrated on the waterside workers. Government supporters need not think that I am playing up to the waterside workers for their votes. It would not matter a tinker’s curse if every waterside worker in the Herbert electorate voted against me. There are not enough of them to make one iota of difference to the result of a poll there. I believe in justice and arbitration. No honorable member could ever genuinely accuse me of not believing in arbitration. The Waterside Workers Federation approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on nine occasions seeking increased pay, but every application was rejected.
– Why did the Australian Council of Trades Unions dump them?
– I have a more powerful voice than the Minister has, and I am a little closer to him now than I used to be. He will find that he is unable to compete with me. He has had his day so far as I am concerned.
– Why did the Australian Council of Trades Unions dump the waterside workers?
– What it did is its own business. I am not a member of the Australiain Council of Trades Unions, and I do not presume to speak for that organization. All I know is that when the waterside workers went on strike, they struck with the permission of th, Australian Council of Trades Unions, and, when it decided that they should return to work, they returned to work. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) cannot have it both ways. I remind Government supporters, who defend the shipowners, that, on nine occasions, the Waterside Workers Federation approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for increased rates of payment and for increased appearance money. I am aware that many people pooh-pooh the idea of appearance money. I am certain that those people have never had the experience that I have had. My fellow-worker3 and I used te stand at the wharf gates morning and noon in the hope that we might receive an hour’s work. We would travel miles to the wharf, only to be sent home and told to return for the afternoon roll-call. In the afternoon, we would be sent home again and told to return the next morning. That was our experience week in and week out. If ever the more fortunate members who support the Government had had that experience, they would not decry the principle of appearunco money. Nine times the waterside workers approached the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and nine times the shipowners successfully opposed their claims.
– I do not know why. 1 know only that they were successful. When the waterside workers went on strike, the shipowners met them in conference and said, in effect, “ We will agree te pay you 6d. an hour more, because wa believe it to be justified. But we shall noi pay yon more than that. We agree also that increased appearance money is justified “. The honorable member for Mallee, who has now departed from the chamber, asked whether I believed in arbitration. I am a great stickler for arbitration. I served in the Australian Workers Union, which was one of the unions responsible for the development and preservation of arbitration. That union stuck to arbitration, and I was brought up in the atmosphere of arbitration. What are we to think of a court that, on nine consecutive occasions, rejects an application from a union, if, after the men have gone on strike, the bosses say, in effect, “ We do not consider that you are entitled to all you claim, but we agree that you are entitled to half of it.”? Why, in the name of goodness, did the court, in the first place, not grant the men the half of the claim that the shipowners agreed they were entitled to, and why did the shipowners not tell the court that, though they opposed the full claim, they agreed that half the claim was reasonable?
Surely the fact that the shipowners themselves, when the men had struck after nine consecutive failures to obtain satisfaction of their claims before the court, conceded half their claims is proof that they were entitled to something. Yet the court gave them nothing. There seems to be an unfortunate tendency in this House to blame the worker every time an industrial dispute occurs. I have often - and sometimes in this House - castigated the waterside workers, especially when Labouwas in office. I repeat what I said then : The waterside workers never played the game during the term of the Chifley Government. I do not always defend the workers who participate in industrial disputes, but, on this occasion, I must support the waterside workers, because the attitude of the shipowners is proof that the waterside workers were justified in their conduct of the dispute.
I wish to discuss several other matters. I shall deal now with the Cabinet. 1 could not care less who was included m the Cabinet, because Ministers who do not belong to the Australian Labour party will never do any good for Australia. A fantastic situation in connexion with appointments to the Cabinet has now arisen. I do not presume to take from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) his right to appoint to the Cabinet any one he likes. The system adopted by the tory parties is wrong. The Labour party’s system is the only one. Under it, the rank-and-file members of the party have every right to decide who shall go into the Cabinet. Unfortunately for them, the rank-and-file members of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party have been deprived of that right. As I understand it, the Prime Minister selects those of the Liberal party and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) selects those of the Country party who are best suited to guide the destinies of this grand young nation.
I am sorry, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that Mr. Speaker is not in the chair because he was so violently associated with this particular question. Some time ago, the Government decided to appoint parliamentary under-secretaries, or, if you like, assistant Ministers. We remember quite well that Mr. Speaker said that this could not be done, as it was unconstitutional.
– And the Government could not appoint assistant Ministers, because that was unconstitutional.
- Mr. Speaker ruled that because the Constitution was silent about parliamentary under-secretaries, it was unconstitutional to appoint them. We know that he retreated later when the Prime Minister brought a motion before this House. The House decided, by force of Government numbers, that it was desirable to have parliamentary undersecretaries, so Mr. Speaker said, “ The House is the master of its own destinies, and I say no more about that “. With all respect to him, I suggest that Mr. Speaker could easily have stated that anything that was unconstitutional could not be made constitutional by any motion or number of motions in this chamber. But he did not do so. He had got what he wanted. He got notoriety and publicity, and then retreated. So we had a system of parliamentary under-secretaries. Any person would be justified in, and could be forgiven for believing that the Prime Minister and the leader of the Australian Country party selected the cream of their respective parties to be under-secretaries in order that they might be of assistance to Ministers, and be trained in the right school to become fitted to take a place in the Cabinet if a vacancy occurred.
There is nothing political about that remark. Even coming from me, it is pure common sense. But it appears that the surest way of keeping oneself out of Cabinet is to become a parliamentary under-secretary. Although several Cabinets have been selected, and although many vacancies have been filled since the appointment of the under-secretaries, not one under-secretary has been even considered for Cabinet. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Falkinder) woke up quick-smart, and got out from under. He said, “ No, you are not going to make a sucker out of me “. The other gentlemen might have been more conscientious, or they might not have been so far-seeing as the honorable member for Franklin, for they remained undersecretaries and they were left in the middle. I emphasize that I am not belittling, disparaging or even criticizing the Ministers who have been included in the last Cabinet, and I do not want it to be thought by any of the people concerned that I am pushing his barrow when 1 say that in all human fairness, not only to the people who have occupied positions as under-secretaries but also to every member of this Parliament, the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Howse) should most certainly have been in the Cabinet. If they were not considered fit to be in a cabinet, then they should not have been considered fit to be under-secretaries. There we find the great fallacy of the system of under-secretaries under the administration of this Government. 1 read in the newspapers recently that there would be a considerable disturbance when the election of Mr. Speaker took place. The newspapers flew the kite that the issue of the under-secretaries would determine whether Mr. Speaker would remain Mr. Speaker or whether he would be deposed from that high and exalted post. Everybody knew then that there would be no disturbance, that there would be no issue with Mr. Speaker regarding under-secretaries, because the whole thing was as dead as a dodo. I felt sure that no one would be available to take a position as under-secretary. Whether there has been anybody available I do not know, and I care less, but my advice to anybody who is not quite aware of the facts yet is that he had better have a look round. If he wants to keep himself out of Cabinet, he should do his utmost to become an under-secretary.
Tn the few minutes left to me, I wish to refer to a statement made by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) a few evenings ago. That right honorable gentleman took it upon himself, probably acting upon instructions, or with the concurrence of Cabinet or the Prime Minister, to refute a statement that was made by a supporter of the Government in another place. That honorable senator apparently asked a question in another place concerning Dutch New Guinea, and he made some very sincere and provoca- tive remarks in connexion with his question. The Minister for External Affairs apologized to the nation concerned. It was Indonesia. He apologized to Indonesia for the fact that a supporter of the Government in the Senate had said those things about it ! I know I cannot refer to activities in another place, and I do not propose to do so, but I remember the late Mr. Chifley saying that he might violently disagree with something that a person might want to say, but he would fight with the last drop of blood in his body to give him the right to say it. I say now that any person in this Parliament must surely be entitled to say what he likes. I remind those who attack this particular gentleman that they are attacking a grand, loyal soldier, and I appeal to the ex-servicemen on the Government side of the House to support me in this. When it comes to Dr. Soekarno, I remind honorable members that he is the gentleman who sent General To jo, the Prime Minister of Japan, the following telegram in July, 1943: -
On behalf of national freedom, the Indonesian people will fight a life and death struggle together with Japan in order to destroy America. England and the Netherlands. We have the success of Japan in the victory at sea at Taiwan, in the Philippines and in the battle of Layte. May this success bring final victory.
Yet we find the present Minister for External Affairs apologizing for something that was said, not by some irresponsible person outside, but by a responsible member of the Parliament of Australia!
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I feel that there is little in the speech of the honorable member who has just sat down that calls for reply, and perhaps I may be excused if I do not refer to it further. In speaking to the Address-in-Reply there is always a temptation to cover a very wide field. I would like to start by congratulating the new members who have spoken so ably hitherto in this debate. Secondly, ‘I feel that I should go on record in support of the wise and kindly remarks of the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) . I would perhaps have spoken along the same lines myself had it not been that his speech has made it unnecessary for the subject to be further pursued. I would have liked, perhaps, to speak about what is incomparably the most serious and important matter facing this and every other country to-day, namely, the question of atomic disarmament and the incursions of aggressive communism in relation to it, but I thought that, having secured the adjournment of the debate on the statement which the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) made in regard to these issues yesterday, I would reserve my remarks on those topics until later.
I intend, therefore, to concentrate on some of the economic issues which were referred to in Governor-General’s Speech, and which this country has to face in the course of the next few months or, perhaps, the next year. I shall do so with a particular feeling of responsibility. I suppose that I am the only person in Australia who was once an economic adviser to a government and is now a member of a parliament. I can, I suppose, see these things from both sides in a way which those who have not had the benefit of that experience might find impossible. I want to refer to the questions that have been raised in His Excellency’s Speech on this subject. First, although there are some features that give rise to disquiet, there is nothing that need cause any degree of panic. In fact, the thing that we might well fear most is the adoption of remedies too severe and too drastic for the present situation. I want to divide what I am going to say into, first, the short-term problems, and, secondly, the long-term underlying factors which create these short-term problems. The short-term problems are the trouble in regard to the balance of overseas payments, and the correlated tendency of the Australian price and cost levels to rise.
First, it is true that the balance of overseas payments runs strongly against us, and yet, if one looks at the import figures for last year and analyses them in detail one sees that, of the £S47,000,000 worth of imports, no less than £324,000,000 worth consisted of metals, metal manufactures, machines, vehicles and other things of that character which are capital goods. Many of these imports will themselves cause, in later years, a replacement of future imports. They represent capital goods in the hands of the employers, and, with them, workers in Australia will be able to produce real wealth and make locally things which otherwise would have to be imported. I know that that is not true of all of them. I know that the statement that I am making needs to be qualified in detail, but it is impossible, of course, to go into these details within the limits of a short speech. In general, the situation may not be quite as bad on the import, side as it looks because there is, first, scope for a considerable reduction of capital imports without any reduction of living standards and, secondly, there is the prospect that many of these imports will themselves reduce the need for future imports in later year3.
I know that the whole balance is dependent also on the export side, and here the position may be described as having greater unknowns and being, perhaps, more precarious. None of us, looking over the long term, like to speak with certainty of the future price of wool. Wc hope that, it will go up but we are not certain. Some of us have doubts about, the future market for wool and other primary products, but on the export side there are uncertainties of hope as well as uncertainties of dismay. Our exports may go up; they may go down, but, looking at the picture as a whole, although one cannot have a tremendous degree of certainty about it, a closer analysis of the figures and the breaking down of their components suggests that the position is not quite as bad as would appear from just looking at the figures in globo and not analysing what they represent.
The upward movement of internal costs and prices is more intractable and more complex. It can, I think, be controlled, but it is not amenable to those more simple controls which can be effectively applied to our balance of payments, particularly on the import side. This Government will have to realize that the control of imports should be put on a more secure basis. I believe, for example, that in order to prevent abuses it is necessary to do something more about publishing details of the issuing of licences. Further, we should be making certain that these restrictions are not administered in such a way as to prevent technical progress and make it impossible to import new products for which, because they have not previously been the subject of international trade, no quota has been established.
These are short-term things, but when one looks at the over-all picture one sees that the real trouble lies in the chronic shortage of savings, which fail to match the demand for investment. It is this endemic shortage of savings which lies at the root both of our balance of payments troubles and our cost troubles. If we could take measures to increase savings we would to a large extent cure both our other ills. I know that measures taken to increase savings will not be immediately effective. They will be long-term measures, but, after all, we should be envisaging a long-term plan which can be put into operation under the protective umbrella of the short-term measures which have to be embraced. The time has come for the Government to look to some of these longer-range considerations and try to find ways and means for increasing savings. If one looks at page S of the last table of national income and expenditure released by the Treasurer, one will see that over the last three recorded years there has been a continuous fall in the ratio of personal savings to national income. For these years the total savings, including insurance credits, were £518,000,000, £38S,000,000 and £309,000,000, and these represented, respectively, 15 per cent., 11 per cent., and 8 per cent, of national income. I know that there are fluctuating components in those figures, and that one should not expect an analysis of figures for a period of merely three years to provide a conclusive answer, but it is signifiant. I think, that during those three years the ratio of personal savings to national income has fallen by almost 50 per cent.
What can we do to reverse these trends ? I suggest four measures. First - and here I agree with the remarks made by the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) - we must do something about the means test and pensions. I do not contend that it is enough merely to abolish the means test, because I think that there has to be a complete overhaul nf our pensions scheme, bringing in graduated pensions adapted to needs, so that those who are in real need are not penalized, and, at the same time, those who. show thrift get the benefit of their thrift. It is all very well to talk about contributory schemes. They have their limits, and I think that it would be better at this time to think in terms of reorganizing the pensions plan so as to have graduated pensions, free of means test, for age. For invalids, I am afraid that it is necessary, in the nature of things, that some form of means test will have to stay. That is the first step that should be taken to build up savings. It will not have an immediate effect. What we have been doing over the last 30 years has had a massive momentum. It has come on gradually, and it is gradually changing savings habits. A reversal of policy would not immediately cure the position; it would merely set things going in a reverse and better direction.
Secondly, we must have some rational approach to the bond market. It has been said that interest rates must be raised in conformity with the changes in interest rates overseas. Of course, the greatest feature of this is that it may determine the flow of international capital one way and another, and therefore affect the liquidity of our position in regard to the overseas market. Here, I think that we have to protect the position of the small investor, at any rate. When there is, as there may have to be, an upward movement of interest rates, we should do something to maintain the capital value of bonds. Unless we do this, we shall discourage savings, because we shall turn people away from investments which do not even maintain their face values ; and, indeed, it might be worth while to suggest to the Treasurer the introduction of something almost equivalent to the old gold bonds, namely, a bond which is bought on the condition that its redemption is made in a sum of money adjusted to the appropriate price level at the time of maturity. This was done in the past overseas in regard to gold bonds, and I think that it is something which the Treasurer might consider, at least in relation to small savings, so as to encourage saving.
– What about the face value?
– That, I think, is a minor matter. It is not as important as the other matter, but I think it could he considered concurrently with it. As I said - apparently the honorable member did not follow me - we should, when interest rates are adjusted, make some adjustment so as to preserve the capital value of the existing bonds, at least in the hands of small holders of bonds, and perhaps in all cases. I think that that is the point which he has in mind. The third point is that we must find adequate finance for housing, because housing is one of the greatest incentives towards saving. I know that this is a complicated matter, made more complicated by the fact that many of the building functions lie within the ambit of the States rather than within the ambit of the Australian Government, and that ultimately one cannot increase the number of houses without first increasing the efficiency of building labour, the supply of building labour, and the supply of building materials. Nevertheless, I think that it is wrong that a man should be able to obtain finance for a motor car when he cannot obtain finance for a house. The Government might look at this matter with the idea that if it can provide finance for homes it may increase the propensity to save throughout the whole population. These quantitative effects are not small enough to be disregarded.
Finally, I come to the matter of income tax, and here I find myself rather at variance with the panel of economic experts who considered that an increase was desirable. I think that such an increase might even have an adverse effect, because it might, in the short run, influence the flow of capital from abroad in a way which would be adverse to Australia’s interests, and we might find that increased taxation, far from decreasing our international difficulties, might increase them. But I desire to make some very concrete suggestions in regard to the change in our income tax structure. The Government should have faced the issue some time ago. I think that I myself mentioned it some time ago. Because there has been this failure to look at the basic structure, these recurrent crises continue to appear. I suggest that concessions for a wife and family should be made on a much more generous basis, including concessions for invalidity and dependants, with less restriction. Secondly, we should provide for a new kind of deduction for age, possibly on a graduated scale. There should be a concessional deduction, I suggest - and the figures are arbitrary - at the age of 21 or 22, an additional concessional deduction at the age of 35, and a further concessional deduction at the agc of 60 or 65. If that were done, persons over those age limits would he paying less tax. Next, I suggest, we should insert a provision under which moneys deposited with the Treasury would be a deduction from income in the year of deposit.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– At the time oi the suspension of the sitting I was making certain suggestions with regard to income tax. I had suggested first, that there should be more generous reductions allowed for families, invalids and dependants ; secondly, that a new kind of deduction should be allowed in respect of age: and, thirdly, that it should be possible for taxpayers to deposit money with the Treasury as a deduction from their taxable incomes in the year of deposit and an accretion to their taxable incomes in the year of withdrawal. There should be a further proviso in regard to these deductions, and that is that on marriage it should be possible for a person who has deposited money to withdraw up to £1,500 - or some amount like that - as a withdrawal which would not be an accretion to taxable income.
After these adjustments to the income tax law have been made there should be such variation in the rates that the yield from transferred income tax should be of the same order of magnitude as it is under the present system. You will see, Mr. Speaker, that my proposal, if adopted, would cause no increase of taxation. It would mean rather a realinement of taxation and an adjustment of the way in which taxation falls on various classes of the community. The effect of the proposal would be really that all taxpayers would have the privilege of averaging cut their incomes, and elderly people would be able to save for their old age in the last few years of their earning lives when their incomes were high. Family men who have responsibilities and dependants would bt- free, or freer, of taxation, and ‘pay at reduced rates, but the burden of taxation would fall on those best able to bear it. There would be no hardship on those who were supporting dependants because there would be additional concessions for dependants; and there would be no hardship on those saving for marriage, because they would be able to deposit money with the Treasury which would be considered a deduction from their incomes and therefore free of tax, and withdraw it on marriage again free of any tax.
I regret that I shall not have time to discuss this matter in detail with tha House, but by that means we should drain away a considerable amount of the inflationary effects of the present situation without in any way penalizing ‘people who are unable to bear any burden at all. My proposal would give justice throughout the whole community. I believe that Australia is still a young country, and that the dynamics of development should be maintained. I am not altogether in fluenced bby those theorists who have, perhaps on the model of overseas experience put forward plans which seem to me to be more in keeping with a static or matured economy than they are with our Australian way of life. I believe that whatever we do, whether it be done with interest rates, credit, taxation or anything else, we should at least keep the momentum of development, in our belief - which is after all the only reason for our holding Australia - that ours is a great country and is going to be a greater country still. The dangerous thing is to hesitate in midcourse. I fear above everything the application of remedies which may be too drastic for the present situation, although I do admit that in the present situation there are some temporary remedies which will have to be applied.
-(Hon. Archie Cameron) . - Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I shall, of course, address myself to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech as is required in this debate, but I cannot subscribe to the general acclamation that it has received at the hands of honorable members on the other side of the House. That is not a complaint levelled at the GovernorGeneral, because if it were, it would be contrary to good taste as well as a breach of the Standing Orders. It has been the custom of governments of all kidney to present as little as possible in the speechesmade at openings of the Parliament, and the Address-in-Reply which we are now considering, by no means deserves to be preserved in our archives. It is full of wise saws and modern instances of a very windy nature, as well as economic double talk that even the economists in thi.* House cannot fully understand themselves. However, out of the bare bones of discussion has grown a very splendid debate, and I am sure that it will continue on the same high level.
Two very fine speeches have been made in this debate. One was made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), whose economic discourse in hi* maiden speech was full of common sense and human understanding of our problems. That is heartening to me and to other Opposition members. The other fine speech was made by my old opponent, to whom I must pay my devoirs, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). His suggestions were so near to socialism that I am terrified about what may happen in the future. However, his submissions and suggestion* were sound, and he must be congratulated upon them.
With regard to the economic issuer that have been discussed, I shall make a very amateur contribution, because the study of economics has been most painful to me as my kindergarten feet were not guided in that direction. However, because of the necessity to survive in the naughty world of politics, I have had to find out something about economics. I should now like to say that if we can arrive at a conclusion in regard to the economic ills of this country we must consider the nature of the inflation that we are suffering from. Some have said that it is a consumer inflation, some have said that it is an inflation of prosperity, and some. say that it is profit inflation.
There are various ways of looking at the problem of inflation. One of them was shown by the eight economists whom we have read about, and who, for once among economists, were unanimous. However, Labour has long since arrived at the conclusion that our inflation is profit inflation ; indeed, it is a profiteering inflation, and I suggest that we can quite simply prove that. The reason for our economy being in its present position is, in the jargon of the economists who murder the Queen’s English, its imbalance. Indeed, I suggest that it is swinging from one side to the other, and that that is because it is controlled at the floor but swinging wildly at the ceiling.
Because of the processes of our arbitration system, which gives some sort of a yardstick to measure our economic conditions, there has at all times been some control of our wage structure; but on the profits side there has been no control at all, and the process has been, one of letting the devil take the hindmost. Indeed, that was pointed out to-day by the honorable member for Yarra and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). Labour says, with some assurance, that the only way properly to plan the economy is to plan it as a whole, but the Government has no policy of any strength because it has applied remedies willy-nilly.
I believe that if there is to be control of the wages and spending of the workers through the arbitration system, there must be some sort of control applied at the top of the economic body. Labour has consistently said in its policy that that course should be followed. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in his policy speech during the last general flection campaign, said that there should be an excess profits tax. We had the courage to point the way, in the simplest possible manner, for the Government to do something about this so-called imbalance. Our experience of controls, supported by a statement made by the honorable member for Yarra, is that, in any agreement, there must be a floor and a ceiling. In an agreement for the disposal of wheat, for example, there must be a floor, so that the price does not fall too low, and there must be a ceiling, so that he price does not become so excessive that the wheat cannot be sold. By the same token, when profits are rearing to unprecedented and coruscating heights, we should do something about them. If we do not, there will be a repetition of what happened in 1952 and we shall be forced to do something about them.
The mechanism of control is one-sided, as I said before. There is arbitration, which works in a rough way, and sometimes in a cruel and repressive way because of the time factor and legal processes. The worker has been mulct of the increase of wages and margins that he should have been given because of the increase in prosperity. On the other hand, inflation has been allowed to reach unprecedented heights, by reason of the profit motive, sales and investments. In considering this matter, the Government ought to remember the words of St. Paul, “ Faith without good works is dead “. Lf the Government has faith that its eight, 88 or 8S8 economists can produce a formula, it ought to have the courage to impose that formula. However, after my years in this House, I am not foolish enough to think that eight men in different parts of the country can rise up at the same time, don their academic gowns, take pen and ink and make the same pronouncements on the economy. The age of miracles has not yet passed. To get by, that miracle would have to be supported by a great deal more propaganda. I mention that merely in passing. If it was a kite flown by the Treasurer or the Prime Minister, the Government ought to have been honest enough to admit that it was.
Immediately after that situation had developed, another of these extraordinary committees to help somebody out was created by the Government. Reading leisurely through Hansard and other parliamentary documents, I counted 22 committees of that kind. The Minister for Defence Production (Sir Eric Harrison) had a Planning Committee for Defence, or a Defence Planning Committee, or something of that nature. Lt, was rather a minor job. It made three or four general statements about defence and then went into general recess. But every now and then it is decided to ask some one to come along and add his voice to the voices of the others.
The only point I can make in the short time at my disposal is that the Government should get a point of view and get on with the job. We suggest that the stabilization mentioned by the honorable member for Yarra is the thing. Let us stabilize on the way up, as well as on the way down. But we have not been able to do that because there is a tradition. The danger of some academic thinkers, and indeed of some ordinary thinkers, is that they will not re-adjust their minds to meet new conditions. Is there anything ethical in the boss being able to do what he likes, huy what he likes and make any profit he likes, while the Government insists that the worker must be subjected to controls? If we do not apply controls to both sides, we are doing an injury to our plans for balancing the economy.
The dragnet of economic thinking is another factor. We remember the Hytten pool. That sort of thinking suggests that we must do something to worsen the conditions of wage-earners, all of whom, by the way, are not by any means on the same level of prosperity. The man on a fixed income, without any overtime, is definitely in trouble to-day, whereas a person with three or four sons, working overtime, is doing all right. We must have a very flexible blueprint to wrap round that sort of economy. It must not be in any way cut and dried. We must adopt the process of trial and error, but the Government is not doing that as earnestly as it should do. That is why we have debate after debate on this matter in the House.
Labour definitely rejects some of the suggestions that have been made. Again I quote as an authority the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who reminded us that a famous Swedish professor said that an economy of full employment has to live with inflation. That is perfectly true. But the people who should guide us, the trained economists, will not accept that. They have coined a collection of words which is just as ugly as it is stupid. They refer to “ over-full employment “. That is the bugbear. A man is either fully employed or he is not. It seems to me that whether he is over-full or not depends on what he does after he leaves his work. The phrase “ over-full employment “ is the sort of economic double-talk and gobbledegook that drives people mad. As a result, they give economics away and, in doing so, they do an injury to their own thinking. Some professors believe that over-full employment is something that should be diagnosed and dealt with by, so to speak, a surgical operation. ,
We all remember Professor Hytten and the saying, “ It will be pretty cool in the Hytten pool “. It was a valid attack that Labour launched on his ideas, which were brought up again, curiously unchanged, by the eight professors who rose in the morning and delivered themselves. Their ideas and his come to the same thing, which is that over-full employment requires a cutback of work. Why do not they talk in English? That is what it means - a cutback of work. We do not want that in this country. If the only formula we have for retaining our prosperity is to take a man’s job away it is a bad state of affairs.
– The honorable member once said that he would be content if we had a level of employment of 5 per cent.
– I said nothing of the sort. That was put out by a Liberal party propagandist. I remember that I dismissed him when he was a cadet. He was never very reliable. He finished up by working for the Liberal party, and I can think of no worse fate for a journalist. Let me return to my point. The libel that the only cure for the economy is a reduction of employment has been brought up again, but the honorable member for Melbourne Ports - I believe all honorable members listened intently to what he had to say today - has reminded us that a famous Swedish professor has said that we must be prepared to live with a certain amount of inflation when there is full employment.
The Americans have a formula. It is a bit rugged, but they have a background of tremendous wealth and development to sustain it. It is a simple formula. They say, “ Here is an article; we want plenty of money for it”. Where they differ from Australian employers is that they say, “ “We will pay plenty of money to the fellows who work with us”. If somebody says’- “ That will cause inflation”, they reply, “ So what? You have got the dollars and I have got the dollars. Bob’s your uncle “. But in this country, unfortunately, ne is the Prime Minister a.-? well, so the position is somewhat different. 1 want to get back to the problem that
I think is most dangerous and important.
II is a sort of nagging problem. “What shall we do about this profit inflation? I do not think the Government has a bolter’s chance of doing anything to improve the situation unless it lines up with the thinking on this side of the House and agrees that there is profiteering inflation at the moment. Let us have a look at the classic example - General Motor.Holden’s Limited. What other country except some banana republic in South America, would put up with what has happened in that connexion? True enough, it is a grand organization. True enough, it builds a magnificent motor car. True enough, it give? good employment to good people. But the pay-off is spectacular, especially when it has to be paid out of a 60,000,000-dollar loan that we got from Canada. In the process we are to be mulct of £600,000 in interest charges. We begin to wonder how far the Government will allow this profiteering inflation to swing.
We see the same thing happening all down the line. The problems of the workers today are grievous. The honorable member for Yarra - I again quote him as an authority - has pointed out that it is not, so to speak, a level problem that we are dealing with, because there are many different facets of the worker’s problem. But the employer is doing very nicely, with an earning power of between 17 and IS per cent, on any sort of investment. I have some figures here. Figures can be quite dynamic if the right man sings them, but, unfortunately, I am not the right man in this case. However, I think these figures are very relevant. The honorable member for Yarra pointed out where this profiteering inflation is taking place. He said in his maiden speech, as recorded at page 149 of Hansard of yesterday -
Net sales for private investment in 1954-55 rose from £789,000,000 to approximately £958,000,000, an increase of £169,000,000
It looks as if the Canberra wog has got into the economy. First, we have an export boom with an uncontrolled amount of money flowing into the economy amounting, my authority again being the same honorable member, to £670,000,000 in two separated years. Remember that amount! Then we have private bank credit uncontrolled insomuch as there is no money for housing finance, but £250,000 for short-term loans. Private bank credit is available to any client whom a bank thinks ought to have the money, whether it be for building a public house, a motion picture theatre, an insurance company building, a block of luxury flats or anything else that is in the luxury line, when we should be doing something about the carking housing problem. The Government has staged something like a retreat from the position it took when it attacked the Chifley Government’s finance, and has issued about £150,000,000 of treasury-bills, and thus further inflation has been brought about. But it claims that the inflation is caused1 by the workers having too much money in their pockets. That is the greatest piece of poppycock that has been spoken and written for many years, and the figures support me. Our experience is that nothing can be done about inflation unless the Government is prepared to grasp the nettle and control where control is most wanted. It is all right for thePrime Minister and his Man Friday, the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison), to bombinate through New South Wales, rushing in and out of my electorate, much to my dismay and consternation, saying that the Labour party intended to cut every business out of its fair share of profit by an excess profits tax and explaining, of” course, that this was the socialist formula. Of course it is nothing of the sort. It is common sense. It was a policy which was applied in desperation by the present Treasurer in 1951 when he introduced the “ horror “ budget at a time when wool-growers were becoming so rich that every sheep in the country was, in effect, a walking cash register. There was so much money suddenly coming into the economy at that time that the Government had to do something about it, and it imposed controls willy-nilly. What we are asking the Government to do is to work to a careful plan. We say that the first thing it must do is to find out what is wrong with the economy, and then do something about fixing it up. But the Government seems to have no clear idea of what is needed to solve our problems. The fact is that the Government simply is not game to face up to the problem, because its members have had to come to the conclusion that the capitalism they represent is not a jolly adventure. The Government is in office to-day only because it stole from us the Chifley welfare state, just as to-day Eisenhower has rifled all that remains of Franklin Roosevelt’s new deal. The Minister at the table remembers only too well the handclapping days of 1949 when he went out of this House cock-a-hoop, because he had stolen two-thirds of our policy, whilst denouncing that policy to the last minute in the preceding Parliament. He and his friends faced the electors on a policy they had stolen from us, and the vote went against us.
Whatever the economists may say - and they say a great deal - what the worker wants to know is whether it is a fact, as stated by the Liberal-Australian Country party coalition, that under a socialist plan the country is regimented. Is it a fact that if the workers get too much wages they will go broke? Is it a fact that if the worker does not get any wages he will go broke? Is it a fact that if business languishes we will go broke? Is it a fact that if there is too much money we will have inflation, and that some serious malaise infects the body politic and economic at the moment. We are presenting another plan. I see that the Prime Minister has lined up his new brains-trusters. Let us ask them to make the whole thing simple. Let us get rid of double-talk and poppycock, and tell the people what they are up for. On this particular matter there should be some unity in the House. But we warn the Government that it does not really know what the problem is all about, although it should, because it has the resources of academic and business thinking to help it. It does not know what the real causes of the economic problem are, and, if it did know, it has not the courage to do anything about them. The thing is simple. In this day and age there is no such thing as an unplanned economy, but we have a rabble in government at the moment as a result of long and consistent propaganda about the adventure in private enterprise. But the Government will have to eat its words. Figures recently released show that inflation is getting worse under the Government. As has been suggested, the solution is simply one of looking at the ceiling and the floor of this problem and seeing what can be done about it.
The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) who, when he gets away from his rabid pronouncements about Communists and about the inevitable dissolution of all of us because of the “ red “ menace, speaks sound common sense and has down-to-earth views on the problem which are extremely acceptable to any person who thinks about the matter. As other honorable members have also done, he has touched upon the fact that we are coming to a position in this country where the man who carries the burden is not getting the benefit that he should get for doing so. There is a song that is popular in Sydney and elsewhere which refers to the worker and we who live on his back. The words go something like this -
He I on fis sixteen tons, and what does he get? Another day older and deeper in debt.
The honorable member for Tarra, to whose speech I have referred, presented a solution to some of our problems. One of them, of course, has something to do with the expensive payment of social services. What is the position of the young man nowadays who is rearing a young family, paying heavy taxation and trying to provide his own social services, which he will get at the age of 65, and which his wife will get at the age of 60? Many years ago we talked about marriage loans and adjustment of taxes to help young married people. These were all progressive ideas, but the Government seems to be completely barren of any worthwhile ideas on this matter. It natters around from one point to another and brings in a professor to help it. It got eight professors to fly a kite for it, and then repudiated them. Then it asks another professor to go jump in the lake - the Swan lake in this case I think - and there you are ! The plain truth is that the Government is kidding itself if it is not prepared to impose some measure of control. It talks about treasury-bills and lets credit blow around as it has done for those who can get it and leaves private method as an unholy icon on the wall of the economy. The simple truth is that some things must be controlled. The Government stole our social services programme. It must now steal our economic programme in order to survive.
and have been trying to make out what he said between his usual words, such as “double talk”, “willy nilly” and “ poppy cock “. I think he said “ poppy cock “ half a dozen times. As there was very little left of his speech after taking out those words, I shall say no more about it.
In the course of his Speech, the Governor-General said -
I know that 1 will be subjected to very severe criticism in touching on the subject on which I wish to speak to-night. First of all, I want to say that, at the present time, I believe that the state of our overseas balances has resulted from the decrease in the price of our primary products and the consequent fall in the amount of money that we are receiving for them overseas. The great part of our earnings which we get from overseas comes from primary industry and has to pay for our imports, most of which are consumer goods. I take the figures of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) whom I presume is right. I want to tell the House that this country has enjoyed an era of prosperity which it has never known previously in its history. Primary industry has enjoyed an era of prosperity; and some authorities have told us that that prosperity has been brought about by the application of scientific knowledge and mechanization. I. agree that those factors have made a wonderful contribution. But these authorities have forgotten that, in the last ten years, we have had some of the best seasons that Australia has ever known. I shudder to think what would happen if we had a repetition of some of those droughts that we have experienced. Having lived through quite a few of them, I know what to expect when they come. What would the economy of this country be like if the primary industries were struck by a great drought? I do not want to see it, and I hope that we shall never see it. But how, then, would the economy of the country be effected and what would be the position of our great schemes of development^ that are being undertaken at present?
Personally, I should like to see the ambitious development programme that we are undertaking continued. I believe that we could do with a little inflation in order to carry out our development programme. But in view of what I just said to the effect that the seasons will not be kind to us all the time, we shall have to review the whole position and try to bring our development programme into line with the resources at our disposal. I hope that we shall be able to continue with our present programme, but I am afraid for the future. I say that because, when those conditions come about, the first person to suffer from their impact is the primary producer. I do not want to see that situation come about. I ask the Government to be very careful, and to review this position in order to see what can be done, and make preparations in case those conditions come about.
I shall now touch on another subject in respect of which I know I shall receive criticism. It is coupled with the programme of development and of immigration. I believe that we should have an immigration policy, and that we should carry it out to the fullest extent, because I know that we have to populate this country. We have to bring people here. We must have 25,000,000 people within a certain period of years, not only for the development of the country, but for its defence. But it has been admitted - and I think that it is still admitted - that the immigration policy is one of the biggest factors contributing to our inflation. I say again that I do not mind a little inflation to carry out that policy of immigration. But do we ever ask ourselves whether we shall be able to continue that big immigration programme if we experience the conditions that I have just mentioned? The immigrants have made a wonderful contribution to the economy of the country. As far as primary industry is concerned, they have assisted in seasonal occupations, particularly in Queensland in the sugar-cane industry. But not every immigrant produces the equivalent to compensate for what he consumes, because some of the immigrants bring their families and some are aged people. We have heard talk about increasing export income, and balancing our overseas accounts. These people are consuming some of the primary products which otherwise would be exported and we, at the present moment, are asking people to earn money for us. Wc must look at that position. I hope that we do not have to cut down on immigration. But I believe that we shall have to do so if these difficulties arise. I might sound a pessimist, but I know what the impact will be on the industry which I represent and the country people whom I represent in Maranoa.
– We are now totally unprepared, if it should happen.
– I thank the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) for his interjection. We are now totally unprepared for that, if it ever happens.
But that is enough of that matter. I want to say something about the flood damage that has been caused in the Commonwealth of Australia. I shall not deal with any particular place if I can help it. I shall quote some figures from my own electorate in order to prove my point. We have been suffering from very severe floods in the Commonwealth of Australia over recent years. Floods are becoming more prevalent and are worse every time we have them. There is one reason for that. We ourselves are to blame, because we have abused nature. We have denuded the whole of the country of its timber in a reckless way because of our method of utilization of the soil. I call the majority of farmers to-day, miners. They are mining the soil and our rivers and water courses are silting up. Most of our towns, particularly country towns, are built on a creek at a site where the first bullock dray pulled up many years ago. Now the flood menace will get worse, and I should like the Government to make an approach to the matter. It cannot be done on a Commonwealth basis only. It must be done in conjunction with the States. Some scheme should be devised. If it cannot be done in any other way, an insurance scheme should be devised whereby the people affected by these floods can be rehabilitated.
To prove my point, I shall instance one industry in my electorate that has been badly hit. Preliminary estimates show that between 50,000 and 100,000 sheep were washed away and drowned in the floods in south-western Queensland. Those figures were given to me recently by the president of the Graziers Association in Queensland. The final figures are not yet available. Dairymen and other primary producers, and business people in the small towns, have suffered severely, but those who have suffered most are the tobacco-growers of southwestern Queensland. Last year, the Queensland tobacco industry was worth £1,250,000 to Australia. The recent floods in sou ill- western Queensland have destroyed the entire tobacco crop, which, this year, would have been bigger than that harvested last year. Some of the damaged plants and leaf may be reclaimed, but t.ne secretary of the Tobacco Growers Association in Queensland, a few weeks ago, slated that, at a conservative estimate, more than £1,000,000 had been lost in tobacco leaf alone, in addition, damage to property and personal effects totalled £500,000. Most of these tobacco-growers are share-farmers. Their entire assets have washed away, and I do not know how they can be rehabilitated under present conditions. This Government has been very sympathetic and, as the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) stated the other day, it has contributed £1 for £1 with the Queensland Government to meet personal losses. The Queensland Government has neglected to introduce a scheme by which cheap money could be made available to tobacco-growers, and particularly the share-farmers, to rehabilitate them in the industry after a disaster such as this. I know that the New South Wales Government has instituted such a scheme. The Australian Government has now asked the Queensland Government to submit to it details of any circumstances of exceptional hardship, and has undertaken to give them favorable consideration. The Queensland Premier has stated that he will submit details of the total damage when it can be assessed, but, up to the present time, this Government, I am informed, has received no request from the Queensland Government in connexion with that matter.
– Has the Queensland Government given financial assistance %
– Yes ; but I am talking about the rehabilitation of the people engaged in the tobacco industry. The financial assistance given to them by the Queensland Government works out at about £25 for each farm. I do not complain about that. It is a start. But more will have to be done. I suggest that there should be a Commonwealth and State, scheme of insurance under which money could be set aside to rehabilitate farmers, particularly those who have lost the whole of their security and assets, as the share-farmers in the tobacco industry have done. If such a scheme were instituted by us, we should have done a very good job. We shall have to do something about the problem before long. I recall that, after the floods at Maitland in New South Wales last year, all sorts of schemes to assist people in the event of future flood damage and devastation were advanced. But. three months later, they were all forgotten. It is our duty now, as representatives of the people who have suffered heavy losses in floods, to take the lead and do something about this matter.
A lot has been said about costs, and especially about production costs. Originally, the attack on costs was concentrated on primary producers. However, recently, the attack has not been directed so much at them, perhaps because those who launched it learned that they were making a mistake, and are now ashamed of themselves. They said that the primary producer would have to reduce his costs. Primary producers, of whom I am one, agree that their costs can he reduced. But most of the factors that contribute to their cost of production are entirely beyond their control. All sorts of awards govern the manufacture and the cost of various commodities on which the primary producer depends for the production of his own goods, and he has no control over those costs. I am speaking about Queensland in the discussion of these costs. Heavy additional costs have been imposed on primary producers in Queensland in recent months. I have previously referred to the increase of the unimproved value of land in Queensland. Throughout the grain belt of south-western Queensland, the unimproved value of land was increased recently by as much as 500 per cent. Throughout most of the wheat-growing area, the increase was the equivalent of 400 per cent. Those increased values have added 5d. a bushel to the cost of production of wheat by their effect on Crown la.nd rents and the land tax. 1 know of one instance in which the unimproved value of a property was increased from £5,000 to £22,000 in one jump.
Honorable members can estimate the effect of that increase for themselves. It represents a big increase of costs for the farmer who must pay a Crown land rent assessed at 3 per cent, of the unimproved value of the property, or land tax at an even higher rate. Every farmer either pays one or the other, but not both.
In addition to the increased land values, primary producers have been subjected to heavy freight increases. The Queensland Government could play its part in the reduction of production costs by taking action to reduce costs in the essential industries that supply goods or services on which we depend for the production of the commodities that bring us our export earnings. The obvious way in which the Queensland Government could take such action is immediately to reduce some of the overhead costs that primary producers have to pay, whether or not they get any return from their properties. Even if a drought occurs, they have still to pay these overhead charges, which all help to increase the- cost of production of primary products. Transport charges are an important factor. I have already mentioned freights. I do not consider that one should run any business at a loss unless the loss is purely a developmental one, as I have stated previously. In such an event, a little inflation, or a loss, in the ultimate, is sometimes to the advantage of the people concerned. Transport costs are terrifically high and are erratic. As honorable members arcaware, transport costs in Queensland have been increased during the last twelve months by a series of railway strikes such as Queensland has never previously experienced. Those strikes have had a big effect, particularly on the grain-growing industry. It has been necessary to transport grain by road, and, in Queensland, with its high road taxes, road transport is terrifically expensive. The necessity to resort to road transport has again increased production costs. I suggest to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) that, if he receives much in income tax from most of the primary producers in my electorate during this financial year, he will be very lucky. All the costs to which 1. refer become income tax deductions. Instead of the Treasurer receiving these moneys in income tax, they will be paid to the Queensland Government in higher charges and taxes.
As a result of the increase of unimproved land values, the Queensland Government will collect many millions of pounds more in death duties. As a rule, the unimproved value is not taken as the basis for the assessment of death duties, which are usually assessed on a higher value. I am aware of a case in which a parent recently transferred some land to his son who had just returned home after a period away. The son had helped the father to build up the asset. For the purpose of the assessment of gift duty on the transfer, the value was taken, not at £22 an acre, but at £26 an acre. The Queensland Government will have a big surplus at the end of this financial year as a result of the money it is taking from the primary producers in land tax and Crown land rent, and from the whole of the community in death duties, together with the loan allocations and the money that it receives from the Australian Government.
– It is a wonder the honorable member does not leave Queensland.
– I am surprised to hear the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who is one of the practical farmers in the Opposition, make such a statement. He knows very well that he could not carry his property and his assets away on his back.
– I do not want to do so.
– If the honorable member wanted to do so, he could not. We who are on the land in Queensland remain there because our life interest is there and it is the place where we earn our living. Thank God that we have had good seasons for the last ten years, or we should not still be there. I ask the Government to give very serious thought to two questions which I admit are unpopular subjects to discuss at the present time. One is the cutting down of development and the other the easing of our immigration policy so far as outresources will permit. If we do not do that now, then I prophesy that in a few j ears’ time we shall be paying for it.
.- As a rule, the Governor-General’s Speech at the opening of any parliament is looked upon with a great deal of interest by the Australian people, mainly because of its diversity of scope, but I must say that the Speech delivered by His Excellency last week does not fall within the category of the interesting. There has been little or no public interest in it, and the reasons for that are obvious. It is, in effect, u collection of vague and colourless platitudes that for the main part mean nothing to the Australian people. It is remarkable, not for what it contains but for what it has omitted. The first one or two paragraphs, which refer to the proposed constitutional committee, make a fairly good story, but after that the story contained in the Speech falls away to practically nothing.
Speaking of the proposed constitutional committee, I hope that the promise made by His Excellency on behalf of his Government is carried out. although I have a distinct recollection of what happened in the last Parliament about twelve months ago when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a similar pronouncement. He said it was the Government’s intention to request the Opposition to join in an all-party committee for the purpose of considering amendments to the Constitution. “We of the Labour party waited week by week and month by month for the implementation of that intention, but we waited in vain. Upon looking at the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey), I am reminded of the fact that he asked at least five or six questions of the Prime Minister during the tenure of the last Parliament about this particular matter but, unfortunately, nothing was done. I hope that the Prime Minister will ask the Opposition, at an early date, to join forces with the Government on this most important matter, which must receive the attention of the Parliament very shortly if we are to avoid continual deadlocks between the two Houses.
His Excellency’s Speech makes very vague reference to the economic position, but it seems certain to me that the Government contemplates the imposition on the Australian people of very stern and unpalatable measures at a very early date. What those measures will be, of course, is a mystery at the moment, and they will remain a mystery until after the State elections. The Government certainly would not say in the Governor-General’s Speech that it proposes to increase sales tax and income tax, especially when that Speech is delivered on the eve of very important State elections. It is for reasons of political expediency that the Government omits to mention its intentions in that direction, although I should say that it is absolutely certain that when the last State elections are over, the Government will work overtime in order to impose those measures before the end of June next.
Last year, the Government hoped, by means of certain policies, to correct the economic position. We had a. series of much publicized conferences. Leaders of commerce and industry, grazing interests and so on hurried to Canberra at the’ behest of the Prime Minister, who exhorted them to do certain things which, he said, would correct the economic position, if they were carried out. From my observations, I should say that the Prime Minister’s appeal to those sections of the community to exercise restraint have been unsuccessful. To be perfectly frank, I do not think the Prime Minister thought they would be successful, but they served their purpose until such time as he could get the federal elections over. Now we see the chickens coming home to roost. Those exhortations to various sections of the community have certainly not been successful, and therefore, the Government is on the horns of a dilemma. I think that, very shortly, we can expect the introduction of legislation that should have been introduced last year, instead of having this series of abortive conferences.
The Government hoped to correct the adverse trade balance by the imposition of import cuts, but the latest statistics available, those for the seven months to the end of January last, disclose a trading deficit of £32,000,000 or more. In those circumstances, it is quite apparent that the import cuts imposed by the Government have not been successful, and I suppose that in the very near future, another dose of these import cuts will be inflicted upon the Australian community. Many correctives have been suggested to meet the inflationary situation. I think the only thing that honorable members on both sides are agreed upon is that we are in a state of inflation.
Recently, certain economists put forward the proposition that we should impose increased taxation to draw off purchasing power and reduce consumption. It is interesting to note that two of those economists are now on the Government’s advisory panel. I cannot help wondering whether, in the course of their duties in the next two or three months, those economists will make suggestions to the Government along the lines of those put forward in the press a few weeks ago. I hope they will not do so, because in my opinion, that is no answer to the problem. No doubt, heavier taxation will put a brake on spending. That cannot he denied; but on the other hand, it will curtail savings and take away income margins that otherwise would he available for public loans, which, as everybody knows, are very hard to fill even now. In addition, heavier taxation will take money away from the building of houses, and goodness knows, the people’s savings for housing are not sufficient even now. It will mean reducing the amount for the provision of factory and home equipment.
All these things are necessary, and the imposition of heavier taxation would certainly disconcert the economy in the. directions I have mentioned. On the other hand, if the Government were to impose heavier taxation and then spend the proceeds derived from that higher taxation on a variety of government projects, the anti-inflationary effect of collecting that extra money from the people would be largely offset. Although the money would not be spent by the people, it would still be expended by the Government. Actually, it would simply be a case of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, and the whole effect of restricting the purchasing power of the community would be lost. Of course, the Government might have some other solution than the imposition of additional taxation, although I have yet to hear it. Undoubtedly we shall hear it when the last State election is over.
In the meantime, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech is strangely silent on the projected legislative measures of the government. I should say, however, that it is quite apparent that at a very early date, the Government will have to get down to realities, and enact measures or promulgate regulations to deal with this cancer that is eating at the very vitals of our economy. At the moment, it is not prepared to do so because it does not wish to alienate any public support for the four forthcoming State elections.
I was particularly interested in His Excellency’s remarks about the Government’s intention to seek the friendship, goodwill and understanding of the Asian countries. The Government claims, through His Excellency, that because of
Hie South-East Asia Treaty Organization, the Anzus pact, the Colombo plan and the establishment of overseas posts, Australia enjoys real friendship with the countries of South-East Asia. I should say that is an. over-statement. As a matter of fact, it is possibly the overstatement of the year. To me. it is a most extraordinary claim. After having given this matter a very great deal of study, I hold the view that if we wish to enjoy real friendship with the Asian peoples, we must convince the new free countries of Asia that we in Australia are concerned about their poverty, their suffering, and their national aims and ambitions, even if all the Communists in the world were to vanish overnight. 1 am very much afraid that our solicitude for the Asian countries is actuated by our fear of the Communists. We are not concerned so much about their poverty as we are about the effect that the Communist doctrine will have upon it. Until we can instil in the minds of the Asian people the fact that our friendship for them is actuated by our humanitarian instincts and not by political expediency, I am afraid that this friendship about which the Government is so concerned is only a myth. We must make those people believe that we are interested in their welfare as well as in our own. I suggest that all the overtures we have made to the Asian countries in recent years have been actuated by concern for our own welfare rather than for their welfare. The keystone of our South-East Asian policy is undoubtedly the Colombo plan. It is almost five years since the Colombo plan was inaugurated and it is time for a stocktaking and assessment of its results. We should ask ourselves very definitely what is the purpose of the plan. I am very much afraid that this House has not devoted sufficient time to discussing this important facet of our external affairs policy. From time to time we have had the benefit of short announcements from the Minister for External Affairs about what the plan is doing to assist the people of South-East Asia, but the matter has never been debated at length and I fear that a number of honorable members do not understand what it is all about. 1 would like to pose these questions to honorable members: Are we parties to the plan because we wish to make Australia popular in the East? Are we supporters of the plan because we wish to buy Asian gratitude? Do we think that Australia should be a contributor to the plan because we wish to stop the spread of communism? Is the plan in the nature of an insurance - an attempt to guarantee that in the event of future armed conflict we shall find allies among the Asian countries whom we are assisting? There can he no doubt about the importance and the validity of these questions. It is dangerous to delude ourselves that these objectives and these alone will find us lasting friendship with the Asian nations, or will assure us of their co-operation. We must realize that Asian countries have developed an understandable sensitivity to any sign of patronage, or anything that reminds them that the Western races are the “ haves “ and they are the “ have nots “. We must not appear to be condescending towards them, but I am afraid, from some of the pronouncements of the donor countries that to their great detriment they are, consciously or unconsciously, adopting that role. We might be kidding ourselves, but we are not kidding the Asian people.
It is true, but nevertheless regrettable, that although the United States of America has poured millions and millions of dollars into South-East Asia, it still finds itself unpopular and disliked in that region. Australia has provided a great deal of material and technical assistance - though still not enough - and in return has had from some of the recipients of our bounty only distrust and suspicion. Individuals who want anything as desperately as do the Asians will gladly take what one offers them, but they will not necessarily appreciate one’s motives for doing it. Surely this Parliament will not believe that genuine friendship follows automatically upon the mere act of giving, yet that is what the Colombo plan, at least on the surface, seems to assume. Our primary objective in South-East Asia should be to convince the countries of that area that the motive behind our participation in the Colombo plan is not the gaining of some strategic or political advantage, hut rather a genuine sympathy with their struggle and their resolve to create new standards of living for their people. Once we can persuade the Asian people that we are sympathetic with them, and that our interest in their destiny i3 altruistic and not opportunist, the more obvious objectives of the Colombo plan will be much more easily achieved.
Despite publicity to the contrary, it would be very unwise to over-estimate the results that have been achieved. The fourth annual report of the Consultative Committee, which met in Singapore in September of last year, was received here in book form in December. The report, in surveying last year’s developments, was most cautious as to the results obtained so far. We learned that though there have been appreciable improvements in .a number of directions, the effect on the standard of living of the Asian peoples has been infinitesimal. Undoubtedly that is due to factors outside our control. Those factors include the annual population increase of the area - at present it is 10,000,000 - which largely offsets the increase of food production. When other aspects of the plan, such as improved health and social services, cut further into the infant mortality rate, we may expect the rate of population increase to become higher. It may well reach 13,000,000 a year. In other words, some of the beneficial aspects of the plan will make some of the other factors infinitely worse.
We must face the tragic fact that to-day the Asian people are eating less than they did before World War II. Asia’s booming population has added to the severity of the unemployment problem. One of the aims of the Colombo plan is the development of Asian industry, but, so far, investment has been devoted to agricultural projects that have not created substantial local employment. Indeed, the main impact of the plan has been in the rural sector, and its operation has had little beneficial effect on the level of unemployment generally. That is to be greatly regretted because it had been hoped that increasing industrialization would begin to raise living standards. The fluctuating world prices, especially of raw materials, have handicapped development in a number of countries. In some countries export prices have increased; in others they have decreased materially, so that the overall advantage derived from the plan has not been great. Fluctuating world prices could wreck the entire plan. It could mean that all the money spent in those countries had been literally poured ‘ down the sink. Almost every Colombo plan country is vulnerable to an export prices slump.
Again, it is difficult to obtain a reliable measure of real economic development under the plan. The report to which 1 have referred does not offer any real guide. The variety of countries and industries involved make the production of authentic figures difficult, but it is generally accepted by economists that the real income per head is increasing. In India, for example, the increase is 1 per cent, per year. However, that is only nibbling at the problem. Other Colombo plan countries are probably breaking even at best. The plain unvarnished fact is that, despite the impact of the plan, Asian economies remain precariously balanced between low productivity and high population. None could withstand the effects of a run of bad seasons or a minor world recession. To be starkly realistic, we must admit that the gap between the wealthy nations of the West and the backward nations of the East seems to be growing wider. The intention of the founders of the Colombo plan was that the gap should be narrowed.
The political consequences of such an undesirable trend need no emphasis. Obviously, it will play into the hands of communist propagandists in the East. It could be absolutely calamitous to our national welfare.
One learns from press reports that the term of the Colombo plan is to be extended. We have to rely on press reports although we might have expected the Minister for External Affairs to make some reference to the matter in his speech yesterday. The plan was to have ceased to operate next July because, apparently, the donor countries realize that it has not produced the results that they hoped it would. We must ask ourselves what is required in the next phase of the plan’s operation. If we are to do nothing more than pay out the same amount of money and hope for the best, we should consider whether it would not be better to keep the money at home and devote it to local purposes. The second phase should be far more productive of results than the first. We must consider the extent of our participation in the light of our resources and budgetary position this year. First, we shall need to provide for a far higher rate of economic aid. Secondly, heavier investment will be required in most countries if their productivity and national income are to be further increased. Thirdly, there is now an urgent need for new capital projects to accommodate the growing labour forces in those countries. As I mentioned a moment ago, their population is increasing at the rate of 10,000,000 a year, and the rate of increase is expected to become even greater than that. Fourthly, the rate of technical assistance will have to be stepped up, because a lack of skilled technicians is offsetting the value of the machinery which is being sent to these countries.
As I mentioned last year, Australia donated a number of tractors to Ceylon, but they are rusting in the fields, because when they broke down there were not sufficient technicians in the country to put them in order again. Obviously, it is idiotic to give equipment and not provide the men to service it during its working life. Fifthly, I suggest that world raw material prices will have to be stabilized in order to achieve economic development, and that is the crux of the trouble. 1 remember, last year or the year before, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), when introducing the bill to support the South-East Asia Treaty Organization, said that stabilizing export prices for the Colombo plan countries was the great problem, because, obviously, if a lot of money is poured in, and development takes place, and next year the world price of their principal products falls, the money has been completely wasted. Apparently the Minister and the Colombo plan experts realize the trouble, but unless they find a solution the whole basis of the Colombo plan can be swept away overnight.
Finally, we must realize that internal economic stability in Asian countries requires political and social reform. It is of no use to talk about stability unless the people of those countries can be given something to be proud of in a stable economy. “We should encourage political and social reforms in the countries which are recipients of the bounties of the plan. If our interest in Asian countries is genuine, we must advocate positive measures that will improve the lot of the Asians in a tangible degree. I think that honorable members of all parties in this Rouse are sympathetic to Asian countries, but 1 am afraid that our interest has been coloured by the possibility that we might receive something in return for being sympathetic to them. In other words, we are more interested, in the final analysis, in our own destiny than in theirs.
What is our contribution ? It is in the neighbourhood of £5,000,000 a year, equivalent to 2i per cent, of Australia’s current defence vote. In my opinion, that sum is not nearly sufficient. I am not satisfied with the defence expenditure in a number of directions. I do not think that the money is being very wisely spent, and I think that it would be a great gesture to Asian people if we were to double or treble our contribution to the Colombo plan next year and deduct it from the defence vote. That might return far more dividends than spending £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 on a couple of national service training camps in Australia. I believe that Australians are very sympathetic to the aspirations of the Asians to achieve self-government and economic emancipation. This Government has a unique opportunity in the next year to show its feeling for the Asians. Time alone will show whether it is prepared to grasp this unique opportunity.
.- It was not my intention to take part in this Address-in-Reply debate. I think that the opportunity to do so should be given, perhaps, to some of the new members of the Parliament. But last night, one of the new members, the honorable member for Yarra (Air. Cairns), made some comments to the House which I believe require some statement from this side T do not intend under any cicumstances to cover all the statements, or misstatements, which were made by the honorable member. He made some very pertinent remarks in relation to banking and what had occurred in connexion with it since this Government came into office. He said that the Government had proceeded to amend the banking legislation so that it would not have power to control credit creation by private trading banks. Then he made a most staggering statement that the control of inflation requires the re-enactment of the 1945 banking legislation. I consider that in the first place one should cover very briefly the history of the legislation which has applied to special accounts provision;; since 1941. These provisions were first introduced under the National Security Regulations by the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in 1941.
– No, not as regulations. They were introduced by the Curtin Government.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) says that my statement is incorrect. It was done by the present Treasurer, and it was a voluntary agreement between the trading banks and the government of the day.
– That is right.
– The present Treasurer indicated quite clearly to the trading banks that if it were not done voluntarily, it would be done compulsorily.
– The Leader of the Opposition says that I am wrong. There are many opportunities for honorable members to check on the matter. To-day 1 have made a very definite check and those are the facts revealed to me. The bans of the 1941 legislation was that 100 per cent, of the increase in the assets of the trading banks was to go into special accounts. In point of fact, I think we all appreciate why it was necessary to have such a provision as this in 1941 at ibc commencement of the war period. We remember the inflation that took place during World War I. During the last war the Liberal government believed that it was necessary to avoid a similar inflationary situation. But in point of fact not all the amounts that could have been called up were called up under that particular legislation. In 1 945 the Chifley Government decided that it would introduce a new act in relation to banking, and particularly in relation to the special accounts provision. In the first place, it said that there would be a new base which would be the amount actually called up at that time, and that the uncalled liability would not be called up. but any increase in assets would be called up to the extent of 100 per cent. They also were not all called up, and I quote from the speech of Senator Spooner when he introduced the 1953 legislation into the Senate, giving very clearly and shortly the position as it applied then and indicating what had not been done in relation to the 1945 act. Lest the Leader of the Opposition should interject again, let me assure the House that in the. Chifley Government’s regime between 1945 and 1949 it did not cause to bc called up all the amounts that were due.
– That is correct. That was the maximum.
– I mention that so that there can be no accusation that they were called up at the time we came into office and that we did not call them up afterwards.
– There was power to do it, hut it did not go to the full extent.
– The right honorable gentleman agrees with what I have said.
This is the quotation from Senator Spooner’s speech on the introduction of the 1953 legislation -
The act at present provides that the maximum amount which may be called up from the trading banks is tho amount actually held in special accounts on the date the relevant sections of the act came into operation (namely, 21st August, 1945) together with the whole of the increase in the trading banks’ assets since July, 1945.
Honorable senators will appreciate the significance of these provisions, if I quote the relevant figures. When the Government reviewed the working of the present special account .provisions last October, the assets of the trading banks had, since July, 1945, increased by some £4S0 million. As the balances held in special accounts in August, 1945, amounted to about £220 million, the Commonwealth Bank could, at the time of the Government’s review, have required the trading hanks to lodge with it a maximum of about £700 million, a sum no less than £540 million in excess of the balances then held in special accounts.
I think every honorable member will agree that there would have been a hopeless situation within the economy if we had used the 1945 legislation and called up the maximum amount possible under that legislation. So, in 1953, the present Government decided to amend the special accounts legislation. It took a new base. The new base adopted the same principle as was adopted in the 1945 act. It was provided that the amounts then in the special accounts should be the base, and that subsequent increases in deposits to the extent of 75 per cent, could be called up by the central bank. I want to point out that that system has been in operation since the passing of the act. In point of fact, the maximum amount that could be called up has never been called up. At the present time, no less a sum than £150,000,000 could be called up by the central bank from the trading banks. Let us describe it as an uncalled liability in relation to the special accounts legislation.
The honorable member for Yarra suggested that the Government, by the 1953 legislation, had taken away from the central bank its power in relation to credit control. I suggest that the provisions of the 1953 act were much more realistic than those of the 1945 act. There was in the special accounts provision alone a very substantial control that could he exercised by the central bank in relation to credit expansion by the trading banks. But that was not the only control of the activities of the trading banks that could be exercised by the central bank. Section 27 (1) of the Banking Act 1945-53, reads as follows : -
Where the Commonwealth Bank-
That is the central bank - is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so in the public interest, the Commonwealth Bank may determine the policy in relation to advances to be followed by banks and each bank shall follow the policy so determined.
There is provision for a penalty of £1,000 if an instruction by the Commonwealth Bank, the central bank, is not followed by a trading bank. Can anybody reasonably suggest to the House that, with those two controls exercisable by the central bank, there is not adequate provision for control of credit creation, as the honorable member for Yarra called it last night, by the trading banks in Australia ?
I point out that, since 1945, the amount of money deposited with the trading banks of Australia has doubled. What type of economy would we have to-day if we re-enacted the 1945 Banking Act and the money then in the special accounts, plus the increase in deposits since 1945, were subject to call-up by the central bank? I believe that we should have an impossible situation. There would be complete chaos. I can understand that members of the Opposition, believing in socialism, as they do believe in it, desire a system under which the head of every business house in the community would have to come cap in hand to the government of the day toask it to provide the necessary capital for the expansion of his business. We could not avoid a situation such as that if, as the honorable member for Yarra suggested last night, we re-enacted the 1945 banking legislation. I believe that we should ruin the security of this country if we did a thing like that. Let us consider, for instance, the large number of immigrants who have come here during the last few years. How could industry have found the capital necessary to pro vide those people with jobs, and also to provide employment for the Australian population, if-
– The honorable member for Yarra objected to the Government placing an arbitrary limit on the power contained in the 1945 act.
– I just do not understand the reasoning of the right honorable gentleman. The honorable member for Yarra said last night, quite distinctly - this can be checked in Hansard - that he wanted a re-enactment of the 1945 legislation. I presume that what he meant was that we should go back to the situation that existed in 1945, and that we should give effect to it now.
I want to make a few brief comments about the history of our economy during the last few years. When this Government came into office, inflation was showing an upward trend. We know that inflation continued in 1950-51, but by 1952-53, mainly owing to the efforts of the Government, inflation largely had been checked. In late 1953, the economy was on an even keel. It was recognized as being on an even keel then, because the central bank indicated to the private banks that they could lend as much money as they desired. We cannot blame the Government for that. The central bank stated that as the policy that could be followed by the private banks. In 1954, inflationary pressures began to show themselves again and, as was to be expected, the central bank again took action. During the last few months, we have seen the results of the action that the central bank took. In the last seven months, there has been a fall in actual advances of £26,000,000. The figures were £916,000,000 in June of last year and £890,000,000 at the end of January of this year.
The honorable member for Yarra said that, subsequent to the 1953 act, £150,000,000 had been spent on new loans by the trading banks. It was a pity that, for the education of the House, the honorable member did not give some indication of the source from which he got the figure of £150,000,000. The act received the royal assent in April, 1953. At that date, the amount of advances was £648,000,000. Twelve months later, the amount was £757,000,000. There was an increase of £109,000,000 which was considerably less than the £150,000,000 suggested by the honorable member. If we take other dates not far removed from those, we find that in June, 1953, the figure was £662,000,000, and that in June, 1954, it was £778,000,000. In that period, there was an increase of £116,000,000, again considerably less than the £150,000,000 suggested by the honorable member for Tarra. I think that, in making these comparisons, one should take the figure at a certain date in one year and compare it with the figure at a similar date in the next year. I do not think that, without making it quite clear what has been done, one should take a period of, say, eighteen months over which there could have been an increase of £150,000,000.
It will be remembered that the 1953 Banking Act applied basically to the deposits that existed in October, 1952. “We find that at that date the advances were £731,000,000. By April and June, in 1953, the figures were respectively, reductions of £S3,000,000 and £69,000,000.
The honorable member for Tarra also made reference to the use of treasury-bills. He said that in the period following the 1953 legislation the Government made us-2 of £150,000,000 worth of treasury-bills for its own purposes. Let us look, first of all, where we can find this £150,000,000 worth of treasury-bills. The balance of the outstanding treasury-bills in June, 1952, was £153,000,000. As every honorable member will recognize, there was a good deal of treasury-bill finance during the last war, and there is always, at every 30th June, a substantial amount of treasurybills outstanding. The figure at June, 1952, was £153,000,000; at June, 1953. £225,000,000; at June, 1954, £190,000,000, which was a reduction; and at June, 1955, £160,000,000, a further reduction. I appreciate, and I hope every honorable member who has been here for some time appreciates that every government uses treasury-bill finance in the first six months of the financial year. Let us look at only two items from the point of view of the Federal Government. We undertake to provide for the States £30.000,000 annually for housing, and we pay the amount regularly month by mont L to them. We undertake, in addition, to make monthly payments to the States which must come from our taxation receipts. Apart from pay-as-you-earn receipts from employees, our principal taxation receipts come into the Treasury in the last three months of the financial year - that is, approximately from April to June - and it is necessary for every government to use treasury-bill finance in the first six months of the financial year. Otherwise, it would be impossible for a government to carry on. If anybody were to make a comparison between the situation at the lowest point of time, shall we say, in May or June, and say, November, when we have perhaps built up the maximum outstanding amount of treasurybills, he could show that a substantial increase had occurred. But surely that is not a reasonable basis of comparison. I think I have clearly indicated to the House, by the figures I have given of outstanding treasury-bills as at each June from 1952 to 1955, that the Government has not used, as the honorable member for Tarra has suggested, £150,000,000 extra in treasury-bills since the passing of the 1953 banking legislation.
The honorable member for Tarra made a further statement which was quite incomprehensible to me. He said that these treasury-bills were for the Government’s own use. I cannot understand that statement, but surely the honorable member for Tarra, who, I understand, is a lecturer on economics at the University of Melbourne, would know that the States have constantly, since this Government came into office, required more and more finance from the Government, particularly in relation to their State works. He must know, as must every honorable member, that year after year the Government has had to support loan raisings in order to assist the works programmes of the States and that the use of treasury-bills by the Government, apart, as I have said, from their necessary use in the first six months of each financial year, has not been for its own purposes, but to assist the States.
The honorable member for Tarra made another statement on the same matter. He said that the Government had changed the system of fixing the amounts for special accounts. He said that, in 1953, instead of fixing the amounts against deposits, it had fixed the amounts against advances. Every honorable member understands the difference between deposits, which represent money lent to the banks, and advances, which represent money lent by the banks. At no stage has there been any relationship under the legislation between special accounts and advances. The relationship has always been either to assets, as in the 1941 and 1945 legislation, or to deposits, as in the 1953 legislation. I do not know whether the honorable member for Yarra intended to deceive the House last night. T feel that he, of all people, with his qualifications, should have understood the things I have spoken about to-night, and which I have mentioned merely because be raised the matter last night. I offer new members of the Parliament one small piece of advice, which is that when they present statements, such as were presented by the honorable member for Yarra, it is a good idea to indicate where the information comes from, and thereby endeavour to show some proof for the statements made. I believe that what was said last night can be tremendously damaging. I appreciate that the honorable member was listened to most intently by members on his own side of the House, and not least by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), because I am sure that some of the things that were said were completely new to the right honorable gentleman, but provided him with a wonderful opportunity for propaganda in the future. It is completely wrong, as I believe I have indicated to the House to-night.
I do not want to touch on many of the other things that were said by the honorable member for Yarra. I believe they can be classified as broad generalities, or as sweeping statements, but I think they can be very damaging to those people who listen to debates or read reports of the parliamentary proceedings either in the press or in Hansard. I therefore felt that it was necessary for me to rebut these statements to-night, so as to indicate the true position. Every figure that I have given to-night can be proven from the statistics prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician or by officers of the Treasury. ^ Mr. COSTA (Banks) [9.38].- The
Governor-General’s Speech, which indicated the Government’s view of the state of the nation, contained the following statement : -
In the session of Parliament which I am now opening, there will be two important groups of matters which will call for consideration.
The first embraces foreign policy and the related defence measures which can make that policy effective.
The second can be described broadly as the economic problem. It has particular relation to internal development; the increase of production; restraint upon the rising costs of production which threaten to impair our international trading position; the encouragement of our exports; the control of our imports; the restoration of a sound balance of trade; the preservation and building up of our international financial reserves; and the protection of our currency.
The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) spoke of inflation, and said there had been a steadying down of inflation since the Government came to office. As a matter of fact, he said that it had levelled right out at one period. I think I shall be able to quote figures from the Commonwealth Statistician to refute completely the claim that be made. I shall refer to what is recognized as the real crisis in the nation at present, which is our balance of trade position. In 1953, our overseas trade balance finished up £191,000,000 to the good. That is to say, we had a credit, for that year. We come then to the 1955 balance. Thifigures are in the Treasurer’s budget, which was brought down last August, lt shows that for 1955, our overseas credit balance was £256.000.000 to the bad. That is a terrific reversal, lt indicates that, within two years, we imported £447,000,000 worth more goods than we exported, so that we created a debit in two years of £447,000,000. That is a colossal amount. It is equalled only by the colossal inefficiency and inability of this Government to govern Australia. It proves once again that the Liberal party and the Australian Country party are not fit to govern Australia.
The Government has failed to take proper action in order to deal with problems which it promised to solve prior to the general election of 1949. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in relation to these matters, is always talking action. but he never takes action. We know that lie confers with a lot of people. He raced off to London a couple of times and spoke about the convertibility of our currency. He discussed measures for making ii easier to convert our currency into sterling and dollars. He raced back to Australia and conferred with a lot of other people. But they were not the right people. They were the people in whom he is most interested and whom he represents in this Parliament. He told the people at the polls last December that the amount of consumer goods in Australia had increased since 1953 by 172 per cent. Of course, there is a reason for that and, in my opinion, there is a cure for it. But this Government never makes any attempt at cures in relation to these matters. It is known that the population of Australia has increased by 1,000,000 new Australian? since the war, and ii. has also increased by about 500,000 by natural increase, or local births. Thar, meant that we needed to produce a lot more in order to provide internally the consumer goods for those people. But the Government, which promised to accelerate production, has clearly failed to do so, otherwise we should not have had to restrict the importation of goods.
The other factor that has caused thi 5 adverse trade balance overseas is the high cost structure in Australia. The answer to that problem does not lie in the pegging of wages in Australia. That is only a one-sided attack on the problem. I believe that the real way to attack the problem is to stabilize prices in Australia, and that can be done not by pegging wages alone, but b pegging profits, prices and costs.
T have given the figures relating to our overseas trade balances from 1953 to 1955. I have shown very clearly how they drifted to adversity. These are seme of the incidents that occurred before 1953. Honorable members will recall that about that time, the Treasurer wont completely berserk. Actually, I do not know whether he goes berserk. It may he his natural state. But he went particularly berserk at that time when he introduced the horror budget. On the other hand, the Government went completely mad and lifted the lid right off import restrictions. In 1952 the cry was that we had too much money in Australia chasing too few goods, and that this was the way that the Government went about avoiding that. It lifted the lid off import restrictions so that we doubled our imports in 1952, and they went up to the value of £1,329,000,000. That was twice the amount that they had ever reached before. Proof of how wrong the Government was is to be found in the fact that in the following year, 1953, imports were reduced to £740,000,000. I maintain that, in 1952, about £600,000,000 was completely squandered. Our credit was completely squandered on that occasion when there was no need for it. It would be very nice if we now had that amount of money in security, where it should be. But that was the policy of the Government. Prosperity went to its head, and that is how it treated the situation at that time.
This Government inherited a very great fortune in 1949 when it came to power because, at the termination of the Labour regime in this Parliament, the Australian economy was never sounder. At that time our overseas trade balances were never higher. In 1949 they amounted to £630,000,000. Only a’ few months after that, they went up to £804,000,000. At that time, too, the Labour £1 was really worth £1. It was worth twice the amount of the present- day £1, which clearly indicates how really well off we were at that time, under the Labour Government. History shows how well off we were otherwise, because we accumulated that very high credit balance overseas and, for the first time in many years, we were able to liquidate a portion of our overseas debt, to the tune of £100,000,000.
Experts say that our overseas credit balance is now at the danger level of £400,000,000, and that we must not let it get below that figure. I have indicated that this Government clearly squandered £600,000,000, in 1952, by lifting the lid off imports, so that all sorts of things came into the country, including luxury goods, that were absolutely unnecessary. If we had reserved that £600.000,000 in 1952, and added it to the £400,000,000 that we now have in credit, we would not have an overseas balance crisis at the moment.
War and inflation were coincidental in the inflationary unheaval which commenced at the beginning of World War II., and which did not reach serious dimensions until this Government came into power. It was quite understandable that inflation would occur during war-time, when we had to concentrate our man-power on defence production and not on civil production. This concentration created a shortage of consumer goods, and inflation was inevitable. But there is no excuse for its existence in peace-time, as it has existed since this Government came to power. The only action that this Government has taken to prevent inflation has been to devalue the incomes of the workers and of pensioners. I think that the story of the basic wage clearly indicates the drift since 1941. It also clearly indicates the difference between what occurred in relation to inflation while Labour was in power and what has occurred since the Liberal party came to power. It is a complete refutation of the claim of the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). From 1941 to 1948, which included a period of war, the basic wage in Australia rose from £4 7s. a week to £5 19s. a week. That is an increase of 36 per cent, in seven years, or an average of 5’ per cent, a year. During 1948-49, when the Commonwealth had lost the power to control prices under the National Security Regulations, the basic wage, which, of course, is only a measure of the cost of living, increased from £5 19s. a week to £6 9s. a week, an increase of 10s. a week, or 12 per cent. Between 1948-49 and 1954-55, the basic wage increased from £6 9s. a week to £12 lis. a week. That is the present basic wage for the six capital cities. We all know that this Government, by its wage-freezing policy of countering inflation, has deprived about 50 per cent, of the workers of the wage increases that they should have had. All these figures have been taken from the statistics compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, and they tell the story of what happened when Labour was in office and what has happened since it went out of office.
We recall that, under the National Security Regulations, the Labour Govern ment was able, to a very high degree, to control the inflationary tendencies that were operating as a result of the war. The Labour Government wished to continue the Commonwealth’s powers to control prices under the National Security Regulations after 1948. However, its proposals were successfully challenged in the High Court, and a referendum followed. We remember that the present. Prime Minister and his followers, some of whom sit behind him in this House at present, opposed the referendum. They contended that the Commonwealth should not have the power to control prices, costs and profits, and that all it needed was the power to control wages. The answer to our present problem is price control. I should like to refer to the statement about inflation made by the present Prime Minister in his policy speech for the 1949 general elections. It seems to me that, if one wishes to know what will happen in the future, one has only to accept the reverse of what the Prime Minister has said. The right honorable gentleman, in his 1949 policy speech, stated -
Perhaps our greatest charge against the financial and economic policy of the present Socialist Government is that while it has paid a good deal of attention to increasing the volume and circulation of money, it has largely neglected the problem of what and how much that money will buy.
We know what has happened since the Prime Minister made that statement. It is shown by the tendency revealed in the basic wage increases.
– The basic wage now buys one-third of the goods it used to buy.
– That is correct. The complete reverse of what the Prime Minister predicted has occurred. Strangely, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration used the same argument as the Prime Minister used when it froze wages. Similarly, what it expected to happen has not occurred. It is very obvious that the policy of this Government is to adjust the unbalance in the economy at the expense of wage-earners, pensioners, mothers in receipt of child endowment and people who depend on social services generally. The cost structure must be attacked fairly. Costs must be reduced, but they should not be reduced at the expense of wage-earners, mothers and families. Prosperity and sacrifice should be shared equally.
If Australia is to correct its adverse balance of payments, we must reduce production costs so that we can compete successfully on world markets and also with imported goods on the home market. I stated earlier that the existing cost structure is one of the causes of Australia’s dwindling overseas credit balances. The main features of our cost structure are increasing wages and prices, but wages have risen only to keep within reasonable reach of prices. If Australia were to he self-sufficient and independent of overseas trade, the violent upward trend of our costs from time to time would not matter greatly. The trouble is that our prosperity depends largely on successful overseas trading. Although wages and prices have increased in Australia, there has been a tendency for them to stabilize in other countries, particularly those to which we sell our primary products, such as wheat, meat, dairy produce and fruit, and their by-products. The inaction of this Government is, step by step, pricing Australia out of world markets. Increased prices have been futile. They certainly have not made the Australian wage-earner any better off. The statistics that I have cited show that wage adjustments have not kept pace with commodity prices. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) pointed out last evening that, although the money wage has increased, the commodity wage has not increased. It is of little use to have many more fi notes in one’s pocket if one is unable to buy more goods with them. It is senseless and damaging to attempt to adjust the economy in this way, as the Government has attempted to do. It succeeds only in pricing us out of world markets, and .the Government has permitted this to happen.
As I have pointed out, the present Prime Minister, in his policy speech for the 1949 general elections, stated that the Labour Government had allowed the volume and circulation of money to increase, but had not paid much attention to the problem of how much that money would buy. I admit that that happened under Labour’s administration, but not to the same degree as it is occurring under the present Government’s administration. I showed that, under Labour’s administration, the basic wage increased by 48 per cent, and that it has increased by 94 per cent, since the present Government took office. As I pointed out, Labour took remedial action, which was opposed by the parties of which the present Government is composed. I am sure that, if the Government does not change its methods, our overseas balances will further deteriorate. Does the Government think the people of Australia will continue to tolerate its methods of freezing pensions, wages and child endowment on the one hand, and allowing prices and profits to increase without check on the other? Australians will not accept the principle of one-sided adjustments. The majority of Australians believe in fair .play and in sharing sacrifices and prosperity equally, as they have proved in two world wars. Many of them made the supreme sacrifice, and Australians generally have always been prepared to make whatever sacrifice was necessary on the home front.
It is shocking that this Government should parade itself as an Australian Government, and, at the same time, stand aside and allow the overseas monopolies to exploit us. That is happening in relation to shipping, for it intends at any time to dispose of the Commonwealth shipping line. We have seen an instance of it in the way in which it has shackled the Commonwealth Bank of Australia by fostering opposition to it in the form of private savings banks. We know what this Government did in relation to the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the successful government airlines, and Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The next enterprise on the list is the successful whaling industry, the impending disposal of which the Opposition tried to bring to the notice of Australians yesterday. But there will be a day of reckoning. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) pointed out that there were a number of astonishing omissions from the Governor-General’s Speech. One thing that was not mentioned was communism. Apparently the bogy of communism has no value for the Government at the moment.
– Until the elections.
– It is always trotted out at election time and, after the elections are safely over, it is put away in the cupboard ready to be brought out again at a convenient time. The Liberals and the Communists have many things in common. The result of the elections has clearly proved this. In New South Wales, the Communists received 110,000 first preference votes in the Senate poll and, by the allocation of their preferences, returned a Liberal senator. Seventy-five per cent, of the votes that were cast for the Communist party went to the liberal candidate, yet they claim that these people are our friends. An examination of the New South Wales elections generally will disclose that in twelve of the thirteen contested seats in that State, the Communists opposed Labour candidates in what are looked upon a3 blue ribbon Labour seats. The only Liberal candidate who was opposed by Communists was the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth). He made such a fuss at the time that the Communists could not very well have neglected to oppose him. It would not have looked “ fair dinkum “ if he had been left unopposed, so they put a candidate in the field against him. It is clearly indicated hy the figures that there is a. strong understanding between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party, and the Communist party, in Australia because the Communist preferences are always used to put Liberal party and Australian Country party candidates into Parliament.
Finally, I prophesy that if the Government does not grapple soon with the economic problem in the only proper way - the imposition of controls such as we had during the war - we shall be in dire straits indeed. The figures I have quoted prove conclusively that when prices were controlled under National Security Regulations, inflation was kept under reasonable control. In 1949, the Australian £1 was the most respected currency in the world, and it enjoyed that position because inflation had risen in Australia to a lesser extent than had been the case in any other country. Here, it had increased by only 49 per cent., whereas in
Europe, America, England and other places, it had increased by 150 per cent. The wise and fair administration of National Security Regulations by the Labour party enabled us to keep inflation within reasonable bounds.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In the course of this debate, we have listened to a number of very interesting speeches. One interesting fact that emerges from the discussion to date is the improvement, that has taken place in the Government parties. Prior to the election, and during the life of the last Parliament, newspapers and other publications that commented on politics in Australia urged the necessity for the respective parties to bring young men into Parliament. In this debate to date, we have had an excellent illustration of the type of young men who have come to add strength to the Government parties. They have come from all over Australia, bringing with them that ability, drive and energy which some have said the Government parties have needed. If those qualities were needed, they are here. Nobody who has listened to the speeches delivered by those young men could disagree with what I say.
Strangely enough, it is also true that, for the first time during my few years in this place, one or two young men of very considerable ability have been added to the Labour party. It is extremely gratifying that this has happened, although I feel that it must give rise to some fears in the minds of those who occupy positions of power in the Labour party at, the present time. Looking back over the history of budget and other financial debates, we have noticed certain things happening repeatedly. First, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was credited by his followers, with being a financial wizard. They also attributed other qualities to him, but that is by the way. He therefore handled the budget debate, but did so in such a fashion that he was forced to drop it like a hot brick. In a desperate effort to improve the position, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) was called in. The honorable member for Melbourne has indeed had many parts, but it is obvious that in those parts he has gained no great knowledge of the financial affairs or economic problems of the Commonwealth. Again, disaster threatened the Labour party. The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who interjects, had some very marked ambitions in this direction, but he was trampled down in the rush. The Labour party moved then to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who is listened to here with respect from all sides of the House. However, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports has a tendency to stick to the facts and realities of the situation to a degree that is not acceptable to either his leader or his deputy leader, and he was passed oer. Then we witness the arrival in this House of the honorable-member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), a young man with a very distinguished career in academic circles in Victoria. He is listened to with interest on all sides of the House. The honorable’ member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who deals with words with far greater ability than he deals with facts, and who dwells on clever little asides which do not, in fact, add a great deal to the debate, follows slavishly the styles of the new lights who have come into the Labour sky. He follows, as far as he is able, the arguments put forward by the honorable member for Yarra.
– Cheer up.
– I feel it difficult to do so. as I stand here and look at the Opposition benches. I have described the deplorable set of circumstances with which the Labour party has been confronted over the years. I remember, in a budget debate a few years ago, that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition, and his equally honorable but I understand less right colleague, the deputy leader (Mr. Calwell) differed to the extent of £300,000,000 in their estimates of what the budget would produce. That cannot be queried by any one. It is on record in Ilansard.
– Only £300,000,000 ?
– Only £300,000,000, but that is not a great deal to those pseudo Socialist-Communists to whom I have referred.
– Where have you been?
– It was said of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) some time ago that he could not see the wood for the trees. I do not know whether that is so.
My friend, the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa), has spoken of the cost structure in Australia, and the arguments during this Address-in-Reply debate have tended to concentrate on the so-called economic facts facing the Government. He spoke of the cost structure, and said that we should not be dependent upon overseas trade. I think that is a fair summary of his remarks. I do not quarrel with that sentiment. In fact, I think few would quarrel with it; but here again, we must face the facts. The facts are that the very expansion and development that have taken place in the country in the last few years have, of themselves, produced one of the greatest demands on our overseas exchange. We are committed to the expenditure of a large and increasing amount of foreign exchange upon machinery, equipment, industrial “ know-how and goods that are part of the process of manufacture. It is very laudable to say, as has the honorable member for Bank? (Mr. Costa), that all the goods that we need should be produced in this country, but until we have reached a much greater stage of all-round development we must except a. continual dra;n on our foreign exchange. We must, in effect, pay for the very process of development that we all agree is essential.
It is also true that in the years during which this Government has been in office it has attracted to Australia a substantial amount of foreign investment. It is safe to say that, without it, we should not have seen so much progress. It is true, in general terms, that during the last six years some £300,000,000 has come to this country in foreign investment, lt is equally true, although it is not sufficiently appreciated in this Parliament, that this foreign investment has come to us not in pound notes, sovereigns or dollars, but in machinery, techniques and components required in manufacture. In the decades that lie ahead it will make a great impact on our economy and will go a long way towards achieving that self-sufficiency to which the honorable member for Banks has referred.
I have listened to the remarks of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), and other Labour supporters, on economic matters. We face problems that have arisen from an immense expansion in the post-war years, and also from our immigration policy, which has brought more than 1,000,000 immigrants to Australia within the last few years. Two main methods of dealing with these problems have been suggested. That advocated by the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Banks is control. It is the familiar argument upon which the less-informed socialist economists fall back. It is worthy of note that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) did not do that. The socialist technique is to counter the problems of expansion and development by introducing controls, the purpose of which in one way or another, is to reduce consumption to the level of production. One can play with words and quibble with economics but, after studying the facts one must admit the truth of what I have said. That is the inevitable result of controls.
On the other hand, the policies advocated by the Government are those associated with expansion and, of course, there will always be argument among well-informed, or well-intentioned, people as to just how, in a closely integrated economy such as ours, the necessary pressure should be applied, or the stimulus given, to create the increased production which is justified by demand. To dodge that issue is to dodge the realities that face us and adopt the attitude that is so characteristic of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), who has been disowned on occasion by even his own leader. His completely irresponsible attitude makes no contribution to the deliberations of this House.
I would like to traverse one or two aspects of the general problem. I suppose that the basis of national policy, both here and elsewhere, is largely the kind of housing that the community enjoys. Again, in spite of the remarks of well-intentioned but ill-informed members of the Labour-socialist party, we are trying to overcome a housing problem which was created by a federal Labour government and perpetuated by many State Labour governments. The Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was drawn up in the days of the Chifley Government.
– It was a very good one, too.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) illustrates the truth of what I have just said about Labour opinion. He will not deny that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, which was drawn up by the Chifley Government, provided in the first place for the erection of houses for rental, or that Labour governments throughout Australia have perpetuated various forms of control over rents and the transferring of property. The result of those two socialist controls has been that, in most States, a socialist form of building, which is wasteful, expensive and inefficient, has developed. No one denies that the socialized building departments of the various State governments build worse and fewer houses for more money than were built before the war by competitive private enterprise. In Victoria, of which I have some knowledge, bottlenecks of building materials, which retarded the erection of buildings, were created during the days of scarcity by the very actions of the State Government’s giant socialist enterprise. Surplus building supplies of various kinds were held in large quantities by the Victorian Housing Commission. Any government would wish that its people should be housed as well as possible, but that has not been the result under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. This Government has tried to overcome the difficulty. I hope that this year a new agreement will be drawn up, between the Commonwealth and the States, providing - for the first time in ten years - for a great deal of assistance to co-operative building societies, the administrative costs of which are about one-twentieth of those of the socialist departments that dominate housing in Australia.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite may interject, but they cannot deny the truth of that assertion. If the cost of administration is reduced, obviously the cost of the final structure is reduced. If this agreement introduces into the building industry of Australia, as I am sure it will do, the competitive spirit of private enterprise, the resultant efficiency will cause some movement towards a reduction in the cost of a house which is the basic item in the cost .structure of our community. History proves that, £1 for £1, co-operative building societies can build more houses than can socialist government housing departments.
I return to the economics of the honorable member for Parkes and the honorable member for Banks and to the idea of selfcontainment in Australia. At the same time as this housing policy is being presented by the Government, there has been an immense increase in the number of houses built in Australia during the last few years. That increase has not been sufficient to meet the demand, because great building activity was also proceeding in the erection of factories and all the construction necessary for the great expansion of industrial activity which has occurred. That is true, and it cannot be disputed. Throughout Australia, outside every capital city and every other city of any consequence, in the last five or six years huge new suburbs, in fact, new cities and satellite towns, have grown, mainly unplanned. They have not been provided with the amenities that characterized settlement before the war. In the main, they are without main roads and sewerage, and in many cases without water and electric light.
– To provide those is a council matter.
– It is perfectly true, as my friend from the far north of Australia interjects, that that is a council matter. I am grateful to him for the interjection. Any one who studies the problems facing municipal councils throughout Australia will realize that, unless some positive action is taken to meet these problems in the relatively near future, we may have chaos in our form of municipal government. In other words, the stresses and pressures of to-day are too great for our ancient forms of municipal administration. That is fairly self-evident. Members of the Opposition have suggested that more
R- [in money be made available. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) advanced that argument on very many occasions. The need is not for the making available of money in one form or another, but for providing men and materials in relation to the money available, because we cannot build new houses and roads, or provide light, water and sewerage, with money alone. We need men and materials.
As His Excellency the GovernorGeneral remarked, we have embarked on an immigration programme which, in the main, has the support of all parties. At least, it has the support of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), who is the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I believe that the time has come for us to re-examine our immigration policy. As we cannot do that which the socialist theorists would have us do, that is, reduce consumption to the level of production, we should reduce the demands of production by . reducing the impact of immigrants on the economy, which impact constitutes a very great inflationary force. I do not suggest that weshould scrap the immigration programme, but a balanced reduction would relieve some of the pressure on the construction of the houses and roads which are essential to an organized community. It is all very well for people to talk a3 they do in terms of millions of pounds. Money offers no solution. It is all very well for the honorable member for Banks to refer to the lot of persons on fixed incomes, but the printing of more money presents no solution. A practical solution is a reduction of the inflationary pressure on our economy by lessening the inflationary impact of our present policy in regard to immigration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Graves of ex-Servicemen.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring to the notice of the Government a matter which I regard a3 being of some urgency and seriousness, namely the decision of the Government not to alter the practice of refusing to care for the graves of ex-members of the forces–
Motion’ by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question he now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Archie Cameron.)
Majority . . . . 24
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.35 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : - 1. (a) Plans have been completed for the erection of an automatic telephone exchange building at Middle Ridge and tenders will be invited immediately resources are available, (b) Tenders are expected to be invited for the erection of the central telecommunications building at Toowoomba- early in the coining financial year subject to the availability of resources for building works, (c) It is hoped that the resources available to the department will also permit the erection of an automatic telephone exchange building at Newtown tobe put in hand during next financial year.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 February 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560223_reps_22_hor9/>.