22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. F. Adermann) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I address a question to the Minister for External Affairs in relation to extradition proceedings instituted, at the request of the Government of Yugoslavia, against an Australian citizen. Was the agreement made earlier in this century between Australia and Servia, or is it an agreement with Yugoslavia? What is the agreement by which either government can request the extradition of its citizens? ls it usual for the Australian. Government to enter into such agreements with iron curtain countries? Is the copper mine in which the person concerned was working at the time of the alleged offence in Yugoslavia nothing more than a slave camp? What is the justification for the lapse of seven years before a charge was made against an immigrant, in Australia? Is there any evidence to support the suggestion that the person concerned in the present charge is the subject of special interest by Yugoslav agents or local Communists and that be has found it necessary to seek the assistance of fellow countrymen as guards? What guarantee can. we give to any Aus- tralian citizen who has come here from an iron curtain country that he or she will be secure from a framed political charge ?
– I do not undertake to cover all the aspects of the questions that the honorable gentleman has been good enough to ask, but I think I can throw sufficient light on the subject in general to answer his questions. In the first place, the present extradition treaty with Yugoslavia flows from an extradition treaty negotiated with Servia something like 50 years ago. As I understand the matter, it is held by the law department that that extradition treaty is valid and in existence between Australia and Yugoslavia.
– The law department of the Commonwealth?
– Yes. This extradition treaty with Yugoslavia, the successor of the extradition treaty with Servia of about 1900, lays down the alleged crimes for which extradition may be granted. It provides, amongst other things, that either government has an absolute discretion to refuse to deliver up its own subjects. It provides also that a person .shall not bc surrendered if the offence is of a political character or - I think this is equally important - if he prove that the requisition for his surrender by the other country has, in fact, been made with a view to trying or punishing him for an offence of a political character. The extradition acts which regulate the internal processes in Australia provide for the person arrested to be brought before a police magistrate who, amongst other things, is under a duty to receive evidence to show, if it is possible so to show, that the alleged crime is an offence of a political character or is not an extradition crime.
– Is the Minister reading from a prepared document?
– Not at all- just a few odd notes that I put down half an hour ago. Although it is for the magistrate to decide as to the man’s liability to extradition, the Australian Government is entitled to take into account matters which could not be adduced in evidence, for example, that he might not receive justice in the British sense if he were returned to his country of origin. That is. the general practice in respect of extradition matters. I made a statement on Saturday on this subject, in which I said, amongst other things, that the Government understood very well its obligation towards Australian citizens and would, in practice, review all such cases and make its decision where, as in the present case, it had a discretion. The protection of Australian citizenship is the same for naturalized and other Australians. Although there has been no opportunity for this matter to be discussed yet in Cabinet, I am personally in no doubt that the Government would not permit extradition of any individual to an iron curtain country if there was any reason to believe that the alleged offence had a political background. I cannot answer in detail the question as to the occupation, and the place of occupation of this particular individual before he came to Australia. I do not know whether there is evidence available to us on that subject, but no doubt that, and all other relevant facts, will come out at r.he hearing before the magistrate’s court - I think on the 20th of this month. I think that I have answered in general the broad question the honorable gentleman had in mind in relation to this matter. I emphasize that the fact of a man being a new Australian has no relevance. Whether a man is a new Australian or an old Australian, he is afforded the same protection of his citizenship, and the Government. I repeat, has a full right to decide whether or not it will accede to the request for extradition if the magistrate’s finding is to that end. I should like to repeat and emphasize, also, that where there is any reason at all - any reasonable reason - ro believe that extradition is sought on political grounds, or on grounds which indicate that, a nian, if taken back to his country of origin, would be exposed to political charges, no Australian need fear that he is likely to be extradited.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Works by reminding him that some time ago the Government decided to cut expenditure on works during the current year. I should he glad if he would inform me how the stated percentage cut is being applied to the various departments affected by the decision. Is it a uniform cut in each department? Is it applied, first of all, to direct employees of the Government? Does the Minister exercise any supervision over the carrying out of the policy or plan, and, in particular, is any distinction made between the large contractor and the small contractor in tapering off the payments under the contract? My colleague, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory, has already placed before the Minister facts in relation to the Department of the Interior. Above all, will the Minister ensure that the impact of this decision will fall with the least possible force upon employment in this country?
– As the right honorable gentleman will know, the Department of Works is only an operative department which carries out works for other client departments, and to that extent the control of works votes lies very much with the departments concerned. There are, of course, certain funds available through the Department of Works which come into the general pool for reconsideration when we run into a situation such as that which we have before us at. the present moment. Unfortunately, about six-sevenths of the country’s works programme is in the hands of contractors. As the right honorable gentleman will understand, in such circumstances we lose that intimate control over the rate of production of works which would otherwise obtain and, therefore, over the rate of expenditure also. It is also noticeable that in the last six or eight months the availability of men and materials has been such that expenditure on the works programme has tended to speed up. So, if we are not to overspend seriously, it has become necessary not to issue any new contracts and’, as certain contracts on which day labour was employed were completed, unfortunately it has been necessary to let some of the workers go. The question of priorities is very much one for departments themselves. There has been minor room for modification and adjustment as between departments, but this has not been usable to any. great extent. The right honorable gentleman may restassured that this matter has had the most careful attention of the entire Govern ment, as well as having been the subject of the most careful review. Places like Canberra and Darwin, which pose very special problems because of their isolation from other centres of work, have had particularly careful consideration, and I assure the right honorable gentleman that every effort is being made to carry on the works programme with the least possible disturbing impact on the labour position.
– Has the Minister for Works received complaints from the Operative Painters and Decorators Union, and the Plumbers and Gasfitters
Onion, in Sydney, in respect of a change in policy concerning the payment of travelling time and fares? If so, will the Minister advise the House of the present position regarding this matter?
– There has been some difficulty with the two trade unions to which the honorable gentleman has referred. The position to which he has adverted has arisen because there is no federal award covering the Operative Painters and Decorators Union and the Plumbers and Gasfitters Union. In the past it has been the practice for the Department of “Works to conduct its relations with these trade unions under the relevant State awards, one clause of which awards travelling time and fares to operatives who are “obliged to work away from their employer’s establishment or permanent place of business “, or words to that effect. In the course of years we have had a number of operatives working at various works depots in the Sydney suburbs, and it has been the practice to regard the General Post Office in Sydney as their notional place of employment, for the purpose of assessing travelling time and fares. In the course of years those depots in the suburbs of Sydney have become the fixed places of employment of the men employed at them, and each of them has become, for all practical purposes, the employer’s shop or place of business according to our interpretation of the intention of the award clause to which I have referred. The Department of Works has reached the opinion, with which I concur, that it is inappropriate that fares and travelling time should be allowed in respect of operatives who are regularly travelling to a permanent place of work. However, last week I had a conference with the secretaries of the two trade unions concerned, as a result of which arrangements have been made to have the matter heard in arbitration before Mr. Commissioner Chambers, provided that the unions are agreeable to his acting and provided also, of course, that there is an understanding that both parties will abide by the decision of arbitration. I hope that the matter will be entirely settled within the next few days, but if, by any chance, the decision should be in favour of the Government, then, of course, every co-operation will he extended to the two unions by way of, perhaps, transferring workers from one depot to another so that their travelling time and fares will be reduced to a minimum
– I desire to ask the Postmaster-General a question, but before doing so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, may I be permitted to preface my question by saying that it is one which was considered over a long period of years as my hardy annual. I refer to the building of a new general post office in Brisbane. Is the Postmaster-General aware that, after a long and persistent advocacy by myself on behalf of the citizens of Brisbane, the Commonwealth decided, in 1937-38, on the building of a new general post office in that- city, with the result that plans and specifications were drawn up and adopted, and a certain amount of money was provided in the 1937-38 budget for the commencement of a new building? World War II. then took place, and the matter was dropped for the time being. As the Postmaster-General represents a Queensland electorate, being the first Postmaster-General to. do so for many years, and as I am convinced that he is a sympathetic Minister, I ask him whether he will, in the interests of the citizens of Brisbane, take the matter up with the department that he administers to ascertain what the intentions are in respect of the building of a new general post office in accordance with the decision of the Australian Government in 1937-38. I shall be pleased if the PostmasterGeneral will let me have full details of the position as soon as possible.
– As the honorable member has indicated, I am well aware that the matter of the provision of a new general post office in Brisbane has been under consideration for a number of years, and that on many occasions the honorable member has submitted representations to the Government on the matter. The position has changed somewhat since 1937-38. Partly because of the visit of Her Majesty the Queen, the building at present facing Queen-street, Brisbane, was given a face lift. That demonstrated that it is a ‘very beautiful building, and in my opinion it would be a shame to remove it as long as it can possibly cope with the demands on the postal services in Brisbane. It is quite correct to say that the present accommodation in Brisbane is not sufficient to meet the expanding volume of work, and I know from investigations that I recently made that plans are in hand for the provision of further, accommodation at the rear of the present main building facing Elizabeth-street, with the idea that such accommodation will be provided over a period of several years - because a considerable amount of building work is planned - which will properly accommodate all the staff required to carry out the functions of the post office. I desire to make it plain that I consider that at present it would be a great shame to remove the building which fronts Queenstreet.
– Has the Minister for Territories received any official reports about a clash between an administration patrol and native villagers which occurred at Telefomin shortly before Easter? Was this incident related in any way -to the incidents that occurred near Telefomin in 1953, when two patrol officers lost their lives?
– I have received from the Administrator of Papua and New Guinea a report on this incident, following investigations made hy the District Commissioner for the Sepik. What occurred was that a routine administration patrol led by an assistant district officer and a patrol officer was making a routine visit to various villages. It arrived at a village and, as often happens during the course of its work, heard of a dispute between two separate villages. Following the customary practice the patrol applied itself to the task of pacification. In the course of that work a situation arose where the people from one village were brought to what was intended to he a peaceful discussion with the people of another village to end the series of killings by an exchange of foodstuffs.
– A compulsory conference ?
– Yes, called by an arbitrator in the person of a patrol officer. That conference, like someothers, eventually broke down, and the primitive people resorted to direct action.. A scene of violence, which did not involve the patrol officers vis-a-vis any group of native peoples, but involved the two groups of native people, developed,, with our officers in the middle as mediators. In those circumstances, a warning was given to the attacking; villagers to cease attacking. They did not pay heed to it, and a single shot wasfired over their heads. Again, they did not pay heed. The police fired a volley over their heads and, as an ugly situation was then imminent, another warningwas given that if any one moved forward’ any further there would be shooting - real shooting. The attack continued, and” one native was shot by a constable of thepatrol. There was only one casualty and not several, as has been stated in some reports. The incident had nothing to dowith that which occurred at Telefomin in 1953. That was in an entirely different part of the district, and among entirely different people. This situation involved two native villages, and not the relations between the villagers and the Administration.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the House whether the increased interest rates announced by the Prime Minister will have any effect upon the rate of interest charged by the War Service Homes Division? If so, will the Minister state what increase is contemplated, and when thenew rate will be introduced?
– In reply to theamiable and honorable member for Lang, let me say, from memory, that section 30- of the War Service Homes Act provides that the rate of interest shall be prescribed, but that it shall not exceed 5 per cent, per annum. Since the introduction of that legislation in 1919, the rate of interest has been progressively 5 per cent., 4rJ per cent., i per cent, and is now 3f per cent., the lowest it has everbeen. To the best of my knowledge and belief, there is no suggestion that the rate of interest should be increased, and I hope that the honorable member for Lang is not suggesting that it should be.
– In view of the development of Portland Harbour and the increasing wool trade through that port, will the Minister for Primary Industry give an assurance that the wool appraisement store, which is now being used as a bulk store for cotton, will be made available eventually for its original purpose when that is justified by the trade of the port, or when wool sales are held in Portland?
– Some time ago, the Portland authorities sent me a copy of a report on the expansion of port facilities in Portland for information. I had a look at the plans and they seemed to envisage the development of the port on a grand scale. They indicated, also, that storage facilities would be required at the port in the future. I think that one of the wool stores there has been handed to the Department of Supply, and is being used for the storage of cotton and other goods. According to my understanding, an arrangement was reached between the Department of Supply and the Department of Primary Industry that the store would be handed back by the Department of Supply if it were required for wool purposes. As I have not examined this matter for some time, it might be as well if the honorable member would repeat his question on Thursday or, as an alternative, I will obtain a more precise answer for him and let him have it in the form of a letter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health concerning the ban which the Government has imposed on the importation of heroin into Australia and has persuaded the State governments to impose on its manufacture. Has the Minister decided to suspend the ban, or considered suspending it, in view of the following facts: -
– The position with regard to the ban on heroin is that some time ago the World Health Organization and the .Economic and Social Council of the United Nations requested member States to consider the imposition of a ban on its manufacture and sale and, in those countries in which it was not manufactured, on its importation in order to take effective measures to suppress heroin addiction throughout the world as far as that could be done. The Australian Government sought the advice of the medical profession in Austro Iia, and the advice from the profession was to the effect that no great hardship would be inflicted and, in fact, advantages might be gained by imposing a ban in Australia. The Federal Government, therefore, banned the importation of heroin, and requested State governments to co-operate in prohibiting its manufacture and in such other activities as they would constitutionally be required to take. The position at present is that the Australian Government has taken this action, that the States have either passed or indicated that they are prepared to pass the necessary legislation, and that this has been done on the advice of the medical profession in Australia.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Immigration with the comment that in various industries there appears to be strong disagreement with a claim that 21 per cent, of immigrants are skilled tradesmen compared with 16 per cent, of -the Australian population. Complaints have been quite specific to the effect that a good proportion of immigrants have failed to give evidence of a reasonable standard of skill. Can the Minister inform the House what precautions are taken to verify the qualifications of individuals claiming skill as tradesmen before acceptance overseas as immigrants?
– I shall he pleased to supply a detailed statement to the honorable gentleman along the- lines that he has requested, but I can assure him that a most thorough examination of the credentials of prospective immigrants, particularly those claiming to possess trade qualifications, is made before approval for their admission to Australia is granted. Not only are there in Australia itself bodies representative of management and the trade unions which examine claims for recognition, but we have representatives of the industrial movement overseas who are also in a position to check these qualifications. Indeed, the complaints that have reached me have been rather in the opposite direction, being to the effect that our requirements are so stringent that many men who can reasonably claim to possess the desired trade qualifications have not been accepted because they have lacked some formal or documentary proof of their qualifications. However, I shall give the honorable member a more detailed answer in writing.
– Appreciating the answer that the Minister for Works has already given to the Leader of the Opposition, I ask him whether he is in a position to make a general statement covering the dismissal of day-labour employees in Canberra and the reduction of funds available to building firms working on contracts for the Government. Will the Minister detail his own efforts to secure an additional grant from the Treasury to continue the building programme? Will he tell the House and this electorate the reasons given for the refusal of that request?
– I shall give the matters raised by the honorable gentleman my best consideration, and provide him with what answers are possible in the circumstances.
– Can the Minister for
Primary Industry inform the House as to the progress of the Government’s proposals for a dried vine fruits stabilization scheme ? Have the final details been agreed upon with the Australian Dried Fruits Association? Will the legislation be introduced into this House during this autumn?
– My colleague, the honorable member for Angas, has shown a deep and continuing interest in the problem of a stabilization scheme for dried fruits, and also in the problem of war service land settlement in the Loxton area. For some time past, negotiations have been conducted by the Minister for Trade and myself in an attempt to prepare a stabilization plan for submission to the Government. Detailed proposals were placed before the Government for consideration, but little more than a week ago the Australian Dried Fruits Association asked the Minister for Trade and myself whether we would consider certain additional recommendations. We met a deputation from the association on Friday last, and we have considered their requests. It is my understanding - and this is the matter in which I think the honorable gentleman is most interested - that all the details will come before Cabinet for consideration at its nextmeeting.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is correct that a Government representative upon whom the sugar industry relied to select suitable immigrants for the industry was recently transferred from Italy; that the transfer took place at a time which made it impossible for the industry to send representatives to select immigrants, and that the task of selection now falls on an organization the main object of which is to get unemployable persons out of European countries. Is it also correct that immigrants who were brought to the sugar areas last year have taken other work, and that an additional 1,000 men have recently been landed in Queensland? Will the Minister take action to ensure that immigrants who are brought to Australia under contract for a specific purpose shall carry out their part of the contract ?
– I advise the honorable gentleman to check his facts a little more closely before submitting such a question or, indeed, statement. He may remember that on another occasion he caused himself some embarrassment by a similar negligent approach to the subject in question.
-The honorable member does not want a lecture from the Minister; he wants an answer.
– He will get an answer, too.
– Order !
– I do not want the honorable member to defame decent immigrants by saying that they are the dregs of the working populations of other countries. We have been in consultation with representatives of the sugar industry in relation to this matter. It is true that an experienced officer of the Department of Immigration who gave useful assistance in the selection of workers for the sugar industry last year has been promoted by the department and has been transferred to an important post at Copenhagen. However, the sugar industry had so much confidence, not only in that particular man, but also in selection officers generally and in the organization that had been established in that part of Europe, that even after his transfer, it did not choose to send any of its representatives to assist in this work, although the Government invited it to do so.
– It did not have time.
– There were discussions between the Government and representatives of the industry. It is nonsense to talk about not having time, because, with existing travel facilities, a man could get to Europe from Australia in 48 hours if he wished. Although I know that representatives of the industry have suggested that we should select 1,000 men rather than 800 men as proposed to send to the sugar areas, I have no reason to believe that they have been other than extremely satisfied, as they were last year, with the arrangements that have been made to help the industry.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether he is aware that the Hoxsey Cancer Clinic, at Dallas, Texas, is curing many people of cancer. Will the Minister arrange for a thorough investigation of the Hoxsey method of treatment? If the investigation shows that the treatment is successful, will the Minister recommend to the State go vernments that clinics similar to the Hoxsey Clinic be established in the various States?
– I have no knowledge of the clinic to which the honorable member has referred, but I shall have some inquiries made and let him know the result of them.
– Is the Minister for Supply aware that work on the Lucas Heights reactor project in New South Wales ceased on the 20th March, because of delay in dealing with the claims of over 400 employees for a site allowance and other important conditions? Has the Minister been advised that representatives of the ten unions involved have endeavoured to conciliate, both with the contracting company and with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, without avail? In view of the fact that the contracting company contends that its contract with the commission is such as to preclude liability by the company in respect of the issues in dispute, will the Minister take such steps as are necessary to arrange an early conference with the unions and the commission? Will the Minister agree that such an arrangement would be conducive to an early and satisfactory conclusion of the dispute, thus minimizing hardship to the employees and facilitating progress of this important national project?
– I am afraid that this is the second occasion on which the honorable member has got his facts awry. ‘ The other day he asked a question about a demarcation dispute at Menai, which he wrongly called a lockout, and which developed into a most ridiculous and Gilbertian situation, in which men were bobbing in and out of employment, and finally went back to work on the same terms as applied before they had ceased work. It is true that, at present, there is a dispute at Menai, and the men have declared the job black. They made an application to the Industrial Commission of New South Wales for no less than £8 a week as site allowance. Then they withdrew their application and, later, at a mass meeting, decided to stay on strike. They have been on strike ever since. This is a matter that concerns only the contractor and the unions involved. It is not a matter for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, but I tell the honorable member and the House that, from the point of view of this Government, the chances of the men getting a site allowance of that or any other magnitude is very remote indeed.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service consult with his colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, with a view to arranging an early visit of both Ministers to the Hobart waterfront to inspect at first hand the serious and chaotic conditions which exist at present with regard1 to the export of Tasmanian fruit, and the consequent serious effect on the export of other commodities in almost every Tasmanian port?
– I shall be glad to discuss with my colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport, the possibility of his visiting Hobart for the purpose mentioned by the honorable member. I think the honorable member will be aware that I am fully engaged at the moment in preparing legislation bearing on two aspects of waterfront problems, the arbitration angle and the organization of the waterfront industry. I can assure the honorable member that we are giving close attention to the situation in Hobart, which, I agree, is very unsatisfactory. He will be aware of the dispute, which occurred at the beginning of the fruit season over the pallet size, and it would appear from information reaching me that, with the decision having been given against the union on that particular issue, a deliberate process of go-slow is being applied. The number of men available for work is lower than normally would be the case at this time of the year, for two reasons, so far as I can gather, one being the reduced flow of transfers from the mainland which normally would take place, due to the big demand for work at the mainland ports as a result of the build-up of cargoes during the waterfront strike; and the second one being the refusal on the part of the local branch to increase the size of the membership up to the quota requirement laid down by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board. The board has taken this matter up with the federation itself, and also with the Australian Council of Trades Unions, directing the attention of both those organizations to the agreement which they entered into with the shipowners and with the Government that quotas prescribed by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board would be brought up to its requirements. I understand that a senior official has been sent by the federation to Hobart in order to bring this about, but so far, apparently, without result. It would appear that the branch is adopting an obstructive attitude even to the requests of its own senior federation officials. However, I am expecting advice at any time now from both the federation and the Australian Council of Trades Unions as to the outcome of their efforts. In the meantime, I understand that the shipowners, who had previously said that they themselves intended to advertise for labour, are refraining from doing so. I can assure the honorable gentleman that we are giving close attention to the problems that exist.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, in view of the fact that the conciliation commissioner made his interim award reducing the wages of shearers without hearing both sides of the case, the Minister will now request the conciliation commissioner to cancel that interim order and to refrain from giving any further judgment in this matter until he has heard the union’s case for an increase of wages.
– I understand that the conciliation commissioner, at one stage of the proceedings, directed the attention of the union to the fact that an appeal was available to it from his determination, if the union so wished; and it seems surprising that, if the union felt aggrieved by his decision, it did not adopt that particular course. I also say to the honorable gentleman - and I think he has sufficient knowledge of this industry to know that the facts would bear out what I am putting - that, a simple examination of the arithmetic on this question would reveal that, although there has been a 5 per cent, reduction in the shearing rate, that is by no means the equivalent of the decline in the wool value allowance ; and, whether or not the conciliation commissioner has given his award in that form, it seems fairly clear that he has taken into account, in coming to his interim decision, factors other than the simple application of the decline in the wool value allowance. Whether, in doing so, he made an estimate of what he felt would, roughly speaking, have been the value of the claims put forward by the union, I am not able to ‘ say with any authority; but I think that is not an. unreasonable assumption in the circumstances. But the honorable gentleman will, I am sure, be aware that if the union - and it is a union with a long and, I believe, proud record of adherence to the processes of arbitration - wishes to follow through to the full the possibilities of the arbitration processes and proceedings, whether before the conciliation commissioner or otherwise, it has a simple way of bringing that about : by getting its men back to work in accordance with the terms of the award prescribed and then pursuing its remedies to the utmost.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service a question supplementary to that just asked. Is it a fact that, rather than adopt the suggestion of the Minister that the industry should make representations to the court, the executive of the Australian Workers Union followed a different course and instructed its members not to work under the new award declared by the conciliation commissioner, thereby throwing the shearing industry into chaos? Is it a fact, also, that there is practically a complete, hold-up of the shearing industry as a result of that action of the Australian Workers Union? Has the Minister any information as to whether the matter may soon he brought to a conclusion?
– As to the first part of the honorable member’s question, proceedings before the Queensland Industrial Court resulted in penalties being imposed by thai court, because it held that there had been action on the part of union officials along the lines mentioned by the honorable member. It would appear that the union has pursued a course of either intimidation or coercion of those who would otherwise be willing to work for the prescribed rates. Although, for a long time, it has been held in the industrial movement that workers have the right to strike, few unionists subscribe to the view that men who are willing to work in accordance with an award should be denied the opportunity of doing so. To deny them that opportunity is industrial anarchy and certainly not trade unionism as we understand, or should understand, that expression in Australia. As to whether shearing is being continued in any volume at the present time, my information is that in Queensland where the season is most advanced a considerable amount of shearing is going on - some of’ it at rates prescribed by the Queensland’ Industrial Court in its most recent award, and at other points in accordance with the old rates. Around Australia there have been examples of shearers working at the new rates in some places and at the old rates in others. As I have already pointed out, an award prescribes a minimum rate of pay, but if an employer chooses to- pay more than that rate there is nothing in the award to prevent him from doing so, and no criticism should attach to those who do. But criticism will necessarily, and justly, attach to any persons who prevent from working men who wish to do so in accordance with the decision of a court or a conciliation commissioner.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Can the right honorable gentleman indicate when the Commonwealth Employment Office at Kingsford will be constructed? Does die Minister realize that, owing to the rising tide of unemployment resulting from the Prime Minister’s economic measures, the construction of this office is a matter of urgency? I should like to inform the Minister that unemployed in my electorate now have to travel as far as S miles to register for relief. 1
– On the question of the construction of the Kingsford employment office-
– “We have waited- five years for it.
– Because overfull employment has obtained during the past five years it might be argued that there would have been hardly any us« for this office, but I shall ascertain what stage that particular project has reached. As to the honorable member’s general comment of an alleged rising tide of unemployment, he should be aware that my department keeps a careful tally of unemployment registrations week by week. According to the latest figures it appears that there are still 45,000 work vacancies in Australia waiting to be filled. The number of persons receiving unemployment benefit is slightly in excess of 6,000, and relating that number to the total work force in this country, the proportion is about a quarter of 1 per cent.
– I ask the Minister for Supply whether tin production in Australia is still far short of local requirements. What proportion of Australia’s tin supplies is now being imported, and is it possible that Australia can become self-supporting in this product in the future ?
– In general terms, I can say that Australia does not produce all the tin it needs, but there is a healthy and, I hope, increasing volume of tin production. I shall supply the honorable member with details in writing.
– My question is addressed to the right honorable Minister for External Affairs. I direct attention to the recent appointment of a cultural attache to the Australian Embassy in Indonesia. Will the Minister say what is a cultural attache, and what are his duties? Is he there to study Indonesian culture, or is he primarily concerned with exporting Australian culture to Indonesia ? Have other Australian embassies the services of cultural attaches?
– The word “culture”, as I understand it, has a very wide significance. In this case, the Indonesian Government announced its willingness and desire to appoint a cultural attache in Australia, and it was intimated that a reciprocal appointment would be welcome. It has nothing to do with the export of Indonesian culture to Australia, or vice versa. I can supply the honorable member, later, with a full list of this new appointee’s duties, but one of the more important of them is in respect of the Colombo plan - the sending of trainees to Australia. The number of Indonesian trainees has now reached a considerable total, and the work involved in looking after them was eating into the time of the diplomatic officers to an inordinate extent. This reciprocal exchange of officers, who have been called cultural attaches, and whose work is this rather utilitarian business of implementing the Colombo plan, has been the course taken to relieve this situation.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether the production of copper in Australia is now more than adequate for local requirements. Is there a total embargo upon the export of surplus copper? If so, is there any intention to relax that embargo?
– Australia is not yet producing all the copper - certainly in its refined form - that it needs. At the same time, however, there is an export of blister copper and an import of ingot copper, also copper bars and wire. I shall supplement my answer to the honorable member with further details in writing.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs whether his attention has been directed to a recent press report that the headstones on the graves of som, Australian soldiers killed in Greece have been defaced. Can the Minister inform the House whether there is any substance in this report, and if there is, will he make a suitable protest?
Mr.CASEY. - I have received from His Excellency the Greek Minister in Australia an all-embracing statement expressing, on behalf of the Greek Government, profound regret that this desecration of the headstones on the graves of Australian soldiers had taken place. In addition to that, the Australian Consul-General in Athens was sent for by the Foreign Minister in Athens, and the same thing was said to him. Without having the actual terms of what was said in my mind, I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Greek Government has expressed, both through its Minister here and the Australian ConsulGeneral in Athens, its most profound regret; and it has expressed that regret in terms that one must regard as completely satisfactory. I should like it to be known that this was done almost immediately after this desecration took place. The Greek Government has divorced itself entirely from this, and has expressed its deep regret in the most profound terms.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs lay on the table of the House the aide-memoire of protest received from the Government of India some weeks ago in connexion with the proceedings at Karachi dealing with the question of Kashmir, which was then before the United Nations? Will the Minister also lay on the table the Australian Government’s reply to that aidememoire ?
– I do not believe it would be right that an aide-memoire from another country should be made public. An aide-memoire is not a matter for publicity, but I shall look at it again, and see whether it is possible for me to indicate the substance of it to the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In his answer to a previous question, the Minister spoke of intimidation and coercion by a union of its members. What exactly does he mean? Can the Minister quote specific instances which are simply not examples of the trade union spirit of loyalty and sticking together? Finally, are we to understand that the Minister does not like loyalty in trade unions ?
– I have already given, in a speech, some illustrations of the sort of thing I had in mind.I referred to the listing in the journal of the union of the names of persons who had accepted work in accordance with the terms prescribed by the Queensland Industrial . Court. That listing was clearly designed to discourage other persons from accepting employment under similar conditions. It was also designed to intimidate those who had already accepted such work. There are other illustrations to be found. One of them was reported extensively in the press to-day. I refer to the black-listing of employers. Certain commodities have been declared black while being worked by persons who have accepted employment at the prescribed rates. A number of other illustrations can be brought to mind. The honorable member asked me whether I did not approve of loyalty to one’s fellow trade unionists. Of course, I believe in loyalty where it can be justified, but I think that the trade union movement owes loyalty, in the first instance, to this country, and in the second instance, to the established law which, as I understand it, is supported by all parties in this Parliament. At least, honorable gentlemen opposite give lip service to it.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Meat Export (Additional Charge) Bill 1056.
Meat Agreement (Deficiency Payments) Bill 1050.
Fisheries Bill 1950.
Debate resumed from the 22nd March, (vide page 1110), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper be printed: -
National Economy - Economic MeasuresMinisterial Statement.
Upon which Mr. Cuban had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ paper “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words hi place thereof: - “so far as it discloses a policy of increasing interest rates on bank overdrafts is injurious to the large majority of the people of Australia and should lie rejected “.
.- On the evening of the 14th March, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made an economic statement which, despite the artificial surprise of our opponents on the other side of the House, was actually anticipated by them. I should like to clear up the point. I say that it was anticipated, because any one who has followed Australia’s position during the last few years must have recognized that some action would have to be taken within the very near future if economic stability was to be attained. If one may use the vernacular, blind Freddie could have seen exactly what was going to happen from what had been said in statements in earlier years.
I should like to emphasize also that any suggestion to the effect that we delayed taking action earlier because of the general election on the 10th December last, is entirely false. This must be obvious to any one, because all the signs and portents were there for any one to see. For instance, on the 24th August, 1955, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), in presenting his budget for the current financial year, pointed to some potential disturbances in our economy. He said that there was a shortage of labour, that wages and other costs were rising, and that there was a substantial deficit in overseas trade. He also said that our overseas exchange reserves were running out, and that this position was aggravated by too high a demand for imports. He said that extraordinary boom conditions were causing an overexpansion of credit and the rapid growth of hire-purchase finance. Furthermore, in this Parliament, and before the last election, the Prime Minister said -
I would not have Parliament believe that the Government is in some curious way worried about prosperity. On the contrary, it takes’ great pride and pleasure in it. Its whole purpose is to preserve and consolidate it.
He continued -
So far as we can judge, export income is likely to be substantially less than last year, because there has been a fall in the price of wool. The rate of imports, though it will tend to fall as the result of the April, 1955, import restrictions, will still continue at a fairly high level, and the fall in our reserves has diminished our room for manoeuvre.
We have considered all these matters and wo have decided-
I should like to emphasize this - that our external payments situation must be brought into full balance not later than the 30th June, 1956.
The position was obvious to those who had studied the overseas balances, which play such an important part in our stability. The balances dropped from £570,000,000 to £428,000,000 in twelve months and subsequently to £370,000,000. That corresponds with the situation in 1951-52 when we had an adverse trade balance of £378,415,000. The measures that were foreshadowed in September last have had to be taken. I emphasize again that any one who. is interested enough to study the financial situation must agree that the action now taken, was foreshadowed when the Prime Minister made his statement on Australia’s economy last September.
The experience of myself and other honorable members is that the public accepts the fact that this action had to be taken. But Opposition members are hurriedly climbing on a bandwagon in order to make out of the present situation the very best political capital they can make for themselves. For that purpose, they take a lot of small points out of their context and try to use them for their own advantage. This is reminiscent of the outcry we heard from them when the “ horror “ budget, as it was termed, was brought down in 1951. On that occasion, (hey took advantage of an even better opportunity to attack this Government and to foretell disaster for Australia. The Government claimed at the time that Opposition members and the public should have confidence in the Government’s endeavours to do the best it could possibly do for all sections of the community and not for any one section. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the honorable member for
Melbourne (Mr. Calwell), the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) and other Opposition members consolidated their ‘forces and preached depression, unemployment and everything else that was bad in an attempt to sap the confidence of the country in the Government’s management of its affairs, irrespective of the national outcome. As time went on, it was proved that their prophecies had no substance and that the Government’s claim to the confidence of the people had been based on very firm and sound foundations.
Perhaps the greatest criticism of Opposition members that one can offer is, as has been said in this House before, that they have an acknowledged vested interest in depression and unemployment as a means of winning their way back to the treasury bench. One might say that their methods are completely negative, for they do not offer any constructive suggestions or any reasonable alternative to the action taken by this Government. Allegations that the Liberal party and Australian Country party Government is an unemployment government are the rather shabby stockintrade of a party which can be truly said at the present time to be so badly split asunder as to be completely incapable of performing its proper legislative duties, because it cannot concentrate on its joh and has lost the support of many Australians.’ In the newspapers every day, one may read divergent opinion* about the policy that should be adopted. But how can the Opposition offer a consolidated policy in our national interests ? I should like to deal with this matter a little more fully. It is not particularly constructive to delve into the past, unless the past has some bearing on the present; but we all know that Labour continually delves into the past and refers to the. depression of the early 1930’s in confirmation of its allegations that the present Government is acting against the national interests. The depression now means little even to our middle-aged citizens. It is receding further and further into the pages of industrial history.
But if we study the depression, we find that the United Australia party Government took over a tremendous hurden of responsibility. About 32 per cent, of the workers were unemployed, and exports and imports were falling. As Australia depended principally on. its exports of primary products, it might reasonably have been expected that it would be much more difficult for Australia than for any other country to climb out of the depression. In these post-war years, Germany has set an example of longer working hours, lower wages and consistent effort, but no nation has worked with more spirit and enthusiasm to extricate itself from its troubles than Australia did in those pre-war times. So successful were its efforts that export trade improved, as the statistics show. As trade improved, employment increased, and, towards the end of the 1930’s, our exports of primary products were at a high level and, under the administration of the United Australia party Government, which Opposition members term to-day an unemployment government, unemployment amounted to only about 10 per cent, of the work force, compared with approximately 32 per cent, at the beginning of the decade. These facts demonstrate that the bogy constantly brought out by Labour in its allegations that this Government is endeavouring, by legislation, to create unemployment, is completely and utterly false. This Government has not a vested interest in unemployment. It wishes to prevent unemployment. Every one knows that when the people are working, and working efficiently and enthusiastically, all standards are raised.
– Why is the Government at present sacking building tradesmen in Canberra?
– Because we still have over-employment in Australia. Even in 1951, when unemployment in Australia was the lowest in the world, Labour brought out the bogy of depression and said the same things. It is now repeating itself. Any slight degree of unemployment in Australia is negligible. At the present time, there is employment for all. The Government has been accused of creating frequent crises. No one in any city or country in the world can he sure that his plans for the future will work out, and no nation can prophesy with complete accuracy what lies around the corner. Floods, fires, droughts and plagues of various kinds are part of our daily lives. A government cannot be judged merely by the fact that a crisis has occurred. It must be judged by the action it takes when the crisis arises, because we know that, by the natural law of consequences, crises must occur. A crisis occurred in 1951 when there was a sudden decline of the price of wool. If we are completely honest with ourselves, we must acknowledge that the improvement in price was not due to our discovery of a new type of wool tha* suddenly brought a higher price in the world’s markets or of a new invention or process that improved the fibre of our product. The improvement was caused by the war in Korea, which resulted in strong bidding from America for our wool, which was urgently needed on account of that war. As a result, economic stability immediately returned in Australia. I remind the House that the situation was handled efficiently and constructively, despite the opposition of a number of people who stated at the time that the Government’s action was wrong. Subsequent events proved it right, and we returned to a situation of what may be termed over-employment, with higher production and less industrial trouble. Before the last general elections, it was stated that, in 1949, 1,333,990 working days were lost through industrial disputes. In 1954, with a greatly augmented work force, industrial disputes caused the loss of 901,639 working days - a decline of 432,351.
We now come to another factor in our present-day economy. The figures which T have cited are read by other people. They arc read by persons who have not the best interests of Australia at heart. When one wishes to produce a worse situation for his opponent, where does he strike? He strikes at his opponent’? vital point. So now in this country we are experiencing industrial trouble. Questions and answers in this chamber repeatedly illustrate that major disputes arise from trifling and negligible matters. Such disputes are occurring at the present, time one after another. As an illustration, let us consider the Tasmanian ship ping problem. This little island is dependent for its trade almost entirely on sea transport. The despatch of butter, apples, and cement is being delayed because a fair day’s work is not being done on the Tasmanian wharfs. There has been a slowing down process. Stoppages occur, and trucks loaded with produce for despatch are banked up for a mile and a half. These conditions are caused by men who are led by non-Australians, who have not at heart the best interests of Australia, and although their actual commanders from Russia were smiling their way around England, these non- Australians are fighting the cold war here .very efficiently on their behalf.
Many honorable members opposite have been associated with unions. In the sanctuary of their rooms and at their public meetings they speak of having obtained good conditions for Australian workers. They say, “ You have good conditions and we have obtained them for you “, but they want it both ways. At the same time as they claim that conditions are good, in other places they are saying that conditions are adverse. Then they say that Labour has done a good job for the workers, but omit to say that better wages and working conditions have been obtained by means of arbitration, and that they are trying to pull down this very structure which has brought better conditions in Australia. Three most important matters, shipping, wool exports and the cessation of shearing, were dealt with most effectively in answers at question time. The replies showed that the disputes in those industries have all been caused by trifling matters. The shearing dispute strikes at one of the most important elements in our economy. At this time we need overseas money for apples and butter and wool, but a force in Australia, working closely on a unity ticket with the very ones on the other side of the House who say they are upholding the rights of the workers, is against us. What will happen if the money we need from the sale of our exports does not come to Australia ? The impact will be felt most of all by the workers. Thus, in the last analysis, they are the persons who are least considered by the Opposition.
Economists amongst honorable members opposite have brought into this House their ideas about desirable future legislation. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), not content with speaking in the House, also writes letters to the newspapers. In one such letter he wrote -
The alternative to what Labour proposes is not only the present Government; it is inflation, crisis, and depression.
He says that Labour would offset inflation by a out in the defence allocation. For such a long time that has been Labour’s attitude towards the security of this country. One might say that all defence activity is wasteful. Munitions are produced, nien in military camps are not engaged on constructive work, and a. tremendous price is paid, but all insurance, if one cares to regard it in that light, is wasteful. We have great assets in this country and we must be prepared to pay to protect them. We are paying less than any other country is expending on this account. Defence expenditure in the United States of America amounts to over £100 a head, in Great Britain to £3!) a head, and in Australia to £21 u head. One cannot reduce expenditure, on the defence and security of everything we have achieved and expert that, we will be able to retain it.
In conclusion I say that we have produced a comprehensive and over-all plan. It is constructive and complete and not piecemeal like the criticism which has come from the other side of the House. In the past, in moments of crisis we have asked for confidence to be placed in us, and we ask for it again. This country can and must return to unrestricted commercial and financial activity. It should be realized that our past performance justifies us in again asking the community to make what is after all a very small sacrifice compared with the great benefits we can obtain for this country.
.- T rise to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). Listening to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), I was somewhat astounded to hear him say that warning of these financial restrictions was given last Sep tember. It is more remarkable that during the general election campaign not one word was said about them.
– Yes, there was.
– No, not one word. It further surprises me to hear a member of this Parliament, who represents an electorate which is largely industrial, claim that these financial restrictions have had no impact on the workers in his electorate. His saying things like that convinces me that he has never made a survey of his electorate. After reviewing the financial statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), I believe that the measures set out in the supplementary budget will have a very harmful effect on the living standards of the wage-earners, especially those on fixed incomes who work under federal award? and whose wages have not been adjusted in accordance with the rising cost of living. The suspension of cost-of-living adjustments has already put those person.1” about 19s. a week “ in the red “. The extra tax that is being imposed on petrol is being passed on in increased freight charges. These increased charges must ultimately find their way to foodstuff3 and other commodities essential to the people and, of course, this will mean a reduction in the living standard of the workers because of the whittling down of his purchasing power. In the view of Opposition members, a reduction in the living standards of the worker is definitely a wage reduction. In other words, it is reasonable to assume that the increased overdraft rates, the increased sales tax on commercial vehicles, and increased interest rates or dearer money, will be all bulked together in the form of increased overhead and administration costs, and farmed out to the final consumers in higher prices designed to cover not only the extra taxes, but also expected rises, and in the final analysis more profit to the profiteers.
Looking at the matter from the point of view of the wage-earners, the system adopted by the Prime Minister should be rightly called phantom taxation, because they do not know whence it will next strike at them. So the mad race of wages chasing prices will continue. and consequently there will be a considerable falling off in savings. This will have the reverse effect to that which the Prime Minister proposed when he said-
To put it clearly, we cannot have increased development and increased individual consumption without increased individual production, saving and investment.
Perhaps the most harsh effect of the supplementary budget will be felt by the pensioners. For instance, I quote a weekly budget set out in Now, a publication of the Brotherhood of St. Laurence -
This budget makes no allowance for wood, clothing, fares, shoe polish, shaving soap blades, tobacco, sweets, handbags, the replacement of worn out utensils such as toothbrushes, writing pads, linen, towels, blankets, broken china, broom, mop, needles, safety v>ins, Ac.
On top of all that, firewood has risen by £1 a ton with plenty of other rises to follow. Thus it would appear necessary for pensions to be raised by at’ least fi a week.
Much has been” said about housing problems in debates that have taken plr.ce in this chamber and it is true that one of the greatest problems facing this country is the shortage of homes. It is quite true to say that good housing, good conditions, and contented people will beat communism, whilst the lack of these will foster it. In view of the higher interest rates that will be charged, what then is the Government going to do to help people buy their homes? What of the people who are still wanting homes but who now have to face up to the extra costs. higher interest rates and increased mortgages which will result from the impost of this new taxation? These are aspects which are causing serious concern and over which rigid control must be exercised if the home-building industry is to be saved from deteriorating.
I am further concerned, as a result of a survey I have made in my own electorate, about the effect the supplementary budget will have on the small builder, the “ spec “ builder, who, more rightly, could be called the backbone of the homebuilding industry. In most cases he operates on an overdraft. Are we to see again the same debacle which occurred during the 1929 depression when, through similar legislation, hundreds of these builders went insolvent and caused many others who were dependent on them to go through the same experience. How does the dearer money and increased interest rates line up with the statement made by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) ? He stated that the Government took the view that people who had saved enough money to put a deposit on a home were entitled to receive some aid from community funds just as was the person who sought to solve his housing problem by placing his name on the waiting list of a housing commission. That statement does not make sense, because, already, people are looking to the future with doubt and foreboding, wondering what will come next to cause further complications in their problems. As a consequence, they have doubts about the future and fear a period of recession which will affect their homebuilding plans and other matters vital to the well-being of their children and of this nation.
It is true to say that this disastrous drift of affairs will add to the already appalling housing problem in Australia. In Victoria and New South Wales, the combined total of the number of people waiting for housing commission accommodation is 60,000, and even in Canberra a 29 months’ lag exists with more than 3,000 families waiting for homes. In addition to people wanting housing commission accommodation others are living in cramped and uncongenial conditions whilst they are building a home for themselves, or waiting for a home to be built. The people in this category will be further burdened by the extra cost which must result from the supplementary budget.
I refer again to petrol tax. With almost a blare of trumpets it was announced that £4,000,000 will be distributed to the States for road works throughout Australia. Victoria is to receive about £650,000, a mere drop in the ocean when one considers that the States claim that in order to lay down an essential roads system to meet the needs of national development and defence, £100,000,000 a year is needed over the next ten years. The failure of the Australian Government to tackle this problem is indicative of its apathy towards national matters of this nature.
State government departments and semi-governmental departments are already retrenching on works and labour, and private enterprise has reacted to the supplementary budget in a like manner. The consequence is that unemployment is rearing its vicious head. If unemployment occurs how can we increase production? The state of affairs that is arising is in direct contradiction to the claim of the Prime Minister to which I referred earlier. He said that in order to defeat inflation, it is necessary to have increased individual consumption, production, savings and investment. How can this apply if the people are to have less money to spend? I should like to quote from a statement by people who support this Government. The following appeared in the weekly letter of the Employers Federation of Victoria: -
Employers Sec Jobless Rise.
Unemployment similar to that in 1951-52 may result from the recent “ austerity “ budget, the Victorian Employers’ Federation says in its weekly service letter.
Economic history has a “ habit of repeating itself”, says the letter.
The Federation says that six months after the introduction of the 1951 austerity budget the number of people claiming unemployment benefits jumped more than 400 per cent, to 3,203.
This year, at the end of February, 6,128 people were receiving unemployment benefits - “a disquieting similarity” in pattern to 1951-52.
The article goes on - “ Government Must Help.”
The Federation says it is doubtful whether the recent budget can achieve its aim of drawing off surplus funds to counter infla tion unless Government expenditure is also reduced. It does not seem sufficient for the Government merely to state that the Public Service cannot be reduced.
Another claim which the federation repudiates is the Government’s reference to the method of decreasing the demand for luxury lines. In this respect, it states -
Production of some electric home appliances dropped by from 10 per cent, to 20 per cent, in the six months ending last December.
Compared with the same period in 1954, output of hot water jugs dropped by 10 petcent.; portable radios 13 per cent.; refrigerators 1G per cent.; and food mixers 20 per cent.
That statement is a direct contradiction of the claim of the Government that the demand for luxury lines was tile cause of inflation and financial trouble in this country. In other words, the federation, which can be rightly regarded as a Liberal party organization, roundly condemns the methods of this Government.
With that condemnation from the Employers Federation comes condemnation from all sections of the community, indicating very clearly that the people have lost faith in the Government. The Liberal Premier of Victoria has been most caustic, but he does indicate, along with the Premier of Tasmania, that he is prepared to confer on the subject of interest rates. It is, therefore, imperative that the Government take immediate action, with the .States, to control interest rates. Already those able to pay the highest interest rates have cornered and are in control of the limited available credit. That makes the introduction of an excess profits tax a matter of urgency. Capital issues also should be closely controlled, and a conference with the States on this question is an immediate necessity.
To give some indication of the difficulties under which semi-governmental institutions are labouring in relation to loans, let me read a statement made by the chairman of the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works, published in the press on the 6th April. The report, under the heading “ The Industries We May Lose”, is as follows: -
The Loan Council was out of touch with the needs of Melbourne and Sydney, Mr. Ti. E. Trickey, Board of Works Chairman, said yesterday. Overseas companies would not be interested in establishing plants in the outer suburban areas, because the Board did not have enough money to get water to them, he added. The system of raising loan funds for capital works had become outmoded and needed reviewing urgently. “ If the Board is to meet present and anticipated demands for water, sewerage and draining, long-range planning is necessary. But, unfortunately, the extent to which these demands can be met depends on the amount of loan funds which the Board is authorized by the - Loan Council. The authorities have had to raise loans at periods quite unsuitable to them “.
The next period will be quite unsuitable to them, too - “The demand for services is rapidly, expanding. Large-scale industrial development will have to be met with considerable capita] expenditure by the Board. If the services are not provided such industries may be lost to Victoria “.
They may be lost to Australia - “ They will be established in other States which are able to provide the required facilities “. “What, then, of the claim that this budget will increase development and increase production? In keeping with the plea of the Prime Minister for more savings, I suggest that an immediate review be made of all Commonwealth departments, especially in view of the revelations made recently by the Public Accounts Committee. If the worker has to pay more for his beer, his cigarettes and his few gallons of petrol, if he has to bear the impost of the price increases which will be the result of the latest financial measures, this Government must stand condemned if it does not introduce an excess profits tax, take action at once to control interest rates and capital investments, and make an. investigation of financial matters affecting its own departments. Also, in order to be consistent in its plea for saving, it must make immediate arrangements to enable the States to use the over-estimates of defence money and excess money from other government departments to meet some of the needs which are so apparent in the development of this country, in the form of road construction, sewerage and drainage, schools and hospitals.
.- First, I should like to say that T support wholeheartedly the measures proposed by the Government in its recent supplementary budget. I want to reply to one criticism that has been made of those measures - that they are not antiinflationary. In making that criticism, I think that people often forget the three aims with which the measures were introduced - first, to get Our overseas trade balances in order; secondly, to help to curb inflation ; and thirdly, to raise more revenue so that the current works programmes of the States may be continued, not cut down. If the works programmes of the States are to be continued, despite a deficit on the loan account, they must be financed either with extra revenue raised from the people of Australia or by the issue of treasury-bills. Surely there is no doubt in the minds of honorable members about which of those two courses would do most to help to curb inflation at this time.
The measures that the Government has introduced are short-term measures only, but the problems that we have before us are long-term problems. Unless we get a clear idea in our minds why we have an imbalance in our overseas trade and why we have inflation, any efforts to find a final solution of those problems will not be successful. I should like honorable members to keep in mind the great national objectives that I think everyone in this country has before him at the present time. They are, first, full employment and the maintenance of a high standard of life; and secondly - but most important for both strategic and moral reasons - a vigorous programme of national development and a vigorous programme of immigration. I believe that our present difficulties have been caused almost entirely by a determination to keep both national development and immigration going at the present rate - a rate which it is vitally important for Australia to maintain, if possible.
One thing stands out clearly in the evidence of the last six years. Australis is on a wool standard. “When the price of wool has been high, we have been able to buy all the things that we want to buy from abroad and we have been able to develop in the way that we like. But when the price of wool has fallen, that fall has brought in its wake import restrictions to cure the resulting adverse balance of trade. Import restrictions placing greater stress on local industry
Iia ve led to inflation, and inflation has led twice - this is the second time - to a supplementary budget or to restrictive budgets of one kind or another.
A more permanent solution of the problems is needed if the great programmes of national development and immigration are to be continued. A clue to the solution of the problems can, 1 believe, be found in the pattern of the development which has been in progress during the last twenty years. Industrial employment has more than doubled. Primary production has gone up by 20 per cent., but secondary production has gone up by 100 per cent. In 1933, 20 per cent, of our work force was employed in industry and 24 per cent, in primary production, but now 30 per cent, is employed in industry and only 15 per cent, in primary production. It is worth noting that the United States of America - supposedly the most, industrialized country in the world - has only 26 per cent, of it* work force employed in industry.
The effect of this development lias been to place Australia in such a position that the employment of a great number of its people now is more dependent, not less dependent, upon imports. Although the secondary industries of this country have created great demands for imports, they have done little or nothing, comparatively speaking, to increase our ability to export. Comparing the three pre-war years with the year 1954-55, our imports are up by
SO per cent., or 40 per cent, per head. Total exports are up by 25 per cent., but per head they are down by 5 per cent. Our ability to export in 1954-55, per head, was less than it was before the war.
The great programmes of development that we have been undertaking have teen possible only because of the extremely favorable terms of trade that have been prevalent in the post-war years. The reason for our greater dependence upon imports is that development has taken place in fields which have not added to our ability to export. Secondary production, in its best year, gave us about £70,000,000 worth of overseas credits. It. is true that the products of new industries may replace some imported articles, but at the same time those industries have created great demands for raw materials, capital equipment and consumer goods. The development that has taken place, largely in the sphere of secondary industry and our increase of population, have generated a greater demand for motor cars, washing machines, clothing and also for food. That means that we have less primary produce to export than before.
I should like to give two examples to show that increased production of certain things in Australia does not necessarily mean that we do not have to import as much or more of those things than before. Again I shall compare the postwar years with 1954-55. Before the war, we produced locally 387,000 tons of steel rods and bars and we imported 5,900 tons. Local production now is 416,000 tons, but
Ave import 74,500 tons. Before the war, we produced 32,000 electric motors annually and imported 146,000. Now we are producing over 1,000,000 each year, but we are importing over 261,000. Since this development in secondary industries breeds great demands for imports, and at the same time, in certain spheres, lessens our ability to export, the employment of many people in secondary industries is vitally dependent upon wool, the major commodity which is making it possible for us to finance the imports that these secondary industries need. If there were a further fall of 20 per cent, in the price of wool, if the wool cheque dropped by another £70,000,000 or £80,000,000, this country would be in an extraordinarily dangerous position indeed. It is worth noting here that since the last sale in Australia the spot price in the London market is far from a happy one. Further import cuts would lead almost inevitably to cuts in many things which are essential to keep the wheels of industry turning, because producers’ materials at present comprise 51 per cent, of our imports, and manufacturing producers’ equipment comprises over 17 per cent. About 70 per cent, of our imports are going directly to secondary industries, and if through some mischance there is an unfortunate change in prices and once again further or more severe import cuts are made necessary, then almost inevitably these materials will be affected, and great unemployment in some of our secondary industries will result. I do not believe that there is a short-term answer to these problems without import restrictions and other restrictive measures at home, but I am equally convinced that no mere monetary or fiscal measure alone will provide any satisfactory long-term answer. I believe that we should attack this problem through four courses - through savings, through primary production, through secondary industries and tariff policy, and through world trade policy. I do not want to say a great deal about savings. It is something that is quite obviously important and it has been emphasized and re-emphasized by honorable members. Hire purchase - again quite obviously - does a great deal to lessen the volume of savings coming into government loans for government projects. And here there is just one observation that I should like to make: Money invested in hire-purchase companies is unlike any other investment made that I can name. Normally, invested money goes into something productive, such as government works like the Snowy Mountains scheme, or to help to build a private factory; but money invested in the hire-purchase companies is not productive in any way at all. All it does is to aid the forces of consumption to increase consumption, and while hire-purchase companies are allowed to distort the pattern of interest rates throughout the economy and virtually to set up a banking system of a new nature inside Australia, I believe it will he very difficult to get any real balance in savings in this country. It is worth noting here that the United States of America and Great Britain have both found it necessary to add control of hire purchase to their other weapons of monetary and fiscal control. They have done this so that they may manage their economies in the best possible manner. Although some people may not like the thought that we have a managed economy, since we have it, let us make the best job of it that we possibly can.
Turning to primary industries, it is not possible that there will be any great or new increase in primary production, but if primary production can increase at a rate equal to our increase in population, or at a rate equal to the increase in population that we should like to maintain with the existing immigration programme, it will be doing a good job. In many areas we are already on marginal land, and in other cases we are against a hard core of people who do not wish to improve their . methods. To them the old way is good enough, and until their sons come along with perhaps new ideas, .production on these particular types of farms will not be greatly increased. To gain extra overseas credits, I believe we have to look to our secondary industries. Therefore, the survival of our secondary industries is vital. While on the subject of tariffs and secondary industry policies it is worthy of note that we are more industrialized than the United States. I believe that some very deep re-thinking has to be done on our tariff policy. But what I have in my own mind applies only to the future. Any industries that have begun here under existing circumstances - that is a contract of the past which would not necessarily be altered because of changing attitudes in the future. But there are some pertinent questions that I believe we .should ask ourselves and examine most carefully. Are we too tariff-minded? Are our industries too widespread - too widespread amongst too many different industries? Should our industries be concentrated so that we can gain advantages of scale which experience in the United States has shown to be vital and necessary if an industry is to operate most efficiently? I believe that possibly there should be only two criterions for granting a tariff to any new industry in this country: the first question we should ask is, “ Are there strategic defence reasons for this industry ? “ Secondly we should ask, “ Can this industry produce . here efficiently? Will there be a reasonable chance for the industry to export ? “ But do not let us grant a tariff just for the sake of having, a new industry in Australia. There are many ways in which the Government could help our secondary industries to export. The export payments scheme which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has mentioned, is one. But there is another way which is not so obvious but which is also real. If an industry is going to produce, if it is going to export, it needs to a certain extent a relatively large and secured local market so that it may use its productive capacity to the full and gain the most advantage it can in manufacturing as efficiently and cheaply as it can. It may well be - I know of one instance at least in which this has happened - that an industry will set up - when I say industry, I mean that there may be one or more firms - and be prepared to supply the full Australian market with a certain type of commodity. If it does so, and its productive capacity is fully used, it may then be able to produce at a price that is competitive on the world market. But then somebody in the Government, or in a government department, may say, “ We had better keep these local boys on their toes. We will let in imported goods to the tune of 20 per cent, of the local market”. But if “that is done a certain amount of the productive capacity of the Australian industry may be put out of use. Two shifts may be worked instead of three, or four days worked instead of five. As a consequence, overhead and other costs will rise and the industry for this reason alone may no longer be able to produce at competitive world prices.
There are two ways, I believe, in which the Government could help our secondary industries to export. Allied to this “problem is the important problem of world trade. It is a sorry history when one realizes that in 1951 world trade onlyreached the volume of 1929, and then only because of the gigantic one-way United States aid, which was doing nothing in actual fact to help reciprocal trade, but which was only making it possible for other countries to buy from the United States. In 1951, only 16 per cent, of manufactured products entered world trade. In 1929, 26 per cent, of manufactured products entered world trade. This, surely, is a sorry record for Bretton Woods, for the International Monetary Fund, for the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, for the Havana Charter and for the Ottawa Agreement. And this last one is perhaps a sorry story for Australia itself because Australia’s own surplus was not with the Commonwealth, amongst which trade is meant to be increased by the Ottawa Agreement, but with non-dollar and non-sterling countries ; in other words, with Europe and with Japan. Only with those countries did Australia have a surplus of trade.
I believe there are two things which could be done to help this position. The first and the most important is to get the United States, if possible, to realize that the position of being a persistent creditor is one which carries certain obligations with it. In one manner, if a country is not prepared to buy from abroad what it wishes to sell abroad, it is just exporting unemployment. It is not enough to overcome this by giving money away so that other countries can buy from you and thus maintain your own employment at a high level unless you also are prepared to buy from the other countries so that they can maintain their full employment without resort to quantitative restrictions and protective tariffs of one kind or another.
There is another thing which I believe could be done and in this an example could well be set by the Commonwealth itself. If Ministers for Trade, or their equivalents in Commonwealth countries, could meet at least once a year to discuss their problems broadly, not bound by any fixed agreements, but acting in a free, atmosphere of friendliness in order to get rid of one country’s surpluses and solve another country’s shortages, I believe the results would be of great benefit to the British Commonwealth, and that eventually this idea of co-operation among the Commonwealth’s Ministers for Trade could be extended to cover their equivalents in other countries outside the British Commonwealth if they so wished.
I hope that I have not put my views too dogmatically. I have hoped to provoke thought on lines which, I believe, could be profitable in our present position. If we can save more, and export more, our great national objectives of defence, development and immigration will be preserved. But the plain fact remains that if we are unable to balance our trade overseas without continuous undue restrictions of one kind or another, whether they be protective tariffs, quantitative restrictions, or higher sales, taxes, and if we must continually resort to these methods, our great national objectives of development and immigration will have to go by the board, or at least be drastically cut.
Mi. £. JAMES HARRISON (Blaxland; [4.27]. - I wish to direct my attention to the statement on economic measures made in this House by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I wish to refer particularly to the part of his statement in which he pointed out that, in order to achieve prosperity, and consolidate it, we must be prepared to face up to the factors which tend to destroy prosperity by aggravating our costs. Before I proceed on that line I should like to say that I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) face up to the reality that secondary industries provide this country with some measure of assistance in the solution of its balance of payments problem.
The statement in which the Prime Minister indicated the Government’s proposals for dealing with the present inflationary trend highlights the need for a complete overhaul and examination of just where Australia is going in relation to its industrial economy. It is quite usual for Government supporters to say that our wealth depends upon the production limit of the workers, and to attempt, by various means, to lay at the door of the workers themselves the responsibility for the failure in our economy. It is a fact, of course, that the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, while Prime Minster, constantly appealed for an honest day’s work for each day’s pay; and, of course, it is equally certain that, broadly, this appeal fell upon deaf ears. So that, when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said in this debate that the big lie of the Opposition is that it accuses the Government and its supporters of starting a plan to depress the standards of the Australian working man. and his family, and that we, as members of the Opposition, accuse members of the Government of a desire to have an unemployment pool, he was displaying an incapacity to present properly to this House, and to the people, a picture that gives any hope for the Australian worker or his family. A great deal of idle talk has been going on recently regarding the need to overhaul the arbitration system,, and some quite erroneous statements have been made concerning the court, its functions, and its relationship with the Australian economy. It is this idle chatter on the part of great sections of our presse that prompts the thought, “ What part can the worker play in stabilizing the Australian economy, and what can be done to attract the attention of the sameworker to his national responsibility?”.. The arbitration system was originallycreated in Australia for the purpose of doing nothing more than provide theworkers in the community with a “ fair and reasonable “ standard of living. One need only recall the findings of Mr. Justice Higgins, in the 1907 Harvester case, to find support for the belief that the Australian worker has never been given an opportunity to play his part asan interested Australian, working for his country as well as for his family. The, Harvester case was a case where an application was made by the employer for a certificate to show that the workers in his employment were receiving a standard, that could be regarded as “fair and reasonable “. Mr. Justice Higgins took the very correct view that this question might well have been left to a reasonableemployer, but he found that the decision of providing a fair and reasonablestandard could not be left to the “usual., but unequal contest, the ‘higgling of the market ‘ for labour “, with the need for bread on one side and the greed for profitson the other. This becomes such an important factor in the year 1956 that I propose to quote part of the actual transcript of the judgment contained in therecords of the court, because here we have the very foundation of arbitration in Australia, and here lies the root of thethings that are causing the trouble inindustry to-day. We find that, quite early in his judgment, Mr. Justice Higgins had this to say -
The provision for fair and reasonable remuneration is obviously designed for the benefit of the employees in the industry: and it must be meant to secure to them something which they cannot get by the ordinary system of individual bargaining with employers. If Parliament meant that the conditions shall be such as they can get by individual bargaining - if it meant that those conditions are to be fair and reasonable, which employees- -will accept and employers will give, in contracts of service - there would have been no need for this provision. The remuneration -could safely have been left to the usual, but unequal, contest, the “ higgling of the market “ for labour, with the pressure for bread on one . side and the pressure for profits on the other. The standard of “fair and reasonable” must, therefore, be something else; and I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilized community.
That was the basis on which arbitration in this country was founded; and, of course, it is worthy of note that in that judgment the court refused to issue a certificate because it found that the H. V. McKay company, which was taken as standard, was not paying wages that were regarded as being fair and reasonable. So, as at 1907, conciliation as we know it in Australia was damned forever in our present arbitration system. It is because of that that I wish to devote my attention to this matter during this debate.
To talk of the late Mr. Justice Higgins, or the late Mr. Justice Powers, or the late Judge Drake-Brockman as great conciliators, inferring that their conciliatory powers were more conducive to settlement of disputation between the workers and the employer than is the case with the present occupants of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court or the conciliation commissioners, is unfair and -unjust in the light of what is being done by the present judges and conciliation commissioners. The present industrial authority on a Commonwealth level in Australia has gone further to effect conciliation than the act, correctly interpreted, actually provides for. As an instance, I have in mind the present senior judge settling a dispute on a ship in the port of Melbourne by direct personal contact with the disputants on Good Friday, to avoid passengers being inconvenienced through the late sailing of a particular ship when a dispute arose on the vessel. I recall, again close to Easter, the work of a conciliation commissioner, Mr. Austin, in dealing with the fertilizer dispute in Wollongong, and the cement dispute at Portland, sparing himself not at all to effect conciliation between parties under a federal award, but with disputes purely of local character, thereby disposing of the view that has generally been expressed, that all disputes, other than those of national character, must be settled on a State level. We have reached a stage where mere talk of “ slants “ towards conciliation are now totally insufficient to meet the requirements of Australian production in the national interest, and when some few days ago I became aware of a trade union representative being sent overseas to examine the impact of automation, I recalled the ineptitude of this Government in making any approach towards higher production in Australia.
Conciliation and arbitration, as we practise it in Australia, could only succeed until the nation developed to the point where, like Great Britain, it became dependent upon the sale of production from secondary industries to affect overseas balance of payments. That is where I agree, to some extent, with what the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) said about the need to expand our secondary industry. In other words, under present methods we can only succeed in Australia for as long as the great bulk of production from any industry is purely for the Australian market. The first reason for this is that our present system of arbitration fans always the distrust between management and labour on the score of profits, because the employers, it must be remembered, object to making available to any tribunal information relating to profits made from an industrial undertaking covering which an award is to be made. The late Mr. Justice Higgins, in the last judgment that he delivered before retiring in 1921. put it quite clearly that employer? objected to providing information as to the profits made from the labour of an employee, thus making any decision of the court purely an arbitrary one. In fact, all decisions of arbitration judges and conciliation commissioners are arbitrary, and most of the decisions made by the earlier judges, excepting perhaps Mr. Justice Higgins - and T refer particularly to Mr. Juscitce Drake-Brockman who had the onerous task of holding industry stable subsequent to a depression period - were forced to resort to expedients. However, that is the one sure way to create antagonism against the arbitration system on the part of the workers. In connexion with that matter, I desire to cite the judgment of Mr. Justice Beeby in the basic wage inquiry of 1940. His Honour said, inter alia -
It must be remembered that ever since the “ Harvester “ standard the present wage system has been built up by a succession of decisions, each made mainly on consideration of the economic circumstances of the moment, not on the opinions, fanciful or otherwise, of judges as to how the social order might be reconstructed. The late Chief Judge Dethridge in past judgments has stated that in his opinion the real determinant of wage rates should be the productivity of labour, but other judges have not accepted his doctrine except by declarations that wages should be the highest average that industry can carry. It may be that ultimately legislatures will establish a definite relation between wages and productivity.
I now desire to place before honorable members my personal opinion about this matter, because it might be helpful to the Parliament and the Government when they attempt to find a way out of the economic chaos into which we have fallen. Having just completed twenty years’ continuous experience in both State and Federal arbitration courts, either as witness or advocate, I believe that it is essential that conciliation and arbitration should be dealt with exclusively on a Commonwealth level. I do not know whether that is possible of achievement in sufficient time to prevent further deterioration in Australian production costs, but I believe immediate action must be taken to cut- away the dead weight from Commonwealth conciliation and arbitration affecting the scope of the tribunals, filing of logs of claims and the like. That is not difficult of achievement. First, the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should be empowered to deal only with standard hours and the basic wage. The court should be in constant session, and should have available to it all the data and statistics on production costs from every industry. It should have constantly available to it all the information that is now presented periodically by employers and employees, and it should have this material made available to it without cost to either employer or employee repre sentatives. At this point I desire to read an extract from the Metal Trades judgment of 1954. In that case the court stated -
We are unable to conclude that productivity in factories has increased; it may of coursebe expected that the volume of factory production will grow as unemployment diminishes.
I suggest that the necessity for such a statement is a blot on the system that has been operating in this country for about 50 years. Production may improve asunemployment diminishes. In otherwords, the court showed quite clearly that even in the Metal Trades case it was not able to obtain all the material that it required in respect of the productivity of labour. The Parliament expects the court to do what is reasonable, both for the workers in industry and for the nation, and yet it has not adequate information to carry out its duties. The court itself should be required to make periodically - at least annually - reports to the Parliament on man-hour production, the value of that production, and its increase or decrease. Then, although the alteration may be only one hour a year, the standard working week should be reduced and the basic wage increased, taking the position as at the conclusion of the present basic wage hearing to be the norm in relation to both wages and hours.
Having relieved the court of awardmaking responsibility, conciliation should then be directly utilized as between employer and employee somewhat on the lines followed in industry in Great Britain, with the need for an arbitrator only when a dispute cannot he settled at the management-trade union level. This condition should be applied at industry levels, or even a type of breaking up of that level in some industries may be required. It would be incumbent upon the employer to show the employee the true value of his production, and the employee would be brought to recognize the principle that the greater the production at a lower cost level, the greater the advanvcement and security of employment for all engaged in the industry. That is conciliation correctly practised, with the employer-employee committee functioning continuously at an industry level.
All awards and agreements covering wages and conditions should follow the pattern of the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator’s award-making principles; that is they should not be made for a period, but should continue indefinitely with both employers and employees possessing the right to seek a variation of any particular clause of the award or of rates of pay at any time. That, of course, would completely eliminate all the technical processes and the time lag in award or agreement making, and in the filing of new logs of claims and so on. It would also eliminate the self-imposed rule of the court about the ambit of logs of claims. Such a committee, representative of employers and employees of every industry, could then surely be trusted with all the information regarding costs and the like. An employer could show his employee that by greater production he would receive greater benefit, and that all profit over a reasonable amount was being put bacl* to expand his industry and provide more work for Australians. The result of such a system would be that the worker would be trained to work for his country as well as for himself. I am not so sanguine as is the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and some of his friends - even some of them on this side of the House - about the value of bodies such as the Ministry of Labour Advisory Committee. My hesitancy in this regard arises from the fact that 1 know of the opposition of the Australian Council of Trades Unions caused mainly by the votes of big organizations not concerned with, and, in some cases, not interested in, “ methods engineering “, or in any form of incentive payments based on greater productivity through the introduction of time and motion studies. That policy is binding upon the representatives of the Australian Council of Trades Unions.
Australian industry is now at a disadvantage in some instances, particularly in textile production, in that English magnates hold back improved machinery or the blue prints for it for at least twelve months. But this disadvantage can be offset by the capacity and ability of the Australian workers. However, no capacity on the part of the Australian workers can ever hope to meet overseas competi tion unless we face up to incentive payments in those industries which must compete in foreign markets. Maybe I am wrong, but I believe that it is stupid and foolish to talk of, or think about, automation and shut our eyes to incentives. For .six years, this Government has played with the question of incentives on a level between the Minister for Labour and National Service, the Department of Labour and National Service and the leaders of the Australian Council of Trades Unions. Similar discussion must be necessary on the part of the Federal Labour Advisory ‘Committee insofar as the problem affects the Australian Council of Trades Unions representatives.
Industries should be grouped and examined on a national level. Those that are to compete in foreign markets should be helped. The Australian Government should be providing machinery for technical training in engineering methods and time and motion study, not only for representatives of employers, but also for representatives of the trade union movement so that complete understanding and confidence will be established between the employees and the management on every level in the industries that are to be assisted. That should be done by the Australian Government, whatever its political colour. Until this Government adopts a realistic approach to Australian secondary industries it will be branded as a do-nothing government because, through its ineptitude and lack of understanding, it will have failed to provide for the building of a great nation by ensuring that the products of secondary industries are used to achieve a balance of overseas payments.
– The only comment I have to make about the speech of the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) is that I believe he is always very sincere in his contributions to debates in this chamber. I shall not endeavour to follow him into the details of the arbitration system, but I do believe that something should be done now about industrial arbitration in Australia.
Although I support the economic measures that have been announced to the House by the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies), I am not whole-hearted in my support, because I believe we have taken only a bite at the problems facing us. Every honorable member recognizes that those problems exist, but there are different methods of approach to them. The Government is a free-enterprise government and, naturally, the Opposition opposes the Government’s policy. The Australian Labour party believes in socialist policies, and honorable members opposite have had to pledge their support of those policies before they could receive party endorsement as political candidates. They would be violating their pledge if they supported anything that savoured of private or free enterprise.
E agree with the proposals of the Prime Minister because they are short-term proposals. None of them would have been necessary had this Government handed back to the various State governments the responsibilities of government which the Commonwealth has shouldered since World War II. I have always advocated handing back to the States, first and foremost, their taxing powers. They should have had them long ago, because any government that does not have the responsibility of collecting money becomes irresponsible. That has been amply demonstrated more than once by the actions of the wonderful Queensland Government.
The Australian Government which now holds office has retained the system of uniform taxation since it has been in power, because it believed that that system would be more equitable, in particular, for such States as Queensland and Western Australia. They are large in area and have the greatest potential for development, but they .have small populations. On a population basis, their rate of taxation was the highest in Australia until the system of uniform taxation was introduced. This Government believed that it could assist them if they co-operated, and it has consistently encouraged those industries which contribute to our export trade. In every case, however, the Queensland Government has immediately imposed other forms of taxation which have offset the benefits the Australian Government has tried to confer.
I have previously mentioned in thischamber the re-appraisement of land values in Queensland, and I direct attention to it again in support of my assertion. Land values in some of the principal agricultural areas of Queensland have been raised by 400 to 500 per cent. One area, which is known to me, was valued previously at £3 an acre. Now, the unimproved value is assessed at £22 an acre. With land tax or Crown land rental at 3 per cent, on capital value, a large amount is involved. Bates and other taxes have risen proportionately. All those taxes are deductible for Commonwealth income tax purposes, and the Australian Government is deprived of much of the revenue it would have obtained from those working that land. The State Government has benefited accordingly. It would be interesting to know, also, what the increase of land values means when a property becomes subject to death duties. All these imposts add to our cost level. Whenever the Australian Government has encouraged the industries which earn export revenue, the State governments have imposed taxes which have offset the advantages conferred by the Commonwealth.
Reference has been made frequently to the need for greater productivity and the reduction of costs so that we may compete on overseas markets. Beams of stuff have been written about these matters in the press by long-haired economists and all sorts of persons. I shall not go into details, but I emphasize strongly that the primary industries have played the game, and increased production by about 20 per cent, since World War II. Production could be increased further if more credit could be made available. I do not mean that it should be thrown about indiscriminately. Credit should be made available on a selective basis to those who have proved themselves capable of good management.
This Government has made available, and advocated the use of, much technical advice from various branches of research. It has distributed information about new methods of production and techniques by which costs might be reduced, but the majority of persons who want to take advantage of those new techniques lack the money to do so. This problem must be examined afresh to determine ways by which they can be financed. It is useless to disseminate advice on new techniques if those interested cannot take advantage of them because they have not the ready capital. This Government should study the matter carefully because the provision of capital would be a good investment. Special credits should be made available so that those who are engaged in the industries concerned can use the techniques that have been evolved by scientific research. That is something that we should look at carefully. The people concerned would then be able to increase production and reduce costs, and thereby increase our overseas balances.
There is another matter that I want to speak about, although I do not think that the Federal Government has the power to deal directly with it. It is a Loan Council matter, and concerns the bond rate. Over the last few years the bond rate has increased very greatly. We find, to-day, that a lot of people who hold per cent, bonds are selling them for the purpose of investing in hirepurchase companies and getting a higher rate of interest. I believe that that could be overcome by a fluctuating rate of bond interest, according to the availability of money at the time. I do not stand here professing to know much about the finance business, and I know that the proposal will be ridiculed by some economists and by other people who will say that it is not in conformity with the usual system of raising loans. But I put it to the House in this way. The basic wage has repeatedly been increased. Huge increases in the wage rates of the Commonwealth Public Service were made recently. We can always find millions of pounds for purposes such as that. I believe that money should also he found for the purpose of maintaining bond rates. As the bond rate goes up, so the interest rate payable on previously issued bonds should go up.
What are the savings of the people? They are, in effect, wages that have been saved ; the result of earnings from industry. In the case of the small investor, savings represent wages’ which have been put aside for five or six years until he is ready to use them. The person who spends his wages gets their value at the time; so the person who saves part of his wages and puts the money into bonds should get the increased value when he wishes to cash the bonds. The present system does not encourage the thrifty person. People would have more confidence in the bond market if they knew that they could cash their bonds at the stipulated time and that the money would have the same purchasing power as it had when they invested it. Of course, I am not recommending a system which would assist those who wish to speculate on the stock exchange, t believe that my proposal would not cost the country a great deal of money. In fact, it would save a lot of money, because at the present time the Commonwealth Bank is supporting the bond market to the extent of millions of pounds in order to keep up the price of bonds. If my proposal were adopted those millions of pounds would not have to be found. We might have to find a few million pounds for the purpose of increasing the bond rate if the rate were increased when new loans were raised, but this expenditure would not be as great as the amount which is now expended by the Commonwealth Bank.
We have heard a lot about credit restriction. I read in the Canberra Times this morning a statement by the general manager of a bank criticizing the Government’s economic proposals. He made a sweeping statement to the effect that the Government would just collect the money and spend it, and he gave the impression to the general public that the average person is able to spend his money to better advantage than is the Government. I may be wrong, but that was my impression of the meaning of this statement. Yet, only recently, I learned of the experience of a father and son who were conducting an essential business in my area. Their bank was the bank of which the man to whom I have referred is the general manager. The men were in partnership, and had a working overdraft from the bank of about £4,500. The father became too old and ill to carry on in the business and he said to his son, “ You get out and go on your own “. They closed their joint account and the son opened up a new account in his own name. He said to the hank, “ I suppose that I can carry on with the usual overdraft? “. The bank said, “ No. This is a new account”.
These people do not know where they are going. The young fellow contacted me and told me about it. He had in his hand a lot of literature from a hirepurchase finance corporation. The bank official had said to him, “ Go to this corporation and you will probably get the money at 8 per cent. I can almost guarantee that you will “. This bank was one of the biggest shareholders in that corporation. It would not give that man a continuation of his overdraft, but suggested that he should go to this corporation in which it had a lot of shares.
I am not going to argue the point about interest rates, but on one matter T am in agreement with the Leader of i he Opposition. If the States will not give the Commonwealth the power to deal with high interest rates, particularly with regard to hire purchase companies, it is time that we held a referendum on the matter. Now that the right honorable gentleman has declared himself in support of such a proposal, the referendum should be carried. I am not a believer in socialism, but I believe that when such practices as I have described are carried on by responsible financial institutions in this country, the position has to be corrected ; and I cannot see any other way to correct it but to take control of interest rates from hire purchase companies.
In conclusion, I ask the Government to give serious consideration to making available to particular industries, particularly primary industries, easier credit facilities for the purpose of enabling them to take advantage of those new techniques that have been brought about by scientific research. I should also like the Government to give consideration to a fluctuating bond rate for the reasons that I have stated to the House.
.- On the 14th March, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) delivered in this House what has become known as the statement on economic measures. I think it would be better described as a supplementary budget. As a result of the measures proposed in that statement, the Government will collect the sum of £115,000,000 from the people of Australia. Of that £115,000,000, an amount of £12,000,000 will be collected from the increase iti petrol tax. Of the £12,000,000, the Government will give £4,000,000 back to the States. So, in effect, the Government proposes to take from the people of Australia no less than £111,000,000. I think that the action can be described as nothing more or less than a grab from the people of this country on the part of the Government.
Now, members on the Government side of the House have taken exception to the attitude of the Opposition in this debate and have suggested that we are bound to put forward alternative proposals to the ones that the Government has submitted to the House. I do not subscribe to that view, because I believe that the measures before the House are untenable. The Opposition has proved that it is because of the Government’s policy that we are in the position in which we find ourselves to-day.
The Prime Minister said at the outset that we were suffering from a condition of inflation - a statement with which I do not think anybody would disagree. Then he went on to propose certain remedies for this condition. The right honorable gentleman, when outlining the remedies, stated -
To achieve these purposes, we must be prepared to face up to the factors which tend to destroy prosperity by aggravating our costs, to the inflation of our currency, and to the great task of maintaining and building our trade position in the world.
He stated, in effect, that we were suffering from a condition of inflation, and that the way to cure that condition wa3 to increase production and to reduce costs. I propose to demonstrate to the House that, because of their very nature, the measures that have been proposed by the Government will fail to increase production and to reduce costs.
The Prime Minister stated that that end would be achieved, first, by raising the interest rate; secondly, by increasing company taxation; thirdly, by increasing excise duty on beer, spirits and cigarettes ; fourthly, by imposing a higher sales tax on motor vehicles ; fifthly, by increasing excise on petrol; sixthly, by imposing further restrictions on imports ; ; and lastly, by increasing sales tax on luxury goods. I think it can be stated that, with the exception of the increase of sales tax on luxury goods, the only result of the increases will be an increase of the cost of production. The unfortunate aspect of the matter is that in every case the increase will be borne by the worker. The right honorable gentleman, supported by honorable members opposite, tried to prove that by increasing company tax the Government was imposing a burden on companies. I submit that the companies will not carry that impost, but that eventually it will be borne by the worker, who is the last man along the line. I challenge any Government supporter to say that the companies will carry the burden. The increase will he treated as an item of overhead and, as [ have already stated, will be borne by the worker.
The Government has also proposed an increase of interest rates, which means that money will become dearer. Not only will money become dearer, but also a burden will be placed upon persons who are holding government bonds. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) demonstrated very convincingly what is happening in financial circles to-day, and the part that is being played by the private banks in particular. The Government’s action in increasing the interest rate has resulted in the bond market becoming depressed to such a degree that persons who years ago bought for £100 bonds which will not mature for another six years, would be lucky if they obtained £S5 for them on to-day’s market. The Prime Minister stated that the banks, in fixing the new interest rates, would try to strike an average, but, remembering our experience with the trading banks, I have not very high hopes that his praiseworthy ambition will be realized. In regard to the increased duty on beer, spirits and cigarettes, I direct attention to the fact that breweries have not only passed on the increase but that also, at least in New South Wales, they have taken advantage of the occasion to increase the price of their products still further. The worker is now compelled to pay, not only the increased tax, but also, particularly in relation to beer, other charges .that were imposed at the same I’.ir.c.
The increased tax on motor vehicles and petrol can have no other result than an increase of transport costs. It is ridiculous for supporters of the Government to rise in this House and proclaim that the panacea of our ills lies in increased production and a reduction of costs when the action that has been taken by the Government has resulted in costs being increased out of all proportion. A few weeks ago, the controlling body of the transport association of Victoria stated that the increased cost of petrol would mean that transport charges would rise by up to 25 per cent. I do not know how they propose to justify such an increase. It is interesting to note that many persons are benefiting from the increased tax on petrol. If one takes his clothes to be cleaned, one is told that cleaning costs have risen because of the increase of petrol tax. The Government’s action is tending to make the economy more unbalanced rather than to restore stability to it.
The life of this Government has been marked by the instability of our overseas trading balance. When the Government assumed office in 1949, it “inherited a favorable trade balance of approximately £700,000,000, which has never been exceeded, but the Government has allowed that balance to run down to such a degree that it can have only disastrous repercussions on Australia’s internal economy. Australia was in a sound financial position overseas when this Government assumed office, but in 1951 we had the spectacle of the Prime Minister making a statement similar to that which he delivered a few weeks ago. When he made that statement, in 1951 the state of the economy was the result of a policy that the Government had deliberately chosen to adopt. One has only to look at the figures relating to our overseas trading balances to discover the Government’s policy. I have already pointed out that in 1949-50 our overseas reserves stood at approximately £700,000,000. By 1952, they had fallen to £362,000,000. The Government had lifted nearly all import restrictions but, worse than that, of the hundreds of millions of pounds worth of goods that were imported only 16 per cent, were capital goods and equipment. In other words, our overseas reserves were squandered because of the inability of the Government to appreciate the action that was required, and its determination to prove that import restrictions were not necessary. By 1953, our overseas reserves had been increased to £548,000,000 and in 1954 they stood at £571,000,000. However, the latest available figures show that in 1955 our reserves were only £428,000,000, which was far below the figure at which they stood when the Chifley Government was defeated and this Government assumed office. What is responsible for the present position? I submit that we cannot have a situation in which our overseas balances fluctuate in that manner without something happening to our internal economy. Our overseas balances were disastrously reduced in the period from 1950 to 1952. This Government was acquainted with the position eight months before it eventually acted. Its reluctance to do anything about the situation compelled it, in the last resort, to impose the hardships that have followed from the measures that it has introduced. We find again that our overseas balances are deteriorating, and, as a consequence, this Government has decided to impose import restrictions. It has also decided to swell the Treasury of this country by no less than £111,000,000, which amount will be paid into Consolidated Revenue. The Government claims, I suppose in the language of the economists, that it is draining off surplus money, but to me it seems to be engaged in a form of brigandage. Because the Government claims that these measures are necessary, it proposes to use methods that will not, as I have shown, bring about the results that the Government desires, but, on the contrary, will serve only to aggravate the situation.
For the reasons I have given to the House, I submit that the amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) is deserving of the support of all members of the House. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe), who preceded me in this debate, was very scathing in his attack upon Opposition members in regard to this matter. He suggested that if Opposition members sincerely wanted a referen dum on prices control, he would be inclined to support such a proposal. Here is an opportunity for him to demonstrate his earnestness in the matter. It must be agreed that our present internal economic situation has been intensified by the operations of hire-purchase corporations. To-day, another kind of financial monster is operating in our midst, and the private trading banks are assisting it to operate, because the hire-purchase field is more lucrative for them than are ordinary trading activities. Honorable members would be surprised to know the extent of the holdings of private trading banks in hire-purchase corporations.
Interest rates demand immediate attention. Honorable members who have preceded me in this debate have given example after example of the exorbitant rates of interest that are being charged by hire-purchase finance organizations. There was a time in our society when usury was considered a criminal offence, but I believe that we have changed our views somewhat. It is a case of “ other days, other ways “, and to-day usury seems to be an accepted practice. It is not a question of what you are, but of what you have. If a man can boast of sufficient wealth, even though he has amassed it by these dubious practices, he will be accepted in some quarters as a successful business man and a very good citizen. It is because of these changing social values that these corporations which are exploiting the public to the full have become accepted. I submit it is about time that this Government realized that unless it is prepared to do something about the problem, the ramifications of these corporations may. completely undermine our economy.
I suggest that when the Prime Minister interviews people in regard to economic problems he should at least interview those who have no interest in politics. I understand that one of his advisers on the question of the operations of hire purchase corporations is a Mr. Bisset. Mr. Bisset is very deeply interested in this matter. It may be quite all right for him to give advice, but I question his qualifications to advise the Prime Minister on, a matter such as this, especially as lie is a member of the executive of the Liberal party in New South Wales. Because of his political background, I believe that he should be the last man that the Prime Minister should call in for consultation on such matters.
The amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports should commend itself to this House. The honorable member has at least made some suggestions for providing relief from the inflationary processes working on our economy to-day. He has suggested that the Government should endeavour to control interest rates, which would at least constitute an attempt to control some of the effects of inflation. On the other hand, the adoption of the proposals of this Government will result in a deterioration of our economic situation. While the Government has suggested that the panacea for our present economic ills lies in the direction of increased production and reduced costs, I have demonstrated that the proposals of the Government would, if adopted, in no way increase production or reduce costs. The measures proposed by the Government will, on the contrary, undoubtedly result in increasing costs to a higher level than they have yet attained.
.- To even the most casual observer of the proceedings of this House, it is abundantly clear that Opposition members are capable of rising to great heights of curiosity in presenting their points of view. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor), who has just resumed his seat, evinces the substance of that contention. If anything, he was being consistent, because his leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), in opening the debate for the Opposition on the Government’s economic measures, at once proceeded to advance what can only be described as an astonishingly curious point of view. He commenced by asserting that the Government possessed no mandate at all for these measures. He implied that there was a degree of deceit accompanying them, in that no mention was made of them to the Australian people during the election campaign. An observation of that nature is unworthy of the Leader of the Opposition. It is a form of intellectual dishonesty that I find surprising when coming from him. The simple truth is that the Prime Minister, in his policy speech last year, said this -
We will hold ourselves ready to take any other measures which may be needed if cooperation is not as successful as we now hope.
The Prime Minister then went on to say -
What those measures may need to be will be governed entirely by future circumstances.
That is a plain statement of fact. Quite obviously, it would be impossible to couch in precise terms, in a policy speech, the nature of economic measures that would need to be taken in six months’ or six years’ time. I cannot see that the Opposition is on grounds of substance when it claims that the Government was in possession of no mandate from the Australian people for these measures. But the paradox is this: Possibly there is no other person in Australia less fitted to criticize economic measures than the Leader of the Opposition because since he assumed the role of leading - or to be more accurate, misleading - the Opposition, he has advanced set after set of ad captandum highly inflationary proposals to the Australian people. His policy, in a sense, has been power at any price, irrespective of the nature or the consequences of the proposals. Foi example, if honorable members turn to his 1954 policy speech, they will see that the right honorable gentleman said -
We will give only one directive to the Commonwealth Bank. That will be that it is to provide the credit necessary for an expanding economy.
– Hear, hear !
– I ask the House, and particularly the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), to observe that in that same policy speech the right honorable gentleman advanced specific proposals to the tune of approximately £600,000,000.
– The honorable member’s arithmetic is worse than his logic.
– It is not a case of my arithmetic being at fault. It distresses me that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) is not here at the moment, because he might have been able to help the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) to work out a few sums.
Then, in 1955, the right honorable gentleman adopted what may be described as a more Fabian approach. He softpedalled. His specific proposals on that occasion would have cost approximately £188,000,000. There remained in the background the unspecified proposals. It is beyond the bounds of credulity that the Leader of the Opposition was unaware, when he drafted that policy speech, that in this current year there would be enormous loan redemptions. Are we to imagine that the right honorable gentleman would have ignored the position of the States in regard to their works? “We come to the conclusion that whereas economic text-books in the past, have had to make provision for odd words and odd points of view, such text-books in the future will have to make provision for a new word, “ Evateering “, which means “ to advance extravagant economic proposals for sheer party political motives “, “ to put forward proposals without regard to consequences “, “ the art of making wild, chimerical promises designed to promote uncontrollable inflation and to lead to national bankruptcy “.
I ask the House: what would have been the position in five months’ time had not the Government’s economic measures been introduced? Quite obviously, the Government would have had to rely on a deficit budget. There would have had to be reliance upon heavy treasury-bill finance to bridge the gap. I think honorable members opposite will instantly agree with me that a deficit budget would be highly inflationary. The proposals of the Government are designed to avoid a deficit budget. It seems perfectly plain, therefore, that as they are designed to do that, they are antiinflationary.
– What university did the honorable member attend?
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith disturbs me. He is to make a speech later on, and I wish he would not tax his voice and his brains now. It is impossible to deny that here in Australia at the present time we are passing through a period of almost unparalleled development. In point of fact, I suppose there have been only two other periods in Australia’s history when development proceeded at such a pace.
– What about between 1941 and 1949?
– That is a matter of opinion. I believe that, in many instances, development during those years was retarded. The periods to which I refer are the gold rush days and the late twenties.
To-day in Australia there is a rate of investment which is one of the highest in the world. The population of this country is increasing at a far greater rate than that of comparable countries. All of these matters lead to problems, and no one will gainsay them. We find that, in the States, developmental works are proceeding at a great pace, but it also seems perfectly clear that many of those works are proceeding in a most haphazard fashion. Some time ago, I heard the Prime Minister suggest that there should be an order of priority for developmental works. That struck me as a most reasonable proposition, but unfortunately a number of State Premiers have not found very much merit in the proposal. It is a sad and unhappy fact that a great number of the public works conducted in the States are determined on a priority which has a political basis rather than a basis of urgency or the needs of real development. It seems to me that to accept the suggestion of the Prime Minister that State works should be arranged in an orderly fashion would in no way impinge upon State sovereignty. On the contrary, I believe that rejection of the proposal would be a threat to national solvency.
– What does the honorable gentleman mean by that?
– I appreciate that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith may not be able to understand what I am saying, but why should I insult the intelligence of other honorable gentlemen by trying to help him to understand?
The irresponsibility of State governments has reached scandalous proportions. The present situation indicates the gravity of the position. Despite the fact that the recent economic measures of the Commonwealth Government will guarantee State works, we have seen State Premiers, notably the Premier of Queensland, in the last week at any rate, trying to cash in politically on those proposals. What an astonishing thing! Although the State works of Queensland are guaranteed by the Commonwealth’s economic measures, the Premier of Queensland has tried to make party political capital out of those proposals.
The next matter to which I wish to refer briefly concerns Government expenditure in relation to the Public Service. We have seen and heard, both in this House and outside, a number of references to the size of the Public Service. 1 believe that the widespread and sweeping criticisms which are made of the Public Service are both illogical and mischievous. If honorable members turn to the last report of the Public Service Commissioners they will find that, since 1949, whereas there have been some 23 increases in the number of departments and sub-departments, there also have been fifteen decreases.
– Not enough!
– Possibly that may not be enough, but nevertheless it proves the point that the widespread and sweeping criticism of the Public Service, to the effect that it is too large, is both illogical and unfounded. Mention also has been made of the need for greater efficiency within the Public Service. That is a matter which the Government should face promptly and realistically. Great efforts have been made to achieve increased efficiency in the Public Service, but I believe there is still room for improvement. I also believe that this Parliament has a duty to see that every shilling of public money that is raised is spent wisely, which prompts me to make this observation : I am a new member in this House, but since I have been here I have been shocked at the manner in which government motor cars have been used by ministerial staffs to convey them from this place to that place. It is high time that greater discrimination was shown in the use of government cars.
The next point I want to advance is that this Government has tried, by the appointment of the Public Accounts Committee, to make a real and genuine effort to ensure efficiency, and also to ensure that there is discernment in and a check on the expenditure of public moneys. The Prime Minister, in his economic statement, declared -
What I have said does not mean there must not be prudence and careful review and the elimination of extravagance.
I believe that this country needs a national economic programme. No amount of exhortation will achieve such a programme, but example will do so. It is the clear responsibility of this Parliament to see that economy is practised at all times.
I now wish to suggest a number of points, but I cannot develop them because of the limitation of time. The first is that the confusion of Australia’s arbitration system is like a Serbonian bog which is creating ill will, injustice and irritation, and it is high time that it was thoroughly overhauled. It is ridiculous to assert that this confusion is not a real, contributing factor to Australia’s economic problems. Secondly, the shearers’ strike is being prolonged deliberately to embarrass the Government and to exacerbate the balanceofpayments problem. It is Marxian in design and conduct. Thirdly, the Communist party in Australia will use every opportunity to embarrass the Government. We forget, at great risk, that its tactics are to use situations such as this to weaken national resiliency and destroy the national fibre.
Hire purchase has been referred to. Unquestionably, there are irregularities associated with this business and there should be an agreement among the States to curb, or wipe out, these anomalies. Many local governing bodies throughout Australia are in difficulties, and it is high time that Parliament realized that local governments should be directly represented on the Australian Loan Council. A false set of values prevails in Australia. I ask the honorable members to note that Australia each year is spending £750,000,000 on grog and gambling. That figure is the equivalent of 75 per cent, of the national budget, and is about 16 per cent, or 18 per cent, of the value of this country’s production. There is ground for unhappy comparison between, our enormous expenditure on beer and gambling and the preoccupation of the ancient
Romans with bread and circuses. Parliament should become conscious of the great danger that is inherent in tinexpenditure of so much money in this way.
My final point is that many thousand* of mothers with young children are disadvantaged by the earning capacity of single girls and men. Mothers go to work because they cannot keep pace with the dressing of single girls. This is an economic problem which creates a real social difficulty. The corrective seems to lie in granting additional family allowances and taxation concessions, even at the expense of single wage and salary earners.
A rather spirited contest has been taking place among members of the Opposition since this debate began. They are striving to see who will wear the crown for being the most gloomy prophet in the House. Including the speeches of the right honorable member for Barton and the honorable member for Dalley, there has been a succession of prophecies of gloom, emphasizing that Australia is facing an imminent depression. This is irresponsible talk, and is not in keeping with the sound wisdom and balanced thinking that the Australian people expect from this Parliament. An illustration of the attitude of the Opposition is found in the New South Wales Fabian Society’s publication Towards a Socialist Australia, for 1949, which contained this statement -
A depression will probably occur in Australia within five years. Widespread disillusionment will then turn many people to Socialism.
I earnestly suggest that members of the Opposition should read the words of Professor Arndt in a work entitled Policies for Progress. He could not be described as a Liberal supporter, but he made this clear statement -
On the desirability of full employment there is no longer any disagreement between the political Bight and Left in Australia.
Here is the punch line to which I particularly direct the attention of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) -
Tt is foolish to believe, as is commonly suggested in Labour propaganda, that businessmen and their political allies prefer mass unemployment to full employment, and that depressions are deliberately engineered by big business and finance. Full employment means high profits, depression means not only unemployment but also low profits and bankruptcies. All sections of the community have a common interest in the avoidance of depressions, and all sections understand this well enough.
That is a realistic point of view, which members of the Opposition ought to accept. In six months’ or twelve months’ time they will realize the folly of their way, and will begin to search for new means of presenting their point of view. They will realize that the Government’s economic measures have been fully effective. I ask the people of Australia to remember the splendid record of this Government. Australia has passed through comparable situations before, but to-day the Australian people have prosperity, and the policy of this Government is to maintain that prosperity. We must ensure that it is not jeopardized by a Labour government.
– Much has been said in this debate about inflation and the economic measures which have been brought down by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to give the people of Australia a lesson in what they should do and what they should not do. “ Restriction “ seems to be the password of the Liberal Government of the day.
Just what is inflation? Many professors have been trying to explain inflation, but in my opinion it is a fraudulent method of transferring the wealth of the many into the hands of the few by the simple means of manipulating the prices of the necessaries of life. That was the policy of the parties now in power when, as the Opposition, they opposed the Chifley referendum proposals for price control in 1948. They stumped the country, aided by the “ yellow “ press, denouncing what they were pleased to call “ these socialistic proposals”. They urged the people to leave price control in the hands of the State governments, thus leaving the way open for big business monopolies in various States to create artificial surpluses and shortages. If the Chifley proposals for central control had been agreed to, the present economic situation would not have arisen.
– We would have had socialism.
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) says that we would have had socialism. Under the Chifley socialistic Government, the basic wage was £6 12s. Under this business, private-enterprise Government, the basic wage, after being frozen for nearly three years, is £12 3s. This Government supports private price control by big business concerns, commonly called cartels. They fix the prices of all commodities at the source of production, and woe betide any retailer who sells below the fixed price! They are callously and ruthlessly driven out of business. Day after day, the workers are witnessing an increasing number of mergers of big business firms, knowing full well that that trend is the cause of the deterioration in the Australian standard of living. Prices soar to unprecedented heights and wages - of course, the wages of the workers - are frozen, they just stand still, and the workers are urged to produce more, despite the fact that production in Australia is at an all-time high. The gutter press of Australia ably plays its part in this deception. It is high time the Government instituted an inquiry into the activities of the monopolistic concerns by setting up a royal commission to investigate the rackets that are being perpetrated from day to day.
The cool, calculated manner in which the Prime Minister sets about the destruction of the whole of the Australian economy has cast a spell over the general population. Our citizens are viewing the future with trepidation and great concern, wondering what is going to happen next. Our Prime Minister, who is nol. noted for his determination or for hi« ability to administer the affairs of the country as they should be administered, has taken the easy way out. He has done so on every occasion when he has faced a crisis. He has become the craven tool of the economic theorists who are trying to throw dust in the eyes of the people, the working people in particular, by setting up snare cries of depression in the midst of plenty.
The main point of the Government’s attack is aimed, as usual, at the worker.
The advisers of the Government fall over one another in their eagerness to extract by various means from the workers’ pockets what little money he and his family may have saved over the years. They say that he and his family should not have anything in addition to the bare necessaries of life. That is what the economic theorists think. What are the methods they - suggest to the Prime Minister ?
I should like to point out to the House that the methods suggested are those which call for a restriction of anything and everything. Let us look at the tragic situation of the person who, a few year’s ago, was urged by the very same government to save for, and thereby secure, their future. “ Buy Government bonds “, they cried, “ and make security certain “. The average person followed their advice, scraped and made sacrifices and went without little luxuries, to invest in government bonds, being assured that there was no risk and that he could realize on them at any time. But how those persons have been cruelly deceived! The bond market has collapsed.
This collapse was caused by the action of this Government in withdrawing its support from the very bonds that it guaranteed to the buyers. The general public has been left to the mercy of the. wealthy speculators in these securities. The way has been left open for the coldblooded robbery of the ex-servicemen who sank their deferred pay and war gratuities in these so-called gilt-edged investments. War widows and other patriotic citizens, as well as beneficiaries of deceased estates, have all been victims of this heartless action by a cruel and callous Government. Let me quote a few instances, as mentioned in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald by a lady investor. She says -
Needing the money to live, i sold a fi ,000 bond. 1 received £898. i have lost fi 02 by the transaction.
Another lady sold a £20 bond. She was in the poorer class, of course, but shi: was patriotic nevertheless. She received £16 for her £20 bond. She had been robbed of £4 by this Government.
– Order! The honorable member is not in order in using the term “ robbed “ in connexion with legislation of this Government.
– It is not his word. It is the word of the person who wrote his speech.
-Order! The term is not to be. used in this debate.
– Another elderly lady sold £800 worth of bonds for which she received £710. “What would that be, Mr. Deputy Speaker? “What an incentive for the young to save! And this is the Government which promised to put value back into the £1!
I come now to the next suggestion of the experts, an increase in the interest rate. This will bring about further deterioration and curtail expansion, especially in the building industry, by increasing the cost to the person who is desirous of building his own home. An increase of 1 per cent, in the interest rate on a loan of £3,000 means a further cost of £400 spread over twenty years. At this point, it is necessary to mention something about the tragic position in connexion with home building, as brought about by the restriction of bank advances following this Government’s credit policy. The Commonwealth Statistician, in his latest report, says that there were fewer homes under construction throughout Australia at the end of 1955 than at any time since 1950. The falling figures in this respect are not the fault of the family man who wants to build a home for his wife and children. Even if he has saved up to £1,000, he is out of the running for a home, because he cannot get any finance. Finance is his problem. The banks will not lend money. They say that he Government’s credit policy will not a ow them to do so. Yet if war were to wreak out to-morrow, money would flow like water - in abundance. Credit restrictions are already having a crippling effect on the community, and it is claimed that this tragic Government will tighten credit still further, thus causing greater stagnation. This policy of squeeze and contract is a negative one, and should be resisted with all the means at our command.
Let me come now to- the next suggestion of this body of experts. After talks with the Prime Minister, these experts–
– “Who are they?
– I shall read out their names. The members of this advisory panel of experts are - the permanent head of the Treasury, Sir Roland Wilson ; the Governor of the central bank, Dr. H. C. Coombs; the Secretary of the Cabinet, Sir Allan Brown, the expert who chased the Minister for External Affairs and watched him all over Asia; the Secretary, Department of Trade, Mr. T. G. Crawford; Mr. Randall, of the Treasury - just an ordinary Mr. this time; the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, Mr. Melville, and Professor T. W. Swan, of the National University - perhaps “swan” is appropriate - he is now writing the Government’s swan song. Others are Sir Daniel McVey, who was once Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs, and every one knows what a mess he left the Postal Department in; Mr. A. S. Osborne - that seems a familiar name - the general manager of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney who, I believe, has some link with one of the members of this Government; the former president of the National Farmers Union, Mr. Williams, and a leading retail businessman, Mr. Lampe. I fail to notice a trade union representative.
This body of experts, after talks with the Prime Minister, suggested that our economic problems were mainly the result of a consumption boom. They say that correctives will feature increased taxation to restrict demand for goods - restrict demand for goods - and help dampen demand for credit. The professors believe that taxation increases should also be made. They believe that there should be an increase of sales tax. Of course, they will not give an assurance with respect to that most inequitable of all taxes, the sales tax, for this gives them another chance to “ sock the worker “. An increase of the sales tax on all his everyday necessaries reduces the purchasing power of his wages. This iniquitous tax breaks down his standards of living and deprives him and his family of the essentials for keeping the health and strength of his family up to normal. Thus the value of his wages diminishes, and that helps to cripple business. The small shopkeeper suffers by reduced demand, and this effect is passed on to the manufacturer.
Let us pause to consider the increase in excise duties on beer, spirits, cigarettes, tobacco and petrol. Take, for instance, the average worker who, let us say, works at a blast furnace all day. Of course, members of the Australian Country party, who are interjecting, would not know what a blast furnace was. I suggest that members of the Country party and Liberal party be sent to work for a period of twelve months on a blast furnace and then perhaps they would know something about economics. The man who works on a blast furnace all day likes his pint of beer and a cigarette. There is no harm in that. If he has one pint of beer- daily, to which he is entitled, he pays an additional 4d. On one packet of ten cigarettes, he pays an extra lid That is 5id. a day for a six-day week, or 2s. 9d. a week extra for what the experts and the professors call his luxuries.
Mr. Leslie interjecting,
– The interjection of the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), the gentleman who has never worked in a blast furnace, indicates the expert knowledge of some of the members in this Parliament, especially the hillbillies of the Australian Country party. The worker’ is to lose another 2s. 9d. a week of his already frozen basic wage by reason of these increased costs. This further impost will, of course, fill him with enthusiasm and give him greater incentive to work harder and produce more in order to improve our overseas balance of payments! One can just imagine his enthusiasm to return to work after having been taken down in this fashion. I shall not apply to this action the word that I should like to use, because you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will not allow me to do so. The more privileged class of people, who can afford to drink spirits, are penalized only to the tune of one penny a nip. That will not be a crippling blow to those people.
The impost on petrol is another crippling burden, especially to transport. The increased fares which must necessarily follow will make further inroads into the workers’ pay envelopes. Freight, charges on food and other goods will be reflected in increased prices. Already, dry-cleaning charges and clothing prices have been increased as a consequence of the increase of the petrol tax. Taxiusers will be slugged, and people will be forced to use the cheaper means of public transport. The result will be unemployment throughout the taxi industry. The Prime Minister referred in honeyed words to increased Commonwealth aid roads grants, but, on analysis, we find that only one penny in every three will be devoted to increased grants. The natural questionis: Where does the other twopence go? It is very interesting for the worker to compare the increase, of the tax on wealthy companies which are making millions of pounds by 5 per cent., or one shilling in the fi, with the 20 per cent, slug on the workers’ beer. That is something for the workers to chew over. The Western Australian workers have already chewed it over, and I hope the rest of the workers in Australia will give it some thought also.
The Prime Minister, of course, skipped over all the every-day requisites of the working man and woman mentioned in statement A at page 2 of the printed schedule of the proposed sales tax amendments. The reduced demand for goods will result in retrenchment in the factories. Unemployment will result and stagnation will increase. In this, we see another instance of the destructive effects of the careful planning over a period of twelve months of the’ professors and the so-called experts. They could plan only for a creeping paralysis of our national economy. This will lead to stagnation of our rural industries. It might even affect, the hill-billies of the Australian Country party. Restricted purchasing power of the workers is always reflected in. the rural industries. It will cause further unemployment and will begin a drift of people away from rural pursuits in their efforts to find employment. The increase of the sales tax will bring about an unbearable situation for people on fixed incomes. Government supporters seem to think that age and invalid pensioners should not have a drink or a smoke. Pensioners, civilian and war widows, and persons dependent on superannuation are already finding it difficult to make their meagre pittances suffice. The increased sales taxes also impose a further cruel and savage burden on young married couples who are already fighting against overwhelming odds to establish homes. These things are the result of the administration of a government that pledged itself to put value back into the £1. We see where the injustice of the sales tax lies. It is a flat impost that must be paid by millionaire and pensioner alike, with the emphasis of sacrifice placed always upon the pensioner. Tt makes a vicious attack upon persons on fixed incomes and also upon the workers, especially those on the basic wage.
We carefully note that the plan of the so-called experts is, throughout, a blueprint for a savage attack on the living standards of workers, pensioners and persons of fixed incomes. Shades of 1930 ! The plan makes no mention of an excess profits tax, by means of which the Treasury could skim of tens of millions of pounds of the bloated dividends of the rich monopolies that are operating in our midst. The Prime Minister has stated that we must give greater incentive to big business to invest more money in various activities. This is the Prime Minister who has handed over to his wealthy friends our public undertakings such as, to mention a few, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Glen Davis shale oil industry, and the former Ainslie Hotel - now the Ainslie Rex Hotel - with the odour surrounding the sale of which every one is familiar. The Government is about to give away at bargain prices the Australian Whaling Commission’s whaling station in Western Australia and also the Commonwealth shipping line.
– Order .’ The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 6.2 to 8 p.m.
– This is a serious debate, but that docs not necessarily mean that each speaker must take himself too seriously. Therefore you,
Mr. Deputy Speaker, might permit me right at the beginning to make one or two comments of a somewhat lighthearted kind. My married colleagues inform me that the path of true love never runssmooth, and I think it can also be said that in a vigorous, expanding economy like Australia’s, one cannot expect the road ahead to be perfectly clear. One can always expect that there will he one or two bumps, one or two ruts in the road that have to be avoided, if the goal of national prosperity and steady development is to be achieved. That is the way in which this supplementary budget or financial statement is regarded by the Government. I think it can be well called a budget of a stitch in time, of taking action at this moment in order, to avoid far greater difficulties in the future, of the man at the head of affairs in Australia, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), watching the road ahead and making certain that we steer out of trouble if it is at all possible. So that is the context in which this debate is couched. What is the Government’s approach to the problem 1 As an alternative what are the . analyses and the remedies prescribed by the Opposition ? 1 think it is a fair generalization of the Prime Minister’s September statement and of that which we are now debating to say that the problem facing Australia at the present moment is one of demand and cost inflation. I do not intend to touch the subject of costs, but I do want to emphasize the meaning of demand inflation, and the remedies prescribed by the Prime Minister for reducing demand, and as an alternative the diagnosis of the Labour party and what it proposes to do.
As I have said, it is a fair generalization of the Prime Minister’s analysis to say that we have a condition of demand inflation ; in other words, that we in Australia are trying to do too much with the available resources and finance, and with the money which we can obtain overseas by the sale of our exports. There is too great a demand for goods and services, or for resources and services, and for finance, and part of the internal excess demand is spreading overseas, that is, internationally. We are trying to purchase internationally more than our exports permit. The demand is too great for the available supply. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he does not say there is excess demand in only one sector of the economy, but that there is excess demand not only in the consumption sector, that is, for the things that we eat and consume, but also in the private investment sector, and the public sector of works and State reimbursement programmes. The Labour party has a completely different analysis. It says that there is only one cause of our present difficulties, namely, profit inflation, that the private individual and the companies are making a little too much profit, and that that is the sole cause of the difficulties faced by the Government.
Let us look at the problem stated by the Prime Minister. I have said that it is a general case of excess demand in the three or four sectors of the economy. The excess demand can be illustrated in two ways. First, overseas last year we purchased, on current account, goods to the value of £268,000,000 more than we were able to sell. The goods we sold were not sufficient in terms of value to permit us to buy externally all the commodities and equipment we needed, and therefore we had a deficit or deficiency on our international balance of payments. Secondly, locally the demand for public investment was so great that we could not obtain on the loan market all the money we needed to finance the works programmes of the Federal and State governments, with the result that, this year, the Commonwealth, from its own resources, must provide £67,000,000 to permit the States to complete their works programmes. What has the Government done? You, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will remember the proposals and suggestions made by the Prime Minister in September, first that there should be a general tightening of import controls, secondly that control of bank credit should be tightened and inflationary pressures so kept in hand, and, finally, in order to give leadership, that the Government’s expenditure or commitments on public works should be reduced to the extent of £10,000,000. The second approach to this problem, as announced by the Prime Minister in his recent speech, is that four lines of action will be taken. First, imports of motor vehicles and other commodities which are not in essential demand will be restricted by duties. Secondly, a tax on companies of ls. in the £1 will restrict investment by private companies. Thirdly, money must be raised for our financial needs, and, finally, interest rates will be increased by an average of $ per cent, in order to provide a deterrent to increased demand and possibly a deterrent to increased inflation.
But that is not all. The Prime Minister also made it clear that, as the demand may continue in the future, the problems will be reconsidered during the preparation of the budget. Matters such as the general works programme, immigration, and other factors of that kind which add to demand will be considered. As the Prime Minister said, those problems do not lend themselves readily to adjustment in between times, but nonetheless they will be looked at during the preparation of the budget and, if needed, action will be taken. But this is a debate just as much on the alternative proposed by the Opposition as it is on the Government’s proposals, and to-night it is my intention to deal as fully as I can, in the time available, with the various arguments that the Opposition has put forward. Honorable members opposite, in their analysis, say, “We do not think that there is too much consumption or public investment. All we think is that the private individuals and companies are making too much profit “.
– So they are.
– The honorable member says, “ So they are “. Let us examine the facts. I do not think that any one should come into this House and put forward an argument unless he can base that argument on fact, and sustain his fact by argument. If you, sir, look at the facts, they just shriek at you, and they prove one or two points. The Opposition did not bother to examine the facts, or if it did so, it did not interpret them correctly or understand them. In the period during which this Government has been in office, it so happens that dividends have increased from £62,000,000 to £117,000,000, an increase of £55,000,000. It is certainly an increase, but when I cite the other figures, I think it will be agreed that, relative to other increases, this increase is infinitely small. The income of wage and salary earners has increased from £1,200,000,000 to £2,400,000,000. Public investment in works has increased from £197,000,000 to £412,000,000. In other words, as I have said, the facts shriek at one, and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) either did not take any notice of them or did not understand them. The facts sustain and support the Prime Minister’s argument that there is a general demand inflation extending over the four sectors of the economy. The Government has stated its proposals and the measures that it intends to adopt to overcome the problem. What does the Labour party propose? It does not propose any remedies other than it does not believe in any increase in interest rates. We are justified in going back a little into the past and asking the Labour party what it would have done if it had been elected to office. In August, during the last budget debate, and during the general election campaign, the Leader of the Opposition stated that he would impose taxation which, on a conservative estimate, would have involved £188,000,000. Of that amount £95,000,000 would have had to be paid by public companies. If the dividends of those companies amount to only £117,000,000 and they had to pay £95,000,000 in tax, frankly the public companies of this country would very quickly have been driven into bankruptcy and would not have been able to employ the Australian men and women. The facts support the arguments of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), but they deny every argument put forward by the Opposition.
I proceed to the second point of the Opposition’s argument, namely that companies should be severely taxed. I venture to say that if the tax proposed by the Opposition was imposed, it would be 3s. in the £1 and would, therefore, be of a punitive kind. When people are discussing this problem of extra tax, they are all too likely to say, “ We have been taxed ls. in the £1 out of our profits and, therefore, we are resentful “. But I ask those same people to realize that if the Opposition had been in government it would have imposed, not a tax of ls., but a tax of 3s. in the £1. Therefore, I ask every shareholder and every manager of every company in this country to realize exactly what the alternative might have been.
The second point I want to touch is the general question of interest rates. In criticism of the increase in interest rates, the Opposition has merely said, “ We do not believe in a general increase, and we rely for our authority on Lord Beveridge who published a book quoted by the Leader of the Opposition entitled Full Employment in a Free Society “. Let us look at this general problem of interest rates. I believe that an increase in interest rates was absolutely inevitable. It was one of the instruments that had to be used if general inflationary forces, particularly of demand inflation, were to be restrained. The inevitability happened in this way: First of all, as you know, sir, the general bond rate is determined by the amount of money the people are prepared to subscribe to Commonwealth loans ; and, secondly, by the amount of support from the market that those loans receive through the Stock Exchange. In other words, if, at a given period, people will not purchase existing bonds at £100, the price is likely to fall. As the Prime Minister has well said during the course of the last few months there has been an abnormal support of the bond market by the central bank. In other words, the central bank, knowing that people were not prepared to purchase Commonwealth bonds on the Stock Exchange, went to the Stock Exchange and purchased these bonds in their place. The result was that money - printed money - was paid out to the people who would spend it and the bonds were obtained by the Commonwealth Bank. That is an inflationary influence. It means that more money has been pumped into circulation and is competing for the same amount of- goods; and that is bound ultimately to force up prices. Therefore, the central bank decided that this abnormal support should cease, with the result that the bond market is now again yielding somewhere about 5 per cent. Unless the central bank and the Government had been prepared to permit inflation to run riot, the only alternative was to see that this abnormal support was withdrawn and the bond market allowed to find a normal level. Once that had happened it became almost axiomatic that interest rates - the amount the bank will pay to an investor who deposits money with it - should increase. There was a second reason, too, because the Government and the central bank were both anxious that money should be attracted into fixed deposits and, therefore, savings should be increased rather than that money should flow where it could obtain a higher rate of interest, namely to the hire-purchase companies.
Action had to be taken by central bank action not so much to push down interest rates but to prevent them from rising. As I have said, it was inevitable that interest rates should rise. I now come to the argument of the Opposition. All. it has said is that frankly it has never believed in higher interest rates; and it bases its argument on the fact, as the, honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) suggested to the Leader of the Opposition, that Lord Beveridge had argued against high interest rates over 30 years ago. I point out that Lord Beveridge was dealing with a totally different set of conditions to those which exist in Australia to-day. He was dealing with conditions in the United Kingdom where there was a marked tendency towards large and chronic unemployment ; and, therefore, he said that if there was this tendency towards large unemployment it was necessary to have low interest rates. It is, therefore, to be assumed that when the opposite set of circumstances exists, as is the case at present in Australia, where there is over-full employment, then the proper remedy is to increase interest rates. I am certain that the Leader of the Opposition has never seen Lord Beveridge’s book, Full Employment in a free Society; or if he did read it, frankly he did not understand the arguments it contained. That book dates the Labour party arguments, because those arguments were couched in. the depression years of the 1930’s. It was in those years that the Labour party abandoned intelligence and every idea it ever had relating to the Australia-.’, economy. The Labour party still thinks in terms of unemployment and depres sion ; it has not had one progressive idea since the 1930’s. Frankly, it has not had one progressive, sensible idea since I have been a member of this House. 1 repeat that an increase in interest rates was inevitable and was a sensible precaution to take.
The Government has said that it has taken this action to prevent inflationary forces from growing. “What was the alternative? It was to let everything ride, to let inflation get under way. Now, T appeal to the second section of the Australian community and ask them whether they desire to support the Government or the Opposition. If no action had been taken, and the Opposition’s advice had been heeded, inflation would have got going. If interest rates had not beenpermitted to rise then one of the weaponswe had to control inflation would have-, been denied to us. The people who would suffer most from inflation would be thepensioners, people in the fixed incomegroups and people who have retired and: are living on the small amount of savings! they have invested. I ask each of those groups to make up their minds whether they want inflation at the hands of the Labour party or the decisive action taken by this Government to suppress inflation. I venture to say that sensible persons would want inflationary forces suppressed.
Summing up what I have said, the Government had an alternative, the policy announced by the Prime Minister in which he said, in effect, “ We are watching the road ahead and will take action to keep out of difficulties. We know we have several means at our disposal for keeping inflation in check and suppressing it. We have taken action on two occasions and we will take further action in the future should it be needed “. On the other hand, we have a policy, announced by the Labour party, of slaughtering those who have invested in the Australian economy, of imposing a tax of 3s. in the fi on company dividends and of taking action to make certain that, if Labour’s policy were adopted, we should have inflation of a kind that would punish three sections of the community-
– Order ! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has succeeded admirably in further confusing his own supporters and the general public as to where the Government really stands in the present crisis confronting the nation. He has proved, as only amateur economists can prove, the truth of what somebody once said - that is, that economics is a science invented for the benefit of economists.
I relish this opportunity to make a few well-chosen observations about the disastrous supplementary budget which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) introduced a. few weeks ago, ostensibly to curb inflation, but actually to levy an unnecessarytax of £57,000,000 in order that the Government might be able to make up th>.: deficiency between the amount which it can persuade the Australian people to lend it and the States and the amount set by the Australian Loan Council as the amount which the States require to build their roads, their bridges, their schools, their hospitals and their irrigation dams, and to do all the other things that have been planned for this financial year.
It is completely false for the Government to say that it plans to defeat inflation by increased taxation. This programme of increased indirect taxation, including increased excise duties on beer, tobacco, cigarettes, spirits and petrol, is immoral and unjust, because it throws the burden of rehabilitating the economy, wrecked by the Menzies Government wreckers, on the shoulders of those least able to bear the burden. The Government claims that it is not inflationary to take away £57,000,000 of the people’s money - much of which would have remained unspent - and give it to the Government to spend. The Prime Minister argues that to issue treasury-bills to that extent would be inflationary - and indeed it would be. But to extract that vast sum from the people so that some one else can spend it is also inflationary.
However, that is not the real question. The Government is on trial. It must tell the people why it cannot convince them that they ought to lend it £190.000.000, when the national income this year will be somewhere around £4,300,000,000. That is the problem. The great Ben Chifley never failed to fill all his loans, in war and in peace. He filled every one of them, and he never had to pay more than 3-J per cent. Keynes and Beveridge were the two authorities upon whom he relied. The great Ben Chifley was able to persuade the Australian people to invest £200,000,000 in one year when the national income was only £1,200,000,000. The Labour Government could persuade the Australian people to lend it £1 of every £6 of income, but this Government of ministerial failures cannot persuade the people to lend it £1 of every £21 of the national income this year. Until the Government can fill its loans, it is no use talking about extra taxation not being inflationary and about treasury-bills being inflationary.
The Minister for Primary Industry argued that we wanted to tax people an extra ?.s. in the £1. We did not want to do anything of the sort. This Government has levied an extra company tax of ls. in the £1 on all companies, big and small - on those that cannot afford it and on those that have plenty to give sway. Our proposals were to put on an excess profits tax - the very thing that members of this Government themselves promised to do in 1950-51 and 1951-52.
– Labour said it would raise £95,000,000.
– We did not say that we would raise £95,000,000 by an increased company tax. The honorable gentleman can distort the argument as much as he likes, but he will not find any statement by any member of the Labour party to justify his claim. The 64-dollar question confronting this country to-day is : Why will not the people lend money to this Government? One reason is that the Government has deliberately destroyed the value of the 3£ per cent, issues which Mr. Chifley floated so successfully. When we left office, those bonds were still selling at par value, or even better than that, on Australian stock exchanges. But. thanks to increased interest rates and other concessions made to the money power by this Government, those bonds are selling at £S5 and £86 this very day on every stock exchange throughout Australia. That means, of course, that any person who invested money in .Australian securities, believing that he or she was helping the Australian economy and helping the rehabilitation plans, will now, thanks to our present egregious Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), sacrifice £14 or £15 of every £100 if that person has to sell a bond to pay for hospital expenses, to pay for the funeral expenses of relatives, to pay taxes, to pay probate duties or to pay anything else.
We believe that the inflationary conditions which have characterized the Australian economy since this Government took office are not due to cost inflation, caused by increased wages, but are due to demand inflation, caused by the determination of the leaders of finance, commerce and industry to extract more and more profits from the consuming public - that means everybody. By increasing the rate of interest on government investments, on overdrafts and on housing loans, the Government has turned back the clock and is ushering in another period of deflation, another period of dear money and consequent chronic unemployment. Why, it was announced over the national news this evening that the Commonwealth Bank had increased the interest rate on building loans from 4$ per cent, to 5 per cent. ! How can any young couple buy or build a house to-day when they have got to pay these high interest rates for nothing, just to give extra profits to bondholders? After the last abortive Housing Ministers’ conference here in Canberra, the Victorian Minister for Housing said that, after the 1st July, persons who occupy homes in Australia built after that date will have to pay an extra 9s. a week in rent. They will pay it away for nothing.
Those who defend laisser-faire capitalism say, “ That is all right. That is going to effect certain changes in the economy and bring about a balanced situation later.” We do not believe in laisser-faire capitalism or in any other form of capitalism. We say that this budget which has been introduced by the Prime Minister is deliberately designed to throw an unfair burden on the people.
We say that it is a budget that hinders, harms and hurts. We say that Ministers are taking a sadistic delight in telling the people that they intend the budget to hurt, and that it has got to hurt if the country is again to be restored to economic solvency.
– What did thu people of Western Australia say to that I
– The people of Western Australia gave their judgment on that matter. Ministers vie with each other in expressing their sadistic delight as they place more and more burdens on the people. We indict this Government, with its supplementary budget and its accumulated failures during the six years that it has been in office, on the following grounds: - First, the members of the Government deliberately deceived the people when they failed to tell them in the general election of December last that they intended to do the very things that they have done. They knew that they were going to do them. They knew that they were going to impose this very plan, full of harsh, burdensome and unfair taxation. The Government deliberately deceived the electors by not being honest with them, yet now, in this House, honorable members opposite claim that if the Government had announced these very imposts on the occasion of the last general election, the Menzies Government would be in power to-day! Of course it would not be. Secondly, we indict the Government because this supplementary budget has heavily depreciated the equities of those who invested in loans in the postwar period. Cynically and in a deliberate way the Government has withdrawn support from the loan market. Thirdly, this budget is designed to create, and is creating, unemployment in this young, developing country, where nobody should be out of work, and where, if development is to proceed, opportunities must be created for more and more people to come to this country and enjoy its high standard of living and contribute to its future greatness.
Fourthly, we indict the Government not only because it has failed to put value back into the £1 - its major promise with which it won the general election of 1949 - but also because it has allowed the power, on the admission of the Prime Minister himself, by at least 60 per cent. “These are all grave but valid indictments of the Prime Minister and his Ministers. We believe that we are entitled to demand the Government’s resignation before the present situation grows worse. Supporters of the Government may laugh, But there will come a day of reckoning. There was one in Western Australia only East week. The Prime Minister went across to that State and helped Premier Hawke to win the election for the Labour party. If there were a federal election to-morrow, it is doubtful whether even the Prime Minister could hold Kooyong, or the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) could hold Wentworth, although these are two blue ribbon seats for toryism. Speaking of toryism, it reminds me-
– Tell us about socialism.
– Yes, I shall tell you about socialism after I have told you about its antithesis, which is toryism. It was Benjamin Disraeli, the great leader of British conservatism, who said nearly 100 years ago -
A tory government is always an organized hypocrisy.
It was also Disraeli who said -
Power has only one duty - to secure the social welfare of the people.
The Menzies Government certainly has not measured up to that second test, so it stands twice condemned. Our opponents say, “ Well, what would you do ?” We would govern in the best interests of the people. We would not succumb to vested interests. We would not follow the policy of drift, delay and indecision, of subservience to wealthy interests and dependence on bureaucratic and economic advisers, of double talk, deceit and wishful thinking, which has brought the nation to its present plight. We know where we stand. We laid the foundations of the welfare state. Let any tory in this Parliament lay one sacrilegious finger on any of that legislation and see how long he will last in his own electorate.
– But the people found you out.
– That is what the honorable gentleman said before the last election.
– I know two things about the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden). The first is that he was born dull, and the second is that he has been losing ground ever since. Professor Arndt is the author of this new plan. Professor Arndt and Professor Swan sent the proposals to six other professors on Treasury notepaper. They got support for their plan. The Government gave effect to that plan, but it did not give effect to the final plan. It gave approval to the first plan - the ArndtSwan plan - which was inspired by Sir Roland Wilson. Sir Roland Wilson is the Svengali of the piece, and the quivering, fearful Trilby is the Treasurer of the Commonwealth (Sir Arthur Fadden), his ministerial chief. The plan is designed to buttress the existing order, and it is doing it in a most unfair and improper fashion. We who have watched the course of events for a long time have known this situation would arise. As a matter of fact, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other people, including myself, in the Labour party, forecast these very measures when we appealed to the electors for their votes on the 10th December last. Unfortunately, they did not believe us.
– They did not take any notice of you.
– Of course they did not, but they believe us now because they were fooled. As evidence of how far the Government has deteriorated, we have only to look at the sorry plight of the Australian Country party, which is about to lose its deputy leader. I refer to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who is about to move over from the Country party to the Liberal party. He is in a state of transformation. Entomologically and biologically speaking, he has reached the chrysalis stage. Yesterday, he was a Country party grub ; to-morrow, he will be a Liberal party butterfly. What an awful finish to a political career - to end up as a winged insect of liberalism ! Lurking behind the scenes of thi3 present crisis and of other past crises in this country are the directors of the private trading banks. They would like to destroy the Commonwealth Trading Bank and make the Commonwealth Bank, as it was once before, the buttress for private trading banks, a bankers’ bank, but they can never do that. In spite of their protestations that they want to help the Government at this stage, they are secretly conniving to force the Government further along their line of thinking, and certainly they are going behind the promise they made to this Government a few months ago. The English Scottish and Australian Bank Limited is transferring its hire-purchase business worth £2,250,000 to a company called Esanda Limited, which was incorporated on the 21st October, 1955, after the Prime Minister’s conference with the hire-purchase representatives, at which they agreed to regulate their activities to the level of business already done, plus a small increase in some directions. Esanda Limited, the subsidiary of the English Scottish and Australia Bank Limited, now plans an extension of hirepurchase business in association with the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited, which is providing money through debentures for hirepurchase lending. It is obvious that there is now an association of banks, assurance companies and hire-purchase companies to take advantage of hire-purchase activities, and in defiance of all agreements that have been entered into with this Government about the limitation of such activities. The Labour party stands where it has always stood. It stands for the Australian people and the Australian community. The parties opposite stand for a continuation of the capitalist system with all its evils. What do they stand for? The system of society that they want is one which perpetuates privilege, legalizes class distinctions, emphasizes inequality, lauds greed, and denies social justice to age and invalid pensioners, war widows and war pensioners, people on the basic wage, and all others who are in receipt of the lowest incomes and who constitute the most helpless and defenceless sections of the Australian people.
– If a difficult economic situation could be cured by an amusing speech, then the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) appears to have the recipe - and it is his only recipe. If that is the only contribution he can make to a solution of the economic problem, if the best effort that he can produce is something to amuse the listeners, but which contributes nothing to the solution of a difficult situation, then he is making a poor use of his position in the National Parliament. The honorable gentleman, who is the deputy leader of the Labour party in this House, describes the Government as having brought this nation to its “ present plight “.
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– By heavens, if any other country is so fortunate as to have a government that can bring its people to what the honorable gentleman describes as this “ present plight “, then that country is indeed fortunate. The truth of the matter is, that the standard of living in this country, the availability of employment, either employment for wages or the employment of capital, the opportunity to make profit - the high standards of living, the prosperity, the political and economic stability, and the conditions generally in this country, are unsurpassed. Indeed, they represent to-day the fulfilment of dreams that none of us allowed ourselves to enjoy ten or fifteen years ago. That is the truth of the matter.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order ‘ Not all at once, please.
– This country is enjoying a magnificent phase of prosperity, and the economic policies of the Government to-day are designed for no other purpose than to ensure that the prosperity we have been at such pains to generate for this country is preserved for the people of this country. Whatever troubles we are’ able to sight, or to visualize in the distance at the present time, are no more than the by-products of an unprecedented period of prosperity and the exuberant national confidence that that has generated at all ends, producing a demand for consumer goods which people obviously have the capacity to meet and to pay foi, producing a confidence on the part of investors to build factories, to develop farms, to install equipment, and a confidence on the part of governments to press ahead with the development of the nation. These are the indicators of our prosperity. These, and these things alone, are the explanation of some distortions and inconveniences and, indeed, dangers, that we have before us at present. They, and they alone - these evidences of our prosperity, these practical illustrations of our confidence and our prosperity - produce a balance of payments problem for us. They produce an internal inflationary tendency for us. Are we to do nothing about it? Would that be discharging the responsibilities of a government? That would be a sorry end to six years of patient and successful effort in generating this state of affairs. So, seeing those small clouds on the horizon, the Government has, by the steps outlined by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), taken the proper, appropriate and, I am confident, the best means to arrest any serious tendencies in that connexion. At present all that is occurring is something that is perhaps unpleasant, perhaps a little irritating and slightly uncomfortable. Left without attention the position could develop so that it would have serious consequences. But this Government is not the kind of government that will allow the country to drift into any serious circumstances, merely for the purpose of avoiding doing something that may not be politically popular at the moment. The. whole record of the Government shows that this is not our line of thinking or our line of conduct. As a government we are responsible, experienced people, having access to the best advice that this country can provide - not being told what to do but, being sensible and responsible people, seeking advice from those be?t able to give it, and then imposing on that advice our own best judgment. The economic policy outlined by the Prime Minister represents just that.
It is quite clear that there is already an acknowledgment in responsible quar ters in this country that the Government was right in taking some action, and that the action that the Government ha? elected to take is probably the best action that could be taken. This is not a situation which lends itself to measurement of forces and correctives with a mathematical precision and exactitude. It is a situation in which assessment of it, and the proper action to be taken, are finally matters for human judgment, and I am quite sure that the development of events will confirm that what the Government has done is the best thing that could be done in the existing circumstances. It is designed to avoid any aggravation of the existing inflationary circumstances and to correct the trend in our balance of payments problem.
– Just a lot of words !
– These words represent the realities of life in this country, for there can be no high standard of living in a country that leaves unchecked the increasing inflationary situation. There can be no assurance of development in a country that is indifferent to a deterioration in its balance of overseas payments situation. And so, the things we have done are designed and intended for just that purpose of preserving the magnificently high standards of living that have been built up iri this country through the years, and which have been increased during the period of office of the present Government, and of assuring that in the future we shall have access through overseas currencies, earned by us, to the wherewithal to continue our development in both the private and government sectors of our economy.
What are the things we have done? We have made some abatement in government expenditure, some dampening down, partly as a result of appeal, partly by direct action, in consumption expenditure - not making any one go short of anything that is available, but merely ensuring that the demand is equated to the resources that are available, and seeing to it that, whilst there is a job for every one and an opportunity for enterprise for every one in the country, this fact in itself does not defeat its own best purposes by accentuating inflation. So the Government has taken certain lines of action in respect of its own expenditures. and it has made appeals to the private sector of industry, through the appropriate organizations, to observe some restraint in expenditure. Do not let us overlook the fact that the Australian Government is never completely in control of the economic situation, under our federal system.
– It never wanted to be.
– In the constitutional position that exists, and which, notwithstanding the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), the Australian people want to continue to exist, we have taken the best and the most appropriate steps available to us. What has been happening is that, to a large extent, essential government expenditure on the development of. this country has, by pressure of circumstances, increasingly been effected by recourse to central bank credit. Inflationary, of course! So, in order to abate that aspect of the inflationary phenonemon, the Government i3 to substitute real money in its expenditures for inflationary finance, to the extent that it has been U3ed, through central bank credit and per medium of treasury-bills. Who would say that an additional tax on beer, tobacco and other similar items - as merely a temporary measure - is not a price worth paying to preserve a stable economy and to safeguard the standards of living of this country ? No responsible person, I am sure, would say that.
The bank interest rate has been permitted to be increased both for deposits and advances, but that is doing no more than facing up to a situation that has already been created in the economic circumstances of this country. But the Government has, with foresight, in its determination to practice its policies while dampening down investment and expenditure here, still to encourage investment and expenditures in the export sector of our industry. In the matter of bank overdraft rates an opportunity has been provided, in accordance with the intention behind the Government’s action, to ensure that proper opportunities and provisions will be made to preserve the rate of interest for the export producers which it is within their competence to pay. All those things total a policy designed to meet the situation of the day.
The balance of payment situation itself is, I am sure, not quite widely enough understood. There seems to be a simplicity of thinking that what we spend in importing from overseas is almost. exactly a reflection of what we earn by overseas sales, less the invisible payments that we have to make for shipping freights, insurance and so on. That is by no means the end of the story; it is by no means as simple as that. The truth of the matter is that in recent years we have been spending on imported goods at the rate of £80,000,000 a year from funds deposited by private inviduals in overseas banks in the course of effecting investments in Australia. That is a very large amount, and it represents one-eighth of our total import licensing at the present time. That large sum will be available to us only as long as overseas investors have confidence in the Australian economy, and in the fact that we shall preserve the international status of our own currency. Therefore, it is essential that the economic circumstances of this country should be such as to leave no room for doubt in the minds of overseas people that our currency will be stable, for if a real doubt arose there could be, and indeed there would be, an overnight cessation of those overseas investments. If we were to lose those overseas funds, which represent £80,000,000 a year, we should lose a sum that represents the total of our B category imports at the present time. Therefore, it is completely proper that the Government should take the steps necessary to improve the balance of payments situation by import licensing and by increasing the production of goods for export. The Government should also ensure that all we have for export is sold to best advantage, and that we do not make ourselves non-competitive in overseas markets through the growth of inflation in this country. Those are the policies that the Government has been following.
A thing that has, perhaps, not been sufficiently stressed, is the flexibility of the policies that this Government ha? designed. Notwithstanding the AreA actual prosperity of Australia to-day, our economy, in the nature of things, ha; certain vulnerable points. We depend greatly on the international prices of wool, wheat and base metals that are notorious for the violence of their price fluctuations which are completely beyond our control. We are dependent very largely on the character of the seasonal experience that we have. So, while doing certain things .to-day arising out of our exuberant confidence and prosperity, the Government sees quite clearly that factors completely beyond the control of any Australians could thus develop. A fall in export values or adverse seasons could produce deflationary tendencies. If our economic policies to meet this situation were unable completely to be reversed, then in the contingency that I have pictured there could be a serious outcome. That is why practically everything that the Government has done in this regard is capable of being reversed by a stroke of the pen. The increase of sales tax, the increase of duty on beer and the excise on tobacco, the increase of the petrol tax, higher interest rates, curtailment of government expenditure, curtailment of the employment of central bank credit, the directive from the Commonwealth Bank regarding the restraint of overdraft accommodation - none of those actions is embodied in legislation. All the restraints that I have mentioned have been effected merely by laying a piece of paper on the table of this Parliament, and can he removed by laying another piece of paper on the table. None of them requires an act of Parliament either for their imposition or their removal. The credit and interest rate policies of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank arc capable of instantaneous reversal. Of all the things that the Government has done, the increase of company tax alone must be effected by act of Parliament. All the others can be removed immediately by a stroke of the pen.
I direct the attention of the House and the country to that aspect of the Government’s policies. That is a conscious and a deliberate desire on the part of the Government to be at great pains to ensure that the steps it has taken are not steps that will have any permanency, or will involve any delay in being altered, modified or completely reversed. That is an aspect of economic thinking on the part of this Government that is com pletely novel in this country. There has never before been a government which has been able to conjure up fiscal and economic policies of such complete flexibility as those which I have been mentioning, and which the present Government has established. These are the things that have been done by the Government with one objective. With the same confidence with which it has generated the great prosperity in this country, it says to this country that the modest actions it has taken are considered to be adequate to arrest the trends that are evident at the present time. They are adequate and they are temporary, and they are capable of being instantly modified or, if the occasion should arise, of being reversed. It is a great pity that the Opposition could not make a constructive proposal about the economic necessities of this country.
Mr. POLLARD (Lalor) R.O].- On the 27th September last, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in’ a statement to this House, outlined the state of the Australian economy as he and his Government then saw it. Subsequently, he imposed fairly rigid and severe import restrictions, which were designed to arrest the drift in the economy. It is true that he indicated that, if necessary, further steps would be taken at some later date to deal with the economic situation of the nation, but when he made that statement, the right honorable gentleman knew that the Government was about to go to the electors. He also knew, without any doubt, that if his statement about the state of the economy was correct, measures should have been imposed at that stage, and not later, to arrest the drift. He did not do that, He let the occasion pass. He knew what would have happened at the poll if he had told the electors, on 27th September, that his Government proposed to increase the excise charges on beer, wine, brandy, tobacco, cigarettes and cigars. He knew what would have happened if he had told the people that it would be necessary toincrease sales tax on motor cars, commercial vehicles and motor vehicle parts. If it was necessary in September to tax imported motor parts and accessories, that was the time to impose the tax. The right honorable gentleman knew that if it was necessary to impose a tax of ls. in. the £1 on company dividends in order to arrest the drift in the economy, that was the time to do it. Apparently, he knew then that it would be necessary to impose taxes that would extract £115,000,000 from the people, because he announced that that amount would be raised through taxation in a subsequent statement to this House.
Worse still, the right honorable gentleman knew that the imposts that his Government should have announced at that time, if they were necessary, would hit the workers, the primary producers and the low income earners more than any other section of the community. That will be the effect of the imposts that the Prime Minister has now announced. Knowing that the people who would he affected form the bulk of the electors, the right honorable gentleman dodged his responsibilities, won the general election, and waited until the 14th March to outline to the Parliament the economic measures that were designed, as he said, to redress the parlous position into which the economy had drifted.
That is not the worst that could be said about this matter. In considering this situation, the Parliament should recall how it has arisen. Since 1949, when this Government was first elected to office, Australia has enjoyed an unprecedented series of good seasons. A long period has elapsed since the cessation of hostilities in World Wat- II. Industry has had an opportunity to rehabilitate itself. Because of the great intake of immigrants, a large additional labour force has been available. Overall, this Government has had all the advantages that any government could reasonably expect to have.
Despite these opportunities for unprecedented prosperity, a very different situation exists. In the words of the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth), the Government is thinking along the lines of a kangaroo economy. The honorable member, who supports the Government, said our difficulty was not one of depression but one of prosperity. I cannot swallow any such statement. Imagine the Government imposing sacrifices on the section of the community least able to hear them because we have had a period of unprecedented prosperity !
The honorable member for Mackellar, referring to these matters, said -
I am afraid that this does reveal a good deal of procrastination on the Government’s part in meeting some of these long-term problems. We have put them aside, hoping that they would not occur. We have been looking always at the day-to-day problems . . .
Truer words were never spoken. and they were spoken by a supporter of the Government. As far back as 1942, Mr. John Curtin, who was then the war-time Prime Minister of Australia, could see that the country was likely to reach a difficult position in the post-war period no matter what government was in power. He knew that that difficult position was likely to arise because of the effects of the war upon the economy and the rapid growth of Australia, and he knew that something would have to be clone to arm the Government with effective means to combat any situation. He called into conference all the Premiers of the States and all the leaders of the Opposition parties. Before they returned to their States, they promised the Prime Minister of the day that they would refer powers to the Commonwealth Parliament to enable it to deal with any crisis that might arise in the post-war period. Unfortunately, those powers were never transferred because of the failure of the Tasmanian Parliament, through its Legislative Council, to agree to the transfer.
That is only one part of the story. The other part puts the blame on this Government. When it came into office in 1949, Australia was enjoying high export prices and a period of great prosperity, but the Government allowed the economy to drift. In 1949, the £1 was worth 12s. lid. as compared with its value in 1939, but in 1955, when thi’ Prime Minister made his statement on the Australian economy, the value of the £1 had drifted to 7s. lid. Costs of production had risen to their peak. The Government knew that Australia’s capacity to import its requirements from overseas was based almost solely upon our capacity to export our primary products at a profit. But whereas in 1949. under a Labour government, wheat cost 7s. Id. a. bushel to produce, now it costs 1.3s. In 1949, butter was produced for 2s. 2d. per lb., but now. the cost is more than 4s. per lb. ,A similar comparison can be applied to1 every product we are exporting, with the possible exception of wool.
– When the honorable member was a member of the Labour Government, it sold wheat at a loss.
– The honorable member . for Darling Downs should explain why the responsible Minister in the Government he supports sold Australian eggs at a loss.
– What was the cost of production of wheat in 1949 ?
– Seven shillings and a penny a bushel.
– How much was it in 1910?
– That has nothing to do with it. At the outbreak of World War II. a government of similar political colour to that supported by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), when asked to give a fair price to wheat-growers, paid them about 2s. Id. a bushel, and left them to the tender mercies of the wheat merchants. Members of the Australian Country party had to go cap in hand to the Lah”“‘Government that subsequently took office, and appeal to it to do something for them. A Labour government gave the farmers the first post-war wheat stabilization scheme. A Labour government gave them the first cost-ascertaining plan on which all subsequent similar plans have been based. A Labour government put legislation through the Parliament to enact that scheme. It was a Labour government that got the consent of every Labour Premier and of the anti-Labour Premier of Victoria to the passage of that scheme through the State Parliaments. If there was anything wrong with the scheme, let the honorable member fight it out with some nf the anti-Labour Premiers.
I say to the honorable member for Hume, seeing that he is so vociferous to-night, that there has been some talk during this debate about unemployment, and the attitude of the anti-Labour parties to that problem. Let me read the report of a statement that was made by a Mr.
McLeod at the Ballarat conference of the Australian Country party in recent years. The report is as follows : -
The President, Mr. McLeod, maintained that the country would not get back to normal until there were eleven men applying for one man’s job. He did not want to see a return to depression but he thought that the present situation was not fully balanced.
– In what year was that?
– That was said at Ballarat in 1949 by a member of the Country party. A Mr. Glen, at Ballarat, referred to the race for portfolios. He was reported as having said -
It was the undoubted truth that some Country party leaders had thought more of the importance of power and of official positions than the welfare of the people they represented.
We are about to see the truth of that statement exemplified, because it is well known that the Minister for Trade, who is the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party, is about to transfer his loyalty from that party to the Liberal party. He has not denied that, and that statement has been freely made. Do honorable members want any more illustrations of the attitude of the Australian Country party to the anti-Labour governments of this country? Members of the Australian Country party are embarrassed l y thi? particular crisis - by the Government’s action to increase interest rates in this country. Whilst it is said that the bank rate will not increase to primary producers, it is true, nevertheless, that other people borrowing money from the banks, such as agricultural implement makers and all sorts of people who trade with the farming community, whether in goods for the farmers’ wives or goods for the farmers themselves, will find it necessary to increase the prices of their products, because they will have to pay increased interest rates on their working overdrafts.
To-night the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) refreshed my memory concerning the attitude of the Prime Minister in the infamous depression years of 1929 to 1932 on the subject of interest rates. A measure was introduced in the Victorian Legislative Assembly in 1931 for the purpose of implementing a portion of the Premiers plan which provided for a reduction in interest rates of 22£ per cent. Sacrifices were called for by the governments of the day, Federal and State, which asked workers to remedy the crisis. It was the Labour party that insisted that if sacrifices were to be made - and we did not believe that they should be made - by the low income-earners, those sacrifices should be shared by the money lenders. It was the Labour party that was successful in effecting a compulsory reduction of interest rates by 22£ per cent. And of all the people who were in difficulties in that period because of the low prices of primary products overseas, none were in greater difficulty than the farmers. 1 hope that the honorable member for Hume will have had enough before I am finished. The present Prime Minister said, in his speech on the Premiers’ plan in 1931-
This proposed reduction of interest on private mortgages is economically unsound.
Did the wheat-growers in the electorate of the honorable member for Hume consider that the reduction in interest rates on their mortgages was unsound? They were very glad to get the reduced rate, and it was that action on the part of the Labour party that allowed many of them to survive. Many of them are now prosperous farmers as a result. The Prime Minister proceeded to say, in that speech -
We can no more force down the rate of interest that will be charged for money than we can sweep the sea back with a broom.
Yet the Prime Minister came into this Parliament recently and made a statement to the effect that, through the medium of Government policy, he would force up the interest rates in this country. This is a strange state of affairs. The Prime Minister was opposed to the reduction of interest rates in the crisis of 1929 to 1932, but in the crisis which he says is now upon us in 1956 he is prepared, through his Treasurer, to bring pressure to hear on the Commonwealth Bank to increase the interest rate by from per cent, to 1 per cent. That increase will impose a burden on the primary producers of Australia. If the Prime Ministor did not actually give such an instruction, he had sufficient assurance from the
Governor of the Commonwealth Bank or from the Commonwealth Bank Board to be quite sure, before he made his statement in this House, that the Government’s policy in regard to high interest rates would be imposed.
Let us turn to the position of the respective State spending instrumentalities such as State governments and roads boards. Does the Government mean to tell me that municipal councils will not have to increase their rates later on as the result of an inevitable rise in the price of things that municipalities need for their activities? Let us take the increased petrol tax of 3d. a gallon. What will be the effect on country municipalities and on State government instrumentalities ? How much will be passed on to the primary producers whom the honorable member for Hume is supposed to represent? Let us look at the position of the working man. The Government is not concerned with putting an impost on the incomeearners of this country in proportion to their ability to pay it. It is more concerned with taking from the lower incomeearners of this country through the medium of excise and the sales tax that amount which other sections of the community are better able to pay. But whichever way one looks at it, the result is inevitable that there will be a continuing increase in the cost of primary production in. Australia. To the extent that the cost of primary production increases in Australia, so will our ability to sell our products overseas at a profitable price be decreased.
An indication of the deleterious effect of seven years of this Government’s rule is provided by an article in the March issue of the Commerce Industrial and Mining Review, by Mr. J. G. Crawford, the secretary of the Department of Trade, who said -
A moderate wheat farm, producing about 4.000 bushels and running 400 ewes, now requires land equipment and stock of about £20.000, compared with about £9,000 in 1945.
It was about the year 1945 that the present Government’s supporters took action which resulted in depriving this Parliament of constitutional, power to control prices, interest rates and employment. Between 1945 and the present time the cost of a farm has gone up from £9,000 to £20,000. What possible, earthly hope has any progressive young man of getting finance under the Government’s credit restriction policy in order to purchase a farm or buy the necessary stock, plant and equipment?
Look at the war service homes position ! In answer to a question to-day, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) said that he did not think there would be any rise in the interest rate on war service homes. I will tell the House what the Government will do and I shall remind the House of my prophecy when the loan bill is introduced. It will make less money available for war service homes, so that it will not make such a big loss on the interest rate.
In regard to housing commission homes and in regard to everything that involves the expenditure of money for production purposes, either direct or indirect, for where it is not direct it is indirect, there will be a rise in prices that will accentuate the existing economic crisis in Australia. There is no doubt about that. I have never heard the Minister for Trade in worse fettle than he was in to-night. He is the gentleman who came into this Parliament with the intention of getting rid of the Liberal party lock, stock and barrel. To-day, he is eating out of the Liberal party’s hands.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Whilst I think that most people realize that it is the duty of an Opposition to try to tear a government’s action to pieces logically, the arguments of honorable members opposite would have far greater weight if they were advanced with a certain degree of honesty. The statement by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) that the Government proposes to reduce the financial provision for war service homes in the next financial year is such complete and determined political propaganda that I think he should be ashamed of himself for having made it.
– I will remind the honorable gentleman of his remarks in the future.
– I hope that the Government, for its own sake, will not think of doing that. Honorable members opposite have made a lot of the fact that in 1949, when this Government assumed office, Australia’s overseas balances stood at approximately £700,000,000, but they have completely played down the fact that those balances were built up immediately after World War II. when there were great demands for some of our products by countries on the other side of the world which had been involved directly in the war and had not had an opportunity to get back into production. Honorable members opposite also completely overlook the fact that the Labour Government imposed very rigid import controls at that time, and that that was another reason why a very healthy credit was built up. The Opposition has also boasted about the fact that, in a year when the national revenue was slightly more than £1,000,000,000, Mr. Chifley had no trouble in filling a loan of £200,000,000. Let me remind those honorable members that at that time there were no other available avenues in which investors could invest their money. The investment market was literally in a straightjacket of their contrivance. They had imposed capital issues control, and share prices were pegged.
– The Government could take similar action now.
– I do not know where it would get the authority to do so.
– What is wrong with calling a conference of the State Premiers?
– Has the Government asked the State Premiers for that power ?
– Order !
– I have yet to learn that the Labour Government was successful in obtaining that power when it asked the States for it. I was under the impression that that was how Labour lost the power. In the immediate post-war years such controls as the pegging of share prices and capital issues control were accepted by the nation in a spirit of true patriotism, but later when, to a certain degree, they became unnecessary, they were retained and in some cases strengthened, purely as a form of socialistic control. 1 believe that the people of Australia are not willing to overlook that fact ; indeed, it is one of the
Teal reasons why, at the last few general elections, the people have rejected the policies that have been advanced by the Australian Labour party.
I should like honorable members opposite, when considering the nation’s economic difficulties, to bear in mind that, when this Government assumed office, inflation was well under way. I am not saying for one moment that the Labour Government was responsible for it. In the light of international events, it is something that was bound to happen. The fact is that it was well under way by 1949. We inherited inflation and we -certainly have not been successful in stopping it. The solution of the problem lies in greater production. I quote the following words of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) : -
To put it quite clearly, we cannot have increased development and increased individual consumption without increased individual production, saving and investment.
As the Prime Minister has stated, that is the long-range policy. In relation to the short-term policy, I feel, as was stated by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) a few minutes ago, that the measures outlined by the Government have been received with confusion by the Australian public. The people are not quite clear in their own minds about what the Government is trying to do, because, on the one hand, it is trying to adopt antiinflationary measures and, on the other hand, is doing things that have an inflationary tendency. I know a number of people who are well qualified to comment upon such matters, and it is their opinion that the measures that have been adopted by the Government will more or less cancel themselves out. In other words, they are of the opinion that all that will happen is that the Government will get the increased revenue that it requires to meet the bills that will fall due next year and to prevent it from having a deficit this year. Such action naturally causes resentment in the public mind.
It is only too well known to honorable members that, if a government touches somebody’s pocket, there is immediately an unfavorable reaction, but in the exist ing circumstances no government could have done anything that would have been politically popular with all sections of the community. Let us consider the increase of sales tax on motor cars. I have examined statistics relating to considerable increases of sales tax in the past, and I have discovered that public reaction is such that people will continue to buy cars, but that they will buy cars within a lower price bracket. A person who might have paid £1,500 for a car, will now, because of the increase of sales tax, buy a car selling at a basic price of £1,100 or £1,200. Of course, there is a feeling of resentment. There will be an immediate effect on the importation of cars for a short period, and then imports will continue at a slightly lower rate. I do not believe that it is beyond the bounds of possibility for most of the car manufacturing firms to absorb a considerable part of the increase of sales tax without increasing prices. That they are able to do so is fairly well borne out by some of the balance-sheets that have been published over the last few years. I am not suggesting for one moment that they should feel that the Government is putting them in that position, but I am saying that I do not think it is necessary that the price of cars should rise to the same degree as sales tax has been increased.
I refer now to the increased tax on petrol, which undoubtedly over a period will have an inflationary effect. A number of people have stated that the extra money derived from the increased tax on petrol should be spent entirely on roads.
– Hear, hear!
– I think that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) made a very good reply, when he said we would not expect the excise on whisky to be spent on whisky drinkers. The increase in excise was simply a method that the Government used for raising money, because it needed money. The argument that all money derived from petrol tax should be spent on roads is not completely sound.
– Why should not those who use the roads pay for their maintenance?
– Then, why should not the person who drinks whisky get the benefit of the tax that he pays?
– On what would the honorable member spend the money raised by the tax on petrol?
– I would suggest that it should be spent on things that are for the good of the country - roads, for one thing. I am not for one moment suggesting that more money should not be spent on roads. I should like to see a great highway built through north Queensland, going as far as Cairns. If the Australian Government was in a position to construct such a highway, I should suggest that it do so as a defence measure. I do not believe, however, that there is a valid claim that money derived from petrol tax should automatically be spent on road maintenance.
There is one point that I should like to make regarding the increases in excise on beer and tobacco. This is an aspect of the question that touches my own pocket. When the Government announced the increase in excise on these commodities, the tobacco companies and breweries immediately increased the prices of their products, and the Government is getting all the blame for the whole of the increase in the prices. A lot of people do not realize that portion of the increase in the price of cigarettes is not due to the increased excise fixed by the Government, but was made by the tobacco companies themselves. However, I again make the point that the increase in excise on these commodities was simply a method used by the Government to raise money. The Prime Minister said that he required this money for a specific purpose, and I cannot help feeling that had the Government simply told the people of Australia that it needed more money for certain purposes, and had not stressed the aspect of inflation, the problem would have been more simply understood by the people, and these measures would have been more readily accepted by them.
I refer now to the question of increased interest rates. I have spoken to a number of people who are not very happy about the fixation of alternative interest rates. They are afraid that the bank manager will be far too popular a figure in the community, and that many people will go to him and say, “ Come along, it is time you took me out of the 6 per cent. bracket and put me back into the 5-J per cent, bracket “. I understand that money is short, and I cannot see that an increase in the bank rate will discourage people from borrowing. If they really want money they will be prepared to pay the extra interest. I am concerned about the man who has bought his home through a bank, because I feel that unlessthe Government moves in this matter very smartly he may well find himself in the 6 per cent, bracket. I suggest that a young married man should not have to bear the burden of that high interest rate. I feel, as did the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), that an increase in interest rates was almost inevitable, and that it can do some good by attracting money from overseas to this country, but that is the only real good that it may achieve.
There are one or two other points I should like briefly to mention. We have said that we want people to save, but we have given them no incentive to do so. I refer particularly to the application of the means test in relation to social services. I would suggest to the Government that if people who are otherwise entitled to an age pension have money invested in Commonwealth bonds, that money should not be taken into account when considering the grant to them of a pension. The adoption of such a suggestion would provide people with an incentive to save. They would know that in case of necessity they would have something to fall back on. They would know that while their money was being used in the national interest they would be free to collect their pensions, and there would be a much better response to appeals to buy government bonds.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Government should buy the bonds from them at a discount as they are being bought now?
– No. I would leave any money invested in Commonwealth bonds completely out of consideration for means test purposes. The Government has said that the country is enjoying a state of prosperity, and that in order to maintain that prosperity it must draw spending power away from the people temporarily. I have always favoured the idea of compulsory loans, although I believe that the United Kingdom Government carried the idea to the extreme when, during World War II., it introduced compulsory loans in the form of post-war credits, saying to the people, “ We will repay the money to you some time after the war - when you are 65 years old or when you die “. The time fixed for repayment of those compulsory loans was far too long, but there is no reason why we could not fix a limit of fifteen years for repayment of a. compulsory loans, with an upper age limit, and make provision for the repayment of a loan to a man or woman on the occasion of his or her marriage. I believe that a great deal of the unnecessary spending power of which we have heard is in the hands of young people. A man in the middle income group, who is supporting a young family, has very little surplus spending power by comparison with that enjoyed by the lad of sixteen or seventeen years. Some of the earnings of those younger people could well be drawn off by some form of compulsory loan, to be repaid when they marry.
In conclusion, I believe that had the Government done all the things that it felt it should have done, it would have, taken even more severe measures than those which it has imposed. I cannot help feeling that had it made a slightly different approach to the problem it could have taken a more severe stand in the national interest, and the general public would have accepted these measures in a better spirit, and not with the thought in their minds, “ These measures are not really anti-inflationary; the Government wanted more money, and it is trying to pull the wool over our eyes “. That is the unfortunate impression that has been left in the minds of many people.
– The situation that confronts the Government to-day is nothing new for a government of its political colour. The situation to-day is very similar to that which obtained in 1940, when the Government :. control of the treasury bench was of a complexion similar to that of the present Government. We all know, and the people of Australia know also, that but a few months before Japan came into the wa r, men of great responsibility in the same kind of government as that which occupies the treasury bench to-day told us that there was nothing to fear from the Japanese people. They built up in Australia a false sense of security, although the war was progressing and the situation in Australia was becoming desperate. Indeed, so desperate was it growing that we in this House saw two supporters of the then Government cross the floor and vote with the Opposition, because they wanted the Australian Labour party to take over the reins of government and do something to improve the serious position into which the country had drifted, as well as restore confidence in the community.
I smile to myself when I hear honorable members who sit cosily on the treasury bench to-day say so often that, the Labour party cannot govern Australia. In every crisis which the country has faced it has been the responsibility of the Labour party to take over government and brins; the people safely through. We spp a similar thing happening to-day. I remind honorable members opposite, and also the people, that the economic difficulties with which the Government is faced to-day have resulted from th” tragic mistake of 1948. I remember only too well how the Labour Government, appreciating the difficulties that might confront the economy in the years ahead, tried to obtain for this Parliament power through the medium of the Defence Act, to control prices. After all. prices control profits. The Labour Government, through the then Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, said to the Australian people, “Unless we continue Commonwealth control of prices we shall head for inflation “. ft is tragic that the present Government, which did not have the responsibility of governing during the difficult war years and which, indeed, was incompetent to govern then, opposed that proposal. This Government was out nf office during the difficult days of rehabilitation, when it was necessary to transfer more than 1,000,000 people from defence work to civilian occupations. Again, it was left to the Australian Labour party to accomplish that task. But when the difficult days of the war and the rehabilitation period were over, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party did everything possible to get back to the treasury bench.
As I have said, when the Labour Government appealed to the Australian people to give to this National Parliament the power to continue prices control, so eager were the present Government parties to get back to office that they stumped the country and told the people to vote against that proposal on the ground that the States could do a better job of administering prices control.
– And that prices would go down.
– Yes. I invite honorable members opposite, when they take part in this and subsequent debates in the House, to explain to the Parliament and the people why they made the inaccurate statement in 1949 that, if the Government parties were elected to office, they would restore value to the £1. Any Australian housewife can tell the Government that the value of the £1 has not been restored. The mother who has to clothe children, to buy them boots and shoes and to provide them with jam and butter, appreciates the great difference between the prices charged for those commodities in 1948, when the Commonwealth controlled prices, and those charged in 1955 and 1956. I have heard it said repeatedly here, “Ah, hut the increase of wages has caused inflation “. Let us analyse that contention. When the Labour party left office, the basic wage was £6 5s. or £6 10s. a week. To-day, I think that, the average basic wage in Australia is between £12 5s. and £12 10s. a week. But the prices of almost all commodities have trebled. How, then, can it be claimed that the present inflation is due to increased wages?
I remind the Australian people that just as the present Government parties, when they were in Opposition, deceived the community in 194’9, so they deceived the electors on the 10th December last. T should like the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to explain why. after only twelve months of the life of the Parliament elected in 1954 had been completed, and when the Government had a majority in the Senate, an election which cost between £300,000 and £400,000 wa* forced on the Australian people. The right honorable gentleman will not tell us why that action was taken, hut I think that the members of the Opposition can inform the people on the matterThat election was held because the Government knew that the economy of thecountry was getting into a desperate state, and it believed that if it were tocontinue in office for the full period of three years, eventually it would be thrown out neck and crop. Tt, therefore, deceived the Australian electors by holding an election two years before an election was necessary.
I have heard honorable members opposite say that the Prime Minister and other members of the Government warned the people that economic measures similar to those recently introduced would be given effect within a month or so of the election. Nothing of the sort! The Government led the people to believe that the picture was rosy, that our economy was sound, and that we were living in an era of prosperity Fever before experienced in the history of the Commonwealth. Just as the Government parties deceived the electors in .1948 concerning the prices control referendum, so they have deceived the people by not telling them the truth about the present economic position and by not facing up to the difficulties for which the Government alone is responsible. The Australian people at this moment are clearly realizing that they have been deceived. They see that inflation is now getting the better of this country, and they know that this Government is responsible for it. Recently, two State elections have been held. In New South Wales, the press was completely against the Labour Government, but that Government was returned to office. In Western Australia, the Prime Minister took part in the election campaign, believing that his influence would cause the people to return a Liberal government. But what happened? The Labour Government had a greater majority at the polls than ever before. The reason is that the Australian electors are now aware that they have been deceived by the LiberalAustralian Country party Government. I hope that very soon a further opportunity will be given to the Australian electors to show, at the ballot-box, whether they still have confidence in the Menzios Government. I would take the responsibility for another election. In the interests of Australia and its people I should like to see this Government swept from the treasury bench and the administration placed again in the hands of the Labour party, which has proved on other occasions that it is well able to discharge its obligations.
The measures outlined by the Prime Minister in his financial statement will not relieve inflation in this country. On the contrary, they will increase it.
– I could give many reasons. A Government supporter just now suggested that, instead of paying £1,500 for a car, as a purchaser might have done before the recent increase of sales tax, he will now pay only £900 for a car. That is the most ridiculous statement I have heard in this Parliament. I defy any one to buy a new car in Australia now for less than £1,000. A year or eighteen months ago it would have been possible to buy for £850 a car which now costs £1,000 or £1,030. But because a person has to pay more for an article - say 3d. extra for a packet of cigarettes or 2d. for a glass of beer - will that stop him from buying what he wants?
I have been amazed to hear Government supporters criticizing members of the Opposition because they have expressed their concern over the imminent danger of unemployment in Australia. The Labour party is realistic on this issue because, both as a party and as a government, Labour understands the poverty which accompanies unemployment. This afternoon, the Minister for Labour and National -Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said that there were 45,000 jobs unfilled in Australia, but in my State men are being dismissed every day from the motor industry as a result of the Prime Minister’s statement. The same thing is happening in other industries also. When the present Government parties were in opposition, they said that if they were returned to power they would conscript labour. Does the Government now propose to take 10,000 men, who may have been dismissed from their employment in one State, and force them to go to another part of Australia and engage in some other occupation just because labour is required there? 1 was under the impression that the Government is now opposed to the conscription of labour, as the Labour party is opposed, but if the Government proposes to transfer labour from one State to another it is nothing short of conscription.
A great deal of criticism has been levelled at the workers of Australia, and it has been suggested that they are responsible for the inflationary trend. That is a false suggestion and an injustice to the workers. Who are the workers? They are the men who so frequently are condemned by the Government and its supporters. I remind those honorable members that 75 per cent, of those who enlist to fight to maintain freedom and democracy in Australia are industrial workers. They are drawn from such organization? as the Waterside Workers Federation and the Seamen’s Union, and they include men engaged in the motor industry and in other industries throughout Australia. When they are prepared to take up arms and fight for Australia and for the security of those who are not prepared to take that risk, they are lauded as heroes and the Government promises to do everything for them ; but when the war is over and the Government resumes its policy of laisser-faire, it is a different story. The Government complains that, unionists will not work and will not produce. The workers have proper cause for irritation, but there is a way to overcome these difficulties.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. TURNBULL (Mallee) f9.59].~ During the debate to-night, many things have been said that I wish to rebut, and I shall refer first to the speech of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) because that is freshest in the minds of honorable members. I took careful notes of some of his statements, and can guarantee that my quotations will be confirmed by the Hansard report. The honorable member asked why the Government went to the people so soon after the previous election. On countless occasions the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has given the reasons for the Government’s action, and there is no need for me to indulge in tedious repetition of them.
I was amazed to hear the honorable member for Adelaide say that he would like to see another election now, and that he would take the responsibility for it. The honorable member complained about the expense of the federal election on the 10th December last, but now he wants another one immediately and is prepared to take the responsibility for it. I have known for a long time that the honorable member is very financial, hut never in my wildest flights of imagination did I think that he had enough money to take such a responsibility. I suppose he means financial responsibility. It is only four months since the last election when the people returned the Government to office with an overwhelming majority, as any visitor to this Parliament can see, or any one who examines in Hansard the division list for a vote.
I am aware that the honorable member will not have the opportunity to speak again in this debate, but if he had I should ask him to explain why he wants another election now. I should like to know how he can be prepared to take responsibility for it when only a few moments ago he was complaining about there being too many elections. He, like the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), harps on the same old theme in every speech he makes. It might well be churned out by a musical box, except that the box is not too musical. He makes the same old suggestion that Australia was not prepared for war in 1940 and that Labour had to take charge and equip this country for the conflict. When I heard the honorable member for Adelaide say that, I wondered whether he was the same man - and he was - who, just before the Easter adjournment, spoke in the foreign affairs debate, and said that after he had returned from a trip to J Japan in 1945 where he saw the bombed city of Hiroshima, he had stated that we must disarm. Although he is a man whose spoken policy is recorded in Hansard as being one of disarmament, he now praises the Labour party for having armed for conflict! This type of argument is very hard to follow. It seems to me that the Labour party just sets its sail for any political wind that may be blowing or that it imagines to be blowing.
– Hot air.
– As my friend from Hume says, it is hot air, for there is nopolitical breeze blowing in the Labour party’s favour except that perhaps theremay be one or two people in Australia who are disgruntled at the moment at having to pay more for certain products.
The honorable member for Adelaide also suggested that we ask the housewife to compare present-day prices with those that obtained in 1945. He says, “ Of course wages have risen, but ask the housewife to compare prices “. I suggest that the proper comparison is with what obtained, not in 1945, but at the end of 1949, when Labour went out of office. That is the comparison we must make at all times when dealing with such things as age pensions, but the Labour party wants to go back to the beginning of 1948. We all know that from that time to the time it went out of office in December, 1949, it had awarded no increases in pensions. 1 ask the Australian people and any fair-minded member on the Opposition side of this Parliament, together with all honorable members on the Government side, to compare the conditions that obtained in Australia in 1949 with those operating now. Why, from 1946 to 1949 my mail box contained many requests from people asking whether I could do something to get them some roofing iron, tiles, timber, concrete, and, indeed, all manner of things. I did not have many people asking to get telephones for them because at that time, the financial position of most people was such that they could not afford telephones. To-day, I have numbers of people asking me whether I could help them to get telephones, and I think that, on occasions, some of my colleagues nave even more requests. Thousands upon thousands of people are asking for telephones to-day. The Government cannot cope with the demand. Of course, that is only a sign of the times. You know as well as I do, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that between 1946 and 1949, just after the war, many people could not afford telephones. Today most people find that they can afford them, and they want them. The same applies to refrigerators. The increase in the number of refrigerators in homes since 1949 is amazing. The same may be said about motor cars. The Prime Minister detailed all these things in the survey he delivered on the 27th September last. Our position to-day is immeasurably better than it was in 1949.
I come now to the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and I hope to refute some of the statements he has made. He said that, when making a comparison of the farmer’s position, we should go back to 1945, because it was after .1945 that the members of the then Opposition, who now form the Government, restricted Labour’s activities to some degree by opposing the Commonwealth prices referendum. Let us compare the position of the farmer in 1945 when Labour had full rein, as the honorable member for Lalor says, with that of to-day. J think I can speak for every electorate when I say that the primary producers, by and large, with the exception of the dried fruit growers, who are suffering difficulties peculiar to their industry, are in an excellent position to-day, Tu 1945, most wool-growers and nearly every wheat-grower were mortgaged to the hilt. They had no credit account at the bank. They had to go on to the carpet, cap in hand, trying to get money to carry on.
– That is not right’.
– What would the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), who represents a Sydney metropolitan electorate, know about it? I know that to-night the primary producers in my electorate, and indeed throughout Australia, are listening to the broadcast of these proceedings, and I should only be branding myself if I said anything that was foolish. I know that what I am about to say is true. I am receiving from many people in my electorate - and this applies to my colleagues also - who are going to the United King dom and Europe on pleasure trips requests for official letters of introduction from the Prime Minister. Few primary producers have mortgages on their farms to-day. Most of them have late model American motor cars and are much more prosperous than they were in 1945. Although this does not apply to the dried fruit industry, or perhaps to one or two other smaller industries such as the poultry industry, the larger primary industries of Australia have done remarkably well. The change in their financial position since 1945 has been so great a? to be almost unbelievable, yet a former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture in the Labour Government, the honorable member for Lalor, has the audacity to get up in this chamber and suggest that the memories of men in Australia are so short that they have forgotten what the position was just over ten years ago. Admittedly in that time we have had ten bountiful years from an agricultural and pastoral point of view. I am not so foolish as to suggest that the Government has been responsible for the good seasons, but the honorable member for Lalor has compared the position that obtained in 1945 with that ruling to-day. Whilst I concede that good seasons have been responsible for most of the improvement, it must be remembered also that this Government has encouraged greater productivity by the good laws it has passed and by taxation concessions which have been extended for a further three years as from the 1st July next. I refer for instance to the writing-off of the cost, of machinery and plant by 20 pur cent, each year as a taxation deduction. A primary producer is now enabled to erect a building on his own property for a share farmer, costing up to £3,750 - it was £2,000, but recently the Government increased the value to £2,750 - and to write off that cost by 20 per cent, each year for five years. Such things were never thought of by the Labour Government or if they were thought of, it waa merely a passing thought. The Labour Government probably thought, “ This is too good for the primary producers, anyhow. They do not support us and we will not give them anything along those lines.” I should have thought that the honorable member for Lalor, with his knowledge of what has been happening in this country, would have known better than to. make the statements he did.
I come now to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I like the men in higher positions to speak before I rise.
– I never fight outside my class.
– I find that the honorable member for Melbourne tries on every occasion to mix a little clowning with serious suggestions, and the two do not mix, as was pointed out by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). One cannot have it both ways. One cannot clown to the people and at the same time expect them to take one seriously. In any case, if the people did take what the honorable member for Melbourne said seriously it would be amazing, as I shall show when I refer to some of the things he said. He asked any member of the Government to tell him why the people will not subscribe to government loans. I welcome his question, and here is the answer. It is because there are so many loans at higher rates of interest available in Australia now. That explanation does not need expanding. The honorable member went on to say that, while Labour was in government - that is, from 1941 to 1949 - the people subscribed freely to government loans.
– Hear, hear !
– The honorable member agrees that he said that. While Labour was in office a man I knew fairly well said to me, “I have some hundreds of pounds to invest. I suppose I shall have to invest my money in the loans of this wretched Government, because there is nowhere else to invest it “. How true that was !. One could not invest money anywhere else. Perhaps I should correct myself and say that, if one were low enough, one could invest in the black market. When Labour was in office, black markets were rife. [Quorum formed.] I may be permitted to say that, whenever I address the House and say something that directly contradicts the speeches of Labour members, the Opposition resorts, if it can, to call for a quorum. I do not think any one in Australia would approve the personal attack made on the honor able member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden) this evening by the honorable member for Melbourne when he was slightly rattled by certain interjections made by the honorable member for Gippsland. Every one knows that the mental capacity of the honorable member for Gippsland is far higher than anything the honorable mem- ber for Melbourne could ever hope toattain. As I was saying, when Labour was in office, one could spend money in black markets, which were rife, as every one knows.
My time has been reduced by the forming of a quorum, but, in the few minutes left to me, I wish to say something about the cry of Labour supporters for Commonwealth prices control. They ask why the Opposition of the day opposed Commonwealth prices control when Labour was in office. They ask why this Government will not approach the people for the approval of Commonwealth prices control and they say that. Labour would support such an appeal. This is the easiest question in the world to answer. Labour tried to nationalize banking, and, when it was prevented from doing so, it decided to introduce socialization in some other way, and it hit upon prices control as the perfect means for its purpose. I have not time to go into all the ramifications of the matter, but I know that honorable members understand them. If this Government went out of office and Labour formed a government, it would try to introduce prices control’ and through it, socialism.
It has been stated by Opposition members that the Prime Minister gave no warning prior to the election that the present economic measures might be necessary. On the 27th September, 1955, as reported at page 973 of Ilansard, he said - we will not hesitate to take further fiscal or other measures to ensure that by the 30th June, 1!)56. our payments are in balance and our reserves secure.
In the face of that statement, of what use is it for Labour members to allege that the Prime Minister did not warn the nation of the present measures. The honorable member for Lalor read some statement that he said had been made at a conference at Ballarat by a Mr. McLeod, who,, he said, was the general president of the Australian Country party. I have been associated with the Australian Country party for a long time, and have been a member of this Parliament since 1946, and I know that there has never been a general president named McLeod. How can one believe Opposition members when they tell such stories? People who are not aware of the facts might believe them.
Many matters have been mentioned during this debate. War has been spoken of, and, therefore, perhaps I may say something about military matters. I was amazed to read in the Melbourne Herald of the 24th March, 1956, under the heading “ Malaya Wants National Force “, the following report about a Labour member of this House: -
Malaya wanted to getrid of foreign troops - including Australians - quickly, Mr. Cairns, MHR, said to-day.
It wanted to replace them with a force of nationals, he said.
This was one step in Malaya’s march towards independence.
Mr.Cairns was addressing a. week-end conference of the Asian Students Federation at Cowes.
Do honorable members consider it right for an accredited member of this National Parliament to tell a conference of Asian students they they want to get rid of foreign troops, including Australians, from Malaya and have only a national force? If the Malayans had told the honorable member that that was their view, the remarks, if true, would have been in order, but it is beyond my comprehension that a loyal Australia would make such remarks, and I condemn such action with all the. vehemence at my command. I expect Government supporters to take the matter up, because any man who makes such a statement to Asian students is not fit to hold a place in this National Parliament.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Cope) adjourned.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.I wish to raise a matter that is of great importance not only to myself, but also to the Parliament-
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Deputy Speaker - Mr. C. F. Adermann.)
Majority . . . . 30
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.24 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What are (a) the individual salaries paid to members of his staff by the Government;
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cyclone Damage on Lord Howe Island.
s. - On the 22nd March, the honorable member forWest Sydney (Mr. Minogue) asked the following question : -
Has the Prime Minister’s attention been drawn to the severe cyclonic storm which hit Lord Howe Island on Saturday of last week, damaging power and radio installations, and causing considerable damage to Leander Lei Guest House? Will the Government consider payment of a grant similar to that paid in the case of flood and storm damage in other parts of the Commonwealth?If the Government willnot grant some assistance in this particular case, will it consider exempting residents of Lord Howe Island from the payment of income tax, for the following reasons: - That the Government has refused to assist the island’s shipping service in any way; and that it has refused to consider the building of an airstrip on the island?
Lord Howe Island is a dependency of New South Wales and not a territory of the Commonwealth. The provision of relief following a natural disaster on the island is therefore a matter for the State Government. I am not aware of any request from the Premier of New South Wales for a Commonwealth contribution towards the cost of any relief scheme on the island. If such a request were received it would, no doubt, be sympathetically considered.
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I refer the honorable member to my reply on this subject to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), which appears in Hansard for the 31st May, 1955. I see no reason to change that advice. I note that a similar question to this one, which received the same reply on the 27th September, 1955, was asked by the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa).
s asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s. - On the 23rd February, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) asked the following question : -
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 and which is attempting to obtain possession, by devious means and unfair practices, of at least one prosperous, well-managed 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 Waltons-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 Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, after looting the shareholders of that great company?
I now furnish the following reply to the honorable member’s question : -
Our policy is to welcome the introduction into Australia of new capital from overseas. Such capital is, of course, particularly valuable when it is developmental, that is, when it leads to the creation of new business or production in Australia, or serves to introduce new techniques. In the case of Waltons-Sears proposal to take over control of the business of Cox Brothers Limited, a business developed in Australia over a long period of years and also efficient, successful and expanding, the special factors of new business, increased production and new techniques do not appear to have been present. But new capital would, no doubt, have come into Australia. The real questions which emerged during the period when offers were made to Cox Brothers’ shareholders concerned not the simple question of the intro duction of new capita] from overseas - which is in itself to be welcomed - but other questions of great importance in the field of company ownership and control. Should a proposing purchaser of a controlling share interest in an established business be required to make its offer to shareholders through the existing directors of the business, who owe a duty to their shareholders and are entitled to a full opportunity to advise them? Should the proposing purchaser be bound, when it seeks to purchase acontrolling number of shares by one offer or issue, to issue a prospective with the usual disclosure of any existing and relevant contracts affecting the price of the shares? Should the offer of such a mass purchase be required to observe any time requirements so that existing directors may have a full opportunity of laying the facts before their shareholders? These are very important questions which, as the position” now stands, are for the scrutiny of State governments. But they also deserve the consideration of the proposed all-party constitutional committee, to which I would propose to refer them.
asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
n. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
t. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Employment of “Women.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
What is the number of women (a) married, (6) widows and (c) spinsters employed in each State at the latest date for which figures are available ?
t. - The answer to thehonorable member’s question is as follows : -
The latest figures available showing for each State the numbers of women in employment who are (a) married, (6) widows and (o) spinsters, are from the Census taken at the 30th June, 1947, which is the only available source of this information. These figures, which are set out below, include only women who are in receipt of wages and salaries and the category “ Married Women “ includes those who are permanently separated, legally or otherwise.
The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics is at present compiling statistics from information obtained in the course of the more recent census taken on the 30th June, 1954, but it is understood that tabulations showing the information sought by the honorable member will not be completed before June of this year.
4;Webb asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
s asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows:- 1. (a) To build, 14,832; (6) to purchase (including discharge of mortgage), 7,99<i ; (c) additions and alterations, 2,142 ; (d) other purposes, 573.
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
What number of (a) admissions and (6) discharges were made at Concord Repatriation Hospital each month during 1954 and 1955?
– I am advised a? follows by the Minister for Repatriation : -
n asked the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follows : -
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 April 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560410_reps_22_hor9/>.