22nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. C. P. Adermann) took the. chair at. 2.30 p.m.. and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a question arising from an answer given yesterday by the Minister for External Affairs to a suggestion that the Government should concern itself actively with the initiation, if it is possible, of mediation in relation to Cyprus. As the Government as a whole is obviously concerned and the matter does not affect merely one Minister, may we take it from the Minister’s answer that nothing is to be done in the matter until the Prime Minister, proceeding by ship, reaches the other side of the world 1 Will the Acting Prime Minister, as the Minister acting for the supreme head of the Government, ensure that no delay occurs in the matter? It is not a matter in which normal delays should be permitted to occur once a decision is taken by the Government. Will the right honorable -gentleman concern himself with the matter on behalf of the Government and on behalf of the absent Prime Minister?
– Yes, I 3hall concern myself, and I shall have a conference with my very worthy colleague, the Minister for External Affairs. On the face of it, I cannot see where 1 can add anything to the unequivocal statement that he made yesterday in connexion with the matter.
– I direct a question to the Minister for External Affairs. What are the prospects of holding free elections in North and South Viet Nam by the middle of 1956, as arranged at the Geneva conference?
– I cannot believe it will be practicable to hold all Viet Nam elections by the date that was suggested by the Geneva conference, that is, mid-1956. It was proposed by the Geneva conference of eighteen months or more ago that such elections should be held, but it was also specifically stated that they should be free elections. Mr. Diem, the distinguished President of South Viet Nam, has said that his country and his Government are not bound by the decisions of the Geneva conference because they were not parties to the conference. Viet Nam was represented at the conference by the French, who are now in the course of departing from South Viet Nam and from Indo-China generally. Mr. Diem has stated that, if it were possible to hold in both North and South Viet Nam elections that were free in the proper sense of the term, that is, free from pressure of all kinds, he would agree to their being held. However, free elections as we in the democracies understand them do not seem to be possible in North Viet Nam. Elections that have been held in South Viet Nam have resulted in a resounding endorsement of the authority of Mr. Diem, and I believe that, taking an objective view, the affairs of that country have improved over the last nine or twelve months in particular. Publicauthority has been established in all parts of the country, the economy has improved, and I think that generally, Mr. Diem lias established himself as a responsible and democratic leader. The French are in the course of departing from the country ; indeed, it might be said that, they have already departed. Mr. Diem, in spite of his statement that his government is not bound by the decisions of the Geneva conference, has given undertakings in respect of matters that were the substance of the Geneva agreements. All that is to the good, and I think that Mr. Diem and his government are very much to be complimented upon the situation that they have created in South Viet Nam, the attainment of which did not seem possible twelve or eighteen months ago. Mr. Diem has given undertaking? in respect of the non-introduction of foreign troops, the non-establishment of foreign bases, the observance of the dividing line between North Viet Nam and South Viet Nam, and in fact all the things that formed the substance of the Geneva recommendations in respect of that country. I cannot see much possibility of free elections, as we understand them, throughout the whole of Viet Nam. I think that Mr. Diem, on behalf of his government, has said everything that could be said with truth about the situation in that country, and I do not think that the Geneva agreements have been vitiated or violated in any way. None of us, including even the honorable member for East Sydney, who has been commenting so irritatingly during my reply, can pierce the mists of the future. The honorable member lias never felt himself bound by a consideration that arises amongst responsible members of the Parliament, that is, that the public interest should be regarded as being superior ro party political interests and even the interests of a single party politically minded individual.
– I address a further question to the Minister for External Affairs, who has just given us an excursus on the problem in Viet Nam. When, speaking of free elections, was the President of South Viet Nam referring to elections of the kind recently conducted in that country when, to a very large degree, opposition to him was disqualified? Is that the kind of freedom that is advocated for all Viet Nam?
– Recently, following an allegedly adverse comment about the government of another country, I had the privilege of being given a lesson in international good manners by the Leader of the Opposition. 1 do not recognize the right honorable gentleman as being an authority on the affairs of South Viet Nam.. I believe that the elections in that, country were conducted on normal lines. I do not think any one in this House or in the Parliament should cast any doubt on the conduct of affairs in” a country with which Australia has friendly relations.
– Is the Treasurer willing to make available information in supplementation of the public information that is already available in regard to transactions between the various branches and departments of the Commonwealth Bank? May T say that I am not asking for any information that would contravene the normal requirements of secrecy between banker and customer, and if it is thought desirable not to give uptodate information, could it be supplied at least up to, say twelve months ago?
– I am not altogether clear about the nature of the information that the honorable member has suggested might, be released. I point out, however, that the Commonwealth Bank Act itself contains some important provisions about the keeping of theaccounts by the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the various departments of the Commonwealth Bank, and information on these accounts is published from time/ te time.
– Who wrote that?
– Not Jock Garden. If the honorable member would care to indicate more specifically the nature of the additional information he seeks, I will do my best to see to what extent his request can be acceded to.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that all State branches of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union have requested their federal executive tocall a stopwork meeting throughout Australia of 33.000 postal workers as a protest against the inadequate increase in the basic wage of 10s. a week which the Full Court of the Arbitration Court admitted in its judgment was less than the amount that should have been granted in accordance with the evidence presented? Further, is he aware that theincrease in accordance with the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures should have been 18s. a week? Will he use his influence to persuade the Government to correct the injustices that are affecting postal workers generally and, if possible, to do what it can to avoid a dislocation of Commonwealth communications in the event of this stopwork meeting occurring, with the possibility of a general strike? The officers of this union are here in Canberra.
– Order 1 That has nothing to do with the question.
– They flew from Sydney, and they would like to see the Government on this matter this afternoon.
– I am aware of the fact that there has been some discussion on the possibility of a stopwork meeting being- held by the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union for the purpose of protesting against the recent award of the Arbitration Court. The honorable member asks me, for the purpose of preserving continuity of service in the department, whether I would consider taking some action which, if I interpret his question rightly, would mean that I would reserve to myself the question of altering the decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I have no hesitation whatsoever in saying that I would not be a party to any such action. This Government is bound by its policy of accepting the awards of the Arbitration Court, whatever their nature may be. I am also aware of the fact that representatives of the union concerned are here in Canberra to-day and that they have come down with the express purpose of conferring with representatives of the Public Service Board to see whether, in this matter, it is possible to deal with some aspects of the relationship between the union and the Public Service Board which are of a nature that could possibly lend themselves to some form of adjustment between the parties. That ia an entirely different matter from any action dealing with the award of the court. While I know what is going on, I think it would not be advisable for me to refer to the details of these matters at the moment. All I say is that I sincerely hope that In this matter it will be possible, as a result of this discussion, for some reasonable agreement to be reached between the parties, thus avoiding any foolish action such as that proposed by some members of the union.
– Is the Minister for Social Services in the position to say what the increase in expenditure on social services has been over the last few years ? If so, could he indicate what factors he considers are likely to affect this position in the future?
– If the honorable member for Gwydir will be satisfied with round figures, let me say that the expenditure on social services benefits in the year 1936 was approximately £13,000,000; that in 1946 it rose to £53,000,000; and that in this year social services benefits will cost the National Welfare Fund no less than an amount of £217,000,000. There are several factors which govern the position, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The first is, perhaps, any variation of the rates of social services benefits; the second is, perhaps, any alteration in the means test governing eligibility for social services benefits; the third, perhaps, is the expansion or contraction of social services benefits generally; and the fourth, a very important one, is any increase in the proportion of aged people to the total population.
– Can the Minister for the Army inform the House whether all Army personnel’ who served in Korea have now been returned to Australia? Are there any Army personnel still posted in Japan? If there are, what are their duties? When will all of those personnel, both those in Korea, and any in Japan, be returned to Australia?
– I think that the honorable member, who has himself been Minister for the Army, will understand that this question should properly have been directed to the Minister for Defence, who is not here to-day.
– But the question concerns the Army.
– That is true; but it touches on overall defence policy. It is a fact that most of the troops who served in Korea have been brought back. There are a few isolated troops there, and there are also a few troops still in Japan. As to what their duties are at the present moment, I am not in a position to inform the honorable member to-day, but, as I say, this question embraces overall defence policy, and I suggest that he may be able to obtain from the Minister for Defence the information that he requires.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, concerns his recent announcement that in the financial year 1957-5S Australian manufacturers of cigarettes and tobacco will have to include a greatly increased proportion of Australian-grown leaf in their products in order to qualify for the rebate of duty on imported leaf. Have the interests of consumers been fully considered, and is the Minister satisfied of the ability of the Australian tobacco-growing industry to provide the quantity of leaf required without causing a further price increase?
– Yes, I can assure the honorable member that the interests of the consumer were fully considered before the recent decision was taken to increase the prescribed quantity of Australian-grown tobacco leaf required to be included in pipe tobacco and cigarettes manufactured in this country. As to whether I am satisfied that the. quantities fixed for blending with imported leaf are procurable from the Australian crop, [ can assure- the honorable gentleman that there is every expectation that the required volume will be available. This fixing of a proportion of Australian tobacco to be included in tobacco products manufactured here is part of a scheme introduced many years ago to encourage the production of tobacco leaf in Australia. The scheme operates in this manner: Manufacturers of tobacco in Australia are given a rebate of duty on imported leaf if they include in their manufactured products the required proportions of Australian leaf. The proportions at present required to be included in order to qualify for the rebate are, 1 think, 7-J per cent, in the case of cigarettes and 17£ per cent, in the case of tobacco. As from the 1st June, 1957, which is more than a year hence, the proportions will be increased to 12^ per cent, for cigarettes and 21 per cent, for tobacco. These proportions have been fixed only after the most careful investigation and calculation, and after conferences between the Minister for Primary Industry and myself and our respective officers. Inquiries have been made as to the quantity of tobacco now on hand, the amount available from this year’s crop, which ie now being sold, and the amount that will probably be available from the 1957 crop. The proportions of Australian leaf prescribed could cause an increase in the price of cigarettes and tobacco in Australia only if they were such that the Australian crop could not produce the amount required. The problem is to fix proportions which will, at the same time, ensure that all usable tobacco produced in Australia will be absorbed, but which will not cause undue competition for the leaf. There is a safeguard in the power which 1 have under the act to reduce the percentage if it should turn out later that the necessary amount of tobacco is not available in Australia.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Is the honorable gentleman aware that, since I wrote to him. or his predecessor as Minister, requesting a landline for the broadcasting of races conducted at the Cessnock Agricultural Association’s course in the Cessnock coal-fields district, which has a population of at least 150,000, a line has been granted to Scone, which is, by comparison, only a one-horse town? Scone was, at one time, in the Hunter electorate. It has a population of about 5,000. It is now represented by a Liberal member, the honorable member for Paterson, who is Minister foi1 the Interior. Has Cessnock been refused the facilities to broadcast its race meetings for political reasons, and can the Minister explain the refusal, since more than 150,000 people could listen to the broadcasts?
– I have no recollection of anything being submitted to me by the honorable member for Hunter on the matter that he has raised.
– I have made representations about it.
– I am sure the honorable member would not expect me to enter into the lists and canvass the relative importance of Scone and Cessnock. I shall certainly inquire into the matter and ascertain the position. I can assure the honorable member that anything done to provide for Scone a service that has not been provided for Cessnock would not have been the result of party political favoritism accorded to any one. It has not been the practice of the Postal Department in the past to exercise political favoritism, and it is not the practice now.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation, concerns the airstrip at Rottnest Island, off the coast of Western Australia. I preface the question by saying that the strip of 3,000 feet is not wholly effective when an east wind is blowing, as happens for a considerable portion of the year. At those times, the effective length of the strip is reduced to some 1,700 feet, and this prevents passenger aircraft from taking off. Will the Minister inform the House whether the Department of Civil Aviation would be prepared to authorize alterations or additions so that the existing runway may be able to handle the passenger aircraft used in the service from Perth to the island ?
– The Department of Civil Aviation would consider giving approval to a local authority to extend the runway, if that is the honorable member’s suggestion. But if he proposes that the department should undertake the work out of its own resources, I should think it could not be done in the foreseeable future. After all, Rottnest Island is only a holiday resort, and the department could not justify the expenditure of money on the strip there while so many other airfields in Australia need all sorts of improvements.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that Trans-Australia Airlines at present operates 39 aircraft, compared with 32 operated in 1949. Is it a fact that the total operating hours in 1955 were 4 RC0 more than in 1949 and that the Total distance flown was approximately 1.10S,000 miles greater? Is it also a fact that there are, despite the greater number of aircraft and hours and mileage flown, SO fewer ground engineers and sixteen fewer other tradesmen engaged upon maintenance work? If these are facts, does it not indicate a sacrificing by the
Government of public safety in a drive for economy? Is it a fact that one of the greatest assets of Trans-Australia Airlines is the world-wide reputation which it has built up for efficient and safe operation? Will the Minister give an assurance that this sabotage of a great public enterprise will cease immediately?
– I think that the House will agree that the honorable member cannot expect me to provide offhand an answer to all the figures that he has cited. The question, basically, is why fewer maintenance engineers are employed by Trans-Australia Airlines than when the enterprise had fewer aircraft. The obvious answer is that very different types of aircraft - the turbo-prop type - are the basis of Trans-Australia Airlines fleet now, and require considerably less maintenance than other types in use earlier. If I remember correctly, TransAustralia Airlines has only had one unscheduled engine change since it put Viscounts into operation. The honorable member can rest assured that safety will never be prejudiced either in Trans-Australia Airlines or in any other airline in Australia.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Supply a question with reference to the valuable Avro delta-whig research jet aeroplane which suffered a mishap while being unloaded from the aircraft carrier. H.M.A.S. Sydney, at Prince’s Pier, Melbourne, yesterday. Can the Minister say whether any damage was done to the aircraft? Is this aeroplane to go to Woomera ? For what purpose will it be used ? Has the Australian Government arranged to purchase it?
– It is, perhaps, more correct to say that the aircraft nearly suffered a mishap; it did not suffer one. This very large and heavy aircraft, which weighs over 5 tons, was being lowered from the aircraft carrier on to a low-level loader. Tt looked as if there was going to be a break in the structure of the loader, so the machine was put back on to the aircraft career. The aircraft is quite undamaged. This aeroplane was lent to the Australian Department of Supply by the British Ministry of
Supply. .Lt is purely and simply a research aircraft. It is the quite famous Avro 707 A delta wing. The point of it all is that Australia, in our aeronautical research laboratories, is to do some extremely important research on what, is technically known as boundary layer control which I am told - and I know no more than I am told on this matter - has to do with turbulences which are set up on the layers of the wings of the aircraft when proceeding at very high speeds and at high altitudes. This aircraft is not owned by Australia but has been lent to us for these purposes of research and it will be flown, in this connexion, by officers of my colleague the Minister for Air. If this research is successful it will very greatly add to the safety of all of those who are concerned with high-speed flight and- I think that it is a compliment to Australian aeronautical research that we are undertaking this work.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs indicate the circumstances in which the matter of racial discrimination in South Africa was removed from the agendum of the United Nations early this year? Will he take steps to see that this matter is placed on the agendum again for consideration by that body?
– T had not realized that the facts were as the honorable member has stated them. I shall inquire into the matter and let him know the result.
– I ask that further questions be placed on the noticepaper.
– I rise to order. Would you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, be good enough to take up with the Acting PrimE Minister the question of whether further time can be given at question time to enable private members to ask questions? I may say, in amplification of this point of order, that in the six and a half years that 1 have had the honour 0f being a member of this House the custom, until quite recently, has been to allow members for questions one hour on Tuesday, three- quarters of an hour on Wednesday, and half an hour on Thursday. Latterly this time has been quite seriously curtailed, not only by the right honorable gentleman at the table, the Acting Prime Minister, but also by the Prime Minister himself. The new practice represents deprivation of private members’ rights. We get up to ask questions not just for the sake of publicity, but genuinely for the purpose of bringing grievances of constituents before honorable members and the House. I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that if you would confer with the Acting Prime Minister, who is, I know, a kindly and reasonable man, to see whether more time can be given to members, or whether we can revert to the previous customary procedure, every one on both sides of the House will be grateful and will be well advantaged.
– Order ! This is not a point of order, in fact, but I allowed the honorable member to voice his feelings on the matter, which feelings are, perhaps, shared by other honorable members. The Treasurer has heard the honorable member’s appeal, and it may touch his kindly heart. So far as I am concerned, the matter really has nothing to do with the Chair. My function is merely to call honorable members, and to give representation to all sections. If an honorable member, apart from the leader of a party, has asked a question earlier in the week, I am afraid that he has not much chance of asking a second question while other members, who have not had one, rise to ask questions. T might say that lengthy questions and answers have the effect of depriving other honorable members of the opportunity of asking questions within the allotted time. However, so far as the time limit is concerned, it is entirely a matter for the Acting Prime Minister and not for me.
– I also rise to order. Some months ago it was, unfortunately, necessary for me to have to ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether you were prevented from seeing me. As I have been rising in my place unsuccessfully for the last three weeks 1 ask you : Is the microphone standard before me placed in such a position that 1 am obscured from your vision ?
– The honorable member cannot put that one over me, because he asked a question only last week, and, therefore, other honorable members on his side of the House who did not ask a question last week are receiving preference over him.
– by leave- On the 16th March, 1949, a statement was made to this House on behalf of the government of the day to the effect that it had been decided to issue a reprint of Commonwealth statutes and statutory rules as at the 31stD ecember, 1950.
– What is the Minister raying?I cannot hear a word.
– The present Government adopted the decision, and publication of the reprint of the statutes in six volumes has been completed. Chiefly because of printing difficulties, it was not practicable to undertake the reprint of the statutory rules concurrently with the reprint of the statutes. I am pleased to inform the House that it has now been decided to undertake the reprint of statutory rules and to include all regulations
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! There is altogether too much noise. The Minister at the cable cannot be heard.
– Would honorable members like me to start again?
– I am pleased to inform the House that it has new been decided to undertake the reprint of statutory rules and to include all regulations in force as at the 31stDecember, 1956. As was done in 1927, when the statutory rules were last reprinted, the present reprint will include certain selected constitutional documents and other important statutory instruments. Already, a considerable amount of work has been done in preparation for the reprint. Action has for some time been taken to repeal all obsolete and unnecessary regulations, to correct mistakes and, where possible, to redraft regula tions to accord with modern drafting practice. I think honorable members will agree that the reprint is very desirable, as it will present in a few volumes and in a convenient and accessible form, all the more important subordinate legislation of the Commonwealth. The work is, in fact, long overdue, as there has not been a reprint for nearly 30 years.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Chisholm (Mr. Kent Hughes) owing to his absence from Australia.
Motion (by Dr. Evatt) agreed to -
That leave of absence for two months be given to the honorable member for Newcastle, (Mr. Walking) on the ground of ill health.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) agreed to-
That the House, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow at 2.30 p.m.
Debate resumed from the 16th May (vide page 2098), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- The Opposition will not oppose the granting of Supply for the four months of the next financial year which begin on the 1st July and end on the 31st October. However,we have a number of criticisms to offer of the Government’s conduct of the business of the country, and our support for the appropriation of this sum of £160,000,000 is not to be taken as approval of all that the Government is doing, or of its attitude towards a number of things that ought to be done. We are passing this bill as Australia enters the winter season. I have read the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). and in it no hope is held out for the unemployed whose numbers are everincreasing for the war pensioners, for invalid and age pensioners, or for war widows.It is only too painfully obvious that the cost of living is rising rapidly. The Government is worried by its failure to control inflation; in other words, its failure to stop the increase in the cost of living. While all these increases are taking place the Government is doing nothing to improve the lot of the war pensioners and the war widows. It is certainly making no provision at all for the comfort during the winter months of the age and invalid pensioners scattered around Australia. Judges have received increases recently. Workers under federal awards have received an insufficient increase. Workers under State awards, in many instances, have been better treated. But there is nothing in this document or in what has been done in recent times which suggests that anything will be done to assist the old people, who find it so difficult to exist on £4 a week. It is true - the truth is not always stressed - that 80 per cent, of the age and invalid pensioners have no income but their pensions. Many other pensioners, comparatively, are much better off. Because of the easing of the means test to provide that a person can live in a house that he owns and can have a certain income, without those factors being taken into consideration when his pension is fixed, some people on pensions to-day are much better off than are young couples on the basic wage, trying to rear three or four children. But the age pensioner who has no income other than his pension is in a pitiful plight.
The Government should have made some provision for such people in the supplementary budget just passed. That budget, which the Liberals call the little budget, but which the Labour party describes, more truthfully, as the little horror budget, imposed fresh taxation, that, in a full year, will mean the confiscation of another £115,000,000 by this Government. That will be added to the sum of more than £1,000,000,000 which the Government will collect in this financial vear, irrespective of the £57,000,000 which will be taken from the people because of the operation of the provisions of the supplementary budget during the remainder of the financial year. We think that, something should have been done under the heading of social services in that supplementary budget. We think that this House should not go into recess without doing something to increase age and invalid pensions, as well as war pensions, both for exservicemen and for the widows of ex-servicemen and ex-servicewomen.
We think, too, that something should be done in the field of child endowment. We are always talking about increasing our population. We always say that the Australian baby is the best immigrant of all. But the mothers of Australia have received no increase of their child endowment payments for second and subsequent children since this Government came into office. The last rise in child endowment was made by the Chifley Government in 1948 or .1949. This Government has given 5s. a week to the first child in each family. That is all that it has done. It has not increased that payment in the seven years that it has been in office. We moved for the payment to be increased to 10s. a week, but the Government would not do that. We pointed out that it cost as much to feed a first child as it did to feed subsequent children.
– The year before that, when Labour was in power, it would not agree to pay child endowment for a first child.
– We did not want to pay child endowment for a first child for very good reasons, which I do not need to canvass in full now. We had a very strong suspicion that, if child endowment of 5s. a week we.re paid in respect of the first child in a family, the employers would go to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and ask for a revision of the basic wage, because the basic wage was supposed to meet the needs of a man, his wife and one child. However, the policy was settled when this Government decided to pay child endowment for a first child. Therefore, the Government stands condemned for not having increased the purchasing power of the endowments paid to mothers for a first child, and for subsequent children too.
The Government might also have done something, at least in respect of pensioners over 70 or 75 years of age, if it really believed in its alleged policy of gradually abolishing the means test. We were attacked on the eve of the 1954 election because we wanted to abolish the means test. We wanted to put into effect a policy in respect of which members of the present Government when in Opposition used to attack us. When they formed the Government, they forgot, all about that particular policy. We say that the Government deliberately misled - in fact, tricked - the electors before the 10th December, 1955, when it failed to tell the Australian public the truth about the economic position, when it failed to reveal to the Australian people the measures which it proposed to adopt in March of this year, measures which it knew it would adopt if it won the election, but which were not talked about when the election campaign was in progress. Government supporters might tell us, of course, that they did say they would apply other measures if the import restrictions which were applied in April and October of last year failed, but they did not say during the election campaign that they would impose a 30 per cent, sales tax on motor cars. They did not say then that they would put tin additional excise duty of 3d. a gallon on petrol. They did not say then that, they would impose additional sales tax on a large range of other items. If they had said so, this House would not have had the pleasure of the company of the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton). His colleague, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) would have once again been looking in from the outside, and most members on the Government benches would have been consigned to either temporary or permanent obscurity.
The Government tricked the people, and that is not too strong a word to use in describing the sleight-of-hand tactics by which the Government achieved its victory in December last. But having won, the Government now has to discharge its responsibility to thi1 people. Looking across the chamber from day to day, and hearing ministerial pronouncements, I think - to use th” vernacular - that this Government has had it, and that the Australian people have had this Government. I think, also, that each of those observations is an understatement. This Government just does not seem to know what to do next. It has no settled policy. The document which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) presented to us a few days ago, just before he left on his seventh overseas trip in six years, contains nothing of hope for the Australian people. It is a most doleful statement of affairs. It has its remarkable aspects. It is full of statistics, economic theory, and implied criticism of the people. The extraordinary thing about this Government, which has now been, unfortunately, nearly seven years in office, is that it will never accept any blame for the situation with which it is confronted at any particular moment.
– The Government created the situation.
– Of course it did. That is the point I am about to make. The Government hectors and lectures the people - by “ the people “ I mean the primary producers, the manufacturers, the workers, and the exporters, in fact, everybody - for what is happening, but it is the Government itself that has created the situation with which we are confronted. The Government accepts no blame for anything that is happening in Australia to-day; it is always somebody else who is at fault. Of course, if the Government had carried out its promises made in 1949, we would not be in the trouble we are in to-day. Government supporters said that they would put value back into the £1 and that they would promote development.
– Why has the New South Wales Department of Transport lost £10,000,000?
– I do not say that the Government is responsible for anything that is happening in State domains, but it is responsible for the fact that import restrictions must be imposed in Australia to-day because we have not exported sufficient goods to finance our necessary imports. This Government is responsible for allowing inflation, not merely to run ahead, not merely to gallop, but to travel at supersonic speeds, and there is no evidence that the speed has been reduced. The Government is responsible for banking and credit and currency policies. It is responsible for taxation and fiscal policy generally, and it is responsible for development. The actual dictator in Australia to-day, under the present setup, is the Treasurer.’ He tells the Australian Loan Council what he will give the States.
– The honorable member flatters me.
– I. flatter him, and he flattens them. When the State Premiers assemble, they are told precisely what money they are to receive. They are told to trim down their developmental programmes, and particularly their housing programmes. The Treasurer’s deputy in the other House, the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) propounds a scheme which ho calls a housing agreement, even though the States do not agree, and he adopts the same “ take it or leave it “ attitude. If the States are to receive anything at all, they have to come into line and do the best they can.
– Where is the healthy competition about which the Government always tells us?
– Government supporters talk about this being a government that supports free enterprise. I think that the persons who are most upset with this Government are those who supported it, those persons who expected the Government to try to make free enterprise really free. There has never been such a thing as free enterprise since the days of Adam Smith, or before then, and wherever there are monopolies, trusts, combines, and controls of any sort, there is no such thins? as free enterprise. This Government, although condemning controls over the years, has imposed the greatest number of controls that have been imposed on the Australian economy since the war period.
– Is that nonsense?
– It is all right for the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), who is a director of a bank between his appearances in this
Parliament, to make such a statement. He has. a pass-out check. He resigns that position when he is elected to the Parliament, and when he is defeated, he goes back again to the bank as a director. The honorable gentleman admits that that is right.
– The bank realizes my worth.
– He does not need to worry about bank credit or about the persons all over Australia who are struggling to get a few hundred or a few thousand pounds from a bank manager. He is not concerned with the actions of the Treasurer in imposing greater banking restrictions than any others that have been imposed since the war. Control of imports has reached a level where the effect is that some industries are being strangled, and there has to be a complete reversal of Government policy if some industries are to survive. Others, which have already passed the stage where survival is possible, need to be re-established.
– The honorable member does not say anything about the failure of State Labour governments to control the exorbitant rates of interest on hire-purchase transactions.
– State governments, both Labour and anti-Labour, should control the rates of interest on hire-purchase transactions. I should like to see that power reposed in this Parliament. Every State government has its responsibility to the nation. It is scandalous that hirepurchase companies are able to declare such high profits as they are now making. lt is equally scandalous that quite a number of other concerns are declaring higher profits to-day and paying much bigger dividends than they paid in the immediate post-war period, while everybody else in the community, except the persons interested in such enterprises, is being told to restrict his spending, to save more, to put his money into government loans, and to do a thousand other things which some wealthy sections of the community are not doing.
– Why do not Labour governments give us power over hirepurchase transactions?
– If every Labour government and every Liberal government in Australia were prepared to give us that power, we still would not have the power, because down in Tasmania there is a group of tories who constitute the Upper House of the State Parliament and who time and time again have pledged themselves never to refer any power to the Commonwealth Parliament, regardless of the political complexion of the Commonwealth government that requests it. They simply will not do anything about it, but 1 hope that, after the committee that is to review the Constitution has concluded the first phase of its deliberations, the power to control interest rates will be sought unanimously by the Parliament, so that we may protect the economy. 1 think that before now the Government should have held a referendum with a view to obtaining the power to pass uniform company legislation and to control interest rates. If we had those powers, we would not need to worry very much about what the State parliaments did <>> failed to do.
As I have stated, the people have waited for nearly seven years for the Government to provide a solution to our problems. They have been waiting for nearly seven years for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to produce the miracle drug that will cure the economy of its ills, but we have not yet heard of that drug. The Prime Minister still attends conferences in London, talks are held there and all over the world, and other peregrinating Ministers who constitute the majority of the Cabinet have their walkabouts in turn and come back with nothing concrete to offer to the Australian people. However, this much can be said for the Prime Minister: he can dissemble better than any of his colleagues and supporters. He is still a master of the art of double talk. He admits all the promises that he made in 1949, but then he astounds everybody by blandly proclaiming that he has put them all into effect. But, when one reads the paper, Australia 1956 - An Economic Survey, one finds no confession of any mistakes - no guilt complex. According to the right honorable gentleman, everything is going along all right, the Government has done everything that it ought to have done, and the people themselves are to blame. The Australian people are long-suffering. Even the supporters of the Government who have financed its return election after election, and who, possibly, would vote for it again to-morrow if an election were held-
Mr. Hulme interjecting,
– I shall take time to reply to the honorable member when I have concluded my argument. Even those persons who have supported the Government consistently, and who, possibly, would support it again to-morrow, have been most critical of its failures. I have in my hand an extract from an article that appeared in a Sydney newspaper, which reads as follows: -
Important announcements in Canberra during the last week have revealed that the Commonwealth Government is still groping for the right answer to the complex political and fiscal problems with which it is confronted.
The Government does not, even yet, fully understand what the economy needs to place it on a sound footing.
That article was not published yesterday. It was published in the Sydney Morning Herald financial review of the 9th July, 1953 - three years ago. I shall again read the second paragraph -
The Government does not, even yet, fully understand what the economy needs to place it on a sound footing.
Over the last three years, the Government, in the opinion of this journal, has produced no solution of our problems. It just lives on a hate campaign against Communists and communism and the alleged association of the Australian Labour party with the Communist party. The Government has sung that song for the last time electorally, because, if Sir Anthony Eden happens to go to Moscow to return the visit to England of Marshal Bulganin and Mr. Khrushchev, how can the professional anti-Communists again raise the issue in Australia and how can their opposite numbers in Great Britain successfully raise it again there? The issues in the next election campaign will not be emotional issues. Bather will the election be fought on the hard facts of our present economic plight. A government that has failed as grievously and as egregiously as has this Government over the last seven years is due for dismissal.
The great consolation that the Labour party has is that, when the present Menzies Government goes out of office, it will remain out as long as have the Liberals in Queensland and New South Wales. The longer the present situation lasts, the worse it will be for all those who have nothing to offer but opposition to the Labour party’s splendid programme of social reform and sound economic planning. The members of the Government parties, composed as they are of extremes, are held together by a common hate of the Labour party and a common fear that, when the Labour party assumes office, that will be the end for them. The fact that they laugh when they are told the truth just shows that they are not whistling but laughing in order to keep up their courage.
Mr. Snedden interjecting.
– Does the honorable member wish to honour me with an interjection ?
– What is the honorable member’s forecast of the outcome of the federal conference of the Labour party?
– I am not here to-day in the role of a forecaster. I am dealing with the facts of Australia’s economic position, the failures of this Government, and the cruel, callous and heartless treatment that it is meting out to the most defenceless and most needy sections of the Australian community. It is all right for Ministers to have their trips abroad and for “his excellency” the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Sir Eric Harrison) to escape the deluge by transferring his address to somewhere in Mayfair ; but, Nemesis will pursue him, if I may mix the metaphor a little - an art I learned from the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) who, on one occasion, told me that the reply to a certain question that I had asked him was. “ coming up in the lift “.
I have referred to the present economic situation. My colleagues wish to refer specifically to the failure of Ministers and departmental heads, in many cases, to do justice in dealing with matters under their administration. We do noi say that they have failed to do justice deliberately, but that they have failed and that certain people are suffering as a result.. The Ministry, as a whole, is not treating the House properly in regard to the answering of questions. The honorable member “for Angas (Mr. Downer) made a plea this afternoon for a greater period each day for question time. 1 now make a plea for correct and full answers to questions that are asked by honorable members. On the 24th May, the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) directed the following question to the Prime Minister: -
On how many occasions has each member of the present Government gone overseas 9inc.e tin: Government came into office in .104!)?
The reply he received was -
I refer the honorable member to ‘ my reply on this subject to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) which appears in Ilansard for the SI st May, IMS.
A number of Ministers have gone abroad and returned to Australia since 1955, but the Government refuses to tell the Parliament how many times each Minister has been abroad in the past seven years. Apparently we are expected to have a number of sticks in our rooms, one. for each Minister, and, each time a Minister goes abroad, to put one more notch in his stick. If ever there has been a travelling ministry, it has been the present Ministry. Tt certainly travels-
– Iti the Australian interest.
– It travels without much success. I think, however, that the Minister for External Affairs is an honest plodder. T think he tries, but I do not think he succeeds, nor do I think his fellow travellers generally have succeeded. I wish to conclude on a note of hope for the future, because I do not like to see any political party go down aud down as the Liberal party is going down. I have in my hand a circular letter that was issued last year by the Appointments Board of the University of Melbourne and which was placed on the noticeboard at the university. Tt was signed by the secretary of the Appointments Board, and was issued at the vacation period when university students were looking for. work to tide them over and help to pay their fees. It reads -
The following vacancies have been brought to my notice: -
Employer: Liberal Club, North Balwyn. Telephone Mr. K. E. Wai te at YVTL0U3 or FJ202C Details: Men students to collect sub’s for Liberal Club in the North Balwyn area. Of any donation up to £1 student gets a 50% commission. Any number of hours, at any time. Start as soon as possible. Can tart for an hour and see how salary goes. List of subscribers given to student.
Then the secretary said - if you take one of these positions would you please let Miss Lemmon know at once.
The circular is signed H. F. Downes, Secretary. The envelope bears the inscription “ University of Melbourne “. A political party that has to invite university students to collect its subscriptions is certainly on the way out. This Government, has lasted too long; the sooner its decline ends in its demise, the better. When it goes out of office, a Labour government will come into power and thenext Labour government will give the Australian people another instalment of the magnificent legislation put on the statute-book by the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government. The next Labour government will translate into legislative actuality some more of the idealism which permeates the Labour party’s platform.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, it has become the established practice in Australia to introduce the budget about August or possibly early in September and, consistent with that, to introduce a Supply Bill round about this time for three or four months’ Supply to enable you and I and other servants of the Australian people to get paid from rime to time. The honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) is an experienced parliamentarian. Bie knows very well what a Supply Bill means. He knows very well that, by its very nature, no new items of expenditure are introduced in a Supply Bill. A Supply Bill is merely a projection into the coming financial year of a third or a quarter, or whatever the period of time is, of the budget for the year that is about to end. No new items are introduced in it at all.
The honorable member for Melbourne said that he deplored the fact that there were no new items of increased social services or the like introduced in this bill. He knows very well indeed that it is quite impossible to introduce those items in a Supply Bill. There are no new items in this bill at all. lt is merely a matter of taking the amount of the budget for the year that is about to expire and dividing it by, in this case, a third. The House is then asked to authorize that rate of expenditure for the three or, in this case, four months of the new financial year for which Supply is needed.
This business of seeking Supply from the Parliament is a very old-established practice. It started some time in the early 1600’s because in those days there was a constant and frequently a rather bloody battle between the Crown and the Parliament for control of the national purse. In those bad old days, the Speaker was frequently the nominee of the King and was present at all discussions that went on by reason of the Crown seeking money to be voted by the Parliament. In those days, any one who opposed the King’s demands for money was likely to be reported by the Speaker of the day, the King’s nominee, and after that, heads might roll in the sawdust - and very frequently did - and the Tower of London had a few new occupants.
Members of Parliament in the very early 1600’s became rather fed up with this business and, from a sense of selfpreservation, decided that some new form of assembly was needed that would eliminate the possibility of their being spied upon by a representative of thiKing. So they evolved the Committee of Supply, which was chaired then, as ii ii> now, by one of their own number. They could then pursue whatever sort of acid criticism of the Crown’s demands that they pleased, without fear of rather bloody consequences to come.
The Committee of Supply came into being in the early 1600’s and has been in existence for nearly 350 years. As 1 say, it has persisted until to-day. A Supply Bill, and indeed the budget, by reason of the fact that it embraces Supply - money - for every activity of government, naturally produces a situation in which anything under the sun - any political or other matter - can be discussed. With that degree of freedom, I shall dilate for a very little time this afternoon on some matters that appear to me to be of importance in respect of the Supply Bill and the economy of Australia, and not feel myself confined to any one item of Supply or any one department of government.
One thing that I have tried to do - but, I admit, without very much success - is to compare the budget of Australia with the budgets of the United Kingdom, Canada arid New Zealand, because the economy, social and other set-ups of those countries have at least some resemblance to the sort of economy, social and other set-ups that we have here. But it is not a very fruitful research. Two nf the~e countries, Canada and Australia, suffer - and I think one can use that word - from having a federal seti.i n and the other two, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, have :i unitary form, of Government. When ;i little research is done, it turns out that it is most difficult to compare the budgets of those four countries because two of them are federations and two have a unitary or a single form of government and legislature.
However one can do something in that regard and that something gives these results. As wo all know, a substantial part of the revenue of any civilized country in these days comes from the taxation of individuals and of companies. In Canada and Australia, two federations, individual and company taxation represents rather more than half of the tr.tal revenue. In the United Kingdom, it represents only about 4.r> per cent, of the total revenue because in that country a good deal of the revenue comes from indirect taxation, sales tax - or, as they are pleased to call it, purchase tax - and customs duties and the like. So there is not very much valid comparison ?n that quarter. In New Zealand, no less than 60 per cent, of the total revenuecomes from the taxation of incomes in one form or another. There is a fairly wide difference between 45 per cent, and 60 per cent, in the proportion of the total revenue that is raised in those four countries from taxation in one form or another.
In any modern country, as we all know very well, three very large item* of government expenditure are represented by defence, what may be called social services - and in many countries that term includes education - and development. Nearly half the budget in New Zealand is being spent on social services, which are very much in every one’s mind. That country has a unitary form of government. In the United Kingdom, only something like 25 per cent, is spent on social services for the simple reason that a good deal of the social services is dealt with by local governing bodies other than the Government. So not very much comparison is offering there. In Australia and Canada, a rather smaller percentage than even that in the United Kingdom is spent on social services simply because a good deal of the amount spent on what is called social services, including education, is spent by the Provinces in Canada and by the States in Australia. So any comparison on a factual basis is not very fruitful in respect of these matters. But what one can say is that a very large proportion of the budget of any modern country is taken up in those three directions - defence, what might be called welfare services, and development. Now, in Australia we have a set of rather peculiar conditions, perhaps markedly different from those operating in any other country, including other federations, such as Canada. That is because we are a relatively young federation. We have not quite settled down into what I expect will be the final pattern of responsibility between, the Commonwealth and the States. After 50 years of federation we are still going through what one might call the “teething” period. The United States of America, the oldest federation in the world, has gone through 170 years of federation and has evolved, in the process, almost a unitary form of government; so there is no comparison to be had there. However, there are certain things happening in Australia which are worthy of note, because I think that they cannot be allowed to go on indefinitely. It will be for one Parliament or another in the future to exert its intelligence and powers of discussion and argument on the State governments. The power of evolution in the political field which is constantly going on all over the world will also bea? on this problem. Our efforts will have to be devoted in future to rectifying some, at least, of the situations in which we find ourselves to-day, I think, to our very great disadvantage. Let me try to reflect to the House what some of these things are.
A feature of our Australian financial arrangements is the fact that the Commonwealth collects the bulk of the tax revenue and passes a great deal of it on to the State governments in the form of tax re-imbursements. That process has cost this Government, over the last five years, more than £140,000,000 a year on the average. In some years the amount has been nearly £160,000,000, .but the average is about £140,000,000. The Commonwealth, again, of its own act, has evacuated the Australian domestic loan market, and has left the whole of the proceeds of that market to the States for their public works programmes. In addition, the amount derivable from the loan market being insufficient for the requirements of the States, the Commonwealth has provided to the States, out of its own tax revenue, more than £200,000,000 a year- from the moneys got from federal taxpayers. The political odium of collecting that money, which has been handed to the States, for expenditure on capital works in the States, has rested on this Government. A remarkable state of affairs! “We have got so used to it, however, that we do not even comment on it nowadays except on rare occasions. At the same time the Commonwealth has, ever since the present Government came into office, undertaken, from its own tax revenues, the financing of Commonwealth public works. The average in that respect for the last five years has been comfortably over £100,000,000 a yearexpenditure which, on any reasonably purist basis of ‘finance, is most certainly capital expenditure that should have been found from loans, and which should not fall as a burden on the taxpayers of the present day.
These, sir, are all anomalies which, so far as I know, do not exist in other countries and which, in my opinion, as I have already said, cannot, for the sake of the community’s interests, be allowed to continue to exist indefinitely. Having given, in the roundest of terms, the amounts of tax revenue which we, as a Commonwealth Government, raise from the public and hand over to the State governments for spending, it is necessary for me to add that we do not have any say whatsoever as to how that money is spent by the States. We do not even have a priority list of public works throughout the Commonwealth. Such a priority list is very much to be desired. Its absence means that, in fact, the least important work in any State is, in the mind of the government of that State, more important than the most important work in any other State - a wholly illogical situation and one which. I venture to- suggest, we cannot, if we are to maintain a reasonable amount of efficiency in Australia, allow to remain in existence indefinitely. I know the political difficulties of altering that situation, including the difficulties that would arise from the fact that, unfortunately, four of the six State governments arc Labour governments.
– How does the Minister propose to alter it?
– If I may say so, there are no limits to human ingenuity in these matters. Good sense, common sense, after all, is the thing which eventually wins out, and it is impossible to .sustain »n illogical anomaly indefinitely in any country. I suggest that that is one of the things to which we have to direct our minds, not as the citizens of any one State, but from the simple stand-print that we are members of a Federal Parliament. There is no doubt that the efficiency of Australia is appreciably diminished by this simple fact, which one can sum up in a few words - that we have no priority list of works in Australia, and that the Commonwealth, which finds the great bulk of the money for those works, has allowed itself to accept a situation in which it has no say whatsoever in relation to the expenditure of that money. These things are well known to all members of Parliament, but do not often see the light in the form of simple expression. These are things which, if we are trying to mia up a list of jobs to be done in the country, ure the most difficult to alter, as my friend, the honorable member for Herbert (Air. Edmonds), has suggested - but they have to be altered somehow or other by agreement with the States.
The Parliament has decided to establish a committee to examine the Constitution and make recommendations for such (intendments of it as are considered necessary. I think that one thing which will emerge from the investigations of that committee is that the constitutional relationship, on the financial side, between the Commonwealth and the States, is impossible to correct as a result of anything i lui t we can do in this Parliament, or anything that can be suggested by any constitutional committee, even an allparty committee. Means broader, deeper, and wider than that have to be adopted if this, I think, fundamental anomaly in our set-up is to be cured. 1 expect that many things of value will result from the deliberations of the. constitutional committee, but this will not he our- result, because it does not depend r>n what we say; it depends on negotiations a ml relationship between the Common wealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament, on the one hand, and the State governments and State parliaments on the other hand. So we have no hope on that side of things. 1 suggest that there is a very fruitful field for controversy in the financial relationships between the various governments of Australia. It is frequently said -and. some time, I will try to investigate the truth of things that people keep on saying - that the budget of this or any other country is the strongest economic weapon that a government has, because of its effect on the national economy. That. 1 venture, with great con nure, to challenge. Take our situation here in Australia - a fair’y typical modern democracy. Our budget results from year to year, and over the swing of i he years, show a surplus of, say, £50. nno.000, or a deceit of. say, £50.000,000. Bear in mind the fact that something like £50,000,000 one way or the other, plus or minus, in or out, is not important in respect of the degree to which it can influence the economy from the deflationary and/or inflationary point of view. Let us look at the background on which that statement is made. Our national income to-day is something fairly comfortably over £4,000,000,000. I would guess that for this current year it might be £4,500,000,000. Sometimes we say, offhandedly, that our budget is the biggest economic weapon in the hands of a government, but we ought to bear in mind, whether the budget be for £1,000,000,000 or £1,500,000,000, that the only effect the budget has on the economy is in respect of the deflationary or inflationary influence exerted by a deficit of, say, £50,000,000, or a surplus of, say, £50,000,000. Do not tell me that it is common sense to say that £30,000,000 one way or the other enables the Government to influence the economy substantially, when the national income is more than £4,000,000,000. I do not believe it is common sense to say that and, therefore, I challenge the view that the budget is in itself, ipso facto a substantial weapon in our hands. But, in spite of that, 1 consider that, in the present budget, and possibly even more so in budgets of the future, many items can be made to affect, for good or for ill, great sections of industry and employment in Australia. For instance, the, taxation weapon, used selectively, can be tremendously effective. No one more than the primary producers should know that alleviation from taxation, taxation exemptions and the like, and depreciation allowances, when applied to particular industries, can be of enormous benefit, especially to the primary industries, which have, quite rightly, received very great benefit from taxation exemptions and depreciation allowances. Tt is perfectly right that they should receive these benefits, because, although our manufactures have increased enormously, primary industry is still the backbone of Australia.
Perhaps we could give more thought in the future to using the depreciation weapon still further, and to using what one might call fiscal methods generally to encourage really worthwhile industries. 1 should think that, in no country, is the budget used sufficiently as what one might call a development stimulator. I do not think that in Australia or any other country that aspect of budgets has been sufficiently investigated and exploited. If one had time, one could conjure up in one’s imagination many ways in which the fiscal weapon could be used to trigger off activity in a community by the allocation of certain funds. Probably, we all are conscious of the fact that many activities are not undertaken merely because they are uneconomic, although, if a little stimulus were given by the expenditure of a little extra government money and hy the granting of a few taxation concessions, they would become economic, and productive units of industry would spring into being with a consequent increased consumption of raw materials, greater employment of labour, and higher output of goods. Perhaps the stimulation nf a 5 per cent, bonus in some form such as a bounty paid by the Australian Government, or the incentive of some other form of fiscal aid would be sufficient. We have not failed to use our imagination in the past, but I think we could still use it, ro good effect in order to apply these development stimulators, or catalysts, a? they might be termed, which, although of relatively small proportions, might trigger off activity in the community.
I might suggest one illustration. It is a simple and obvious one, and perhaps it. is not the best example I could give. I refer to the £l-for-£l subsidy paid by the Commonwealth in respect of the building of aged persons’ homes. This subsidy was introduced several years ago, and I think, from memory, we have spent between £1,000,000 and £2,000.000 a- year on it. in the last two financial years. I should think that, as a result, some thousands of old people who had not very much prospect of comfort in their remain.ill years, are now living in relative comfort, indeed, in vastly greater comfort than they enjoyed before. This has happened, not because the Commonwealth provided the money for the building of the homes in which these aged people ure now accommodated, but because, i! triggered nff the activity of building those borries. We informed the churches and other non-profit bodies which were engaged in this enterprise that, if they had, say, £5,000 and would spend it on the construction of homes for old people, we would provide another £5,000, and thereby double the chances of their building the homes they wished to provide. In fact, the money many of these organizations had available was not enough even to warrant their beginning the construction of homes. As a result of this Government’s policy, aged persons’ homes are nOW springing up all over Australia. That is an illustration of the practical success of a £l-for-£l government subsidy. Each pound paid out by the Commonwealth has proved to be, in a sense, a development stimulator, or a catalyst, which has triggered off the activity of the churches and other worthy bodies by encouraging them to spend their own money and to collect more from their local communities for the provision of homes for aged people. This illustration may be rather too obvious. But if I had more time, and the opportunity were more suitable, I could suggest other ways in which the fiscal weapon and the weapon of depreciation allowances could be used with very great benefit to Australia as a whole.
These thoughts come to me as I think about this bill. T shall not address myself to its details. That would be ploughing over old paddocks, as it were, since, as I have already stated, it merely represents one-third of the budget that was approved for the financial year 1955-56. There is nothing new in it. Its purpose is really to enable us to catch our breath, and to allow the Treasurer and his staff time to attend to the monumental business nf preparing a budget for the financial year 1956-57, a task which will be completed. I expect, by the end of August next, J shall mention just one other matter which seems to me to be of importance. We all have had experience of the growth of secondary industry in Australia in recent years. Its expansion has been quite phenomenal. We frequently hear it said nowadays that secondary industry has caught up with primary industry and that whereas we depended on primary industry in the past we must now nail 011 r fla. to secondary industry. That sentiment i? not really very true. Statistics show thai primary industry is still the more important to Australia.
The statistics in respect of wool are well worth a few minutes’ consideration, lt used to be an old saying that Australia rode on the sheep’s back. I venture to suggest that Australia is still carried on the sheep’s back, as the statistics show. I shall mention only a very few relevant figures. In 1938-39, the last year before World War II., 35 per cent, of Australia’s export income was derived from wool. In J 954-55, the last year for which figures are available, the proportion was 49 per cent. la 1938-39, wool represented almost precisely 10 per cent, of the total value of Australia’s rural production. The figure for 1953-54, the latest available, was 18 per cent. These statistics highlight the continuing and growing importance of wool in Australia. They are quite remarkable. Until I obtained them, I should not have guessed that they were so striking. My source of information for them is the most authoritative quarter of the relevant Commonwealth department. These wool statistics highlight the constantly increasing importance of wool as the principal primary industry in Australia, They also should make us give even more consideration than we have already given to the question of whether we shall be able to count in the future ou a continuing demand for wool as great as we have known in the past. I do not attempt to answer that question. I do not think any one can do so. I know that, through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the Australian Wool Bureau, and other organizations, we are doing a great deal to popularize wool, not only in Australia, but also throughout the world. We are also trying to perfect our techniques and the techniques of other countries in the use of wool. Whether we are devoting quite enough money to that is another matter which, perhaps, might concern us later. I want to stress the fact that if anything happened to diminish the world demand for wool, we might be pretty sorry that we have not, in these years, given more intensive thought to the alternative uses of at least some of our present sheep-growing and woolraising country.
– Order! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
Mr. CREAN (Melbourne Ports) [4.6 j. - I should like to follow the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) over some of the ground upon which he trod. He has covered a considerable area and has referred to a. number of subjects, and I suggest that some of his statements are debatable. If I am being fair to him, I interpreted his words to mean that the budget, on its own was, at best, a marginal weapon so far as Australia is concerned, and I think that that is true. In Australia, 1956: An Economic Survey, which was issued a clay or two ago, it is pointed out that budgetary policy must be associated with monetary policy. The Minister has mentioned the budget, but has given very little consideration to the other matter - monetary policy. The one is, as it were, the right hand of government policy; the other is the left hand. I suggest that it might be said of this Government that its left hand often does not know what its right hand has been doing. In consequence, from time to time, we find ourselves in rather difficult, circumstances, economically.
I shall point to two of the matter? that have been specifically raised in this survey. The document states, at page 11-
At this stage, however, it is important to emphasize twu things. One is that, when an economy like ours goes wrong, there is a big risk of it going completely wrong.
I suggest that there is a pretty pregnant lesson there. I repeat -
When an economy like ours goes wrong, there is a hig risk of it going completely wrong.
Those are very ominous words. Also, on page 11 of the document it is stated -
Secondly, it would be a grave mistake to suppose either that our current economic troubles are due wholly to passing circumstances and are therefore likely to pass off or that this is the kind of situation which, it left alone, would correct itself without any particular effort by the Australian people or any particular measures by the Australian Government.
I think it is suggested here that the Australian Government, in our economic circumstances of 1956, can play, for good or for ill, a very prominent part, and, therefore, it is important that these two aspects - the budgetary aspect and the monetary aspect, which I have called the left and the right hand of policy - should work in co-ordination.
The right honorable gentleman, again, tried to draw some comparisons. He admitted that it was difficult to draw a direct comparison between Australia and, say, the United States of America or Canada. He did say that the United States and Canada, like ourselves, had “Certain prominent fields in which to operate, which were concerned with defence, welfare and development. He did not, of course, say how much defence there should be, or how much welfare, or how much development. Of course, one of the difficult problems that beset any country at any time is this: That/given scarce economic resources, man-power and materials and technical skill and a large number of things to do, which things should be done first?
He suggested something which I raised in this House the other day. I pointed out that there is not in this country anything that can be called! a national priority of works programme. I am inclined to the view that he placed the Warne for failure to achieve such a thing on the States rather than on the Commonwealth. I do not think that the responsibility can be so shifted. In fact, I pointed out the other day that the only government, virtually, that has the luxurious choice of deciding whether it wants to build superfluous post offices instead of necessary schools, let us say, out of revenue, is the Commonwealth ; because the Commonwealth, by reason of economic changes, constitutional and otherwise, to-day nas the power of the purse in Australia. It is the main instrument of tax-raising, and it is certainly charged with the determination of the general level of money in the community generally. I emphasize that the only government which has the luxurious choice of determining whether any works at all will be provided out of revenue is the Commonwealth itself.
The other day, I made the suggestion that, in the interests of fairness, and also in the interests of what the Minister has called the “ overriding national importance of things “, the emphasis at Austalian Loan Council meetings should change from a financial wrangle to an agreement to achieve an orderly orientation of works, both State and .Commonwealth. The emphasis should not be on the amount of money available; the emphasis should be on the physical resources available and the attempt to get. an orderly apportionment between States and Commonwealth.
I suggested, further, that the Commonwealth, if it were to regard itself as part of a co-operative Commonwealth with the States as partners, should throw its financial resources into the pool. The sum of £100,000,000 in respect of capital works which are financed out of revenue and therefore financed, free of interest, should be thrown into the pool and the States and Commonwealth should share the aggregate amount. So much should go to the States out of revenue, free of interest, and the Commonwealth should pay for some part of its works programmes out of loan moneys, if loans are necessary. I suggest that that would be a more just and a more equitable way of doing things.
Mention was made by the Minister for External Affairs of the Constitution committee. After all, there is a section in the Constitution which, theoretically, provides that any surplus revenue of the Commonwealth at the end of the financial year shall be paid to the States. But the Commonwealth so arranges its financial affairs that there are not any surpluses, because they are transferred to trust funds, to the National Debt Sinking Fund or to some other fund at the end of the year. Therefore, the States are deprived of the surpluses which might otherwise exist.
I agree with the Minister that it is not possible, at the moment, to get the best direction of our resources in order to ensure that those works which are most necessary, whether they are schools and hospitals in the States, on the one hand, or road programmes and developmental schemes on the other hand, are undertaken. At the moment, there is no systematic machinery for the purpose of getting that co-ordination. I think that the Minister was exaggerating to some extent when he said that the least important matter in one State might have priority over the most important in another State. I doubt whether our situation is quite as bad as that, but I do think that there is a very real difficulty in this regard. To give a simple illustration, I suggest we consider a country town in Victoria which needs both a post office and a school, but can have only one of them. Considering carefully the interests of the local residents, perhaps the school might be preferable to the post office, but at present the Commonwealth is more or less free to build the post office, while the ability of the State ro build the school is distinctly limited. I, think that what is required is coordination in matters such as thai, although it may be co-ordination at the margin of the problem rather than in regard to the problem as a whole. As a ti rst requirement, I suggest that we should do away with the annual wrangle of the Australian Loan Council, and establish a national works programming committer, in which the works requirements should be considered, first, in relation to the economic resources of the nation. I do not think any one will suggest that it would bc easy to institute a system of works priorities which would allow one to say, for instance, that a particular work in Victoria should have priority No. 7, while a particular work in Western Australia should have priority No. 17. Ti. will not be a simple process. I do believe, however, that at present the Commonwealth can plan its works programme in a much more satisfactory atmosphere than <-an the States, because the States do not know until a month or two before the financial year begins what amount of money they are liable to be given, after consideration is given to budgetary commitments on the one hand, or what the Commonwealth says it can get out of revenue, and the monetary position on rite other, or what, it is possible to rai.se on the loan market. Those questions, in the la.«t analysis, are largely in the bauds of the Commonwealth to determine.
The Minister for External Affairs said hal Australia’s problems, like those of any other nation, are problems of defence, welfare and development. I have suggested that the Minister did not give any views on the relative importance of those three matters. The significant thing about the bill before the House is that it apparently postulates in advance for the year 1956-57 the same level of defence expenditure as that which applied in 1955-56.- Having in mind the very trenchant criticism about defence expenditure in the recent report of the Public Accounts Committee, I suggest that between now and when the budget is presented the Government should give much fuller and more complete information to the House concerning what Australia has received from its defence expenditure in the past two or three years. A very valuable report was presented to the House at one time covering defence expenditure for the year ended the 30th June, 1953. and three or four years before that. I refer to the report of the National Security Resources Board, which indicated in some detail how an amount of. I think, £416,000,000 had been expended in three years. It broke down the expenditure into amounts for manpower, buildings, stores, and for what might be called the real things of defence,, being aircraft, naval armaments, and armaments generally. I suggest that it would be most valuable if that report could be extended to cover the period up to the 30th June, 1956, so that we could ascertain what Australia has obtained from its defence expenditure in the last three or four years. Something of the order of £175,000,000 has been expended each year. In the budgets for the three years the Government asked for £200,000,000 on two occasions, and Si 90,000,000 on the third, but in each year the expenditure fell short of those amounts by £25,000,000. I think that fact indicates that the Government had not a very carefully decided defence programme.
I suggest that the budget estimates for defence in those three years could have been reduced by about £50,000,000 or £60,000.000. If that had been done, the national accounts could have been considerably altered. If defence expenditure had been estimated at a lesser amount, there would have been a proportionately weaker argument against paying additional amounts in the form of social services, for instance. Expenditure on various requirements must be given relative importance. If the Government spends more on defence, and on the manpower engaged in the armed forces, it is no wonder, as the right honorable gentleman has said, that we find a lag in the provision of, for instance, housing units for elderly people, because the resources that could have been used for that purpose are being used in another direction. From time to time an evaluation must be made of the relative importance of the various public services. I submit that that kind of social balance is not being sought by the present Government. Every now and again it trots out this kind of economic homily, but it does not appear to follow up the advice that is given in these documents. I, for one, welcome this kind of document, which makes some attempt to survey in advance the likely course of events, and again I emphasize the important warnings that this document, which is apparently objectively written, gives concerning the future of Australia. It suggests that when our economy goes wrong it, is likely to go completely wrong, and that .the Australian Government can take effective measures to remedy the situation. I suggest that if a critical analysis were made of the steps recently taken by this Government - which I have not the time to make this afternoon - it could not be claimed that the Government ie improving Australia’s economic health in any way. The prophecies of honorable members on this side of the House, made during the recent debate on the little budget, that the motor industry was likely to be thrown into confusion, are apparently being borne out. It seems also that the revenues that the Government expected to raise from the measures taken at that time are not likely to be forthcoming.
I am amazed at the categorical way in which the Treasurer and his advisers tell us, from time to time, that if we issue £30,000,000 or £40,000,000 worth of treasury-bills we are likely to cast the nation into the throes of the most violent inflation, despite the fact, as the Minister for External Affairs has rightly pointed out, that in a national income of £4,000,000,000, or thereabouts, £30,000,000 is not a very great amount - particularly if some of it is to be drawn off later in the year - and is scarcely likely to increase by very much the confusion that the Government has already created. It is easy to make these categorical statements, because I do not believe that one can achieve a proper balance of the Australian economy unless one takes into account the overall monetary picture as well as the overall budgetary picture. When it suits the Government to do so, it isolates the budget and points to a surplus or a deficit, and draws certain conclusions, although that surplus or deficit might be in the process of being counterbalanced by an expansion or contraction of credit at the other end of the scheme of things. For the ordinary person in the community it is vital that each week there should be a regular flow into his borne of wages for the work that he has done, and that those wages should buy what he regards as a just share of the goods and services that he helps to produce for the community. In any scheme of things to-day it is fundamental that there should be an attempt to obtain economic and price stability. That stability can be obtained only by a proper coordination of what I have called the left and right hand of government activity; namely, budgetary measures on the one band and monetary measures on the other. L shall leave it at that. The House is now presented with an opportunity to examine carefully the situation as we find it in this country. At least on this occasion we are fortified by some advice from the experts who are supposed to advise the Government. It would be a good thing sometimes if the Government read the advice that is contained in this document.
.- This debate affords honorable members an opportunity to raise matters of almost any kind, and so I shall take the opportunity to address myself to two particular matters, the first of which can have fairly wide implications, and the second of which is a local matter but may, nevertheless, be symptomatic of a general situation. I had hoped to have the opportunity, but did not, of raising the first point by way of a question, and I take the opportunity to do so now. Recently this House debated the Broadcasting and Television Bill. I want to put before the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) a suggestion that I think may be well worthy of his consideration. When television was debated in the United Kingdom, and particularly in the House of Lords, it was pointed out that since commercial television must depend entirely on the revenue derived from advertisements, there was considerable risk that the standard of the programmes would not be in any way comparable with those offered by the British Broadcasting Commission. As a result of the debate in the House of Lords, and especially of the advocacy of two Lords who had had distinguished records in the administrative field during the war, the Government, though not originally intending to do anything of the kind, agreed to pay annually to the Independent Television Authority, for the improvement of commercial programmes, a subsidy of about £750.000. 1 arn not going to suggest that anything of that kind be done here, but 1 shall put forward a suggestion which, having in mind the relatively small amount of money involved, would, I think, produce very great results.
The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), speaking earlier this afternoon, said that, through budgets, it was possible, in effect, to plant a grain of mustard seed, or an acorn, from which a great tree might grow; that it was possible to do small things that would achieve great results. He referred to such proposals put into effect through the budget as a kind of catalyst. I believe that the suggestion I shall make is a very good example of what he had in mind. It is our desire that the very best programmes should be provided by the television services of both the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the commercial stations. It is true, as the Lords to wham f have made reference said, that there is a grave risk that if programmes ave sustained purely by advertising, that result will not be achieved. Mo°t of us would hope that the objective would be rn provide programmes that were rather better than the general public might desire, so that by degrees the public taste might be raised. 1 feel that there could be no better investment for a relatively small sum of money than the setting aside of a fund from which prizes might be given for the best dramatic work, the best musical compositions, the best plays for children and so on. One could easily extend those categories in any given order. The result would be to. produce more than a very good play, a, musical composition, or a piece of work, for children, which would receive a prize. As many people would compete, a whole collection of really good work would bethrown up. The offering of a few very substantial prizes might provide a stimulus for Australian playwrights, composers and television film producers. It could be of immense benefit both to them and to the public at large.
I do urge the Postmaster-General to confer with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which has had very great experience in this field, with a view tosetting apart some such fund from which might he provided substantial prizes for competition in the various categories determined. It would be, I think, like a mustard seed, and from it much of benefit to this country could grow. Also, it would give practical encouragement toAustralian writers, composers and so on. I am also thinking of the matter from the point of view of the public at. large, and of children in particular. I think that I have made that point sufficiently. I hope that the Postmaster-General will give it consideration and that, after consulting the Australian Broadcasting Commission, he will put a favourable recommendation before the* Government. Only a relatively small sum of money would be involved, but the results could be very great, and could1 grow over the years.
The other matter is purely local in. character. I am concerned at the failure of the Postmaster-General’s Department to carry out public services with theefficiency and expedition that I think thepublic has a right to expect. I shall citean example from my own electorate. A short time ago, 43 persons living in quite a small area on the arterial road at St. Ives came to me and said that some of them had been waiting for telephones for the last seven or eight years. Others had also been waiting, but not quite so long. The locality is developing rapidly and is just on the outskirts of a quite densely populated suburban area. No public transport is available and the district is largely inhabited by business executives who have to be taken to and from the railway station, a couple of miles away, by their wives in cars. They have no telephones at their homes and as they have not the benefit of a forty-hour week they often have to work late. When that happens, they have no means of communicating with their wives, or ma king arrangements for private transport. In any case, because they are business executives, occupying responsible positions, they need telephones at their homes for their business activities. This has gone on for years. They were promised telephones back in 5954. Then something was going to be done in 1955. Then they were given a promise- these promises have been made both in writing and verbally - that something would be done by June, J956. However, the latest reply that theY have received to their repeated representations leaves the matter just a3 vague as ever, and the provision of telephones seems to be as far off as before. The Minister, in a letter dated the 22nd March, stated -
Tt might well be misleading if any attempt was made to indicate just, when services could be provided in the Arterial Road area.
Years have slipped by. This area has become, one might say, quite thickly populated. The people who live in it obviously have a great need for telephones, but the Postmaster-General is still saying vaguely that he cannot specify any date for the installations. The work would not involve the use of vast quantities of materials, but it would produce substantial revenue at once. This will not be a developmental service, where large quantities of material and a great deal of man-power will be used, without producing much revenue for many years. This is a thickly populated area where the provision of telephone services would produce substantial revenue immediately, without the use of a great deal of material and labour. I regret that I have had to raise, this matter in the House and to occupy the time of honorable members in this way. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to look again at this matter. I hope that the case that has come under my notice is not symptomatic of a situation that exists all over the country.
.- I was pleased to have an opportunity to listen to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), who, I have been reliably informed, will be the next Prime Minister of Australia. He has a most distinguished record of service both inside and outside Australia. I understand that, because of his long experience as Treasurer and as the holder of other portfolios, particularly that of National Development, he will be the chosen one of the Liberal party, when a vacancy occurs, for promotion to a higher position.
– We have a very good Prime Minister already. There is no vacancy.
– If the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) had been listening to what I was saying, he would have noted that I used the words “ when a vacancy occurs “. I was particularly pleased to hear the Minister for External Affairs speak, because he made reference repeatedly to the need for a system of priorities for developmental works in the States. There is no man on the Government side of the House who ie better fitted to advocate such a scheme than is the Minister for External Affairs, because, as I have said, he has filled with distinction the office of Treasurer of the Commonwealth and has held the portfolio of National Development. While he held that latter portfolio, he visited Queensland and made a survey - by air, of course - of the projected Burdekin River scheme, proposed by the Queeusland Government. The Minister was loud in his praise of the scheme, and he gave an assurance that the Commonwealth would give every possible assistance - that meant, of course, by way of cash - to implement it.
However, apart from an item in the schedule to a bill, presented to the Parliament by the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) six or eight months ago, to approve of a loan raised by him in
Canada, nothing has been done by the Commonwealth to provide that assistance. The item in the schedule to that bill related to assistance in the purchase of equipment for the implementation of the scheme. More fresh water pours into the Pacific Ocean from the Burdekin River in northern Queensland than is discharged into the ocean by the Murray River. Tt has been said repeatedly by honorable members that the front line of the defence of Australia is in northern Queensland. In relation to the Burdekin River scheme, there are very sound reasons why this Government should give effect to the noble words that its spokesmen utter from time to time about assistance to the States in connexion with capital development and the defence of the nation. It can be said that in northern Queensland development and defence go baud in hand.
One of the items in the bill provides for 16,000,000 to be made available as an Advance to the Treasurer “, so that the right honorable gentleman can give special grants t» South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. I want to refer for a few minutes to the extreme favoritism that is being extended to some States and the harsh and unjust treatment that is being meted out to Australians living in other States, all of whom are taxpayers. Favoured treatment is being extended by this Government to the South Australian Government in relation to freight charges on coal hauled to the Port Augusta power houses, which are operated by the South Australian electricity authority. The coal is drawn from the Leigh Creek field, which is 200 miles north of Port Augusta, where the power houses are situated.
Quite recently, an agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia expired. The Commonwealth Railways informed the South Australian Government that the economic freight for coal hauled from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta was 30s. 5d. a ton, and that it was proposed to charge the South Australian Government accordingly. On the basis of freight charges in other States, that charge seemed to be quite reasonable. One might even say that it was generous.
However, it was not satisfactory to theSouth Australian Government, and negotiations were entered into by the Premier of South Australia and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. As a result of negotiations and representations, theCommonwealth Railways have reduced the freight charges on this coal from 30s. 5d. a ton to lis. 6d. a ton. I feel that most generous assistance is being given to the South Australian electricity authority and, consequently, to South Australian industrialists. It must havesome bearing on the price structure of all goods produced in South Australia in the production of which electricity is used. I have no objection to this concession of 60 per cent, being granted by the Government, but it is only right toexpect the Government to grant a similar concession, by way of subsidy, to> all other electricity authorities in Australia, so that they may be placed on the same basis as is the South Australian electricity authority. Let me state the case of the Brisbane City Council, a producer of electricity in the City of Brisbane. lt must haul its coal from the* West Moreton field, which is from 24 to 34 miles from the City of Brisbane, and the cost of hauling coal from the West Moreton field to Brisbane City Council power houses is £1 ls. a ton which is very different from the lis. 6d. charged by the Commonwealth Railways for hauling coal to the Port Augusta power house. It is quite reasonable to ask that the Government grant a similarsubvention, not, only to the Brisbane City Council electricity authority, but also to all other electricity authorities in the Commonwealth, which are producing the principal means of driving our industrial machinery to-day. It is suggested in Brisbane that the Brisbane City Council, when it produces its budget in June, will make provision for an increase in the electricity tariff in the city. This in itself will place a further burden on theindustrialists who are producing manufactured goods there. I make this plea - although the Treasurer is not here to bear it - that the concession granted to the South Australian electricity authority be extended in the form of a subsidy to all the other electricity authorities throughout the nation, because the people who are paying for it are taxpayers of the Commonwealth, and if it is reasonable to grant a concession of 60 per cent, to South Australia, it is only right that a similar benefit should also be given to every other State in the Commonwealth.
Quite recently we have had presented to us, through the press and in this chamber, a most important document dealing with the economic affairs of the nation. It has not been well received by the press in Australia. In fact, one of the leading southern newspapers states -
The economy of the nation is far from encouraging.
And adds -
The Prime Minister warns nf difficult adjustments ahead.
This means, of course, that we have not reached the end of the restrictions which have been imposed from time to time, commencing on the 27th September last, when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made his celebrated economic statement, and continued this year, when further taxes were imposed on goods produced for sale and on companies operating within the Commonwealth. We must face facts, and while criticism may be offered in relation to the present state of the economy, we must face the situation as it stands. In September last, the Prime Minister stated that, by the end of June this year, it would be necessary to bridge a gap of £256,000,000, which was the deficit in our trade in visible and invisible matters, and consequently very severe import restrictions were placed on goods coming into the Commonwealth. But there does not appear to be any evidence that the gap will be bridged by the end of June. The figures that are published each month by the Commonwealth Statistician should give every one of us cause for alarm, and no doubt they have alarmed the Prime Minister, who presented an economic statement last week prior to his departure for the economic conference in London, to which body, I am informed, copies of his statement have been sent already. I think it is reasonable to expect that by the end of March, the third quarter of the financial year, the import restrictions imposed on our trade in September last should have been having some effect, but the figures show that at the end of March, instead of our getting near to a balance in our trade, that is, with our exports catching up to our imports, there was still a deficit, in visible matters of trade, of £75,500,000. When insurance, freight, and dividend charges, which go to make up the invisible matters, are added, that figure is nearly doubled.
It is not right to offer criticism without making some suggestions, and while J criticize the state of the economy and feel alarmed at our trade position, 1 quite humbly make a suggestion or two that, I think would have some effect and would help to adjust the position, lt is a very strange fact that Australia, which produces the cheapest steel in the world, is still importing large quantities of steel and iron from overseas. For the nine months ended the 31st March, an amount of almost £11,000,000 was spent on imported bars, rods, hoop and ingot iron and steel, over £1,000,000 on pipes, tubes and fittings, and £16,500,000 on plate and sheet, steel. We obviously need these articles for our industrial and domesticexpansion, but as we can produce the cheapest steel in the world, surely ii would be reasonable for the Government to give every assistance possible to th>’ existing manufacturer of steel in Australia, so that the industry may be expanded, or to encourage overseas manufacturers of steel to establish steelproducing mills, perhaps in States of the Commonwealth other than New South Wales. We know that we have most extensive deposits of iron ore, some of very high grade and others of not such high quality. As has been stated repeatedly in this House, the present manufacturer, who apparently has a monopoly of the South Australian highgrade iron ore deposits, is using only the highest grade iron ore for the manufacture of steel and is not making any effort, to mix the ores of varying quality that exist in Australia. There is a great potential market for our manufactured products in the heavily populated countries of the East which are so close tu Australia. A study of the map discloses that Australia, a manufacturing country, is, amongst the white nations, the closest. manufacturing country to the Asian market; but we are not doing a great deal to exploit that market.
I have touched on the production of iron and steel which I feel, in the national interest, should be extended as soon aa possible. An extension of the Australian iron and steel industry would enable manufacturers of goods made from iron and steel to expand their industries and to increase their exports to other countries. Let us take the case of the Australian Holden motor car. Without boosting anybody, let me say that the Holden car is quite good. Already the manufacturers of it have made token exports to New Zealand and other countries, but they are merely token exports. If it were possible to obtain more steel and more of the other commodities that are used to make this car, it should bo possible for Australia to build a great export market in the Pacific countries that are so near to our shores. Certainly the profits of General Motors-Holden’s Limited would be maintained, and the balance of trade would be corrected in Australia’s favour.
Before concluding, I wish to make some observations upon the coal industry and the development of the Australian oil refining industry. I have been prompted to do so by a speech that was made recently by the Minister for External Affairs, who is in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Since World War II., as the result of big expansion of the road hauling and other transport industries and a great increase of the number of private cars, there has been a large expansion of crude oil refining facilities in this country. The value of crude petroleum imported into Australia for the nine months ended March, 1955, was approximately £19,500.000, and for nine months ended March, 1956, approximately £30,5C0,000. It will be noted that the road-hauling industry, which is dependent entirely upon the internal combustion engine, is making very great demands on our overseas credits. In addition, because of the expansion of the oil refining industry in this country, we are faced with another very serious . problem which is dealing a body blow to the coal industry.
It has been estimated that, when all the proposed oil refineries are in full operation, 4,000,000 tons of residual fuel will be left after the crude petroleum has been refined. That residual fuel must be either dumped or disposed of as fuel oil.
As fuel oil, it has excellent qualities. By way of illustration, I point out that the British thermal unit content of a ton of fuel oil is 18,000 and that the similar content of coal produced at. Leigh Creek, which is the coal production area for the South Australian electricity authority, is 11,000. It will be noted, as I have stated, that the quality of residual fuel is very high. It has also been estimated that, within a few years, onethird of the gas produced in Australia for domestic and industrial purposes will be produced, not from coal, but from residual oil. That will be a further setback to the Australian black coal industry. 1 suppose the manufacturers of gas and electricity will be prepared to trade with the producers of this fuel oil. I hope that the Minister for External Affairs, will ask the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to investigate the possibility of developing the use of coal in spheres in which it is not being used at thepresent time. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) has repeatedlyreferred to the production of oil from coal. It has also been suggested in other quarters that it would be possible to construct gas-producing units on the coalfields to avoid the heavy cost of thetransportation of coal. I make these suggestions in all sincerity, hoping that they may be of some value, and as my contribution towards means by which the economicsituation might be improved.
I conclude by quoting a passage from, to-day’s publication of a very excellent journal, the Sydney Morning Herald, The editor, in his leading article, dealing with the importation of goods to Australiaand the failure of the Australian Government to balance our trade, stated -
Anyway, the unpalatable fact is that Australians have not yet begun to know what thesiege economy really means. Imports havebeen as plentiful this year, in total, as they were last year. The evil clay has been put off, not avoided. We cannot afford to continue- importing at this rate. The question whether we ran escape cutting into the equipment and materials needed for our industries must therefore bc kept in mind, despite the gratifying recovery in wool export prices.
I emphasize the following sentence: -
The evil day has been put 0 4 not avoided.
We must regard that as a warning of things to come. Certainly the Prime Minister has given that warning in the economic paper that was tabled last week.
.- It is quite refreshing to hear constructive suggestions come from the Opposition benches. I think that the suggestions made by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) are the first constructive suggestions that I have heard from the Opposition since I have been back in the Parliament. However, there are one or two points that I should like to discuss. The honorable member said that he thought that Queensland was not getting a fair deal and that other States were more favoured. I am very fond of Queenslanders, but I feel that Queensland is probably getting a greater share of assistance than is any other State. He also referred to the export of Holden cars. That is a very good objective to aim for, but we must realize that, when Australian-made cars leave our shores, they go into full competition with vehicles produced all over the world. When the car is sold in Australia, certain benefits are derived from protection through import duties, but I repeat that when it. is placed on the world’s markets, it faces the full, fierce, force of overseas competition. But I have no doubt that in time we shall be able to cut our costs, provided this Government stays in office.
Another point he raised was increased steel production. I agree with him entirely. With our resources, it is quite wrong that we should have to import steel. I believe the present steel works are being duplicated continually. They take time to build, but I believe that eventually a lot of our requirements will be met by our own production of steel, which, after all, is some of the best steel in the world.
I have often attacked the Opposition party on what I call the need for debunking. Members of the Labour party use arguments that are fallacious and they use figures and facts in such a way that they are not truthful. My particular bug-bear is the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). I am sorry that he is not here. He is a man who often uses figures, and gives a completely wrong interpretation of them. Time and time again, the Opposition has levelled the accusation that inflation is the fault of this Government because it is due to profits. ‘ Profit inflation has been the song and dance of the Opposition all the time. The idea of profit inflation was sold to the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) by the honorable member for Yarra.
Speaking recently in the House on the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Companies) Bill 1956, the honorable member for Yarra mentioned certain figures. He gave the total income of private companies with profits of over £50,000. Why he chose £50,000 is obvious. The Leader of the Opposition, in his policy speech, said that he would put an excess profits tax on all companies making more than £25,000 a year. To the ignorant, £25,000 is an enormous sum of money, but a profit of £25,000 for a company with a very big capital is negligible. So, the honorable member for Yarra chose private companies with a profit of more than £50,000 a year as a starting point. He said that 397 companies had an income of £43,000,000, on which £11,000,000 tax was paid. He mentioned that 995 public companies earned £230,000,000 on which £71,000,000 tax was paid. The Opposition asserts that the present inflationary situation is due entirely to profit inflation and that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went a considerable distance towards accepting tha,t assertion. The Prime Minister did no such thing.
What I want to speak about is the question of whether the profits made by companies can cause inflation. Inflation, I imagine, is caused by increasing prices. The increased selling price of an article is the cause of inflation. An article that is sold by a company has to go through a process of turnover before it earns a profit. I will give a few small propositions to illustrate the point I am making. If a company, which has a capital of £10,000, sells an article for £5 on which it makes a net profit of £2 10s., and if it sells 4,000 of these articles, it makes a net profit of £10,000, which represents a dividend of 100 per cent. If the company made a profit of 2£d. on each £5 article and it sold 1,000,000 articles, it would make a profit of £10,000 and would also pay a dividend of 100 per cent. There are two propositions. One would say that a net profit of £2 10s. on a £5 article is inflationary. Nobody would doubt that. It is a very high price. But would one say that a profit of 2 1/2d. on a £5 article is inflationary? Of course, it is not!
How does the honorable member for Yarra distinguish between those companies that make larger profits by enormous turnover and those that do not? How does he distinguish, in his proposition, those companies that plough back into the business profits that are made and pay a higher dividend on a smaller share capital? The introduction of these figures, I am quite certain, is nothing but an attempt to create a hatred and contempt of profits. Everything done by the Labour party in this House is directed against the system of private enterprise. 1 shall give one instance of how dishonest the distortion of facts is. Recently the Commonwealth Arbitration Court awarded a basic wage increase of 10s. a week. Various comments are always sought by the press on such occasions and the Leader of the Opposition, naturally, was asked for his opinion. One would expect from him a reasonable comment. What did he say? Amongst other statements, he said that the suspension of the quarterly adjustments added huge sums to the profits of great and powerful monopolies, or words to that effect. Is that comment justified? Of course, it is not 1 There is no reason on earth why the suspension of quarterly adjustments could possibly affect the profits of companies or monopolies. Why did he make such a statement? It does not follow, and nobody can argue that it does. It is rubbish ! The workman who has not a great deal of understanding of economics might read that statement and think, “ The court gave us only 10s., but because it has stopped the quarterly adjustments for three years, the mono polies have made huge profits “. Thai is both mischievous and inflammatory, and no amount of debating and arguing can show that that is fair comment.
The honorable member for Yarra haisaid that it is almost certain that high aggregate profits are also excessive profits. How can he possibly say that? How can he get his facts? It is impossible to ascertain those facts. Naturally, the honorable member, who is a doctrinaire socialist, will give the worst possible interpretation to the facts at his disposal. When talking about the reduction of ls. in the company tax, he said that 1,080 companies reported in the Financial Review recently averaged 18^ per cent, profit. Again, people who do not closely study what this honorable member says and just pass over his remarks, think, “ Well, l&i per cent, profit is a tremendous sum of money”. Of course, it is! In the old days it would be almost usurious. But what capital is involved ? It may be small, but the firm may have been operating for 50 years. Does not capital appreciate? Can you buy shares in any good firm, which in the old days were sold for £1, for under £4 or £5 now? Thai is the money on which a profit of 1S-J per cent, is declared. But any one buying shares now will not get more than 5 per cent.
The honorable member’s object, of course, is to put the wrong interpretation on all the facts and figures and to try to establish that profits are ugly things. Profits are not ugly. Profits improve the standard of living and give security of employment to the worker, and increase the supply of goods and services. Thihonorable member continued to give figures. Out of the. blue, he asserted thai the Leader of the Opposition and his friend the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) had drawn attention to the fact that profits are the main cause of inflation. He said that it is estimated by the Commonwealth Statistician that company profits amount to £505,000,000 and that from previous experience - that is the honorable member’s previous experience - it is known that that estimate is probably £40,000,000 or £50,000,000 short. How does he know that? What experience has he of that?
He mentions a round sum of £505,000,000 because that is higher than the similar amount three years ago or six years ago. A bad inference drawn from phony facts! He does not tell us that much of the profits to which he refers are the result of the investment of a vast amount of money.
Take, for instance, General Motors.Holden’s Limited, a favourite talking point with the Opposition. It has a share capital of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, but there is invested in it about £46,000,000. 1 1 is on that money that the profit is made, and not on the share capital of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. Honorable members opposite apparently forget that that company pays heavily in company tax. The Labour party also contends i :bat it is a shame that profits of the company are sent overseas; but let me say that money going overseas is subject to a further 15 per cent, overseas investors’ lax. The honorable member for Griffith suggested that we should export Holden cars. I remind bini that the manufacture of 250,000 Holden cars in Australia has saved us the expenditure i>f an enormous amount of our overseas funds on the purchase of cars abroad. It will be found, in the long run, that this country will benefit from the manufacture of the cars here.
We are trying to attract overseas capital to this country, because lack of capital investment is one of the great troubles we have to-day. Despite the sneers of honorable members opposite, at no time in the history of any country has there been such tremendous expansion as has taken place in Australia in the last six years. It is unparalleled in history, yet we have the honorable member for Melbourne Ports alleging that the Government is not doing its job properly He and his colleagues attempt to kill the Government by propaganda : hut in the last six years the Government has achieved a stable economy with full employment, has undertaken and encouraged tremendous development and, in addition, has faced the dangers of war. To-day, we are spending tremendous sums nf money on defence, and must continue to do so : yet honorable members opposite try to destroy the results of our work. I do not think that they will succeed.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who is a very quiet and plausible speaker, asked why the Government and the Australian Loan Council did not have a priority list of works. He asked why we did not get together with the State Premiers, and put all the money available for works in a common pool. Does he know the State Premiers? Has he ever seen them in action ? Did not the Prime Minister two years ago plead with the States to establish works priorities? Now the honorable member for Melbourne Ports comes along and, like an innocent abroad, makes a suggestion like this. Does he not know the character of the people with whom we have to deal? Does he not know that Labour governments in the States have won election after election because thi.Government’s generosity has enabled them to keep going? State Premiers, include ing the former Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, have spoken abou: the “ iniquitous concentration of income tax collecting powers in the hands of thiCommonwealth “ ; but most of the money raised by the Commonwealth is raised for State works only. When the Premier-; and their accompanying Ministers mee’ the Treasurer in the Australian Loan Council later this year, they will all have their hands out for money. There will be no question then about who should raise the taxes. I think it is about time tha’ we realized that this Government baenormous difficulties with which to contend, and has succeeded in overcoming thom to a very remarkable degree.
T return now for a moment to the honorable member for Yarra, who followed me oh the last occasion on which I spoke, and who said that my speech disclosed that I had a very narrow-minded outlook and lacked experience. I cannot compare my experience with that of the honorable member, but I looked through the report of my speech to see what in it had caused him to class me as narrow minded. All I can find in it to which he might have taken exception was that I objected to men who were given a legal award under which to work being denied the right, bv a trade union to work under that award. I said that T objected to the. use of trade union journals for black-mail and intimidation. I added that there were hundred* of trade union officials who applied the old principles of trade unionism and worked for the benefit of their fellow union members, b;it they were rarely heard of, whilst all the industrial trouble was being caused by a few trade union leaders. I mentioned particularly one who used foul methods of intimidation and black-mail. If exposing to the public view intimidation and. black -mail in a trade union is narrow minded, then I may be classed as narrow minded. I feel that our economy will suffer in the very near future as a result of industrial disturbances.
The honorable member for Griffith mentioned our balance of payments problem, lie also said that the reception given by the newspapers to the Prime Minister’s report on the economy had been bad. In fact, he read us a leading article. As he is a new member of the House-
– He is not a new member, ne has been here longer than you have been here.
– Then he should know better than to read from leading articles in newspapers, because, over thi last six years, the newspapers have, on every single occasion, been wrong. The honorable member attacked the Government for not having brought our overseas trading into balance. But how much of the deficit in our overseas trading is due to the waterfront strike? I have several times mentioned the influence that Communists have been able to exert on our trade position. How much has the influence of the Communists on the waterfront affected our balance of payments? How much is the shearing strike going to affect us? No member on this side of the House has ever queried the rights or wrongs of the case for the shearers. We have not queried whether the shearers are justified or not; what we have contended is that an arbitration award has been laid down, and the men have the right to work under that award, which is a legal award. I was taken to task by the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. Riordan), who claimed that I had said that the Australian Workers Union was being taken over by Communists. He made that statement while I was out of the chamber, and I say now that it was not true. The fact remains that communism has an important effect on our economy. The honorable member for Kennedy said that every time I mentioned Communists I looked under the bed for some of them. All I can say to the Labour party is that if I have to look under the bed for Communists, they have only to look at their bedfellows, which is worse. As to the honorable gentleman’s statement that 1 said that the Australian Workers Union had been taken over by Communists, 1 said nothing of the sort ! What I said was that compulsory trade unionism has forced the Australian Workers Union to open its lists to men who may be Communists, so that now a so-called moderate trade union is experiencing the full effects of Communists on its deliberations. We shall have further trouble as a result of that development. I stress to the House the effect of Communists in trade unions, which honorable members opposite do nol seem to recognize. How many delegates to the Australian Council of Trades Unions congress are Communists, and how many are not Communists?
– How many ?
– I have not the figures, but I know that the number of Communists is causing concern. I advise honorable members opposite to look at their own associates in politics, and to ask themselves what effect Communists have on Labour policy.
I notice that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) has moved over to a seat near the honorable member for Yarra, and I hope that as a result we may look for greater accuracy in statements of the honorable member for Yarra. I have mentioned these matters because I feel that there have been attempts in this. House to misconstrue completely the problems that face Australia. We should try to direct our combined efforts in this Parliament towards the improvement of our economic position. But the Government, has not received much assistance from the Opposition. I am sure that, if Opposition members reflected, they would come to the conclusion that they could assist a great deal by trying to educate the leaders of the trade union movement. If we are to develop Australia, we must produce more, and the primary producers are producing to the best of their ability. But, as our population grows, we must consume more of the commodities that we normally export, and we must export more products of secondary industries. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen is to -visit Europe for the primo purpose of finding new markets for our exports.
It is wrong for Opposition members to try to deceive the trade union movement and the workers into believing that the desire for high profits is the main cause of high costs. So long as people like the honorable member for Yarra distort the facts in this manner, we shall not get the co-operation and the interest of workers in industry. There are two sides to industry - management and labour. The United States of America has shown that, if the two sides in industry cooperate and deal fairly and justly with each other, the standard of living of the workers rises steadily. The honorable member for Griffith said that I am a new boy in this House. I did not know that he was an old boy. He mentioned the coal industry. The highest-paid coalminer in the world is the American coalminer.. Yet the United States can export coal to Europe, and we in Australia cannot find export markets for our coal! The United States is an example of a free-enterprise system in which the worker really believes in free enterprise and makes it the most successful system that can be achieved. Government supporters believe in private enterprise, but Opposition members, who are allied to the trade union movement, do not believe in it. Until they believe in it and have faith in it, it will never work successfully. I commend to the Opposition the task of developing that belief and faith.
.- Had the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) lived 100 years ago, he would probably have been a revolutionary. Since he lives now, I can say only that he is the ultra-conservative of this Parliament.
– He is a fascist.
– Order! The honorable member for Werriwa is out of order.
– I do not know that I would go so far as to call him a fascist. We have heard some reference to “ phony facts “. There is no such thing as a phony fact. I have never heard the expression used before, and I am surprised that the honorable member for Hume should say that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) based his arguments on phony facts. The honorable member for Yarra mentioned facts, not phony facts, because there is no such thing.
I propose this afternoon to deal with the Department of Shipping and Transport, the Postmaster-General’s Department, and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. There is afoot a new move by the Government to rationalize the Australian coastal shipping services. Over the last six or seven years, this Government has been frantically trying to sell the Commonwealth shipping fleet of 42 vessels.
– The honorable member has been saying that.
– The Government has admitted it.
– I have been, saying it constantly. The only reason the Government has not been able to sell the fleet is that the three or four shipping companies which have shown the main interest would not, or could not, fulfil the condition that the ships must be kept on the Australian coast. Although the negotiations, which have dragged on for all this time, have at last probably stumbled to a very uncertain conclusion, we are not yet finished with the shipping question. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) is working on another brainwave. He intends to rationalize the shipping services around the Australian coast in much the same way as this Government interfered with Trans-Australia Airlines in order to rationalize air services. TransAustralia Airlines was doing so well when this Government took office that the private airlines looked like going to the Avail as a result of the competition from the government-owned airline, and this Government decided to rationalize the air routes throughout Australia. It took certain routes from Trans-Australia
Airlines and gave them to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, it also induced this Parliament to pass a measure which made available to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited £4,000,000 of the taxpayers’ money to enable that company to buy aircraft from overseas should it so desire.
– It did not. It merely guaranteed an overdraft. The Government did not have to meet the guarantee.
– Put it that way, then: the Government guaranteed that the dollars would be available should the company wish to purchase the aircraft. It was an unheard of thing for this Parliament to allocate public funds to a private company in order to preserve it from extinction. This Government rationalized the airlines, and it intends now to apply the same principle to shipping services. I should like to give the House some idea of what the proposal entails. The Government proposes to introduce during this sessional period legislation to take control of the Commonwealth shipping line out of the hands of the Australian Shipping Board, which I think has done a splendid job in the last ten years, and to put it in the hands of a commission. That is not so serious until one looks at the details involved. It is known that the proposal at present envisages the establishment of a commission or authority to supervise the rationalization of coastal shipping services. We understand that representatives of the shipowners, as well as Government nominees, will be appointed to this new authority. The Government has examined the possibility of obtaining a chairman from overseas for appointment to the authority, but I understand that it has finally decided in favour of a man from the industry in Australia.
As I have stated, the Government’s efforts to sell the Commonwealth shipping line have failed so far because the shipping companies interested in purchasing it would not undertake to observe one or two of the main conditions that the Government wished to impose. High costs are leading to a position in which the private Australian shipping com panies will find it impossible to replace their rapidly aging vessels. Approximately 70 per cent, of the 154 ships operating in the Australian coastal services to-day under private ownership are more than twenty years of age, and about 35 per cent, to 45 per cent, are more than 25 years of age. The private companies wanted the Commonwealth ships because the oldest of the Commonwealth vessels is only fourteen years old, and most of them have been built in the last eight or nine years. The shipping companies naturally wanted the Commonwealth vessels to replace their old vessels, which they probably intended to sell to Chinese junk merchants or bandits. Their interest was certainly justified if one takes account of the age of their existing vessels. Opposition members have said that it is a scandalous thing to think of selling the Commonwealth’s new vessels to the private companies so that they may scrap their old ones and so reduce the total tonnage of shipping operating around the Australian coast. That is the important point, because that would have happened had the Commonwealth ships been sold. The Government is now wondering how it can help the private shipowners to solve the problem of replacing their worn-out ships. Because of the vital economic and defence importance of shipping, the Government must save the industry from decay and decline. Spokesmen for the shipowners have claimed, in submissions to the Government, that shipping, as a paying commercial proposition, faces economic death owing to the high cost of replacing ships. Investigations have been carried out by the Minister, more or less secretly. They have never been mentioned in this Parliament. So this rationalization plan is under consideration and, according to a newspaper report, the view of the Government is that, rather than introduce controls or subsidies, it should try to create the right climate - whatever that is - in. which the industry can solve its own. problems.
This is how that is to be done, according to the report -
Ministers say that the present duplication and overlapping of coastal services is contributing greatly to high costs. By assigning certain denned services to individual companies, they hope to give the companies much more certainty about their potential revenue so that plans for replacing ships can bo made with confidence.
Ministers feel that, by means of this rationalized system, they could save private enterprise from collapse. How many times has it happened that government enterprise has opened up a new project which has been sold at a later stage to private enterprise? How many Government members, in fact, believe in the theory that the Government should go in where private enterprise will not go in, invest money, set the industry going, and at a later stage sell it out to private enterprise? Commonwealth ships worth between £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 are now to suffer a rationalization programme. In other words, the Commonwealth ships are to be directed to certain routes which will be uneconomic and which, indeed, many of them have been using largely, up to date. The Government intends to push privateenterprise ships into defined sea lanes, and into carrying certain types of cargo which will bring the greatest revenue. So our Commonwealth ships will be gradually shunted out of paying routes to the non-paying routes, carrying cargoes that may be essential, but not bringing in very large revenue.
This is what the rationalization programme involves. We condemn it, on the basis of the first indications that we have had in the last 24 hours, because it will reduce the profit of our own ships. Probably, at a later stage, this will give the Government a reason for getting rid of them, because they will not have been paying. It is a pretty tough thing, really, when the supporters of private enterprise in the Government have to bring in measures to save private enterprise from crumbling, decay and decline, using public money, passing special legislation, interfering with our government airways and, at a later stage, with the rates and cargoes of our government ships. In Tasmania, we would absolutely condemn a scheme such as this because we are utterly dependent on Commonwealth ships. We have timber, we have potatoes at special times, we have fruit and we have paper exports and other important cargoes that are carried by Commonwealth vessels - the D ships and the E class vessels.
At this juncture we have 20,000 tons of potatoes ready for shipment from the north-west coast of Tasmania to Sydney and Melbourne, where they are desperately needed. Yet, we have been able to obtain only one ship in the next fortnight - the Marnoo - which will take 15,000 sacks of potatoes as a contribution to overcome this shortage. All the time, we in Tasmania have our primary industries handicapped by lack of shipping. We want more ships for the transport of timber and more ships for the transport of potatoes, not a rearrangement of the shipping services that exist already. So all organizations in my State which are interested in this problem will condemn any kind of rationalization programme for Commonwealth ships. We know, at the present- time, that our ships are running from Perth to Darwin, from Adelaide to the north-west coast of Tasmania, and from Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania to Melbourne. Many of these routes are uneconomic, but the proposed rationalization programme will ensure that more and more of our ships will be put on uneconomic routes, and the privately owned vessels will get the cream of our coastal trade in an endeavour to keep them afloat. The shipping companies cannot replace their old tubs and they want the Government to do it for them. We will not have a bar of that proposal on this side of the House.
Another point that I want to raise concerns the Postmaster - General’s Department. I do not know whether the House is aware that private companies have to pay a very heavy deposit or guarantee when they want a telephone. I found this out only the other day. A company in my electorate wrote to me about a letter that it received from the Postal Department, which read as follows : -
It is the policy of this Department in the case of Proprietary Limited Companies to obtain a guarantee against telephone charges, and it will therefore be necessary for a guarantee of £20 to be deposited. The security may take the form of a cash deposit or a bankers guarantee. If a cash deposit is lodged a savings bank pass book will be made out in the name of the Director, Posts and Telegraphs, Hobart, in trust for the firm concerned and any accrued interests will be credited to that firm. It would be appreciated if you would arrange for the security to be lodged as soon as possible, please.
That was in January of this year. But this company has been in existence for eight years and has never yet had to sign such a guarantee. I have a list of questions that the proprietor of this company would like the department to answer. I intend to press for an answer to these questions from the Postmaster-General himself. The questions are as follows: -
The company has now been asked to pay a deposit of £20. The questions continue -
I should like the Postmaster-General himself to answer those questions. I intend to get answers regarding them. The company said, in its letter -
We consider this deposit as a forced loan to the Postmaster-General’s Department which does not even bear Commonwealth loan interest. In any case, we never get paid the accrued interest and only Joe Stalin methods can
Justify it. We can say quite definitely that we will never support another Commonwealth loan and on maturity of the bonds that we at present hold will re-invest in private enter- -prise.
This is a practice which I did not know existed in the Postmaster-General’s Department. I have the highest regard for >the department, and have spoken in favour of it in this House. I shall continue to speak in favour of it, but these things which crop up from time to time cut right across my opinion of the generally high standards and the general attitude of the department.
I also want to raise a matter which concerns a post office in my electorate, 40 miles south of Launceston, at a place called Campbell Town. I intend to ask a question on this subject to-morrow, but 1 just want to mention it to the House now. This post office has a residence attached to it. It is the old type of office, where the postmaster and his wife live on the premises. Fifty years ago, it would have been a comfortable residence, but to-day it is a disgrace to a department for which I have always had the highest regard. I have been investigating this matter for the past eighteen months, and have made representations to the officers of the Postal Department in Tasmania, and also to the Postmaster-General, but nothing has yet been done to improve the position. The departmental officers have certain ideas on methods of improving the accommodation at this post office, but their plans are bogged down because of lack of money.
The same applies to hundreds of other projects in the Postal Department. That situation has been brought about by the Government’s financial policy of restriction and squeeze. In this case the postmaster and his wife must continue to live in sub-standard premises. The condition of the residence is absolutely appalling by modern standards. Their furniture and floor coverings are being attacked by the dampness and mould. The walls are frequently damp, so thai the wall-paper is falling off. The health of the postmaster and. his wife are in danger because of the cold, damp and musty conditions. I have seen this residence, and I may say that I would not use it for housing animals. I would like the Postmaster-General himself to investigate this matter. . Perhaps there are similar desperate cases in the electorates of other honorable members, but I regard this office and residence as a suppurating sore on the body of Postal Department establishments in Tasmania. The officers of the department in Tasmania agree with me, and they have been battling for the last eighteen months to improve the position, but they have been Weld up by lack of money. There is still no new residence, nor has the old one been improved.
Another matter that concerns the PostmasterGeneral has to do with mix-ups that occur in the delivery of mails. A town that suffers particularly in this regard is Perth, in Tasmania. A lot of people probably would not know that there is a town called Perth in my State, but it is quite a large town, situated nine miles from Launceston on the main Hobart highway.
– Arc there two towns in Tasmania?
– Yes, the one that I live in and Perth. Many people in this town receive their letters eleven days late, because they have been sent to Western Australia in the first instance.
– They are lucky that the letters are not sent to Scotland !
– That is right, but the letters that I refer to were addressed clearly to Perth, Tasmania, in plain, bold print, but still they went to Perth, Western Australia. Some of this mail included letters containing news of people in ill health or in some other trouble, and the letters were received too late to be of any use. The postmaster in the town has stated that dozens of letters every week are received at his office readdressed from Perth, Western Australia. I realize that place names constitute a serious problem for the Postal Department. In my State, there are twelve or fif teen towns which have names similar to those of towns in Victoria. There are Campbell Town, Hamilton, Avoca, Cressy, Lilydale.
– And Beaconsfield.
– Yes, there is a Beaconsfield in Tasmania, and the honorable member who has just interjected lives in Beaconsfield, Victoria. This duplication of place names constitutes a serious problem. When new post offices are opened, the department endeavours to avoid difficulty by giving the new post office a distinctive name. There is, for instance, in my electorate a recently established post office called Prospect Vale, to distinguish it from Prospect in South Australia. However, some of the offices that have been established for a considerable time have names the same as those in other parts of Australia. This causes a lot of inconvenience, and I am wondering whether the department knows of a way to overcome the difficulty. I can suggest one solution. Letters that come to, say, Perth in Tasmania would all go through the Melbourne post office, where they would be stamped before being despatched to Tasmania. The sorters could be provided with a special stamp, and if the letters were stamped with the word “ Tasmania “ in large characters there would be less chance of their being sent to Western Australia. I pass on that suggestion to the Postmaster-General, because this is a serious problem for the people affected, and I think that the department should try to solve it.
Another matter that I wish to mention concerns the Citizen Military Forces, serving members of which at present are required to pay income tax on their military pay. They are very annoyed about it. They hare made representations to the Treasurer to try to secure exemption from income tax of money paid for service with the Citizen Military Forces. I shall mention the case of one man who lives in my. own home town. He has informed me that, in 1953, he had to pay £4 14s. in income tax for the privilege of serving in the Citizen Military Forces, or, as he said, “working for Bob”. In the next year, he had to pay £12 lis. 6d. because he was working for Bob in the same way. In the following year, 1955, he had to pay an extra £10 14s. 8d. in tax, because his pay from the Citizen Military Forces was added to his other income. I have a letter from him, in which he says -
Am getting sick of it and considering leaving this year in June when time comes up to sign on again. As well as the inconvenience of travelling 28 miles a night for home training of national service trainees, there is my own leisure time I must give up. I had 18 months service C.M.F. pre-war and 5 J years in A.I.F. and that entitled me to the Efficiency Medal.
He was one of three Tasmanians who were recently awarded the Efficiency Medal. He has only eighteen months to serve in order to qualify for a bar to that medal, but he is so disgusted with having to pay income tax for the privilege of serving his country that he is considering leaving the Citizen Military Force and losing the chance to qualify for the bar to his Efficiency Medal. There are thousands of men in Australia in a similar position. They are serving their country night after night. In the case I have cited, the man travels 28 miles a night in order to teach national service trainees, and he has to pay tax for doing it. It is costing him money to serve his country in peace-time. This is a very important, worthwhile and genuine case for consideration by the Treasurer, who is noted in this House for the paucity of his replies to questions. He might improve on his record, however, when a case such as this is presented to him.
In conclusion, I wish to give an illustration of the way in which credit restriction has affected local governing bodies. Representations have been made to me by a council on the west coast of Tasmania, which obtained approval to borrow £17,000 during the present financial year. The council was able to obtain £10,000 from a savings hank in Hobart, but is still £7,000 short of requirements.
– The council .is lucky to get over 50 per cent, of its requirements. Most of them can get only about 5 per cent.
– As the honorable member for Batman, who is himself a member of a council, has said, many councils cannot get nearly so large a proportion of their requirements on the loan market. This case is an illustration of what is happening everywhere. The council applied to the Commonwealth Bank for the extra £7,000. The bank could not give the money to the council, but it is, of course, helping local councils greatly. I want to give honorable members a reason why to-day the Commonwealth Bank has fewer funds for investment than hitherto. Recently this Government gave permission for two new savings banks to operate in Australia.
– There is to be a third now.
– The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) says that there is to be a third. If that is so, there might well be a fourth. How is that affecting the Commonwealth Bank? I would like the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) to understand that I know it as a fact, and not as something “phony”, that the Commonwealth Savings Bank always lends out its money to local councils and like bodies. It does magnificent work on the municipal level to assist water supply, electricity, sewerage and many other kinds of development. A manager of one of the bank’s branches has told me that the opening of the two new savings banks will, in one year, reduce the income of the Commonwealth Savings Bank by £2,000,000. He said, “We can carry on. It will not be any real loss to the bank. We already have a very large proportion of the people’s investments, but it will mean £2,000,000 less that we can invest in local government “. That is one way in which this Government’s recent savings bank legislation can affect a council on the west coast of Tasmania, and others will be similarly affected.
– Order 1 The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- 1 desire to refer, first, to matters that affect the Department of Trade, the Department of Primary Industry and, in particular, the Department of the Treasury. The House will remember that on previous occasions I have drawn attention to the plight of the smallacreage farmers. A committee consisting of members from this side of the House has devoted its time for quite a number of years to thinking about and conducting research into the problems of that section of the community, with the object of devising means to solve those problems. Some of the committee’s suggestions have been put into effect. Perhaps I should say in passing that the committee has received little or no help from honorable members opposite, who seem to take no interest in the problems of the small farmers.
I remind the House that a significant contribution to the national economy has been made hy those members of the community whom I describe as the smallacreage farmers. Many of the commodities produced by those farmers are exported to countries overseas. As I explained last night, we in Australia are finding it increasingly difficult to compete effectively in overseas markets with countries that are closer to those markets than we are. In many of those countries, costs of production are lower than in Australia. It is necessary for us at least to maintain the production of the small-acreage farmers, who produce so much of our food. I refer to the egg producers, the vegetable growers and the orchardists. Amongst the orchardists, I include the producers of berry fruits and dried fruits. If we want to maintain the production of those commodities, it will be necessary for this Parliament to take an even greater interest in the problems that confront the small farmers. I realize that many of their problems are the responsibility of the State governments, but some of them have been referred to this Parliament. The State governments have not taken action in regard to them, so, as a last resort, the producers concerned have made approaches to this Parliament.
Something happened recently that will increase costs of production for this type of farmer. A number of the small farmers in my district are customers of the Rural Bank of New South Wales, which has increased the rate of interest charged on overdrafts. Before I deal further with that matter, I think it would be wise if I read to the House some of the statements that were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) when he explained the Government’s economic measures to the House a few months ago. Among other things, the right honorable gentleman said -
Having regard to what has happened in the bond market, and to the other circumstances to which I have referred, we have agreed - T say “ agreed “ because interest rates are at present adjusted by agreement between the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks - that the bank overdraft rate should be permitted to rise from 5 per cent, to an average of 5-J per cent., with a maximum of fi per cent.
Later in his speech, the Prime Minister said -
We therefore expect that if the banks are permitted to raise their average overdraft rate to 5-J per cent., they will have effective overdraft rates both below and above that level. We expect that the lower overdraft rates will be employed in aid of important production and import saving and that the higher overdraft rates will be employed to restrain inflation.
Special reference was made to primary producers who are producing commodities for both export and home consumption. If I may digress for a moment, I remind the House that this matter was raised in a question that my friend, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), addressed to the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) several weeks ago. The Rural Bank of New South Wales has circularized its customers, including farmers in my electorate, to inform them that, irrespective of the persons concerned, the overdraft rate for each customer will be raised to 5£ per cent. I do not think that that action is in conformity with the statement that was made by the Prime Minister when he explained the Government’s economic measures. Many of my constituents - primary producers who bank with the Rural Bank of New South Wales - have informed me that the interest rate on their bank overdrafts has been increased by i per cent, to 5$ per cent., although the Government has stated that the interest rates for primary producers should be kept at 5 per cent. I put two questions to the Treasurer: Can the Commonwealth Government control the Rural Bank of New South Wales? Is this increase of interest rates for all primary producers fair? As a supplementary question, I ask him: Is this an example of what we could expect if the banking system of this country were nationalized? If honorable members opposite ever became responsible for the government of this country, would this unfair treatment be meted out to all customers of banks? This increase of the interest rate for overdrafts will impose an added personal burden on the farmers. But that is not all. It will also cause the cost of food production to increase. Consumers in Australia will bc required to pay more for their food and, in addition, the increased price of our exports of primary products will make it more difficult for us to sell them in a competitive world market.
The next matter to which I wish to refer affects the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and his responsibility, on a ministerial level, for the introduction of television to Australia. I do not wish in any way to discuss the bill dealing with that subject which was recently passed by the House, but I do wish to refer to the production of televised film for commercial purposes. Honorable members will realize that, when television comes into being, quite a number of Australian stations will rely for their revenue upon sponsored advertisements which, of course, in most cases will have te be by medium of a film suitable for television. We also realize that, in the first instance, quite a number, if not the majority, of the entertainment films will have to be imported, and while I refer this matter particularly to the Postmaster-General, I ask him to be good enough to discuss it with his colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr. Osborne), because it will also come within his jurisdiction. I understand that at the present time the regulations allow the importation and use of television film commercials. The production of film commercials is the main means by which we hope to keep Australian studios in operation, because Australian production companies cannot produce film entertainment programmes for television in competition with the much lower cost of the productions coming from overseas. To give an example, television stations are offering a first-class 30-minute imported entertainment programme for £150 a station, according to information which has been given to me. I have also been informed that to produce an average one-minute commercial film in Australia costs £150. Therefore I think it is right to assume that it is economically impossible for us to film television entertainment programmes in Australia at present. I should like the House to realize, however, that in the production of television commercials we will engage, in addition to script writers in regular work, such personnel as actors, actresses, artists for animation, film directors, make-up experts, carpenters, painters, plasterers, camera men, producers, light technicians, sound engineers, property men, and administrative personnel. So what might seem in my original plea to have been just a small item turns out to be quite a large one. I therefore ask the Postmaster-General to be good enough to consult with his colleague, the Minister for Customs and Excise, and ascertain whether it would be possible to attain the objective of having commercial television films for broadcast within Australia produced solely in this country without relying on imports.
To sum up, I ask the PostmasterGeneral: What are the present regulations governing the importation of television commercial films? Have investigations been made into the capacity of Australian industry to provide all necessary films which may be used by television advertisers? If such inquiries have not been made, will the Minister institute inquiries with the object of making it possible for all television advertising films to be produced in Australia? Finally, would he be good enough to consider this request as being one of urgency because, as you probably realize. Mr. Deputy Speaker, the time when the first television programme will he broadcast in Australia is drawing very close?
.- -Before I give a dissertation on the matters which I have listed for discussion, I should like to answer the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), and remind him that under this Government’s regime the cost of primary production has almost doubled, and that is the reason why the small producer is in difficulties to-day. In the last two or three years of the term of office of the Chifley Government Australia was a virtual paradise for primary producers, but their position has suffered a serious deterioration since 1949.
– ls the honorable member joking?
– It is idle for the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to laugh. The facts are incontrovertible. The cost of production of wheat has almost doubled. The price of petrol has risen steeply, and the cost of other commodities which are so essential to primary production has accelerated very sharply. The honorable member for Robertson stated the case for the making of commercial television films in Australia by Australian artists. That ease was submitted by members on this side during the debate on the passage of the Broadcasting and Television Bill a couple of weeks ago. When we moved an amendment to provide that a certain percentage of programmes should be devoted entirely to performance by Australian artists, Australian workers, the Government of which he is a supporter resolutely refused to adopt our amendment, or even to water down the Australian content to 10 per cent, or 20 per cent. The Government would not include in the bill any guarantee to Australian artists of even a 1 per cent, preference over films imported from overseas. Since then the honorable member for Robertson has had a deathbed repentance, lie has seen the light in more ways than one. At least he has incurred the wrath of a number of his constituents who will be grave sufferers as a result of the very unwise decision of the Government in refusing to provide preference for Australians whose sole sin is that they live in this country and are not prepared to go overseas to make films.
I wish to devote some of my time to one of the greatest problems that confronts this country, namely, the problem of inflation, because despite the growing concern of all sections of the community, inflationary pressures here continue to gain momentum. There is a remorseless upward trend of prices and costs which gives rise to the gravest of misgivings about what the future holds. Nothing comparable with the present increase in prices has ever taken place before. The inflation that followed World War I., and which was the cause of some anxiety at that time, was’ a mere bagatelle in comparison with the inflation that has taken place under this Government’s control of the Commonwealth. Feeling amongst the people is rising daily. They are becoming increasingly resentful of the daily rise in prices. Only to-night the Melbourne
Herald contained a report that the Government intends during the next budget session to increase telephone rentals by 25 per cent. If that happens, a person who has a telephone will have to pay an additional £6 a year in rent, and knowing the Government’s record in regard to posts and telegraphs in the past, I have not the slightest doubt that the report in to-night’s Melbourne Herald is correct, and that after the budget is passed telephone users will suffer the extreme mortification of having to pay another £6 a year for the use of a telephone in their own premises.
Since 1949, the Government has continually announced its determination to stop inflation. We have had this determination repeated ad nauseam from, almost every platform, almost every night in this chamber, and certainly during every election campaign, but all the evidence indicates that, on the contrary, during the last six years the position has progressively declined. Inflation is a condition of excessive expenditure, and the national expenditure has increased by about 15 per cent, a year since this Government came into office. There is a number of experts on the Government side of the House and others who write for the newspapers. They contend that the only way to combat inflation is to increase production. Surely, no expert contend? that we could increase our productivity by 15 per cent, a year to offset the yearly increase of 15 per cent, in national expenditure. As ‘ a result of the maladministration of this Government, prices have risen by almost 70 per cent, since 1950. Only recently supporters of the Government told us that there was a silver lining to the dark clouds, and that at last they had located the cause of our troubles. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his recent economic statement, said that in order to achieve economic health we must reduce our demand - reduce our spending. I should like to ask Government .supporters to whom those remarks are intended to apply. Are they intended to apply to the pensioners? Are they intended to apply to the thrifty person who owns a few Commonwealth bonds and who. if he now wishes to redeem them, stands to lose from £10 to £12 on each £100 bond? Are they intended to apply to the workers whose margins have lost half their value since this Government came to office? Are they intended to apply to the basie wage earners who, in Victoria at least, have lost lis. in the form of frozen cost of living adjustments since the Arbitration Court pegged the basic wage in 1953?
Let me say a few words about the judgment delivered by the court last Friday. The court said that it could not give the workers of Australia a still higher basic wage than it awarded because the economy could not stand it. What a scathing commentary upon this Government’s administration of the economy! In 1953, for the first time since the depression, the country was unable to pay cost of living adjustments which were introduced in 1920 as a resultof legislation passed by the Parliament in that year. The economy is in such a mess that it still cannot give to the worker the quarterly cost of living adjustments that are his right. Therefore, we should exclude from the sections of the community to which it may be suggested the Prime Minister’s remarks applied those persons whom I have just mentioned. They are unable to effect any restraint, because the money they now receive is used exclusively for the purpose of keeping body and soul together. I suggest, however, that restraint certainly could be exercised by the privileged few who share company profits, which have risen since 1953 from £375,000,000 to £505,000,000 a year. Should we not also seek restraint on the part of the 129,000 persons who, according to a recent report of the Commissioner of Taxation, had £284,000,000 left after paying their income tax? Obviously, the spending of those two sections of the community is excessive, for the good reason that they have the money to spend. The Government’s proposals are not limited to those two sections, but hit all sections of the community. No immunity is given to persons who are not in a position to exercise restraint. As a result of the policy adopted by this Government, persons who have only a small amount of money will be able to buy less, while those who already spend too much will be able to spend more to maintain their present extravagant living standards.
Increased interest rates will result in increased home-building costs. If there is anybody who should know anything about the plight of the home-builders it is the member of Parliament, because home-builders come to members in droves with their problems about obtaining finance from the War Service Homes Division or private financiers. The petrol tax, the beer tax, the tobacco tax and sales taxes generally hit every buyer, irrespective of his income. As a result of the imposition of those taxes, prices will continue to rise. I suggest that it is high time that the Government applied proper corrective measures, so that the economy will not suffer an otherwise inevitable crash. Any anti-inflation programme that is effective is certain to provoke fierce controversy, but I suggest that it is essential that this Government should introduce drasticmeasures, even though they conflict with its political philosophy. I know that the idea of planning is anathema to supporters of the Government; they pooh-pooh the idea. They believe in a strong individualistic approach, and that every man should be able to plan his own destiny in his own way with no thought for the wishes or the well-being of anybody else. I should like to know what is to be the alternative to planning in the grave circumstances that we are now encountering.
The Australian Labour party, on the other hand, has proposed a constructive, practical policy which is in marked contrast with the policy of drift and laisserfaire adopted by this Government. For example, the Labour party proposes an excess profits tax on company profits, which last year amounted to £505,000.000. We believe in the stabilization of government expenditure, but that does not mean that essential national development should be reduced, because if we wish to increase our national wealth we must not reduce our national developmental schemes. I support the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie^ in his reference to the plight of local government bodies. Any one who ha.” any knowledge of the problems confronting local government bodies knows perfectly well that at the present time it is almost impossible for them to raise money for such things as street construction. In M.el bourne, there are hundreds of miles of new streets along which the residents are expected to wallow in mud and slush. Is it any wonder that the wrath of the ratepayers is directed against the various councils? But any one who knows anything about the position knows that it is not the fault of the councils. Because of the credit restriction policy of this Government, local government bodies, which are the most deserving bodies in the community, are almost unable to raise money for new street construction. Any person who argues to the contrary just does not know what he is talking about. If he thinks that this Government is providing ample funds for new street construction in Melbourne and the other capital cities, he has another think coming.
The Labour party is of the opinion that the present expenditure of the defence vote is wasteful. Revelations over the last few weeks have proved conclusively that an inordinately large portion of the money that is voted for defence purposes is spent simply for the purpose of being spent, and that the services to which the money was originally allocated are determined to ensure that their allocation is fully spent. There is not the slightest doubt that in many cases it has. been spent uneconomically. The Opposition believes that any worth-while government could reduce the defence vote without impairing the efficiency of our defences. The Labour party suggests that, if the Government wants to do something worth while, it could pare the defence vote without placing the country in any peril. Opposition members also believe in the regulation of investment. That again means planning, and I know that planning is not acceptable to our friends on the other side of the House. However, I think the Prime Minister is starting to come round to our idea, because in his recent economic statement he said -
There may be a good deal to be said for introducing selectivity into the demand by capital issues control.
But he also said, in effect, “ It is not a matter of concern at the moment. We have neither the time nor the power to do it “. I suggest that the Government should have taken action two or three years ago, and should have sought the co-operation of the States in obtaining this very necessary constitutional power. It is high time that it attempted to do something practical to combat inflation. All economists now realize that, by imposing capital issues control, something can be done. When the Labour party exercised capital issues control under its defence powers, it proved conclusively just what could be done to prevent wasteful expenditure. When counsel for the Government appeared in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to state the Government’s case on the unions’ recent claim for an increased basic wage, he said, inter alia -
Some of the powers which would be most effective to deal with inflation were absent. In particular was one which could regulate investment.
He was the Government’s own spokesman in the Arbitration Court conceding the Labour party’s point of view that the Commonwealth should control investments if it was to make a worthwhile fight against the inflationary spiral. Despite those forebodings, despite admissions by the Prime Minister and his supporters in their unguarded moments, the Government up to the moment has not even sought a conference with the States in order to get these powers. If these powers were obtained, the Government could make a worthwhile fight against inflation, and would not engage in a sham fight, as it is at the moment.
The Labour party recognizes that the selective control of bank lending is necessary to discourage inflationary activities and to encourage export production. The Government may say that it has to do something about the selective control of bank lending, but it relies on differential interest rates. Primary producers can obtain money at a little over 5 per cent, interest, home builders at per cent, and borrowers, for less desirable purposes, at 6 per cent. The net result of that will be to raise the cost of borrowing. This has already had the effect of causing the less profitable but more essential activities like housing, school building and public utilities to be lost in the rush.
Obviously, banks will not lend to public bodies which want money for those essential purposes when they can get a higher rate of interest from some other activity. The differential rates of interest, which are operating against public works such as housing and school buildings, and the municipal matters that I mentioned a moment or two ago, will not have the effect of increasing and accelerating national development. On the other hand, the rise in the interest rate under the Government’s method will have no effect in discouraging those activities which can absorb the extra interest rate in their profits or, better still, pass it on to the public - and that is what they are doing to-day. The rise in the interest rate means nothing at all to them.
However, the labour party is of the opinion that, despite the fact that the Government knows these things, it will not heed them because they run counter to the interests of its own friends and supporters. Until a Labour government 13 gracing the Treasury bench, I am very much afraid that the inflationary spiral will continue skywards without interruption even for perceptible intervals. I have not the slightest doubt that in the next quarter the figures will show that the cost of living has increased by another As. a week, and that will continue ad infinitum.
The Labour party, at the last election, suggested that there should be a Department of Exports. We realized that something should be attempted by way of an overseas campaign to increase our exports. The Government did not say anything at election time, but since then it has adopted the Labour party’s policy. Tt has set up a Department of Trade, which has for its purposes the same objectives as those suggested by the Labour party, and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is now on the warpath overseas in an endeavour to increase our exports. “Naturally, every member of this House hopes that he will succeed, because it is most vital to our economy that there should be a progressive increase of exports. But I am afraid that we may be expecting too much in relation to this matter. If the only card the Government has up its sleeve is a successful overseas drive .by the Department of Trade to increase exports, Ministers may be somewhat disillusioned.
If we wish to get expanding exports so that the drain on our balance of payments will be lessened, we can get them in three ways. First, we can raise the volume of primary production rapidly, so that quick overseas earnings would arise from sales. But it is not possible to raise our volume of primary production in this country quickly. Secondly, we could get the result from higher prices for some important commodities, which at the moment tend to decrease a little. Thirdly, we could get the result from a larger export of manufactured goods.
Australia’s main exports at the moment are wool, which supplies about half of our overseas earnings, and wheat, which provides about 10 per cent, of our export earnings. Manufactured goods provide about 8 per cent. It may appear at first sight that the rapid expansion of our manufacturing industry offers an opportunity for export, because our manufacturing industries are increasing at a far greater rate than our primary producing industries. But we can just forget abour exporting any manufactured articles to Europe or North America, because the are highly industrialized. Therefore, from the manufacturing point of view, our only reasonable chance of getting any overseas markets at all depends upon the export of manufactured articles to the nearby countries of Asia.
It is interesting to see what our exports, to Asia are, because Asia is the only group of countries where we can reasonably expect to get an appreciable increase in our export earnings. Our exports to Asia in 1954-55 were £141,000,000, or 16.7 per cent, of the total value of our exports. But of this amount Japan took £58,000,000, or 6.9 per cent, of our total exports. Therefore, the Asian countries, excluding Japan, took only £82,000,000 worth of exports. It is “not a very large amount, and these figures appear to be capable of vast improvement. However, a close examination of the position reveals some disquieting factors.
Let me take the prospect of exporting manufactured goods. The most important consideration about our chance of expanding our exports of manufactures to Asia is that our trade troubles - our need to earn more overseas or import less spring from the same kind of economic development that is the aim of most Asian countries. These Asian countries are attempting to speed up their own rate of economic development and to diversify their economies. As long as Australia chooses the same path - that is, a rapid rate of economic development with industrialization and a high rate of immigration - there will be periodic need to apply economic restrictions. While other countries do that, as Australia is forced to do, we cannot expect to export a large volume of manufactured goods to Asian countries, whose economies are working in the same direction as ours.
There appears to be a prospect that larger countries of Southern Asia will be certain to become important markets for Australian food as they make efforts to raise living standards, but when their development plans are considered, we cannot expect any immediate favorable reaction. We must realize what their first aims are. It is easy to say, in grandiloquent terms, that we can get enormous quantities of food to these Asian people, but when we realize what their aims are in their own development, our hopes must be somewhat dampened. Their first aim is to raise productivity in agriculture, partly to eliminate the drain ou foreign exchange for imported food and partly to provide higher incomes for the greater part of the population that lives on the land. This will eventually mean savings for a developing economy and also supply a market for the increasing flow of consumer goods from new industries in the Asian countries.
In the long run, the process of economic development in these countries will mean t.he emergence of higher-income groups. I -ay in the long run; it will not be two Dr three years hence, but possibly ten or twenty years. This will certainly lead to an expanding taste for Australian meat, fruit and dairy products, but the immediate prospect is for only small markets for these products. In the pre sent circumstances we cannot hope for a very large export of Australian primary products to those countries. On the other < hand, if China follows the pattern of Japanese industrial development, with a large expansion of textile production, it could become a very big buyer of Australian wool. The Government has at long last recognized this, and we have had from it a statement about exploiting the possibilities of trade with China. It is a matter of great regret that the volume of our trade with China is much less to-day than it was in 1939 ; so I hope that the Government will not be influenced, in its attitude towards the expansion of trade with China, by any considerations about not trading with a country that has a different political system from ours, does not believe in our ideology, and does not follow our way of life. After all, we should be concerned entirely with increasing our material position and wealth, and if we can negotiate a commercial treaty with China which will mean the sale by us of a large quantity of wool to that country, we should accept such an arrangement with alacrity.
– We are trading now with countries against which we fought in the last war.
– Quite! The honorable member for Wilmot points out that we are trading with Japan, Germany and Italy which, during the last war, were trying to blast us out of existence. I do not think .that China has ever attempted to do that to us. We should not allow stupid, sentimental considerations to enter into this matter. If we can increase our trade with China we should do so at the first opportunity that presents itself. If realistic steps are taken by the Government, in addition to ‘ securing increased trade with China, there should be a steady advance in our trade with both Japan and Malaya, since the economies of those countries are more advanced than those of the other Asian countries that 1 have mentioned. Because those countries contain a much larger proportion of higherincome groups than obtains in the more primitive countries of Asia, they offer m more scope for expansion of our trade. However, I am afraid that, although in the long run the developing countries of Asia will take a large share of our trade, in the short run, because of the lack of nous on the part of this Government, our expectations will not be met.
– This debate, being on the Supply Bill which is to provide the Government with funds to the end of October, and which covers various expenditures on government activities - defence services, government projects, &c, lends itself to fairly comprehensive discussion. During the course of the debate we have heard discussed various features of the economic situation and of the Government’s activities. It is unfortunate, in a way, that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), who has just resumed his seat, was not in the chamber a fortnight ago to face a test of his advocacy of increased grants for roads in Victoria when my colleagues, the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Lawrence), advanced a case on behalf of Victoria. Had the honorable member for Batman had an opportunity to exercise his vote on that matter we should have seen his sincerity submitted to a real test. However, I know his heart is in the right place, and that had he been here he would have voted in the right way.
The honorable member for Batman made some reference to rising costs. I, for one, feel that one thing has been completely lost sight of in discussions on rising costs in this country - the policy of the Chifley Labour Government prior to the withdrawal of subsidies after the defeat of the prices referendum in 1948. The Commonwealth Year-Booh, which gives a complete resume of the subsidies paid in the 1947-4R fiscal year, shows that some £35,0°0,000 was paid in direct subsidies in order to control prices in that vear. In addition, supplementary subsidies which would also assist prices stabilization brought the 1947-48 total to £47.840,000. As we all know, immediately after the. withdrawal of subsidies subsequent to the defeat of the prices referendum, there was, in 1949, a 10 per cent, increase of costs. That occurred prior to the advent of the present Go vernment. That was the situation with which this Government was faced when it entered office. It is not unreasonable to assume that if we based those subsidies on the present rate of consumption of our present population it would require at least £150,000,000 to keep prices down to the 1947-4S level. I suggest that Mr. Chifley, as Commonwealth Treasurer, welcomed the fact that the prices referendum was defeated, because he must have known, as every one here who has studied the figures knows, that the position where internal prices are restrained, in the face of inflation in other countries, by straight-out subsidies, is an impossible situation. So I suggest that argument from the Opposition benches that it is a practical proposition to use price control to restrain prices without this extraordinary incubus of subsidies punched into the economy all the time, shows that members of the Opposition are either wishful thinkers or have lost sight of the facts.
Now I wish to refer to some of the remarks of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey). In his very broad resume of the situation he touched on several really dangerous features of the national economy. In referring to the present financial relations between the States and the Commonwealth he pointed out that the Commonwealth, as the main tax collecting agency, is the authority which incurs the hostility and odium of the public for being the tax gatherer. It also incurs, indirectly, the hostility of the States when it does not completely meet their demands for money. In other words, the Commonwealth is in the impossible position of applying the tax gathering power and also of being the benefactor to recipients who are rather grudging in their thanks. It is no exaggeration to say that, during the last few years, the consistent policy of the States has been to play party politics in respect of tax reimbursements to the States from the Commonwealth. It is quite easy for the States to take the attitude, and to tell their people, that, due to the parsimony of the Federal Government they have not enough funds to finance their normal requirements. But when we analyse the situation in the light of what the States themselves have been doing it is not unreasonable to say that they have been great contributors to their own financial discomfiture. By that 1 mean that, as we have seen quite recently, when the opportunity has occurred for the States to take advantage of their own State wages tribunals in order to fix wages outside the ambit of the federal arbitration system, they have been the first to seize it, despite the impact that increases of wages might have on their own expenditure. So the Commonwealth, because in the minds of the public it is the tax collecting agency, incurs all the opprobrium; yet, at the same time, the States are inclined to cash in on their own immediate policy and disregard the financial issues involving any Commonwealth policy.
I do not wish to touch at great length on this subject, because it is still a matter before the House in respect of another bill, but it appears impossible to avoid the thought that, while the Commonwealth Arbitration Court is supposed to adjudicate in respect of wages and conditions of employment, it is’ quite obvious that this bilateral system, whereby the States, through their own tribunals, are making their own marbles good with their own electors, cuts right across the principle of federal arbitration. “Whilst I do not wish to take either one side or the other, it seems obvious that, with the extraordinary economic responsibilities placed on the Arbitration Court by virtue of the economic pressure that exists not only in Australia but all over the world, the members of that court are arbiters who, by force of their power as determiners of wages and conditions of work, have to make these extraordinarily important decisions. It seems to me, much as I dislike the thought, that we come back to the position where, if this Government is to control the economy, it must ultimately have some control over the general industrial structure of the country. I follow on from that argument to say that that is one question that the joint committee of the Parliament appointed to consider proposed changes of the Australian Consitution must study in order that we may arrive at some sensible situation in which we shall have one wages and industrial policy for the whole of Australia.
The brief opportunities I have had to discuss the matter with representatives of the State governments have shown me that they are not particularly receptive of the idea that the control of their employees should be taken out of their hands, and I see their point. But, if they consider the matter further from the stand-point of the general economic situation, they must be forced to the conclusion that there should eventually be one presiding power to determine what shall happen in each State. Otherwise, we shall be left with the present situation which leads only to confusion and discontent because various groups of people work under awards made by different bodies. This is not conducive to the advancement of the country or to the general welfare of industry.
I agree also with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who referred to the remarks of the Minister for External Affairs about the need for the introduction of priorities for works, to be agreed upon at conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers and at meetings of the Australian Loan Council. I gathered from the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that he considered the Menzies Government had not really done all it could about this matter. But he knows, and I think most other honorable members know, that on every occasion on which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has proposed that a system of priorities should be introduced, the proposal has been rejected. I agree that it is difficult to reconcile the demands of one State with those of the others, but a system of priorities seems to me to be the only possible and sane solution of the problem. If it is not adopted, we shall be continually confronted with a situation in which a State which values its projects highly will not give way on any of them. If we consider the matter in the most realistic light, we shall realize that, even at the federal level, the same situation arises between departments in the determination of budgetary expenditure, because one department is not prepared to sacrifice, for the benefit of another department, a little of the money voted to it. Until we get some sanity into our thinking on this problem, the con fin nal demands on our limited resources of finances and materials will impose an almost impossible burden on governments in Australia.
As the representative of a great primary producing electorate, I am more concerned with the problems, of increasing costs in primary industry. I have said before, and I am ready to say on every occasion, that, at the present time, our primary industries are the basis of our export income. “Without our exports of primary products, we could not enjoy the well-being that we now enjoy. Had it not been for the splendid prices we have received for wool in recent years, and the good prices we have been paid for our wheat and dairy products, we could not enjoy the standards that we have at present. Our development programme could not have been pursued to the same degree. In other words, without our export income, we should have had to pull in our horns considerably and work within our normal internal income. I wish to refer now to a proposition advanced in the document entitled Australia, 1956: An Economic Survey, which was recently tabled in this House by the Prime Minister - a document of which honorable members now have copies. This survey mentions the impact of the recent expansion of secondary industries in various European and American countries and its relation to the prices received for primary products in the same countries. I believe to be true the following statement, which appears at page 41: -
Moreover, the increased demand for imports resulting from the higher level of world economic activity was concentrated particularly on manufactured goods.
I repeat that the increased demand for imports was concentrated particularly on manufactured goods. The paragraph continues -
From preliminary information it seems that, in both North America and Western Europe, the proportion of import outlay spent on manufactured goods has increased, the proportion spent on foodstuffs has declined and the proportion spent on raw materials has i’1-innincd about constant. . . . At the other end of the scale, countries such as Australia, New Zealand, India, and South Africa, which export primarily foodstuffs and raw materials, have shown either very small increases in i-n ports between 1054 and 1955 or none at all.
That is the situation which we face now. We must consider whether we can continue to rely on our exports of primary products to carry the baby of Australia’s economic progress.
I turn now to some very pertinent observations which appeared in to-day’s press, and which came from the pen of Mr. James T. Farrell, whom some honorable members may have met. Mr. Farrell, who is a distinguished American author, referred in particular to the vast expansion of population in Australia as a result of immigration, and also to the tendency for the additional population to be directed entirely into secondary industry. He mentioned that some people imagine Australia as a country of the bush and the kangaroo, and he added - -
The greater part of the population lives in these big cities and, as the figures show, are engaged in manufacturing industries.
You only have to be here a day or bo to realise the heavy demands of the consumer market and the large part of the work force which must be employed to meet those demands.
It appears to me that Australia must decide how far she can safely go in this direction: how long can she continue to cater for internal demand at the expense of her primary industries?
I repeat “at the expense of her primary industries “. That brings us back to my fundamental position concerning the impact of rising costs on primary industry. It also takes me to my next point - the possibility of exporting the products of our secondary industries. I believe they can be exported. I have before me the cost sheet of a well-known Australian company which produces pre-stressed concrete pipes and similar articles. Admittedly, the latest figures it gives in making a comparison of its costs with costs in other parts of the world are for 1954, but they show that we can produce this kind of pipe in’ Australia more cheaply than it can be made in other countries. In addition, this company has extended its operations overseas. I suggest that this could be done equally well by other companies if the markets are right and if Australian know-how is applied to its best advantage.
I have definite knowledge that Australian firms have establishments in South-East Asia. Humes Limited, an enterprise similar to the one that I have mentioned, has an establishment in Singapore which was initially financed by Australian capital, and which has now attracted some local capital. In addition, Australian Consolidated Industries Limited, the main holding company of Australian Glass Manufacturers Company Proprietary Limited, has an establishment in Singapore. This sort of thing is a move in the right direction. Even if we cannot ourselves export the manufactured article, we should do well to use our capital and our processes in other countries and to bring into Australia income, earned by importing in other countries goods produced in Australia.
I am particularly interested in the provision in the Supply Bill for the various activities of the Department of Trade. The Government has established commercial intelligence services in many centres. I think that that policy has the approval of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird), concerning the extension of Australian trade, particularly in those areas which lie in close proximity to our northern, boundaries, ft is obvious that the question of costs and the question of standards do come into it but if we rely entirely on our primary industries to solve our export problems, we will be completely wrong. Wo must, at this stage, do all that we can through the various trade organizations which the Government has set up to expand the possibilities for secondary industry, particularly in those countries which do not present such a serious freight problem, and mainly in SouthEast Asian areas.
I now wish to speak about a problem which is of far greater concern to the national economy than any other that is facing us at this moment. I refer to the economic impact of the tie-up in the shearing industry. I have tried to avoid remarks of any sort that might be regarded as provocative on this subject, but when I listened to the uncompromising remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) last week, I felt that there was little hone that just and sensible agreements could be arrived at between the parties t.o the dispute. We, can not avoid the realisation of the disastrous impact that fina will have on the. national economy at a time when we are looking to our major primary industry, wool, to continue to play its part and make its irreplacable contribution to the export drive. Surely there is not a member in this House who has so little imagination that lie cannot foresee the effect on our internal economy and on our standards of living if our major export, wool, is seriously impeded.
Whatever may be the underlying motives actuating Mr. Dougherty’s advice to the members of the Australian Workers Union, the result is clear. Whether his motive be an attempt to strangle arbitration, whether it be a personal struggle for power with Australia’s financial stability at stake, or whether it be a personal matter in his defiance of the Donovan award, I do not know. But I do know this - and I believe that all reasonable members of the Australian Workers Union know it as well - that the advice to his members to defy the award will lead ito serious disruption in the industry at a time when seasonal conditions and continuous rains have had a sufficiently retarding effect.
It will also mean that many members of his union who have usually observed the umpire’s verdict in arbitration and who would be prepared to continue in accordance with the award and, if necessary, refer their case for a rehearing, are debarred by fear of union sanctions from taking part in the work that they know and for which their services are not entirely unrewarded. In fact, the loss of income to those normally engaged in the shearing industry must already amount to a considerable figure.
Nobody is going to win this fight and, in the meantime, the national economy and, through it, the general well-being of the community, will suffer. So I appeal to those fair-minded men in the Australian Workers Union to use their influence through their branches to persuade their leaders to get back to arbitration as quickly as they can, but not to impose a basis for negotiation that would make it impossible for the other side in the dispute to meet them.
May I stress the point that when wool values were on the way up, the demands of shearers for a share in the prosperity
Were met voluntarily and that the action taken by the union leaders as a result of Commissioner Donovan’s award does not give much encouragement to those who represent the other side of the picture to be over-generous in the future. I further appeal to union leaders to get back to arbitration, and if they are not prepared to act on their own authority, I ask them to give their members an opportunity to exercise their opinions by a ballot of those concerned.
.- My comment on the closing remarks of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) is that there is very little attraction for the trade unions to move back to the field of “ arbitration in view of the fact that the arbitration system has been used for at least three years as a field for experiment at the expense of the Australian worker. The honorable member said that nobody would win the shearers’ fight, but most of these fights are not of the Labour movement’s asking. The Labour movement, perhaps, is fighting, not so much to win, as to hold the ground that it has won in the past.
There are a few smaller matters that 1 shall mention later, but I rise principally on this occasion because it is not very often that one takes part in the expenditure of the little sum of £160,000,000. This is a privilege that does not come to many of us, and the time that has been allotted to the discussion of this expenditure is brief. That is a complaint that I have heard from other people in the past when I have tuned in to the broadcast of the proceedings. T take this opportunity of speaking on this bill because of the fact that the chances for honorable members to move into the quieter corners of government have been restricted by the removal of “ Grievance Day “ and the restriction of question time.
The bill that has been given to honorable members is a rather intriguing one. It contains 28 pages relating to the expenditure of £160,000,000 and it is notable more for its brevity than for its clarity. There is a little item on page 3 concerning advances to the Treasurer, amounting to £16,000,000. That is not bad pocket money. I do not know what he does with it, because the document does not say. As this £16,000,000 cannot be explained in that document, I presume that it covers a lot of things that were best neglected.
Reverting to some of the statements of the honorable member for Corangamite, I recall that the honorable member brought up old arguments relating to State rights, State roads, injustice to Victoria, the taxation system and the pleading States. The honorable member said that he expected support from the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird). When these issues come up the honorable member for Batman will support the Labour party’s view, as he has always done. He will support the Australian attitude which is always advocated from this side of the House.
The honorable member for Corangamite quoted the visiting American author, Mr. Farrell, as using the words “ at the expense of primary industry”. That is a new one! We have not been able to carry out any economic experiments at the expense of primary industry. As a matter of fact, primary producers seem to be able to get many more subsidies than any other part of the community as well as being favoured in other ways, such as national service training. A short time ago, I put a question on the notice-paper and received the information that of 26,000 or 27,000 people who had received exemption from national military service, despite the concentration of population in the cities, 22,000 of them were living in the country. Even when it comes to the burden of wage fixation and economic experimenting, it is the worker in the city who foots the bill; and when it is a matter of sacrifice to defend the country and do national service training it is still the worker in Wills, not the boys from the bush in Corangamite, who bear the burden. Government supporters will hear more of this matter from the people generally. The attitude of members on this side of the House towards uniform taxation h simply that we will maintain it. Itf introduction was a great forward constitutional step. It was a great achievement to convince the High Court of its constitutional validity in 1942, and we propose to maintain it.
– It was introduced as a war-time measure.
– The odd thing about it, of course, is that its introduction formed one of these quiet revolutions that the Labour party, when in Government, is able to carry out. The Liberal party and the Australian Country party always oppose such matters at the time of their introduction, and pay a great deal of lip service to their opposition for purposes of publicity, but when they assume office and have to form a policy, they adhere to the policy laid down by the Labour party. We see very little administrative action taken to carry out some matters of policy that were publicly announced by supporters of this Government, such as the intention to hand taxing rights back to the States. If it were done, we believe it would be a retrograde step, and although I do not pretend to expect no retrograde moves from this Government, there are times when the responsibilities of government overcome even its reactionary political and economic philosophy.
The matter to which” I now wish to direct attention concerns the defence vote. A very large amount, totalling £61,000,000 for three or four months, is required for defence purposes. I know that in regard to the defence vote it has become customary to assert that we can draw millions of pounds from this hat for one scheme or another, but at the moment I am rather more concerned that we get value for the money we are spending. A rather powerful group of government departments is involved in this expenditure, comprising the Department of Defence, the Department of the Navy, the Department of the Army, the Department of Air, the Department of Supply and the Department of Defence Production. We have that phalanx, or galaxy, or battery of ministries, all administering our peace-time defence system. The particular item with which I am concerned at present is the amount of £19,613,000 proposed to be allocated to the Department of the Army. That is the largest item of ‘ unrecouped expenditure in _ the schedule, and I should like to believe that we shall get our money’s worth for it. Our military strength is, perhaps, 1.00,000 men. That number includes :,441,1 2:’>.000 permanent soldiers, in a regular army created, if I remember correctly, by the Labour party. That regular army, therefore, owes its existence to the Labour party. When we examine the composition of the Army, as one must do when considering a defence system, and particularly an army, we find that the backbone of the Australian Army is the Citizen Military Forces. Those forces are made up of national service men and volunteer soldiers. I think it is fair enough to say that the Citizen Military Forces are the Cinderella of the Army.
I have had a good deal of service, in one way or another, in the Citizen Military Forces. I have found that, in the main, the regular army soldiers with whom I have come in contact in the business of running a part-time army have been sympathetic and eager to co-operate. However, as one goes higher in the scale of regular army ranks, it is found that the regular army tends to look upon members of the Citizen Military Forces as rather precocious amateurs, no matter how distinguished the records of some of the men of the Citizen Military Forces may have been in the last war. Of course, that attitude does not produce the morale and spirit that is necessary in a part-time soldiering business. If we are faced with the task of defending our country, as the Government has frequently told us we will have to do, we will probably have to find 1,000,000 men for that purpose. The 100,000 or so who are the present members of the Citizen Military Forces, either as volunteers or as national service trainees continuing their training, will, of course, make up the bulk of the officers and noncommissioned officers, the cadre and the staff, the supply personnel and other units of that Army.
How are the present members of that force treated? How are they encouraged to soldier on? A couple of months ago, at the commencement of this sessional period, I suggested to the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer) that he might visit a place called Scrub Hill, a most appropriately named place for soldiers. It is a mile or two beyond Puckapunyal. If one looks at the Army map of the area one will find it marked as the Citizen Military Forces Armoured Bivouac Site. That, is a very suitable title. After all. soldier s have to be tough. They have to train themselves to stand up to all sorts of rigours. Scrub Hill . is a place for frustration and for discouraging soldiers from soldiering on. About ten years ago we had the best part of 1,000,000 men and women under arms in this country. When the war ended, I believe there were 750,000 men in the defence forces. There were camps for them all. There were cooking facilities and all amenities. During a war an army has resources at its disposal that are not available to it in peace-time. It can do things that it could not get away with in peace-time, because in peace-time the Treasury then says that it cannot afford to pay for them - although the Treasurer may have 16,000,000 pocket-money for three or four months. At Scrub Hill recently the Army has managed to tar the roads, but the hygiene needs to be vastly improved. Consider the position when 2,000 or 3,000 men are bivouacked there in summer, and the water supply breaks down. Every night when the troops return to the camp, all wanting a shower, the tanks are empty, the pumps have broken down, and it is found that spare parts to fix them cannot be obtained for a couple of days. Those things happen despite the conscientious efforts of the regular army -soldiers who are engaged in looking after the place. As for cooking facilities, the kitchen and equipment are not as good as they were in 1939 - and they were poor enough then, goodness knows! Cooking facilities, washing facilities, hygiene and general drainage are essentials that we would expect to be provided in a standing permanent camp, but they are not provided at Scrub Hill. If this were simply & week-end bivouac site, soldiers being what they are and the Army being what it is, there would be no hardship, but this is a camp in which are bivouacked 2,000 or 3,000 men, and fabulous sums are spent to take them there and to equip them. Honorable members must remember that it costs £20 to £30 to clothe a soldier, and when he leaves the unit and hands back his clothing and equipment they are valued at about £17 or £18. Some of the equipment that is required tn these camps is costly and delicate, so we must provide huts for the quarter master’s store, the food store, and for the administrative personnel. At Scrub Hill suitable huts are not provided for these purposes, and thousands of pounds worth of valuable equipment is covered with dust. It cannot be cared for. It must be protected and guarded. That takes up the time of some of the men, including important training time, in doing things that are quite unessential. When a number of men are taken into a camp for a fortnight or so, some are volunteers who want to go there, but some of them do not want to go, and if we are going to spend public money in taking them there, it is essential that every minute of valuable training time should be spent in their training. That cannot be done under the present system, which serves to create frustration.
The trainees sleep in tents measuring 12 feet by 14 feet. That is the ordinary army-type tent which, I am told, is now obsolescent. Those tents are worth £58 10s. The ones with which they are to be replaced are 16 feet by 16 feet, and are worth £158. We need to buy only five or six of them to be involved in an outlay of £1,000.
– Some one must have seen the Army coming.
– I am told that these prices have remained fairly firm for many years. An ordinary small marquee, about 19 feet long, costs £400. A goodsized marquee - the 45-footer - costs £1,100. Whenever a unit goes to that camp these marquees have to be pitched. When it leaves they have to be struck. If it rains on the day when the unit leaves, the marquees cannot be struck because they have to be returned to the ordnance store folded and dry. I am speaking of the financial aspect, and offering the considered opinion of a taxpayer who has given a good deal of service, at some personal inconvenience, and has not hesitated to attend these camps. The thousands of pounds that are being spent upon equipment could be much more wisely spent than they are at present. For instance, £1,100 would be better spent on a standing hut than on a marquee. Most people will agree with me on that point. The Government is adopting a day-to-day finance policy towards its Citizen Military Forces camps and camp sites. I have some knowledge of the matter in this State, and can assure honorable members that that sort of policy, in the end, wears down our assets. The system, should certainly ho abandoned at Scrub Hill. I assume that in other States also the policy of using temporary tentage, which has a short life, instead of permanent camps, is adopted.
One notices that £2,000,000 is being spent on the maintenance of Army equipment alone. I do not know what proportion of that sum is spent upon Citizen Military Forces bivouac sites, hut I do know that the hick of hygiene and water, and the general frustration that is produced in training, do engender in the troops a. disinclination to “soldier on”. I. have not the figures with me at the moment, but I have looked into the matter at various times. It is very distressing to people who are interested in the Citizen Military Forces - the citizen, army, which is the backbone of the Australian Army system and, probably, of our whole defence system - to find that it: is difficult to attract the men who will be thu non-commissioned officers and officers of the years to come. After all, those who served in World War II. are now getting a little long in the tooth. Wu must make soldiering attractive to the private soldier so that he will volunteer to ‘ “ soldier on “. We must have such a system that the officer or noncommissioned officer who holds a responsible civilian position will feel that it is worth while to give up a fortnight of his time each year and, perhaps, incur the wrath of the boss, in order to train the. army of thu future. One of the essential requirements is that the Government should turn camp sites into something more permanent, and put an end to the temporary, frustrating and capital-wasting system that it is at present adopting.
– Is the Government not spending £1,000,000 at Puckapunyal?
– It has spent fabulous sums in various places. It paid £95,000 for 23.0 acres of land at Watsonia. That: was no doubt very desirable for the owner. A similar block of land next door was bought in 1940 for £6,000. The house would then have been worth about £10,000. I hope that, as one who is interested in these matters, I am adopting a constructive attitude. I hope, too, that the Government will issue instructions to its departments that public servants who wish to serve in the defence forces - and I. shall include the Air Force - should be encouraged to do so. The departments should be told that the boss should nol look askance at any one who wishes to go away for a fortnight’s camp, or seeks leave to serve his country in other ways, because the Government docs not set the standard in these matters, it cannot possibly expect the private employer to comply willingly. The general spirit of service which takes volunteers into camp does not need a great deal of stimulus, but they should be able to feel that when, at the beginning of a camp, they take 50 tanks from the tank park they will be able to deliver them in going order, at their camp site three miles away. Hitherto they have not been able to do this. Honorable members who examine our defence structure will realize that wo have not received value for the millions and millions of pounds that wo have spent on the Citizen Military Forces.
The report of the Public Accounts Committee on the general system of defence expenditure is interesting. It. reads in part: . . Your commit too ure concerned at the laxity in the control of defence expenditures. . . .
I do not suggest for one moment that there is real laxity in the army accounting system, but it is to be found in the policy under which marquees which cost £1,100, and which may in two or three years be worn out or destroyed by some storm, are bought when, for £2,000, huts which will stand for years can be erected. The report reads further -
Elsewhere in the report the ren.ia.rk that the defence Estimates are based more on hopes than on realities is made. The report adds -
Your committee consider deplorable the almost grotesque examples of over-estimating that have come before us over the past two years.
It would have been a good thing if some of this over-estimation had produced such assets as good, fixed camp sites and, what is more important, had improved morale and induced a willingness to “ soldier on “ among those who must be the backbone of our future army. I can bring to mind odd items, such as proper laundry facilities, in which the Army could indulge at no great expense. After all, the soldier takes to camp only three shirts and a couple of pairs of trousers. In about three days he looks like some one who has been working in the bush for weeks. We must supply facilities that will enable him to retain a pride in his appearance as a soldier. In return for this, he would be prepared to sacrifice some of the luxuries, such as battledress, which on many people looks like a bear rug, and “ blues “, which cost about £18 or £19 and are worn only three or four times a year.
I wish to refer now to items 4 and 1.4, which relate to the Parliamentary Library and the National Library. It is obvious to all that the space available is not adequate to enable the purpose of the Parliamentary Library to be fulfilled. The time has come to apply more vigour to the problem of planning a. new Parliament House. About two months ago the Prime Minister laughed the matter off. One does not expect new works to be announced in measures such as this, but the very conception of a new Parliament House, even if it does not become a reality for four, five or six years, should offer an inspiration to Australian architects to produce a design that will be worthy of the national capital. A few of the millions set aside from the budget of £1,000,000,000 would produce for Australia a Parliament House that would be worthy of the traditions of this institution. Honorable members need only look briefly at the new Wilson Hall at the University of Melbourne to realize what modern, inspired architecture can do with modern materials. We should be able to build a structure that will be a national inspiration.
I turn now to the Department of External Affairs. The Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) appears to take the view that that department is his private property. If we ask him to supply us with certain information, as I did eight or ten weeks ago, sometimes he tells us that it would not bo appropriate to supply it. I believe that one of the most important jobs of the Department of External Affairs is to supply the members of this Parliament - the people who should make national decisions - with the information necessary to enable them to make those decisions.
Honorable members on this side of the House have been told that they have not been constructive in their proposals. Our proposals, briefly, are that we should rehabilitate the public finances of this country by making public investment more attractive. General Motors-Holden’s Limited was referred to by my friend, the honorable member for Yarra (.M.r. Cairns), whose remarks on that subject were commented on by ray friend, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson).
– Much to the discomfiture of the honorable member for Yarra.
– That is not so. General Motors-Holden’s Limited is ploughing back into its capital structure money taken from its customers. The customers are paying for the development and expansion of that company, but they have no say in its control. If General Motors-Holden’s Limited were to finance the expansion of its business by public investment, through the shore market, the shareholders would have some say, bowever slight, in the management of the business. The present system of financing expansion through private investment does two things. First, it makes private investment more profitable and, therefore, more attractive than public investment; and, secondly, it places the power of wealth in. the hands of fewer and fewer people.
We shall have to develop om- trade, and, as was explained by the honorable member for Batman (M>. Bird), we shall have to break through the international curtain. ‘ There is an interesting item under the heading “Trade Publicity”. It appears that we shall spend £54,000 on trade publicity in the United Kingdom and only £19,000 on trade publicity in countries other than the United Kingdom. So we shall spend most of the money allocated for trade publicity in a country which already buys the greatest part of our exports. Our export list covers many other countries, and our trade publicity drive could well be directed at those countries. There is no hope that we shall expand our export trade to any considerable degree unless we recognize the fact that a vast area of the surface of the world is not, so to speak, acknowledged by this Government. If we refuse to trade with Russia and China, we shall be cutting off the country’s nose to spite its face. It is essential for the development of the nation that this Government shall adopt a more realistic and constructive attitude to the public finances of the country.
.- The purpose of this bill is to grant approximately £160,000,000 to_ Her Majesty for the purpose of carrying on the government of the country from the end of June until the time when the budget for the next financial year has been passed by the Parliament. Some honorable members have used this debate as a vehicle for the discussion of matters affecting their electorates, but, generally speaking, the Opposition has used it as a vehicle for criticizing the Government. There is nothing unusual about that, but some unusual remarks have been made. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), in his concluding remarks, said that we were not trading with Russia and red China.
– We are trading with them, but not enough.
– I shall not deal with the subject of red China now. The fact that we are not trading with Russia, or that we are not trading with it to the degree desired by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie), is not the fault of this Government. The Russians packed up their traps and got out of this country because they were not prepared to stay here and face the music of an inquiry.
– Mr. Petrov !
– The honorable member knows just as well as I do why the Russians moved out. If the Russians want to trade with this country, it is up to them to make the first advance. If they do so, I am certain that we shall be quite prepared to trade with them. However, i do not intend to bother about those things at the moment. The honorable member for Wills referred to an Army camp at Scrub Hill, a few miles from Puckapunyal. I understood him to say that it was marked on the map as a bivouac area. If the story that the honorable member told us was correct - I do not question his word for a moment - I hope that, before he raised the matter in the House, he discussed it seriously with the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer).
– >Why should he do so? This is the place to air grievances.
– I am not complaining because the honorable member for Wills discussed the matter in the House. But the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), as an exserviceman, should know that, if such a state of affairs existed at the camp at Scrub Hill, it was the bounden duty of the honorable member for Wills, as a representative of the people of this country and, particularly, of men who are prepared to devote their spare time to the armed forces, as soon as he became aware of it, immediately to take the matter up with the responsible authorities and endeavour to have the position rectified. I am surprised that the honorable member for Lalor, as an old soldier and an ex-officer, does not take the view that a member of the Parliament should discuss such a matter with the responsible authorities, in order that the conditions under which men serve in the armed forces shall be the best possible. I should hate to remind the honorable member for Lalor of something that he said years ago about prisoners of war.
– You can tell it as often as you like.
– I want to deal now with some remarks that were made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). Earlier to-day, he spoke about the little horror budget, as he called it, and said that, in the next twelve months, the Government would gather in £115,000,000 additional revenue. He left the subject there, and went on to deal with pensions, housing and schools. The honorable member for Melbourne is the gentleman who, when this Government first took office, announced from his place in this House that the job pf the Labour party would be to go into the streets, the alleyways and the byways and inculcate in the minds of the people the idea that they should have no truck with this Government and that they should offer to it all the resistance possible.
The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) and the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) say “ Hear, hear I “ to that. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is still advocating that the shearers should continue their strike and hold the country to ransom. As a big-shot in the Labour party, so I understand, he must realize that when that dispute has been finally settled, the persons who will have to pay for it will be the ordinary man and woman in the street. Any damage that the dispute causes to the economy of this country will have to be repaired by the people - the producers and the consumers. Despite what the honorable member for Hindmarsh, or Mr. Davis and Mr. Dougherty of the Australian Workers Union, have to say in advising the shearers, nobody can deny that ultimately the cost of the dispute will be borne by the primary producer and by the man and woman in the street.
I will not be side-tracked. I still intend to say my little piece about the £115,000,000 which the so-called little horror budget will raise during the next financial year. Nobody knows better than does the honorable member for Melbourne that in the next financial year this Government will have to find £115,000,000 to pay to bond-holders whose bonds will mature in that year. If he does not wish this Government to raise this money, does he not wish this Government to be in a position to honour its obligations to those persons who, during the war years and immediately afterwards, loaned their money to the Government? Does he want the Government to repudiate? He says neither one thing nor the other, like the chap who wants to have a couple of shillings each way on a racehorse. He leaves with thepeople the impression that the Government is just gathering in money for thesake of gathering in money. He was followed in the debate by his colleague, the honorable member for MelbournePorts (Mr. Crean), who has been lauded by members of the Australian Labourparty as the future Treasurer.
– Hear, hear!
– It will be a long time before he obtains that position. He also spoke in like vein. He said that the Commonwealth had surpluses which, instead of going back to the States, as the Constitution provided, were being put away in debt sinking funds or trust funds. The money is certainly being paid into’ trust funds, but from those trust funds it is being paid to the States. Over the past four or five years, this Government has, by taxing the people, found no less a sum than £400,000,000 to augment the loan programmes of the States. That is where the surpluses have gone. I join issue with those two honorable gentlemen on those points. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports, being a member of the Public Accounts Committee, and being held forth by the Australian Labour party as the future Treasurer, knows just as well as anybody else in this Parliament that that is where the money is going, yet these gentlemen stand up in their places and put over these stories, implying all the time that the Government has been doing nothing during its period of office other than gathering in money and putting it in its own coffersThey know full well that this money is going back to the States to help their current loan programmes. They know that the Government will finish this year with a surplus of £47,000,000, but unless it raises £30,000,000 which is currently being sought on the loan market, it will have to provide not only this £47,000,000, but also £20,000,000 out of the “ little horror budget “, as honorable members opposite term it, and make up any difference between the amount raised and the £30,000,000 required. In all, the Government has to find £93,000,000 for the State governments by the 30th June.
– Now, £1 buys only half as much as the Chifley £1 bought.
– It is amazing that twice as much work is done as was done under the Chifley Government. The Government of which the honorable member for ‘Lalor (Mr. Pollard) was a member did only half the work that this Government has done. He knows that in relation to war service homes this Government has, in five years, provided more war service homes than the War Service Homes Division built during the previous 30 years. The same position exists in regard to housing. Under this Government, 78,000 homes have been completed every year. It is of no use for the honorable gentleman to try to argue against this contention, because the statistics show that it is true. Every time I rise to my feet and direct attention to these facts, the honorable member for Lalor seems to take some exception to my doing so.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports also said that we are not obtaining loan moneys and that this Government is at fault. Once again I must remind honorable members opposite that one of the reasons why loans are not being completely filled is the attitude of all of the State governments, whether Liberal, Labour or Australian Country party. They have not grasped the nettle and tackled the problem of hire purchase. I repeat that I am not opposed to hire purchase, as a principle. In fact, I consider that it is a good scheme. There are many people who are affluent to-day but who have, at some time during their lifetime, had resort to hire purchase in order to get what they needed. I have no quibble with that and no argument whatever against it, but I have an argument with the State governments, which allow hire-purchase companies and banks operating within their own jurisdiction under State company laws, to drag out of the people interest rates of 18 per cent, and 20 per cent. I do not care what type of government is concerned. I have said before in this Parliament that it ill betides members of the Australian Labour party, as an organized political party, to come into this chamber and talk about the difficulty of raising loan moneys for works programmes, knowing all the time that their own colleagues, their con temporaries in the State parliaments, are doing nothing to check a position which is rife in the country to-day. I was glad to read only this week a newspaper report that the Australian Wheat Growers Federation at its meeting in Sydney directed the workers’ attention to this matter.
The honorable member for Melbourne Ports speaks about a priority for works. I think you know, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that at the first and second conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers held after this Government first took office, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) suggested to the Premiers that they should get together and form a steering committee with a view to achieving some semblance of order in developmental works throughout the length of breadth of Australia. What happened? When the conference met again, the first gentleman to throw cold water on that suggestion was the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr. McGirr, and the only Premier who showed any realization of the need to put things in order was the Premier of Victoria, Mr. McDonald, who had on his hands three water problems, one with the Eildon Weir, a second at Kiewa, and a third somewhere else. Three organizations or groups of persons were snarling at him all the time, but he awoke to the value of finishing one joh first and getting rid of it, and then having only two groups to contend with, and so on. I do not know of three works which were completed more quickly than were those three projects.
– What did Mr. Playford and Mr. McLarty say to the Prime Minister’s suggestion?
– The honorable member for Werriwa is interjecting from other than his correct place, and I direct your attention to it, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, although I do not want you to take any action because he is a great friend of mine. The two Premiers whom he mentioned were given no opportunity because his friend, Mr. McGirr, from New South Wales, stopped any further discussion on the subject. It was a case of one in, all in, or one out, all out. Priority of works has been the concern of this Government, but the State governments have not yet seen fit to play. Finally-
– I have not yet finished; I am just getting my second wind. I have yet to finish with the honorable member for Melbourne, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. I hope that all honorable members, and members of the public generally, will take note that he said today -
When Labour again occupies the treasury bench, the Government parties can expect to be like their colleagues in Queensland. We will attend to that.
What did he mean by that? I can recall that the same honorable member, when he was Minister for Immigration, said that we, who were then in Opposition, would be in Opposition for twenty years, but we defeated the Australian Labour party in 1949. What did the honorable member mean by his statement to-day? As far as I can see, he meant nothing other than that the Australian Labour party will, at long last, implement the plank of its platform which provides for getting rid of the Senate, although the honorable member and his supporters will first have to fight some of their colleagues in another place in order to achieve their objective. They had an opportunity to give effect to that plank of their policy a few years ago, but they would not take it. The next step, apparently, will be to gerrymander the seats in the same way as the Labour Government in Queensland has done. Is that their idea?
– They are experts at it.
– As my friend, the honorable member for Swan says, they are experts at gerrymandering. The honorable member for Melbourne said that we could expect to be in the same position as our colleagues in Queensland. Why did he pick Queensland? It was because that is where the greatest gerrymandering of seats has taken place.
– Not Queensland, but South Australia.
– I agree that there may have been some small semblance of it in South Australia, but the real experts are the Queensland boys. There is not the slightest doubt of that as I think that honorable members opposite will agree with me to the hilt. I hope that the people of Australia will bear those words well in mind and will ensure that the Australian Labour party does not get an opportunity to put into effect thepolicy that was enunciated to-day by the honorable member for Melbourne. One never knows what honorable members opposite have in their minds, and they are prepared to hang on for a long time in order to achieve their objective. It is up to honorable members on this side of the House to see that the people do not fall for their tricks.
Now I wish to refer to Western Australia. I hope that I will not be accused of working the parish pump, because the area about which I propose to speak is far removed from the division that I represent. First, I congratulate the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. H. V. Johnson) for asking the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) yesterday whether he would endeavour to arrange with the Western Australian Government for the parliamentary party that is to visit the Northern Territory during the recess to include part of Western Australia in its tour. I sincerely hope - and I feel certain that the Minister does likewise - that the Western Australian Government will see fit to enter into the spirit of this visit, and that it will arrange for this party to go into the north-west of Western Australia. If the Western Australian Government says that it cannot do anything about the matter, I hope that this Government will endeavour to arrange for the party to visit that area and will meet the expenses so incurred. 1 am as convinced as I possibly can be that, if this party pays a visit to the Ord River area and to the north-west of Western Australia down to the Fitzroy River, it will come back and be able to enlighten, not only other members of the Parliament, but also people on the eastern seaboard. If we look at the map of Australia, we find that the 32nd parallel of latitude, which is a few miles south of Perth, cuts through Gloucester and Taree, which are very close to Newcastle, in New South Wales. The same parallel of latitude that passes through Wyndham also passes very close to Cooktown in
Queensland. That will give the House an idea of the area of territory and lies between Perth and the northernmost port of Wyndham. I am certain that it would be to the benefit of the whole country if arrangements were made for this area to be included in the tour.
I feel that the Western Australian Government will never be able to develop or satisfactorily look after that area unless it sets up an administration in the north in the vicinity of Broome or Derby. It can never properly be looked after from the seat of government in Perth. In the 1920’s, I think, the Commonwealth Government made an offer to Western Australia to purchase or take over that part of Western Australia which lies above the 26th parallel of latitude and to add it to the Northern Territory, but at that time Western Australia did not see fit to accept the offer. In recent years, there has been a lot of prospecting for oil, and I know that the feeling of people in the south of that State to-day is that they should not let the area go because the oil might be of some benefit to them. Doubtless it would be of benefit, but, irrespective of what else is done, at some time or other the northern part of Western Australia must become a separate state, because it cannot be developed satisfactorily by a government that is situated in the south.
– The blacks might take it back.
– That remark shows the complete ignorance of my colleague from Queensland, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), who does not know the area to which I am referring. He advocates the formation qf a new State in Queensland, so I presume that he will support me later in relation to this matter. The parallel of latitude that runs through Broome runs right through Rockhampton, where he lives.
– And which he temporarily represents.
– He has represented it with such efficiency over the last six years that T feel certain that he will continue to represent it until he decides to retire. Somebody must tackle the problem of the north-west of Western Australia. It is too big for the resources, the population and the finances of thatState. It is one of the most vulnerable sections of the Australian coastline. People talk about the defence of the eastern seaboard, but I remind them that the coast from Darwin down to Exmouth Gulf, which the Americans used during the last war as a submarine base, is as wide open as is the ocean. If an aggressor were to establish a bridgehead there, we would have to move him. We should be tackling the problem now so that such a bridgehead could not be established. One of the first steps that should be taken is the holding of a plebiscite amongst residents north of the 26th parallel to ascertain whether they wish to remain under the control of the Western Australian Government or be transferred to Commonwealth territory. If they choose to be transferred to Commonwealth territory, we could take a cue from the establishment years ago of the Development and Migration Commission and think about the appointment of a commission to formulate a policy for the development of the Northern Territory and the northwest of Western Australia. Such a policy should not be subject to fluctuation, as has happened in the past, simply because a new government chooses to reject what a previous government laid down as part of its policy. We must look ahead. We on this side of the House know that we will not be in government for all time, but I hope we will be here long enough to establish such a commission and to have its work so far completed that it would be very difficult for the socialists, if they got the opportunity - and we pray to God that they never will - to sit in government for a short time, to undo what had already been done.
The recess i3 not very far distant, and the Parliamentary party will soon be visiting the Northern Territory. I, like the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, would like it to have a look at the Ord River area, the Fitzroy River area, Yampi Sound and Glenroy. My colleague, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) is sitting at the table smiling. He has seen these places, and he knows that it would be an education for members of the party if they were able to visit this area, which is one of the most vulnerable in. Australia. Its development is lagging, not because of a lack of the right type of people, but because of a lack of finance and a co-ordinated policy for its development parallel with that of the Northern Territory.
– What about visiting Victoria ?
– The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) refers to that delectable pocket handkerchief garden State of Victoria. I am talking about’ millions of square miles - the wide open spaces. I repeat that I hope that the Minister for Territories will be able to arrange for the party to visit this area. I feel certain that they would enjoy it. I feel certain, too, that in the very near future members of the Parliament will realize just how open the area is, and will ensure that a suitable body is appointed to lay down a policy for its development instead of continuing to do what has been done since federation.
.- The honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) has just indulged in flights of fancy. For two-thirds of his speech he sought to offer certain strictures of members of the Opposition regarding questions of public policy that have engaged the minds of the people and of members of this Parliament. He referred to the part that the Labour party has played in meeting the present” financial position. When the supplementary budget was introduced, we were told of the grave situation that exists and how public works have to he financed out of revenue rather than from loan moneys. The honorable member sought to place a certain amount of the responsibility for that situation on the shoulders of members of the Opposition. He suggested that they have not been willing to encourage subscriptions to government loans. I say to the honorable member that if there are any shortcomings in the provision of money for the purposes that he mentioned, then the Government is entirely responsible. It has discouraged public subscriptions to these loans.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has brought about a general depression of the value of a considerable number of bond holdings to the point where people do not feel disposed to contribute to loans that are being raised for public works. In what marked contrast that is to the experience of the Labour government that was able to finance a war out of loan moneys and revenues that were collected from within this country! That government was not required to go outside Australia for one single penny to fulfil its obligations. But the Menzies Government is anxious to provide the means to enable its friends to obtain increased returns. Private banking institutions subscribe to public loans, and the rate of interest is raised. The Government does not take any action to maintain the value of subscriptions to earlier loans. As a result, many people, particularly the poorer sections of the community, are to-day being denied the advantage of the rate of interest that they should receive on subscriptions that they made to help the nation in its extremity.
If there is any responsibility to bt borne for the failure of recent loan issues, then that responsibility rests primarily on this Government. It has made the people feel that no guarantee is assured to them that their money will be repaid in full if they need to sell their bonds for any reason. There should be some guarantee, as there was in the time of Mr. Chifley. If, because of any urgent need, the holders of bonds at that time had to realize upon them, they were paid the par value of at least £100 worth of bonds. Such a. scheme now would encourage public subscriptions to flow into Commonwealth loans at a greater rats than has been achieved in recent times.
There is another matter that I should like to bring to the notice of the honorable member for Canning and some oth:,1 members of this House. If they have not read the report of the Public Accounts Committee, I very earnestly suggest that they do so. If they do so, they will learn how certain departments, particularly the Department of Defence, ‘have been unwilling to budget properly for their essential needs. Unfortunately, moneys that they have not been able to use in the way that they had indicated originally have been diverted to certain trust funds. As a result, our budgets have been unduly inflated and the demand upon public moneys has been greater than it should have been. The time has surely come when this Parliament should consider exactly how far the Government has misled it in regard to public accounts. During the last budget session, I indicated that there had been no adequate explanation of certain moneys that were being put into trust funds. The findings of the Public Accounts Committee fully justifies the statement I made on that occasion and my request to the Government for more information about the special trust funds.
There are other allied subjects that I. should like to mention regarding the form of inflation that prevails to-day. Inflation is robbing every citizen of the value, both of his services and of the things he needs in order that he may live. This burden rests more heavily upon the poorer sections of the community - pensioners and aged people in homes that require the assistance of public subscriptions. They are at a disadvantage and suffer hardship because of these abnormal circumstances that are a part of the present economic position. The blame is attachable to the Government for its unwillingness to exercise control over some parts of the economic situation, particularly those dealing with prices and profits. Such control would bring the economy to a point where the agencies of government could relieve the problems of the people.
My principal purpose in rising to speak was to deal with a matter that was brought to my notice to-day in a communication from an organization in my constituency. This is a matter which, T feel, again justifies the belief that the administrations of certain departments are failing to realize the rights of men in the employment of the Government. The communication that I received concerns the position of peace officers at certain defence projects in Salisbury in South Australia.
– Are they members of the Commonwealth Investigation Service or of the security intelligence organization?
– I am not sure whether these officers come under the Prime Minister’s Department or the Department of Defence. I address my remarks, at the moment, to the appropriate Minister, whoever he may be. The organization covering the peace officers in that -district has informed me in the communication I mentioned that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction among the peace officers there because promotions which should have been made have not been made. The principal superintendent who is in charge of peace officers made a special trip from Canberra to Adelaide last January in order to examine the complaints of the men, and intimated to them before he returned to Canberra that he would make a decision on the matter within a few weeks and let them know the result. In April, as nothing had yet been done about the promotions, a deputation from the men approached the principal superintendent and asked him for a decision. He said to them, “Well, that is dealt with “ and gave no further information to the officials. Now, that is .all too indefinite. The position is that these men have waited since well before January, which was the month in which the principal superintendent visited Adelaide in connexion with their grievance, for the due promotions to be made, and they have not yet received any communication regarding the promotions. Naturally, they are dissatisfied.
Another grievance of the men is that some corporals are required to undertake the duties of sergeants and when they ask to be classified as acting sergeants, or to be promoted sergeants, are told that that cannot be done because they are not ex-servicemen. But there was a case of a peace officer being transferred from Penfield to a place called Maralinga, where there is another important project, and being made an acting sergeant there. He was then transferred back to Penfield and placed over men of more, senior service, men including an exserviceman whilst this man, I presume, is not an ex-serviceman. What kind of principle is that for a government agency to follow? Naturally, there is a great deal of discontent over the remarkable attitude adopted in the matter of promotions.
Another cause of dissatisfaction among the peace officers is that promotions have been given to new Australians in the peace officer service in preference to old Australians.
– Ex-servicemen ?
– Perhaps in preference to ex-servicemen. Whilst we should do our best to assimilate newcomers into the life and work of this country, and enable them to share liberally in all the advantages that we have to offer, in such positions, where security is the first consideration and where the occupants of them should have at least some record of trustworthiness and knowledge of the country and its conditions of life, the new arrivals should not be given preference over Australians born here or having years of citizenship. I ask, therefore, for an examination of that position.
The men concerned also have another grievance in regard to entitlement to uniforms, the supply of which is part of the tradition of their service or an emolument that attaches to their position. But there are many of those peace officers who have not yet received the full complement of clothing to which they are entitled. They are also dissatisfied with the lack of provision for adequate instruction in first aid and the use of firearms. No attempt is being made to provide the men with any adequate form of instruction in these essential matters. No wonder the members of the peace officers’ organization which has communicated with me are concerned about this official laxity! It is time somebody woke up and at least gave these men the equipment and the conditions of employment that they are entitled to receive in order to perform satisfactorily their duties in connexion with the security of important defence projects. So I appeal to the appropriate Minister to have an immediate examination made of these matters with a view to rectifying them as quickly as possible, in order to ensure that greater justice shall be done to people whose job it is to guard the security of defence projects.
.- At the outset, I should like to correct a mis apprehension from which the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) appears to suffer. There appeared in the press on Monday last a report of a meeting of wheat-growers in New South Wales, which passed a resolution condemning the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and the Government’s financial policy, which has forced primary producers to finance the purchase of essential equipment through hire-purchase companies at interest rates of approximately IS per cent., because the banks will not accommodate them. The resolution declared that the Government should adopt a banking policy designed to make the banks provide, at low interest rates, the financial accommodation required by farmers. Primary producers’ organizations in Victoria had previously asked for an investigation of the refusal of the private banks to give them credit at reasonable interest rates to enable the-, to obtain their legitimate requirement.1 of new equipment. The honorable member for Canning stated that the present situation is due to the inaction of the State governments. The primary producers’ organizations, however, declare that it is due to the Government’s banking policy under the banking legislation which is administered by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The Government has introduced depreciation allowances, which may be deducted from income for the assessment of income tax, in order to encourage primary producers to produce more commodities for export and thereby increase our overseas funds. It has also introduced legislation to establish the Export Payments Insurance Corporation, which will be financed by the Government, and which will assist to finance the export of both primary and secondary products. Yet, at the same time, this Government is responsible for the. robbing of primary producers by allowing them to be forced to pay interest at IS per cent, upon essential equipment bought on hire purchase, although the financial accommodation required should be provided by the banking institutions !
Australia inevitably faces serious economic difficulties, and the Government admits that we face difficulties. The Opposition, also, acknowledges that we are in difficulties. If the position is allowed to deteriorate further, unemployment and recession must follow. In the most simple terms, the main cause of unemployment is the inability of the people, owing to their reduced purchasing power, to buy the goods available. When the wage and salary earners and pensioners, who comprise the masses of the people, receive such low incomes that they cannot buy the available goods, the inevitable result of the reduction of their purchasing power is the destruction of the home market and the creation of gluts of primary and secondary goods, with consequent unemployment. The Government agrees that this probably is correct, but it adds that the present position is the result of high costs and excessive wages, and that it cannot pay adequate pensions because costs in industry are too great. Of course, it says nothing about the high profits made by companies. Opposition members maintain that the high industrial profits are the cause of our difficulties. The Government could make this clear to the people by a very easy means. In Norway, the taxation authorities issue particulars of the income and sources of income of all taxpayers. Throughout the time that I have had the honour to be a member of this Parliament, I have advocated a similar procedure in Australia. We need not make available in a given year the particulars for all taxpayers. We could, in one year, issue particulars of the incomes and sources of income of persons in receipt of more than £5,000 per annum, and, in another year, give particulars for those who receive between £4,000 and £5,000 annually. In this way, the whole of the information would ultimately be made available, and the people would be able to see, with some certainty, who is paying most of the taxation, who receives the biggest incomes, and the sources from which those incomes are derived. That information, made available to the entire community, would be of great assistance in the adoption of plans to stabilize our economy.
The system that I suggest would have many other advantages. Almost every day of every week in the political life of Australia, we hear accusations that some member of Parliament who belongs to one party or another has received from a big business enterprise, from an organization, or from individuals, a bribe or a gift designed to influence him in the discharge of his functions. If particulars of the incomes and sources of income of members of the Parliament were made public in the manner that I have suggested, imputations of corruption and dishonesty would carry no weight against the proven honorable discharge of their functions. On the other hand, if there be some people who are venial and who seek to make themselves wealthy by the misuse of their public positions and if they knew that their incomes and the sources of their income would be made public to all and sundry, they would hesitate to do those things that it is said some members of public bodies occasionally do. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to my proposal that the incomes of all taxpayers and the sources of those incomes be made public.
I believe that the sources from which people acquire their wealth should be known to a democratic community. If this suggestion were brought into operation honorable members on the Government side of the House would not have the audacity, in my opinion, to repeat that this country cannot afford to pay pensions of more than £4 10s. a week to the aged and the infirm, and that this country cannot afford to take care of the members of that fast-growing section of the community who have only their age pension to depend upon, who have to pay as much as £3 a week for a room, who are unable to take adequate care of themselves and who are unable to get into any institution because of lack of accommodation. All that the Government says is that this accommodation, cannot be provided because the community has not the funds.
I suggest, too, to the Government that, during the last few years, particularly since 1948, the price of property has skyrocketed. People who desire a housewhich, prior to 194S, could have been purchased for £800, now have to pay £4,000 to £5,000 for it. Those who- desire a farm in order to cultivate it and making a living have to pay an exorbitant amount. Soldier settlers who seek to secure a property under the conditions applied by the Government are told, in effect, “You can secure a property but the purchase price of that property is too high for you to be called upon to pay if you are to make a living from it. Therefore, we shall fix an economic value of the property.” The economic value of the property is, in nearly every case, £5,000 or more less than the price that the governments must pay for the land upon which they are putting soldier settlers. If soldier settlers can make a success of production only when they pay £5,000 less than the purchase price, how can any civilian hope to make a success of a farm when he has to pay for it the full purchase price as demanded by land-owners? It is utterly and absolutely impossible. Of course, people have made immense profits as the result of selling for £4,000 homes that they purchased for £600, and as a result of selling for £20,000 and more farms that they purchased for £5,000. The Government, of course, does not tax that profit. It is a capital increment and represents a contribution by the community to that particular section of the population.
Air. TURNBULL - The honorable member has said that money is now worth nothing, in any case.
– The honorable member for Mallee says that the money is worth nothing.
– I did not say that. You said that.
– I have never said that money is worth nothing. I am willing to accept as much money as the honorable gentleman likes to offer me. The facts that I am stating are irrefutable. They are not only irrefutable but they are irrefragable and, as such, the Government should pay attention to them. The whole process of the economy of this country since 1949 has been the transfer, not merely of income, but of assets and property from one section of the community to another. Ultimately, when the wage-earners went before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the court said to them, in effect, “ We have to freeze the quarterly adjustment. No longer shall you receive the amount which, previously we said was essential if you were to live at the same standard as you were living three months ago “. J Just recently, the court refused to reinstate the quarterly adjustments, but said, “As the cost of living has risen beyond 21s. a week since the quarterly adjustments were frozen, we will give to you 10s. a week. We will give you, in other words, Ils. less than the increase in the cost of living, despite the fact that some other members of the community are receiving the total amount of the increase, because this country cannot afford to pay to you the full amount. If the country did pay the full amount, unemployment would be inevitable “.
Let the Government demonstrate clearly to the people of this community by the periodical publication of the amount and source of incomes of all individuals whether this country can or cannot afford to pay to the workers, in a period which the members of the Government have described as a period of unprecedented prosperity, wages of equivalent purchasing power to those which they were receiving in days gone by. Let the Government demonstrate, if it can, that it cannot afford to pay age pensioners a bare subsistence allowance. Let the Government, if it can, prove to the community that it cannot provide adequate hospital accommodation and adequate shelter for the aged and infirm. I say that the Government will not. attempt to make available to the community the evidence that should be made available to it whereon the people could judge for themselves the capacity of this country to preserve their living standards and, if necessary, to improve them.
Before I resume my seat I should like to draw the attention of the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), particularly, to the fact that numbers of persons have accidents or suffer disabilities while they are in national service training camps.
These accidents and disabilities impair their capacity to earn their livelihood in the years that lie ahead. Not long ago, one trainee lost his arm while carrying out manoeuvres in a national service camp. Of course, he received compensation under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, but I think that the Government should remould the national service legislation so as to provide that those who suffer disabilities of that character and whose capacity to earn their livelihood is impaired while they are in the service of this country and are learning to defend it should be treated as the soldiers in World War II. were treated. They should be given pensions and allowances exactly the same as those paid to those who entered camp in order to serve the country in war time. I make that suggestion to the Government. I presume that, like most of my suggestions, it will fall upon deaf ears. As honorable members on this side have said, and despite the fact that the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton) scoffed at the suggestion, the fact is that the hour is drawing near when the Government of this country will once again be conducted by the Labour party.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Leslie) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate with” an amendment.
Motion (by Sir Eric Harrison) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Yesterday, in a question without notice, the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) alleged that delays were occurring in the Treasury in dealing with employees’ compensation claims from members of the Citizen Militia Force. In reply I said that first and foremost I should like to be assured that the blame was properly attributable to the Treasury. The honorable member replied that it was. I have had a report prepared on the matter. The honorable member mentioned making representations to the “ second “ secretary at Canberra, with regard to a claim that had still not been settled. That reference is undoubtedly to the First Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. 0. L. Hewitt, who is a delegate of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation. The facts are that on the 1st May, last, the honorable member had a telephone discussion with Mr. Hewitt concerning two compensation claims by members of the services, Mr. F. W. Marshall and Mr. D. H. Harrison. On the following day Mr. Hewitt wrote to the honorable member for Shortland regarding the two cases, and a copy of the letter can be produced. The honorable member has now advised that the case referred to in his question is that of Mr. D. H. Harrison, the person referred to in the second paragraph of Mr. Hewitt’s letter. As suggested in this letter, the case was not submitted to the Treasury. It was attended to by the delegate of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation stationed in the Department of the Army. That department has advised that a determination on the claim was made on the 16th May last, and that a cheque to cover the period of incapacity from the 15th March, 1956. to the 11th April, 1956, was forwarded to Mr. Harrison on the 21st May. On the 30th May a further cheque was forwarded for the period of incapacity from the 12th April, 1956, to the 4th May, 1956, on which date Harrison was certified as being able to resume work.
I make that explanation and give those facts in order to show that in this case, as in many others, blame has been wrongfully attributed to the Treasury.
.- After a silence of some weeks on the subject of the dried fruits industry, I wish to make a few remarks to-night on the matter. More than five months have elapsed since the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) said in his election policy speech in December, 1955 -
It is the desire and intention of the Government to have a satisfactory stabilization plan for the Australian dried fruits industry in operation for the next selling season.
Since then many conferences have been held between representatives of the Government and of the dried fruits industry. 1 think it is only reasonable now that I should ask the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to tell the House and the Australian people what has been the outcome of these conferences. I am not without certain knowledge about what has taken place, but I believe that all concerned should have full information, and that in no circumstances should there be any air of secrecy in these matters.
About two years ago, I suggested to a mass meeting of growers at Red Cliffs that they should seek stabilization of their industry on lines as near as possible to those adopted for the wheat industry. This suggestion was accepted by all present at the meeting, numbering at least 750, and all being men engaged in the growing of the fruit. After about eighteen months of advocacy, the principle of stabilization of the industry was accepted by the Government and, as I have already stated, was announced by the Prime Minister in his election speech.
The salient points to which I wish to direct attention are these: A costofproduction survey was carried out by the then Bureau of Agricultural Economics, the result of which was examined by the Government which then announced that it was prepared to accept, as the cost of production for the industry, £90 a ton sweat box basis. This assessment has not, as far as I know, been accepted by the industry. Then, after more conferences, the Government announced that it was prepared to stabilize the industry on what has become known as the “ give and take “ basis. The Government has stated that it is prepared to submit a plan to a ballot of growers whereby the cost-of- production figure will be £90 a ton, growers will not be asked to contribute to the stabilization fund until the price of the product is £12 10s. a ton above that cost-of-production figure, and growers will not benefit by any Government guarantee until the price of the product is £12 10s. a ton below the costofproduction figure. As was to be expected, the industry rejected this plan. With dried fruits sales being slow in the United Kingdom, where a substantial part of the industry’s export is sold, it has become increasingly necessary that a substantial first advance should be made to growers when fruit is delivered to packing sheds. This can only be achieved satisfactorily through a sound stabilization plan, with a Government guarantee based on the cost of production.
I ask the Minister this question : how can the Government stabilize an industry, in this instance the dried fruits industry, on the basis of a guarantee which is to be paid only when the price of the product, is £1 2 10s. a ton below the cost of production? It is an impossibility. The Government’s plan is scarcely a guarantee against a calamity, because if the price of fruit fell to £70 a ton, the guarantee would build it up to only £77 10s., which would still be £12 10s. less than the cost of production. Growers would be unable to meet their commitments, and in those circumstances by no flight of imagination could the industry be regarded as being stabilized. Furthermore, if, for some reason, such as a complete failure of overseas crops of dried fruits, the Australian growers received more than £102 10s. a ton, which is £12 10s. above the costofproduction figure, and they contributed, say, £500,000 to the stabilization fund, and for the next four years overseas crop yields were high and the price dropped to £80 a ton, being £10 below the costofproduction figure, the growers would not be able to touch their own money during those four years, even though they were faced with bankruptcy.
The industry can be stabilized only on the basis of cost of production. I suggest that growers should be given an opportunity to vote on a plan whereby they will contribute to the stabilization fund portion of the amount that they receive over the cost of production and will have the benefit of a Government guarantee immediately the export price falls below the cost of production. I urge the Government to give the industry a chance to adopt a plan such as I have suggested and, if it is necessary, to set up an authority along the lines of the Australian Wheat Board, in which ownership of the fruit will be vested. Let us overcome the technical difficulties so that substantial advances can be made to the growers in this important industry, in good years 80 per cent, of whose product is exported. Of this, a large portion goes to the United Kingdom. The growers merely ask to be allowed to share the privileges of those who enjoy the general standards of the Australian economy. My plan will assist to overcome the balance of payments problem and be generally beneficial to the industry and to Australia.
I know that these conferences have encountered difficulties and I ask the Minister to explain to-night, as fully as he can, what has been happening, and what plans have been made to stabilize the industry, which is in a very bad financial position. Though some honorable members on both sides of the House may smile, this is a vital matter. Some honorable members seem to think that because I speak so feelingly on this subject all of the Mallee is devoted to the production of dried fruits. In reality, only Sunraysia, Nyah, Woorinen and Robinvale are in the dried fruits area. Most of my electorate is devoted to the production of wheat, wool and other products of the soil, which grow prolifically in the region.
If every honorable member of this Parliament played his part he would advocate the stabilization of this important industry, in which so many soldier settlers are engaged. The Government has accepted the principle; let us now get down to practical details. I know that there has, perhaps, been difficulty in reaching agreement. Some time ago I asked a question of the Minister and he replied that it was up to the dried fruits industry to submit any plan ; but I take it that I, as the parliamentary representative of the growers, am entitled to submit a plan asking that the industry be stabilized on the lines of the wheat industry. I ask the Government to give that plan due consideration. The Government is well aware of the dire peril of the industry, and the great need for stabilization. I know that the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) is anxious to improve our overseas balances. I repeat that 80 per cent, of the output of the dried fruits industry is exported.
– What is the total income of the industry each year?
– The normal crop brings in approximately £8,000,000. If one takes into account acreage, more people are employed and sustained per acre than is the case in any other agricultural industry in Australia. I am not here to find fault with the Government but I ask the Minister to give an explanation of the matter.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not rise because I am bothered by anything that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has said about the dried fruits industry.
– But if I had not spoken the honorable member would not have risen.
– If it will be of any assistance to the honorable member, I will concede that if he had not spoken I should not have followed him. I have been waiting patiently for him, as the representative of this great agricultural area where good quality fruits are grown, to take the initiative.
– I took that months ago.
– I have been waiting for the honorable member to spur the Government on vigorously, because I thought that it was up to him to do so. I view the matter from another angle. Well over a month ago, I asked the Minister whether he would make available to this Parliament the findings of the Division of Agricultural Economics on the cost of production in this particular industry. As is not uncommon with Ministers of this Government, he said that he was not then prepared to make the findings available, but would ascertain whether it was possible to do so in due course. He did not honour that promise. I pointed out to him that the findings of the Division of Agricultural Economics on the cost of production in the wheat, butter, egg and other industries had been made available to the Parliament and to the public. I want to know why the figures for this industry were not made available. It occurs to me that possibly the Ministry found itself in some difficulty. The Government was doubtless confronted with a finding which convinced it that it could not, under a stabilization scheme, offer an adequate guaranteed price. If that were so, surely the Government could have had the courage to say, “ The cost of production has been found to be X pounds. We, as a Government, are not prepared to guarantee that figure, but we are prepared to guarantee Y pounds “.
– I take full responsibility for not having made them available to the honorable member. They will be sent to him to-night.
– Confession is surely good for the soul. At least the Minister is attempting to do the right thing, but it should not have been necessary for me, in order to get the information, to rise once more in this House. It is not unusual to find such things happening. As the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon) and the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) will find out if they ever bring a stabilization bill to this House, I know a great deal about the dried fruits industry. A stabilization plan must be brought before this Parliament at the earliest practicable moment if the industry is to stave off disaster. It is quite true, as the honorable member for Mallee has said, that the industry is comprised of small holders, about 90 per cent, of whom are returned soldiers. They now find themselves in a parlous position, and increased returns are necessary if they are to stay on their blocks. At present the United Kingdom owes the industry a large sum of money. I speak subject to correction, but I believe that of a total sum of £214,000 owing, only £70,000 has yet been received. I believe that the industry is pressing the Government hard for a further advance in anticipation of the final payments that are due to the growers of this fruit from United Kingdom sources.
I have been waiting quietly, hoping that we should hear some news during this session of the Parliament. I hope that, even at this late stage of the session, the proposals of the Ministry will be submitted to the Parliament so that not only the growers but also the members of the Parliament will have an opportunity to absorb the details of the plan. Stabilization schemes are mighty complicated things, as anybody knows who has had anything to do with them. First, one has to contend with the reactions of the growers. If the scheme is to be a democratic scheme, provision must be made for taking a poll of the growers. This is an industry which covers at least three, and possibly four States. Small quantities of these fruits are grown in Western Australia. So a poll of growers must be taken in four States. The Ministry must convince the growers that the plan it proposes to implement is worthy of their support. If the Government does not hurry up in this matter, we shall find that, although the dried fruits crop has been harvested, there is still no plan.
If these men are going to carry on for the forthcoming season, they will want to be able to plan their finances at least in anticipation of a guarantee of a reasonable cost of production. I cannot get any official information about this feature of the matter, but I understand that what has been suggested to the growers so far by the Ministry is completely unacceptable to the growers, for the reasons given by the honorable member for Mallee. I understand the Ministry’s difficulties. I went through trying periods such as this when I had ministerial responsibilities. These are not easy problems to deal with, but they should be grasped quickly and firmly. This Parliament should not be denied information about what the Government proposes, and the growers should not be left in a state of uncertainty.
The Government, with the cost of production statistics and all the technical information that can be garnered at its disposal at a minute’s notice, is now, and has been for six months, in a position to come out with a statesmanlike plan. It would receive the support of the Labour party if it did so, but it is hesitating and dithering. The man who knows all about these things is now on the high seas, on his way to look for markets overseas. I suggest that, before he left the country, he should have piloted through this House a stabilization bill that would have removed the doubts and anxieties that afflict the people engaged in this most important industry.
– Have you finished?
– If the Treasurer would like me to go on, I am prepared to do so for another hour.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, this is an important subject, and I think the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has done the industry a good service by initiating this debate. It ill becomes the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) to chide him, because, in all fairness, it must be admitted that the Opposition, when in government, was not conspicuous for constructive work as far as this industry was concerned. My only complaint, sir, is that this debate has begun at rather a late hour. I think most honorable members will agree that it would be more appropriate to the time of the evening if, instead of discussing dried vine fruits, we were discussing the liquid grape.
The problems confronting this industry can be grouped under three main headings. First, there is the matter that the honorable member for Lalor touched on - the payment for the balance of the 1954 crop by the United Kingdom Government under the support price scheme. The position, as I understand it, is that so far only £100,000 has been forthcoming of a total claim of approximately £270,000. In view of the interval of time that has elapsed, I think the Government will agree that there has been rather a serious lag. I know that the Minister is doing energetically what is possible in this regard, but nonetheless this has become a serious and embarrassing problem from the growers’ point of view. Secondly, there is the question of assistance for the growers of lexias. This matter has been put forward by the Australian Dried Fruits Association. It has been suggested that it is necessary to advance to these people about £368,000 to restore them to a position of sound economic viability.
Thirdly, sir, there is the matter which the honorable member for Mallee so rightly referred to. It is, of course, far more important, in the long range, than are the other two questions. It arises out of the Government’s proposal for a dried vine fruits stabilization plan. The facts concerning this matter have been stated by my colleague, and I do not propose to take up the time of the House by reiterating them.. Rather, I should like to remind the Government and honorable members of some of the general considerations underlying this industry. I think it is necessary that the Government should bear in mind - and this cannot be stated too often - that the dried fruits industry has not shared in the general prosperity which our other rural industries, by and large, have enjoyed in recent years. The growers have been beset by rising costs which, for the most part, have been entirely beyond their control. They have had the colossal misfortune of two extremely bad seasons in succession. Then - equally grave from their point of view - they have had to face over the years fiercely subsidized competition from our principal competitors. I refer to the
United States of America, to Turkey and to Greece. In addition, it should he remembered that both this Government and the previous Government stimulated the expansion of this industry through fairly extensive ex-service land settlement. That can be traced back to the end of the first world war. Quite properly, it was resumed in 1945, at the conclusion of the second world war. So far as South Australia is concerned - that is the aspect of the industry about which I can speak best - big ex-service land settlement schemes have been initiated by the Commonwealth and the South Australian government in the upper Murray areas, particularly in Cooltong, Loveday and Loxton. Those areas are now coming into full production. That is one of the serious aspects of the problem of which, I hope, the Government is aware. A very critical position will arise soon for those ex-servicemen settlers unless real stability is given to the industry.
We all know, sir, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in his policy speech of last November, promised quite unequivocally a stabilization scheme for the dried vine fruits industry. Those of us who are associated with the industry and are concerned with the rise and fall of its fortunes, know that very long and intricate negotiations have taken place between the Government and the Australian Dried Fruits Association in the last six months. It must be said, in justice, that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and his successor, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), have both been extremely patient in those negotiations, as have their officers. But the fact is that the scheme which ultimately was evolved and which the Government put to the growers has been rejected out of hand by them. In all fairness, I think it must be said that if honorable members of this House were in the position of the dried vine fruits producers they would not consider, even for a minute, accepting the scheme which has been put up. It simply is not good enough. It is not a stabilization scheme. It is a destitution scheme.
My plea to-night is for the Government to try again. I ask the
Minister not to be content to leave things as they are. With no doubt the best will in the world, the McEwen plan has failed. Let us hope that now the Minister for Primary Industry has taken over this department, the inventiveness of his brain will evolve a McMahon scheme which will succeed. I suggest as a first step to the honorable gentleman that, without wasting any more time about it, he invite representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association to come to Canberra and confer with him speedily, so that a scheme may be agreed upon and then got under way in order that it may become really effective for the 1956 selling season. I repeat that these are not idle words. This is a serious matter. Many thousands of men, most of whom are ex-service land settlers, have their fortunes and their future at stake. The Government should think again. It should think quickly, and I hope that it will act without any further delay.
– I rise to support broadly the remarks that have been made by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), but with some slight differences. As in the electorate of Mallee, in Victoria, in my electorate is located almost the whole of the dried vine fruits industry of Western Australia. The position in Western Australia is somewhat different from that in Victoria and South Australia, because the growers in my State are not so concerned with the very great problem faced by those who are relying to a substantial extent on lexia production. The honorable member for Angas has said that the lexia-grower is immensely concerned with attempts to stabilize the industry. In Western Australia, our main production is of currants, but the production of lexias, sultanas, and currants is so interwoven that it is almost impossible to separate them. The currant-growers would, in the stabilization scheme proposed by the Government, be more contributors to the scheme than benefactors from it, but they would undoubtedly require to be benefactors.
My main concern is to attempt to obtain for the growers a scheme whereby they can receive speedily an initial advance or a first payment under better conditions than exist now. That presents one of the greatest problems. The honorable member for Angas has referred to” the plight of persons engaged in the industry. It is an undeniable fact, as can be ascertained by any honorable member who cares to investigate the position, that few, if any, sections of the community enjoy - if one can use the term - a lower living standard than those persons who are engaged to-day in dried vine fruits production. That statement applies to all of them. In Western Australia conditions in some areas are such that many growers are obliged to work away from their properties for portion of the year.
– A similar position exists in Victoria.
– This state of affairs is not beneficial to production. It means that two jobs are only half done, because while the men are working away from their properties, obviously they cannot be attending to the requirements of the farms, and a dried, vine fruits farm requires attention throughout the year. So, an opportunity is lost to do work which should tend to increase production and so reduce costs, thus bringing the price received within comparable distance of the costs incurred. Because they are not able to do this work they will continue to travel along this unsatisfactory road, unless some plan on a broad basis is evolved for the industry. One of the essential needs is the initial advance. Some of the growers in my electorate, immediately their fruit is processed and in store, and while they have what might be considered a valuable asset, are compelled to leave the farm to earn money in order to keep themselves and their families. The amount advanced to them is totally inadequate to enable them to pay their bills and meet their ordinary living expenses. The result is that accounts from the previous year are not paid. What they receive is used to reduce their accounts and they have to earn money away from their farms in order to meet their living expenses. A greater initial advance is necessary to enable them to begin operations for the next season. The provision of such an advance is obviously tied to a stabilization scheme. I would not suggest to this Government or any other government that it should, willynilly, put its hands in its pockets in order te- pay money to growers or any other section of the community without knowing the probable worth of the asset which it desires to protect. Such a procedure would not be sound business because the Government would not have proper security. A stabilization scheme must be evolved if we are to achieve security for the growers. I understand that the Government’s give-and-take scheme has been rejected by the growers. I have been asked to ascertain from the growers in Western Australia whether they have or have not rejected it. Most of them do not even know the full details of the scheme which the Government has considered.
– The Government has not a scheme.
– It has a scheme, but the growers are not aware of its full details, and with due respect to the honorable member for Mallee, they are not sufficiently well informed to enable them to exercise an intelligent, vote in relation to the scheme. A give-and-take scheme, which has been submitted either to the Australian Dried Fruits Association or to some circle of persons in the know, a scheme whereby the growers are to contribute only after the price has risen to £12 10s. above the agreed cost of production, and to receive benefits only after the price has fallen to £12 10s. below the cost of production, is not a sensible scheme or one acceptable to the growers. The purpose of a stabilization scheme is like the purpose of an insurance scheme. Like our health insurance scheme, it is based on the principle that when you are well you make provision for the day when you are ill. While you are able to work you provide against the day when you are disabled. So the industry says, “We will secure the cost of production, and when the return is above that and we are showing a profit, from that profit we shall set aside something as a premium against the day when our return will be below the cost of production.” But as far as 1 can see, it would be entirely fallacious to say, “ You make a substantial profit - if that is possible in these uncertain days - before you contribute anything towards this insurance scheme, and you will be certain to suffer a very severe loss in your production before you receive any benefit in return.” A stabilization scheme evolved on that basis, I could quite understand, would not be acceptable, and is not acceptable to the growers whom I have heard discuss the matter. We do not know precisely what negotiations have taken place between the Government and the organizations concerned. The position is now one of urgency. I pay tribute to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) who, as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, consulted members of the industry and applied himself energetically in an effort to find a solution of the problem. I know that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) has continued those efforts, but I am concerned about the fact that possibly the discussions have been confined to a too limited field. The honorable member for Angas has suggested that, in view of the urgency of the situation, the Minister for Primary Industry should call together representatives of. the Australian Dried Fruits Association, but I suggest that he might well consider extending the field of discussion so that the worth-while activities that the Government has undertaken for some time might be more generally known.
– What has it done?
– I do not think any one in the world could assist the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) in his lamentable ignorance.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I have no intention of making a political speech about something which, on the one hand, constitutes a very difficult problem in formulating a stabilization scheme, and on the other, involves the livelihood of a great number of people. I am glad that so far the debate has proceeded on moderate lines, and I think that each honorable member who has spoken has tried to make a useful contribution to it. At the outset, I should like to offer an apology to my friend, the honorable member .for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). After he directed a certain question to me sometime ago, I gave instructions that a paper was to be prepared and forwarded to him. I was a little amazed to learn to-nigh that it had not been delivered. I asked one of the departmental officials why, and I was informed that it had been placed in the post to-night. Accidents do happen, and I must accept the responsibility for the delay.
I wish to refer now to the matter raised by my friends, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), and the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), in regard to the payment due from the United Kingdom Government. The point is that the contract was not between the United Kingdom Government and the Australian Government, but between the Commonwealth Dried. Fruits Control Board and the United Kingdom Ministry of Food. It was entered into at the end of the agreement then in existence, and certain lexias or raisins were sold at a price which the United Kingdom Government thought was fairly low. After considerable negotiation between the Australian Government, acting on behalf of the board, and the United Kingdom Ministry of Food, the United Kingdom Government agreed to a substantial payment but said that, with regard to the balance of the money owing, there was no legal obligation to pay. This Government has taken up the matter with the Crown Law authorities, and has instructed the Australian representatives in London to press to the limit of their capacity for the full payment. We are still in the middle of negotiations, ‘and we have some hopes that in the long run the full payment will be made. So the problem has not been forgotten. It is a matter now of negotiation between the United Kingdom Ministry of Food on the one hand and the Australian Government, acting on behalf of the board, on the other hand.
Certain honorable members have directed attention to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) gave an assurance in his policy speech that he would endeavour to have a stabilization scheme worked out in time for this season. We have tried to the best of our ability to formulate a scheme, but I do not think any one in the House expects the impossible to be done. It has just not been practicable to prepare a scheme and to present it to the House for approval. We have done what has been practicable, and we will continue, to the utmost of our ability, to try to have a satisfactory scheme drawn up and submitted to the growers.
I want to make it clear to the House that in matters of this kind the Government does not take the initiative. We have never attempted to take the control of an industry out of the hands of the producers or of their representatives. Under normal circumstances, if such an attempt were made, the growers would be the first people to be up in arms and ask that they be left alone to control their own affairs in their own way.
– The Government has not even presented an acceptable plan to them.
– If the honorable member will wait a minute, I shall give him the explanation. When representatives of the Australian Dried Fruits Association came to the Government and asked it whether it was prepared to negotiate for a stabilization scheme, the Government said “ Yes “. After a considerable period of time, and following discussions, first between the Minister for Trade and industry representatives, and later between the Minister for Trade, myself and industry representatives, a scheme was prepared and submitted to the Government. The recommendations were in fact presented to the Government by persons elected by the growers to represent them in relation to the production and sale of dried vine fruits. It will be noted, therefore, that the matter is proceeding in accordance with the usual practice, and as it would have proceeded if the honorable member for Lalor were the responsible Minister. The growers elected their representatives and those representatives submitted their, proposals to the Government. Let me make it clear that the proposal submitted by the industry representatives envisaged what is called a give-and-take scheme. It was prepared on the basis of an average cost of production, which was established at £90 a ton. It was proposed that the growers should not be asked to contribute until the return to them was £10 greater than the cost of production and that the Australian Government should not contribute until the return fell to £10 less than the cost of production.
– The Minister would not expect them to accept that, would he ?
– I am outlining what the industry representatives submitted to the Government. I am stating in clear terms that the practice in the past has been for the industry representatives to come to the Government with a proposal. On this occasion, the industry representatives, after discussion with officials and members of the Government, said, in substance, “ We want a scheme based upon a give or take of £10.” The Government had a look at the proposal, remembering, first of all, that the industry representatives had said that they wanted a scheme which would give to the producer an incentive to get into greater production, and that therefore they did not want a strict costofproduction scheme. They said they wanted a degree of flexibility and that they wanted something over and above the normal cost of production to be retained by the grower. The Government remembered also that it had a responsibility in respect of the public purse, and had to make certain that it did not introduce a scheme that would lead to an excessive permanent government contribution towards the welfare of the industry. The Government decided that, in principle, it would accept a scheme along the lines of that submitted by the representatives of the dried fruit growers.
– Was that not in respect of only one State?
– No, it was submitted by the management committee of the Australian Dried Emits Association, which represents the growers in all States in which currants, sultanas and lexias are grown.
– The federal council of the association has rejected it.
– The association represents growers in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, and a few in the Mumimbidgee irrigation area. So, it represents the lot. The Government had a look at the proposal. It decided that the scheme which would be acceptable to it would be one based substantially on the concept nut forward but varied so as to have a give-and-take of £12 10s. In other words, the Government looked at the matter on the basis of protecting the public interest and the public purse and at the same time giving an incentive to the industry along the lines recommended by the industry’s own leaders.
I notice that my time is passing fairly quickly, so I say in conclusion that, first of all, the Government is eager to help. It cannot do the impossible, but it will keep trying to compile an acceptable scheme. What has happened now is that the full committee of the Australian Dried Emits Association has met and has decided not to accept the Government’s scheme. It has said to us, “ The matter is now in the hands of the management committee. It will submit further recommendations to you after its meeting on or about the 10th June “. Until then there is a gap. Until then the Government cannot take the initiative and, therefore, we are waiting until after the meeting that is to be held on the 10th June, or thereabouts, when fresh proposals will be put to us. We will be very happy to consider them because, as I have said, the Prime Minister and the Government are eager that a workable and effective dried fruits industry scheme be introduced.
.- I wish to raise the matter of the serious shortage of shipping for the transport of two of Tasmania’s most important products - potatoes and timber. At the present moment, they are caught in a shipping bottleneck. We have heard enough about dried fruits to-night to give us indigestion. I wish to speak about an edible commodity - potatoes - and ‘ I should like the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to listen to what I have to say. He is prepared to listen to the case submitted by Government supporters for the dried fruits industry, but he walks out of the House when I wish to raise a very important matter. This action is typical of the sheer ineptitude of this Government.
– I am here.
– I withdraw my statement.
Conversation being audible,
– Order ! Will honorable members be quiet!
– The honorable member for Wilmot should apologize to the Minister.
– I said that I withdraw the statement. Is not that enough ? The Minister had to be forced to come back. Now that we have some kind of sanity again, I should like to point out the situation. We, in Tasmania, have been fighting for several months now to get our potato crop to the mainland. Tasmania is not only an apple-growing island ; during the war years, we grew 3,000.000 sacks of potatoes a year. That production has been reduced by various factors to under 1,000,000 sacks a year. Victoria and New South Wales at the present juncture are yelling out for potatoes. Sydney merchants even tried yesterday to divert to Sydney a New Zealand ship going from Tasmania to Auckland with potatoes, because the position is so desperate in New South Wales. I give the Minister for Primary Industry credit for being an energetic Minister. When he was appointed. I did not think he would be worth much to the primary industries because I wondered bow a member of the legal profession could know anything about potatoes, corn or any other product of the soil. But he is doing a very good job, and I want to pay that tribute to him. In spite of the interjections that greet my statement, I will stick to that opinion of him. Up to date he has not had much to do with this problem in Tasmania, but I feel we will have to call on his services to try to break the shipping bottleneck that is causing the Victorian and New South Wales people to go without potatoes.
At the present juncture, between 20,000 and 30,000 tons of potatoes are on the farms in Northern Tasmania and are awaiting shipment to Victoria and New South Wales. In the last 24 hours the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) has said that only one little ship, Mernoo, is available during the next twelve or fourteen days. It will take only 15,000 sacks out of a total of 20,000 tons that has accumulated. That would not be enough to provide chips in the shops in Sydney for one night.
That is the situation. If this Government does not do something within the next fortnight or three weeks to help the potato growers of Tasmania to get their potatoes to the mainland, I say definitely that it will have betrayed the primary producers of that State since its election promises in December last year. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) came to our State then and in the very airy fairy language that he uses so capably, he said “We will see that Tasmania gets sufficient shipping for all its production that it wants to export to the mainland.” In the last three months the position has deteriorated to such a degree that 20,000 tons of potatoes are piled up.
The timber merchants and millers are waiting to get 8,000,000 super, feet of timber to the mainland markets. We have asked for two extra ships to move that accumulation, but the Department of Shipping and Transport cannot give us any additional vessels. It cannot provide extra ships even for our potatoes, which are a foodstuff and, therefore, more important than the timber. What can be more important to the Government than the foodstuffs that I am speaking about - the potatoes from Tasmania? I mention this matter also on behalf of my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and on behalf of the Liberal members from Tasmania. I include them, because I want to be fair.
We have all been fighting to have these potatoes moved. Victoria is absolutely starving for potatoes; its own crop is a failure. We have the best potatoes grown in Australia - the Brownells and the Bismarcks. A special effort should be made by the heads of the Department of Shipping and Transport and the Government to get these potatoes to the mainland within the next month, or they will deteriorate to such an extent that they will not be even worth digging in the paddocks. The honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Luck) has many potatogrowers in his electorate. There are many of them also in my electorate, in the northern section of Wilmot. He has not spoken on this matter, but I shall speak for him, because he is backing me up. I say that we must have more ships for Tasmania. If he does not support me on that issue, I will be very surprised.
One miller in the south of my electorate has made a statement that he has 250,000 feet of timber to move. He has said that if the timber cannot be moved within the next two months, a lot of these men will have to go out of production. They cannot afford to store timber for long because it deteriorates to such an extent that by the time it gets to the ships it will be rejected as unsuitable for export. Tasmania is losing the mainland markets while this is going on. To whom? To Borneo and Malayan timber men who are exporting excellent quality timber to Australia at the present time in everincreasing quantities. I think 56,000,000 super, feet came into Australia in the last twelve months from Borneo and Malaya. We in Tasmania are losing our mainland markets to those people in the north. I suggest that that is because we have not sufficient ships to move our cargoes, and I ask that the Government make those ships available to enable Tasmanian growers to supply Victorian and New South Wales people with the potatoes that they need so badly and with the timber urgently required also.
Mr. GRIFFITHS (Shortland) £11.41]. - I wish to refer to the reply given by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) to a question that I asked him yesterday, and I am pleased to see that he is now present in the House. The Treasurer indicated that on the 1st May I had referred the cases of two men to the second secretary of the Treasury. One was that of a man named Marshall, and the other of a man named Harrison. Although I have been investigating these cases for 30 days, I have not yet received the courtesy of a reply to my requests from anywhere. I approached the secretary of the. Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), and he did everything possible to try to obtain some information for me in relation to these cases. However, he could not get it, and Mr. Hewitt of the Treasury was also most courteous in his attention, but he also could not get me any satisfaction.
I welcome the statement made by the Treasurer, because in it he indicated that one case had been finalized. However, I desire it to be noted that the Treasurer indicated some 30 hours after I had asked him the question that he had been able to get a report which nobody else had been able to get for a month. He said that on the 16th May, Marshall was paid certain moneys for the period from the 15th March to the 11th April. Following that, he said that payment was made from the 12th April onwards. I have a letter before me which I received yesterday from Harrison. The letter was written from Belmont and is dated the 22nd May, so quite possibly it arrived here last Friday. The letter reads, in part, as follows: -
However, when a man is out of work ten weeks and has spent his savings and also has a pile of bills, it is only natural he will want to know what is being ‘done for him.
I say to the Treasurer that if the Treasury is not to blame for this delay, I would like him to do something to ensure that in the future other departments will not be allowed to delay cases of this kind longer than necessary. Since I have been in this Parliament during the last six and a half years, and especially since national service training has been in force, I have put forward cases for the payment of compensation. I remember, for example, the Stockton Bight tragedy. Months and months passed before one widowed mother was able to get compensation, and then she received only £400 for the loss of her son. The others have not received any compensation. I want to know whether the relatives of those who died in the Garra Creek tragedy have yet received any compensation. Further, I want the House to note that the Treasurer has not said anything in relation to the case of Marshall.
Let me now tell the story of Marshall, so that honorable members will be able to decide whether the Treasury is to blame. In this case, Mr. Hewitt himself admitted that the Treasury had examined the papers and was going to call for a medical board. Marshall signed up for twelve years with the Royal Australian Navy at the age of twenty years after the completion of his apprenticeship as a boilermaker. He was then in the best of health, and after ten years he was thrown out of the Navy like a shaggy dog and has had nothing done for him by the Navy from that time to the present time. He has a wife and three children to look after, but the Repatriation Department denies responsibility for his complaint - which is neurosis - and the Commonwealth employees compensation authorities say that they will give him a medical board. This man was an engine room artificer who served in Glory and Sydney and travelled round the world in the Navy. In his case the Commonwealth broke its contract with him because he did not get out of the Navy hut was thrown out, and to-day he has a lightduty gardening job which he obtained a week ago at the abattoirs in Newcastle through the efforts of myself and aldermen of the Newcastle City Council. We do not know whether he can continue tha t work because his health is so bad; and his wife and children have been on the verge of starvation because nothing has been done for them by the Department, of the Navy, the Treasury or the Commonwealth employees compensation authorities.
I took this man’s discharge papers to the secretary of the Minister for the Navy, and he said he could not understand it. That was a fortnight ago, hut nothing has been done in his case although he served for ten years in the Defence Forces of this country, including three years on Manus Island guarding Japanese prisoners of war, where he contracted dermatitis, which covered his body from head to foot. Yet, the Department of the Navy has stated that it is not responsible for his condition. I ask the Treasurer to investigate that case and ascertain who is to blame. Marshall was discharged last November, but to the present time nothing has been done for him in regard to compensation, repatriation or any other payment for his service in the Navy, although the Commonwealth broke its contract with him two years before it was to end.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– Order ! The right honorable member has already spoken.
– I desire to speak to the motion in reply to the honorable member who has completed his speech.
– Order ! The right honorable gentleman has not that right.
.- A week ago I directed the attention of the Government to the tragic plight of an exserviceman, and waited patiently thinking that I would get some reply about the action that the Government proposed to take to rectify the wrong that it had done to this man. So far the Government has maintained its silence. In the meantime I have been in touch with this unfortunate ex-serviceman, and although I was unable to give his name on the last occasion because I had not received his consent to reveal it I am now able to do so. His name is Mr. Lawrence Atkins, and he is now in the Royal Ryde Home, Morrison-road, Ryde, which is regarded as a home for incurables. When I first stated this man’s case I said that it should be unnecessary to make a statement such as this, but I now say that he -will probably end his days in this home as far as this Government is concerned. He has both legs crippled, his hands have become calcified and his eyes became affected. One eye was removed in 1951 and the second in 1953, so that he is now totally blind. But, all that the Government gives him is a 25 per cent, war pension. He is trying to eke out an existence on that, and every honorable member knows exactly the paltry amount represented by a 25 per cent, war pension.
Because time will not permit me to go into much detail, I shall quickly outline the circumstances of’ this man’s service. He enlisted on the 9th December, 1941. and was passed as medically fit. On the 16th April, 1942, he was examined by an orthopedic surgeon and declared to be unfit. On the 24th April, he went before a medical board and the board declared him unfit for service, suffering from chronic rheumatism, and declared his disability to be 15 per cent, with a review in three months time. The matter was referred to the Deputy Director of Medical Services at base head-quarters Eastern Command, Sydney, and he altered the finding of the medical board and declared the man to be permanently unfit and admitted him to hospital for treatment. On the 6th June, 1942, a radiologist reported that appearances suggested chronic arthritis. On the 1st August, 1942, LieutenantColonel Anderson declared the man to be permanently unfit for service; on the 14th August, a further medical board disagreed with Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson’s opinion, declared the man’s disability to be merely 10 per cent. and. in addition, classified him as medical class Bl. For the next two and a half years, although he had been declared to be suffering from chronic arthritis, he served in the Pacific area on operations with the 4th Australian Watercraft Workshops Section, and on many occasions worked up to his waist in mud and water. It must be obvious to any fair-minded member of this House that that man’s condition must have been seriously affected by that additional two and a half years of service after he had been declared medically unfit. Nothing was done about his condition. He was allowed to serve during those two and a half years, and was eventually, on the 11th January, 1945, classified as medical class B2. On the 23rd February, 1942, he was declared to be “ medical class B2, unfit for service “, and on the 3rd March, 1945, he was discharged.
That is the record of service of this man, and I say to the Minister for the Army, with whom I had some correspondence about this case, that I was amazed when I received quite a long letter from him in which he declared -
It will be appreciated, therefore, having regard to the foregoing-
He had outlined a number of these incidents in this man’s record - that Mr. Atkins was not at any time, between his enlistment in 1 941. and the 23rd February, 1945, officially recorded as being medically unfit for service.
But, the records of the Department of the Army contain the evidence, which I have given, that this man was declared by Lieutenant-Colonel Anderson to be unfit for military service. He should not have been retained in the Army, but he was retained in it. Therefore, as the Government and its agents, the military authorities retained him in the service after that declaration that he was unfit for service, they are obliged, in my opinion, in all fairness to accept some responsibility for his dire plight to-day. I say that to the Government, the Repatriation Commission, the Repatriation Department and the various tribunals to which this man has appealed unsuccessfully, that they are not dealing with his case in a reasonable manner, and, further that the Government is doing nothing to correct the position. In my opinion, this man could not have served without his condition having been aggravated. In any event, why does not the Government adopt a generous attitude? This man was willing enough to serve his country. He served it for a number of years and it cannot be denied that the nature of his service would have aggravated his condition.
– What happened between 1942 and 1945?
– The honorable member for Petrie, who has just interjected, is one of the honorable members opposite whom I have heard talking repeatedly in this chamber about the percentage of exservicemen on the Government side. Those ex-servicemen do nothing whatever to right this absolute injustice to this man. Are they going to allow him to remain on a 25 per cent, war pension? The man’s aged parents, who live in the country, are pensioners and are unable to assist him. They are not able to take him home and provide him with the care he needs. So he cannot even spend the last days of his life with his parents in the country. I think it is an utter disgrace to the Government that it should permit such a state of affairs to exist for one moment longer than is necessary. The attention of the Government has been directed to this case. Why does it not do something about it in order to see that some relief is afforded to this man?
I shall deal now with another case relating to an ex-serviceman. It is rather interesting that the Government of late has not been boasting about recruiting figures. Evidently the results of its recruiting campaign have not been up to expectations. The campaign is costing a lot of money, and I suggest that this money is wasted if the Government treats ex-servicemen in this manner. The fact is that the more publicity that is given to such cases as I have mentioned tonight, the less likelihood the Government will have of getting young Australians to enlist. The second case to which I wish to refer concerns a man who served with an artillery unit. He enlisted on the 10th February, 1942, and was declared to be medically fit. On the 27th August, 1942, he was declared to be suffering from deafness. I repeat, he served in an artillery unit. But he was not discharged until thirteen months later, on the 28th September, 1944. So, although the Army doctors declared him to be suffering from deafness, he was retained in the service for thirteen months thereafter. Now the authorities say that he cannot receive a pension for this disability because it is not attributable, to his war service. They say that official records disclose that at the time of his enlistment there was a discharge from one ear; yet the Army accepted him as medically fit! When I put it to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) that this was a reflection on the military doctor who passed this man as medically fit, the Minister said in a communication dated the Sth May of this year -
I am not prepared to agree that because there was a degree of deafness present at the time of enlistment there is a reflection on the Army Medical Officer who passed the member as lit for service. At the time of enlistment the member gave his occupation as “ barman “, consequently I assume that his hearing was sufficiently acute to perform the duties of that occupation.
That is an absolutely insulting letter to be sent out in respect of the representations made by any honorable member in the case of an ex-serviceman. If thi3 man’s occupation was that of barman there is nothing dishonorable about n man following that occupation, but evidently the Minister endeavours to suggest that there is, because he uses the term sarcastically. It is reasonable to expect any government to accept responsibility for any disability from which an ex-serviceman who was accepted as fit for service at the time of his enlistment might suffer in after life. I suggest that if this state of affairs is to continue it would be a good thing if young nien were a little deaf when further appeals are made to them in the future to enlist.
– It seems a great pity that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) should use this public forum in which to parade the unfortunate illnesses of certain exservicemen.
– Why not?
– Order !
– I do not know what his purpose is, but maybe it is an endeavour on his part to belittle the services because, as we all know, and as all Australia knows, he objects strongly to any build-up of our defence forces.
– The Minister knows that that is rubbish.
– It is true, over and over again !
– We shall see about that.
– When our national service training scheme was inaugurated he was, as we all know, the most vicious opponent of it in this place. Whenever he has had the opportunity he has made it his business to try to drag down the services in every possible way. But I do not want to develop that matter to-night, because I think it is most unfortunate that a member of this House should come before us and mention certain names as the honorable member has done in respect of the cases he has brought up to-night.
– With the permission of the ex-servicemen concerned !
– It may have been with their permission, but I do not think that these ex-servicemen would like the kind of details that the honorable member has mentioned to be made public as he has made them public. The extraordinary thing about this, I remind the House, is that all the circumstances in the two cases mentioned by the honorable member occurred at a time when he was a Minister in the war-tmie Labour governments of this country.
– That is not so.
Mi-. CRAMER.- That is so! The honorable member gave us the dates. The final date in respect of the service of the first man he mentioned was the date of discharge, the Srd March, 1945. What government was in office at that time? Surely it was a Labour government that was in office then - and had been for years - and surely the honorable member who has made the complaint was a Minister in that government! Surely it did not take from 1945 until 1949 for applications to be made, and for these matters to be dealt with by the Repatriation Department. This does not concern the Department of the Army directly; it concerns the Minister for Repatriation in another place. The honorable member knows full well the process through which he must go in connexion with these matters. He knows that the Minister for Repatriation is prepared to receive representations from him on such matters. They do not affect directly any Minister in this House, or the Department of the Army, because the ex-serviceman to whom the honorable member has referred was discharged in March, 1945.
Every one - and I say this for myself too - has great sympathy with those unfortunate men. It was at the request of the honorable member for East Sydney that I obtained the particulars of these cases that he has recited to the House to-night. I gave him all the details in connexion with them. Prom the records it appears that there was some difference of opinion between medical officers about the condition of the man to whom I am referring, but these things happen from time to time, as every honorable member knows. I do not know who is to blame particularly. The honorable member can hardly blame the Government. A Labour government was in power at that time, and I do not blame it. It is unfortunate that this ex-serviceman is now a cripple in the Ryde homes. There is no doubt that if proper representations are made to the Repatriation Department steps will be taken to ensure that the ex-serviceman is cared for properly. The Ryde homes are very fine. That establishment is in the electorate of Bennelong. I pay calls there periodically and see the unfortunate victims of arthritic and rheumatic conditions, from which most of these cripples suffer. They have excellent treatment at Ryde. They are handicapped by their disabilities, but they are receiving good treatment.
I am not in a position to state a case on behalf of the Minister for Repatriation. I can promise the honorable member for East Sydney that, as a result of his statements to-night, the facts that he has adduced will be brought to the attention of the Minister for Repatriation. I remind him that in both the cases he has mentioned something might have been done by himself, or by the Labour government which was in power between 1945 and 1949. No doubt the exserviceman he has mentioned was almost a total cripple then.
The other case is almost in. the same category. The honorable member for East Sydney has spoken disparagingly of the recruiting campaign. He wants to do every injury possible to it. That has always been his policy. He has thrown a spanner into the works, and discouraged enlistment in the forces whenever he could. He has collaborated with some of the filthy press in Australia which carries on a continuous campaign to scare mothers and to discourage recruiting.
– To what newspaper does the Minister refer?
– The honorable member for Melbourne knows. I regret that the honorable member for East Sydney has referred to these unfortunate cases, with which every honorable member has the greatest sympathy. He did not do so in order to alleviate their condition. He knows very well that there is another process open to him.
– I have tried them all.
– The honorable member made no reference in his speech to any negotiations with the Minister for Repatriation or the Repatriation Department. This is not a matter for the Department of the Army. I regret that it has been necessary for me to speak as I have done. I suggest that the honorable member for East Sydney should think twice before he blazons forth in this House - a public forum - statements designed to harm something which is very necessary to the defence of Australia.
Thursday, SI May 1956
– I shall not detain the House for very long, and I would not have risen but for the speech that has been made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer). He would have done more honour to the post to which he has been appointed, and would have increased his prestige if he had listened to the representations of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and said that he would investigate them.
– I said that I would do that.
– The Minister certainly did that, but he did more. He seized on the representations of the honorable member for East Sydney to launch a tirade of abuse against the honorable member in connexion with a number of other matters, and in continuation of a campaign of vilification which has lasted too long. It is true that all the troubles of these exservicemen began during World War II., between 1941 and 1945. It is an historic fact that a Labour Government was in power in that period and until 1949. It was a good thing for Australia that there was a Labour government in power in those years.
– What did it do about these ex-servicemen ?
– These cases certainly were the subject of investigation in that period, and should have been dealt with satisfactorily. But probably the condition of the men has been aggravated with the passage of years. The point is that possibly representations were not made until 1949 or later. I think the Repatriation Department deals sympathetically, so far as it can, with all cases that como before it. The responsibility for altering the Repatriation Act in regard to onus of proof lies on this Parliament.
– Who was in power when that act was passed?
– We were. I am glad the honorable member interjected. The Labour Government introduced that legislation because of a report from a committee of ex-servicemen from both sides of the Parliament, presided over by the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), and its report was unanimous. The Government of the day put it into effect.
– You did not do anything about it.
– Of course we did.
– You dismissed the appeals tribunal because it said you were doing nothing.
– It is true that we dismissed a certain appeals tribunal, but we also amended the act as far as we could to make it operable in respect of the onus of proof clause. We wanted to do all we could to help the ex-servicemen. The honorable member for East Sydney was a Minister during the whole of the war period, and that was a good thing. He accepts full responsibility for everything that the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government did, and it cannot be said that the Chifley Government, or any Minister in it, let the ex-servicemen down. We put the very best Repatriation Act on the statute-book, and it was drafted to give effect to the recommendations of the joint committee of exservicemen to which I have referred.
The honorable member for East Sydney has never sneered at or attacked the recruiting campaign. He mentioned the cases of two ex-servicemen, and, in an attempt to force the Government to do something about them, he may have exaggerated their effect on recruiting. For the purpose of emphasis only, he said that, if this Government treats returned soldiers of World War II. as these two men have been treated, it will be a wonder if it gets any recruits in the future. The Minister for the Army, in reply to the case advanced by the honorable member for East Sydney, referred to the filthy press of this country. I suppose he refers to the capitalist press.
– I referred to one newspaper in particular.
– Which one?
– The honorable member can read, and he reads the newspaper to which I referred.
– I read them all. Would the Minister like me to name my favourite among them?
– I have a favourite in each State. In any event, I am not worried about what the newspapers state. But I am concerned that Opposition members, including the honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) the honorable member for East Sydney, and anyone else, should be heard without interruption when they discuss the treatment of returned soldiers. They certainly should not be subjected to attacks by Ministers who feel themselves on the defensive, and who think that an offensive attack upon an Opposition member will exculpate them in respect of the cases concerned. I hope that what has been said will help the two men in question. When the Minister does the right thing and gives justice to these two unfortunate people, the honorable member for East Sydney, with his usual generosity, will be the first to thank him.
.Unfortunately, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you did not give me the call when I sought it after the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Duthie) had discussed the potato trade and shipping from Tasmania to the mainland. I do not propose to say very much about these subjects, but, on this occasion, I support the honorable member for Wilmot, particularly in his request for more shipping for Tasmania, especially for the timber and potato trade. However, I should like to remind him that the accumulation of timber awaiting shipment is due mainly to the delays caused by the waterfront strike. The honorable member said that there were at present 8,000,000 super, feet of timber awaiting shipment from Tasmania. I believe the figure is a little higher than that. Not long ago, 12,000,000 super, feet were awaiting shipment. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) and the Department of Shipping and Transport are doing a very good job in clearing the accumulated stocks, and are gradually getting the figure down. Long delays still occur because work on the wharfs is held up by waterfront disputes, rain and other causes which are not the fault of the shipping companies or the Minister. Up to the present time, a little more than 300,000 sacks of potatoes have left Tasmania this season. This is about 150,000 sacks fewer than were shipped in the same period last year.
The Tasmanian Government has approved an organization to order ships for the potato trade. It is known as the Tasmanian Potato Shipping Committee. It is the responsibility of the chairman of the committee to order ships for the trade, and, if the ships are available and due notice is given, the Tasmanian Traffic Committee allocates the ships on instructions given by him. The Tasmanian Potato Shipping Committee, has not the complete confidence of the merchants or of the growers. It was formed following a poll taken among potato-growers, but only 28 per cent, of the growers voted, 16 per cent, being in favour of the appointment of the committee. The Tasmanian Government stated at the time that the committee would be appointed as the result of a majority decision of the growers who voted. I do not doubt that the committee could do a good job. “Unfortunately, there has been a shortage of potatoes this year, and the growers naturally want to get their potatoes on the market when the price is high. It is extremely difficult for any one to order ships in advance without knowing when, the price will rise. I have received a letter from the Minister for Shipping and Transport, dated the 18th May, which refers to the potato trade. It was sent following representations made by me for additional shipping, and states -
I have had this matter closely re-examined by the Traffic Committee, who have assured me to-day that over the whole season they provide shipping space to meet all the requirements for potatoes as advised to them by Mr. Moore, of the Tasmanian Potato Shipping Committee. It is acknowledged, of course, that it is not always possible to meet requirements exactly when asked to do so, for the following reasons: -
1 ) The tonnage available in the Tasmanian trade has other equally urgent commitments to meet, such as steel, paper, timber, &c.
The berthing and labour position at Tasmanian ports limits the number of vessels that can be employed.
Industrial disputes in Tasmania and on the mainland sometimes disrupt programmes which have been fixed, and take considerable time to re-organise.
That is the root of all the trouble with Tasmanian shipping this season. I have no doubt that the honorable member for Wilmot, who supported the waterside workers in their strike, is very sorry now that he has to charge the Government with not doing the right thing by Tasmania in the provision of shipping. The letter continues -
T remind the House that that letter was dated the 18th May.
I turn now to the. timber trade. The honorable member for Wilmot stated that the Government had failed to provide vessels for the shipment of timber. I find that approximately 100,000 super, feet of timber is listed for shipment from Hobart by the 9th June. A quantity of l,2iv0,000 super, feet is listed for shipment from Launceston by the 12th June. The following listings have been made for north-west ports : - Delungra, 350,000 super, feet - it should be loading now - from Burnie; Nilpena, 100,000 super, feet, from Devonport for Melbourne; Noongah, 450,000 super, feet, from Stanley for Melbourne; Euroa, 160,000 super, feet, from Ulverstone for Melbourne; and Woniora from Devonport and Laranah from Burnie with unspecified quantities. I have been informed -
The Tasmanian Traffic Committee states that owing to the need to meet seasonal requirements for potatoes, and the priority given to regular shipments of wheat and barley for Hobart and Launceston, there is no additional tonnage available which can be diverted to assist in the clearance of timber.
I can well understand the anxiety of Tasmanian people to get their goods to market. I support very strongly the request for more ships, but I oppose completely the derogatory statements against the Government made this evening by the honorable member for Wilmot. It was wrong for him to make them. I well recall that, during the last election campaign, the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) organized a stop-work meeting for four hours’ duration by the waterside workers at Devonport in order to get an audience to listen to him make an election speech. The result was four hours wasted on the waterfront.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.20 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– My attention has been drawn to two articles by Mr. J. S. Bielski which appeared in the Australian Worker of the 21st March and the 4th April. These articles were published following Mr. Bielski’s attendance at a conference of representatives of employer and employee organizations convened by the Good Neighbour Council of New South Wales, on the 7th March, 1956, for the purpose of discussing various approaches to the assimilation of new Australians engaged in industry. I thoroughly agree with the view put forward by Mr. Bielski that an important part of the burden of assimilation of migrants falls upon their workmates. I am most appreciative of the attitude adopted by the Australian Workers Union towards new Australians and the assistance to settle into this country given them, corporately and individually, by members of that union. I am happy to be able to say that this attitude and assistance is not confined amongst unions to the Australian Workers Union, and that the trade union movement generally has lent its wholehearted support to the immigration programme in a very practical way. Its members have made a most important contribution to the assimilation of new settlers by their helpful and friendly attitude. The importance of work done by the trade union movement, however, in no way detracts from the equally valuable work done amongst migrants in a different context by the churches and by youth and other organizations affiliated with the Good Neighbour Movement, in encouraging them to participate fully in their activities. It must be appreciated also, that assimilation is a two-way process. It is not only necessary that difficulties encountered by migrants should be overcome, but that Australians also should have the opportunity of appreciating the migrants’ point of view and the contribution that they are making to Australia materially and culturally. The Good Neighbour Movement plays a most important part in creating amongst Australians that attitude towards migrants without which any plan for their assimilation would be doomed to failure. Good Neighbour Councils are co-ordinating bodies that bring together all organizations interested in helping migrants. They provide the opportunity for exchange of views between organizations having contact with migrants in different ways and for discussion on problems thus brought to light. It is certainly true, as Mr. Bielski points out, that they seek the views of the leaders of national groups amongst migrants, but they are equally eager to bear the views of people who, like Mr. Bielski, see the migrants’ problems from a different angle. In this way they are able to obtain a balanced view of these problems. Mr. Bielski is entitled to exercise his democratic right of criticism and it is a healthy sign in any community that criticism should not be stifled. I have no doubt that the Good Neighbour Movement are interested to have his views. They would, of course, have appreciated them more if he had expressed them first at the conference of employer and employee organizations convened by it that he attended. Mr. Bielski has, however, obviously spoken from incomplete knowledge and his views in this connexion are not shared by the vast majority of migrants and Australians - or for that matter by students of migration problems throughout the world, who unanimously acclaim the Australian Good Neighbour Movement as the most successful venture of its kind ever undertaken in any country. A further error under which he has fallen is that of assuming that the Good Neighbour Movement involves the Government in heavy expenditure. One of the most significant features of the movement, is that all its members - and there are approximately 10,000 active members in over 300 affiliated organizations - give their services entirely voluntarily and themselves provide the funds needed for any hospitality extended to migrants or to representatives of organizations with whom they come in contact.
Production’ of Aircraft at Fishermen’s Bend.
s asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
CommonwealthGovernment request the New South Wales Government, which I understand is securing a report from Ebasco Services Incorporated on the proposed electrical developments of northern New South Wales during the next 25 years, to extend that inquiry into the effect of New South Wales electrical interconnexion with Queensland, with particular relation to the magnitude of northern New South Wales proposals and their priorities?
Mr.Fairhall. - The Minister for National Development has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: - 1.Yes.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 30 May 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1956/19560530_reps_22_hor11/>.