22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MORGAN presented a petition from 2,990 citizens of Australia praying that immediate consideration be given to the matter of increasing the rates of age, invalid and widows’ pensions to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
Petition received and read.
Mr. RIORDAN presented a petition from 2,763 citizens of Australia praying that pension rates be increased to 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that Mr. Frank Green, M.C., a former Clerk of the House of Representatives, in an article entitled “ Second Thoughts on Petrov’s Story “, appearing in “ Honi Soit “, a Sydney University newspaper, when referring to the Royal Commission on Espionage, said -
The positive results of the inquiry hardly compensated for the work involved, and for the damage done to institutions, citizens, ethical standards, and the accepted rights of the individual. The Australian judiciary also suffered because of three judges taking part in the proceedings against the wishes and advice of many of their colleagues, particularly when the inquiry came to “ smell to high heaven “ in terms of political intrigue. Tt is regrettable that judges were pushed into this inquiry, which was obviously tainted with political malice-
– Order! I must ask the honorable member to come to his question.
– I am coming to it, Mr. Speaker.
– I ask the honorable member to come to the point.
– I will do that, Mr. Speaker. The article continued - which was obviously tainted-
– Order! The honorable member will ask the question.
– I am asking the question.
– You are not. The honorable member will ask the question or resume his seat.
– If so, has the Prime Minister any comment?
– I rise to order. A ruling has been in force in this House for many years - and I should be sorry to think that it might be departed from - that questions are not permissible if based on a newspaper article. This, obviously, is a mere taking of an opportunity to incorporate in the record, and get wide publicity for, a statement which has been published in a journal representing somebody’s opinion, which is of no particular moment in this matter.
– Is the honorable member’s question based on a newspaper report?
– The honorable member will ask his question.
– If so, has-
– Order! I must ask the honorable member to resume his seat.
– I am asking the question.
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat.
– Mr. Speaker, I ask you, concerning your ruling, how you can judge whether-
– Order! Is the honorable member canvassing my decision?
– No, I am asking, on a point of order-
– The honorable member will resume his seat.
– I am not canvassing your decision.
– The Prime Minister is a dingo. He is running away from the question.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– Will the Minister for Supply inform the House whether the Government has any Spitfire aircraft for disposal? If so, would the Government be prepared to meet a request from the Air Force Association in Western Australia which wishes to have one of these aircraft at its Memorial House?
– I cannot say, offhand, whether my department has had any request to dispose of Spitfire aircraft which, of course, would be the property of the Department of Air. I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member know the result. Because of his distinguished career in the Air Force, I can appreciate his interest in this matter, and his desire to have one of these aircraft as a memorial.
– In view of the recent announcement that the Government will return all the receipts from the diesel oil tax to the States, will the Prime Minister, because of the deplorable condition of the Australian road system, consider applying immediately the same principle to petrol tax receipts, instead of waiting until 1959, when the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act will come up for renewal?
– The honorable member for Batman is under a misapprehension about the diesel oil tax. The amount to be paid by the Commonwealth to the States for road purposes is not related to the amount collected from diesel oil tax. The amount estimated to be collected in this year, for example, from diesel oil tax is £2,000,000. The amount of additional grant that the Commonwealth is making is £3,000,000. The Government does not accept the proposition that a particular tax ought to be hypothecated to some particular purpose. That is a principle that can cut both ways, as would be demonstrated if taxes in that field happened to be reduced at some future time. Therefore, we have adhered to the proposition that we will raise a diesel oil tax which, this year, is estimated to bring in £2,000,000, but that we will, in fact, set aside £3,000,000 out of Consolidated Revenue in order to serve as an additional provision for roads in the States.
– The Minister for Social Services will recall that I have been interested in what assistance he can give to the Tasmanian State Government in providing travel concessions for pensioners in that State. I understand that the State transport authorities have sought the cooperation of the Department of Social Services in devising a more satisfactory system of issuing travel concessions for pensioners in Tasmania. Can the Minister say whether any finality has been reached in these negotiations?
– It is my pleasure to inform the honorable member for Franklin that yesterday I signed a communication to the Tasmanian Minister for Transport agreeing to give him every co-operation in the introduction of a new system of pensioner travel concessions. The Tasmanian Government introduced the scheme of pensioner travel concessions in July of this year. It was based - and I speak from memory - on the production of a free medical service card by the pensioner. That, unfortunately, proved to be entirely unsatisfactory, since some pensioners are diffident about producing these cards on such occasions. In addition, there are many pensioners not in possession of medical service cards. Because of that, the State authorities considered that the system was unsatisfactory. They sought the cooperation of my department, and the honorable member for Franklin will be interested to know that a system, similar to that operating in New South Wales, has been introduced. Under this system, a pensioner makes application to the State transport authorities for a concession permit, and my department will give the necessary certification to the State authorities and assist them in every possible way.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. Yesterday, my colleague, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, asked a question based upon the suggestion, which was obviously true, I suggest, that the press had published serious leakages of budget information, particularly in relation to company taxation and depreciation allowances, involving taxation reductions of nearly £40.000,000. Such information necessarily influences speculation in company shares and so on. The Prime Minister agreed in condemning what was done and pointed out that the responsibility was two-fold - the responsibility of government officials, probably high government officials, who were responsible for the leakage and the responsibility of the newspaper reporters and publishers who made use of the information. I ask the Prime Minister: Will the Government consider taking appropriate action against both groups of people who are or may be deemed to be responsible for so serious a breach of the law?
– I do not quite know what is involved in this last one. Many people have in the past objected to this extremely dubious practice of seeking information which can be given only in breach of honour and in breach of Cabinet duty. How far that can be dealt with by any rule which applies equally to the innocent and to the guilty, 1 am not prepared to say. That is a matter which would require a good deal of consideration. So far as the disclosures are concerned at the giving end, as honorable members know, it is a matter of intense difficulty to establish the source of the information. The press has a rule or tradition of long standing that it never betrays a source of information. All I can say about my own attitude is that if I had the source of one of these leaks established, I would not hesitate .to take the most extreme action and to advertise the reasons for it on the floor of this House.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Australian sugar industry has recently asked the Department of Primary Industry to consider preventing the introduction of centro seed into Australia, preferably by way of customs embargo, because of its adulteration with seed of a world-wide pest known as the giant sensitive plant, which can destroy any agricultural crop in tropical and sub-tropical areas. I understand that seed from some of these plants, grown from adulterated centro seed, together with photographs of the plants, were sent to the Department of Primary Industry recently. Can the Minister say whether he has had this matter examined, and, if so, whether appropriate action has been taken by him?
– I am very glad to hear the voice of the honorable member for Wide Bay in this House again, particularly as he is speaking on behalf of the sugarcane industry, the interests of which he represents so effectively. I did receive photographs from representatives of the Queensland sugar industry, showing the damage that was done to cane sugar by the giant sensitive plant, and I have received suggestions that the importation of centro seed should be pro hibited. The matter was taken up with the Department of Health and with the relevant departments of agriculture, and we were advised that the mimosa seed, which is the seed of the giant sensitive plant, could be removed from the centro seed, which is valuable in Queensland for pasture purposes. It has been decided, therefore, to prohibit the importation of the seed of the giant sensitive plant. I shall make sure that a letter is written to the honorable member pointing out what has been done, and I think the action that has been taken will be generally satisfactory to the Queensland sugar interests.
– Last week the Minister for Primary Industry advised me that the unsound economic condition of the egg industry might well be dealt with by State governments. I now ask the Minister whether he is willing to recommend to the Commonwealth Government that additional financial assistance be made available to the States to enable them to assist the egg industry.
– The general problem of the egg industry was raised at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. At that meeting the States themselves, or the committee of technical officers, advised me that the industry was in need of reconstruction. The Commonwealth has not the technical experts who can advise me on this problem, because the problems of egg production are dealt with by the State governments. I think that this year the States have adequate funds with which to carry out reconstruction schemes, should they think them necessary. Therefore, I say to the honorable member that while I have the greatest sympathy for any primary industry that may be in trouble, I think the difficulty would be overcome much more quickly if the egg industry took its problems to the State governments, had a thorough review of the difficulties and asked them to make the necessary contributions.
– My question is also tothe Minister for Primary Industry. By way of explanation, I refer to the shortage of entero-toxaemia vaccine, which is embarrassing fat lamb breeders, especially now that spring is in the air. Will the Minister try to arrange for adequate supplies of this vaccine, so that losses will be avoided during the coming months and so that Australia’s future supplies of roast lamb will be assured?
– I have not previously heard of the shortage of this vaccine, but, naturally, when the honorable gentleman makes a suggestion I take immediate action to see whether I can comply with it. I shall take the matter up with both my department and the Department of Trade and ascertain whether further imports can be permitted.
– My question, which is also addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, is supplementary to the question asked of him by the honorable member for Bendigo.
– You said that he never did anything!
– I will see whether he can answer a question, at any rate. In view of the Minister’s reference to the adequate funds in the hands of the States this year for assistance to the poultry industry, I ask him whether he is aware that under section 91 of the Constitution the States can grant any aid to or bounty on the production or export of goods only if both Houses of this Parliament, by resolution, express their consent. Secondly, is he aware that never in the history of the Australian Parliament has such a resolution been passed by it? Thirdly, I ask the Minister whether he will give an undertaking that he will advocate and support such a resolution in this House, and seek support for it in another place, if any of the States take his advice by seeking to grant aid to the production of eggs or poultry in their respective areas.
– I would have some doubt about the interpretation of the Constitution made by the honorable member for Werriwa as to help that can be given by the States, but I am getting quite used to the undergraduate type of question he puts in this House. At least I will show that I have an answer to his question. Detailed investigations have been made into the problems of the egg industry, and I mention but one thing to the honorable member. During those investigations, it was shown that it would be a difficult problem to give aid because 89 per cent, of the total producers in the egg industry are not commercial producers. Only 8 per cent, have commercial flocks of between 2,000 and 3,000 laying hens and, I think, only 2 per cent, or 3 per cent, could be classed as major producers. For this reason, everyone who took part in the discussions conceded that there was a very difficult problem to be faced by the industry. It would be very difficult to carry out reconstruction and to know just how help could be provided. I mentioned that 89 per cent, are non-commercial producers; some are backyard producers and many are producing eggs as a sideline.
– When are you going into production yourself?
– I have never heard the honorable member for East Sydney produce one decent sentence in this House, and lately the muck that he has been producing has been a disgrace not only to himself, but also to his party. This question has been looked at in a sensitive way. It is not one to evoke the laughter of members of the Opposition. They have never bothered about the producer. The Australian Agricultural Council has examined the matter, and it is one that can well be handled by State departments of agriculture.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. I refer to discussions which I have had with him and to certain representations that have been made to him concerning the Coal Industry Committee. I ask the Minister whether he has any information concerning the proposed reconstitution of that committee.
– At the most recent meeting of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council a request was made by the spokesman for the trade unions that, in order to assist in meeting problems which had arisen in the coal industry, particularly in New South Wales, there should be a revival of the Coal Industry Committee which had formerly functioned. That committee consisted of representatives of the Commonwealth Government, the Government of New South Wales, the miners’ federation and representatives of the coal-owners. I discussed this request with my colleague, the Minister for National Development, who had previously presided at gatherings of the committee. He agreed to call the committee together again, and I understand that the first meeting will take place on Friday, 13th September.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Supply and Defence Production. In view of the fact that aluminium imports into this country have grown from 265,249 cwt. in 1954 to 298,060 cwt. in 1956 and an estimated 205,892 cwt. in 1957, involving a large expenditure in dollar areas, cannot consideration now be given to the sensible course of expanding the industry at Bell Bay?
– I appreciate what the honorable member says about the Bell Bay industry, in which I know he has an interest, but the answer is not as simple as his question suggests. Before one goes into the question of expansion at Bell Bay, one has to consider questions of power-
– We guarantee that.
– I am glad to have your guarantee. However, we must consider questions of power, cost, who is to pay for it, and things of that sort. The matter is under consideration at this moment.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. In connexion with import licensing it has been pleasing to study the recently issued instructions regarding the sales replacement basis of licensing for selected commodities. As the Minister is aware. I have made repeated representations relative to the importation of hog casings, which have been listed recently as one of 58 selected commodities. Will the Minister give to the House an assurance, first that all bona fide applicants not already in possession of an import, quota for hog casings will be permitted to participate under the sales replacement scheme? Secondly, will the Minister say that nation-wide organizations will be assisted by a reasonably adequate initial licence for hog casings to enable them to compete with existing importers?
– T can give the honorable member an assurance on this matter, in which he has taken a very active and continuing interest. The so-called sales replacement system in import licensing is, I think, a very valuable innovation. It is hoped that we shall be able to extend it in due course, but it is a system which, if treated carelessly by allocating to a multiplicity of applicants rights in excess of what they eventually would be able to translate into actual imports, could result in the freezing of a good deal of funds. I think the honorable member and other people will recognize that point. Some care is being exercised in the initial licence allocations, but 1 can give an assurance that where an original allocation proves to be inadequate, there will be a very prompt replacement or replenishment as soon as it is shown to the department that business has actually been done.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Air. Earlier this year the Minister advised me, in answer to a question, that the Royal Australian Air Force had only one helicopter, located at Richmond, New South Wales. Arising from that question I now ask the Minister whether helicopters are considered to be essential in an efficient and fully equipped air force. What is the cost of a helicopter? ls the Minister satisfied with only one machine in the Royal Australian Air Force? Furthermore, in view of the fact that the Government has spent over £1,000,000,000 on defence in recent years, does he consider that the equipment of the Royal Australian Air Force at this stage should include only one helicopter, or that it should be more adequately equipped?
– I am asked, among other things by the honorable member, what is the cost of a helicopter. I understand, from recollection, that the cost varies between about £20,000 and £80,000, according to its size and capabilities. It is true that helicopters can play a very important part in military aviation. However, it is also true that the air forces of any powers other than the greatest cannot afford all the possible instruments of war which they might like to have. In other words, Australia is limited to a considerable extent by the amount that it can afford to allocate to its defence services. We have to make the best use of the means available to us. Although it would be desirable for the Air Force to have a number of helicopters for certain limited purposes, we have other needs to which w» give higher priority. I do not share the honorable member’s view that we have an urgent need for helicopters greater than ou; need for other kinds of aircraft.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question about soldier settlement. Can the Minister say whether the Commonwealth’s provision of £1 for every £2 allocated by the principal States from their own resources for soldier settlement has had any effect on the rate of settlement in New South Wales? If it has not, can the Minister indicate whether he has any plan for a more effective means of accelerating soldier settlement in that State?
– I think it is correct to say that the action of the Commonwealth Government in making additional grants to the principal States for war service land settlement has increased the rate of settlement in New South Wales. For the benefit of the House, I may state that the amount allocated since the changed method of allocating funds was adopted has increased from approximately £3,200,000 to about £5,000,000 annually. It can be seen, therefore, that the funds actually made available for the purpose have increased considerably. As to the future, during this financial year, approximately £2,000,000 will be made available to New South Wales. If the New South Wales Government allocates from its own resources twice that amount, -or £4,000,000, as it can do, a total of £6,000,000 will be available for war service land settlement in New South Wales. The only other fact that may be of interest to the honorable member is that the money available from Commonwealth funds for war service land settlement throughout the Commonwealth will increase to about £14,500,000 this financial year.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the Government’s proposal to impose a tax of one shilling a gallon on diesel fuel, will the right honorable gentleman consider exempting from the payment of this tax local authorities such as the Brisbane City Council, which conducts diesel bus services within its own municipal borders over roads con structed entirely by itself, because the imposition of such a tax would be used as an excuse for increasing bus fares?
– I should like to point out that we expect to receive £2,000,000 in the current financial year from the proposed tax of one shilling a gallon on diesel fuel used by road vehicles, and that we shall allocate to the States £1,000,000 more, or £3,000,000. Therefore, it is up to the States to consider the position of State instrumentalities, including the Brisbane City Council.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is a fact that, despite a record run of good seasons, supplies of fodder on hand in Australia are considerably smaller now than they were nine years ago, although stock numbers have increased considerably. Was this matter discussed at the last meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council, and what steps, if any, were taken to encourage the accumulation of increased fodder reserves? Is it a fact that the Agricultural Council was strongly opposed to the recommendation by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board that Australian farmers should grow less wheat?
– The Australian Agricultural Council discussed the question of fodder conservation, and came to the conclusion that a campaign should be undertaken to encourage farmers to increase fodder reserves while there was still time. The State governments and the Commonwealth have been actively engaged in this campaign, and I personally have issued frequent press statements on the problem. I think that the figures given by the honorable member are correct, but I shall check them and let him know. As to the last part of his question concerning the problem of the production of wheat, the Australian Agricultural Council did express strong disapproval of the statement made by the chairman of the Australian Wheat Board.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. In view of the recent assurance given by him to the honorable member for
Corio that the Department of Social Services was carrying out a policy of decentralization and that such policy was reflected in the cities of Bendigo, Geelong and Wangaratta, where complete autonomy existed in the administration of social services, Wil he inform me why the cities referred to, with only a fraction of the population thar the Newcastle regional office serves, can be given full autonomy while prospective pensioners within the electorates of Shortland, Newcastle, Hunter, Robertson, Paterson and Lyne have to wait for periods of up to three or four months before their applications for pensions and other benefits are finalized? Will the Minister also say when the Newcastle office, which serves a population of 500,000 people, is likely to be given complete autonomy in administration?
– May I be permitted to say that the mechanism of decentralization is never easy, lt depends on a great many factors. One, for example, is accommodation. Another is the question of the availability of trained staff, and another the amount of business that a regional office is likely to do. Still another is the proximity of the State Directorate of Social Services in each of the six States. For example, the establishment of an autonomous office in proximity to the head-quarters of a State Director would not constitute decentralization in the true sense of the term; and this Government is devoted to the task of decentralization in the true sense of the term. As soon as accommodation at Newcastle adequate for the purpose can be completed, the question of the establishment of a regional office there as an autonomous office will arise, and will be given the careful consideration that is its due.
– I ask the Minister for Trade whether he is aware of the recent reference by the Minister for External Affairs, when on a visit overseas, to the possibility of a trade agreement between Australia and the new Government of Malaya, and whether he has considered this possibility or will do so, particularly in relation to our export flour trade with Malaya. That trade is of paramount importance to Western Australia especially, and is a trade that we have enjoyed hitherto: but I think it stands in danger of being lost to us unless advantage is now taken of the possibility of our cementing trade relations with that country.
– Yes, I can say that within the overall policy of the Government in relation to the consolidation of our trading opportunities overseas it is within the current thinking of the Government that we may have trade discussions with the new Government of Malaya. This is a matter about which, I recall, the honorable member for Moore spoke to me many months ago, particularly in connexion with our export flour trade, which is well known to be in considerable difficulties ai present. There is a historic and valuable trade in Australian flour with Malaya and a growing trade in a variety of other items, some being the products of primary industry and some the products of secondary industry. On the 0’her hand, Australia is quite an important buyer of Malayan rubber, and in respect of those commodities there seems to be the basis for a mutually advantageous trade discussion. 1 hope that in due course we may have such a discussion between the two governments. 1 shall keep the honorable member informed on the matter.
– Has the Minister for the Interior yet received a report from the eminent English town planner, Sir William Holford, who visited Canberra recently? Will the report be made available for general publication? Have arrangements been made for Sir William to pay another visit in order to carry out further inspections in Canberra?
– I have not yet received the report from Sir William Holford. As the honorable gentleman knows, we had a very short visit from Sir William because he was heavily engaged with quite important matters in London, but it was necessary to have his views quickly on one or two matters which might be affected adversely by the present Canberra development programme. When the report comes to hand I have not the slightest doubt that its contents, in general anyhow, will be made available for discussion by those interested. The possibility of having a further, and perhaps more lengthy visit, by Sir William Holford is a matter we shall consider at the appropriate time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Services and refers to immigrants from the United Kingdom who have reached pensionable age but are not entitled to pensions under the reciprocity agreements. Will the Minister consider taking the humane and desirable step of extending to these persons the right to free medical services and concessional radio licences?
– The honorable member no doubt is aware that there has been a reciprocal agreement between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Australia with respect to social service benefits. That agreement has been under discussion for some considerable time. The Director-General of Social Services recently has been in the United Kingdom.
Indeed, he has just returned, and it is hoped that a new agreement, and a more satisfactory one, will be entered into between the governments of both countries. When I have had an apportunity to examine the text of the proposed new agreement 1 shall see whether it covers the points raised by the honorable member, and if it does not, then he may be assured that we shall consider the suggestions that he has made.
Claim for Compensation
– The Minister for the Army may remember that, recently, I was in communication with him in relation to an unfortunate accident in South Australia involving two people working in the fields who unearthed a couple of bombs and were seriously injured when they exploded. One of the families concerned is suffering considerably because of the loss of the breadwinner in the accident. The Minister may remember that I asked whether some early payment could be made to that family particularly, and I now ask him whether the inquiries have been completed and whether he is in a position to say that immediate relief will be given.
– As the honorable gentleman knows, the question of compensation in cases such as this is not dealt with finally by the Department of the Army, but comes under the Commonwealth compensation laws, which are administered by my colleague, the Treasurer. However, I shall make inquiries to see how far this matter has progressed, and 1 shall let the honorable gentleman know the result.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the report of the Auditor-General that waste, inefficiency and lack of supervision in the construction of the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory have resulted in the original estimates of cost being increased considerably? If so, has the right honorable gentleman, or the Government, any practical proposals to cope with this situation and with waste and inefficiency in government expenditure generally?
– I know nothing of this matter beyond what I have read in the press so far, but I think 1 am right in saying that the subject is already on the noticepaper and that adjournment of the debate has been secured.
– I rise to order.
– Do not waste time on a point of order. The fact is that I have not had an opportunity to read the report referred to, and therefore I have no comment to make on it. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that further questions might be placed on the notice-paper.
– I rise to order. The matter was not clearly stated by the Prime Minister. Does he suggest that, because there is a motion on the business sheet dealing with the Minister’s statement on the St. Mary’s establishment, the subject cannot be discussed? I submit that the report of the Auditor-General and the ministerial statement are entirely different matters.
– I merely intended to point out that, during the course of the debate, there would perhaps be an opportunity to discuss this matter.
– It was put on the noticepaper in order to avoid debate.
– That was done at your request.
– It was not done at my request.
– Order! I must ask honorable members, including the honorable member for East Sydney and the Minister for Defence Production, to be silent.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory asked me a question regarding the number of signatures on the petitions recently presented relating to pensions. In some cases, the number of signatures was not shown. Therefore, the total number of signatures is not readily available.
– I have received a letter from the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The action of the Government in disposing of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool.
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (More than the number of members required by the Standing Orders having risen in their places) -
.- The decision of the Government to dispose of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool came as a great shock to some people, but I suggest that it was not such a shock to others. Long before the Government advertised for tenders, people who had previously been successful in tendering for Government disposals were taking an interest in the future of the pool. I shall deal with this aspect in more detail later in my remarks. The pool was established in 1945 with the object of facilitating the turnround of war-time shipping and the handling of huge stocks of war materials. After the war, it continued to function and increased its stature by taking over large quantities of lend-lease equipment, such as heavy cranes, hoists and so on, that had been brought to the South-West Pacific area by the American military authorities.
Prior to the calling of tenders, the pool had branches, workshops and plant in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, five agencies along the Queensland border and three agencies operating in Tasmania. At the present time, it provides employment for approximately 360 persons. In Sydney it finds employment for 200 people, in Brisbane for 125, in Melbourne for 25, and in other agencies for ten. The staff is made up of mechanics, storemen, drivers, clerks and others, and the majority of the staff consists of ex-servicemen. They are temporary public servants. They have not been able to obtain permanent status in the Public Service.
Many of the ex-service personnel took employment in the pool as a means of rehabilitation. A considerable number has now reached an age at which it is extremely difficult to obtain similar employment elsewhere. It is a regrettable fact that, to-day, men seeking employment, if they are over 40 years of age, find themselves at a serious disadvantage. Knowing this, the feelings of the men who are likely to be affected in this matter can be readily appreciated. 1 emphasize again that 70 per cent, of the pool’s personnel are ex-servicemen. It will be interesting to ascertain the attitude of Government members to this aspect.
This is not the first time that the Government has attempted to dispose of the pool. Its first effort was made in 1952, but it came to nothing. With the latest development came the reason for the Government’s action. We have been told that this action is in accord with its policy of not competing with private enterprise. This is arrant nonsense, for the pool has no comparable competitor in this field. The pool, in its present form, is performing a function that private enterprise has neglected and, oddly enough, the pool has rendered invaluable assistance to the functioning of private enterprise. The pool has been a tremendous boon to industry, and also to the waterfront. It has equipment which private enterprise refused to purchase, or could not purchase, because of the capital outlay required. It has assisted in the turn-around of our shipping, and many stevedoring companies have expressed concern and alarm as to what their position will be should the pool be broken up.
In the conditions of sale there is nothing that ensures the continuance of the pool as such. On the contrary, it can be said that the conditions of sale will permit the destruction of the pool. In its present form, the pool is rendering tremendous assistance to private enterprise, and it is rendering a valuable service to the Commonwealth itself. In the case of private enterprise, the assistance is being rendered to shipping, trade and commerce. In the case of the
Commonwealth, assistance is being rendered in respect of defence and development, and is extended to semi-governmental bodies also. That being so, the decision of the Government to act as it has done is all the more inexplicable.
From its inception, the pool has operated ill a successful financial basis. It has made a total profit of approximately £1,000,000, at an average yearly rate of £100,000. Its profit last year was £120,000, in spite of governmental hostility. As a result of governmental interference, the pool has been prevented from expanding or developing. All its profits have been paid into Consolidated Revenue and, in reply to all requests, the Government has refused to authorize any funds to enable it to purchase more up-to-date equipment.
When one looks at the magnificent and successful record of the pool, one can say that the Government, apparently, regards the pool as being too successful. Having regard to the part the pool has played in the economy of the country, the attitude of the Government, which is to destroy the pool, renders meaningless statements that have been made from time to time by responsible Ministers, from the Prime Minister downwards, on the need to develop and expand our overseas commerce, become somewhat meaningless and, at their very best, are mere cliches.
The pool has a defence potential that cannot be assessed in monetary terms. Apparently, this means nothing to the Government. If defence is necessary, why is the Government destroying the pool? It took years to reach an efficient stage, even in war-time, yet it is now to be abandoned. In peace and in war, the pool has proved its worth. Private interests are reluctant or unable to do anything on a comparable scale. In the light of this, should the Government’s attempt to dissolve the pool succeed, then, in all decency, Government members should never mention defence potential again.
The employees have a stronger sense of national responsibility than has the Government. They have submitted a tender which, if successful, will ensure the continuance of the pool on a co-operative basis. Tenders were called for on the 22nd June, 1957, the closing date being 23rd July, 1957. The first inkling of what was afoot was made known to the employees when the notice calling for tenders was published in the press. They had to move very quickly in order to lodge their tender within the stipulated time.
From evidence that I have, it does appear that not all were so much in the dark on these matters as were the employees. Six weeks before the notice calling for tenders appeared, an individual, accompanied by an official of the Department of Shipping and Transport, inspected the pool’s Sydney branch, which is situated in the suburb of Leichhardt. This individual, 1 understand, belongs to a group of people who have been successful tenderers in the past when the Government has disposed of equipment. This group was successful in its tender for the Lima cranes, which the Joint Coal Board disposed of. I am informed that there were seven of these cranes, each new, and that they were obtained by the group for approximately £30,000 each. This group of speculators, I am informed, subsequently sold the cranes at a profit to themselves.
The pool has equipment worth many hundreds of thousands of pounds. The book value of a particular piece of equipment may be shown at £15,000, but its replacement value would be double that figure. So here we have a ready-made field for the speculator. There are no safeguards in the terms of sale to prevent this from occurring. It would be an understatement to say that the employees of the pool are very dissatisfied, because they believe that some people knew of the Government’s intentions in this matter long before they did. If that is so, then the matter takes rather a serious turn, and should be investigated by the Government immediately.
– I appreciate the interest of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) in the position of employees in the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, or any other pool. Such part of his speech as is directed towards showing anxiety about their future is appreciated. 1 am sorry that he has rather marred an otherwise moderate speech by a number of misstatements and innuendos which do not do him justice. He said that there is now no comparable competitor to the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. I assure him that that is not true any longer. It was true when the pool was founded, and that is why it was founded, but it is no longer true that the pool is without competitors either in the field of heavy earthmoving equipment, which is part of its function, or in wharf activities. Indeed, one satisfactory feature is that, as a result of developments in recent years, private enterprise, State governments and the community generally are becoming much more mechanically minded, and the work of the pool is not indispensable, as it may have been some time ago.
The honorable member said also that the conditions of sale, which were drafted by the Government, meant the destruction of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. That is not true, and I shall deal with that aspect in more detail later. I do not believe that if the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool is sold it will be destroyed; nor will employment in the pool be lost.
– The Government is giving it away, not selling it.
– I am trying to answer a dignified and reasonable case, in most respects, put up by the honorable member for Dalley. I shall not pay any attention to these offstage, rather raucous noises to which we are being subjected.
The honorable member said further that the pool should not be disposed of because of its defence potential. That is not accurate. The pool as such no longer has defence potential because of the factor I mentioned earlier - that is, the way in which the community, State government, handling organizations on the waterfront and private enterprise have moved into a field which is properly their field. We do not believe that the pool now has the defence potential that has been mentioned.
Another misstatement made by the honorable gentleman is that the first inkling employees had of this matter was when somebody inspected the equipment, as a result of which they had to move quickly. That is not true. Since 1950 or 1951 discussions have been held and moves made to dispose of the pool, if the conditions of sale and the price were right. The employees in the pool must have known full well what the Government’s policy was and what steps were being taken from time to time. Indeed, over the years, I have had letters from employees.
It is quite unworthy of the honorable gentleman to descend to strictures, halfveiled slanders and references to speculators doing this and that. Such suggestions are not true. It is true that one of the tenderers is an organization which tendered for some Joint Coal Board equipment. The honorable gentleman seems to think that something is wrong when, having succeeded in its tender and having bought that equipment, it used some as part of a big earth-moving organization, which it had, and sold some at a profit. The sale of the Coal Board equipment was handled by my department. I was abroad at the time. The acting Minister handled it and took it to Cabinet. The tender that was accepted was by far the highest tender. Is that wrong? Because an organization happened, as the highest tenderer, to have bought some government equipment, is there something disreputable about it seeking to buy other equipment that the government may have for sale? I suggest that, on second thoughts, the honorable gentleman would perhaps regret having made those half-veiled suggestions against an organization which cannot reply in this House.
I pass now to the main matters, lt is true that during the war Australia was desperately short of harbour handling equipment and heavy earth-moving equipment. The United States of America brought a lot of equipment into this country, and when the war ended the government of the day, under lend-lease agreements that had been signed, took over that equipment and established the pool. The pool was re-organized in 1949 and placed on almost its present basis, though since this Government took office it has re-organized it again. The pool consists partly of machinery and equipment used on the wharfs and partly of heavy equipment used in open cuts, for earth moving and for other activities. It was valuable at the time and performed a very useful function. Both as regards work in open cuts, heavy earth-moving and other activities, and activities on the wharfs, the judgment of the Government and its advisers is that the pool is no longer necessary as a government organization. The main centres are Sydney and Brisbane, but to a smaller extent work is also done in Melbourne and at outer ports. The Government has already disposed of equipment at some outer ports to the local authorities. It is now a pure business undertaking, and the question is whether the Government should continue what normally in most countries and in most times would be regarded as purely and simply a commercial and business undertaking without any defence significance. One important factor is that substantial sums by way of capital equipment are now required to be spent on the pool. Is the Treasury to find the money or are we to leave it to private enterprise? If the Treasury is to find the money, is that to be the subject of one more criticism and the Government asked why it is spending so much when the private sector of the community is not expected to spend anything?
– What about the profits?
– The organization has made profits; there is no doubt about that. The profits have gone to the Treasury. No one would expect them to go anywhere else, because the Treasury put up the money. The Government considered years ago that, subject to proper safeguards, the right and sensible thing to do was to allow private enterprise to take over these activities. At the time, we did not get what we regarded as proper safeguards, and perhaps that is the best indication of the Government’s good faith in the matter. Years ago we offered the pool for sale, but we did not get what we considered to be proper safeguards as to price, the protection of employees and so on, and the poo! was not sold.
– It is a monopoly!
– There is no question of monopoly. All sorts of organizations are doing this work.
– Why not auction it?
– We are auctioning it. We have put it up for public tender. That is an auction.
– Is it?
– We have not a loud voice, like the honorable member has, calling out for bids, but we have publicly called for tenders, tenders have closed and are now under consideration. There is, I understand, in the mind of the honorable gentleman, and of employees, some natural anxiety as to their future. Nobody can give absolute guarantees about future employment; it would be absurd to try to do so. Nevertheless, in the best of the tenders that we have received there are offers made and assurances given with regard to the continuation of the organization as such, of the pool as such, and, therefore, of the work of the employees. I might, perhaps, read a minute that was sent to me from the Department of Shipping and Transport, which I am representing here to-day, on the matter of the continued employment of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. It is in the following terms: -
It is also clear from the tenders received-
Or, as I have said, from the best of them - that it is the intention of prospective purchasers to carry on the present functions of the pool with as little disturbance to the organization as possible. Indeed, it is a stated condition in some tenders that the name Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool be retained. It does seem reasonable to assume, therefore, that the Government’s desire-
Which the Government has always had - that the ready-made facilities of workshops, trained personnel, and operating procedures would be carried on will be fully achieved.
That, I hope, will be reassuring to all those who have expressed some interest and anxiety regarding this matter.
– You are more stupid than you look.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw that remark and apologize.
– I withdraw.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER.The honorable member will also apologize.
– To whom?
The honorable member will apologize for using that expression in the House.
– I apologize to the Chair.
– I wish to say, finally, that among the tenders we have received is one from an organization of employees. It is not true that this organization was at a disadvantage in regard to the matter. After forwarding its tender the organization indicated to me through certain Government members that it wanted some further time because of some financial arrangements that it wished to make. I told the organizations that if they would put in a tender I would see that the organization was not prejudiced in the matter of time to get finance, and that if the tender was accepted a reasonable time would be allowed to make the necessary financial arrangements. It was reported back to me that the organization expressed complete satisfaction on this aspect of the matter. As to its tender, all 1 can say is that it will be fully and earnestly considered. No decision has yet been made. Indeed, the decision is not mine, as the Minister handling the mechanics of the sale. It will be a matter for a Minister in another place and for the Government generally. I am quite prepared, however, to give an assurance that the particular tender will be fully and earnestly considered in due course and at the appropriate time.
.- The Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has made unusually heavy weather of his attempt to defend this proposed sale. The question that I would like to ask him, and which has not been effectively answered, is this: Why is this undertaking being disposed of - apart from the doctrinaire reason that this Government does not believe that a government should take part in private enterprise or in a commercial undertaking? When we examine the undertaking itself we have only to ask ourselves: Has it been effective and profitable? Has it effectively carried out the objectives for which it was originally established? Why was it established? It was established in 1944 to assist in speeding up work on the wharfs. One of its initial ideas was the introduction of forklift trucks on the waterfront. In subsequent years the operations of the enterprise were expanded, and very successfully so. The Minister himself admitted that in this field private enterprise had been unable to show any leadership. As in other fields, such as the whaling industry in Western Australia, a government enterprise entered the field, gained the know-how, established a profitable organization and demonstrated what could be done. Now the monarchs of private enterprise, the men of initiative and courage, step in and take up the running, and, in doing so, take over our assets.
That is why the Opposition is completely opposed to the whole idea of disposing of this undertaking.
I would like to defend the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor) from the charge that he made misstatements and indulged in innuendo. It is quite unfair of the Minister to suggest such a thing. I listened carefully to the honorable member’s speech, and I believe that he was voicing the views, opinions and ideas held by all honorable members on this side of the House with regard to the disposal of this undertaking without proper consultation in this place. The Government’s action on this occasion is merely indicative of the attitude that it has adopted on many such occasions. Let us examine the work on the waterfront. We can readily see the desperate need for some enterprise of this nature. The Bastin report some years ago contained the following statement: -
Not a single person has suggested that the turnround of ships is other than bad and, although some are well aware that this state of affairs is not limited to Australia, there can be no consolation in that for Australians, whose cost of living is raised by the delays which ships experience in their ports.
The first report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Board for the year ended 30th June, 1950, contained the following observation: -
In Australia’s principal ports, the degree of new mechanization comprises mainly equipment made available by port and governmental authorities.
What indication is there, or what guarantee have we, that with the disposal of this government enterprise, in the long run the ports will not deteriorate to their former condition? lt is vital to the well-being of the community and to efficient port operations that this profitable undertaking be continued. If we examine further reports, we see the beneficial results of wharf improvements. In Newcastle, the rate of handling of iron and steel increased from 16 tons an hour to 18 tons an hour as a result of the electrification of cranes on the wharfs. If we consider the fields in which the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool was a pioneer, those of palletization and the use of fork-lift trucks, we find that, in 1950-51, the rate of loading of cement in Melbourne was increased from 11 tons to 16 tons an hour. The introduction of palletization increased the loading rate by 40 per cent, in the first year and by 75 per cent, in the second year. Whether that was the direct result of the operations of the equipment pool-
– lt was not.
– Whether that was the direct result of the operations of this pool has no relevance to the matter before us. It is indicative of the almost desperate need on the wharfs for somebody to establish standards at which the whole industry will operate. That is why we believe it is fatal to the future efficient operation of the industry to dispose of this undertaking, which is under our control, and which has a wide influence on all operations in the industry. If we consider whether the pool was originally needed, and whether it has been successful in its operations and in assisting the industry, we can see that there is no justification for disposing of this asset. If we look at it simply from the point of view of a commercial enterprise, we find that in the whole period since its inception it has made a total profit of £1,303,803. If the Government is short of money, I suppose that this amount could be considered as the cost of fifteen new high schools. If the enterprise is considered only as a means of providing extra government revenue for public purposes, then it must be agreed that it should be continued.
– It does not pay interest, I remind the honorable member.
– But the Minister also said that the Treasury had to contribute to the maintenance of the pool. This pool, however, in 1955, paid £750,000 into the Consolidated Revenue Fund, after seven or eight years’ operations, and when it was originally established it was capitalized at something like £2,000,000, in equipment gathered from here and there. It would probably be very difficult to ascertain whether the Treasury has made specific contributions in any great degree towards this pool. It has been a very profitable enterprise, when looked at from the point of view of returns to the community from the original investment.
We contend that the proposed sale is only part of the pattern of destruction that this Government is pursuing. Consider the sales of shares in other government enterprises. First, there was the sale of shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. Then there was the indefensible disposal of the assets of the Australian Whaling Commission, on the west coast, last year. Thirdly, I may mention the sale of shares in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. I might also remind the House that, in June of this year, two or three weeks after the Parliament had risen, three profitable coal mines were put on the market. Look at the sale of oilboring equipment and other things of that nature. These disposals represent the complete destruction of the pattern of government enterprises that was built into the community by the previous Government. This proposal is only part of the system of attempted strangulation which has been undertaken by the Government of enterprises such as the Commonwealth shipping line, Trans-Australia Airlines and the Commonwealth Bank. The people of Australia should be warned that it is time to take stock of the attitude of this Government in respect of these matters, apart from the desperate possiblity that the 350 employees of the pool will be thrown out of employment at a time like the present. The Auditor-General, in 1951, reported that if the books of this undertaking could not be put in proper order the Government ought to get rid of it. In his last report it appears that the affairs of the pool have since been conducted satisfactorily.
The fact is that the interests of the staff have not been considered, although I appreciate that the Minister gave some sympathetic hearing to their rights in this matter. The staff wished to establish this enterprise as a co-operative, but surely a little more can be demanded or expected from this Government than the bald statement, “ We will give you time to find the cash “. A few years ago when one of the suffering airlines needed some money this Government guaranteed it an overdraft of £4,000,000. Why cannot the Government adopt a similar attitude towards the employees of this equipment pool, if it must pursue this indefensible course? When Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited fell behind in its payments it received sympathetic treatment from the Government. I only hope that it will show the same sympathy towards other people who may fall behind in their payments to it. Dealing with the basic philosophy behind this transaction, I believe that it is bad for the whole community for the Government to surrender the control it has exercised over this small sector of industry.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) began his speech by inquiring why the Government should want to sell the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. The answer is that it wants to do so because such action is in conformity with its policy. The honorable member said that he did not want an answer of that description, but something more substantial. I refer the honorable member to the fact that in democratic countries all parties are elected to Parliament on the basis of their policy, and it is the responsibility of the party elected to form a government to carry out its policy to the best of its ability. The honorable member referred also - unfortunately, to my mind - to the sale of other Commonwealth interests, such as its interest in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the whaling station on the Western Australian seaboard. If the honorable member and his colleagues cared to make an investigation, they would find that nobody was dismissed from A.W.A. as a result of the sale of the Commonwealth’s interest in that undertaking. Nobody was dismissed as a result of the sale of the whaling station except those who deliberately said that they would not work for the new organization.
It must be remembered by one and all that the disposal of this equipment pool is not a give-away at all. The Government has stated that it will not sell this pool at a bargain rate to any Tom, Dick or Harry who might come along thinking that he will make a huge profit out of it. If proof of that is needed it may be found in the fact that it has taken some time to reach any arrangement of a concrete nature.
A point to which I take some exception in the comments of both honorable members opposite who have spoken is their charge that the Government is going to bring about the destruction of the pool. If that were so, why has the Government gone to the limits of giving the employees of the pool, who want to form a co-operative, an opportunity to lodge their tender, and of promising to give them the utmost consideration? Why should it act in that manner? The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. O’Connor), in a most reasoned speech, except in its concluding portion, with which the Minister for Supply (Mr. Beale) has dealt, said that the pool would be dissolved. My information from the department, the Minister and from everybody concerned, is that the overriding consideration in the disposal of this pool is to maintain its functional character as far as possible. That is one of the reasons why there has been no disposal of this undertaking since 1951, when it was first suggested that it should be disposed of. If it is the intention of the Government - and I say quite frankly that it is - to maintain the functional character of this pool, it is natural it would require that that be made clear in negotiations and discussions about its sale. The Government would desire any businessman buying it to have the opportunity of obtaining not only the equipment but also of continuing in employment the skilled personnel available to work the equipment.
I cannot agree that the sale of this pool is an attempt to destroy or dissolve it, as honorable members opposite have suggested. Had that been the desire of the Government it would have found a far easier way of doing that than the course it is now pursuing of offering it for sale by public tender as a going concern. Had the Government intended to do what honorable members opposite have suggested, it would merely have had to wind up the pool and sell the equipment in bits and pieces at public auction. If that were proposed I would agree that there was some substance in the charge made by the two honorable members of the Opposition who have spoken. But that is not the position. Would the Government have gone to the trouble of disclosing to any one interested in the purchase of this pool, that so far as it was possible, the Government would negotiate with the owners of the land upon which the undertaking was constructed to ensure, as far as possible, the continuity of the tenancy to the person, persons or organization which successfully tendered for its purchase? It is obvious that far from attempting to destroy or dissolve this pool and deliberately throw the employees out of employment, the Government is keen to see that this asset is not given away at a bargain sale price. It is keen to ensure, also, that the successful tenderer will carry out, as far as possible, the functions of the pool. In these circumstances, anybody with a grain of business acumen, who bought the pool, would surely endeavour to obtain the services of the skilled employees who have been trained over the years, to continue its operations. In view of those considerations the charges made by the two honorable members of the Opposition will not hold water.
I have no desire to reduce this debate to a lower level, but I have been struck very forcibly by the fact that the submission of this matter for discussion by the Parliament has been placed in the hands of two backbench members of the Opposition while the big artillery of the Labour party is turned in another direction. At this moment the Opposition is so interested in this matter that only six of its members are present in the House. That clearly shows how the Opposition is wasting the time of Parliament by stressing unduly the defence and employment aspects of this pool.
It is claimed that the Government is disposing of a defence asset. But every member who has spoken on this matter, as well as everybody outside this Parliament, knows only too well that in a national emergency the Government would have the machinery and power to control and direct any activities necessary to protect Australia from aggression.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) agreed to -
That the business of the day be called on.
Debate resumed from 4th September (vide page 324), on motion by Mr. McEwen) -
That the following paper be printed: -
Agreement on Commerce between the Com monwealth of Australia and Japan, signed on 6th July, 1957.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “ and this House expresses its disapproval of the Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, of all the debates that have taken place in this chamber since the cessation of the last war I think this debate on the trade agreement with Japan is one of the most important.I frankly believe that the discussion should have taken place before the agreement was signed.
There is widespread fear throughout Australia of this agreement with Japan, and I am amazed when I hear Government supporters criticizing the Opposition for the stand it takes against the agreement. It would be quite safe to say that the people most vitally concerned in the outcome of the agreement are friends of the Government. I refer to the leaders of big industry in Australia; the leaders of big manufacturing firms, who, year in and year out, have supported the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. That being so, I cannot understand the psychology of Government members who attack the Opposition and say that we are making a party issue of this.
I saw something of Japan shortly after the cessation of the last war. I saw the devastated areas of Japan. I saw also other areas that had not been affected by the disasters that accompany war. Very early in my visit I had brought to my notice the poor living and working conditions of the Japanese people compared with those operating in Australia. I quickly realized that Australia could not, whilst maintaining its high living standards, compete on the world’s markets with Japanese goods. I hoped that as the years went by, those dreadful living and working conditions that operated in Japan would be improved to something approaching our standards. But that hope has not been realized. Labour conditions in Japan have remained low.
– Would you call it slave labour?
– In many instances it is slave labour. We must face reality. I was rather struck by the speech made by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), who emphasized the grave danger that Japan, faced with a lack of markets for her goods and a prospect of a further deterioration of living standards, would be forced into a Communist bloc. One will grasp at any straw in a necessity. That may be so - I do not doubt it for one moment - but I remind the Government that the protests against this agreement are not coming in any greater volume from the workers than from the manufacturers. Business interests are making it quite clear that if the Government is going to permit goods to enter Australia under this agreement, it will create an army of unemployed in Australia as big as, if not bigger than, we knew in the 1930’s.
I have here a statement by Mr. A. M. Simpson, the principal of a well-known South Australian firm, it is an organization of which I am proud. 1 saw it established, it has now been built up to a great Australian manufacturing organization, employing many thousands of workers in South Australia. Mr. Simpson states that he is the president of the Chamber of Manufactures in South Australia, and he points out the grave dangers associated with this trade agreement. He refers to a recent government contract for insulators. The Japanese tendered and Australian firms tendered. The lowest Australian tender was received from a South Australian firm, but that firm was not in the race against the low tender from a Japanese firm, which was given the order. That is only one instance of what happens.
There will be severe competition from Japan in many commodities, and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has not indicated how that competition is likely to affect Australian industries. Japan knows what it wants from Australia. In particular, it wants wool. Mr. Simpson has pointed out that Japan does not buy wool from Australia out of a neighbourly feeling. It buys because wool is wanted in Japan. It is the responsibility of the Minister and of the Government to indicate clearly to the Australian people what goods Japan will be allowed to export to Australia. If we were to receive from Japan goods that we in Australia were not producing, we should have no complaint about obtaining those goods on the Japanese market. But we know that that is not the situation, and that we shall not be buying from Japan goods that we are not producing in Australia. It is generally understood that our imports from Japan will be made up largely of textiles, a fact to which the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) referred in an excellent speech last Thursday evening. Toys and many other articles that are now being produced in abundance in Australia will be imported from Japan.
This brings me back to my argument about communism. Unemployment in Japan may, it is admitted, force Japan into the Communist bloc. There is no graver danger to Australia than mass unemployment, which can lead to communism. I see Government supporters shaking their heads. I should like to recall to their minds the situation of the 1930’s. Already, 60,000 or 70,000 Australian workers are unemployed, even before the effects of this trade agreement have been felt. Fear, alone, has caused much of this unemployment. If we import into Australia textiles, toys, and other goods that we are now manufacturing on a large scale in this country, considerable unemployment will soon occur, especially in the textile industry, and in many other large industries that employ large numbers of workers, and a great army of unemployed will be built up. Any one who says that a large army of unemployed would not bolster communism in Australia is not sincere. Communism thrives on the tragedy of depression, starvation, cold bodies, and homeless thousands. The honorable member for Barker was realistic enough to admit this. In the light of these things, the Government has taken on its shoulders a heavy responsibility in entering into this trade agreement with Japan.
I, for one, do not want to see the Japanese people starve. I do not want to see them living in depressed conditions, and suffering from hunger and cold. However, living standards and production costs are so much lower in Japan than in Australia that, under any trade agreement with the Japanese, we ought to import only goods that are really needed in Australia, and are not produced here. If the Government intended this agreement to operate in that way, I should have no objection to it. But I cannot support an agreement under which we shall import, willy-nilly, goods with which Australian manufacturers cannot compete. I have seen great advancement in secondary industries in Australia since World War II. We are a nation of only about 9,000,000 people, and we are gradually approaching the stage at which our secondary production will have become so great that we shall have to find external markets for our manufactures. Therefore, we are confronted with a double kind of problem. The Government should not permit the indiscriminate importation of goods from Japan without indicating to the people what kinds of goods will be imported, and what import quotas will be allowed. Indiscriminate imports can serve only to strangle Australian industries. I see that the honorable member for Barker is now in his seat. In one sense he sees the dangers inherent in this agreement, although, perhaps, in another sense, he does not. The honorable member mentioned the danger of communism in Japan. I fear it in Australia. We are supposed to be passing through the greatest era of prosperity that Australia has ever known, yet the Government admits that about 65,000 workers are unemployed! That has happened even before the effects of this trade agreement have been felt, lust as there is danger of communism in other countries in which people are unemployed, starving and cold, there will be danger of communism in Australia if this trade agreement is allowed to damage Australia’s economy, cause unemployment in Australian industries, and thereby build up an army of unemployed. If that happens, and communism grows in Australia, the responsibility will belong, not to the Opposition, but to the Government.
.- Many people who experienced the depression of the 1930’s seem to have in the back of their minds fears of a repetition of what happened then. Such people are sincere in their thoughts and statements about the possibility of another depression of the same magnitude developing in this country now or in the future. Having said that, I should like to say that such people, because of that attitude and that approach to economic considerations, sometimes unconsciously tend to assist in bringing about the very thing that they fear. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) emphasized that when he spoke of his fears of unemployment. I do not want to argue with him, at the moment, about the correctness or otherwise of his statement that a large number of workers is unemployed. I do contest his statement that any unemployment that now exists has been caused by fear alone. The honorable member admitted that there has not been time for this trade agreement to make its impact upon employment felt.
– Traders are not buying from Australian manufacturers now. They are waiting for the cheap goods to come in from Japan. So, the fear is real.
– I do not agree with the honorable member for Adelaide. The point I am making is that the constant reiteration by members of the Opposition that this agreement will cause unemployment as a result of the flooding of the country with Japanese goods is helping to contribute to the very thing the fear of which and the dangers of which they constantly stress in their speeches in this House - the possibility of an economic depression. When the Labour party was in office in this country a member of the present Opposition said that if 4 per cent, of the work force were unemployed we would still have full employment. The unemployment situation to-day is not comparable with a degree of 4 per cent, of unemployment.
– It is li per cent.
– My colleague says it is li per cent., which is very different from 4 per cent, which, as a member of the Labour party said once, would still leave us with full employment. So, I say that here again the members of the Opposition are assisting to bring about the possibility of a situation which they always say they hope will not come.
I admit that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that this trade agreement should not affect employment in Australia. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has said that the agreement contains certain safeguards. I would say that, besides using those safeguards, the Commonwealth Government can assist in relation to employment by its economic policy. That is one thing that I feel we have to watch, so that we may be able, by policy and by action, to avert the possibility which the members of the Opposition say they fear.
Now, I have one criticism of this trade agreement. The instrument of the agreement begins with the following words: -
The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Government of Japan, being desirous of improving and developing the commercial relations between the two countries, have agreed as follows: -
With all due respect, I feel that these words are not quite correct. The Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia has not yet agreed, and I feel that there is a danger in this, that too frequently in recent times have we seen the very thing happening that we see happening to-day.
An agreement is made, something is done, and men it is submitted to the Parliament for its approval. I think that that is one of the most dangerous things we have seen happen in this country in recent years. If the back-benchers in this Parliament, whether they be on the Government side or the Opposition side, are to be merely rubber stamps to signify parliamentary approval of Executive decisions, then I say that the sooner we give away the idea of a Commonwealth Parliament the better.
Members of the Government parties support this agreement, but we are faced with an important question. Should such an agreement be made by the Government - any government - and the Parliament disapproves of it, what would the position of the Government be then? I am fully conscious that there are times when, because of the need for urgency, the Executive must act without having received parliamentary approval. But this tendency to act without such approval must be carefully watched. We must beware that the Executive does not act in almost complete disregard of the members of the Commonwealth Parliament. No matter how much I may disagree with members of the Opposition, they are still entitled to rise in this place and put their views.
– They always did this kind of thing when they were in office.
– I am not concerned with what the Labour party did, but with what the Government I support is doing.
– In view of what the Labour party did when it was in office the interjections made by honorable members opposite during this debate cannot be justified.
Order! The honorable member for Mallee must not interject.
– I am sorry to say that unfortunately the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has misunderstood me. I was not attempting to justify the interjections from Opposition members, but was upholding the freedom of members of the Opposition to stand in this place and say what they feel they should say. Unfortunately, there has been in recent months a tendency for the press to belittle the Parliament. I do not say that there are not occasions when criticism of the members of this Parliament is justified, but 1 say, both to honorable members and to the Executive, that we must be careful that we do not undermine this institution by our actions, because if we undermine it we shall be undermining the very foundation of OU] democracy. I hope to have something further to say about that matter later.
Now, I turn to the agreement itself. As I have said, members of the Opposition have been speaking about the dangers of unemployment as a result of the agreement. May I point out to them that if the primary industries of this country are crippled the possibility of a depression will appear, because, as a member of the Opposition pointed out yesterday, the last economic depression came about when the primary industries, and the income of the primary industries, were at their lowest ebb. I have constantly reiterated in this House that the strength of Australia’s economy stems from the primary industries. I do not deny that we can make, and have made, progress in secondary industry, and I think that secondary industry in many instances deserves the commendation of the people of Australia for the progress it has made. We now are going forward and are finding overseas markets for the products of our secondary industry that, even a few years ago, we would not have thought we could find. But the strength of secondary industry in Australia depends on the strength of primary industry, because if we do not have the products of the land to export in order to give us favorable trade balances, we cannot buy abroad the things that are necessary for the progress and development of secondary industry. The financial contribution made by primary industry to economic stability in this country, in respect of both domestic and overseas trade, is a contribution which, I have said and I make no apology for repeating, is vitally necessary. I quote the words of the Minister in his speech on this agreement. He said -
I think the House and the country are well aware of the extent to which the Australian national well-being is interwoven with our experience in exports from this country and imports to this country. Australia is a great international trader. In fact, notwithstanding that we have only 9,000,000 nr 10,000,000 people here, Australia ranks eighth among the international traders of the world. We are constantly engaged in protecting our overseas trade because it has become quite clear to all of us that there can be no continuing basis for prosperity and expansion in this country unless we have a healthy and expanding overseas trade. It was partly out of that thinking that the Department of Trade itself was created.
Again, the members of the Opposition have been constantly talking about the low standard of living in Japan. They have been saying that working conditions in Japan are not good. How are the people of Japan to improve their conditions unless they can export to other countries? in regard to the statement that we should import into Australia only those commodities that we do not manufacture here, I suggest that if that policy were followed to its logical conclusion the resultant effect on our export industries would be disastrous. It has been said that the Japanese have been buying certain commodities from us only because they need them. That may be true, but other countries of the world are interested in the wool and sugar markets and would be quite prepared to go into the Japanese trading sphere if the opportunity were given to them. If we made trading too difficult for the Japanese and did not give them a degree of reciprocity; we should find ourselves on the end of a limb, and the Japanese certainly would not trade with us to the degree that they have in the past.
I should like to congratulate the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) on the speech that he made in this House yesterday. It was a reasoned speech, of the type that we have become accustomed to hearing from him. There is only one point on which I propose to cross swords with him, and that concerns the following statement made by him: -
I think one tends to become confused if one attributes a low wage structure in a country entirely to some kind of capitalist plot. The system of the economy does not matter.
A rebuttal of that statement is easy if we look at Eastern and Western Germany. Western Germany, under what is called the capitalist system, has made tremendous progress in the developmental sphere and in industrial activities. On the other hand, if we cross the border and look at Eastern Germany, which is under the Communist system and governed by a dictatorship, we find that similar progress has not been made. Yet, Western Germany suffered far more from bombing than did Eastern Germany. That, I think, is proof that the economic system does make a contribution to the progress and development of a country.
We see that illustrated here in Australia, and we also see it in this trade agreement with Japan. The agreement will contribute to the development of our internal industries, and that, in turn, will contribute to the development of our secondary industries, because prosperous primary industries assist the establishment of prosperous secondary industries. I congratulate the Minister on the work that he has done in bringing this agreement to fulfilment, and on the assistance that he has given to our primary industries in this regard.
– I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this debate. In my opinion, if this agreement is ratified it will have a very detrimental effect on all our manufacturing industries. I therefore support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I listened very attentively to the statement made recently in the House by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), in the course of which he tried to induce the people to believe that the agreement was a good thing for the Australian economy. He said -
But the agreement, on examination, has shown itself to be good for the Australian economy. It is certainly good for the Australian export industries. It will be good, too, for Australian consumers. It is good for the Australian trading community, and it is good as a contribution to continued peaceful existence in this part of the world.
Before I comment further on the statement of the Minister, I want to say that I am deeply interested, as are all honorable members on the Opposition side, in our manufacturing industries. I have in my electorate a number of important manufacturing industries, and I propose to deal briefly with the effect that this agreement will have on them. There is in my electorate a company known as the North Australian Rubber Mills Limited, a large producer of rubber goods, which has been in existence for 35 or 40 years and which employs a considerable number of people, both male and female. It is engaged in the manufacture of all kinds of rubber goods, particularly rubber footwear, and its operations are most efficient. The organization considers that if this agreement goes through it will have undoubted adverse effects on its operations. They point to the agreements that have been entered into by other countries with Japan to indicate the results that are likely to ensue. They believe that this agreement will have similar results for Australian industries.
Also in my electorate there is a considerable number of clothing manufacturers, and they, too, think that they will be adversely affected by the agreement with Japan. There seems no doubt that they will be so affected. The rubber factory to which I have referred produces rubber footwear that is equal to such footwear produced anywhere else in the world. It supplies footwear to every State of Australia. During the war period this factory, in common with woollen and textile factories, played an important part in our war effort. The management now is disturbed because it feels that if this agreement is ratified the Japanese will be able to flood the Australian market with cheap manufactured goods, to the detriment of local industries.
Having regard to the wages and working conditions that obtain in Japan, we on this side of the chamber are satisfied that it would be impossible for the Australian rubber industry to compete successfully with Japanese manufacturers in the production of rubber footwear. The production of wet weather footwear accounts for 15 per cent, of the total output of the factory to which I have referred. The cost price of the material used in the manufacture of a pair of gum-boots is 223d., of which 68d. is attributable to fabric parts and 155d. to rubber components. Labour accounts for 209d. Taking that into consideration, it appears that a very conservative estimate of the position would be that Japanese labour costs are not more than one-tenth of Australian labour costs. The Japanese Government readily subsidises manufacturers engaged in the export industry.
The cost in Japan of the rubber component of one pair of gum-boots, judging from the figures available to me, is fourfifths of the cost to the Australian manufacturer, and the cost of the fabric in Japan is half *he cost in Australia. Thus, we arrive at these figures: The cost of fabric in one pair of sum-boots is 68d. in Australian and 34d. in Japan. The rubber component costs 155d. in Australia and 124d. in Japan, making the total cost of components 223d. in Australia and 158d. in
Japan; but the labour cost of manufacturing a pair of such boots is 209d. in Australia as against 2 Id. in Japan. This makes a total cost of 432d. per pair in Australia, compared with 179d. in Japan. Therefore, honorable members will readily see that if Japan exports to Australia to any great extent, as I believe it will, goods such as 1 have mentioned it will no doubt detrimentally affect Australian industry and, consequently, unemployment in the industries concerned will become more acute.
The situation is similar in respect ot rubber sandshoes. I believe that the company that I have mentioned turns out sand.shoes of the finest quality. The cost of fabric parts in a pair of sandshoes is 36d. in Australia and 18d. in Japan; the rubber component costs 39d. in Australia and 32d. in Japan; (he labour cost in Australia is 65d., but is only 7d. in Japan. Thus, the total cost of making a pair of shoes is 140d. in Australia and 57d. in Japan. So there is no doubt that the importation of any considerable quantity of Japanese goods such as I have mentioned would have a seriously detrimental effect on our manufacturing industries.
The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). in presenting his case to the House, endeavoured to make honorable members and the people believe that this agreement would be good for the economy of this country. If we are to take notice of the people in the industry, as we must because they are the ones who realize the danger to the Australian economy, this agreement will cause many hundreds of thousands of employees to be thrown on to the unemployment market, and that, again, will detrimentally affect the economy.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– I have already mentioned that quite a number of important manufacturing industries, including rubber and clothing industries, are in my electorate. A number of factories manufacture various kinds of clothing, and this agreement will spell the death knell of those industries. That argument is based on what has happened to our textile and clothing industries in past years, and with that experience in mind the manufacturers have every reason to be alarmed. One need only look at the position which arose after a similar agreement was concluded between Canada and Japan, in 1954. The import of cotton goods and manufactured articles into Canada ruined the clothing industry there. I shall cite some figures to illustrate my point. In the first nine months of 1954, 57,000 dollars worth of clothing made from woven fabrics entered Canada from Japan. In the first nine months of 1956, clothing imported from Japan was valued at 3,189,000 dollars, or five times the amount in 1955, and 56 times the amount in 1954. Clearly, the export of those commodities from Japan has had a very serious effect on Canadian industries. In my opinion, the same thing will happen to Australian clothing manufacturers.
V/e find, also, that men’s and boys’ cotton sports shirts, made in Japan, have captured at least 45 per cent, of the Canadian market. The increases have been so rapid that the full figures are not available. The Japanese intention for 1957 has been made known in some fields. For instance, it is authoritatively reported that they intend to ship trousers and slacks to Canada this year in volume exceeding the 1955 sales by 50 per cent. I am satisfied that the same thing will happen in Australia. We all know what happened to Australian textile and clothing manufacturers during 1930 and 1931. At that time, quite a number of our big textile industries were on the verge of collapse. Had not the Scullin Government come to the aid of these important industries, they would, no doubt, have been, in a very serious plight. However, the tariff protection granted to those industries by the Scullin Government gave them a fillip, and they have progressed ever since.
The Minister has said that certain safeguards are provided in the agreement, but, in my opinion, those safeguards are absolutely futile. The agreement is for three years, and the only safeguard is an assurance from the Japanese Government that manufacturers will be restrained from overloading the Australian market. 1 am informed that even now, before the agreement has become operative, several important Australian firms have signed large orders for the import of Japanese manufactured goods. Immediately the agreement comes into force, importers will have goods placed on Japanese ships, which 1 understand are already waiting in Japanese ports, and within six or seven weeks the Australian market will be flooded with cheap manufactured goods. That is what happened in Canada, and it is still happening there. This agreement will be political suicide for the Government, if we can take what happened in Canada as a guide. 1 believe that, in formulating this agreement with the Japanese, the Minister followed the trend of the Canadian agreement. The Canadian market was flooded with cheap Japanese goods. Protests were of no avail, but immediately an election was held the Canadian government which introduced the Japanese trade agreement was defeated. This Government should be very careful or the same thing will happen here.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This debate has been proceeding for several days, and naturally has ranged over a wide field. If I may say so, I am disappointed that honorable members, especially on the Opposition side, have not approached this matter from a more detached and non-party point of view. One would think that a matter of this nature, which does not impinge upon any hard and fast political belief, could be considered with some degree of dispassion and freedom from party bias. Unhappily, with the exception of the very thoughtful speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), most members of the Labour party have confined themselves to the same themes. Quite frankly, I have no brief for Japan or any liking for her people. Five of us who sit in this chamber have, perhaps, a knowledge of and a degree of intimacy with the Japanese that is not possessed by any other member of this Parliament. But the task of this Government, and this country, is to rebuild the world wherever possible on a basis of co-operation, eschewing as far as we are humanly able, all prejudice and past bitterness.
As I see it, there are real dangers inherent in this treaty. I make no apology for some of the misgivings in my own mind. But the ultimate test of an agreement of this nature is in the question, Where does the balance of advantage lie? I readily apprehend the fears of the textile industries. Those fears are, after all, very natural. All of us in this Parliament have been literally deluged in the last few weeks with a stream of propaganda from interested parties. They are perfectly entitled to state their case, to voice their objections, and to bring these considerations to the minds of us members of Parliament, but I do feel that in putting forward those objections they fall into the error of exaggeration.
I do not think that we advance the Government’s case by trying to pretend that in some of the textile industries dismissals have not already occurred. Various concrete instances have been brought to my notice, which, on investigation, 1 have found to be true. It is well to admit these things and to have no humbug about them. Honorable members opposite have also used, with some effect, the argument as to what the reaction is likely to be on some of our Continental buyers, particularly in France and Italy. These people, understandably, are fearful lest they be undercut by the Japanese. The House has already been told by a number of speakers that the trade balances of France and Italy are quite markedly lopsided so far as Australia is concerned. Yet, as a result of this treaty there will be more undercutting, and the foothold of Italian and French suppliers in the Australian market will become even less secure. Those interests will suffer thereby, and it is conceivable that this agreement may have some deleterious effect - although 1 cannot say how great it will be - upon French and Italian demands for Australian wool.
Another misgiving in my mind involves some doubt, based on Australia’s experience during the last 20 or 30 years, as to whether the Japanese manufacturers, or even the Japanese Government, will play fair with the undertakings given in this agreement. All I can say is that I hope they will. I am sure the Minister for Trade (Mr. Mc Ewen) is well aware of this defect in the Japanese character. He, after all, is, if I may say so, a shrewd man who goes about the world with his eyes open. He is an experienced politician, and I have no doubt that this is one of the pitfalls that he would be looking out for. But, nonetheless, I suggest that it is an aspect of this agreement that all of us in this Parliament will have to be careful about as time goes on.
Having said these things, and having openly confessed my own uneasiness, I can say that I believe the Minister has presented a strong case for the ratification of the agreement. We have only to ask ourselves one question. It is a very simple question, but often the simplest of propositions become the truest and most important in matters of international economics. We have only to ask ourselves: What would happen to the Australian economy if our staple industries were not maintained? Every thinking person in Australia knows that our great primary industries, particularly wool and wheat, are the basis for the local demand for manufacturing industries. Our exports of these products, and of barley and sugar, and also, I am glad to see, dried fruits - reasonable provision for which has been inserted, no doubt at the instigation of the Minister - will be stimulated by the honouring of this agreement.
Looking at this question with an open mind, I think we must recognize that it is impossible in international trade to arrange for every advantage on one side. No government of any primary producing nation can seek to insulate its secondary industries from all phases of international competition. We on this side of the House make no secret of the fact that we believe in competition. We believe in competition, within the economy, amongst our own producers, and logically we accept competition, and regard it as healthy, when coming from producers in other lands. This same competition, whatever the fears of the textile industry, will undoubtedly please a large section of the consuming public if, as honorable members opposite allege, there is going to be a sharp decline in the prices of some of the products that they so readily buy. Make no mistake about that; the consuming public will not shed many tears if they can buy shirts, pyjamas, and other objects, some of which may be unmentionable in a polite assembly, at prices much lower than they have hitherto been accustomed to paying.
– That will not help them much if they themselves are out of work.
– Some local manufacturers, I have no doubt, will probably be affected. We would be merely fooling ourselves if we tried to pretend that nobody will be hurt as a result of this agreement. T am quite prepared to concede that some people will be hurt as a result of the Minister’s undertaking. But I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, and also to the honorable member opposite who is so voluble, although he has already made his speech, that you must look at this matter from the overall point of view. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the overall economy is going to benefit by this agreement. Therein lies the real justification for it.
I believe that the critics of this treaty have overlooked some of the safeguards outlined by the Minister. Surely honorable members opposite will concede that it is the desire of any government to maintain employment and protect investment within our own economy. No government, even from the basest motives of self-interest, would disregard those objectives. This Government, 1 am glad to say, is animated not only by those considerations but also by humane feelings and by an honest and conscientious wish to do its best by the great majority of Australians. Honorable members opposite also overlook the comparatively high prices of Japanese products. We have only to take a walk around some of the toy shops in this country to see not only how the quality of Japanese toys has improved but also how startlingly expensive they have become. The critics of the agreement also disregard the wording of Article V., which gives the Minister power to suspend imports providing a degree of injury is being experienced by an industry or industries. He can suspend those imports until such injury is remedied. It will also be noticed that Article V. provides that if there is no solution of the disagreement within a period of two months the whole agreement is then open for re-negotiation.
Another safeguard is the provision in Article VI. requiring annual consultation between the Australian and Japanese governments. A further safeguard is the Minister’s assurance that he will establish an advisory council of interested parties to assist him in these matters. The final safeguard, which, I suggest, has been completely overlooked by honorable members opposite, lies in the fact that the agreement will continue for only three years, lt is, by the nature of things, an economic experiment. Nobody could possibly protest that an agreement of so short a duration, historically speaking, as three years - even if it turns out that all of our fears are going to be realized - will permanently damage a big manufacturing section of this community.
I wish to allude to another phase of this treaty on which I place more importance than economic arguments. I am glad to notice that my friend the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), and one or two other honorable members who have participated in this debate, touched upon it also. I refer to the wider international implications of Australia’s trading with Japan. Surely, every honorable member must realize by now, looking coldly and factually at the Japanese problem, that the democratic countries of the world simply have to trade with the Japanese, whatever our own feeling or sentiments towards them may be. In this small island there is a population of 90,000,000, increasing at the rate of 1,250,000 a year. They are bottled up in an area approximately somewhat less than half the size of South Australia or of New South Wales. As a result of the war, quite properly, they have been denuded of their overseas possessions, and these are unlikely to be restored to them. Those of us who know them, will recognize the Japanese to be an able, ambitious, assertive and progressive race. In spite of all the talk which we have heard in recent years about the increasing ascendancy of China I believe that, unless I am much mistaken, as this century unfolds it will be shown that the number one power in the Far East, in many respects, will always be Japan.
So, there is this intense and acute international political problem. At the present time the Government in Tokyo, which can be described as pro- Western in its outlook, pays some reasonable observation to the principles of democracy. The miltarists which were the curse of the Pacific in the 1930’s and 1940’s, are, at the moment, in the shadows. It would be a wise policy for this Government and all free governments - because we are so vitally affected by what occurs in Japan - to help the sort of government led by Mr. Kishi to demonstrate that government’s capacity to the Japanese people, its ability to improve the Japanese economy, and, in addition, its ability to co-operate with its former enemies. As other honorable members have said, Japan, on the one hand, must be prevented from joining, in desperation, the Chinese-Russian Communist bloc, and on the other hand, looking at the problem in the somewhat longer term, we have a responsibility to prevent a resuscitation of aggressive Japanese nationalism. I have long felt, as I have sat in this House and sometimes stood to speak in it, that we are not paying nearly enough attention to the long-term problems of Japan. Japan, with her big economic and social difficulties, has got to either trade or explode. If we do not try, by practical means, to assist in the solution of her social and economic problems, the blame for any future war that might break out may be, in part, ours. And because, as I see it, this treaty is one means of avoiding the kettle boiling over, despite my own misgivings and very grave doubts about the bona fides of the Japanese, I am prepared to support it.
.- I must congratulate the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) on his undoubted sincerity. I should think, though, that some of his fundamental ideas, politically, go back a long way. The suggestion that some people unnamed and unspecified in this Australian community should necessarily be sacrificed for the good of all other nations or even in the interest of international wellbeing, particularly as I see it, is certainly not acceptable to this side of the House. I can find no guarantees in this agreement relating to international well-being, and it is almost certain that it will place some sections of the community in danger.
Before dealing with the general principles of the agreement, I should like to make one or two observations. In the first place, honorable members on the Government side have spoken about the Opposition’s fear of unemployment. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) on one occasion said that any Australian out of work is a national problem. That is where this party starts in its consideration of agreements such as that now before the House. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) said that 5 per cent, of unemployment is apparently a reasonable figure. I say that it is very unfortunate for any one who happens to be one of those 5 per cent. The attitude of honorable members on the Government side is that unemployment is not a danger if you are not out of work yourself. I am one of the members on this side of the House who experienced periods of unemployment before I was elected to Parliament. I wish to make it clear that members on this side of the House are not entering this debate with any great prejudice against the Japanese. I should not like to think that this party developed itself politically as a result of prejudice against anybody. The Japanese are human even though their activities over twelve years ago were very inhuman - and I appreciate the sentiments of the honorable member for Angas, because we know what he went through at their hands.
Considerable alarm and doubts have been expressed by a great number of people in the community about the result of this agreement. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) in his speech on this agreement said - i do not expect to experience much difficulty in convincing intelligent Australian manufacturers that their best interests are safe in the hands of the present Commonwealth Government.
I should like to read some of the opinions expressed by some persons who can be described as “ intelligent Australian manufacturers “. They feel considerable alarm. They say -
Our non-acceptance of the new Japanese pact is because the Agreement lacks the essential safeguards that Australian industry, on behalf of its shareholders and employees, considers to be its historical privilege.
The letter containing that and other expressions of opinion was signed by Mr. F. S. Vine, president of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia; Mr. John G. Hurley, president of the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales; Mr. Daniel Scott, president of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures; Mr. J. R. Gibson, acting president of the Queensland Chamber of Manufactures; Mr. A. M. Simpson, president of the South Australian Chamber of Manufactures; Mr. C. J. Cornish, president of the Western Australian Chamber of Manufactures; Mr. A. E. Poxon, president of the Tasmanian Chamber of Manufactures; and Mr. E. W. Paull, president of the Metal Trades Employers Association. I assume that the Minister for Labour and National Service would be broad-minded enough to admit that people who disagree with him are not always unintelligent. Mr. Trinnick, chairman of the Made in Australia Council, has also expressed concern at the prospect of cheap Japanese shirts appearing in this community. He is one of many people concerned with Australian industry who fears the effect of Japanese goods flooding the Australian market as a result of this treaty. This is an occasion, at least, when both employers and employees seem to be in agreement.
Large numbers of members of the textile workers union live in my electorate and are employed at one of the largest textile mills in the Commonwealth. The safeguards referred to in Article 5 of the agreement look very well on paper, and we agree with the intention of that clause, but when it is realized that a considerable time must elapse between the beginning and the conclusion of negotiations by the respective governments it should not be difficult to imagine that our industries could not only be seriously injured during that period, but also permanently incapacitated. Here I would join issue with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), who says that in three years great damage cannot be done. Three years is a long time when meals are uncertain. Three months of unemployment is bad enough. Such are the attitude and emotions that have been built up in this community over the past ten years. The very idea of unemployment is upsetting to every household in the community. Not only unemployment is a national tragedy; the threat of unemployment in thousands of homes is a national tragedy.
The Textile Workers Union - a good union - whose opinions I have quoted, supports the Labour party and, on this occasion, the party is proud to put the union’s case in this House, because the trade union movement has been the mainspring of the move for improved working conditions for Australian people. Not only the union but also the Australian Association of British Manufacturers has had something to say. It said -
Unbiased observers must have much sympathy with the view of Australian commercial interests that Australia’s objective should be the removal of artificial barriers to the free flow of trade with all countries. But it is questionable whether free trade principles can in fact be applied generally-
It is not only questionable; we are absolutely certain that they cannot be. with safety by an isolated country, in a world which by no means plays the game according to free trade rules.
The Minister for Trade may well be a conscientious and earnest free trader and believe in the spirit of free enterprise, but when he steps out into the councils of the world he is in pretty tough company. They draw up the rules to suit their own cases. When he meets up with the Japanese, the great combines that developed Japan pre-war; when he steps into the field of trade and endeavours to compete with the United States of America, Western Germany, and other rising industrial nations, he is in tough company. The first objective is to protect the interests of the Australian worker and the people who are defenceless once trade starts to fall. That is why the Opposition joins issue with the Government on this agreement.
One of the interesting things in the agreement is the domination of the picture by the primary industries and the primary producer. If we take the document released by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) initially, we find in the schedule that wool, wheat, sugar, barley and other primary products are the essential basis of this agreement. It is a primary producers’ agreement, and when we analyse it further we find that it is probably a wheat producers’ agreement. If some Australian wheat-growers are having difficulty in disposing of their wheat because it does not measure up to international standards, it is time they adopted methods which will produce wheat that is saleable on the world’s markets. We admit that wheat is becoming harder to sell on the world’s markets, and these are factors of which Australia must be aware, but we cannot sacrifice the whole Australian community to protect the wheat industry, no matter how important it is. The Minister for Trade said -
The provisions of the agreement safeguard Australian rights of access to the Japanese market on terms at least as favorable as those of any other country. This applies to all Australian products for which there is export opportunity in Japan.
Fine words and fine phrases; but what chance has an Australian company of competing in Japan? The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) last night emphasized the difficulties that Australian working conditions produce if they are laid side by side with those of Japan. The average male in Japan earns 20. 6d. per hour as against 94d. in Australia. The respective figures for females are 11. 6d. and 68.3d. In the textile industry of Japan - and after all it is the textile industry of Australia which will take the first shock when the blows begin to fall on Australian commerce - 20 per cent, of employees are males and 80 per cent, are females. In Australia males account for 52 per cent.
Superior “working conditions, produced by the long struggles of the trade union movement - workers’ compensation, long service leave, smokos, sick leave, annual and other holidays - are enjoyed by the Australian worker and must be retained against all comers and in all seasons. Those conditions are, we must admit, part of the reason why we cannot compete on the Japanese market. But that is only one factor. Japan, as the honorable member for Angas has pointed out, is a small country with 90,000,000 people - 90,000,000 people in an area smaller than some of our States. Obviously Japan’s overhead costs are lower than ours. In Australia we have a transport system which must cater for 9,000,000 people spread over an area of 3,000,000 square miles. Transport charges account for approximately 30 per cent, of our costs. But in other countries - in the United States, the United Kingdom, and probably Japan - the figure is as low as 10 per cent. Japan’s defeat in the last war and our determination to prevent her rearming on a large scale puts her in a better position to compete with us. She has no costly defence system to maintain. That has made her one of the most aggressive trading nations in recent history. If we look at the figures we see that Japan’s trade in some goods is almost doubling year by year. Take things such as personal accessories. In 1956 Japan aimed to export 21,302,000 dollars worth; but her aim for 1957 is 39,730,000 dollars worth. Even inside our own British Commonwealth, consider the position that has arisen in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Canada, by Japan’s ready access to those markets. We cannot compete in the Japanese home market. It is a fallacy to think that anything but a few specified primary products can find their way on to the Japanese market.
The honorable member for Hughes mentioned picture frames. There are 600 people employed in that industry in Australia, and 75 per cent, of the production goes through the chain-stores. Obviously the chain stores, with their great reserves of buying power, will buy on the Japanese market and not in Australia. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) mentioned paints in tubes. The Japanese are able to put them on the market here for 5d. It costs us 5d. for the tube alone.
We have every reason to be alarmed. We have no chance of competing with the Japanese, lt is a fantasy to say that we will gain from this agreement because we in Australia have the right to sell our products on the Japanese market. Can the Minister for Trade find a ready market for Holdens in Japan? Can he find a ready market for any other product of our growing secondary industries? He cannot. We should be taking the steps that other nations are taking to protect our interests. Has the United States done anything like this? No; she has reserved 95 per cent, of her home market for her own products. She has very rigid controls over imports and exports. After all, the United States is the mecca, the place to which members of the Government pay homage, and from which they believe we should gain our ideals. Surely then we can take America’s example as a solid basis for the protection of Australian industry. Honorable members opposite are also professed Empire lovers. What does this agreement mean to the industries of the United Kingdom? Our credit balance in Britain in the last ten years has been £1,000,000,000 or more. The United Kingdom has been our best and most resolute customer, at our side in two wars. Surely the British people, to whom we can always look for help, expect us, when we are drawing up international agreements, to protect the British workers’ interests as well as our own. If there is any charge on us as an international duty, a humanitarian complex, then the first place to cast our pearls is towards the British people. A notable aspect of history in the last few years has been the devastating attitude adopted by this Government to British trade compared with what was done under the Chifley Government not so many years ago. Whereas the Chifley Government made grants of £35,000,000 to the British people, under this Administration many British industries have received successive kicks and blows through import licensing, trade agreements, and diversion of trade. That is deplorable, and it is time the people of Australia realized that this Government, in its search after doctrinaire capitalist commercialism, is dealing very serious blows at the things that the Australian nation has always stood for. If the Government cared to look about, it could find many other trade opportunities to exploit.
After all, the world does not stop at the Sea of Japan. Just across that sea from Japan, there are 190,000,000 Russians, and 400,000,000 or 500,000,000 Chinese. We on this side of the House do not like Czarism or communism, but in relation to trade we are like honorable members opposite - we do like cash.
When we turn to the history of the last few years, we find that, in 1952-53, we sold 3,300,000 lb. of greasy wool to Russia, for £1,600,000. That was merely chicken feed compared to our total export trade. But in 1953-54, the Russians took 56,000,000 lb. of greasy wool, for which they paid £25,000,000. That was an increase of about fifteen times in twelve months. We were keen to obtain a foothold in a market that had been closed to us, and we should have expanded and maintained that market when we were able to get it. I wonder why, but our trade in wool with Russia suddenly declined. In 1954-55, it totalled only 425,000 lb., and in 1955-56, we sold no wool to Russia. Historians may yet say that there was some significance for this collapse of trade in a gentleman called Petrov. As a result of this disagreement with Russia, we have to crawl to Japan to obtain a market in which to sell some of our primary products. This is part of the pay-off for Vladimir Petrov. If we forget all about our political consciences, and whether we do or do not like Communists or fascists, we can find markets in which to sell Australian wool without shackling ourselves with agreements such as this. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) is a gentleman with whom I do not often agree, but I agree with the statement he made last evening that, under this agreement, we have surrendered part of our trade rights. He said, also, that we had rendered ourselves more vulnerable to the winds of commerce from overseas, and I agree with that, too.
The constitutional position has been discussed by the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), two gentlemen with whom I often disagree. I agree with them on this occasion, because the Parliament alone has authority to make agreements such as this. Section 51 of the Australian Constitution provides -
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws . . . with respect to
Trade and commerce with other countries, and among the States:
This Parliament should make any of these agreements that are entered into. It should not merely be asked to rubber-stamp agreements such as this against the better judgment, not only of Opposition members, but also of those who conduct the commerce and industry of the country, and regardless of the welfare of trade unionists and workers, and also, I believe, against the conscience, beliefs, and fears of most honorable members opposite. The time has come for every one to recognize the destructive path that this Government is pursuing, mainly, I fear, under the domination of the doctrinaire views of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and some of his closest associates, who are leading Australia to destruction.
A few months ago, the Government rejected a decision by the Tariff Board in relation to the textile industry. Over the years, we have built up a very strong curtain of protection for Australian industries. This rejection, and the trade agreement with Japan, represents a crack in that system of protection, under which Australia has attained eighth position among the world’s great trading nations. If our secondary industries are prejudiced, every one in the community is prejudiced. If the workers are knocked, all the Australians who consume much of our butter, barley, meat and bananas, are knocked. If the workers are prejudiced, the country is placed in peril. The welfare of the workers is indispensable to the well-being of the nation, and if the welfare of the workers is placed in jeopardy, the Government’s attitude will turn the clock back 300 years to the days when some people were boiled in oil for the general good. By signing this agreement we have made ourselves more vulnerable to the ebb and flow of international trade.
.- This agreement is surely a link in the diplomatic and trade relations being resumed with one of our erstwhile enemies. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) left Australia on 10th April last on a visit to Japan which began the movement, described by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), towards acknowledging the necessity of recognizing Japan. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) met with some opprobrium shortly after the war because he committed the offence of being -about ten years ahead of public opinion, and shook hands with the Emperor of Japan. The recent move towards the recognition of Japan has been a substantial one. When the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) went to that country he was well received.
– He was opening up the “ mug market “.
– I ask Opposition members to listen to what I have to say. The orders for coal received by the nine coal mines in my electorate as a result of the Prime Minister’s visit to Japan will keep those mines going for five years. The Minister for Trade found, during the last year, that the British market could not support Australian industries adequately, and therefore it became necessary to obtain other markets for wool and other commodities. Japan was the logical country to look to, because it was the second greatest purchaser of wool. It is not the mere figures alone that are important. The quantity of wool sold to Japan is not the only important thing. Marketing experts know that the wool market is very sensitive, and that if any important buyer withdraws, or greatly reduces its purchases, the market is in danger of collapse. The wool market is very important to Australia, and fluctuations in the ability of other countries to buy our wool, and maintain a stable demand for it, have serious effects upon the Australian economy. With these facts in mind, the Minister for Trade went to Japan.
This agreement has not yet affected Australia. Some Australian interests are criticizing it bitterly without waiting to see whether any one will be hurt by it. I shall deal more fully with the alleged dangers of the agreement in a moment. Let us be quite clear about the importance of a high export income to Australia. The Austraiian Labour party adheres to a policy of providing employment for the workers. I put it to the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), in particular, that it is in the interests of the workers for us to maintain good markets for our primary products. If any proof of that is needed, one can find it in the make-up of our imports. 1 apologize to the House, Mr. Speaker, for inflicting statistics upon it, but they are of some importance in indicating the factors on which adequate employment for the workers of Australia depends, and therefore the House should hear them. In 1956-57 we imported for primary industry raw materials worth £6,000,000; for manufacturing industries, £308,000,000; for the building industry, £30.000,000; for the manufacture of fuels and lubricants, £46,000,000- a total of approximately £400,000,000. Australians are noted for their ability to work with machinery, and workmen in my electorate are doing better work with imported machines than English workmen are doing with similar machines. In 1956-57, we imported for manufacturing industries £134,000,000 worth of capital equipment; for transport, £22,000.000, excluding motor vehicles; and for auxiliary aids to production, £28,000,000-a total of £184,000,000. The po’nt that I wish to make is directly contradictory to what has been said by the honorable member for Wills. 1 want to convince the House that wool and other primary products, at which Opposition members have scoffed as not being worthy of attention, are the very things that make it possible for the Australian workers to have secure jobs.
The Minister for Trade went to Japan, not so much to protect the wool industry, as to protect the employment of Australian workers by making it possible for us to import the goods on which their jobs depend. That is the only sensible way of looking at the matter. In other words, it was desperately necessary to protect the market for Australian goods so as to protect those jobs. There is a disparity, as was mentioned in the House yesterday, between the earnings of those who are paid wages and salaries and the earnings of the men on the farms. Last year the amount paid to wages and salary earners was £2,800,000,000, and the amount earned by people on the land was £500.000,000. Also, do not let us forget that the value of wool to this country is four times the actual cash value of the wool. Every £1 worth of wool turns into £4 worth of work and goods, and the farmer’s receipts are only about one-quarter of what is received in this country for work in other than primary industries.
In addition, 80 per cent, of our imports are used by industries other than primary industries. I want the Labour party to remember that, if it ever regains office.
This is not a plea for the primary industries, but a plea for the preservation of the jobs those industries provide in secondary industry. Do not let us forget that last year we imported £89,500,000 worth of motor vehicles, including parts which were assembled in this country, and £139,500,000 of consumer goods, including food, beverages and tobacco, clothing and accessories. That was a relatively small amount. There was unrestricted entry of woollen goods from Japan, but only a small volume of woollen goods was imported from overseas. We made 80 per cent, of our industrial goods in this country. The tariff on woollen goods is almost infinitesimal, and its relaxation will not have any effect on imports of woollen goods. As the Opposition has said thai, because of the agreement, importers will be able to buy three times as much as they did before, what difference will the tariff make?
The value of the total intake of imports last year was £818,500,000, of which more than 80 per cent, provided jobs in Australian industries. Let us look at the factories into which these imports go. In my electorate in the last few years a number of light industries have been established. They include factories for the production of sewing machines, electric motors, rubber, automotive accessories and parts, paper, chemicals and the like. Those factories have absorbed millions of pounds worth of import licences for capital equipment. They had to have import licences in order to import parts for assembly here and capital equipment for their production needs, as well as raw materials for manufacturing and further processing in this country. All of those industries provide jobs for Australians, and their existence is greatly appreciated by the people. Such industries provide a tremendous volume of new employment. In Australia, we have more than 2,000,000 people working, and 80 per cent, of the goods we import are raw materials and capital equipment to help to keep that vast number of people in employment. America found during its developmental stages that as fast as a country endeavours to make all its requirements within its own borders, the more imports it requires to service its factories. 1 think that the case is proven by those facts.
There is the further fact that eight or nine categories of industries dispose of something like £2,800,000 in wages and salaries. They include those that produce coke, briquettes, lime, cement and asbestos, which employ 20,000 men; bricks, glass and pottery, which employ 22,000 men; chemicals, dyes and paints, oils and grease, which employ 42,000 men; industrial metals, smelting machines, conveyances, machine tools, plant equipment, pipes, nails, arms, railway rolling-stock - which we are now about to import in substantial quantities - cycles - I bow to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), a famous cyclist - aircraft, lead mills, sewing machines and so on, which employ 418,150 men. All these factories are nourished by imports provided by the earnings of rural production, and all of them employ Australian workers who are supposed to be protected by the Australian Labour party. About 5,000 men are employed in the production of precious metals and about 66,000 in the production of textiles, cotton, silk, rayon, flax, rope, canvas and sacks. About 13,000 are employed in the production of skins, leather and saddlery, whilst about 104,000 are employed in the production of clothing, tailoring, waterproofing, millinery, shirts, handkerchiefs, ties, hats, caps, boots, shoes, umbrellas, dye-work and cleaning. About 118,000 are employed in the production of food, drink and tobacco; about 57,000 in saw-mills, and so on. About 59,000 are employed in the production of paper, and about 16,000 in the production of rubber, whilst 16,000 are employed in the production of light and power.
All those important manufacturing industries employ about 1,000,000 people and require to be serviced. All of those people have to be paid by the results of their production. The allowances of members of this Parliament and all social services can only be paid as a result of the earnings of industry, both primary and secondary. The point I make is that primary industry is the foundation of this structure. This country cannot buy the machines and raw materials it needs unless it can produce primary products to pay for them. We have heard members of the Opposition reflect on the wool industry. Why should workers in the wool industry, many of whom are members of the Australian Workers Union, work in temperatures of 110 degrees in places like Moree, have reflections cast upon them? They are getting no more out of their labour than people in the factories get from theirs.
I was sorry to see a headline in a Sydney Sunday newspaper, which read, “ Town stands on the edge of fear “. The manager of a firm in New South Wales had given a story to the press, in which he said -
We know that representatives of leading warehouses in Sydney and Melbourne are already in Tokio placing large orders for textile goods they have always bought in Australia . . . The basic wage in Australia will have to come down to £3 per week if industry is to compete wilh Japanese products.
He laughed when told what the Japanese had undertaken voluntarily. He was supported by some ladies who were working in the factory . . .
That article was published on Sunday, 25th August. A few days later, by Wednesday, 28th August, the shares in the firm concerned had fallen by ls. 9d. to 18s. 10±d. The directors of the firm said, according to the “ Daily Telegraph “ -
The firm is operating at almost maximum capacity. It is still taking on additional hands.
The newspaper went on -
The directors reported this because of implications in recent statements on the possible effect of the Japanese trade agreement.
The “ Sydney Morning Herald “ made this comment on the statement -
This company’s shares have fallen by ls. 9d. to 18s. 10 1/2d. since Sunday’s report of a statement made by the company’s general manager referring to the possible effects of the Japanese imports.
The general manager of that firm was responsible for what happened because of the statement that he made. The fact is that this agreement is a logical movement towards a better relationship towards Japan, and we have to have better relationships with Japan. How can honorable members opposite reconcile the views they have expressed on this trade agreement with their continual pressure for Australia to trade with red China?
I have some figures here regarding woollen mills, which will probably not be affected by the agreement. The Melbourne “ Sun “ says that the Valley Worsted Mills showed a profit of £128,791 in the previous year, which was an increase from £94,521, and paid a dividend of 10 per cent. It said Valley Woollen Mills had made a record profit and had a record turnover. Those are the facts, and I think we should be careful before we decry the facts of this pact. Otherwise, people will stop ordering from the mills and we shall merely have aroused fears before we have been really hurt. I appeal to the Australian Labour party to moderate its apparent eagerness to cry calamity and bring about economic depression in this country. If a man is sacked from a woollen mill or a textile mill to-morrow he will be able to say to himself, “ Well, part of the cause of my being sacked was the gloating relish with which some members of the Commonwealth Parliament said that the trade agreement with Japan would be detrimental to Australia “.
If honorable members opposite refuse to believe that the attitude they have adopted will stop orders from arriving at our mills, they have no awareness of commerce or the sensitivity of markets. There are plenty of people in Australia who have both factories and import licences, and I have no doubt that after listening to the statements that have been made by honorable members opposite some of them will close their factories. The Opposition is being un-Australian and is trying to hurt this country. Surely it realizes the wonderful opportunity that Australia has! We are here in the South Seas, in a part of the world which has three-fifths of the world’s population. Already in South-East Asia there has been an upsurge of nationalism and an awareness of possibilities. The various countries are beginning to appreciate that they can purchase the goods that we have to sell. The countries of SouthEast Asia are presenting to us an immense market which we shall have to strain to the uttermost to accommodate. The only other manufacturing nation of any note in the area is Japan. We ought to trade with Japan. We have the raw materials and Japan has the mills. Frankly, I have been shocked by some of the statements that have been made in this House during this debate. The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), for instance, is reported in “ Hansard “ as having said that we have been buying £70,000.000 worth of goods a year from Japan. He went on to say that in three years Japan could put on the Australian market £210,000.000 worth of commodities, which would cost £900,000.000 to produce in Australian factories. Those are dangerous and untrue statements. The fact is that we bought only £12,900,000 worth of goods from Japan. To say that we purchased £70,000,000 worth, as the honorable member for Scullin did, is to meddle with the truth. It is positively dangerous to make statements like that, because they can do a great deal of damage. Surely to goodness the Australian Labour party will be sufficiently Australian in outlook to face this agreement as it should be faced! Honorable members opposite speak about courage. Let them have sufficient courage to refuse to accept counsels of fear; let them try to appreciate the possibilities that lie before us. They should realize that we are at a stage of our development at which rural production is only just being tapped. New techniques are coming into use so quickly that it is possible for a technique that we see in use to-day to be out of date by to-morrow.
When the Minister for Trade went to Japan he knew that behind him was an enormous reservoir of primary production. In addition to that, he knew that our secondary production also was increasing. I believe that our production of dieselelectric locomotives, for instance, will enable us to supply not only our own railways but also those of the Indian and other South-East Asian railways. We have now stabilized costs. It is true that there has been some criticism of credit restrictions, but the fact is that our credit policy has been justified.
– Order! The honorable member’s lime has expired.
.- In this debate the Government seeks parliamentary endorsement of a trade treaty entered into with the Government of Japan. We know that, despite the comments that we on this side of the House may make, the treaty will be ratified. However, we accept the opportunity to point out to the Government some of the consequences which will follow such an irrational and ill-considered pact. I propose to outline some of the grounds upon which the Australian Labour party bases its disapproval of the agreement and, secondly, to indicate the lines upon which we think a positive overall pattern of trade should be fashioned for Australia.
The Opposition believes that Australia must trade with all nations. It excludes, neither Japan nor any other nation, lt also believes that we should trade with, nations regardless of their class, colour or political or religious creeds. We of the Labour party do not exclude Communist China, Fascist Spain, or other countries with which we disagree politically. Theonly safeguard that we insist upon is that such trade agreements should be designed to encourage local enterprise and localindustries in all participating countries. If that safeguard is provided, the safeguards which the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen> says exist in this measure should not be necessary. The object of all trade should be the mutual advantage of the partiesengaging in it. It should not be necessary for one party to have to make undue sacrifices, or to rob Peter to pay Paul, as it were. That is the overall objective of the Labour party in relation to Australian trade, but it does concede that there are items in respect of which we could, to our mutual benefit, arrange an appropriate exchange of trade with Japan.
Under this agreement the Australian textile industry not only may suffer disastrously but may, indeed, be threatened with a complete breakdown. So too, may the industries which produce electrical equipment, glassware, leather goods, shoes, toys, and so on. In my electorate, in the City of Preston, we have a large number of industries that are efficient, both as to their management and the skill of the workers employed in them. I have no desire to see the already depressed labour market and industrial conditions in my electorate further aggravated by an illconsidered trade agreement. I want to refer particularly to the leather and shoe industries and to the manufacture of electrical equipment. Leather goods and electrical equipment are being manufactured efficiently in my electorate by highly skilled workers.
First, the alleged reason given by the Government for making this agreement is its desire to preserve our market in Japan for primary products, particularly wheat and wool and, to a lesser degree, barley. That contention, however, falls to the ground so far as our wool is concerned because it is already being sold on the open market under competitive world conditions, and, therefore, there is no necessity to safeguard it. As I read the agreement and listened to the comments of the Minister, it appeared to me that the conditions under which Japan will purchase our lower-grade wheat are similar to open market conditions. There is no obligation, under the treaty, on Japan to accept delivery of Australian wheat. The contention of the Minister that it was necessary to negotiate the agreement in order to preserve markets for our primary products, in which he was supported by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), last night, therefore is false.
Secondly, the complete absence of real prior consultation with the industries affected by the agreement throws into prominence and question the bona fides of the intentions of the Government in these negotiations. We know that there was no prior consultation with the Chamber of Manufactures, and there was certainly none with the Australian Council of Trades Unions and the textile workers. We were told, last night, by the Minister for Primary Industry, that there was consultation, but, apparently it was the type of consultation which one is accustomed to expect from this Government: The interested parties were called together and told what the Government intended to do, and that was the end of the matter.
Thirdly, the treaty merely seeks to replace an Australian industry, which is working efficiently and well, with a Japanese industry which employs juveniles and pays its employees only one-sixth of the wage that prevails in the Australian industry. We know that the Japanese textile worker receives only one-sixth as much as the Australian textile worker. Japanese mills, because of the recession and trading difficulties that face them, have had to reduce their working day from 24 hours to sixteen hours. This agreement merely robs Peter to pay Paul, only it will pay Paul less and give him worse conditions.
The Government has claimed that adequate safeguards have been written into the agreement. An analysis of these so-called safeguards shows that they will not be effective. The agreement places Japan on the most-favoured-nations basis, which is the basis that applies to all members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and
Trade. If it is necessary to raise prohibitive tariffs on Japanese imports we shall have to increase them equally on imports from all countries which are members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This could result in the exclusion of a large part of our imports if the Tariff Board recommended a prohibitive tariff on Japanese goods, and its recommendation were put into effect. That would be a more vicious form of import restriction than that which we experienced recently.
Another factor to be considered is the delay that occurs while matters are being considered by the Tariff Board, and before its recommendations are submitted to the Government. The last Tariff Board recommendations affecting the wool and textile industry were not even accepted by the Government. Thus, the people of Australia have no guarantee that any recommendation of the Tariff Board will be accepted by the Government and put into operation. Delays of two and even three years have occurred in the making of recommendations by the Tariff Board. Therefore, a great amount of damage could be done to Australian industry before the Tariff Board brought down its recommendations. The Minister for Trade admitted recently that an early overhaul of the Tariff Board machinery was needed. Therefore, if any evidence is needed to prove that this alleged safeguard is not worth the paper it is written on, it is provided by the Minister’s own words.
The next safeguard on which the Minister placed a considerable amount of reliance was the matter of voluntary restraint. I submit that no reliance can be placed on the promise of the Japanese to exercise voluntary restraint. Why should we expect them voluntarily to restrain themselves from exploiting a market which would benefit them? Would we practise such restraint? Would we expect any other nation to consider the needs of another country and voluntarily restrain itself? I think that very little reliance can be placed on this assurance. The emergency tariff provisions of the agreement can be evaded simply because there is no way of finding out the landed duty-paid cost of goods, nor has the Minister given an undertaking that the necessary means to police this scheme will be set up in Japan. It is possible that every safeguard that the Minister has mentioned may be of no effect whatsoever.
There is another reason why the Labour party objects to this agreement, and that is the adverse effect that it will have on our best customer, the United Kingdom. This has been mentioned by other honorable members on this side of the House. The United Kingdom supplies 40 per cent, of our imported textiles. Are we to throw the United Kingdom overboard in our mad rush to conclude an agreement with Japan? What is the Government’s motive in taking these unnecessary and badly considered risks? We run the risk of losing our best customer in order to achieve a temporary benefit, and no one knows what the Government has in mind. The Government has entered into a bi-lateral barter agreement between Australia and Japan.
Honorable members will have read in the newspapers that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), whose most peculiar attribute is that he is able to look after all his colleague’s portfolios better than his own, has said that a similar barter agreement will be negotiated shortly between Australia and Malaya. I agree that there is a need for some such agreement, but why a bi-lateral one? I shall indicate later the basis upon which all these countries should be brought into an overall constructive and positive trade pattern.
I referred earlier to Japan’s real economic difficulties. An analysis of those difficulties reveals why this Government is keen to push on with the agreement, regardless of the consequences. Japan has a population of 90,000,000, and it is increasing by 1,000,000 a year. Japan must absorb those people into its industry, or perish. It must find markets. Mr. Kishi, ever since he assumed the premiership of Japan, has indicated his extreme anxiety in this regard by his visit to mainland China, the United States of America, and elsewhere. The two greatest inflationary influences in Japan’s economy are the acute shortage of steel and the imminence of the withdrawal of the terrific credit it has received from the 500,000,000 dollars which the United States has spent each year in Japan on its occupation forces. Those forces are to be withdrawn by 1960, which means that Japan has to obtain by some other means the exchange to offset that amount. The only means by which Japan can obtain such a large amount of exchange is by finding overseas markets for its expanding economy.
As I have said, before the last war, Japan had sought markets in mainland China, and had sent 42 per cent, of its goods to that country. Now, the proportion of its exports to mainland China has dropped to 5 per cent. Therefore, the obvious thing for Japan to seek, with Mr. Kishi as a liberal premier - and I use “ liberal “ with a small “ 1 “ - is an expansion of its Chinese markets. Under the Battle Act embargo on trade with China in which Japan has joined the United States, mainly at the instigation of that country, Japan is barred from trading with communist China in certain essential commodities. As I have said, Japan is short of steel products, and has had to buy them overseas. China could supply Japan with sufficient coking coal greatly to alleviate Japan’s shortage of steel, and a shortage that has an inflationary effect. But China will not sell coal to Japan unless Japan agrees to manufacture and send machinery to China. The net result of this situation is that Japan cannot obtain coal cheaply from China. It has to buy in a dearer market further away - in Australia or the United States. It also has to import steel, as well as machinery, that it would otherwise be able to manufacture itself and sell to China. Therefore, American insistence on the enforcement of the Battle Act has forced Japan to buy machinery instead of making it, and it buys from the United States.
Figures which have been issued recently by the Bank of Japan show that, in the period from January to May of this year, Japan, for the first time in six years, had a deficit in its trade with the United States. That deficit amounted to 370,000,000 dollars. This is increasing. Japan’s invisible imports from America increased in May last to 225,000,000 dollars. This shows an average monthly excess of visible imports over exports for the period January to May, 1957, of 74,000,000 dollars as against last year’s average monthly excess of imports over exports of only 36,000,000 dollars. We find that imports of American machinery by Japan have risen, at the same time, to a record in May last of 14,000,000 dollars worth. America has an expanding economy and we do not criticize her desire to obtain markets at any cost. We know that she is doing so by extending credit through the import-export bank and other means. I do not quibble with that, but I do quibble when our own Government allows our industrial undertakings to be abused in the interest of maintaining America free from competition. As the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) said, when our Ministers go forth, they are a band of novices compared with the hard-headed businessmen they will meet in America and Japan. This agreement proves that they are novices. I do not quibble about America’s efforts to bolster its vested interests in Japan, but I do quibble at the irresponsible way in which our Ministers fail to safeguard our industries.
I intimated previously that we understood Japan’s position and appreciated it. The people in Japan want the right to live and expect the right to live under far better conditions than they enjoy at present. But is Japan the only country so affected? India, Ceylon, Burma and other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations have similar conditions. Time does not permit me to develop the argument, but, if honorable members care to read an excellent article by Chester Bowles in the February issue of the “ Bulletin of Atomic Sciences “, they will find the exact pattern of what I believe our overall trade policy should be. These democratic countries which have recently achieved democratic responsible government need economic assistance. If we were able, through an international authority such as the Special United Nations Fund for Economic Development, to improve the standard of living in China, India, Japan and other countries, we and the rest of the world would be hard pressed to supply the increased demand. It is only because we run away from our responsibility of providing the necessary capital to enable democracy to flourish in these countries that we have opened the gates to some form of totalitarianism. The only means by which we can ensure an adequate demand for consumer and capital goods which can be met by increased trade between all nations is adherence to Unesco and Sunfed. The immediate short-term plan, which should be adopted by this Government, is to call together, at a round-table trade conference, all the nations interested in trade in the East.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Darebin (Mr. R. W. Holt), in objecting to this trade agreement because it is bilateral instead of multi-lateral, in part tends to ignore some facts of life in post-war world trade. The ideal of multilateral and free world trade was born, expressed and advocated by Sir Hubert Henderson in the Havana Charter and has been dying slowly ever since. The European Payments Union, the division of the world into two semi-hostile armed camps and the present European common market are all examples of groups of people getting together to protect their own individual interests as opposed to a more general theory of pure multi-lateral trade.
In addition, we have had many examples in the last few years of countries deliberately providing export subsidies to capture certain markets. France is perhaps a noted example with its export subsidies for its wheat industry. I understand that if France wishes to export to a certain market and capture that market, it sends its representatives there, finds out how much subsidy is needed to under-cut competitors in that market, and that is the subsidy the flour-millers in France receive. Under those conditions, supporting the fine ideals of multi-lateral trade and trying to stick to them becomes more and more difficult. It is also made more difficult when we have examples of “ give-away “ agreements on bulk surpluses, especially when those bulk surpluses hit some of our traditional markets at certain times.
– That is no reason why we should not try.
– This Government and this country have played the game very well and very fairly in the freedom of world trade and in trade relations. We have steadfastly refused to seek markets through export subsidies, perhaps knowing quite well that the larger resources of some other countries would inevitably enable them to outbid us. But it is only natural with these conditions of world trade that the Government should seek ways and means of assuring markets for our products so that we can sell what we produce. I was particularly impressed with the arguments of the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) in relation to the connexion between secondary industries and the export of our primary products. Those arguments are much more important now than they would have been before the war because, largely ensuing from our immigration programmes, the pattern of occupations in Australia is vastly different from what it was in the 1930’s. In 1932 and 1933, about 24 per cent, of our population was employed in primary industry; now, only 16 per cent, is so employed. In earlier times, only about 15 per cent, of our population was employed in secondary industries, but now 30 per cent, is directly employed in secondary industries.
Their employment is not dependent to the same extent upon what happens inside Australia as it is upon our overseas trade. Australia lives on trade, and trade with other countries is the foundation of Australia’s national development. Our immigration policy and policies of expansion will fail dismally if we do not at the same time expand our trade. No matter what people may say about exporting the products of certain secondary industries and no matter what mineral resources we find now or may find in the future, the plain truth is that Australia depends as much now as in the past upon the trade that comes from our great primary industries and from wool, wheat, meat and dairy products in particular. It is essential that we have assured and stable markets for these products so that the industries which earn all but 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, of our export credits may continue to earn those funds to enable secondary industries to have the raw materials and capital equipment without which they could not continue and without which employment in Australia would be completely unstable. The stable employment of people in secondary industries depends, more than anything else, on Australia being able to secure assured and stable markets for its products. That, in large part, is the background of the negotiations with Japan.
From Japan’s point of view, there is the picture of sterling reserves falling from £122,000,000 in May, 1956, to £58,000,000 in May of this year and its dollar balance falling from £A.469,000.000 in May, 1956, to £A.380,000,000 in May of this year. When we remember that Japan has a population of 90,000,000, those reserves are seen to be pitifully small, especially when compared with the sterling reserves that we consider necessary for a population of just under 10,000,000. Apart from those reserves, Japan last year had an adverse trade balance with this country amounting to £128,000,000. We imported from Japan only £12,500,000 worth of goods, and we exported to that country £140,000,000 worth.
That is the background of the agreement. Very briefly, I would like to remind honorable members of the provisions of the agreement, although they have probably been reminded of them too often already, since this debate has continued for several days. Japan has been given most-favoured-nation treatment, which, in fact, does not mean exactly what it says. It means that Japan will be accorded the same treatment as every other foreign country. Previously, we discriminated against Japan. She was practically the only country against which we did discriminate, and certainly the only country with which we had considerable trade relations while exercising adverse discrimination. In future, there will be no discrimination in our trade relationships with Japan. At the same time, the agreement extends to Japan no special privileges. She will be placed on an equal competitive footing with all other foreign countries, Great Britain’s position remaining unchanged.
I shall now deal with the advantages to Australia arising from this agreement. The main one is that 90 per cent, of Japanese currency made available for buying wool will be available for the purchase of Australian wool. This has not been the position in the past. Another advantage is that Japan has undertaken not to place a customs duty on the importation of wool to Japan. This will make it possible for wool to maintain a position in the Japanese market competitive with synthetics. Market possibilities for f.a.q. soft wheat have been opened up in Japan. This Japanese market has been during the last few years, very largely the prerogative of the United States of America, with its give-away policy. The agreement before us will guard Australia against that give-away policy. It is worth noting here that the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), in this debate, criticized the Australian growers of f.a.q. wheat. He described them as “ poor, ignorant cockies “, or something of that kind, and asked, “ Why can they not grow good, solid, hard wheat such as is grown by the farmers in my State? “ If he knew a little more about the realities of primary production, especially of wheat production, he would know that the reason is not that the farmers in his State are better than those in the Wimmera district, or in other parts of Australia, but that the type of wheat one may grow depends on the kind of soil and on the climate to a far greater extent than on the technique and knowledge of the individual farmer. In addition to the advantages for the wool and wheat industries, the agreement opens up considerable marketing possibilities for sugar, and safeguards our market for barley.
The safeguards in the agreement have been examined closely enough in this debate. The first safeguard lies in the restraint which will be exercised by Japanese exporters. We must remember that Japan is not looking for temporary trade, but for a permanent trade with this country, and the Japanese know that if their actions cause unemployment in Australia they will have no trading relations with us at all, and that that would not be in their best interests. There is also provision for consultation between the Minister and the representatives of sensitive industries. It appears, also, that so far as Japan is concerned we are free from the restrictions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Another safeguard lies in the fact that this Parliament last year took unto itself tariff restriction powers, or quantitative restriction powers, which may be exercised in an emergency.
The opposition of secondary industries, especially the textile industries, has been voiced. very strongly in this debate, and I think it is only reasonable to ask how real this opposition is. It is understandable that some secondary industries would have fears as to the consequences of the agreement, but I think it is fair to ask whether the opposition to the agreement is in reality an opposition to higher import licensing levels, which may result, not from the trade agreement, but from a better balance of trade, lt is the policy of the Government to abolish import licensing if our trade position permits us to do so. Let us assume that the Government does abolish import licensing. If Australian secondary industries suffer damage thereafter, they will lay the blame, not on the abolition of import licensing, but on the Japanese Trade Agreement, thinking perhaps that it would be easier to muster support for the second complaint than for the first.
If we look at the facts concerning our trade in certain textiles, we find that they tend to show that the fears of the textile industries have been exaggerated. Let us consider the position with regard to blankets. There has been no licensing discrimination against Japan with regard to the importation of blankets, and the tariff agreement has not lowered the import duty on blankets. In the last five years total imports represented 3 per cent, of the local market. In the last four years, of a total importation of £515,000 worth of blankets, £34,000 worth came from Japan. Customs duty did not discriminate against Japan in respect of blankets. However, I shall leave the subject of woollens, which has been examined thoroughly by honorable members during the debate, and turn to cotton and synthetic fabrics, in regard to which, perhaps, fears have most often been expressed by members of the Opposition. Fears have been expressed loudly and readily that cheap shirts and cotton garments will flood the Australian market. The facts concerning our trade in these goods do not support those fears to any great extent. There have been no imports of knitted blouses and skirts from Japan for several years, despite the fact that there has been no discrimination against that country. The agreement lowers the tariff from 65 per cent, to 47i per cent., which is, of course, still an extremely high figure. With regard to shirts, the duty has been reduced from 62± per cent, to 57£ per cent, in the mostfavourednation tariff, and it is still a very high duty. There has been no licensing discrimination against Japan in regard to shirts, and in 1955-56 the United Kingdom sent to this country £36,852 worth, Japan £1,620 worth, while £138,100 worth came from other sources. It is worth noting that 75 per cent, of all our shirt imports came from Hong Kong. The story with regard to blouses and skirts, other than knitted garments, is very much the same. The agreement does not alter the duty, which remains at the very high level of 65 per cent. In 1955-56 our total imports amounted to £80,000, but none came from Japan.
I believe it is worth asking how strong will be the competition from Japan, because there are certain lines in which Japan just cannot compete with Australian industry. Japanese barbed wire is completely inferior to barbed wire made in Australia. When we consider other goods, such as cameras, we find that the Japanese products are cheaper than those that come from Europe, and are very good. I believe it will be extremely difficult to foretell the pattern of trade that will unfold within the next three years, and what happens in that period will certainly have a profound effect on the trading position after that time. As the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) has said, the first three years will be a trial and experimental period, in which events must be watched closely.
Honorable members opposite have quoted the experience of Canada, and the inroads that have been made into the Canadian market by Japanese competition, especially in textiles. Again the facts do not support the views that have been put forward. The Canadian Minister for Commerce, Mr. Howe, said, on 17th May, 1957, that Japan had about 5 per cent, of the Canadian textile market. That figure is very much different from the 50 per cent, that was mentioned by some honorable members opposite. The total imports of cotton goods into Canada - that is cotton piece goods, cotton clothing, art silk piece goods and art silk clothing - showed an increase in value of £A.7,000,000 between 1953 and 1956. Japan’s share of those imports rose to a certain extent. In the case of cotton piece goods the increase was 6.4 per cent., of cotton clothing, 34.5 per cent., of art silk piece goods, 1 per cent, and of art silk clothing, 13.1 per cent. I do not believe that those figures are startling or should arouse immediate opposition or fear. Japan’s share of cottons and synthetics in the import market is less than 10 per cent., except for cotton flannels, in which she has 28 per cent, and the United States of America 42 per cent. The total import of synthetics from Japan amount to 1 1 per cent, and from the United States 77 per cent, of the total import market. These figures do not show a predominance of support for Japanese exporters or that those exports are displacing exports from other countries in the Canadian market. Japan provides 1 per cent, of total Canadian imports, which represent a value of 60,000,000 dollars. A mere 1 per cent, of the total Canadian import market does not seem to be a very startling figure.
I say again that the secondary industries as a whole must benefit from this agreement because it will make it possible for them to get the capital equipment and raw materials without which they cannot continue or remain competitive in any true sense of the term. 1 am sure honorable members appreciate the value of this, because many industries have been forced to wait for licences with which to obtain capital equipment, and this has been the result of an adverse balance of trade.
I am not sure what the implications of the agreement will be on the future of import licensing, but licensing probably gives us the strongest weapon with which to control the agreement. Import licensing is a barometer of what is happening in our trade relations. I believe that the Minister may need courage in future concerning these things. We must not lose sight of the objective of abolishing import licensing whenever our trade position permits; but if it is abolished, we should examine again some of the safeguards in this trade agreement. One point which even now requires watching leads me to quote from the Minister’s press statement in which he said -
A very interesting trend has shown up in the last few months. As from 1st April, licence entitlements for all woven and manufactured woollen textiles items were increased by an overall average of approximately 50 per cent.
Notwithstanding this greatly increased opportunity to import, licences taken out from 1st April to 19th August, have in fact fallen to a rate 4 per cent, below the licensing rate operating prior to 1st April.
There are two explanations of this. Either there is not the demand or the market or the importers are holding off waiting for this agreement to be ratified. That is one of the things that needs to be very closely watched, as I am sure it will be. The future abolition of import licensing must not be lost sight of as an objective. If we get into a trade position to make it possible to abolish import licensing, then we must examine again this trade agreement and see what safeguards we can have to replace the strong weapon of import licensing.
.- I submit that this trade agreement is bad for four principal reasons among many others. First of all, it is based upon a contradiction. This agreement must substantially contribute to the correction of Japan’s trade deficit with Australia. It must do that, or it does not achieve its purpose from Japan’s point of view. Japan’s deficit with Australia was £360,000,00(5 over the last five years and £127,000,000 during the last twelve months. This treaty must substantially contribute to the lessening of that deficit or it will be a complete failure from Japan’s point of view. If it substantially contributes to the closing of that gap it must lead to the introduction of a large volume of Japanese goods into Australia. If that happens, we will have a large volume of goods in Australia, produced by cheap labour and modern machinery methods in Japan, competing with Australian industry.
The second point is that the agreement has been entered into irresponsibly and without necessary preliminary action or reasonable anticipation by the Government of its effects on Australia. The third point is that the agreement does not provide machinery for emergency action. Such action would be ultra vires the agreement, and if taken must nullify it. The alternatives facing us are the agreement and no emergency action, or emergency action and no agreement. The fourth point is that the immediate cause for the agreement as stated by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) is invalid and misleading. The Japanese balance of payments is not unbalanced for the reason that the Minister says it is; and it cannot be corrected by a bilateral agreement of this sort.
Let me examine the internal contradiction in this agreement, to begin with. As I said, Japan’s trade deficit was £127,000,000 in 1956 and £360,000,000 in the last five years. If the agreement is to change that position so as to make it worthwhile for Japan, it must result in a large volume of Japanese exports coming into Australia. In recent years, in countries where Japan has achieved one of these agreements, there has been a large increase of Japanese exports to those countries. In 1954, Japanese exports to Canada were worth £20,000,000 and in 1956, £68,000,000. In the case of the United Kingdom colonies, Japanese exports in 1954 were worth £38,000,000 and in 1956, £70,000,000; and those sent to the Netherlands were worth £18,000,000 in 1954 and £45,000,000 in 1956. Spain received £1,600,000 worth of Japanese exports in 1954 and £14,000,000 worth in 1956. In Canada, during the first nine months of 1954, 948,000 shirts were imported from Japan and in the first nine months of 1956, 3,120,000. In the first nine months of 1954, Canada received 57,000 dollars worth of clothing from Japan, but in the first nine months of 1956 the value increased to 3,120,000 dollars.
The Minister and Government supporters have said that the agreement will make no difference to imports from Japan. They suggest that honorable members should examine import figures of woollen and worsted goods from Japan. That is the type of answer that the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) have used in support of the Minister. But the agreement makes a great deal of difference, lt consists of four main parts. First of all it is a formal recognition of Japan in the Australian market, such as Japan did not have before; secondly, it will establish an import network that is necessary for trade with Japan that did not previously exist to any significant extent; thirdly, it will make currency, not available before, freely available to Japan; and lastly, it will give importers a chance to buy in a market where costs are lowest. Everybody knows that this agreement will make a world of difference for these reasons. If the agreement is to be of any benefit to Japan, the increase of imports from Japan will be on a scale equal to that which has occurred under similar agreements made by Japan in other countries.
The question arises whether this will do serious injury to Australian industry. What I say about Australian industry applies with equal force to British industries. The expression, “ serious injury “ is not in any way defined in the agreement. No one seems to know what “ serious injury “ amounts to. What percentage of fall in production or rise in unemployment must take place before “ serious injury “ is done to Australian industry? On 14th July the Minister for Trade said that safeguards had been included so that Japanese imports would not wipe out any worth while Aus.lian industry. Is that an indication of serious injury - wiping out an industry? Does this mean that it would not be serious to wipe out some industry which the Minister does not consider to be worth while? What are the industries the Minister considers to be worth while in this country?
There can be no doubt that a large volume of goods produced in Japan - with the most modern machinery in the world, with American capital, and with the cheapest labour force in the world - would do serious injury to Australian industry. The Canadian case emphasizes this only too clearly. Japan did flood the Canadian market with many commodities. A reduction of output took place in Canada. The government of Canada which was responsible for this treaty with Japan is now sitting on the opposition benches. The Liberal government of Canada, which negotiated the treaty with Japan, was created by opposition led by Diefenbaker, which was elected on this and associated issues. The consequences of the agreement with Japan contributed to the defeat of the Liberal government in Canada. The Minister mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) - Mr. Howe - is now in the opposition.
This agreement must result in a large increase of Japanese exports to Australia; otherwise it is of little good to Japan. If it does that, it must seriously injure Australian industry. This agreement has been entered into irresponsibly and without reasonable anticipation of its effect. The Minister has admitted, in answer to questions from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), that he is completely unable to predict what the Japanese exports to Australia will be. It was his job to fix a ceiling for Japanese imports into Australia - a ceiling in totals - and to fix general categories of goods of which Japanese imports into Australia would consist. Having taken no steps to anticipate the effects of the agreement, the Minister promised to consult with industry, but only after he was forced to agree to do so under threats of continued newspaper advertising against the Government.
I say that the agreement was entered into irresponsibly and without proper anticipation. It is the action of men who are more American in their outlook than Australian; men who are more concerned with sectional interests than with the community welfare. Certainly, in substance, there is no power of emergency action in this agreement. Article II. provides that neither country is to apply import prohibitions or restrictions on the other, or make restrictions in the allocation of foreign exchange, unless it is applicable to all countries. Japan will hereafter be within the mostfavourednation section of the tariff. No other import prohibitions or restrictions in the allocation of foreign exchange can be applied to her unless they are applied to all countries. This cannot possibly be done as an emergency measure. Therefore, import licensing or currency allocations cannot be used as a defence against this agreement. Article V. of the agreement is the only power that can be used, and Article V. is a tariff power. It says that under certain circumstances tariffs can be increased to protect Australian industry against the effects of this agreement. On page 7 of the agreement, in the agreed minutes, under Part B, we are told that -
Australia dill in fact assure a stability of tariff treatment of Japanese goods that was of considerable importance.
On the one hand the Government has agreed on stability of tariff treatment and on the other hand the Government says that in the case of emergency it can remove that stability and increase tariffs against Japan. It is quite clear that the Government cannot have it both ways. Serious injury has not been defined. No one seems to know what serious injury is, but reference to the agreement suggests that it is not injury to a particular factory or a particular industry. It is injury in the sense of a fall in output or an increase of unemployment generally and in many places. It is injury in the sense of an adverse turn in the balance of payments. That is the kind of injury envisaged by the agreement. The alternative to this is not a matter of an emergency action. The alternative is wiping the treaty aside altogether. The alternatives are an agreement and no emergency action; or emergency action and no agreement.
My fourth point is that the immediate reason for the agreement as put forward by the Minister is invalid and misleading. After quoting Japanese-Australian trade figures, and only those figures, the Minister went on -
If we continued to exclude Japan from the entitlements of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade; if Japan had a growing balance of payments problem of her own, such as has recently shown up: if we continued to discriminate (. . .) any reasonable person would recognize that Japan would have every reason, in her own eyes, and in the light of world opinion to feel entitled to lake direct retaliatory action against us.
This, I submit, is the Japanese-American case. Why has the Minister accepted it? Japan, I submit, is not entitled to determine her own policy towards Australia merely on the basis of her trade with Australia. The Minister and the House should discover what is the nature and cause of the Japanese balance of payments problem which has recently shown up, and which, according to the Minister, is the root cause of this agreement. But the Minister has not done this. He has said nothing about the cause of the balance of payments problem in Japan which has recently shown up. He has placed the Japanese case before this House and he has imposed upon Australia an agreement which this House has had no opportunity to discuss beforehand. He has imposed upon this House a treaty which should be examined clause by clause in committee. It cannot possibly be examined adequately under the present circumstances.
The position that has been taken by the Opposition is that Japan is entitled to trade with the world; but that her problems are not significantly an outcome of her trade with Australia, and any tendency to encourage Japan to think so will mislead not only Japan but also the Australian people. We submit that a bi-lateral agreement of this sort cannot possibly cure the situation.
I want to refer the Minister to the actual figures of Japan’s balance of payments, taken from the “ Foreign Exchange Statistics Monthly “, published by the Bank of Japan. Over the last seven years Japan has had an extremely favorable balance of payments situation. She had surpluses of 331,000,000 dollars in 1950, 331,000,000 dollars in 1951, and 314,000,000 dollars in 1952; a deficit of 194,000,000 dollars in 1953; and surpluses of 100,000,000 dollars in 1954, 494,000,000 dollars in 1955, and 293,000,000 dollars in 1956. The net surplus over those years was 1,669,000,000 dollars. Very few other countries trading in the modern world have such a favorable situation. The Minister referred to a balance of payments problem which had recently shown up. What is that problem and what has caused it? The problem to which the Minister refers is a deficit in Japan’s balance of payments of 285,000,000 dollars between January and May of this year. What is that 285,000,000 dollars deficit made up of? Only 24,000,000 dollars of it, or S per cent., was derived in the sterling area. 203,000,000 dollars of that deficit was derived in the dollar area. Seventy-one per cent, of Japan’s trouble is in the dollar area. Did the Minister know this? If he did, why did he not tell the House? Did he point it out to the Japanese, or did he accept the Japanese claim that we were the cause of their trouble? What is the cause of the dollar deficit which is the basis of Japan’s balance-of-payments problem? Japan’s dollar receipts rose from 398,000,000 dollars in the period from January to May, 1956, to 484,000,000 dollars in the period from January to May, 1957. Payments were fairly stable.
The real problem lies in the tremendous increase in the volume of Japan’s imports from the United States of America. In the period from January to May, 1956, they totalled 428,000,000 dollars, and in the period from January to May, 1957, they totalled 854,000,000 dollars. I wish to direct the attention of the House to the main items in that vast increase of imports from the United States. Imports of metallic minerals and metals totalled 27,000,000 dollars in the period from January to June, 1956, and 245,000,000 dollars in the period from January to May, 1957. Imports of machinery totalled 28,000,000 dollars for the first period, and 56,000,000 dollars for the second period. Imports of petroleum and oils totalled 2,000,000 dollars in the first period, and 40,000,000 dollars in the second period. Japan’s balance-of-payments problem is a problem of its trade with the United States resulting in a deficit of 203,000,000 dollars for the period from January to May, 1957. What is the solution? It lies partly in American aid for capital development. But, there is a limit to the assistance that the United States can give, and has given. The solution lies, also, in an increase in Japanese exports to the United States. But the United States reserves more than 90 per cent, of its home market for home industries, and it is not moving to increase its imports from Japan in order to help Japan out of this situation. The onus falls upon Ministers of other countries, who, I suggest, represent
American interests more than they do Australian interests in their dealing with these problems.
The other important thing that has happened to Japan with respect to trade is that it has been excluded from the Chinese market. In this connexion, I should like to read to the House part of a report that appeared in the “ Christian Science Monitor”, on 22nd April of this year. The extract is as follows: -
Communist China is the most logical place for Japan to begin filling this impending gap in trade receipts. Communist China has coking coal, rice, salt, soy beans, and animal fibers, all being sent to Japan in limited quantities. It has refused to send iron ore until Japan will sell in turn embargoed heavy machinery and ships needed by Peking in its industrialization program.
Probably, that is all part of the cold war. As part of the price of the cold war, Australia is being forced to readjust a considerable part of its industrial structure, and to bear a good deal of unemployment and a considerable fall in our national income in the sectors of the economy involved. The decline of the national income in those sectors can affect our economy more seriously than it would be affected by a fall in the income from wool. These things are the price of the cold war. The Australian people should have the opportunity to consider the price that they are being asked to pay, before they make a decision on this trade agreement, but they are not given the opportunity to consider matters in that light. It is all very well to say that Japan cannot trade with China. Many of the goods that will be imported into Australia from Japan will be made partly in the United States. It is all very well to say that these things can happen. But it is a heavy price for the Australian people to pay.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I am sorry that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) has chosen to think that there is something sinister in this trade agreement, or that it constitutes a sleight-of-hand trick by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). This is too serious a matter for suggestions like that. Contributions to this debate should be made only with a good deal of serious thought. Unfortunately, the honorable member for Yarra has adopted the same line of argument as his leader, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt), who has moved an amendment to the motion that the Minister’s statement on this agreement be printed. Indeed, every Opposition member who has contributed to this debate has followed a line of argument that completely disregards, first, the purposes of the agreement, and secondly, the safeguards provided for the protection of Australian industry from unfair competition. Opposition members cannot see that this agreement assures Australia’s future prosperity. One would almost think, to listen to Opposition members, that the Government was not mindful of the dire consequences that could follow when trade begins to flow between Australia and Japan. If the Government was not concerned about the future of our economy and the prosperity of Australian manufacturers, the simple approach would be for it to remove import restrictions, and allow trade to flow freely between the two countries on a laisser-faire system. We well know what would happen if it did that. The Japanese would be able to apply any restrictions that they liked against imports from Australia, and they could export to this country a great volume of goods that would very seriously compete with Australian manufactures.
After listening to the arguments advanced by Opposition members, one wonders what is the Australian Labour party’s true trade policy. One cannot help asking, “ Has Labour a constructive policy that it could advance on this matter? “ As yet, we have heard from Opposition members only severe criticism of the Government’s imports policy. We have had that criticism all along, and now, in addition, we have criticism of this agreement, which is designed to protect Australia’s export markets and to safeguard Australian manufacturers from unfair competition. In season and out of season, all that Opposition members have done is to criticize. In the past, they have criticized the manufacturers, who they now claim are their friends, for making profits. I can assure Opposition members that Government supporters are just as determined as the Opposition is concerned to see that this agreement will protect the Australian economy, and especially the manufacturers. The truth is that those people who hear these debates and read the reports of proceedings in this Parliament would be very much more impressed by the sincerity of the Australian Labour party if it advanced an alternative to the trade policy enunciated by the Minister, and if it ceased to support the criticisms that have been levelled at this trade agreement by interested parties. I can quite understand the concern of the Australian manufacturers regarding what might happen as a result of this trade agreement, but 1 cannot understand their fears, in view of the assurances given to them that safeguards exist to protect them. I think they have lost sight of that fact.
I should like to direct the attention of the House to a point that seems to have been forgotten during this debate - that the manufacturing industries and those employed in them are dependent upon a high level of export earnings for both their profits and their jobs. When the export income of this country falls they will feel, as quickly as anybody else, the cold breeze of a recession. This country’s prosperity has greatly benefited from the economic recovery of Japan since the last war. She was our second-largest customer in 1956-57, taking 14 per cent, of our total exports. The influence she has had on our wool prices at auction sales has already been referred to. To-day, Japan faces great difficulties in maintaining living standards for a growing population - much bigger than that before the war when she had access to China’s raw materials. That source is now closed to her. In fact, since the United States of America has withdrawn American aid, Japan must find an outlet for export trade. Japan’s trade with Asiatic countries, particularly Russia, is an aspect which seems to have been given little consideration in this debate. If we refused Japan the opportunity of developing her trade with us, we would resign ourselves to the possibility of throwing one of our best customers into the Communist bloc.
I was told, in America last year by an American farmer who had travelled through the Soviet as a member of a mission that Russia’s sheep population was about 125,000,000 and that it was expected to be increased by a further 50,000,000 by 1.960. Our own flock stands to-day at 139,000,000. Russia has improved its flocks considerably by saxony types as well as fine-wool sheep from Austria. He told me that I would be surprised to see how primary producers in that country had increased their output and the potential of their industries. He referred particularly to the wool industry, and indicated how wool texture in Russia had been greatly improved since the war. He said that the Russians had introduced all kinds of new strains into their flocks, and had considerably increased the number of types of wool. He said he thought Russia would become a very formidable competitor with this country’s principal industry. After all, the Russians have repeatedly demonstrated that they regard trade as a weapon for use in the cold war; and, as soon as it suits their purpose, they will turn that weapon against us during a critical period, irrespective of the fact that they themselves might be short of wool for their own requirements. That is a point that is well worth thinking about. After all is said and done, the livelihood of any intensely populated and highly industrialized country depends on foreign trade. Therefore, a trade agreement of this nature has a very much wider significance than its direct commercial advantages, which we see on the surface. I do not think we can overlook the fact that a state of affairs might arise which would force Japan to seek new markets, particularly within the Communist bloc, as an outlet for her exports.
The Japanese-Australian trade agreement is not limited to wool, as some honorable members have implied. We also export to Japan barley, beef, butter, wheat, sugar and iron and steel, and our exports of metals to that country is assuming increasing importance. The agreement is to be of three years’ duration. Its greatest significance is that it provides for the abolition of discrimination against Japan in import licensing. Previously, Australian importers could use only 25 per cent, of their nondollar licensing quotas for certain commodities from Japan. Japanese imports will now be subject to the same licensing provisions as goods from non-dollar countries, but this will not interfere with the British preferential tariffs which were recently ratified by this Parliament. Although it was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), in his opening speech on behalf of the Opposition, that this agreement would interfere very seriously with the United Kingdom-Australia trade agreement, that is not the case.
The other aspect to which I want to refer is that the Opposition has told us that, as a result of the agreement, import licensees will be able to buy from Japan at least three times as much as they could buy from other countries. Well, if that is the case, we can expect that there will be goods coming into this country which will be at least one-third as cheap as those which could be procured in Australia, and as long as the entry of such goods does not compete with our Australian manufactures I do not think the Labour party is doing the right thing by seeking to deny the Australian people the opportunity to purchase them. 1 can quite understand and appreciate the alarm among the Australian manufacturers caused by their fear of an inflow of highly competitive Japanese merchandise, but it is up to the Australian Government to take every precaution to see that Australian manufacturers are safeguarded against unfair competition and to see that this treaty is completely policed. T believe that if it does that we will achieve the objective towards which we are aiming.
The Minister would be well advised to see that the Tariff Board machinery is speeded up so that the board will be in a position to investigate and weigh objectively the relative costs of imported commodities and locally manufactured commodities, and thus be able to recommend a suitable rate of duty to protect our manufacturers. I believe that the Government must be alert against dumping, and immediately use the safeguards provided in respect of cheap goods which might threaten Australian industry. We must also be sure that the Japanese Government adheres to its declared intention to maintain a voluntary restraint on exports to avoid swamping the Australian market. In the event of this promise not being carried out the Government must immediately communicate with the Japanese Government to see that it is carried out. I believe also that the Government would be very wise to see that our trade officers are posted in the most suitable centres in Japan so that they will be in a position to advise Japanese manufacturers on the position regarding this agreement and on the conditions that exist in this country. Japan is a very highly industrialized nation whose industries are very decentralized, and we will not be able to propagate in that country the information that we should propagate if our trade officers are all stationed in the Tokyo area. These officers should be widely distributed throughout the country so that they may be able to inform Japanese manufacturers of what the position will be if they are not prepared to carry out the agreement in its entirety. If we are to continue to prosper as a trading nation we cannot live in a water-tight compartment and neither import from other countries nor export to them. We have to be particularly careful to see that this agreement operates within the limits of the safeguards that have been provided. I believe it is the duty of this Government to negotiate, wherever and whenever possible, inter-governmental trade agreements, so that the Australian export markets may be strengthened and Australian manufacturers protected. This agreement is an insurance policy, and I think that we should endeavour to take out similar policies as often as we can.
The Australian Labour party, in its criticism of the pact, has lost sight of the great trade treaties that are being negotiated on the other side of the world. We have heard a great deal lately about the possibility of a European common market and a free trade market in that area. If we are not prepared to protect our markets we may find, when common markets begin to operate overseas, that we have been very unwise and without foresight.
The Minister has indicated his sincerity in this matter by offering to police the agreement if he receives the co-operation of Australian manufacturers. The policing of the agreement is a job for the Australian manufacturers themselves, as well as for this Government. However, the Minister has offered to set up advisory committees and has asked the manufacturers to consult with him for the purpose of setting up an additional advisory authority in order to protect industry. That impresses me as being a further sign of his sincerity and his desire to see that the agreement works satisfactorily. For that, I commend him.
I support this agreement, and I think that it will be a success. It is our duty to see that it works satisfactorily, and it will do so if the Government polices the safeguards that have been incorporated in it for a very special purpose.
.- The honorable member for Isaacs (Mr. Haworth) asked whether Labour had a policy on trade. I remind him that Labour’s record will bear comparison with the records of this Government in every great field of national activity. In the course of the speech delivered recently in the Parliament by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) opposing this measure, he said -
I want to make it clear on behalf of the Opposition that we do not reject all ideas of a trade treaty with Japan or any other country. Whether or noi we have a trade treaty must depend on circumstances, such as the safeguards to be applied and other provisions of the treaty.
What Labour is saying in this instance is that this treaty is a gross betrayal of the safeguards that are necessary to protect the welfare of the industry and the people of this country. With other members of the Opposition, I support the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition, to the effect that this House should express its disapproval of the agreement. The reasons for this disapproval have been made abundantly clear by the many speakers from this side of the Parliament during the debate. Perhaps never before in our time has an agreement been presented to the people by a Minister with such a takeitorleaveit attitude. This Parliament has been given no say, in effect, in a matter that will affect vitally every member of the Australian community. It is significant that we have heard from supporters of the Government, and even from the sleepy supporters of the Australian Country party, criticism of the Government’s action in presenting the Parliament with an accomplished fact and saying, “ You must take it. lt is a good agreement. There can be no alteration of it. It has been signed, so you must take it as it is “. The Government has held in absolute contempt the representatives of the people, and also the people themselves. Of course, this is not the first occasion on which such action has been taken. The Government has made many great decisions soon after the Parliament has gone into recess. We have heard of decisions to dispose of great national assets at a time when no criticism of them could be made in the Parliament. No opportunity has been given for the representatives of the people to deliberate on them, and we have had no alternative but to accept them.
I believe that this agreement represents a threat to the future of Australian indus tries and to the welfare and security o( employment of the Australian people generally. It indicates a complete sell-out by the Australian Country party interests in this Parliament of the best interests of the Australian people. The Government ought to be condemned from every platform in the Commonwealth for its tolerant and unAustralian approach to the Japanese nation. The war drums had hardly ceased to sound, and the sufferings of the people of this country in the great conflict with Japan had not been forgotten, before this Government was a party, in the face of public opinion, to re-arming the Japanese nation.
When the Parliament went into recess not so long ago we found that, silently and at night, as it were, war criminals with records that warranted the supreme penalty were released. As I say, that was done silently and, I suppose, with a goodwill gesture and best wishes from this Government. Finally, we find that a trade agreement with Japan has been signed. Again I say that it is a sell-out of Australian industries and a complete reversal of the statements made by members of this Government during the last war, that never again would we trade with this nation. Many of us remember the solemn utterances of honorable members who were then in Opposition. Now, they are giving preference to Japanese workers before Australian ex-servicemen and workers. The Government deserves to be condemned for this agreement, if for no other reason.
No wonder the agreement was negotiated without consulting the Parliament! No wonder the Minister rushed away to Japan to sign it! The Government was not prepared to bring it here for discussion before it was signed, because it knew that the treaty would have been condemned by the Parliament and opposed by the Australian people. As an earlier speaker from this side of the House said during the debate, the Government would do well to remember that the government of Canada, which signed a similar trade agreement, is now in opposition in the Canadian Parliament. If events turn out as I believe ultimately they will in consequence of this agreement the Australian Government also will be rejected by the people.
I wish now to say something of the effects of this agreement on various aspects of the economy. Of course, the supporters of the Australian Country party are quite happy with the agreement. Indeed, they are delighted with it, because it is helping a country where low wages and long hours obtain. For generations they have been opposed to better working conditions and higher standards for the workers of this country, and now they are able to give effect to their policy, through an Australian Country party Minister, by the signing of this agreement with a country where working conditions are generations behind those we know here. In effect, by means of this agreement they are supporting sweated labour. It is unnecessary for me to reiterate what the Leader of the Opposition and other Opposition speakers have said concerning working conditions in Japan, but I merely point out that the average monthly hours of work are 196i, and that the average rate of pay is only one-sixth of the Australian rate. The Japanese workers enjoy none of the conditions that Australian workers enjoy, such as long-service leave, sick leave and paid holidays. International Labour Organization research proves that the goods to be brought to this country under the sponsorship of a Liberal-Australian Country party government will come from sweated labour, to the detriment of Australian workmen and others.
This is a time when 53,000 men and women are walking the streets of this country looking for work. We have heard apologies from the Government and statements about the great advantages to be gathered from the agreement. The Government has said that Japan will buy our wool. Japan has no option but to buy our wool. It is the best wool in the world. Perhaps it might be an advantage to make such an agreement with some other country, but Japan has to buy Australian wool because it is essential to its industry. The Government has said that Japan will purchase from us certain commodities other than wool because it has entered into an agreement. I hope that Japan will honour its undertakings under this agreement better than it honoured the agreements which it entered into before the last great conflict.
I do not place implicit trust in the Japanese people. Opposition members have mentioned the experience of Canada. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has cited the example of the British Crown colonies in which Japan completely destroyed Britain’s trade in the space of a couple of years. Everywhere that a footing is gained by the Japanese in trade, come what may, irrespective of agreements, they will take full advantage of it to their own benefit and the detriment of the country concerned, whether it be Australia or any other country in the world.
The Minister for Trade stated that there were adequate safeguards in the agreement to protect us. He said that we could impose restrictions if the importation of Japanese goods upset our industry. The most tedious process in this country is that of getting import restrictions imposed in order to protect an Australian industry. Unlimited time has been taken by the Tariff Board to reach decisions and, when decisions favorable to the Australian industry concerned have been reached, the board’s reports have been shelved or rejected by the Government. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has on the notice-paper a question asking for details of all Tariff Board findings since 1949, and the number to which effect has been given. I do not think that the answer to the question has been given yet, because the Government would be under severe criticism if it had provided that information. Undoubtedly, the answer to the question will show that cluttering up the Government’s shelves are many decisions favorable to industry to which the Government has refused to give effect.
It is idle to say that the Japanese will not engage in full-scale trade - that they will limit their trading activities to a couple of items. I invite honorable members to examine this magazine, “ Industrial Victoria “. The cover bears the inscription -
About Japanese Trade - Will Japan-Australia Trade Pact Affect Australia - Special Edition on Japanese Trade.
Every word in this magazine is a condemnation of the Government’s action in selling out Australian industry. It deals with various sections of industry. It tells of the conditions under which people are working in Japan, and of the Japanese approach to trade. It contains brief comments from every section of industry, and from newspapers, setting out the dangers of this pact, and the need for effective action against it. It contains details of Japanese merchandise, and devotes about three pages to the kinds of merchandise that the Japanese will sell to Australia, including motor car parts and tools, blinds, builders’ hardware, building materials, cameras, cigarette lighters, clocks and watches, electrical equipment, electrical goods and a dozen and one other items.
So important do I believe this publication to be that I shall take the almost unprecedented step of asking that it be incorporated in “ Hansard “, with the exception of the cover and the advertisements. I believe that every word in it is potent and vital to this debate, and every word should be available to be read in “ Hansard “ by every citizen. It is a clear condemnation of the Government’s action by the journal of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. I suppose that the people who subscribe to it have subscribed thousands of pounds to put the Liberal party into office at the next general election.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Timson). - Is leave granted?
Government Supporters. - No!
Leave not granted.
– Government supporters have refused to agree to the incorporation of this material in “ Hansard “ because they are afraid. They know that I have not time to read a fraction of it in the course of my speech. But if honorable members will examine it themselves they will see why Government supporters are afraid to have it incorporated in “ Hansard “. They are ashamed of the condemnation by their own supporters in industry, in the newspapers, and in other great organizations. The Government has betrayed Australian interests in signing this agreement.
I have not sufficient time to deal with all the industries that will be affected by the agreement, but I shall point out the probable effect on some. The Japanese know no barriers. If I had been allowed to have the magazine incorporated in “ Hansard “ honorable members would have seen there that not one section of Australian manufacturing industry would be safe from the Japanese trade conflict that will shortly be upon us.
Order! It is not the custom to question a decision of the Chair.
– The threat to all manufacturing industries from the Japanese is great, but I want to refer particularly to the textile industry. In my electorate in Sydney, I suppose that I have one of the biggest textile centres in the Commonwealth. Undoubtedly, there is a great threat to this major Australian industry from Japanese textiles. It is idle for honorable members to say that the threat will not eventuate. Last night, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) held up in this Parliament a shirt which had been landed in Australia from Japan and sold for 13s. 7d. A similar shirt, which had’ been made in Australia, would sell herefor 42s. Honorable members opposite may laugh, and say that it is good to get cheap’ shirts, but it will not be any good having cheap goods on the market when men and women here are unable to purchase them.
This shirt provides an illustration of the threat to Australian industry. The textile industry is undoubtedly one of the major industries of this country. It employs over 25,000 people. There are 164 mills throughout the Commonwealth, and the value of the goods that they produced last year was about £70,000,000. In the war years, they provided much of the equipment necessary for the many thousands of our servicemen in that great conflict. They employed men and women under first-class conditions, or at any rate, under conditions that are accepted as reasonable. These standards can only be maintained if the industry is given adequate protection.
I have received from the Australian Textile Workers Union, as other members probably have, details of this industry. The Textile Workers Union is one of the really great trade unions of Australia. In » letter to me that union has stated that, among the light industries of Australia, none is more susceptible to the impact of imports from overseas than the textile industry, and that no other light industry has expanded and developed to the advantage of the national economy to a greater extent in the post-war years than has thi Australian textile industry. The letter goes on to say -
Already the indirect adverse results of the agreement are in evidence. … We recall that in pre-war years, and particularly in the late twenties, the Australian textile industry was devastated by Japanese competition, and only the drastic tariff introduced by the Scullin administration saved the industry from extinction.
Throughout this letter, similar indications are given of the effects of this trade agreement on the textile industry, and the effect that it will have on employment in this industry and its capacity to carry on. I realize that I cannot now have incorporated in “ Hansard “ statistics from the magazine that I mentioned, but here is a letter from the Australian Textile Workers Union setting out in detail matters which 1 have not time to state in this debate. Consequently, I ask permission of the House to have incorporated in “ Hansard “ the text of this letter, which I think’ every honorable member has seen,
– Is leave granted?
Government Supporters. - No!
Leave not granted.
– It has come to a sorry stage in this Parliament when a letter from one of the greatest trade unions in the country is not allowed to be incorporated in the speech of an honorable member. Honorable members opposite desire to suppress the real truth. I warn them that I have a good memory, too, and some time I may happen to say “ No “ when some of the long, tedious letters they want to put into “ Hansard “ are brought forward. I warn honorable members opposite of that because two can play at this game. I am ashamed to think that Government supporters will not allow the real case put by trade union representatives on this issue to be incorporated in “ Hansard “, when they know an honorable member has not the time to read it.
I shall summarize the viewpoints that are to my mind really important. Irrespective of what honorable members opposite may think, the Government is betraying Australian industry and workmen. It is selling out some of the basic industries in this country. Amongst them are numbered not only textiles but also toys and other great industries employing thousands of Australian men and women. Those industries will be threatened by the competition from what might be termed sweated labour areas. Industries in this country cannot compete with the products of such areas. The growing numbers of unemployed in Australia will undoubtedly be increased tre mendously because of the impact of the Japanese trade agreement on the employing capacity of industry and subsequently on the purchasing power of the consumers. In the final analysis this treaty means unemployment for Australian workers and employment for Japanese workers. In other words, the choice is between workers in Tokyo or in Tempe, Nagasaki or Newtown. While 1 am a representative in an Australian parliament, my endeavours will always be directed towards maintaining employment and prosperity in this country - in Tempe and Newtown rather than in Tokyo and Nagasaki.
– We can always sit back and enjoy a speech made by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly). If it were not that we are so familiar with his fluency and flamboyancy we might be persuaded to take some notice of what he says.
There are three governing considerations about this treaty, and I want to put them to the House. The first is: Do we need a treaty at all? The second is: What are the advantages of this treaty? The third is: If there are disadvantages, what can we do to minimize them, what safeguards can we employ, and how effective are they? I shall take these three headings in order. The first is the need for the treaty. It is commonplace to say, and it has been said frequently, that we are a great trading nation. We are in fact one of the first eight great trading nations. If we are a great trading nation, then it is obvious that we require a high and expanding export income, because on this eventually all our prosperity depends. Our ability to manufacture, our standards of living and our way of life are in fact bound up with the question not only of a high export income but also an expanding export income. Another great need is for us to do what we can to preserve this income against fluctuations, and I remind honorable members opposite, because they seen to have forgotten, that on a satisfactory export income depends in the last resort our ability to maintain employment at a satisfactory level. Therefore, if we are to have a high level of export income, we must adopt what measures we can to ensure its stability, and amongst those measures this treaty is a very important action. A high level of exports means that there must be imports, because we cannot have one without the other. Not long ago Opposition members were doing their best to attack import licensing; they had not a good word to say about it. Now, when we make an arrangement to promote exports and to safeguard the flow of imports, they have not a good word to say about that. One may well ask: What is the policy of the Labour party on this matter?
I ask the House to look at the situation in the Pacific, which is full of new nations now developing, every one of them a lowcost producer but all with rising standards of living and potential areas in which trade can be developed, lt becomes extremely important, therefore, for us to have some agreements and to take some measures which will promote and stabilize our trade in the Pacific. It is important for us to take early action to secure a share. Amongst these nations, Japan is, of course, by far the most important. Already we have a large trade with her. As everyone knows, she is in fact our second largest customer, and the objects of this treaty are to consolidate and develop this important trade on which, as I have pointed out, so much depends. We cannot do so unless we are willing to make some concessions. We must do it on the basis of gaining the greatest possible advantages and minimizing to the utmost the disadvantages. That is precisely what we have done with this treaty.
I do not want to go in detail into the advantages we have gained, because they have been dealt with by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and every honorable member on the Government side who has spoken on this treaty. That brings me to my second heading, which was, what are the advantages? We have gained a very substantial advantage for our wool. It is easy to say that we need not fear any competition with our wool. If circumstances were adverse, we might very well fear great competition from synthetics in Japan. We have gained great advantages for our wheat market and in fact we have already been able, in the spirit of this treaty, to sell substantially more wheat to Japan. We have done something to safeguard our market for barley. We have done something very substantial to develop our ability to sell sugar and again we have, in the spirit of this treaty, made a very large and profitable sale of sugar to Japan. We have done something to develop a market for hides, tallow, beef, skimmed milk, dried vine fruits and other goods. These are solid advantages. They are matters of real importance to our trade. It is important for us to do something by way of an agreement with Japan, because the pattern of Japanese trade is that she makes agreements with other nations which may very well restrict or remove us from the Japanese market for some or all of these goods unless we on our part are prepared to make arrangements with Japan to develop and safeguard this important market.
Now let us consider the possible disadvantages of this treaty. First, let me say one thing. During the course of the debate, comparisons have been made between what has happened to industries in other countries that have traded with Japan and what is likely to happen here. It is not impressive for us to be comparing, as some honorable gentlemen opposite have been comparing, circumstances in places such as West Africa with circumstances here. If we are to draw comparisons, we must compare like with like. Although honorable members opposite have declared that great inroads have been made into the Canadian market, not one of them has been able to cite official figures. If in fact the importation of Japanese goods into Canada had really caused any great dislocation of the Canadian market, surely the large quantities of highcost goods produced in America and exported to Canada would have been to a great extent displaced from the Canadian market. That has not occurred to any substantial degree. If we are to have comparisons, at least let us have valid comparisons, and let us contrast like with like.
It is not enough for honorable members opposite to say, as they have said, that in any case the Japanese must take our products. I do not think that is so at all. We’ have to expand our trade. We have to look to the future as well as to present conditions, and international trade cannot really be developed by leaving the actions of our competitors, who in other circumstances might well be described, perhaps, as our trading partners, to be determined only by the mere dictates of the necessities of the moment. No one could really believe that international trade between countries can develop satisfactorily on that kind of basis.
There will be no development of an ordered pattern of trade, which is so important to us, if we adopt that point of view.
Japan was not only the most important of the countries in the Pacific with which we traded, but she was the nation against which we discriminated most heavily. What have we done by this treaty? We have merely placed Japan in the same position as all the other non-Commonwealth countries as far as duty provisions are concerned. We have taken steps to regulate trade between the Japanese and ourselves. We are not prepared - and it would not be useful if we were - to live in perpetual animosity with Japan, which appears to be the course of action that the Australian Labour party wishes us to adopt.
I now come to the third general consideration that I mentioned at the commencement of my speech. What can we do to minimize any disadvantages? Nobody on this side of the House has pretended that there are no disadvantages to be considered. It has been admitted quite frankly that we have to make some concessions, and that there may well be, for some sections of Australian industry, some disadvantages. What can we do to minimize them? In the first place, we have obtained an agreement from the Japanese Government that Japan will exercise restraint in her export dealings with us. It is of no use for honorable members to say that this is valueless. If Japan wishes to have a share in the Australian market and to have continuing trade with Australia, as she obviously does, it is in her own interests to see that she maintains this trade with such restraint that it does not call forth the reprisals for which the treaty makes provision. On the mere grounds of self-interest, one would think that this provision regarding restraint is a valuable provision. But let us see what we can do ourselves. I invite the House to look at Article V of the agreement, because this was the article that was attacked by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when making his speech in opposition to the agreement. He declared, in fact, that Article V contained no worth-while safeguards. I now invite honorable members opposite to look at what Article V really says - if they have not already done so, and apparently they have not. It says, in paragraph 1 -
It is the expectation of both Governments that mutual trade will be increased as a result of this
Agreement, lt is further expected that this expansion of trade will be achieved without serious injury being caused or threatened to domestic producers in Australia or Japan. If, nevertheless, as a result of unforeseen developments, the Government of either country finds that any product is being imported from the other country under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury to producers in the country of importation of like or directly competitive products, that Government may, in respect of such product, suspend obligations under this Agreement to the extent and for such time as may be necessary to prevent or remedy such injury.
It cleary envisages that this action may be taken in time to prevent serious injury.
– That may be. That is our worry.
– The honorable member should listen to the rest of the article. Paragraph 2 of that article goes on to say -
Before either Government takes action pursuant to the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article, it shall give written notice to the other Government as far in advance as may be practicable -
Which means that it can take advantage of the circumstances of the moment - and shall afford the other Government an opportunity to consult with it as fully as circumstances permit in respect of the proposed action -
But only, I point out to the House, as fully as circumstances permit. If words have any meaning, these are no mean safeguards. Paragraph 3 of the article says -
In the event that either Government finds it necessary to take action under this Article which affects such a number of products or such a volume of trade that in the view of the other Government the achievement of the objectives of this Agreement is seriously impaired the Government which considers its interests adversely affected may request consultations with the other Government on the situation which has developed including the action taken;
That means that it does not have to wait. It can take the action first and have the conversations afterwards. The paragraph continues - and may after two months from the time of the action being taken,
The action having already been taken, I point out - if no mutually satisfactory solution is reached or at an earlier date if it is agreed that no solution is likely to emerge seek a renegotiation of the terms of this Agreement.
I also direct the attention of the House to Article VI, which says -
Each Government shall accord sympathetic consideration to representations made by the other
Government on matters arising out of the operation of this Agreement and shall afford to the other Government adequate opportunity for consultation.
But not, of course, necessarily before taking action, and, in fact, from the context of Article V, which I have just read, it is quite obvious that the agreement envisages that the Government which feels it is disadvantaged may take the action first and confer afterwards. So I say that there is nothing in the obvious interpretation of Articles V and VI of this agreement that can lead to any other conclusion than that the safeguards that the Australian Government has reserved to itself are not only adequate but can be invoked immediately the Government considers them to be necessary.
Let me sum the matter up in this way: we cannot live for ever in the Pacific area with Japan in terms of opposition, unregulated rivalry and even animosity. Failure to co-operate now, or failure to make adequate arrangements now, may easily mean much more severe competition, actions of reprisal and a failure to secure advantageous trading conditions in the future. We retain under this agreement effective safeguards, first, in the restraint the Japanese have agreed to exercise; secondly, in our freedom to act; and, thirdly, as was pointed out by the Minister for Trade, by our recent strengthening of the Australian Industries Preservation Act. We secure overall advantages for our national welfare, and with vigilance and care, I have no doubt that we shall be able to forestall any serious effects on Australian industry. I believe that this treaty may well be something which will do a great deal to inaugurate a new and better era in the Pacific, not only in mere matters of trade and commerce but also in international relations, by establishing, between those who are our neighbours in the Pacific and ourselves, far better relations than we have enjoyed before.
– I feel that it is time that we should discard the kid glove treatment in regard to this matter and get down to cold, stark reality as to how this agreement will affect the Australian economy. While listening to speakers on the Government side for the last week or so, I could have closed my eyes and easily imagined that I was in the Japanese Parliament. The Leader of the
Opposition (Dr. Evatt) pointed out in his speech last Thursday night that, as a result of this treaty, the Australian textile industry - which is only one of our industries - for the first time in history will be subject to unrestricted Japanese competition. That opinion is on all fours with the claims of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, that the treaty will lay Australian industries - not merely one industry - open to cut-throat competition from Japan in a very wide range of goods.
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) asked whether it would be wise to allow mass unemployment in Japan. That is the remark which made me think I was in the Japanese Parliament. A glance at the proposals contained in this agreement shows, even to the uninitiated - there are many on the other side of the House - that it will be impossible for the industries concerned in Australia to compete with imports from Japan. It proves that the 164 woollen and worsted mills in Australia, employing 25,000 Australians, will have no option but to close down. That should be noted at this stage.
I could not help noting the intense interest displayed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during the speech of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) when he presented this agreement to the House. The Prime Minister remained throughout the whole of that speech. It is something unusual, of course, for the Prime Minister to stay in the House after question time. We know the part he played in the initiation of this trade pact. He went through the preliminaries of making a goodwill tour of Japan, with its banquets and cocktail parties, simply to lead up to the point where the agreement was drawn up. Then came the grand entry of the Minister for Trade, in a secondary capacity, to advance proceedings to the stage of signing the treaty. This agreement means the sale of all Australian industries to a foreign power. What keen delight our Prime Minister, together with the Minister for Trade and other members of his Government, have taken in reducing Australia, their native land, to the status of a mendicant! The proud position that Australia attained during the period of the Labour Government as a result of its policy of protection of Australia’s secondary industries will now be destroyed by this antiAustralian Prime Minister who is well known for his queer - to say the least - Australian outlook.
The speech of the Minister for Trade was notable for one point only. He persisted in avoiding all reference to the damage which would be done to Australian industry by this agreement, lt creates a situation which will intensify the already alarming rate of unemployment which is now beginning to make its impact on the economy. The Minister knows that outside of food - low-grade food, at that - Japan never imports anything for her own economy, except raw materials which can be manufactured into articles for export. I refer, for instance, to ship-building. Does Japan buy ships from other countries? Of course not. Japan buys the steel plates, which this Government allows to be sold to it, also the joists, angle iron and steel beams that are used in the construction of ships. The Japanese then build the ships for sale to other countries.
The Minister spoke airily about access to markets in Japan. Such a remark was preposterous and stupid. He talked about access to markets for our products and the opening of a wide field of trade. That is all airy-fairy nonsense and utter deceit - the sort of thing at which the Minister for Trade is so apt. The Minister should realize, or get out of the Cabinet and make room for some one with a real Australian outlook who will, that the shrewd, wily, Japanese businessman, using all the Oriental guile at his command, is out to find new markets for his products. His one aim is to export unemployment and import employment. It is time that some one in authority awoke to that fact.
The Australian economy is again to be subjected to the dumping of cheap Japanese goods, which, of course, pleases members of chambers of commerce. They will hail with delight the opportunity to exploit cheap labour again, whether it be foreign labour or otherwise. All the big rag shops in the capital cities will hail with delight the adoption of this agreement. It will be greeted through the pages of the yellow journals which the purveyors of cheap-jack rag and other materials own and control. Let them not forget, however, that the destruction of the home mar ket is imminent and that the spectre of unemployment will become more apparent as a result of flooding Australian markets with Japanese goods.
Has the Minister forgotten that whilst Japanese industry is highly mechanized the standard of living of the teeming millions of workers in that country is extremely low? Their wages bear no comparison with those of Australian workers; they are about one-sixth of Australian wages, on an average. Females comprise the great majority of employees in the textile industry, and as equal pay for the sexes does not apply the rate of wages could be much lower than the rate mentioned. The 40- hour week, so dear to the heart of the Australian Country party, is unthinkable in Japan. Workers there have to work for 60 to 80 hours a week. After the occupation forces took over control of Japan after World War II., big business from America moved in and started to rebuild the huge Japanese monopolies which were destroyed - or were supposed to be destroyed - during the war. We were told that they would never function again. At that time, the yellow press declared, “ Japan is now going through a process of democratization “. Such was the trash dished up by American head-quarters presided over by General MacArthur, and repeated parrot fashion all over the world by the yellow press. Trade unions were suppressed and Japanese monopolies were reborn with the same old crew at the fountain-head. The wealthy families were once again in the box seat in Japan. “ We must keep them out of the Communist bloc by assisting them to rebuild “, was the cry; and our super-patriots in Australia, who are very closely associated with big importers, joined in that cry. They leaned over backwards to appease all and sundry. Our Prime Minister was in the vanguard of appeasing Japanese so-called diplomatic missions. Surely no one in this Parliament can forget the war memorial incident some time ago, when relics of the Japanese surrender were withdrawn from view. The Prime Minister said then “ We do not want to jive offence to this Japanese diplomatic mission “.
The sickening sentimentality voiced about Janan in this Parliament by Government members is all so much eyewash. Should we be sentimental towards the Japanese war criminals? Should we be sentimental towards those animals who were recently released after being sentenced to life imprisonment for rape and murder during the war? Should we spill over with sickly sentimentality? The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), acting as Prime Minister, released these criminals while the Prime Minister was abroad. They had been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Their release was a pre-requisite to the signing of this agreement. Is the Japanese Government standing over this very weak collection of individuals called the Australian Govern ment?
Has this Government deliberately overlooked the damage this treaty will inflict on the ex-servicemen of World War II who suffered the tortures of the damned in the Japanese prison camps; who were broken in health by the callous treatment meted out to them? When these men returned to Australia they were unable to follow their usual occupations. Have we forgotten? They looked around for something to do in order to rehabilitate themselves. They pooled their financial resources and started toy manufacturing. Has the Minister for Trade forgotten that? The toy industry developed to such an extent that these men obtained a decent standard of wage for themselves and a certain security for the future. Have members of the Government forgotten that? Now the Government steps in with this agreement. It steps in and, utterly contemptuous of the welfare of these ex-soldiers and their families, affords no protection to their toy industry from the savage assaults of the Japanese invaders. The toy industry, as well as other industries, has been handed over to the tender mercies of the Japanese financial bandits. After the callous treatment at the hands of the military bandits in Japan, these men, who founded the toy industry in Australia, are being abandoned to the callous treatment of the Japanese financial bandits, who will show them less mercy than they received at the hands of the Japanese military bandits.
– You would prefer to do business with Communist China.
– I will show this Government a way to alleviate the state of mind of these heroes of the Burma-road and Changi prison camp. Will the honorable member opposite who is interjecting vote against this treaty and the destruction of the financial resources of those heroes who were prepared to lay down their lives so that Australia should survive?
The technique adopted by the present Government is to state that at all costs Japan must be kept out of the Communist bloc. That is a new one - anything to throw a smoke-screen around the deliberate purpose. What is to become of the Australian unemployed who may be thrown into the Communist bloc? Will the Government increase the unemployment benefit by 15s. a week to keep them out of the Communist bloc? What utter contempt the Government shows for the people of Australia! What utter contempt it shows for the 60,000 people already unemployed in Australia! Has it realized the consequences of poverty, misery and suffering that will fall upon this great country?
The textile industry is able to-day to supply almost 100 per cent, of Australia’s requirements. During World War II. the whole of Australia’s military and civilian textile requirements, as well as some of the requirements of the Allied forces in the South Pacific, were supplied. An honorable member opposite spoke about the cold war. What will happen when the hot war comes and we require textiles to manufacture the equipment for our soldiers? Will we go to Japan to get them or are we going to conserve our own factories, which are capable of turning out the supplies we will need? Has the Government forgotten that this is a major industry, basic to the Australian economy? I have heard a lot of sickening tripe in this House to-day about this industry - a major industry, basic to the Australian economy in times of peace and, most important of all, in times of war. Can Australia take the tremendous risk involved in the destruction of this industry? The Minister for Trade has said in one of his weak assurances, that there are adequate safeguards against damage or injury to local industry. I was not impressed by the Minister nor indeed by any Minister or any honorable member who spoke in this debate from the opposite side of the House. My colleagues in the Labour party have not been impressed. We say that the Government’s assurances are so much eyewash.
We must remember the record of this anti-Australian Government in selling out its interests in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the Whaling Commission, Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, the New Guinea enterprise, the New South Wales coal-mining industry and uranium mining. A similar fate is to befall the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool and another assault is to be made on the Commonwealth Bank. Now the Government caps everything by endeavouring to hand Australia’s textile industry over to a foreign Asiatic power. We must recall the pre-war years, especially the late 1920’s, when the same thing was done and only the advent of a Labour government saved the textile industry to perform its functions in the 1939-45 war in the Pacific.
Japan’s balance of payments problem is a domestic matter. Let the Japanese fight that out themselves. Let the Japanese Government handle it just as this Government had to handle Australia’s balance of payments problem which resulted in us owing to the International Bank 350,000,000 dollars. Let Japan borrow dollars, in the same way that Australia has had to borrow, to preserve its balance, of payments. Perhaps the Minister for Trade will be able to tell the Australian electors how we came to owe that 350,000,000 dollars. It might be appropriate for the Prime Minister to make one of his frequent statements, and let us know.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- One of the most interesting features of the debate on this agreement is that, until the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) spoke, it had not engendered any heat or emotion arising out of past conflicts, but had been dealt with from the stand-point of differences of opinion concerning its merits as what might be termed a business arrangement between two countries entered into for the purpose of deriving mutual benefit. Points of view may vary, but this fact is perhaps an indication of greater understanding on the part of the average Australian, of the value of export trade, and of Australia’s need for greater export trade. The greater understanding of these things has allowed this agreement to be considered by the House without any of the prejudice and passion which might have been expected when so many regrettable incidents of twelve or thirteen years ago are still clear in our memories. In contrast with the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith, I heard with very great interest the remarks of my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who was a prisoner of war of the Japanese and experienced the kind of treatment that the honorable member for Watson mentioned.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– lt does not matter very much which it is.
– Order! The correct title of the honorable member referred to is “ the honorable member for KingsfordSmith “.
– That is so, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member for Darling Downs, and my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer), both experienced imprisonment at the hands of the Japanese, but they are broad-minded and big enough, to regard this agreement as something that must be debated without heat or passion. I am certain that there will be far more interest in their remarks* in which there is certainly far more evidence of responsibility, than in the observations of the honorable member for Watson.
– My electorate is KingsfordSmith, Mr. Speaker.
– Order! The honorable member referred to is the Honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– I am very sorry about my error, Mr. Speaker. I know how sensitive the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is.
The value of wool to Australia, and the demand for it by other countries, of course, is the fundamental reason for this agreement. We must appreciate the greater scope that it provides for guaranteed sales of barley, wheat, sugar and dried vine fruits, but the fact is that wool is the pivot upon which additional exports of those subsidiary commodities hinge. Wool, like rubber to Malaya, and cotton, to Egypt, is the basic prop of Australia’s economy. T emphasize that, year after year, it has accounted for more than 50 per cent, of our total exports. In every phase of its production, through the breeding, grazing and shearing of sheep, and even in the selling, wool is a speciality production. Throughout its history in this country, wool has proved a sensitive and temperamental governor of our economy, and has played a very important part in raising us to heights of prosperity and expansion, and in plunging us into the depths of depression, hardships, and restrictions when it has apparently, or temporarily, lost its value.
In 1934, Germany decided to prohibit wool imports on the pretext that a controller was to be appointed. As a result, London sales were postponed, and sales in Australia were cancelled. The underlying reason for Germany’s action was that it wished to conclude a barter agreement with this country. However, the move failed, and, fortunately, exports to the United Kingdom, Japan and Belgium increased. In the 1935-36 season, Japan took 31 per cent, of our total exports of wool. Australia still had to survive an incredibly difficult period, which undoubtedly it would have found much more difficult had Japan not been purchasing so much of our wool. Later, I understand because we became at cross-purposes with the Japanese over the entry of Japanese goods into Australia, Japan restricted imports of Australian wool, and our wool prices declined 30 per cent, as a result. I direct the attention of the House to that page of our history in order to indicate the important influence of wool on the Australian economy, and to answer the claim that Japan buys our wool only because it must have it. That may be true, in one sense, but it is. too broad a generalization, in another sense. Certainly, Japan wants Australian wool, but we cannot decide when the Japanese shall buy it, and they could, in my view, buy skilfully when it suits them - intermittently and maliciously, if you like - and cause wide and intolerable fluctuations in prices.
The honorable member- for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said that Japan must buy wool and. made the common accusation of the Opposition that Japan will not keep to agreements. None of us will deny that the Japanese are shrewd traders. They have to be shrewd and capable in their trade negotiations. However, shrewdness is not all on their side. Australians also have been shrewd negotiators, as was proved when we met the German challenge in 1934. The main thing is that this agreement affords an opportunity substantially to stabilize the financial returns in an industry which has been notoriously unstable, and any government that failed to take advantage of this opportunity could be charged with gross negligence, provided that the price of security is not too great a burden on other parts of our commercial structure. Opposition members are resisting this agreement because they fear that the price paid for it will be too great. We on this side of the House admit that the consequences of this agreement must be closely watched, but we consider that adequate safeguards are provided.
Fluctuating prices for wool have had important effects on the Australian economy. The all-time record price received in 1950-51 brought wonderful financial returns, but the toboggan-like slide of 50 per cent, in the following year meant that, over the two years, our wool was not worth as much to us as it would have been had it sold each year at the average of the prices actually received. We suffered from one year’s monetary indigestion, and an inability to live comfortably in the succeeding lean times. As a result, this agreement gives effect to the Government’s overwhelming, and understandable, desire to guarantee, in some measure, the income received from exports of our major export commodity to the second biggest buyer. No one will disagree with this. I think that, if we were to continue a policy of hard discrimination against Japanese goods, we should return to a situation similar to that of the 1930’s, when the wool-growers’ income was reduced, Australians lost purchasing power, and the real national income was. seriously reduced.
Now, the Opposition is resisting this treaty, and while that is their privilege perhaps one should point out to them a feature which, while used by them as being relevant to their arguments concerning the entry of Japanese goods, is in turn quite revealing as it applies to Australian working conditions. For years now we have been hearing statements from members of the Labour party in this House about this Government’s alleged attitude to the worker and about its desire to depress his- conditions and take away his amenities. At the same time, honorable members opposite propound their socialistic ideas of wider and better concessions with much shorter hours, and certainly less effort, as being most desirable additions or subtractions - whichever you will - in the daily working routine. I wonder what they would do if they achieved nationalization and found costs going up so that they could not gain export markets for the goods produced in the nationalized factories. The honorable member for Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson) said in this chamber last night that Australian workers enjoy - and for the first time in my recollection a socialist member has mentioned that word in connexion with our conditions -
Long-service leave, a forty-hour week, annual leave and sick leave, workers’ compensation, smoko periods, tea breaks and many other benefits which are taken for granted in this country, but which do not exist in Japan. Those benefits were gained because of the tenacious characteristics of the Australian workers who fought for them through the great trade union movement. Some of these great benefits were gained only a relatively few years ago.
This Government has been in office for the last eight years, and I should say that the term “ relatively few years ago “ would refer to its term of office. Obviously, those benefits have been won under this Government, which has brought in legislation which has allowed them to be provided. The honorable member for Hughes continued -
The contrast with Japan is strong. The average working week in Japan is about 481 hours and the hours worked range up to 60 hours. Japanese factories are devoid of amenities. In fact, the Japanese factory is usually associated with the home. The home is the factory, the factory is the home. Japanese workers sleep on the job, as the honorable member for Kingsford Smith (Mr. Curtin) has pointed out. Instead of a basic wage of about £13 13s. a week, which is the minimum an Australian adult male worker may receive, the Japanese worker earns about 16,000 yen, which is about £5 a week in Australian money.
Now, Mr. Speaker, if there is one consoling feature about this debate it is the knowledge that some sense of appreciation has been developed in respect of what is, by world standards, a veritable Utopia for the average man by comparison with his opposite number in other countries. It is on an occasion such as this when the comparison becomes so apparent and the secondary industries are so apprehensive of the competition which can arise because of the disparity in working amenities and conditions for which, after all, we must pay as a community, that those who guide employee organizations and those who advise at annual Labour party conferences should realize that our overhead costs can be raised to such a degree that they can curtail our exports and call for so high a protective barrier against imports as could lead to international condemnation and trade reprisals.
Summed up, this trade agreement has been accepted by the Government and rejected by the Opposition. It has been resisted by secondary industry, but totally agreed to by the Australian public, which has displayed the same calm acceptance of it as the people of Melbourne have exhibited towards the re-introduction of Friday night shopping. The Government, in answer to the fears of secondary industry, points to its safeguards in Article V., which says -
If, nevertheless, as a result of unforeseen developments, the Government of either country finds that any product is being imported from the other country under such conditions as to cause or threaten serious injury to producers in the country of importation of like or directly competitive products, that Government may, in respect of such product, suspend obligations under this agreement to the extent and for such time as may be necessary to prevent or remedy such injury.
In further clarification, the agreement says that if either the Japanese or the Australian Government is of the opinion that any product is being imported under such conditions that serious injury is threatened, consultations will be held immediately to remedy the situation without resort to special emergency action.
Whilst these safeguards are most essential, and appear to be adequate, I have been interviewed and engaged in correspondence with representatives of those industries which appear to have the greatest apprehension concerning the effect of competition arising out of the agreement. I refer to the woollen and textile industry. Experienced and capable administrators point out that this is one industry which, like the very wool which is the base of its activities, is an industry whose prosperity fluctuates with variations in the wool market, seasonal conditions and even changes in fashions - like a thermometer on a spring day in Melbourne - and that rapid action is imperative if, in an excess of exporting zeal, the Japanese textile and woollen manufacturers suddenly flood our market. I bring to the attention of the Minister the fact that this is an industry which employs over 22,000 persons - in my own electorate of Corio there are probably 3,000 employed in it - and has an annual Australian wages bill of £14,000,000. It has great capital investments in buildings and plant, and with an annual production of £62,000,000 it is worthy of every consideration. My own experience has been that its employees are very level-headed citizens - not extreme in their outlook - and people who, as skilled workers, take pride in their craft, even to the extent that one finds the third generation employed on the looms. The industry is one which needs confidence to expand, the feeling that it will have Government co-operation and a secure future, so that capital for the constant demand for essential modern machinery can be available from investors. It is realized that some have been overemphatic in presenting their case, but my belief is that in an uncertain trade they are justified in asking for the closest possible attention in order to prevent further prospects of uncertainty from outside competition.
I ask that the Minister and the Government ensure that the safeguards that are provided for in the agreement shall be utilized should it become apparent that the agreement will cause what is described as “ any injury “ to Australian industry. I believe that the woollen and worsted industry is the No. 1 industry that has to have the closest attention. The experience of 1950 and 1951 is rather a spectre in that industry. Textile manufacture was commenced in Geelong 90 years ago. The industry has fought depressions and floods, shortages and high prices, and I would most strongly and emphatically request that the Department of Trade give the closest possible scrutiny and consideration to the submissions of this industry in order to assure, through the powers that are written into this agreement, the maintenance of its progress and development. If the agreement can stimulate our overseas markets, make us a satisfactory customer for Japan, and maintain the expansion of secondary industries, which I know the Minister and the Government want to do, then it will have served a very useful and outstanding purpose; and I am quite certain that it will have the future unanimous approval of Australians.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ward) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Right Honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) speaking without limitation of time and the honorable members for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) and East Sydney (Mr. Ward) each speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes on the motion to print the Agreement on Commerce between Australia and Japan.
– I lay on the table of the House the following paper: -
Tariff Board Act- Tariff Board- Report for year 1956-57, together with summary of recommendations.
The report is accompanied by an annexure which summarizes the recommendations made by the board and shows the action taken in respect of each of them. It is not proposed to print the annexure. Copies of the report are not as yet available for distribution to honorable members. However, I expect that copies, in roneoed form, will be available at a later hour this evening.
Ordered that the report be printed.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Bill 1957.
National Service Bill (No. 2) 1957.
Without requests -
Wine Grapes Charges Bill 1957.
– by leave - I move -
That Order of the Day No. 10- St. Mary’s Ammunition Filling Factory - Ministerial Statement - Resumption of debate on motion to print paper - be discharged.
I understand that it is the wish of the House, as expressed to me, to strike this order of the day from the notice-paper. The effect of this will be to permit more freedom of debate during discussion of the Estimates, or the budget, later in the sessional period.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
Bill returned from Senate with amendments.
Debate resumed (vide page 393).
.- This agreement constitutes the greatest betrayal of Australian interests that has been perpetrated by this anti-Australian Government in all its long, sorry history. Before I proceed with my general observations on the agreement, I should like to reply to an argument advanced by several Government supporters in regard to what they consider to be the inconsistency of the Australian Labour party in opposing this trade agreement with Japan whilst, at the same time, advocating trade with China. There is no inconsistency in the attitude of the Labour party. As a matter of fact, if this agreement that we are now considering were an agreement between China and Australia, the Labour party would oppose it in the same way as we are opposing it now. When the Opposition advocates trade with China, we have in mind trade on an entirely different basis from this. A trade agreement should provide mutual advantages for the countries which are parties to it. We would support the importation from China of goods that would be non-competitive with Australian industry. Likewise, we would advocate exporting to China the great abundance of our primary products, which that country needs urgently for its great population. That, exactly, is the attitude of the Australian Labour party, and it is not inconsistent with opposition to this agreement.
I agree with the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin), who spoke this afternoon. This agreement is more political than economic. When one begins to examine it one asks oneself, “ What are the objectives of the Government with respect to this agreement? “ We know what preliminary arrangements were made by the Government to create the conditions essential for giving effect to this agreement.
Japanese war criminals were very generously treated by this Government, which has assured the returned soldiers’ organizations of this country that Japanese who had been committed to life imprisonment would serve their full term of imprisonment. Yet after those prisoners had been shifted from Manus Island to Japanese gaols and after a visit of the Prime Minister to Japan, it was not long before it was proposed that they should be given their immediate liberty, preliminary to the signing of this agreement.
What are the so-called objectives of the agreement? We have been told that our trade is much out of balance with Japan. Viewed bi-laterally, that is to say, as one country against the other, of course it is out of balance. Last year, according to official figures, we exported to Japan produce to the value of £140,000,000, and we took in return approximately £13,000,000 worth of goods, a difference of £127,000,000. But who ever considered trade on the basis of one country against another? It has to be recognized, in considering world trade, that whilst we have favorable balances with some countries, we have adverse balances with others, and over the whole range our trade with all countries balances out eventually. Of the £140,000,000 worth of produce that we sent to Japan last year, £1 10,000,000 worth was wool. Why does Japan take Australian wool? Because it needs it for its industries.
If we are having trade difficulties with Japan at present, how much worse off shall we be if the prediction of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) comes true? The Minister for Trade did not merely say that this agreement was intended to make up the difference between imports and exports. He said that it aimed at securing improved Australian trade in the Japanese market. Yet, the more we improve our trade in the Japanese market the wider we will make the gap between exports and imports, and the more essential it will become, from the Government’s view-point, to increase the flow of Japanese-manufactured goods into this country.
In the course of his speech, the Minister for Trade said that the Japanese had agreed to place no duty on imports of Australian wool for a period of three years. Whom does that advantage? The Japanese must have our wool as raw material for their industries in any case. If they were foolish enough to put an import duty on wool they would merely add to the costs of their industry. This provision is of no advantage to Australia. The Japanese are not putting an import duty on our wool because it would disadvantage themselves. It has been said by Government supporters that our wool is largely used, not for the purposes of the Japanese export industry, but for home consumption. The “ Japan Textile News”, of July, 1957, states, at page 9, that the export of woollen products from Japan to overseas markets in May, 1957, only a few months ago, constituted in value 14,705,000 dollars for one month’s trading. That was a post-war record, which shows that the export industry in relation to wool products is greatly increasing in Japan.
Let us turn to another product that has been mentioned - wheat. Everybody knows that high-protein wheat, as it is called, can be sold anywhere. In order to sell Australian high-protein wheat, it is not necessary to depend on the generosity of the Japanese. It can be sold anywhere in the world. Yet we have been told that the great advantage of this agreement is that it will ensure a market for Australian surplus soft wheat. I challenge any member of the Government to show me in the agreement any guarantee that the Japanese will buy 1 bushel of Australia’s soft wheat surplus. There is no such guarantee in the agreement. The joint communique that was issued by the Minister for Trade and his counterpart in Japan stated -
All Australian commodities for which there are export opportunities in Japan are assured of most-favoured-nation tariff treatment and nondiscrimination in import and exchange controls.
But, putting that statement into plain language, here is what it meant according to the Minister himself: It meant full right of competitive entry into the Japanese market. How can that be regarded as a concession? We shall be able to place our wheat on the Japanese market in competition with soft wheat that can be obtained under much more favorable conditions from other parts of the world. Everybody knows the position in regard to subsidized wheat exports. Referring to this matter, the Minister said -
Because of the threat which surplus disposals hold for marketing opportunities in Japan, Australia, in the agreement, has secured assurances-
Not guarantees, but assurances- that in the event of unfair trade practices or Government disposal operations we will be assured of an equitable or fair share of the Japanese market, based on our ability to compete under normal commercial conditions.
If we can provide the wheat at a lower price than they can obtain it anywhere else, we will get a fair share of the market. It is rather interesting to follow the story of subsidized wheat on the Japanese market through the newspapers. A report in the “Daily Telegraph”, of 21st December, 1956, said -
The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture’s chances for imports of Australian soft wheat next year–
That is 1957- had decreased because the United States had rejected a Japanese plan for cutting imports of American soft wheat bought under conditions imposed by the United States on the disposal of its surplus wheat.
Because of the agreements between Japan and the United States, there was no opportunity for Australian wheat on the Japanese market. The “ Sydney Morning Herald “, of 28th December, 1956 - just one week after the report in the “ Daily Telegraph “ - said -
The Japanese Cabinet to-day decided to reject the United States surplus farm products this year, clearing the way for Australian wheal imports.
The “Sydney Morning Herald”, of 14th August, 1957, reported -
The Japanese Cabinet has decided to resume imports of American surplus farm products in the financial year beginning July, 1958.
Unless we can get rid of our soft wheat surpluses on the Japanese market before July, 1958, we will be compelled to compete with the susidized product from America. Everybody knows that the conditions under which that wheat is being supplied make it impossible for the Australian product to compete. One could ask whether the Japanese are genuine and sincere. When we talk about assurances, it is rather interesting to note that Japan had no difficulty in breaking an agreement with the United States, though the United States insisted that the agreement should be observed. Could they not just as easily break their assurance to us in regard to the marketing of our soft wheat surpluses? If they wanted to help us get some of the market, why did they not give Australia an assured quota of wheat on the Japanese market? Why did they not give us tariff concessions which would have helped us to compete with the product of other nations on that market?
A report in the “ Sydney Morning Herald”, of 19th January of this year, said that the Japanese Government had refused to buy 400,000 tons of Australian wheat in return for tariff concessions. The Japanese were not prepared to give away part of their market for soft wheat in return for tariff concessions that were no doubt offered to them by the representatives of this Government. Why are there no guarantees? Because the Japanese know that it is to their advantage to buy in the cheapest market when they want soft wheat or any other commodity! There have been two agreements between the United States and Japan under which 150,000,000 tons of surplus agricultural products have been sold to Japan. How was it paid for? It was paid in yen, the currency of the country purchasing the wheat and other agricultural products. Japan did noi have to find any overseas exchange because the Americans then placed it on the basis of a loan to Japan. Does the Government suggest that we can meet that type of competition? The same thing applies to sugar, barley and other primary products. The agreement does not contain one guarantee in regard to the disposal of Australian surplus products on the Japanese market. Cannot honorable gentlemen opposite in their shortsightedness see the injury they are doing to this country, or are they, as I suspect, doing it deliberately?
The United Kingdom is our best market. That has been recognized by all parties in the Parliament. What will happen to the United Kingdom market? If the United Kingdom cannot maintain its position with Australian imports of secondary products, how can it afford to take the surplus production of Australian primary industry? It cannot! Everybody has heard of the Messina plan, which is a proposed economic agreement between a number of European nations to eliminate custom barriers between each other, and to reciprocate in trade. The United Kingdom government has been urged by this Government not to become a party to that agreement unless it is permitted to exclude primary products from the agreement so that it can continue to provide a market for the surplus primary products ot: this country and of other nations in theBritish Commonwealth. Is it realistic tosuggest to the United Kingdom that we should be permitted to shut out the British product, in order to provide a market for cheaply produced Japanese goods, and expect that nation to protect and preserveits market for Australian products? That is an unrealistic approach.
Let us examine what Japan gains,, because it must be evident that Australia has gained nothing at all from this agreement. The Minister said -
The Australian Government will henceforth admit Japanese goods at rates of custom duty no higher than those applying to goods imported into Australia from other foreign countries.
In effect, there will be no discrimination. The Japanese exporter under the agreement, must get the same conditions as those applying to other nations. That will lead to a flooding of the Australian market. Do not pretend otherwise, because one has only to examine what has happened in respect of Japanese trading throughout the world to know what will happen here. I shall cite only a few instances, because time will not permit me to give a great deal of detail. In 1948, the ceramics industry in the United States of America earned 4,000,000 dollars; in 1956 it lost 1,000,000 dollars. Between 1948 and 1956, Japanese imports rose 500 per cent. I turn now to sewing machines. We know that in the United States of America a great organization called the White Sewing Machine Company has had to abandon its production of sewing machines and now operates as a distributor of cheaply produced Japanese machines. Americans employed in this industry have now been thrown out of work.
Turning to Canada, we find that in the first nine months of 1954 Japanese imports of clothing represented in value only 57,000 dollars. In the first nine months of 1956, the value of the Japanese imports had risen to 3,198,000 dollars. Mr. O. Smith, the sales manager of Burlington Distributors Proprietary Limited, an Australian company, said that Japanese cloth is being sold in New Zealand to-day at 9s. 6d. a yard retail. The Australian product of the same type is selling in Australia at 48s. 6d. a yard wholesale. How can Australian industries meet that type of competition? I shall not weary the House by detailing the industrial conditions in Japan. I have heard some honorable members say that the average hours in Japanese industry are 48±; I do not know where they obtained their information. Japan has no trade union awards. Conditions are not policed and effective records, to which reference could be made, are not kept. Most employees in Japan are working more than 60 hours a week. There are no paid holidays, no paid sick leave, no workers’ compensation and, as other honorable gentlemen have pointed out, they operate what they call cottage production. Every cottage is a factory and some manufacturers have not to meet even the capital outlay. The wages are onesixth of the rate paid in Australia.
Let us look at the safeguards that we are told exist in this agreement. The Minister said -
No worthwhile industry will be allowed to suffer serious damage.
I invite the Minister to tell us what he means by a worth-while industry. Does not that mean that, in the Minister’s opinion, some industries in this country are not worth protecting and not worth preserving? I invite the Minister to say what they are. 1 invite them to say whether the Australian textile industry is regarded as a worth-while industry. The Minister said that Australian industries are not to be allowed to suffer serious damage. What does he mean by “ serious damage “? Is that to be measured, and in what way? Is it to be measured by a fall in production or by unemployment in the industry? What means are to be employed to decide whether the damage suffered is serious? The Minister went on to say -
The agreement provides, however, that, where necessary, special action may be taken to prevent serious damage to domestic industry.
Where is this protection that the Minister mentioned? Is it the tariff machinery in existence at present? How does the tariff machinery operate to protect Australian industry against this kind of competition? The textile industry, which is now seriously threatened, made an application to the Tariff Board in 1954 for added protection, not against Japanese competition which was not then a problem, but against competition from other sources. The recommendation of the Tariff Board was made in May of this year, three years after the application had been made, and the Minister rejected it.
The Government refused to accept the recommendation. So how can it be argued that the tariff machinery provides protection if the Government has the power to disregard the recommendations of the Tariff Board?
The Minister made reference to the Australian Industries Preservation Act. He said, “ We have this reserve power, given to us about sixteen months ago, under which I can, overnight, impose a special duty when any Australian industry is threatened “. No one knows better than the Minister that he cannot do this, because he knows full well that this country is committed under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade not to increase the tariff on a long list of goods imported into Australia. If we cannot increase the tariff because of the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, then we cannot increase the duties payable by the Japanese once we have given them a guarantee of nondiscrimination. No one knows this better than the Mnister himself. As a matter of fact, all that is provided in the amendment to the Australian Industries Preservation Act is “ the imposition of a duty equal to the amount by which the cost of the goods was lower than a reasonably competitive landed cost “. Who determines whether imports are at a reasonably competitive landed cost, and on what basis is the determination made? Is that cost to be based on the cost of producing the article in Australia, or of producing it in Japan?
When dealing with these special provisions, the Minister said, “ We will not intervene lightly “, meaning that it will be only in special circumstances that any effort at all will be made to protect Australian industry. He said also that before we act we must give notice in writing. It is a nice polite agreement between these two nations. After such notice is given, consultation must take place. How long will that take? How long is the Australian industry expected to exist against this unfair competition while this consultation is going on?
When the Minister talks about the restraint that will be imposed by the Japanese Government, it must be borne in mind that such restraint is to be on a voluntary basis. In this regard I shall read to the House certain comments which appeared in the “ Financial Review “ of 15th August, 1957-
The Japanese Ministry of Trade stated that there was no authority to compel trading companies to restrict exports.
If they are not compelled to restrict exports, how can they be expected to adhere to their undertakings? Let us see whether this Government provides any protection. I have looked at some statements made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), the man who is always talking about Australian industrial conditions. On a former occasion, when the Australian workers were faced with an economic crisis, the Minister for Labour and National Service said -
It is utterly idle to condemn employers for using cheap child labour when we know that they have to compete with overseas products.
What the Minister was saying, in effect, was that when the cheaply produced Japanese goods flow into the Australian market we cannot expect Australian employers to refuse to use cheap child labour if they can get it. That is the attitude of the Government towards this matter. I remember an occasion when the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself was addressing what was called a Summer School of Political Science. I well remember the occasion because it happened to be on a day when this country had revealed to it details of terrible atrocities committed against our own and allied servicemen. The Prime Minister, when speaking at this Summer School of Political Science, appealed for a prosperous Japan in the post-war period. I have previously referred to his attitude to prisoners of war. This Prime Minister has been a union-hater all his life, and throughout his political career he has been a strike-breaker. He would endeavour, if he had the opportunity, to break down Australian industrial conditions. He is not worrying about the Australian market being flooded with cheaply produced Japanese goods.
If the Prime Minister and the Government were anxious to balance trade as between Australia and other countries, why have they not done something with regard to our friendly ally and neighbour, New Zealand, which country is a fellow member of the British Commonwealth? Only last year, when Australian exports to New Zealand increased from £40.000,000 to £51,000,000, our imports from that country increased from £10,000,000 to only £14,000,000. The unfavorable position of New Zealand worsened to the extent of £7,000,000. Why is the Government not doing something about arranging a reasonable trade agreement with that country?
Let us see who is pleased with this Japanese Trade Agreement. I had a look at a journal entitled “ The Harbour “, dated 1st August, 1957. This is a trade journal of the shipping, mining and steel interests, in Australia. It is violently anti-Labour, and has never had a good word to say about the Australian Labour party. On page 21 of that issue, the following appears: -
The Japanese are jubilant, and the toy andi chemical trades are rubbing their hands.
The honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) pointed out in the debate this afternoon that many disabled exservicemen who have been given an opportunity of establishing themselves in a worth-while industry, the toy industry, will now be thrown to the wolves because we are told that, at all costs, we must appease Japan and must keep it out of the Communist orbit. In my opinion, the Japanese have proved much more able negotiators and traders than the representatives of this Government. They have been able to take full advantage of the situation. I do not suggest that the moment this agreement becomes effective the Australian market will be flooded with Japanese goods. It will be a gradual process. The article in “ The Harbour “, to which I have referred, continues -
The Japanese realize, apparently, that the position is delicate and dangerous. They are advising their exporters to go quietly in the beginning.
That is a statement in an anti-Labour journal. The Australian Labour party urges the rejection of this un-Australian agreement. lt will not bring any advantage at all to this country, and will sacrifice our industries and the employees engaged in those industries. Honorable members may have read a full-page advertisement that appeared in the daily press throughout Australia. It was not inserted by the Australian Labour party, but by a section of employers in the textile industry who will be. affected by the agreement. Right across the. top of the advertisement, in a large, black headline, was the word “ Unemployment “.
– Of course, the honorable member for East Sydney read it!
– Yes, I read it, and so did the Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister immediately brought pressure to bear on the newspapers and the employers to have that advertisement withdrawn from the newspapers. There is no doubt, therefore, that this Government is a desperate government. It cannot be entrusted with the welfare of Australia, and the Australian Labour party is urging the rejection of this infamous document. We also urge the people to reject, when they get the opportunity, the present Government for this criminal action against the Australian nation and the Australian people.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the right honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. In the course of the speech which has just concluded, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) rattled off an almost incomprehensible
– This is not a personal explanation.
– The Leader of the Opposition will find that it is. The honorable member for East Sydney made an allegation which, because of the pace at which it was delivered, was almost incomprehensible to others, but was clearly intended to imply that on some occasion I had made a statement in an official capacity, endorsing the exploitation of child labour in this country. I challenge the honorable member to produce that statement at any time that he is in a position to do so. I say that that allegation as it stands is in keeping with the rest of the speech he has delivered to-night.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister has suggested that I misrepresented him and that I made that statement without having any backing for it. I accept the Minister’s challenge and I undertake to produce the newspaper report of the statement which he made, and which I have repeated in this House.
– I do not propose to endeavour to follow the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) into the delightful excursion to which he has treated us, full of vigour, about as far from fact as usual, full of denunciation and a complete distortion of the problem that we have before us. As this is a very serious problem, 1 want to address myself to it seriously and reasonably. Various questions have been raised and 1 think it might be of advantage to take them in some kind of order. This is a most important debate on about as important a topic as we will deal with for some time.
The first question which emerges quite plainly from lots of speeches that have been made is: Can we have a trade agreement with Japan at all? What emerges from many criticisms is an apparent belief that we should not. This age in which we live is an age of trade agreements, either multilateral trade agreements or bi-lateral trade agreements - like the recent one that was negotiated with Great Britain. It is a common and proper expression of mutual arrangement between trading nations. Japan is a great trading nation - one of the significant trading nations in the whole Pacific area, and indeed in the world - and Australia is a significant trading nation.
We were reminded by my colleague, in his statement the other night, that in spite of our relatively small population, we are the eighth trading nation in the world. That represents a remarkable development - a remarkable development of export, a remarkable development of import and a remarkable development of internal production. The Government is as aware of that as is any critic, and is as determined to preserve that position and to improve it as is any critic. Could it be said that we could sensibly decline to make any arrangements for the regulation of our mutual trade with Japan? Do we prefer to be free to do exactly as we please with Japanese exports, leaving Japan free to do exactly as she pleases with Australian exports? Because, unless that is our strange point of view, we must have an agreement; and the first question answers itself.
Let me just add this: The whole post-war trend in the civilized world has been away from cut-throat and purely nationalist trade policies and in the direction of a freer period of trade and payments. In the war we learned, as many many millions - hundreds of millions - of people did in the world, that no nation can survive of itself in war. We are learning, and learning in good company all around the world, in peace, that no nation can economically live to itself, if it wishes its living standards to rise. I remember some discussion that occurred in this place when the honorable member who has just resumed his seat and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) were important Ministers in the then Labour government. The discussion occurred on international trade organization. The then Minister, Mr. Dedman, who is no longer in this House, introducing the debate on this matter on behalf of the government, said something which I adopt completely. It is a text on this matter for my present purposes. He said -
From the economic standpoint, Australia is highly dependent on international trade. Only through this medium can many of our industries be kept working and the living standards of our people improved.
That is the proposition which is to be found right through the statement made by my colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). I should add, before I pass from that point, that nobody, to my knowledge, has seriously argued that Japan must be omitted from the agreement field because of the war. Such an argument, more than ten years after hostilities, would be contrary to our whole character and tradition.
I leave that question and proceed to the next: Is it possible to have a trade agreement, the benefits of which are all one way? I have heard it said to-night that the benefits are all in favour of Japan. I will come back to that point. It struck me with all the force of novelty, because a few days ago I was hearing exactly the opposite argument - that the Minister had devoted all his attention to getting tremendous benefits for the man on the land and the export industry. It will be a consolation to him to know that he is getting it both ways; and that is something in politics.
Of course, you cannot have a trade agreement which is entirely for the benefit of one side. The losing nation - if I may use that term - would never sign such an agreement. Business - this is a truism frequently forgotten - to be satisfactory and healthy, must be advantageous to both sides.
What are the benefits for Australia from the present agreement now under discussion? First of all, it will play some part - and I say this at the risk of being, as usual, misrepresented - in assisting economic stability and growth in Japan. That is not to be dismissed as something unimportant. That is a proposition of the highest statesmanship, if we know our position in the world and we understand the problems of the Pacific. Indeed, it should not take much to convince us of the validity of that point because the economic recovery of Japan since the war has already given great benefits to us. Let nobody suppose that unless the Japanese economy had recovered, unless her employment and purchasing power were high, Japan would have bought from Australia last year over £100,000,000 worth of wool or would be buying increasing quantities of other products, mainly products of out farms and stations, in amounts running from £30,000,000 or £40,000,000, making a grand total last year of £140,000,000. Have those things been of no benefit to Australia? Is anybody really so shortsighted that he believes that this great refreshment of income coming into Australia from the rest of the world, creating within Australia all the capacity to buy the products of our own factories and those of other countries, is of no importance to Australia? lt is one of those things that gives one some hope for the future, that the economic recovery of this former and bitterly hated enemy has gone side by side with economic advantages for our own country, advantages which the negotiators of this agreement desired and desire to preserve and extend.
Japan has become Australia’s second largest customer. She has not only bought, for example, wool on a great scale, but she has, by her competition, strengthened wool prices. A growing export income reflects itself in higher purchasing power at home, in high employment, and in expanding and flourishing industries. We have looked at all these things increasingly in the last few years.
To complete that aspect, in the broader field a reasonably prosperous Japan is less likely to fall under Soviet influence. I know that that is dismissed by the apologists for Soviet influence, but people who are -not apologists for that influence will realize in a flash that peace and defence in the Pacific will be assisted by a Japan which peacefully trades with the nations of the free world and is not within the orbit of the “Soviet Union.
The second advantage that Australia has had is that the agreement does safeguard and tend to expand our export markets in Japan, principally for wool, barley, wheat, sugar, and meat. Last financial year - I repeat these figures because they cannot be too well known - Australia exported £140,000,000 worth of these things to Japan, and took from Japan in return less than £13,000,000 worth. That illustrates probably the greatest disparity in mutual trade that our own experience around the. world could produce. What happens? Let us put ourselves for a moment in the position of Japan looking at this matter. Australia has had to face adverse balances. I know; I do not need to be told. It is perfectly obvious that when you consider the overall position of a nation in respect of exchange you look at its balance with all countries and bring them into a common account. Everybody knows that. But if any country finds that its balances are falling, then it may very easily find itself driven to emergency action, just as Australia was only a few years ago. Now, Japan looks at this disparity. She must seek additional foreign exchange from somewhere if she is to be able to pay for her purchases from us. The more she is driven into seeking expanding markets in countries other than Australia, the more will she find herself paying some price for those markets and quite possibly paying the price of taking from those countries some of the commodities she now takes from Australia. That is elementary and is a strong probability unless these matters can be dealt with.
Japan’s overseas balances, I remind the House, are already running down. I sought only this morning the latest figures. They have been expressed in terms of dollars, though they cover dollar reserves as well as sterling reserves. Parcelled out into dollars for purposes of comparison, Japan’s holding of gold and foreign exchange in December last was 1.646,000,000 dollars and in June of this year it had fallen to 1,150,000,000 dollars. That is to say, there was a fall of 500,000,000 dollars in that period of time, or, to put it even more graphically, a fall of one-third in the total of reserves in a period of six months. It is not for me to be attempting to solve the problems of another country - we have enough difficulty solving our own - but it is quite clear from those figures that Japan has a very lively interest in doing something about these trade disparities and that unless we are prepared to negotiate she will find ways and means with other countries and we will unquestionably pay part of the price for that.
The problem before us is one of pure realism; of enlightened self-interest on both sides. We cannot sensibly hope to gain all and to concede nothing. I have spoken of the advantages to Australia. What are the advantages to Japan under this agreement? Clearly she looks to an increase in her own export earnings in Australia, though nothing in the agreement, I remind the House, contemplates that her Australian trade will be brought into anything remotely resembling balance. Nothing in this agreement could ever give her a volume or value of exports to Australia equal to her imports from Australia. Nobody supposes that; Japan does not and we do not. Our trade to her will continue to be much greater than her trade to us.
Those arguments are attacked in two ways. I will take the two main lines of attack, because if we are to form a clear judgment and if the people of Australia are to have an unclouded judgment on this matter we must clear away all side issues, all hard luck stories, and anything that confuses judgment. In the first place there are some critics who clearly would shut out all Japanese imports, however equitably those imports compete with Australian domestic products. I am not at all sure that the last speaker, the honorable member for East Sydney, does not fall into that category. Such critics are not protectionists; they are prohibitionists. They carry national selfsufficiency to a point where they would sacrifice or seriously impair the export market. They forget that trade consists of buying as well as selling, and that nations which do not buy cannot sell, or, perhaps to be more accurate, cannot get paid for what they sell. One of the oddities about trade is that if you sell something, there is not much point unless you collect payment. If the buyer cannot give you the price because he himself cannot collect the proceeds of his own selling, trade will come to an end. A growing export income, with which we are vastly concerned, is not only the essential element in bank liquidity and in the capacity to advance credit for domestic purposes, but also a necessary stimulant of domestic demand, and so it provides Australian secondary industry with its best, and sometimes its only, market.
Let me go on, having said that, to say that we should remember something of the experience of past years. The United States of America, about whose industries the honorable member for East Sydney displayed an unwonted solicitude this evening, found itself a great creditor nation after World War I. It had never been a creditor nation before, and it lacked the immense knowledge of the techniques of being a creditor that had been accumulated in the City of London over a very long period. It found itself a creditor with investments around the world. If those investments were to be fruitful, they had to send their fruits home. Yet, at the very time when the fruits were to go home - and they could go only as gold or goods - the United States had perhaps the highest and most prohibitive tariff structure in the world. This meant that it was impossible to take home the fruits of investments, because people outside could not send goods into the United States competitively in the face of the tariff. There are wise and shrewd men who will always say that the last depression in the United States was very largely caused by this enormous expansion of fine-spun credit which was suddenly sterilized because the proceeds of investment could not be taken home. AH the gold was held at Fort Knox, and the goods could not enter in the face of the customs duties imposed.
We must learn something from those experiences. The United States has learned from them. It is very significant that, since World War II., the United States has itself sponsored more than one multi-lateral agreement - first, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and later the Havana Charter, although it came to nothing. These agreements were designed to open up the channels of trade to nationalize tariff policies more, and to encourage a freer movement of trade and payments. Although it is yet by no means perfectly followed in the United States, that is the principle that that country has been advocating, and, indeed, it was the principle advocated by the Chifley Government, which placed before this House the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade designed for that purpose - the first multi-lateral agreement of the kind ever placed before this Parliament.
What has happened to the world because the United States became a great creditor nation, but retained a tariff structure based on the view that you must never allow competitive goods to come in? We have had a grave dollar shortage. We now live in a two-currency world. This fact has impaired international trade, and all the difficulties of an inconvertible sterling have emerged. That is an important thing in a world in which sterling is still the most common currency. These are damaging circumstances, and they have been recognized by the United States, with the results that I have mentioned.
I apologize for having taken some time over what I have described as the prohibitionists in this matter - not the protectionists. That is not because I think that the prohibitionists, as I have called them, represent a large mass of intelligent manufacturing opinion in Australia, but because, quite clearly, they are not unrepresented in this Parliament.
The second criticism, which perhaps requires closer attention, and has more attraction on the face of it, is made by people who include powerful and responsible leaders of industry. They acknowledge that the legitimate purpose of protective tariffs is to ensure fair competition for efficient Australian production. But they go on to point out - and quite rightly - that Japan is a low-cost country, and that it is no longer true to say that the goods produced by Japan at low cost are shoddy. All the people who have spoken on behalf of Australian manufacturing interests have emphasized the point that the quality of Japanese goods has improved - that the Japanese are efficient producers of goodquality goods, but at a low cost. The critics say that, in those circumstances Japan could, under a most-favoured-nation tariff, seriously under-sell our own manufacturers, and so cause widespread unemployment and economic injury.
When I say that that criticism is made by responsible manufacturers, I wish to convey only that the argument therefore deserves the most serious consideration and the most careful answer, because no one will acknowledge more readily than I do the enormous importance of the manufacturing industries of Australia, and the deep significance of their contribution to our future prosperity. Therefore, I treat this argument seriously. The first answer to it is: “ Here is the agreement “. To that the critics reply, “ Yes, but the agreement is no good. Australia will not be able to resist this damaging competition, because the agreement does not provide adequately for such resistance “. I shall answer that, and, as I have been directing my attention to two criticisms, I shall make two answers to this second and more serious complaint. The first answer, sir, is that the point about damaging competition was clearly made by the Australian negotiators. It is one of the. good things in this instance that, annexed to the print of the agreement, is a document called the “ Agreed Minutes “. The major defences are recorded there. Many of them are accepted, and where they are accepted, the whole thing is incorporated expressly in the main document. The point was clearly made by the Australian negotiators.
The Japanese said, as appears from the document - I am not going outside it - that “ the Japanese Government would use its best endeavours within its constitutional authority to see that exports from Japan to Australia were conducted in such a way as to avoid or remedy the damage or prospect of damage to which the Australian delegation had referred “. The language used there is not so uncommon as may be thought. Some people have been pleased to say that phrases such as “ within its constitutional authority “ mean nothing. On the contrary, they mean a great deal. The expression that I have just instanced is one that we, in a federal system, frequently have occasion to use.
The whole point of that proposition is that the Japanese have agreed to use their best endeavours. In other words, they have accepted as a proper policy on their part a policy of restraint. Of course, the very word “ restraint “ has been laughed at by a number of people who have not given it enough thought. In effect, the critics who laugh at that word dismiss the idea that, in a matter of this magnitude, Japan would act in good faith. They go on to make the usual remark, either expressly or by implication, that it is nonsense to rely on the good faith of Japan. And yet those same people, when they come to put forward alternatives to an agreement of the kind we have made, when they come to put forward procedures they think we ought to follow instead of having an agreement, what do they propose? They propose that we should have the right, in our judgment and without restriction, to impose quota restrictions or put on arbituary tariffs overnight.
Suppose we were to adopt such steps; suppose that was the rule, would we have no obligations of good faith in the exercise of those powers? We would destroy the whole of our international trading reputation if we did not act in good faith in exercising such vast authority. I am at a loss to understand why, when you make a trade agreement with a great trading country, you should be imputing the greatest absence of good faith to the other party while hugging to your own bosom the confidence that you will always act in good faith yourself. But the critics forget more than that. They forget that Article V of the agreement expressly provides means for the termination of the agreement by either party, and therefore a reversion to the method now open to us, should the achievement of the objectives of the agreement become seriously impaired. Both sides have the way out. If there is bad faith on the part of Japan and that leads to an impairment of the objectives of this agreement, we take the necessary steps. We avail ourselves of the machinery of the agreement. Similarly, if there is bad faith on our part the same position exists in respect of Japan herself.
But there is a very close question I want to put to the House on this matter. Why should it be thought that either party will be willing, by bad faith, to incur the risk of losing the benefits of the agreement? I think that is a very pertinent question. Why should either party want to risk losing the whole agreement in order to act in bad faith or inflict avoidable damage. The argument of the critics on this point is completely self-contradictory. Let me point out to the House how it is. On the one hand they challenge the agreement. They say it confers advantages upon Japan - upon Japan only, according to the last speaker in the debate, a very senior representative of the Opposition - and that these advantages are excessive and unfair and dangerous. They say that the agreement is all in Japan’s favour. Yet, on the other hand, or in the next breath, they say that the Japanese will act, or may probably act, in bad faith and so enable us to terminate the agreement and lose for Japan an arrangement which, the Opposition says, is of exclusive and tremendous advantage to Japan. Now this, as a simple analysis, is, I venture to say, unanswerable. The whole argument on this point completely defeats itself; it contradicts itself. I do not mind when the Opposition contradicts itself - that is its chronic condition; but there is a certain logical indecency about having arguments that contradict each other, and in this case that is the achievement they perform. Therefore, if honorable members opposite are right about the balance of advantages, on their own showing Japan has a much greater interest in acting in good faith than we have. In those circumstances, I cannot imagine Japan would be very intelligent, having negotiated this agreement, to give it all away.
I remember, when I first went to practice at the bar at a time when, in spite of honorable members opposite, I conducted an extensive practice on behalf of trade unions, a very wise old judge saying to me, “ You know, it is occasionally permissible to regard your opponent as dishonest; but it is always a cardinal blunder to regard him as a fool “. That is a phrase worth remembering when we consider some of the allegations that have been made about possible foolish as well as dishonest action on the part of the other contracting party.
That is one answer. The second answer to this criticism is that within the terms of the agreement itself, and the annexed document which is part of it, there are adequate provisions for Australia to deal with cases in which Japanese exports to Australia produce, or threaten to produce, serious injury to domestic producers. In describing those provisions to the House, 1 shall omit complicating words and confine my remarks to the relevant passages for the sake of clarity, and I will deal with imports into Australia, although the clause operates both ways. Article V., so far as it applies to imports into Australia, records that it is expected that expansion of trade will be achieved without serious injury being caused, or threatened, to Australian producers, lt goes on to say that if the Australian Government finds that, in practice, goods are being imported under such conditions as to cause, or threaten to cause, serious injury to local producers of similar or competitive goods, it may suspend operation of the agreement as may be necessary to correct the position. Before we take such action, we are to give written notice - and that does not involve any real delay, because Japan has representatives here, right on the spot - and we must give Japan an opportunity to consult as fully as circumstances permit.
That is a very flexible provision, and will render prolonged discussion or delay unnecessary where the circumstances are urgent. I want to say that, in my view and the view of the Government, this is a good provision. No trading nation can be seriously or reasonably expected to accept a provision under which its exports, or some of them, could be deprived of their contractual position without notice, or with literally no opportunity to lodge any objection. We, ourselves, would be most reluctant to accept such a provision. But there are, in fact, additional reasons for me to say that the time element will not impose any grave hardship on us. The working of this agreement will be under continuous study both here and in Japan. Japan will have representatives here capable of receiving notices and engaging in discussions. Selected officers of the Department of Trade will be in constant touch with manufacturing industries, if invitations to that end are accepted, as I have no doubt they will be. The Minister for Trade will have the assistance of an advisory authority, the form of which he has invited the Chamber of Manufactures and Chambers of Commerce to discuss with him. In addition to this - and this is important - Japan is being given a list of Australian industries likely to be sensitive to Japanese competition. I use the word “ sensitive “, in effect, in inverted commas. That list can be varied from time to time as a result of trade consultations. The Japanese Government and Japanese trade representatives will, therefore, know clearly what trends are to be kept under close and constant scrutiny both by them and by us. Clearly, these sensible arrangements will reduce emergency consultations to a minimum and enable swift action to be taken.
But still it is said that the phrase “ serious injury “ is vague and undefined. I should like to answer that. The word “ serious “ has, of course, a defined meaning. The accepted dictionaries show that it means “ important “ or “ not slight “. An illness may be serious or slight. Yet, no medical man would seek to set out in advance a category of illnesses which would inevitably be “ serious “. He would properly reply that the gravity of an illness can be judged only at the time and in the light of existing circumstances. The test is one of fact, not of theory or inevitable and dogmatic prophecy. This consideration is relevant to the present argument. How could anybody in advance say of an immense variety of industries, great and small, that importation of some specified quantity of successfully competitive goods was to be regarded as threatening or causing serious injury? A comparatively small importation might in one case be significant and even deadly; in another case, of a great industry with large production, it might be negligible.
It follows, sir, that the task is not to give to a well-known and well-understood word like “ serious “ some fixed application, whatever the circumstances may be. It will be the duty of the Government to watch what goes on and to form an honest judgment as to whether, in any competing Australian industry, a serious injury is being threatened or caused by Japanese imports. No Australian government is likely to be indifferent, or to be allowed to be indifferent, to the true interests of production and employment at home.
I have elaborated this matter in, I hope, plain language because I believe that the fears now being expressed are unnecessary. What is more, they are, in some cases, positively dangerous. Some of the propaganda that has been publicly put forward about Australian manufactures being undersold by a flood of cheap Japanese goods may well have persuaded many retail merchants and consumers to hold off their buying orders until these cheap Japanese goods arrive. It is not much to the point to say that some order books are empty when, in so many cases, they have been emptied by gloomy prophecies.
Before I conclude a speech which time compels to be briefer than this enormous topic deserves, I will add one general but, I believe, crucial observation: This trade agreement does not give preferential treatment to Japan. That is reserved for British preference in the broad sense. What the agreement does is to remove discriminations against Japan so long as the agreement obligations are honoured. The previous Labour Government sponsored the adoption of Gatt, as 1 have just mentioned, and Gatt had many provisions against discrimination.
Does the Labour party now propose to retrace its steps? If it now advocates the perpetuation of discrimination against Japan because it is a low-cost country, will it, if the full trade with Communist China which it advocates is accepted, apply to that low-cost country the same discriminatory treatment as it seeks now to apply to Japan? It was made clear by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) that it would, because he said, “ We would not import from Communist China the things that we produce here “. In other words, we would allow them to sell to us only certain categories of goods to be named by us. That is discriminatory treatment and is completely inconsistent with the overall Gatt idea sponsored by Labour in 1947. Therefore, I gather that Labour’s advocacy of full trade with Communist China is hedged about with the idea, “ Yes, but if you come in to trade with us you must do so in a second-rate position. We will discriminate against you as we do not discriminate against anybody else, outside Japan “. All I can say is that if that is the new thinking of the new Labour party, candour would require that it make the position quite clear to Communist China before it goes much further in its search for trade with that country.
At the same time, industrial development is proceeding in India. The distinguished Prime Minister of India has a vast five-year programme on the point of completion and another one coming on. One of the great things in it is to industrialize a large number of resources in that enormous country. As industrial development proceeds in India - a low-cost country - will the Labour party come to us and say, “ You must now take India out of your existing tariff structure and apply discriminatory treatment to her “? Dear me! If that is the outlook, then the position is that country after country which happens to have low costs will be put on the black list and told, “ You cannot come in and trade with us as people normally would. You are in a special caste or category “. I wonder what good that would do to Australia’s trade with the world. I wonder what would happen to our exports under those circumstances. A lot of them go to these low-cost countries. On such terms we would soon find that we had damaged our existing overseas trade, with violent repercussions to our domestic production and our prosperity at home.
Therefore, sir, the Government has adopted a much more practical approach, designed to preserve and expand our exports while assuring to all our manufacturing industries an effective protection against serious distortion or injury. I do not need to tell any of my friends that I am a life-long protectionist. The great manufacturing industries of this country have made an enormous contribution to our economic growth and security. They have played a great part, as we all know, in the absorption into useful employment of many thousands of new citizens. No sensible vision of our future can exclude a greater and greater growth of industrialization in the years to come; but reasonable competition cannot be excluded, any more than import licensing can properly or validly be prolonged when balanceofpayments problems have been finally solved. In the case of Japan, of course, we could continue import licensing, if we chose not to have an agreement, because we are not in Gatt relations with Japan; we are not bound by the terms of Gatt in our dealings with her. In the case of other countries, we have international obligations that we are bound to honour.
With a great income from exports, and high wages and employment at home, Australia will need great production at home and a substantial volume of imports if inflation is to be held in check, the currency made stable, savings for loan capital for national development encouraged, and capital attracted from other countries to help to meet our growing needs in those basic matters on which the whole future growth of the country depends. As my distinguished colleague, the Minister for Trade, has pointed out, the encouraging truth is that in Australia our periods of greatest manufacturing increase have also been periods of great importation. We need both. With a proper confidence in our future and the good sense and judgment of a democratically controlled administration, we have no reasons for fear. On the con,trary, Mr. Speaker, my own belief is that before long we will look back on the trade agreement which we are discussing to-night as a sound step in Australia’s march to a great economic future.
.- Tha long, tedious statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on the trade treaty with Japan has not cleared the minds of the people of this country, nor of members of the House. The thought that comes to mind, sitting on this side of the House, is that the Prime Minister took 40 minutes to talk about Australia’s second-best customer. With rhetoric and the lawyer’s tricks of phrase and address, standing in front of his brief, he defended this treaty. But in no way and in no sense did tie mention the number one customer of Australia, Britain itself. Later, by inflection, he brought in a phrase or two on the subject but in a general sense he did not mention the trading difficulties of the United Kilngdom. He did not want to mention that matter. But the British people have been very interested in this very strange agreement with Japan. A wire has been circulating throughout Australia advising that a deputation of textile manufacturers in the United Kingdom has asked, “Where do we come in? “ Altogether, 600 of them have sent a delegation to the Australian High Commissioner in Australia House. Doubtless, the Prime Minister has a copy of this wire, which points out that the British textile industry will be seriously damaged by this trade agreement.
I believe that the Prime Minister and I have the same advantage in respect of our visits to Japan. We were both able to see conditions in that country, and I think that my conclusions, with respect to the Tight honorable gentleman, can be as valid as his. The things that he has mentioned have had absolutely no relationship to trade with Japan. They have a great relationship to his political strategy in the Pacific and to the greedy rapacity of the Australian Country party. But they have no relationship to the trade between these two countries. The Prime Minister by-passed the issue with an oratorical flourish. Is it not a fact that one fear of the Australian textile industry is due to the fact that there is a pool, not only of cheap labour, but also of child labour in Japan? The Minister who thought so much of his own agreement that he went to Japan to sign it, must have seen the things that I want to show him. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has spoken about slave labour in China. He does not know what he is talking about.
I have evidence to prove that with every item of Japanese piece goods that the Government allows into this country it condones the greatest well of cheap labour and child labour in the world. In fact, Japan has the only consistent pool of child labour and cheap labour existing in the world to-day, because the Asian countries are trying to lift their standards and pull themselves out of their troubles. The Minister for Trade, in his visits to various factories in Japan, may have seen the child labour there. I have here certain photographs. They were taken eight years ago, but in the interim the position has not improved. Indeed, it has worsened in this respect. I shall hand these photographs around for inspection by honorable members on the basis of the Japanese proverb that one look is worth a thousand books.
At the time of my visit I made some notes concerning these photographs. One note reads, “ Juvenile labour in Japanese textile factories “. One photograph shows two Ministers of the Australian Government of the day in Japan. One of them is now the Australian Minister in New York and the other is the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). They were in a delegation which I had the honour to lead. Certain of the photographs show youngsters of only twelve, thirteen and fourteen years at the looms. Others show boys of tender years in the ceramics factory. Children can be seen scouring wool. All these children are of an age at which they should be at school. A note I made concerning a ceramics establishment was, “ A hive of industry. I saw no worker here who looked over 21. The factory has a bundy clock and it has not been punched since Pearl Harbour. Hours of labour are 50 to 60. There are few amenities.” 1 ask the Minister for Trade to look at this book of photographs before he commits himself to a trade agreement which will, because of the cheap labour and child labour used in Japan, worsen the condition of the textile industry in this country. It is no good sneering about the matter. The essence of this matter is not the rhetoric of the Prime Minister, standing in front of the microphone and saying that something belongs to this category or that category. He did not have a case. What will the Government get from the agreement that it has signed with Japan? The Minister has stated that there are safeguards. That is a foolish statement. The Minister will write a letter in English to the Japanese which they will not be able to read, and they will return one to him in Japanese which he will not be able to read; and there will be no solution to the problem for months.
– That is foolish.
– If I, or honorable members behind me, are making foolish statements, will the Government listen to a group of its own supporters - the textile manufacturers? By no stretch of imagination do they usually support the Labour party. But they have come to us, tardily, on this occasion because, first, they wanted to see what would be done by the Government. They have stated that the pool of cheap labour and child labour in Japan will make competition with Japanese goods not difficult but completely out of the question. Every member on this side of the House has drawn attention to the fact that it is pointless to use the word “ competition “ in connexion with this agreement because of the relative prices of Japanese and Australian commodities resulting from the enormous advantage which the Japanese manufacturers have over Australian manufacturers. There will be an assault on the Australian textile industry.
What is the Minister for Trade going to do about this matter? The secondary industries of this country represent an investment of £2,000,000,000. He has said that nothing will happen to any of them. There is £300,000,000 of British capital invested in this country and the investors have said by telegram that they are in a parlous position. They have found the position serious enough to send representatives from Yorkshire and Lancashire to interview the Australian High Commissioner in London. The Government says that that does not matter. Yet, the Lancashire unemployment figures are growing every week. I have not been able to obtain the figures, but they are considerable. The Minister for Labour and National Service would know that most of that unemployment is being caused by the pressure of Japanese trade throughout the world.
I cannot understand why any Australian government should plead so exclusively the case of the Japanese. Japan is only another country and its balance of payments problem is no different from that of any other country that is suffering, as we do in some respects, from a balance of payments problem. No doubt the Minister for Trade will concede that if one country has the basic raw materials to sell to a country which has not basic raw materials, an imbalance of payments will result. But the responsibility for removing that imbalance does not devolve upon the country that is in credit. Such a country is not obliged to adjust that imbalance with a distinct disadvantage to itself. lt looks as if the strategy behind this agreement is to get a political and defence advantage, as it were, under the guise of trade. Otherwise, no argument can be advanced in favour of the agreement. The case of Canada proves that. That country has protested against the position in which it has found itself.
Opposition members have read articles to the House concerning Japanese infiltration. The Prime Minister said, in effect, “ We are all men of honour. This is not likely to be done, or that is not likely to be done.” We do not regard this subject from the narrow viewpoint of what has happened in the past alone but, in view of the previous history of the Japanese, there is room for grave doubt in connexion with this agreement. The pressure on the Japanese is terrific and they are entitled to trade where they like, but surely we are not obliged to give them an advantage by disadvantaging our own secondary industry.
The question of Great Britain comes back again. Not once has reference been made on the other side of the House to the problem of Great Britain in this matter. Britain is our No. 1 customer. She has an adverse trade balance but we have been gloating over the fact that we have adjusted our balance of payments with Britain. We do not do any gloating about Japan. We have developed an inferiority complex about the Pacific. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is a V.C., spoke about protecting our flank against China and gave the game away. Another Government supporter said that we had to sign this agreement because it is essential to the defence of the Pacific. Why does not the Prime Minister tell us whether it is a trade agreement, an instalment of Seato, or something that has been thrown in to give the illusion that we are getting trade advantages while, at the same time, the Government is watching its enemy over the picket fence?
Propaganda lies have been told in regard to the trade agreement throughout the whole of this debate. One was told by the Minister for Labour and National Service who said that China had slave labour and, in due course, would compete in world trade. If he looks at the statistics he will see that the Chinese wage for an industrial worker to-day is about £2 a month lower than the Japanese figure. Also there is no child labour in Chinese factories, and they have a code. I have been there and I have seen it. The second point made is in regard to America. As T said, nobody on the Government side has insisted that we should consider Great Britain in any way. Apparently the Prime Minister’s “ dreamy anaesthetic regard for royalty “ mentioned by Lord Altrincham, not only extends towards our own Royal Sovereign - and more power to him for having it - but also to the royalty of Japan. The honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate) said to-night that as soon as the Prime Minister had visited the Emperor of Japan this treaty was decided upon. Apparently the right honorable gentleman had better luck than I had when I visited the Emperor. I was a little ahead of my time, trying to find what represented the Japanese constitution. All I got was an adverse press, and I have continued to get one.
I return to the question of America. America has a fantastic set up, as has been mentioned by the honorable member for
Yarra (Mr. Cairns). She reserves to herself 90 per cent, of her home markets. Yet 70 per cent, of Japan’s balance of payments trouble is in her trade with the United States of America. We have a much lower position than that. No one has suggested that the Americans should take down the barriers and let in these cheap goods. They are not so foolish as that. The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) last night sheered away from this subject. After some general reference to slave labour in Japan, he spoke about the safeguards being mechanically adequate and technically correct. I imagine that he was playing trains with the new break of gauge concession handed to him by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in the budget. He does not take a great interest in this because he does not believe in it very much and will not become involved. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley), made some reference to trade and said that constitutionally we are a selfish people. The Minister’s idea is to sell low protein wheat, and he is using wool as a lever. That is legitimate enough, but the honorable member for Fremantle said that if wheat is given to Pakistan under these new psychological plans such as Gatt that country will then have no need to buy wheat, and so will be able to buy secondary products. The flaw in that argument, as the Minister well knows, is that those goods will be bought from Japan. The amount of wheat handed out on the free list is a danger to the Australian trade. For that reason, I cannot understand the argument about Pakistan at all.
In the general approach of honorable members to the trade treaty, I am surprised that ex-servicemen opposite have not had something to say in a more general way. I admire them for their restraint in regard to what happened to them years ago, but I feel that there is a thraldom imposed on them by what the poet Keats called “ La Belle Dame Sans Merci “. The Prime Minister has insisted in effect, by implication or by the sway he holds over them, that this is a debate which should be kept within the narrow limits of whether it is good or bad according to the technical treaty. That is not so. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Downer) made a very weak speech. The honorable member for Hume, whose gallantry is a by-word in this country, made a tory speech of miserable proportions.
– The honorable member’s speech is not very good, either.
– That is true, but I have never pretended that I have the eloquence of the Minister for Territories, who now sits Narcissus-like looking at his own beauty. If I may elevate the debate a little, I should like to refer to the .ex-servicemen on the other side of the House. The poet Keats in “ La Belle Dame Sans Merci “ said -
Oh what can ail thee, Knight at arms
Alone and palely loitering;
The sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.
No birds sing for 60,000 unemployed in this country, and their right to work, particularly in the textile industry, is not defended. No birds sing for the £2,000,000,000 invested in secondary industries in this country, and nothing is made of the British investment of £300,000,000. All that is swept away in the sniggerings. The only bird that sings is the Australian Country party cockatoo which sits on a stump out back of the Never Never and says, “ Wheat and wool, wheat and wool and nothing else. It is as outmoded as the dodo.
If the desire of this country is to obtain some advantages for primary industries, the place to find it is not in the situation described by the Minister when he went to Japan to sell our products. I shall tell the Minister something about his own business. I was a journalist and editor of a country newspaper, and I know that one of the worst problems facing him is the lowgrade wheat which grows in the wrong parts of all States. Premium wheat could grow in the north-west of this country in soils which require no manures or superphosphates; but the land is still in the forests. Yet, in the Riverina and other places we find wheat which the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) said the Japanese want to use for noodles. Look out or they will be using 10,000,000 Australian people for noodles! If the product is bad, one day there will be trouble in selling it to anybody. Despite the International Wheat Agreement, this wheat has been a drug on the market. As the Minister, who is extremely knowledgeable about primary products, knows, it has been proven that wheat comes in a cycle of gluts that automatically clear themselves in ten or fifteen years. That is considered to be a rough science of the wheat industry. Because we can sell our wool to Japan, which requires it, we feel that we should be able to diddle them out of a proper protein content wheat by getting rid of the rubbish we cannot sell anywhere else.
We seem to have a bad conscience about wool. Does the Australian Country party fear that it is too dear, or is it covering up some other matter? If wool to the value of £100,000,000 is sold to the Japanese to process into finished articles, a fair estimate is, as I think the Minister will agree, that they will make £300,000,000 to £400,000,000 out of the deal. What is wrong with that? The balance of payments is only part of the problem. For some reason, the whole of the vast Pacific is subdivided. A sort of curtain come down in front of Japan. Nobody talks of trade with China, though it must come eventually. Forty-two per cent, of the natural trade of Japan was with continental China. It has now shrunk to less than 5 per cent, as the result of the directions of the Americans, as well as the instinct of the Japanese at the moment on where trade is going. Therefore, the problem of the Japanese is not how much of their materials they can sell to us, but a general problem. The Japanese have to seek their natural markets. When the Prime Minister sneered about what would happen in these matters, he forgot that the traditional trade in fabricated articles with China comes from Japan. It will not last for ever, but at present there is a market for them in the dilemma they are facing.
We on this side of the House would sum the matter up in this way: No matter how strong is the kind of rhetorical argument that this Japanese trade treaty is a good thing, we believe from the evidence supplied by the textile industry and by other manufacturers that it is a highly dangerous thing. I would like to ask the Government this question: What does it think the war against Japan was waged for? The emphasis was on trade, amongst other things. We can colour the reasons for the war, but in the cold analysis of history it was waged because there were unfair trade advantages, amongst other things, all over the the world, and those conditions led to a junta coming into power in Japan that does not exist there to-day. Japanese aggression culminated in the conquest of China, and the Japanese moved into what is known as the soft under-belly of Asia until they had great areas in that part of the world in their grip. It was only the vallance of Australian soldiers at Milne Bay that turned back the Japanese tide. Such things stem from a pressure upon trade, but the pressure did not come from Australia, although Australia was the victim in the long run. Now we are asked to make this sacrifice - and it will be a sacrifice - of accepting an agreement which seems to have been made in the dark. It was made, under the external power, outside the House.
The gimmick in this debate is that no matter what any honorable member says, from the Prime Minister down to the backbenchers, it can have no influence on the agreement, which the Minister has already made, and which is signed, sealed and delivered. We are more or less beating the air by speaking about the agreement in this House. I do ask the Government, however, to consider the implications of it. Why have the textile industries been brushed aside? A well-known textile firm had the courage to buy a page in metropolitan newspapers and tell the readers of those papers that they would be put out of business if this agreement was implemented. Suddenly those advertisements disappeared from the press. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has said that an attempt was made by the Government or its servants to have the advertisements withdrawn. We believe that to be true, and we ask the Government to deny it or to prove that we are wrong.
Can the Government deny that strong representations, intense representations, were made by the various chambers of commerce in regard to this matter? Are those representatives of industry fools and the members of the Government all wise men? The persons who have made these recommendations have been connected with with secondary industries ever since those industries grew up under the wall of protection erected by the Scullin tariffs. They had experience of secondary industries during their period of rapid development in the war years. Certainly there are disabilities connected with those industries, and they are sensitive - to use the Prime Ministers own word - to the problems that face them. They have warned the Government that they will be in serious danger and that unemployment will be the inevitable result if the agreement is ratified. But according to every speaker on the other side of the House, those representations do not mean a thing. The statements are not true. The representatives are misinformed. Some mystic revelation has come to the Government that there could be nothing but good in this treaty. I suggest, therefore, that it is not so much a trade treaty as a treaty which disguises other preparations in other directions.
The secondary industries of this country have received a bashing from the other side of the House. The only word in favour of secondary industry was delivered as a sort of farewell gesture by the Prime Minister, who said that it had enormous potentialities and had done much for the country. I suggest that the secondary industries of this country saved us from invasion. When Air Chief-Marshal Brooke-Popham came here from Malaya and saw what the secondary industries were doing during the war, he said, “ Australia is an unsinkable aircraft carrier”, but if we had not had the nuclei of secondary industries to turn to the war effort, we would have lost the whole of the Australian mainland.
We on this side of the House have tried by logic to influence the Minister and the Prime Minister. Of course, the Prime Minister’s statement had no validity whatsoever. He had no feelings on the matter. He came into this House to discuss a brief, and all his periods and pontificating simply flowed over our heads. We believe, however, that the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) made a valid and sincere plea this afternoon for our secondary industries.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for East Sydney entitled to read a newspaper in the House?
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is at present not infringing the Standing Orders.
– I should like to ask the Minister for Trade to circulate the photographs that I showed him portraying child labour in Japan.
– I should like to say that in all the factories that I visited I saw no child labour, and I was assured that there were no girls under fifteen years of age employed in the factories that I visited, nor could they be employed at fifteen years of age unless they obtained a certain educational standard.
– What factories did the Minister visit and to what extent did he inspect them?
– There was the Noritaki factory.
– Our latest information is that there has been no change in the child labour position in Japan.
– These photographs are completely false, if they are intended to show to-day’s conditions.
– Of course, they are eight years old. I admitted that. But the fact is that they relate to to-day’s circumstances, and the Minister probably has not looked at a factory at all. If he did so, he must have gone through it very quickly. If he visited the Noritaki factory, he would know that what he has said is not correct. Our information from Japan, and from people who have recently returned from Japan, is that there has been no change in the position. We have given evidence that proves our contention. It is completely unfair to Australian industry to ask it to compete with a pool of cheap labour. Of course, the Minister, being a member of the Australian Country party, delights in the prospect of cheap labour. But how can we compete against the child-labour conditions in Japan?
As a contemptible sort of corollary, the misinformed and uninformed Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who is the Leader of the House, talked about slave labour in China. He made a silly, uninformed statement. When I put our evidence before the Minister for Trade, he refuses to circulate it amongst honorable members, so I shall certainly circulate it amongst them.
– I rise to order. On several occasions in the course of his speech the honorable member has commented on references that he attributes to me concerning slave labour in China. I ask him now to produce any reference in my speech to slave labour in China.
Order! The Minister will have an opportunity to make a personal explanation when the honorable member for Parkes has concluded his speech.
– I believe that the reference is in “ Hansard “. I heard the Minister say that they are starving themselves to produce, by slave labour, goods later on for the world. Now the Minister denies that he said that. My final point is that the Government has not proved its case. It has denied the right of England, with its demands upon us as the motherland, to a share of our markets. It would rather give that share to the Japanese. It has denied the right of the Australian worker to fair competition.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. You told me, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that I would have an opportunity at the conclusion of the honorable member’s speech. I happen to have in my hand the “ Hansard “ report of my speech on the Japanese Trade Agreement, to which the honorable member has been making reference to-night. I find no reference in it to slave labour in China. I have no knowledge as to whether slave labour exists there, and I am not prepared to make a statement about it. I have some knowledge of the fact that in order to obtain credits for the purchase of industrial machinery to be used to build up the industrial capacity of Communist China, foodstuffs which would have kept alive Chinese now starving to death are being exported by the Government of Communist China. The actual reference in my speech was in these terms -
The honorable member for East Sydney knows that the present Government of Communist China is starving its citizens to death in order to obtain overseas credits to buy industrial machinery and turn red China into the greatest industrial power in Asia.
I stand on that statement. It included no reference to slave labour, but it did contain the passage to which I have referred.
– I rise to order.
What is the point of order?
– I wish to contest the point taken by the Minister.
Order! 1 will not allow the honorable member for Parkes to adopt that attitude.
.- During the last half hour the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has been faced with one of his hardest tasks in speechmaking. I have never heard him at so great pains to make a speech. I can understand his position after hearing the complete case put by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) which left the honorable member with nothing to say or get his teeth into. I am in much the same position, but from a different viewpoint. The case having been so fully stated, much of what I might say about the agreement will be almost repetition. The speech of the honorable member for Parkes was like a hymn of hate. He referred to child labour in Japan when he had nothing more to say. If the honorable member knew about child labour in Japan he has kept that knowledge to himself for eight years since he was in that country. He has never previously made any mention of it.
– Order! There is too much conversation in the chamber. I can hardly hear the honorable member for Fisher.
– I remind the honorable member for Parkes, who said there was no child labour in China, that the journal “ Time “ reports that there are 24,000,000 forced labourers in that country. That is an infinitely worse proposition from every point of view.
– That is untrue.
– It is an exaggeration.
– I have quoted my authority for that statement and the fact is mentioned also in a report of the International Labour Organization. The honorable member said that he knew that fact when the agreement was first being negotiated. If that is the case he took no action to criticize it. It seems that it suited his purposes to wait until the agreement was presented in this House before he attempted to decry it. He should have justified his position as a member of Parliament by criticizing the agreement before it was made and trying to save Australia from its effects if he felt it would be so detrimental.
He suggested that this is a political and defensive manoeuvre rather than a trade treaty. In reply to that statement, I suggest that goodwill and trade are the components of peace, if they are rightly used. The honorable member condemned the Australian Country party and said that this agreement had been made as a result of the avaricious demands of that party. I do not know where those demands came from so far as this agreement is concerned. I remind the House that the earlier depression, about which we have heard so much from the Labour party, was caused by our failure to sell the primary products of this country. That was the basic cause of the depression and the honorable member cannot refute that fact. If we are going to put ourselves in a position in which we cannot sell all the primary produce that is available for export from this country we will soon suffer. Primary products exported from Australia earn from 86 per cent, to 90 per cent, of our overseas credit, and this has been responsible, in part, for establishing the high standard of living of which we are proud. I suppose it is as high as that to be found in any other country. But I say again that we will suffer if we cannot sell our surplus primary produce and we will find that we will have no credit on which to base our currency. Our internal currency as well as our external currency will be affected.
The honorable member suggests that this agreement denies Australia opportunities to trade with England. When we have had the experience, as a trading country, of disposing of all the produce in England that that country will take and still having a surplus, we have to look for other markets. No sensible businessman, not even the honorable member for Parkes, would seek to put all his eggs in one basket or would suggest that all the primary produce Australia has available for export should be reserved for one market. The Government rightly considers that Australia should reserve the right to trade where it wishes. As a consequence of the experience we have had in trying to dispose of many lines of primary produce in England and finding that we still had a surplus because England was unable to take our produce at a payable price, or the balance at an unpayable price, we have been forced, as a nation, to try to get other markets. We have negotiated in the Near East, in Canada and in other parts of the world in an effort to dispose of our produce. As a result of those negotiations Japan has become our second best customer. Are we to ignore that market to the detriment of the Australian economy? That is the issue so far as this agreement is concerned.
Surely, there is some room for optimism. I have not heard any note of optimism from the Opposition. Not one honorable member opposite has said there is any good at all in this agreement. Surely, a market worth £140,000,000, with prospects of expansion, is worth a great deal to this country. Obviously, in order to retain that market and to ensure its stability, we must reciprocate in trade otherwise we cannot expect to hold it. In the main, however, purchases by Japan will be for its own use. As the Prime Minister rightly said, it is not expected that there will be a levelling of trade as between the two countries or that we will continue to have a greater export than import trade with Japan, because Japan will use much of the raw material for its own manufacture and internal use.
But we must benefit by the trade that we have - the ever-increasing, steeply-increasing trade, that we have received from that nation. We must preserve the market, and that is the note I sound. It is also the reason why I support this agreement. Does not free competition in trading mean that prices are enhanced? If Japan were not in the market to buy our wool, wheat, sugar and other commodities we could not sell all our products to other nations; and in that case, obviously, our prices would automatically be depressed. But the fact that Japan increases competition at auctions and other means of bargaining, means that our prices are assured and enhanced and our internal economy is improved. Our trade realizations are increased and the result is beneficial not only to the primary producer but also to the community as a whole.
I suppose the only question that might rightly be discussed is the welfare of those industries which face competition from imported Japanese products. I have received the usual circulars from the textile trades affected, and a telegram from Bruce Pie Industries, which is a substantial industrial organization in Queensland. The point of view of that concern is expressed in its telegram as follows: -
Earnestly request seize every opportunity stress gravest need for adequate protection of Australian woollen and worsted industry by import restrictions pending satisfactory outcome of Minister’s reference to Tariff Board dated 6lh August. Slop. Also urge realization serious danger in ratifying Japanese agreement. Stop. While this agreement operates, quantitative limits are absolutely essential on woollen and worsted imports from Japan . . . Bruce Pie Industries.
The main point at issue - whether the protection clauses in the agreement are adequate to meet objections by such a responsible man as the manager of Bruce Pie Industries - has been debated for days in this House. I am satisfied that there are sufficient safeguards in the agreement. Obviously, the period of three years is not long enough for industries to be damaged irreparably or rendered incapable of expansion in the future. I am quite satisfied that the Government is sufficiently responsible to have made this agreement with an eye to the safeguarding of Australia’s industries within the term of the agreement.
As the manager of Bruce Pie Industries states, what really matters is the quantity of imports. I say quantity, because in the past Australia has received quantities - they could be called small quantities - of textiles and other commodities from certain countries, including Japan, and they have not harmed Australian industries. Whether the flow will increase to such an extent that it will damage our industries irreparably is something the Government will have to watch. I say that the safeguards, as outlined by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), axe satisfactory.
The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) stated that all the benefits are Japan’s way. I completely disagree with him. I feel that Australia obtains the major benefits, because we will have the major sales as a result of this bilateral agreement. The honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) said that it was a primary producers’ agreement. What is wrong with that? Are not all our export sales primary-producer sales? To what degree do the secondary industries of Australia export their products? For how long have they been doing so? That is a very vital issue in this agreement. For how long can the primary producers of Australia continue to carry our economy and ensure the welfare of the secondary industries? For how long can we continue the high standard of living, which the primary producers of Australia have given us? Obviously, if it were not for the primary producers, we would not enjoy the high standard that we now have. The Department of Trade, under the administration of the present Minister, is a very responsible department, one that has the welfare and economy of Australia at heart. Although the honorable member for Wills objects that this agreement is a primary producers’ agreement, I welcome it, because it is all to the good of Australia. We must safeguard the trade we have enjoyed in the past.
In addition to the products mentioned by the Minister for Trade, this agreement could apply to sales of other commodities. For instance, the commodity I mentioned last night, maize, was discussed with the Japanese trade delegation when it was in Australia almost twelve months ago. The trouble at that stage was that, according to the delegation, Japan did not have sufficient currency to buy products other than those contained in contracts already made. Butter is another product for which we find it difficult to obtain a satisfactory export price at all times in Great Britain. As a consequence we have had to look for markets in the Near East. To that end, the industry has developed a tropical butter. In other words, we have to seek markets for our products at satisfactory prices.
The wheat industry, of course, will benefit from this agreement. We have had a surplus of up to 90,000,000 bushels of wheat in recent years. That surplus has been reduced somewhat in the last twelve months because of the unsatisfactory season last year, but we still have a surplus of 50,000,000 bushels, and if we have a good yield this year we will be back to the old position and will have to seek extra markets. Australia continues to grow two types of wheat - hard wheat and soft or f.a.q. wheat. It has been difficult to dispose of the f.a.q. wheat. It is never difficult to sell the hard wheat because it is produced only in Queensland and northern New South Wales. There is a premium being paid for that wheat and as a consequence it is readily saleable, and if we could produce more of it we could sell it to Japan if necessary, without affecting the other terms of the agreement. So there is an extra assurance in respect of a product that is not so readily saleable because of competition from other parts of the world.
This agreement is an experiment before the full implementation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade is applied to Japan. A very essential and vital factor in this agreement is that during its term we can really test its worth. We are giving Japan most-favoured-nation treatment, but Gatt has not yet been fully implemented in respect of Japan and it need not be implemented if we find the agreement unsatisfactory. The agreement facilitates an expansion of markets and gives an assurance that we can hold the markets we now have. On the other hand, it gives Japan some assurance that Australia will give her fair treatment in the trade she desires to have with us. A feeling of goodwill will be created.
I am surprised at the attitude of the Opposition. It seems to have no desire to raise the standard of living of any of the Near East nations. It decries them; but unless we in Australia are prepared to trade with the Japanese, to apply the Colombo plan spirit and give them a helping hand so that they may rise to a better standard of living, they will remain in the rut they have been in for years. Unless in this instance we apply the real spirit of the United Nations, tq which the Opposition so frequently gives lip service but has failed to observe in relation to this agreement, we shall not be doing the right thing by Japan. Let us trade with Japan in an atmosphere of goodwill. If there are any anomalies in the agreement I hope that the safeguards will be adequate.
– That is what everybody hopes.
– Well, we will be able to suspend the agreement and we will have gained in experience when the time arrives for the next agreement. I am happy to support this agreement because it contains nothing but good for Australia.
.- I wish it to be known that I support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), which rejects this trade agreement between Australia and Japan. I state my attitude with all the emphasis at my command. It is a remarkable thing that, although the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has indicated the importance of this agreement, the members of the Parliament really have no prerogatives in the matter. The prerogatives of the Parliament were assumed by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) in signing the instrument that gives effect to the agreement. Therefore, the arguments and views advanced in this debate will have no ultimate effect, because, for all practical purposes, no power in this matter rests with the Parliament. Effective power rests with the Minister for Trade. That being so, I hope that the Australian people will realize that their elected representatives in this Parliament are being denied the right to determine this matter as they should do.
I am amazed at what seems to be an anti-Australian attitude which has been adopted by Government supporters who have spoken in this debate. I am sure that a debate in the Japanese Diet on a trade agreement that affected Japan in the same way that this agreement affects Australia would call forth no expressions of solicitude for the industries and the economy of the other country such as we have heard from Government supporters . in relation to Japanese industries and the Japanese economy. Those sentiments are evidence of the unwillingness of Government supporters to place the welfare of the Australian people first in their thoughts.
The Prime Minister cited Article V. of the agreement as a protection for Australia. He read part of section 1 of that Article, but he omitted some significant words. I wish to bring them to the notice of the House. The portion that the Prime Minister read states -
It is the expectation of both Governments that mutual trade will be increased as a result of this Agreement. Tt is further expected that this expansion of trade will be achieved without serious injury being caused or threatened to domestic producers in Australia or Japan. If . . . the Government of either country finds that any product is being imported from the other country
The words omitted by the Prime Minister after the word “ If “ were -
Those words have considerable significance in the context of Article V. Why did the Prime Minister omit them? As the Article is worded, Australia has no discretionary power to deal with developments that may need corrective action.
It is remarkable to find an agreement such as this being entered into, with a consequent threat to Australian industries, at the same time as the immigration programme is bringing 117,000 new people into the country annually. Those new citizens must be suitably employed, fed and housed. Yet the Government has entered into a trade agreement that will prevent Australian industries from expanding and developing on a secure basis, and providing profitable employment for the newcomers. Already, we see evidence of what is likely to happen in the textile industry, because orders for textiles have already been reduced by the promise that cheaper goods will be coming from Japan. As a consequence, many of Australia’s textile mills are now working on short time. This is clear evidence already of the effect that the agreement will have on the Australian economy.
Members of the Australian Country party, who sit in the corner of this chamber, doubtless think that a very good agreement has been made, and would have the people of Australia believe that it will improve our markets for primary products, which, they claim, provide the bulk of our export trade, and enable us to accumulate credits abroad. I wonder whether the honorable gentlemen in the corner realize that the best market for primary products is the home market. I am afraid that they have forgotten that two-thirds of the wheat produced in Australia is consumed by the Australian people. I verified that fact from statistics during the suspension for dinner. In addition, 10 per cent, of Australia’s wool clip is sold on the home market, and Australian buyers are present at 75 per cent, of the wool sales helping to create a demand, and to maintain a high level of prices. If there were no textile industry in Australia, Australian buyers would not be competing at wool sales and bidding up prices. Honorable members in the corner fail to realize the benefits of the great home market, which is the best of all markets as a basis for a sound economy.
From the defence point of view our secondary industries are absolutely essential. I was Minister for Munitions in the last War Cabinet, and I saw then how vital they were to Australia’s security, to the protection of this country at that time against the people with whom the Government has made this agreement, lt is vital that Australia should have a well-balanced economy that will allow us to develop, hand in hand with the development of our primary industries and our great secondary industries which will provide increasing avenues for the employment of many Australians and enable us to increase our population so that we shall have the strength to meet any dangers that may threaten us. lt is remarkable that although members of the Government parties so often express their admiration for the people of the United Kingdom, and their concern about the welfare of the United Kingdom, they so easily overlook the fact that the United Kingdom will be seriously affected by this agreement, because its exports to us will diminish correspondingly with the volume of similar goods that we take from Japan. On one occasion when I was in Lancashire I saw something of the effect of Japanese competition in the cotton trade. A flood of Japanese textiles produced by cheap labour poured into the United Kingdom at that time and disrupted the Lancashire cotton trade, which was in a parlous condition. The only way open to Lancashire to deal effectively with Japanese competition was by keeping one year ahead of the Japanese in their designs. Had it not been able to do so, the cotton industry in Lancashire would have disappeared altogether. Surely, if we have an obligation to help the trade of any other country, we have that obligation to the United Kingdom. If we must import things that we need over and above what we can make for ourselves, surely the United Kingdom should have the first consideration.
I am amazed that Japan is to be accorded most-favoured-nation treatment under this agreement. We have been told that we have the power to adjust the terms of this treaty, and that there will no doubt be opportunities for reviewing them in the light of their effects upon Australian industries. But I suggest that if the Government informs Japan that she should in any way curtail her trade with this country such action will be regarded as unfriendly discrimination against Japan. It is just as well to remember the type of persons with whom we are dealing. I was a member of the Far Eastern Commission. I took some part in the supervision of the Government of Japan during that particular period, and I know that in regard to keeping an agreement the Japanese are none too fine. There were occasions when very earnest protests had to be made about the way in which the Japanese were either avoiding, exceeding or in some way abrogating international conventions.
The Government has a tremendous obligation on it in respect of the serious effect that this agreement can have on Australia’s economy. Australia is required, because of its membership of the United Nations, to observe the conventions of the International Labour Organization. But Japan does not observe the conventions of the I.L.O. Probably, the Japanese have never even heard of them. The conditions of labour in Japan are absolutely foreign to the conditions laid down in the basic principles of the I.L.O.
So, we are warranted in our contention that Australia should not risk the destruction of her own industries by allowing this country to be flooded with goods made under depressed labour conditions in countries which have no desire to observe reasonably decent and honorable standards of life. Further, I would say to honorable gentlemen in the corner that if they enter into agreements of this kind on behalf of Australia they will do much to retard prosperity in this country, because they will help to deny employment to many Australians.
The principle of this treaty is a negation of the principles that we have observed towards our own industries ever since federation. One of the first things determined at federation was that the industries of this country should not be required to submit to the unfair competition of goods produced by cheap labour overseas but should have the benefit of protection to aid them in providing their workers with decent working conditions such as we have now established. I say that whoever puts his pen to an agreement of this description repudiates his obligations to Australia and its people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Graham) adjourned.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments):
Clause 25- (1.) There shall be a National Capital Planning Committee to advise the Commission as to the planning, development and construction of the City of Canberra. (2.) The Committee shall consist of -
two architects selected from a list of four architects submitted to the Minister by The Royal Australian Institute of Architects;
two engineers selected from a list of four engineers submitted to the Minister by The Institution of Engineers, Australia;
two town planners selected from a list of four town planners submitted to the Minister by The Town Planning Institute of Australia; and
two other persons with special knowledge and experience in artistic or cultural matters. (6.) A member appointed under the last preceding sub-section in the place of a member referred to in paragraph (b), (c) or (d) of subsection (2.) of this section shall be selected from a list of three appropriate persons submitted by the appropriate body.
Senate’s amendment No. 1 -
Clause 25, sub-clause (2.), paragraph (b), leave out all words after “ architects “ first occurring, insert “, who may be selected from a list of architects submitted to the Minister by The Royal Australian Institute of Architects; “.
Senate’s amendment No. 2 -
Clause 25, sub-clause (2.), paragraph (c), leave out all words after “ engineers “ first occurring, insert “, who may be selected from a list of engineers submitted to the Minister by The Institution of Engineers, Australia; “.
Senate’s amendment No. 3 -
Clause 25, sub-clause (2.), paragraph (d), leave out all words after “ planners “ first occurring, insert “, who may be selected from a list of town planners submitted to the Minister by The Town Planning Institute of Australia; and “.
Senate’s amendment No. 4 -
Clause 25, leave out sub-clause (6.).
.- I move-
That the amendments be agreed to.
All the amendments concern clause 25, which deals with the appointment of members of the National Capital Planning Committee and I shall explain their effect. Instead of the two architects, engineers and town planners in each case being selected from a list of four to be presented by the relevant professional associations, the selection is to be widened because the sub-clause in respect of architects, for instance, will read, “Two architects who may be selected from a list . . . “. This has the effect of allowing the Governor-General to make appointments outside the recommendations of these institutions. There is also the consequential amendment, which will mean that clause 25 (6.) will be deleted. The Government accepts the amendments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Letter Receiver at King’s Cross - Tuber culosis Allowances - Newspaper Article - Hungarian Refugees - War Service Homes.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Reluctantly, I bring before the House a matter whichI had expected would be and, I believe, should be, dealt with satisfactorily outside this place. During the last twelve months, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) has been writing to me, and I have been writing to him, concerning the removal of a letter receiving box at King’s Cross, Sydney. This box previously was situated at the corner of Darlinghurst-road and Victoria-street, but the department, in its wisdom, decided that it was interfering with traffic at the corner and removed it to Victoria-street, on the east side, leaving Darlinghurst-road without a post box. I point out that for every person who lives in Victoria-street there are 25 in the immediate vicinity of the previous location of the box.
I took this matter up with the PostmasterGeneral on behalf of the Darlinghurst branch of the Labour League, and I even brought a petition to the Parliament and handed it to the Postmaster-General. It is significant that at the time the box was moved, the Liberal party was fighting to win the Wentworth seat in the State Parliament. The box was removed from the West Sydney electorate into the Wentworth electorate, two streets away. When I inquired why this had been done, I was told that the people who lived in Darlinghurst road could walk to the William-street post office which, it was said, was approximately 50 yards away, or go to the next street, which, it was said, was not much farther away. One night, as I was walking to the Labour League at Darlinghurst, I stepped the distances and found that they were, from the previous location of the box to the William-street post office, 156 yards, and to the other post box, 460 yards.
I again wrote to the Postmaster-General stating that although I did not expect that the box would be taken back to where it was formerly, as the population of the Darlinghurst-road area was twenty times that of the Victoria-street area, I thought a new box should be placed there. When I say that there are five public telephone boxes in Darlinghurst-road, honorable members will have an idea of the number of people who live in the area.
I hope that now that the matter has been raised in the Parliament the PostmasterGeneral will look at it in a reasonable way and decide to have another post box placed in Darlinghurst-road. He may be aware that the largest flats in King’s Cross are in the vicinity of that road. I suggest that the people of West Sydney should not be blamed because the Liberals managed to win the Wentworth seat by only 400 votes at the last election and the previously safe seat of Woollahra by only 500 votes last Saturday week. If they are attempting to bolster their majorities by robbing West Sydney of postal facilities, I think something should be done about it.
Last night, during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the House, I referred to the case of a pensioner who I believed to be suffering an injustice at the hands of the Department of Social Services. I do not propose to go into the merits or demerits of the matter again, but I do take this opportunity to express my disgust at the attitude that was adopted by the
Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is not prepared even to extend to me the courtesy of listening to my complaint to-night. If that is his attitude, it is his business, and I leave it with him.
After I had finished my remarks last night you will remember, Mr. Speaker, that the Minister rose and accused me of introducing spurious complaints into this Parliament. He said that he had no idea of what I was after because I had not said what I was after, and that I knew, as well as he did, that the matter had been closed when he wrote to me yesterday. I do not think that you, sir, or any other person in this House, with the possible exception of the Minister for Social Services, believes that merely because a Minister writes to an honorable member and rejects the subject matter of a complaint, the matter is finished. I want it to go on record that at no time have I accepted, or will I accept, a letter of rejection from a Minister as being the last word, if I believe that an injustice has occurred and still exists.
It is to the everlasting disgrace of the Minister that he should have said last night that his action was “ final and irrevocable “. In the light of that statement, I know now what chance I have of getting justice for this pensioner. That being so, it appears to be useless for me to proceed with the matter, other than to express my disgust that a Minister of the Crown should contend that because he has written to an honorable member, a matter is closed, finally and irrevocably. I leave it to the conscience of the Minister not to treat matters of this kind, which may be raised in the future, in the way that he has treated the matter to which I have referred.
.- Earlier this evening the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) challenged a statement which I had made in a speech regarding something that he had said. He frequently adopts these tactics, in the hope that the member challenged will not be able to find the relevant record. I shall repeat what I said regarding the Minister. I stated that on one occasion he used these words -
It is utterly idle to condemn employers for using cheap child labour when we’ know that they have to compete with overseas products.
– I rise to order. Is it right for an honorable member to refer to a matter which was raised in a debate on a matter that is still before the House?
– The honorable member for East Sydney is in order. He is referring to a comment he made, which does not revive the debate.
– Let us hear the rest of it.
– I shall let you hear the rest of it. I am quoting an extract from a speech made when he was a Minister - I think “ Assistant Minister for Supply “ was his correct title - in a former anti-Labour government, in addressing a conference which was convened to deal with unemployment in the Commonwealth. As a matter of fact, if I had quoted the speech more fully, I could have made some other damaging statements regarding the right honorable gentleman’s earlier utterances, but I did not do so because my time was limited.
– Let me have the papers. On what date was the speech made?
– It was made in 1939. If the Minister rises and repudiates what he said in 1939, that will be all right. He may say that he has changed his opinion since then. He wrote a thesis on socialism at one time, but I do not think that he is a socialist to-day. Of course, people may change their opinions, and the Minister may have changed his. But that is the statement he made, and that is the statement I quoted. If the Minister wants the reference, I shall give it to him. If he cares to get a copy of the “Sydney Morning Herald” of Thursday, 20th July, 1939, he will see under the heading, “ Dead Ends - Plight of Youth on Dole- Seeking a Solution “, a report of his address at the opening of the conference.
– May I have it?
– You may have the report.
– Give it to me.
– The report is in the newspaper. You probably have it in your own files. This is my document. It is an extract that I have taken from the report; hut the two are identical. There is no need for me to hand to the Minister this paper which merely contains an extract from the newspaper that I have quoted. Here is the newspaper report to prove the truth of what I said.
– What did he say?
– There is no need for me to repeat it all, but I can tell one or two things. I have read what the Minister said, amongst other things. I do not want to read the whole of his speech.
– I bet you do not.
– No doubt, if I merely quoted extracts from his speech, the Minister would say that I was taking his words out of their context. Members of the Government prate about full employment, but when anti-Labour governments have had control of this country in difficult times, when economic conditions have created unemployment, they evidently forgot about their policy of full employment. The Minister was greatly concerned, according to his own statement, about the position at the time. As he is anxious to know what he said, let me remind him of his words. He said -
With the increasing mechanization of industry thousands of youths were thrown on to the scrap heap at 21 years, when they were entitled to adult wages.
This was when an anti-Labour government was in control. He went on -
Many young men who had never been in regular employment were marrying and bringing up families on the dole.
It is just as well that we should be reminded of conditions that a former anti-Labour government allowed to exist in this country, because, with the Japanese trade agreement and growing unemployment, these conditions are again developing in this country. The Minister said -
Many young men who had never been in regular employment were marrying and bringing up families on the dole. This problem does not particularly arise from the depression. It is a continuing problem, even of prosperous industry. It is utterly idle to condemn employers for using cheap child labour when we know that they have to compete with overseas products.
Those are some extracts from the Minister’s speech. I suggest to him that no doubt it will be possible to find, in the Department of Labour and National Service, or one of the other departments, some record of his speech. He probably has a report of it filed amongst his own newspaper clippings to remind him of happier days in an antiLabour government.
– Would the honorable member mind lending me that paper?
– You can have the paper if you want it. Come and get it.
I want to make a brief reference to the unfortunate Hungarians that the Government has brought to this country and is now allowing to walk the streets and sleep in parks, on railway stations, in railway carriages, and wherever else they can lay their heads, without doing anything to assist them to obtain employment and housing, or providing them with the means of existence. They are dependent on charity, because the Government - this “ humane Government “ as the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) described it last evening - will not even make Commonwealth social service payments to them because they have not a fixed address. Yet the Government is to bring 5,000 more of them into the country.
Three of these Hungarians have interviewed me, and they spoke, through an interpreter, on behalf of others. They want the right to be sent back to their own country by this Government. In the reception centre at Bonegilla the authorities have eight of these single chaps living in a small room. There is one dish in which to wash and one tap is provided for each three blocks. We have not heard in this House that the Hungarians had a strike at Bonegilla and that some of them, according to the men who interviewed me, were arrested and given gaol sentences because of their participation in this protest. If the Minister wants to challenge the accuracy of this statement, as soon as the House adjourns I shall provide him with the names of the three men who interviewed me. I shall tell him their addresses - not where they live, because I do not know where the poor devils will be sleeping to-night, but where they can be contacted. They are using addresses which have been supplied to them by Australian citizens because without an address they cannot get Commonwealth social service benefits. They are walking round the streets with only the clothes in which they stand, and with the soles of their boots worn through.
These are men whom we heard Government supporters lauding here recently. Some of them appear to me to be quite decent young fellows. The Government brought them here and now it has abandoned and deserted them, but it proposes to bring 5,000 more of them here to starve. Some of those who were previously brought here want to go back to their own country. I invite the Government and the Minister to give them the opportunity of having their wish fulfilled. They are not wanted here, they are not provided with work, and they have no finance. The Government has abandoned them. Let us see that the Government does act in some way to assist them by meeting their wish for repatriation to their own country.
– The member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been notorious in this place down through the years for the process of distortion and misrepresentation, and he has sunk in more recent times to levels of irresponsibility and recklessness which even those who have known him a long time would hardly have thought possible. Within the last 24 hours the honorable gentleman has made a wild allegation regarding myself, which I immediately denied, which I invited him to substantiate, and which he was completely unable to substantiate. I refer to his charge that I stood over pressmen in order to suppress some incident which he claimed had occurred in this place. He found that that try-on did not work. It was an attempt to saddle me with responsibility for something which had never occurred. I happened to be the target on that occasion, but similar charges could be made against other members of the Parliament, from time to time, as they come within the range of his invective.
Apparently, he is going to some lengths to see whether he can find some charge to throw at me which he can base on some written record so that he will have a comeback if I challenge him on it. It is interesting to know that I occupy so much of the honorable gentleman’s thoughts that he is prepared to go back to 1939 in his researches to find one little sentence which he can drag from its context in order to make me appear in an unfavorable light in relation to some matter which he can raise in this Parliament. Unfortunately for him, here again, despite his best efforts, he has found something which will bounce right back in his lap. The meeting to which he referred, far from being a meeting at which I was trying to condone some exploitation of child labour, far from being a meeting at which, as the honorable member implied, I was showing some indifference to or complacency with, the plight of young people in this country, was a meeting which had been called and was chaired by myself for precisely the opposite purpose.
The report which appeared on Thursday, 20th July, 1939, in the “Sydney Morning Herald “ related to a meeting held in Melbourne on Wednesday, 19th July, 1939. The meeting was opened by me, as Assistant Minister for Supply. It was a youth employment conference, convened by the Government of which I was a member, largely at my own instance, to see if we could find suitable measures to assist the unfortunate young men and women of that period who were lacking employment. Time will not permit me to-night to go into the reasons why they were unemployed. It is a matter of history that the depression which hit Australia at that time, in a period of Labour governments, registered so dramatically on the thinking of the Australian electors that they threw Labour out of office and kept it out of office until 1941.
If the honorable member had been honest enough and decent enough to quote the full passage, the House would have learned that the conference was called to consider Commonwealth-wide acceptance of a shorter working week, amendment of the Arbitration Act to control the proportion of juvenile labour, the compulsory raising of the school leaving age and uniformity of working conditions in all States, which were advocated as solutions to the problem of the “ dead-end “ employment of youths. That was the purpose for which we had convened this conference. I came into this Parliament in a period of depression. It was the conditions of depression as they affected the people of my own generation which brought me into this Parliament in an endeavour to play some part in helping to cure the evils that we saw around us at that time.
There was a sneering reference to an essay on socialism. It has been good fun for honorable gentlemen opposite to throw that at me over the years. The only true statement is that I did write an essay on socialism. I was able to gain a prize in consequence, but, as might be imagined, my essay was just as critical of socialism then as one that I could write at this time. So the honorable gentleman will not get much change out of that. I do not know what he is trying to prove. If he is trying to prove that my record and policies are such that I have been indifferent to the working conditions of people in this country, then I do not need to answer him. More than twenty years of public service in this place is the best answer I can give to him. I know it is not a matter for gratification to honorable gentlemen opposite that during the time I have had the distinction of being Minister for Labour and National Service, this Government, I am proud to claim, has had more co-operation from the industrial movement than any Labour government has ever had. The industrial movement in this country knows that, with this Government in office, not only will its members enjoy full employment and steady prosperity, but they will get a fairer deal from industrial tribunals and from this Government than they could ever look for from the distorted minds and prejudiced outlook of the honorable gentlemen who sit on the other side of the House.
.- I do not propose to go back to 1939 when, after eight years of continuous anti-Labour governments in the State as well as the federal sphere, those governments proved themselves to be as incapable of dealing with the problems of unemployment and deflation as, during the last eight years, the federal anti-Labour Government has shown itself to be incapable of dealing with the opposite problems of inflation and what it calls over-employment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) has dealt with the unemployment conference which he called at the end of that period, but it is significant that he did not explain what he meant by his phrase, “ One cannot blame employers for employing cheap juvenile labour “. He did not even mention the phrase at any time during his speech to-night. Although he struggled to carry to his side of the table the bound volume of copies of the “ Sydney Morning Herald” of the time, the only thing that he read from it was the agenda of the conference.
Nor do I propose to deal with the problems of three months ago, when there was a brawl, a fracas or some spontaneous combustion in some private portions of this building involving the public revenue in an expenditure of about £5. It may be that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) has been too decent to reveal-
Honorable members interjecting,
– Order! I must ask the House to come to order, particularly on my right, and also on my left.
– It may be that the honorable member for East Sydney is too scrupulous to give the name of his informant. Accordingly, once again, the Minister for Labour and National Service has been able to avoid the issue.
– Is the honorable member repeating that statement?
– Once again, the Minister for Labour and National Service has been able to avoid the issue.
– Is the honorable member repeating that charge?
– On this occasion, the Minister would have us believe that the extraordinary unanimity of the Australian metropolitan press - with one exception, the Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ - at that time was completely spontaneous and that he, as the Leader of the House and the guardian of Liberal principles and political fortunes, had nothing to do with that suspicious suppression. I want to deal with a matter in my own electorate.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable member for Werriwa in order in making, by innuendo, a charge which has already been dealt with?
– The honorable member for Werriwa would be out of order in imputing improper motives to any honorable member. I suggest that he keep off that subject.
– I do not know how it came about. It was spontaneous. I accept the assurance of the honorable member for East Sydney that this information was furnished to him, and I accept the assurance of the Minister for Labour and
National Service that the information was inaccurate; but I am left wondering, as is the whole of the Australian public, why the suppression occurred. It was an astonishingly spontaneous and simultaneous piece of reticence by the newspapers.
The real matter that I wish to bring to the notice of the House perhaps could more properly have been dealt with at “ Grievance “ time to-day if the Government had not restricted that period. It would have been the first “ Grievance “ period during this sessional period. The matter I wish to raise affects some scores of ex-servicemen who live in war service homes in the electorate of Werriwa, and it is a particularly miserable example of evasion by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), who administers the War Service Homes Division.
In this case, a group scheme was commenced. Group schemes are a diminishing species these days because the Government, in its general aversion to what it regards as the socialist war service homes scheme, has in succeeding years reduced the number of group homes that have been placed under construction and completed. But it is fortunate that in the electorate of Werriwa such a group scheme has been completed. During the construction of these group homes, the War Service Homes Division wanted to install inter-connected drains as being the only satisfactory form of drainage, in its opinion, in the soil which, obtained there. The local council was reluctant to agree and approved, for the time being, individual drains. However, before the scheme was very far advanced and before the individual drains had been constructed, and therefore before the homes were occupied, the council decided to agree to the installation of inter-connected drains. Nevertheless, the division persisted with the old scheme and charged the applicants who are now in residence in the homes for that scheme.
The division has since proposed to those applicants that they should have an interconnected drainage scheme and, under section 18a. of the War Service Homes Act, the Minister, who alone can give approval in these matters, has approved an additional loan above the £2,750 maximum in order to provide such a scheme.
He has rejected the plea of the local progress association, which all the people in these group homes have formed, that the division should accept responsibility for paying the additional cost. To-day, I received a letter from the Minister in which he said - originally the War Service Homes Division suggested to the Council that it would be preferable to provide an inter-block pipeline drainage scheme to dispose of sullage water from the estate .
The Division proceeded on the basis of the Council’s decision to provide for the disposal of sullage water by a method which had been adopted by various local government authorities This was the only course open to the Division to enable homes to be provided on the estate without further delay.
That is in contradiction, I submit, of a statement that was made four months before by the deputy director of the division in Sydney in explanation of this fault on the part of the division and in which he said that, by the time the council had approved the proper scheme, the development of the estate was well in hand and homes were under construction.
The division persisted with a scheme which was inferior, which it knew to be inferior, and which it stated all along was inferior. It persisted with that scheme after the council had approved the superior scheme, although no work had yet been done on it and none of the homes were occupied. Now these people, in order that they may have the superior scheme, must pay twice. They must pay for the one which was thrust upon them, which the division installed after a proper system had been approved and which does not work, and they must pay, too, over a period of 45 years for the new scheme which alone will work.
These group homes are not the homes which the division normally builds and in respect of which it acts merely as a banker and has only to be satisfied that the loan is covered by the assets. In the case of group homes, the division acts as a spec builder; and I should think that the legal position, certainly the honorable position, is that, if the division makes a mistake, it should not charge the applicants the whole cost of the mistake but should bear that cost itself.
I hope that it is still not too late to ask the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who, in this House, represents the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division, to do the decent and honorable thing and ensure that these scores of men in this very good group scheme are not charged both for drains which the division all along said were unsuitable and for a drainage system which it could all along have installed without additional cost to itself or them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Northern Territory Prisons Administration.
k. - On 28th August, the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) asked the following question: -
In view of the concern that is felt in the Northern Territory as the result of comments made by an appeal board presided over by a
Supreme Court judge who was hearing appeals made by two senior prison officers of the Darwin Gaol against their dismissal from the service, which dismissals were upheld by the board, will the Minister for Territories, since these dismissals arose out of a recent inquiry into the administration and control of prisons in the Northern Territory, take steps to have this report released at the earliest possible time?
After carefully considering the matter the opinion has been reached that the publication of the full report would not be in the interests of the persons to whom the question referred. The report contained opinions adverse to them but on appeal to a higher judicial authority they were cleared of the charges which were laid against them following the commissioner’s inquiry. So far as they are concerned, the findings of the commissioner have been superseded by the findings of the appeal tribunal and there would appear to be no benefit to them in now publishing the commissioner’s report.
Rubber Production in the Territories.
asked the Minister for Territories the following questions, upon notice -
k. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Immigrants Living in Hostels.
asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
y. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: -
s asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
During the last financial year -
What numbers of ex-servicemen were settled on the land in each of the States?
What amounts were expended on soldier settlement in each State? and
What numbers of civilians were settled on the land by each State Government?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Australia, £1,854,000; Western Australia, £3,790,000; Tasmania, £2,071,000. There is no relationship between the number of farms allotted during the year and the expenditure for the same period, (c) The Commonwealth has no statistics of civilian settlement undertaken by State governments.
b asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
b asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Unmarried persons - 16-17 years, from £1 10s. to £1 15s. per week; 18-20 years, from £2 to £2 7s. 6d. per week.
Married persons, from £2 10s. to £3 5s. per week.
Additional benefit for spouse, from £2 to £2 7s. 6d. per week.
Additional benefit for child, from 5s. to 10s. per week.
The permissible income will be increased to £2 per week for adults or married persons and to £1 per week in all other cases.
d asked the Prime Minister as Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
k asked the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
In view of (a) the opinion expressed in the Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations for the year 1955-56 that the standardization of the railway between Broken Hill and Port Pirie should be proceeded with and (b) the completion of the railway to Marree releasing labour and materials, when does the Government propose to proceed with this important Broken Hill-Port Pirie standardization work?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The matter of Commonwealth assistance for rail standardization is being considered as part of the wider problems of transport generally by the Cabinet Committee on Transport. The Government has accepted the recommendation of the committee that because of the very definite advantages which will derive from the standardization of this line work on the Albury-Melbourne section be undertaken as first priority. Some discussions have taken place between the Commonwealth and South Australia on the question of standardizing the railway between Port Pirie and Broken Hill. This matter is still under consideration, but no decisions have as yet been reached. The Government considers that the experience gained from the operation of the standard gauge line Wodonga-Melbourne will provide valuable information as to actual savings which can be effected by standardization.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 September 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570905_reps_22_hor16/>.