22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and- read prayers.
Mr. CURTIN presented a petition, from 3,174 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. STEWART presented a petition from 3,246 citizens of Australia praying that pension rates be increased to 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
– I ask the the Minister for Immigration a question arising from the figure he gave yesterday in relation to immigrants from Hungary who are awaiting employment. Does the figure cover only males in training in the camps or does it cover all types of Hungarian immigrants?
– The figure I gave yesterday, which I think was 692, referred to Hungarian workers still in the Bonegilla reception centre.
– It does not relate to those who have left the camps?
– We placed in employment about 4,000 people from Bonegilla and, using round figures, 9,000 altogether.
– Of the 4,000, are there any now unemployed?
– I said that 692 workers were still in the Bonegilla and Greta centres and unplaced so far. I said also that 4,000 workers from the Bonegilla centre had been found employment.
– Of the 4,000, are there any unemployed, or are they all in employment now?
– They would be employed, I would think.
– You do not know?
– We placed them in employment. If the right honorable gentleman wants the other figure, I suggest that he address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
– I hope that it will be taken as so addressed.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will the right honorable gentleman give to the House some details of recent developments in the Middle East, particularly the arming of Syria by the Russians and the attitude of the Syrian and American governments to these measures?
– I do not think it would be possible, or perhaps appropriate, to endeavour to make a series of absolute statements about what is happening, because there is still a good deal of uncertainty. However, it does seem clear beyond all question that the Soviet Union has been conducting activities in Syria which are well on the way, unless they cease, to making Syria a satellite of the Soviet Union. Perhaps it is easy to get the arming of Jordan and the American contribution to it out of perspective. The fact is that what the United States is doing is to accelerate the delivery of certain arms to Jordan pursuant to obligations entered into before the recent developments in Syria.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Can a person of pensionable age take out an annuity to recover £3 10s. a week and receive a full pension? Can this annuity be taken out from a source other than an insurance company? I ask the Minister to make a statement to the House to clarify this position, as there seems to be some misunderstanding about it.
– The honorable member knows, of course, that a means test is applied to applicants for social service benefits, including age, invalid and other pensions. Those tests, of course, are general in character. Every case is treated according to its relative merits, but the question he raises requires a general answer. If he will put his question on the notice-paper, I will provide him with the detailed reply that it deserves.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to the American soil bank programme, the successful operation of which is of such vital importance to the Australian primary producer, and, therefore, to every person in Australia. Can the Minister say whether any steps are being taken by the United States Government to ensure that the deficiencies revealed in its first year of operation are being remedied in the present year?
– I understand, not through official sources but through my reading of several United States journals, that the United States Department of Agriculture has met considerable difficulty in administering the soil bank programme and that both Congress and the United States Department of Agriculture are considering amendments to the present system. I cannot tell the honorable gentleman exactly what changes are contemplated, but I will obtain details and give them to him. I can state, however, that the Australian Government is very active in drawing to the attention of the United States Government the difficulties related to surplus disposals, and in recent months my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs, has made representations to the American Department of State to see that Australia’s interests are considered before any additional surplus disposals take place.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that payments received from hospital contribution funds are taken into account when the department considers an application for the sickness benefit? Is the Minister aware that a person who pays contributions to obtain the maximum hospital benefit and is hospitalized in a public ward, cannot obtain the sickness benefit, because he receives more than his hospital costs? Does the Minister agree with this situation? If not, will he take the necessary action to end this anomaly?
– The conditions are as the honorable member states them to be. It is true that where a person in receipt of the sickness benefit previously covers himself through a hospital benefit scheme or, indeed, a medical benefit scheme and receives payment in excess of the actual cost of the hospital or medical services, the excess is deemed to be income for the purposes of the Social
Services Act, and may disqualify that person from receiving the full sickness payment. The honorable member asks whether I agree with that procedure. It has been within the letter and the spirit of the act up to this point. It has been my duty to administer the act as it has been in operation for a number of years, and the question of whether I approve of it does not arise.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the effect of wool values upon the Australian economy, can the Minister indicate the trend of prices, particularly those at the Geelong sales? Can he also say whether a larger turn-over at sales in Geelong is likely to have a bearing upon the desire to ship wool from that most attractive and outstanding port?
– I am pleased to be able to tell the honorable member for Corio - and Geelong - that, yesterday, the prices of fleeces and skirtings at the Geelong sales rose about 1 per cent, compared with rates at the closing Sydney sales last week. I understand that there was a good selection of fleeces from the Wimmera and the Western District of Victoria, and that the clearance was satisfactory. Concerning shipments from the port of Geelong. I know, as the result of an answer that I gave to a previous question, how contentious the question can become. I shall have the greatest pleasure in discussing it with one of my colleagues who has more responsibility in the matter than T have, in order to see whether 1 can give the honorable member a more precise answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Health. In view of reports of outstanding success in the prevention of poliomyelitis by treatment with Salk vaccine, will the Minister prepare and present to the House a statement concerning, first, the availability of supplies of the vaccine, and secondly, the number of people treated and the results of the treatment?
– At various stages in the progress of the Salk vaccine campaign, I have made statements of the kind for which the honorable member asks. If he thinks that it would be useful for me to make another one, I shall do so shortly. However, he need have no fear about the availability of supplies of the vaccine. They will be adequate for all needs.
– I wish to address a question to the Minister for Trade concerning the European common market proposals. Is the Minister aware of any change in the initial attitude of the United Kingdom that agricultural products should be excluded from these proposals?
-I thinkI can reply best to the honorable member on this important matter by saying that it has become increasingly clear that the United Kingdom will be under pressure to be more prepared to examine the possibility of European agricultural products being included in a common market scheme embracing countries which are members of the Organization for European Economic Co-operation than was thought by the United Kingdom to be the case in the first place. The Commonwealth Government is quite conscious of the implications for Australia of such a development. The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Trade, Dr. Westerman, will leave to-morrow to attend a meeting of the signatories to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in Geneva, where this matter, among others, will be raised from the Australian point of view.
– Will the Minister for Trade provide a short and simple explanation of the sales replacement policy for certain imports, and indicate whether it means that importers can replace their supplies as soon as they have sold their existing quotas? If not, will the Minister take the necessary steps to make the meaning of the new proposal perfectly clear? There appears to be much confusion on this matter in Sydney, where some of the officers of the Department of Trade are making conflicting decisions.
– The matter might be dealt with best if I gave a considered reply to the honorable member’s question. I shall do that.
-I wish to address a question to the Treasurer. On several occasions I have suggested that Australia should consider adopting the system of decimal coinage. The Treasurer has intimated that the Department of the Treasury is investigating the matter. Will the Treasurer inform the House how those investigations are proceeding?
-I will make inquiries to ascertain what up-to-date information on this matter I can give the honorable member.
– My question to the Minister for Supply is supplementary to one that I asked last week in connexion with the extension of the aluminium plant at Bell Bay. Has the Minister read a statement by the Premier of Tasmania to the effect that additional hydro-electric power will be available when the extensions to the Bell Bay plant have been completed? If the Minister has seen that statement, will be now press ahead with plans to extend the plant at Bell Bay?
-I have seen many statements about supplies of hydro-electric power. I can remember a series of them between 1944 and 1954, but none of those statements altered the fact that there was considerable difficulty in obtaining power for the Bell Bay project when it was due to commence. Indeed, we had to postpone the opening of the plant because of difficulties due to certain circumstances. However, I will have a look at the matter. I can tell the honorable gentleman that the whole question is being examined by the Australian Aluminium Production Commission. That is the body which is best qualified to advise the Government on this matter. When the commission is in a position to advise us, we will consider the matter, but not before then.
-My question to the
Minister for the Army is based on an announcement by the Minister recently that the Women’s Royal Australian Army Corps training school at Mildura will be transferred to Sydney. Does the Minister know that his predecessor visited that school within recent years and spoke in high praise of the suitability of its location and equipment and the results obtained from its training programme? Is there any real need to centralize such schools in Sydney? Will he further consider the matter?
– The question of the central training school became urgent because of widespread difficulties in relation to the training of the W.R.A.A.C. The original intention was to set up a camp at Watsonia, in Victoria, but suitable premises became surplus at Georges Heights, in Sydney, and with the expenditure of a modest sum of money we were able to establish a camp there for the W.R.A.A.C. It was an economic proposition, and I think it will be beneficial to the Army.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The honorable gentleman may remember that last May I asked him whether he had received and would release a report from an officer of the Division of Agricultural Economics who returned in November last year from a trip to the United States of America during which he studied means of increasing the efficiency of our poultry industry. The Minister will recall that he told me - I am omitting some peevish personalities - that the report would be included in the Division’s quarterly review. As the report has not appeared in the two issues of the review that have since been published - the second having arrived in the post yesterday - I ask the honorable gentleman, first, whether he will release the report to honorable members before the estimates of the Department of Primary Industry are discussed; secondly, whether he can give an assurance that the report will appear in the next issue of the review, so that there will be no further delay in letting the industry know how far, if at all, it falls short of American standards; and thirdly, if his answers to the last two questions are in the negative, whether he will seek from the South Australian and Western Australian governments the reports that they have already received from their officers who visited the United States of America at the same time last year at the Commonwealth’s expense.
– A full and comprehensive report was prepared by the officers who visited the United States of America under a Commonwealth extension grant in order to study the poultry industry. Their report was, unfortunately, too large to include in the publications of the Division of Agricultural Economics. It was a massive document. It has, however, already been published and has received wide publicity. All the departments of agriculture in the States have received it, and most of the people who, we thought, were technically interested in the problem have also received it. Should the honorable member want a copy, and if he can assure me that there is any possibility of his reading through it and, what is more important, of understanding it, I shall let him have one. If he would like half a dozen copies, I shall be only too happy to supply them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division. When a returned serviceman applies for a war service home while he owns a home in another town in which he does not live, can his eligibility be established before he sells that home? In other words, can he have his eligibility established first, so that he may sell his home just before the loan is to be made available?
– The honorable member for Wimmera will remember that the Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division is in another place. So far as applications for second assistance are concerned-
– Not second assistance.
– So far as applications for second assistance are concerned, it is entirely-
– Not second assistance.
– So far as applications for second assistance are concerned, the decision is entirely at the discretion of the Minister. When I was Minister in charge of the War Service Homes Division it was necessary for me to discontinue consideration of applications for second assistance. When an applicant for a war service home already has a home, his application is, of course, prejudiced to a degree when considered in conjunction with applications by homeless ex-servicemen. I shall make the necessary representations to the Minister and give the honorable member for Wimmera a detailed reply covering any particular case in which he is interested.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services whether it is a fact that an ex-gratia payment of approximately £600 has been made to a young, blind student of Perth to enable him to study physiotherapy in England. Is it a fact also, that the course will take three years to complete, and that the ex-gratia payment is for tuition fees and board? If these are facts, will the Minister explain how this young student will be able to exist on about £3 17s. a week, and will he consider increasing the amount of the ex-gratia payment?
– Representations are made to me from time to time for assistance for people who are in receipt of social service benefits and who, for a variety of reasons - most of them associated with the continuation of their studies - require to leave this country and would be considerably prejudiced if they lost such benefits. When applications of the kind are received by me, the question has to be resolved largely by the Treasury, and I make the necessary representations to the Treasurer. In the particular case mentioned by the honorable member, an application was made to me for assistance. The social service beneficiary had been awarded a scholarship to study abroad and we were asked to continue paying his social service benefit to supplement the resources already available to him. I am proud and happy to say that negotiations were carried out by the Minister for Territories and that the Treasury agreed to an ex-gratia payment to supplement resources already available to the applicant.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, as a result of wide experience with refugees from countries overrun by the tide of war or great national disasters, it has been generally recognized that important psychological factors are created in the minds of people forcibly uprooted from their homes, making resettlement or assimilation infinitely more difficult than in the case of those who voluntarily migrated. Can the Minister advise the House whether such factors were evident in processing Hungarian refugees?
– I have no doubt that the psychological factors to which the honorable member has referred do operate in respect of people who have experienced the horrors of war or the terror and grim experience of political oppression. In these post-war years, Australia has had considerable experience with the settlement in this country of tens of thousands of people from war-torn countries of Europe, and, in more recent times, the victims of Communist oppression in unhappy Hungary. lust how far those factors operate in individual cases varies, of course, according to the individual. In dealing with cases of this kind it is not easy to generalize. We, in Australia, have tried, in our handling and placement of people who have come within the range of government jurisdiction, to be as sympathetic and as helpful as we can be. This has been recognized with appreciation by the representatives of the countries concerned and of the organizations of immigrants who have settled in this country. In the most recent case, that of the Hungarians, we have had a rather more difficult task than with some of the earlier national groups because the Hungarian language is itself a problem, and the circumstances of their hurried flight made these people less adaptable than those who had a long sojourn in Europe, outside their own country, before coming here. But it is good to be able to record that the representatives in Australia of the Hungarian settlers have expressed in writing to the Government their appreciation of the action we have taken and the sympathetic attention we have given to them.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Immigration a question supplementary to that asked earlier by the Leader of the Opposition. It refers to the figures given by the Minister with respect to the arrival and placement of Hungarian refugees. I understood the Minister to say that 10.250 had already arrived in Australia, of whom approximately 6,000 were men, and of that 6,000 approximately 4,000 had been placed in employment, leaving 692 men still in the reception centres. That would make a total placement of approximately 4,700 of the men, leaving a balance of 1,300. I ask the Minister: What has become of the balance of 1,300 Hungarians? Is it not a fact that a substantial number of them are wandering round various parts of Australia, sleeping wherever they can obtain shelter, many of them in desperate circumstances? If any of these people who are so situated desire to return to their own country, is the Government prepared to repatriate them?
– With great respect, Mr. Speaker, I point out that this question is on the notice-paper. I suggest to the honorable member for East Sydney that he read carefully the statement that I made yesterday, lt would seem that he has either not read it correctly or deliberately distorted it. I said that 1 0.000-odd ‘ Hungarians came into Australia under this refugee programme. I said that from Bonegilla immigration camp 4,000 had been placed in employment. Also, many Hungarians were met here by relatives and friends, and by the Hungarian-Australian Society. They have provided many with jobs and accommodation, quite apart from what has been done by officers of the Department of Labour and National Service in the centre at Bonegilla. I suggest, therefore, that the honorable member for East Sydney read that report.
I shall deal now with this oft-repeated statement about people wandering around the streets, sleeping wherever they can obtain shelter. The question relating to it is on the notice-paper and will be answered at the appropriate time. But the first time I saw the statement was when I read it in the Communist “Tribune”. If there are any Hungarians wandering the streets, as alleged by the honorable member for East Sydney, then it is their own responsibility. We have adequate accommodation and comfortable quarters for them.
– Ha! Ha!
– We have also not only good food for them, but their own food-
– Ha! Ha!
-Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will refrain from continually interjecting.
– We have not only good food, but their own food, cooked by their own Hungarian chefs, and this has been much appreciated by every responsible person connected with Hungarians in Australia. I have a sheaf of letters from various people in responsible positions associated with the Hungarian immigrants. I have one in my hand now. lt says -
This is another example of the human understanding you and your Department are showing in cases similar to this, bringing members of families together who were torn apart after last year’s Hungarian revolution. Repeating my thanks . . ., and so on. That is from one of these societies. There are numerous such societies thanking Australia for what has been done on behalf of the Hungarian people. Mr. Speaker, no country on earth has as good a record for the treatment of these unfortunate people from Hungary as Australia has, and we should be proud of it.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Trade. As many Australian copper producers have been hit by the continued fall in the price of copper during the past few months, can the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether there is any possibility of the industry receiving protection and whether the Tariff Board has completed its inquiry into the copper industry?
– I am aware of the interest of the honorable member in this very real problem. The copper producers did come to me a few months ago and state their problems. They made it clear that there was a case for investigation by the Tariff Board to determine whether further protection should be accorded the Australian industry. I immediately referred the matter to the Tariff Board. The board has been closely examining the position, but I am not sure whether it has actually completed its investigations, although I think it has. However, the board has not vet made its report. I have assured the industry and I assure the honorable member that as soon as the board makes its report there will be no avoidable delay on the part of the Government in giving consideration to it.
– I direct a question without notice to the Prime Minister. By way of explanation I would like to say that during the Prime Minister’s absence abroad, and on account of ill health of the honorable member for Hunter, 1 was asked by the town clerk of the Greater Cessnock Council to write to the Acting Prime Minister and request that he and the Minister for National Development visit Cessnock for the purpose of meeting a deputation of businessmen and industrialists, a resolution having been carried to that effect at a public meeting in Cessnock. !n view of the fact that sustenance for the unemployed is derived from social service taxation, I ask the Prime Minister: Whose responsibility is it to care for the unemployed and see that they are placed in employment as quickly as possible? Is it the responsibility of the Commonwealth or of the State? Is the right honorable gentleman still unable to visit Cessnock? Is he prepared to meet in Canberra during the current sittings of Parliament a deputation of representatives from the Cessnock area?
– I really cannot answer that question offhand. I will have to find out what has happened. I will look into the matter and inform the honorable member.
– I ask the Minister for the Navy what progress has been made in the fitting of ejector seats to Sea Venom aircraft.
– I remember that a few months ago the honorable member for Franklin asked me what was the policy and the intention of my department with regard to the fitting of the latest type ejector seats to Sea Venom aircraft. At that time I told him that it was expected that the equipping of these aircraft with the seats would commence some time in September, as we were expecting delivery from Britain at about that time. My latest information is that the fitting of the equipment has commenced. It is expected that by the end of September four aircraft will be so fitted and the remainder will be fitted progressively after that. From the end of
September, when the first four aircraft will have been fitted with the seats, no operational flying will take place in Sea Venoms not so fitted.
– I ask a question without notice of the Treasurer. Will the Government consider paying a £2 for £1 subsidy on moneys expended on providing the buildings and installations essential to the community effort, “ Meals on Wheels “, which renders such a valuable service to aged and indigent people, particularly those in the poor areas of our cities?
– The question involves a matter of policy, but I will take it as being on the notice-paper and see what can be done about the matter.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Will the Minister indicate to the House his department’s attitude to the installation of telephones at Randwick race-course for the purpose of receiving off-the-course bets? It has been alleged that ten lines are available for this purpose. What priority, if any, will such applications receive? Will the allocations for this purpose involve applicants for private telephones in a longer waiting period before their installations can be made?
– The subject-matter of the question asked by the honorable member for Phillip has been in the public view for some weeks. Consequently, I made some inquiries about it a couple of weeks ago. The honorable member asked, first, about the attitude of the department towards the provision of telephones for offcourse betting. As these installations would be required by licensed bookmakers, there is nothing illegal about the provision of telephones for that purpose. Therefore, applications for such telephones would be treated simply as business applications. At the same time, the department is allocating to such applications a very low priority indeed, because the telephones would be used very little. Having considered this matter and issued certain instructions, I can assure the honorable member that, although such applications have a business priority, the telephones will not be installed until outstanding applications with higher priorities are satisfied.
The honorable member asked, also, whether the installation of these telephones would involve present applicants in a longer waiting period. That is already answered by what I have just said.
With reference to the ten telephones alleged to be available at Randwick, it is true that during the Queen’s visit ten telephones were made available in a certain room at the course for the use of pressmen; but although the internal wiring of that room is probably still there, the cable pairs and the equipment for the exchange servicing of those telephones have long since been allocated to other installations. Consequently, the question of making those ten telephones available for off-course betting simply does not arise, irrespective of other considerations that I have mentioned.
– In view of the report that has been made by the Public Accounts Committee on the administration and management of the Canberra abattoir, and in view of considerable public discussion which has taken place on this matter, will the Minister for the Interior give fresh consideration to a proposal that was made some time ago that a full inquiry should be made into the production, distribution and wholesale and retail selling of meat in the Australian Capital Territory?
– I am well aware of the honorable gentleman’s interest in this problem. Without giving any undertaking at all, I shall review the past history of his approach on this matter and, perhaps, have a discussion with him.
– In addressing a question to the Minister for Primary Industry, I refer to the current inter-departmental inquiry into the future of the important flax industry. Can the Minister say how this inquiry is progressing, and when the producers and processors of flax are likely to know their fate?
– To the best of my knowledge, the inquiries of the interdepartmental committee have now been completed, and the committee is preparing its report. As soon as I get the report. I shall advise the honorable gentleman, and when Cabinet has made its decision I shall also inform the House. I hope that it will not be too long before the recommendations are made available.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware of the state of affairs in the Australian Tariff Board which was revealed in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of this House last night? It appears that adequate minutes of the board are not kept, that attempts have been made to suppress dissenting opinions, that adequate notice of meetings of the board is not given, and that the board is losing its independence to the chairman and to the Department of Trade. Will he investigate the position and see that action is taken to clear up these difficulties, which are bound to interfere with the successful operation of the board at a time when it is of increasing importance to the Australian economy that the board should operate well?
– I am well aware that one member of the Tariff Board feels that he has ground for grievance, in a particular respect, concerning the keeping of proper minutes. He speaks, I think, of one meeting, though perhaps of more than one. I hold the view - and my view is substantiated by legal advice - that it is within the competence of the Tariff Board itself to decide what represents the keeping of adequate minutes and the holding of a meeting. The state of affairs in respect of which this one member of the board complains is acceptable to the other members.
– A few moments ago the honorable member for Stirling asked me a question, to which I replied that I did not know the details of the case he mentioned.
– I rise to order. Is the Minister seeking leave to make a statement or a personal explanation?
– It will be necessary for the Minister to obtain leave to make a statement.
– I ask for leave to make a brief statement supplementing my earlier reply to the honorable member for Stirling.
– As there is no objection, leave is granted.
– I told the honorable member that I had no recollection of the case, but when he asked, by way of interjection, how a blind person could be expected to live abroad on a blind pension only, it came immediately to mind. The case has caused me some concern. The person concerned is a member of the staff of the University of Western Australia. He applied to the university for two years’ study leave abroad, and was granted leave on full pay. He proposed to proceed abroad forthwith, and the question immediately arose of the continuation of his blind pension while he was resident in another country. The Minister for Territories asked whether I could give favorable consideration to his continuing to receive both the blind pension and his salary. I have no discretionary powers in matters of this kind and referred the case to my friend and colleague, the Treasurer. The right honorable gentleman, in his usual humane way, agreed to an ex-gratia payment. Therefore, this particular person is being treated most generously by the Australian Government, and this is not the only case of its kind.
– But for the action of the honorable member for Stirling, he would not have been!
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney is continually interjecting. I warn him that it is an offence against the Standing Orders to do so. I ask him to refrain from persisting in his offence.
I have received a letter from the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) proposing that a definite matter of urgent public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely -
The desirability of the Australian Government giving its strongest support to the following resolution which is now before the United Nations General Assembly: -
Recalling its resolution 1132 (XI) of January 10th, 1957, establishing a Special Committee, consisting of representatives of Australia, Ceylon, Denmark, Tunisia and Uruguay, to investigate, and to establish and maintain direct observation in Hungary and elsewhere, taking testimony, collecting evidence and receiving information, as appropriate.
Having now received the unanimous report of the Special Committee on the Problem of Hungary. Regretting that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the present authorities in Hungary have failed to co-operate in any way with the Special Committee.
Finds that the conclusions reached by the Special Committee on the basis of its examination of all available evidence confirm that:
I call upon those members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places. (All honorable members present having risen in their places) -
.- 1 thank all honorable members for approving discussion on this matter. In this modern world of rapidly and swiftly moving events - of kaleidoscopic changes almost from week to week - it is so very hard to remember, and so very easy to forget. This is particularly so in these days of propaganda, both nationalistic and political, on a massive scale. It is hard to sift the grain from the chaff, and to succeed in the search for truth. Therefore, it is all the more remarkable that the United Nations Hungarian Committee, though composed of the representatives of five countries which cover practically the whole face of the earth, should have produced a unanimous report. In the words of the rapporteur, Mr. Keith Shann -
The evidence was not only checked by crossquestioning the individual witnesses, but by checking the evidence of one witness against another in places geographically far apart.
The Government and its representatives at the United Nations are to be congratulated on the active part that they have played in the painstaking endeavour of the committee to present the plain, unvarnished facts to the world per medium of the United Nations machinery.
I am grateful to the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) for suggesting, and to the Government and all honorable members for agreeing, to underline the importance of this resolution and the debate in the United Nations General « Assembly by postponing the Budget debate for a short time to-day. Would that every government of the free world permitted a similar debate on 22nd or 23rd October each year until such time as the report was taken notice of by the people most intimately concerned with it.
I do not suppose that any honorable member doubts the authenticity of the report. We are inured by now to mass deportations, purges, farcical and very often falsified trials by peoples’ courts, brain washings and other things in Communist countries, of which I do not suppose any one here approves, but does any honorable member feel that the world should be allowed to forget the tragic events in Hungary in late October, November and December of last year and the things that are even now happening there? Last year, tragedy was succeeded by triumph, which was overthrown again by tragedy in the short space of two or three weeks. If there is any one who doubts those facts, I suggest they compare and contrast the report of the United Nations committee with the reports of other observers, such as that by Mr. James Michener in “ The Bridge at Andau “. We cannot fail to be impressed by the similarity of the evidence produced by many people from widely different places in the world. We cannot fail to be impressed by the documentation of the evidence, particularly when we compare it with the report of these events as set out by the Soviet Army - A VH puppet government now in charge of Hungary.
One almost wishes for another Milton to write a sonnet similar to the famous sonnet which begins -
Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold.
I do not suggest that all the freedom fighters were saints. Many people in this chamber know that when blood runs hot and passions are inflamed, the chains of self-control as well as the chains of tyranny are sometimes burst asunder. But honorable members will note that in the report of the United Nations committee the excesses are not glossed over - I refer to paragraph 9 of the committee’s conclusions - although they were submerged entirely by the flood of popular opinion and heroic frenzy which endeavoured to overthrow the existing reign of terror and establish a government which was more in accord with popular feeling and popular will. The extent of that feeling and the magnitude of the movement is, strange as it may seem, very clearly expressed in the Soviet authority’s own report of the events, in which time and again there are references to “ uprisings in the capital and in numerous towns, villages and districts in the countryside “. What words could portray more clearly the great force of popular feeling which was behind the uprising?
Honorable members no doubt have in their hands copies of the full report of the United Nations committee and also copies of a report recently issued by the International Commission of Jurists on the summary trials which are still taking place. I recommend that they read both of those reports.
Whatever opinions one may hold of the Suez affair, we ourselves, France and Israel did not ignore world opinion or the United Nations’ resolutions. We might not have conformed to the resolutions in their entirety, but we certainly did so to a very large extent. On the other hand, the Soviet authorities have continually flouted every resolution and request by the United Nations with regard to events in Hungary. The Secretary-General and the other members of the three-man committee orginally appointed were not allowed to visit Hungary. When a five-man committee was appointed by the Assembly on 9th January, by a vote of 59 to 8, with ten abstentions, and permission to visit Hungary was sought, that permission was refused. The Hungarian Government, such as it was, informed the United Nations on 10th January -
No committee of any kind has the right to conduct investigations into the Hungarian question by quoting testimony from unauthorized and biased persons and to establish observation in Hungary in order to obtain information.
Furthermore, it claimed that the discussion violated the country’s sovereignty - a statement which would be humorous if it were not so tragic.
Since then tragedy has been heaped on tragedy, terror upon terror and fear upon fear. All the worst features of the old regime have been restored in even stricter forms. Prison or concentration camps and the Soviet AVH control have been reestablished and 50,000 Hungarians - I do not say that the figure is strictly accurate - are reported to have been sold into slavery in Siberia and China for £30 a head. I have already mentioned the report of the International Commission of Jurists. That report states that arrests and trials with no acquittals are still continuing. Nearly 200,000 Hungarians sought freedom in other countries by fleeing over the Austrian border. Only 500 are reported to have gone into Czechoslovakia and, I think, approximately 7,000 into Yugoslavia. It is said that 50,000 is a conservative estimate of the number of people killed and wounded in the battles of Budapest, 10,000 of whom lie buried in the rubble of the 8,000-odd buildings that were destroyed, ls any further evidence needed of the extent and magnitude of the feeling throughout the whole country when those were the casualties, deportees and refugees, in a population of slightly less than 10,000,000?
Since then it has been difficult for near relatives of those who sought freedom elsewhere to obtain passports or visas. They seem to have been dealt with in a very inhuman manner. I hope that they will change but, all in all, it is a sad and sorry story.
One did not have to stand on the bridge at Andau in order to know the feelings of some of these refugees. Those in authority who had anything to do with the Hungarians who sought political asylum after the 1956 Olympic Games will never forget the fear that lay behind the eyes of those unfortunate athletes, nor will they forget the change that took place in a very short time when the athletes realized that there was freedom in Australia. No one without such experience can appreciate the difficulty of finding employment in a strange country for people who cannot speak even a word of the language. I congratulate the Government on what it has done for these refugees, although, as I know, there are still some problems unsolved.
Time and time again we hear the questions asked, “ Was it all in vain? “, “ What can the free world do?”. The first thing that we can do is not to allow ourselves and others to forget the facts of that tragic situation. Already, it has caused doubt and some hesitancy in the Kremlin. War itself is probably not so likely when you cannot rely on your satellite armies, or even on the Russian armies in the satellite countries.
Echoes of the Hungarian uprising have occurred in other countries. Three or four months ago, President Gomulka of Poland told his Central Committee, “ There will be no more Polish speeches written in Russian ink “. And I suppose there have been no more eloquent speeches of recent years than those written in the rich red blood of Hungarian martyrs - workers, students, writers and others. Some change has taken place in the
Russians’ policy in the matter of decentralization. There has been a purge of leaders and temporarily - or perhaps not - they have reversed the policy of milking the satellites and are now spending some money in trying to build up their economy.
Finally, red China was called in to help them with this problem. When the Premier of red China went to Europe, he supported the Soviet action in Hungary 100 per cent. This also is something that we should not forget. Another visit is now to be made by Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai to Europe. It will be interesting to see whether Mao’s policy of “Let all flowers bloom together - let divers schools of thought contend” will be advocated by the Chinese leaders, or whether they will take the opposite course. In either case, it is interesting to note that in China itself if any flower other than red blooms, it is given a very serious warning not to do it again.
The overthrow of the five principles of co-existence seems to have occurred with the death of all too many Hungarians. My time is short, therefore, I must conclude by warning the House that once more the arms of Kossuth lie buried beneath the blood-stained dust of the Red Star and the dirt and rubble of the ravaged and ruined city of Budapest. The democratic socialists, christian movements, freedom writers, and workers’ councils are dead, deported or, worse still, alive and directed by the AVH. To many of us it seems incredible that the United Nations cannot deny accreditation in the case of those nations which continue to defy and defame it. But I suppose we have to say to ourselves “ Say not the struggle nought availeth “. Human nature cannot be contained forever in a strait-jacket and the flame of freedom can never be extinguished; always some spark remains to rekindle the light.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Beale) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) each speaking for a period not exceeding twenty minutes.
– Mr. Speaker, the Government welcomes the discussion by this Parliament of the sombre events of October last year in Hungary and the implications flowing from those events which have brought the condemnation of the civilized world. The Government itself having made clear its own views on this matter, it is fitting that there should be an expression of parliamentary opinion indicating, not only to Australia, but to the whole world, that this country, in all its shades of political opinion, saving Communist opinion, is united in condemning those events and in its determination to give the most effective support and help it can to the people of Hungary, oppressed as they are by armed intervention at this time.
It is appropriate, if the Parliament is to discuss these matters, that the discussion should have been initiated by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) who not only occupies the position of chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of this Parliament, but has shown by his services in two world wars the strength of purpose and determination he brings to this issue of freedom when he comes to discuss it. So we have listened with appreciation to what he has had to say. I think he realizes as well as any man in this Parliament that this Government requires no urgings to give its support to the resolution words that have been read by Mr. Speaker - the terms of a resolution which is currently being debated by the United Nations General Assembly. The report of the United Nations Special Committee on Hungary which has been printed by the Government and which contains a foreword by my colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey)-
– How does that get around the House?
– It has been in circulation throughout Australia for some months. Does the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) deplore the fact that in this debate the Government has made copies available for the information of honorable gentlemen? I am surprised to hear him take a niggling point of that kind. Surely all honorable members not only have an interest in this matter, but desire to be as fully informed as they can from authoritative opinions on which they can reliably base judgments which they bring to this matter.
In the foreword which the Minister has appended to the report there is set out quite clearly the course of action followed by the Australian Government, revealing beyond argument our interest in this matter, our activity in pressing for what we felt to be the proper course of action to be followed by the United Nations General Assembly. And, of course, Australia has shown its support in other practical ways - by the contribution of money, by the grant of refuge to some thousands of the unhappy victims of Communist oppression in Hungary who fled their country in order to escape death or injury or imprisonment when these developments occurred.
I think that it would be useful, in the time available to me, if I tried to add something to the knowledge which is supplied in the report of the United Nations special committee. The report has conveniently attached to it a summary of the committee’s conclusions, which I urge all members of the Parliament to study, not once but many times. As the honorable member for Chisholm has explained, it is a report from five countries of divers political views and governments, the five countries whose representatives were completely in agreement on the conclusions which they reached after a painstaking study of the facts. They had no doubt in concluding that, far from being a concerted organized revolution sponsored from outside Hungary or sponsored by reactionary elements inside Hungary, this was a spontaneous national uprising caused by long-standing grievances. One of these grievances was the inferior status imposed on Hungary by communist Russia itself. The report counters the suggestion that this was an uprising of reactionary elements by its conclusion that the uprising was led by students, workers, soldiers and intellectuals, many of them Communists or former Communists. It goes on -
Those who took part in it insisted that democratic socialism should be the basis of the Hungarian political structure and that the land reform and other social achievements should be safeguarded. It is untrue that the uprising was fomented by reactionary circles in Hungary or that it drew its strength from “Imperialist” circles in the West.
– To what document is the Minister referring?
– That is stated in sub-paragraph (ii) of the conclusions, at page 22 of the printed document which has just been circulated. It is the report of the United Nations special committee.
– It is not.
– I take exception, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to the right honorable gentleman’s challenge of my statement. The document to which I am referring is clearly the report of the United Nations special committee, and I am referring particularly to chapters II. and XVII., including the summary of conclusions of the committee. I am reading from page 22.
Sub-paragraph (viii) of the conclusions reads -
During the few days of freedom, the popular nature of the uprising was proved by the appearance of a free press and radio and by general rejoicing among the people;
Then, on page 23, sub-paragraph (x) states -
Steps taken by the Workers’ Councils during this period were aimed at giving the workers real control of nationalized undertakings and at abolishing unpopular institutions, such as the production norms.
Production norms, mark you, which are so frequently condemned by honorable gentlemen opposite when they see instances of them in this country. The subparagraph continues -
Meanwhile, negotiations were proceeding for the complete withdrawal of Soviet troops and life in Budapest was beginning to return to normal;
The report goes on, in sub-paragraph (xii)-
Since the second Soviet intervention on 4th November there has been no evidence of popular support for Mr. Kadar’s Government. Mr. Kadar has proceeded step by step to destroy the power of the workers.
The final sub-paragraph (xiii), refers to the fact that-
A massive armed intervention by one Power on the territory of another with the avowed intention of interfering in its internal affairs must, by the Soviet Union’s own definition of aggression, be a matter of international concern.
I mentioned earlier that this Government has required no urging to have the report discussed. Indeed, we have not only pressed for discussion of the report in the
United Nations General Assembly, but, in addition, our delegate has already participated in the debate, lt will be of interest to honorable members to know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), in the last day or so, has received a letter signed by the federal president of the United Council of Migrants from Communist-dominated Europe in Australia. There are in this country tens of thousands of these refugees from Communist oppression, and they have written to the Prime Minister in the following terms: -
The United Council of Migrants from Communistdominated Europe, representing eleven federal national organizations and 250,000 migrants whose countries are behind the Iron Curtain, at its meeting on Monday, 8th September, 1957, carried unanimously a resolution that we should express to you and the Commonwealth Government our deepest gratitude for the firm stand of the Australian representatives at the United Nations in regard to the discussions of the Hungarian tragedy and for insisting on branding the Soviet military action as an aggressive interference in Hungarian internal affairs. We assure you, sir, and the Australian Government that this steadfast attitude in this matter and their insistence upon the introduction of free elections in Hungary is appreciated not only by all political refugees in the free world, but also by the people in the countries at present oppressed by Communist domination who cannot openly express their gratitude at this stage. We beg your Government to continue in pressing for the re-institution of democratic government and free elections in all countries now behind the Iron Curtain and earnestly ask God’s blessing on your fine efforts in this regard.
It is encouraging, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, to have this recognition by those who speak for people who have gone through harrowing experiences and who appreciate the active, determined part that this Government has played in keeping this subject in the forefront of international discussion. 1 had experience in recent months of coming personally in rather closer contact with these developments because of opportunities which came my way while in Europe. It happened that, during the period when I was presiding at the International Labour Conference, the Hungarian issue arose in a very critical form, because attending the conference were delegates from the Kadar regime - government delegates - and also delegates said to be representative of the workers and of the employers of Hungary. The conference was a gathering of 73 member countries of the world, and the issue arose as to whether or not the delegates, representing not only governments but also employers and worker organizations, should recognize as bona fide representatives of Hungary these delegates nominated by the Kadar regime. I suggest, sir, that we had striking confirmation in those discussions of the unity of the civilized world in condemning the events in Hungary. It expressed that unity in rallying behind those who remained oppressed there. Here were representatives from countries which do not take any particular line in the world-wide ideological contest, many of them from what are termed the neutralist countries and others from Scandinavian, Asian and African countries which, generally speaking, hold aloof from public disputation between Communist countries and those of free enterprise.
The remarkable fact was that when we got down to the issue as to whether or not these delegates should be expelled, and with representatives, 1 repeat, of those three groups voting, the record, so far as expulsion of the employer delegates was concerned, went this way: 141 in favour of their expulsion; 7 against; 35 abstentions. When it came to the employee delegates, the vote was: 141 for their expulsion; 5 against; 20 abstentions. I question whether there could have been a more overwhelming expression of opinion by the countries of the world in this matter.
I propose, in the limited time available to me, to quote from the speeches of two of the worker delegates at that conference and to ask honorable gentlemen in all parts of the House to accept these quotations as statements of opinion, not of governments, or of people such as employers, who could be alleged in some propagandist quarters to have biased views, but of worker organizations. Before doing so, however, let me say that a Communist from England, a young man named Peter Fryer, who was a reporter on the “ Daily Worker “, the Communist newspaper in England, went to Hungary at the end of October. The events about which we are speaking occurred in the week beginning 23rd October. He sent back to’ his paper, this Communist paper in England, reports describing the events in Hungary as he saw them. The reports were not published by the newspaper becausethey gave a very different picture from that being spread by Communist propagandas throughout the world. He has since published a book, “ Hungarian Tragedy “, and as an introduction to it he has three quotations from the statements of leading Communist propagandists and theorists. The first, from Karl Marx, is -
A people which enslaves others forges its own chains.
Then he quotes Frederick Engels as saying -
A victorious proletariat can force no blessings of any kind upon any foreign nation without undermining its own victory by so doing.
And he quotes Lenin as saying -
No nation can be free if it oppresses other nations.
He contrasts these statements from the leading theorists of communism with the degradation of Communist practice, as reflected in the events of Hungary.
From there, I move on to the statements of the two worker delegates to whom I have referred. The first, Mr. Delaney, is one of the outstanding figures in the industrial movement on the workers’ side in the free world and is general secretary of the great aggregation of trade unions in the United States of America known as the American Federation of Labour - Congress of Industrial Organizations. Speaking in the debate on 26th June at the International Labour conference, he said -
We face to-day a solemn test. It is one from which none of us can shrink. If we are human beings with hearts and souls, if we are members of this organization, we are bound to carry forward the fight which the free people of Hungary so nobly began. Theirs is a fight for freedom, for true freedom, for freedom of whatever definition men of goodwill may decide. Theirs was a heroic struggle against tyranny and oppression, a struggle which must never be compromised and never be forgotten. We must make plain what we mean when we say we solemnly declare the rights of man. We have compromised long enough. It is time to act. It is our grave duty to-day to expel from this organization these men who have come here in the name of the Hungarian people, but who are, in fact, mere puppets. They no more represent the people of Hungary than a tyrant represents his slaves. It is not I who tell you this, it is the considered judgment of an objective body from five different countries in five different sections of the world. It is the condemnation of the United National Special Committee on Hungary that we must heed.
He goes on to say -
We have here, in this conference, hand-picked Soviet stooges who are trying to tell us they represent the Hungarian people. We must reply in agreement with our parent body’s report on this matter. The true representatives of the Hungarian people have fled, or been murdered, or are now enslaved. We reject the impostors. May the people of Hungary soon be free to choose their own delegates.
– Was anybody representing Hungary at the conference?
– The government?
– The government and the employer and the worker delegates.
– Who was rejected by them? All three?
– The employer and employee representatives were rejected. The vote on the government delegates was a majority vote in favour of expulsion of the government delegates, but the standing orders of the -conference required a two-thirds majority, and because of the intention of the United Nations to deal with the credentials of the Hungarian delegates to the United Nations Assembly several governments, including this Government, abstained from voting on that particular issue.
– By implication you permitted the Kadar Government to be there.
– Oh, no! What we did was to leave the determination on the government delegates to the United Nations, and that will be dealt with in this session. I have a limited time at my disposal, Mr. Speaker, and I am not going to be led away from more important material.
The second worker delegate whose statement I want to quote was from France. He dealt specifically with this story that the Hungarian revolution was a counterrevolution by some fascist organization. He said -
I do not know, ladies and gentlemen, what elements might have been at work in the Hungarian revolution, but I do know that my organization has had to welcome many Hungarian refugee workers, and these were not fascists, these, were workers, workers who were not fleeing from a socialist revolution but fleeing from police oppression. They were not seeking the bourgeois order, they were simply asking for freedom, the means of securing respect for their human dignity. That was what they were seeking when they fled their country leaving behind so many things to which they were so deeply attached.
If we needed more evidence of how united the free world and, indeed, the civilized world, free or socialist, was on these matters, we have the fact of the courage of Austria in taking in these refugees although flanked by Communist countries and under potential threat from those Communist countries. We have also the fact that when the Austrian border was closed, and closed by the most drastic and brutal methods, including the killing of people who tried to escape across it, even Yugoslavia, itself a Communist country, granted refuge to 17,000 of these victims of oppression.
– I am glad this matter has been brought up by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). He knows perfectly well that it is quite impossible to have an adequate debate under these conditions, but we support some debate because there are some aspects of this matter that are of grave importanceOne of them is illustrated by the fact that the resolution refers to other documents. The honorable member for Chisholm knows that what we are dealing with is contained in paragraph 9, but we have not the other documents before us. In other words, we are attempting, here, to debate a proposed resolution before the United Nations when that resolution may be amended at the United Nations - and 1 hope it will be extended. In those circumstances, a unanimous decision may be reached at the United Nations; but, paragraph 9 concerns six or seven resolutions of the United Nations, none of which is available to honorable members. But let that pass, because the essence of the matter has, I think, been stated by the honorable member for Chisholm.
I come at once to two or three aspects of this matter. I do not think that we need to look in detail at the report or at this summary of it and the sponsored resolution. The real point is whether, during the attempt in Hungary to overthrow the existing Communist regime and substitute for it a regime of democratic socialism, which was the objective of the manoeuvre and of the righting-
– No cheers from the Government benches on that.
– No, no cheers from the Government, and that explains the hypocrisy that invests this whole subject. It explains, for instance, what the “ Atlantic
Monthly “ - had to say about Mr. Dulles. Mr. Dulles, after bringing this matter up and denouncing it, according to the “ Atlantic Monthly “, a few months ago - moved at once to assure Moscow, partly by his public words, and partly by private messages through the Yugoslavs, that Washington like Moscow did not want to see governments in the satellite nations unfriendly to Russia, and that the United States did not seek to add them as military allies. Washington’s worst fears however were realized-
Worst fears, not hopes - when the Hungarian rebels-
For “ rebels “, substitute “ social democrats “ - pushed far behind Titoism-
Which is communism in another form - to bring on the Red Army bloodbath.
One finds in all the Hungarian publications in America to-day - and when I was abroad, recently, I made it my business to see them-denunciations of the American Government for taking the matter up to a certain stage and then leaving the Hungarians defenceless, because the alternative to the Hungarian Government would be a government of social democracy - democratic socialism - and I shall prove that by what I shall narrate personally in a moment. Then, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) talks about the International Labour Organization, and admits what the Government did on the question as to whether Kadar, the Communist stooge of Russia, should be admitted at the International Labour Organization conference as a government representative - because they were representatives first of government, secondly of employers, and thirdly of employees. Australia did not vote against it and he took his place. These bloody murderers, these blackguards, these brigands, whatever you like to call them, took their place at the International Labour Organization conference presided over by the Minister. He gives us some excuse for what happened. He says, “ We left it because the United Nations had not given a decision “. The United Nations has not given a decision yet. It has not yet adopted the report. I have no doubt it will probably do so, but if the Minister likes to talk technicalities, he should not choose that one until the United Nations does so. But let that go.
From the very first the Labour party - and I have been very active in this matter in a very direct way - intervened, and appealed through the Prime Minister of India in connexion with cases of people condemned to death. Those representations through Mr. Nehru were successful, lt is perfectly true that their success depended upon the influence he could bring to bear, and also as representing the Australian Labour party as a democratic socialist party. But they were successful in a large number of cases. My colleague, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) did the same thing. Instead of trying to make party political capital, we want to see something done about, the future of Hungary. Bringing up these matters is important if one proceeds to act on them and do something more positive. That is the thing I wish to emphasize. I was asked by representatives of Hungarians in this country to get in touch, when 1 was abroad, with the social-democratic Government of Hungary in exile. They are the very people who, at the critical point, were supporting the rebellion or revolution or whatever one likes to call it - the attempt to overthrow a tyrannical government and to introduce into Hungary a democratic system based on socialism. That came from representative Hungarians in this country. I was asked to see one of the greatest leaders, I suppose, of the social democrats of Hungary, Miss Anna Kéthly. She is a world-famous woman, because she was in gaol during both the fascist regime and, later on, the Communist regime. She occupied a position in the government before the Communists finally seized power. Her fame is known throughout all the world, irrespective of politics.
I first discussed the matter with the British Labour party officials, and I, of course with my colleagues, attended the meeting in England of twenty-six Labour parties of the British Commonwealth. Through the intervention of the secretary of the British Labour party, I attended the Vienna Congress of the Socialist International at which every Labour party or social democrat party in Europe was represented; there was no exception. The representation went further than that; some nations outside Europe, which I need not mention, were represented. At the conference, I spoke on the Hungarian question and asked for action. 1 asked for resolutions on the matter to be passed, and submitted that the struggle should never be given up. Condemnation of the terror that was caused by the Russians on their return to Hungary was, of course, obvious.
I now wish to read something to try to remove the element of make-believe and hypocrisy in the approach to this problem. I want to see social democrat governments established in Hungary and these other countries which are satellites of Russia, because that is all they are - not merely governments like that of Poland, which are Communist governments with a slight modification of the previous system. The establishment of social democrat governments is the only hope for peace in the world. But they are not the only countries that need a change in the basic form of government, as I shall show. The Minister for Labour and National Service quoted a paragraph in the Casey report.
– It is not the Casey report; it is the report of the United Nations.
– It is the Casey document. It has no right to be before us. It is a portion of the United Nations report.
Government supporters interjecting,
– Do not interrupt. Honorable members know exactly what I mean. The paragraph to which I refer states that the uprising was led by students and others. Those who took part in it insist that democratic socialism should be the basis of the Hungarian political structure, and that land reform and other social achievements should be safeguarded.
The decision reached at the Socialist International was unanimous. The British Labour party, the French social democrats, the German social democrats, and the parties in Italy, Holland, Belgium, the northern states, the Scandinavian countries, and even of countries outside Europe, were unanimous in their decision. I take my stand on the resolution, which is headed “ Resolution on Hungary and the Victims of Political Persecution “. It states, first -
This Congress of the Socialist International- lt was an international conference of parties, whether they be called Labour parlies, social democrats or democratic socialists. The name has been seized upon by the press of this country to attack the Labour party, which has always been a party of democratic socialism. That is the common phrase used to describe the objectives of the political Labour movement in this country and in other countries. All these parties, broadly speaking, have the same objectives, and act through the Socialist International. I shall state the first part of the resolution again -
This Congress of the Socialist International calls upon the whole world to protest against the cruel terror which the Communist counterrevolution employs to take its revenge on the fighters for Hungary’s freedom.
That goes the whole way. The resolution continues -
It protests in particular against the savage sentences imposed by Kadar’s courts-
He is the Kadar against whom the Minister for Labour and National Service did not vote when he sought permission for his government to be represented at the International Labour Organization - which commit to the gallows hundreds, and condemn to long terms of imprisonment thousands of students, workers and others whose only crime was to support their people’s struggle for freedom.
Will honorable members opposite agree with the next paragraph in the resolution? It states -
Its voice is raised, not only on behalf of the victims of the terror in Hungary, but on behalf of all those who are persecuted and deprived of their freedom in all those countries where, under whatever regime, human rights are violated.
Will honorable members opposite support that?
– Like the Australian Labour party?
– I am reading the unanimous resolution of all the social democrat parties of Europe. It is a decision of immense authority coming, as it does in some cases, from representatives of governments. For example, in Austria, the Labour party, or the Social Democrat party, is an. integral part of the government. The resolution continues -
Also included in this protest is the persecution of liberal-minded men in Franco Spain -
Franco Spain is one of the countries that is supporting the resolution which is being submitted to the United Nations today. This resolution of the Socialist International refers to the Franco Spain of to-day and not that of Chamberlain’s time, although the people who condone it to-day are the very people who condoned it then and are represented by supporters of this Government. The resolution continues -
Also included in this protest is the persecution of liberal-minded men in Franco-Spain and in several Latin American countries-
It is obvious that in several Latin American countries the doctrine of force is paramount. Democracy in most of those countries is almost a sham. When one looks through the list of 36 representatives who sponsored the resolution now before the United Nations, which is correct on the essential points, one wonders where the representatives of other countries are. Five of the British Commonwealth nations are not included in those which are sponsoring the resolution. The Afro-Asian countries, including India, on which, in my opinion, depends the world’s hopes for peace in the immediate future, are not sponsoring it. It is certain that India will work for a settlement of this problem along the lines of the right of the Hungarian people to have their own social democrat government and to get rid of the Communists. That will not be easy. The fourth paragraph of the resolution of the Socialist International protests against the persecution of liberal-minded men, as I have read - as well as the use of most reprehensible police methods in countries where a struggle for national dependence is being waged.
Do honorable members opposite agree with that? I have never noticed them supporting it. This paragraph further states -
Congress condemns the racial discrimination practised in the Union of South Africa-
Do Government supporters condemn it?
– I am glad that there is one Government supporter, at any rate, who condemns it, because South Africa has become a police state. At the Labour gathering which I attended in London I condemned it as being a police state because of its refusal to issue a passport to the head of the South African Labour party to enable him to attend the London conference. I shall repeat the sentence -
Congress condemns the racial discrimination practised in the Union of South Africa no less than that practised in the Soviet Union against the Jewish minority.
The resolution further states -
As regards the dictatorial regimes of the East, this Congress demands as a minimum condition for the realization of co-existence the restoration, in full freedom, of a democratic Socialist Labour movement wherever it existed before, and the release of all political prisoners.
Many of the people who were in gaol and some who were condemned to death had their sentences reduced as a result of my intervention - the Labour party’s intervention - acting through the Prime Minister of India. The resolution further states -
The Socialist International expresses its solidarity with the fighters for freedom in all lands and salutes them in deep gratitude.
Miss Anna Kéthly, representing the socialist democrat party of Hungary in exile, attended the congress. So we have the people who are most concerned and many of whose relatives have been killed working for a social democrat government in Hungary. That is the one thing which this Government abhors; it does not believe in a socialist democracy. “ Social democracy “ means having a government with socialist objectives to be achieved by democratic means. That is all it means in this country, too. The humbug and hypocrisy in the expressions of condemnation and praise in this country are made absolutely clear in speeches delivered in this chamber.
That was the Vienna conference. Subsequently, I discussed the matter further, over a considerable period and from many aspects, with the Prime Minister of India. I look to India and other nations which have not committed themselves on the resolution to discuss the resolution and put positive aims into it, in an endeavour to find out whether the cold war which this event has aggravated can be handled and the whole subject tackled. One cannot say anything stronger, in my opinion, than what was said in the resolution of the Socialist International, but this report is, to some extent at any rate, misused. I cannot possibly check all the facts in such a huge report, although I think, in substance, it states exactly what the Socialist International decided had occurred, and what Labour parties throughout the world condemn. But I do not want this report to be used as a device to stop the world from proceeding with disarmament discussions. I want them to be resumed. That is the kind of matter to which we must move on, assisting practically as far as we can. I put it to the Government that the acid test is: What is it prepared to do, practically, to assist the coming into power in Hun gary and similar countries of the Labour parties there - in other words, the Social Democratic parties?
When the Parliament discusses this question, it is not a matter merely of condemning, but of condemning and going forward to something else. What was done in America, to a large extent, and what was done here was to bring out people, some of whom, the Government knew, could not get jobs. That was cruel treatment of people who should be protected. I pledge this party to give every assistance to Hungarian refugees in this country. Every one of them is entitled to what every Australian is entitled to - a job in this country, a chance to make this country his home and a chance to support in Australia a party similar to the Social Democratic party that he wanted in his own country. Honorable members opposite do not like that statement. They are ignorant of all the main facts.
I ask the honorable member for Chisholm to continue his activities in these debates, because I have no doubt that they will contribute to the ultimate solution of the problem. Condemnation of what happened in the past must be expressed, but the delegates to the United Nations must get together to find a positive solution and work for the end of the cold war. Why do honorable members opposite find that statement laughable? I know that their political fate depends upon the continuance of the cold war, but the people want peace. That is the proper attitude to this matter, and it is the attitude of the party I represent.
– I desire to make a personal explanation.
– Does the right honorable gentleman claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, most signally. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), not once, but more than once in the course of his speech, implied - indeed, on one occasion, he went as far as he could towards stating - that a vote recorded by the Australian Government’s representatives at the International Labour Organization conference in effect endorsed the credentials of the government delegation from Hungary, of the Kadar regime.
– I rise to order. I based my remarks entirely upon the Minister’s statement that the Government representatives abstained from voting.
Order! I am listening very carefully to what the Minister is saying. So far, he is in order, but he must come to the point of his personal explanation.
– I am coming directly to the point. The right honorable gentleman draws from the abstention the conclusion which 1 have just put. I want to make is quite clear that that conclusion cannot fairly be drawn.
– This is a correction.
– It is a correction of what the Leader of the Opposition tried to convey to this Parliament. He tried to convey that this Government, by some means or other, refrained from expressing its condemnation of the Kadar regime. I am trying to point out that the practice of this and other Australian governments at the International Labour Organization conference-
Honorable members interjecting,
Order! The right honorable gentleman will resume his seat for a moment. I insist on quietness while the Minister makes his personal explanation. I am listening very carefully to him to see that he keeps within the Standing Orders, but I cannot listen while he is being interrupted from both sides of the House.
– The practice of this Government and other Australian governments at the International Labour Organization conference has been to leave to the United Nations questions concerning the credentials of government delegations and either to support the claims of those delegates in the United Nations or to abstain from voting on the question. There was nothing inconsistent between what we did on that occasion and the action that we subsequently took in condemning the worker and employee delegations.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister, after saying that he was misrepresented, misrepresented me. What I said was this, and this only: When the employees were out and the employers were out, the Government of Hungary was still left. When the question of its credentials came to the vote, this Government, through the Minister, who was the delegate of this country, abstained from voting, and the representatives of the Government of Hungary got their seats at the council table of the International Labour Organization.
– I should have thought there was enough material in regard to Hungary to fill a speech, and 1 was somewhat surprised, therefore, that the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) went globe-trotting. However, I do not want to make this in any way a party political matter. I am not concerned with whom the Government and people of Hungary want to represent them. I am concerned rather with the fact that by tyrannous aggression from Russia they have been prevented from having their own government and are being enslaved. I suggest that the House would do well to turn its mind to that, and to keep its mind on it in the limited time available in this debate.
I fear that the right honorable member for Barton was therefore wrong when he suggested that failure to intervene more effectively with force in Hungary was due to the fact that the emergent regime of Hungary was disliked by the governments of other countries. The unfortunate fact is that the failure to intervene to uphold the right was due to our lack of power to intervene to uphold the right.
We made no physical intervention while the Hungarian people were trampled into blood and dust. Must we always, from now on, condone this? It happened in Budapest. Is Paris, Rome or Sydney to be the next city? After all, these are matters of self-interest, because we, as human beings, share in the fate of the whole world. The interest of all is now the interest of every one of us.
If we cannot intervene physically, at least let us remember that we can intervene morally by making clear to the world, and keeping clear before the world, the enormity of the crime that has been committed against the Hungarian people. To tell the truth is indeed a weapon in this cold war. We owe it to the Hungarian dead and living. It is not a small weapon.
It can help to bring down the Communist subversive organizations in countries outside Russia. We have heard in this debate how former Communists have become disillusioned. We know, for example, how Communists who rose at recent British trade union meetings were howled down when they tried to defend what Russia had done in Hungary.
Even inside Russia itself - and surely our final objective must be to change conditions inside Russia itself - the realization of this truth must have some impact. The Russian soldier who comes home from Hungary sharing the guilt of the Russian Government for what was done in Budapest is to some extent an unconscious ambassador for a new way of life inside Russia.
There is no lack of evidence. There has been circulated in this House to-day and throughout the country earlier - and it is available for greater circulation - an impartial and unanimous report of a United Nations committee set up to discuss these matters and to find the truth about them. The work of the committee was impeded bv the guilty refusal of Russia to allow it to go to the scene and to see the evidence at firsthand - a refusal which, by itself, is surely conclusive evidence of Russia’s guilt and of her consciousness of her own guilt in this matter. However, based on ample evidence, it is an impartial, effective and conclusive report. I shall summarize it in words which were used yesterday in the United Nations by Mr. Shann, the very distinguished Australian representative on the committee. He said: -
What in outline were the facts which the committee found? They were that the Soviet Union intervened with force in the internal affairs of Hungary to suppress a popular national uprising of the people against a form of Government which they detested; that this uprising was not inspired or assisted from outside Hungary; and that the Government installed by Soviet armed might did not have the support of the Hungarian people, and has only been able to remain in power through the use of an apparatus of foreign force and internal repression. The methods of the secret police before and since the Hungarian revolution to maintain in power a government without real popular support were viewed unanimously by the committee with horror and with scorn.
I suggest that every well-intentioned member of this House will share in that horror and scorn when he knows the truth.
This is not an isolated report. There are reports from other sources, including trade union sources, which I hope will be quoted and which I hope will be available to honorable members opposite. The conclusion is unanimous. There is a report by the International Committee of Jurists, a committee of no small consequence, whose British inspirer is Sir Hartley Shawcross, a Labour member of Parliament. The committee has on it the Professors of Law in Paris and Copenhagen, and the AttorneyGeneral of the Supreme Court of the Netherlands. Also associated with it, I understand, is Australia’s Chief Justice. It is a committee of the very highest standing and its summary report of 2nd September has also been circulated to honorable members. I wish I had time to read it to the House.
There is, indeed, no lack of evidence. Our task is to make the evidence known. Some weeks ago, 23 members of this House and, I think, thirteen members of the Senate signed a letter to the press suggesting that the report of the United Nations committee should receive the widest circulation and that our policy should be to see that it received the widest circulation. We suggested that it should go into the high schools and the universities so that the young people - and the young people were very largely the movers in the Hungarian uprising against tyranny - should know the facts of life and the ways of the world in which, unfortunately, they have to live - if they succeed in living. If there is any value in social studies and history, here is a document par excellence for the school.
I am glad to say that four State governments - those of Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia - and the Commonwealth Government, in relation to the Australian Capital Territory have agreed to the circulation of copies of this report in high schools. The Commonwealth Minister has stated publicly that they will be made available free of charge to the State for this purpose. I have not yet received replies from Western Australia and New South Wales, but I am hopeful that they too, will follow this course.
There is no greater instrument to save us from a repetition of this crime and to make the Russians see that the crime does not pay, than telling the truth. !.et the people know the truth! Let the people see what Soviet Russia is and what i’ does so that the Communists who do ant’ sponsor these things will be regarded with loathing and their system regarded as a system of degradation. What has happened in Hungary is surely appalling.
We have failed to give physical protection to the Hungarian people. But an old phrase used by the church for almost 2,000 years is that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church. The blood of the Hungarian patriots may yet be the seed of freedom for this world!
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) said, “ Let the truth be known and let the truth prevail “. No one can quarrel with that exhortation. Let us know the truth. Let us know the truth about communism anywhere and everywhere. Let us know the truth about attacks on freedom everywhere. Let us have full knowledge of everything concerning all forms of totalitarianism, and the world will be free. Over the years, the Labour party has been subjected to many attacks - all unfair and many of them vicious - based on the suggestion that the Australian Labour party, being a democratic socialist party, is just one step removed from communism. No matter what condemnation the United Nations may express in regard to Hungary, nothing that has yet appeared can equal in severity and in unrestrained language the condemnation of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, expressed immediately after the rising in Hungary. I am indebted to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) for the text of the resolution, and I think a portion of it, at least, should go into the record. The resolution reads -
The workers of the free world are profoundly moved by the heroic struggle of the Hungarian workers. The Executive Board of the I.C.F.T.U. speaking on behalf of free workers declares: -
The Hungarian glorious struggle for freedom and democracy must be supported by the most vigorous efforts to defend Hungary against her oppressors. The Soviet imperialism with its reliance on sheer force stands condemned as morally bankrupt, politically dishonest, economically oppressive and socially reactionary.
The Soviet Union is guilty of open repeated aggression against the freedom loving people of Hungary. The Soviet Government has revealed the hypocrisy of its adherence to the ideal of peace and to the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations.
The Soviet Union stands accused of the crime of genocide perpetrated upon the Hungarian nation through massacres and mass deportation.
The Free Trade Unions can admit no relation with a regime which has used brutal military force to crush a nation struggling for freedom, democracy and human rights.
That is only half the resolution. Time precludes me from reading the remainder. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) read the decision of the Congress of Socialist International in Vienna on 6th July last. As he said, that meeting was attended by Anna Kéthly, the great heroine of the Hungarian revolution and the victim of imprisonment for most of her adult life at the hands of fascists who controlled the Horthy regime and the Communist regime. The conference was attended by 130 delegates, and included Hugh Gaitskell, Morgan Phillips - the retiring president of the Socialist International - Aneurin Bevan, and three other distinguished British Labour leaders.
We in the Australian Labour party, like our British colleagues, know where we stand in relation to communism. We have always been wholeheartedly, uncompromisingly, and unequivocally opposed to the dictators, the use of terror, and the oppression of the many by the few. We condemn, equally, assaults on freedom anywhere. There are in the world to-day people who attack communism, but do not like social democracy, or democratic socialism. No matter how our case may be misrepresented, we shall continue to struggle against those who would try to prevent the transformation of societies based upon monopoly capitalism to a condition of free democracy. We believe that the evils of monopoly capitalism, in Russia and elsewhere, sowed the seeds from which communism grew. If there were no monopoly capitalism, there would be no communism. That has ever been our view.
We have always maintained a humanitarian outlook, although we have not always talked about it. We have, as the Leader of the Opposition said, repeatedly appealed to Mr. Nehru, and others, to intervene on behalf of people wrongly condemned for crimes they never committed in Russia and an her satellite territories. I should like to quote a cable that I sent to Mr. Nehru, on 19th July last, lt reads -
On behalf of Australian Labor Movement I seek your good offices in any efforts that you may be able to make to have capital penalty on seven Hungarians commuted and clemency extended to them by Hungarian Government. We know of your great mediation on other occasions especially at the request of our leader Dr. Evatt who is now visiting India. Anything you can do to intercede in these distressing cases would be deeply appreciated by the Australian Labor party.
I signed that cable as acting leader of the Australian Labour party, and I know that I spoke for all its members. Time, unfortunately, does not permit me to discuss the matter very fully, but I join issue with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) about the attitude of the Government’s representatives at the last conference of the International Labour Organization. The Minister said - and I knew of the fact, and had known it for some time - that the Government’s representatives abstained from voting.
– Not after two votes had been taken.
– J did not say that. The Minister’s explanation is that ihe Government subsequently condemned the actions of the Hungarian Government.
– Action was taken at the time.
– The representatives of the Australian Government should not, at any time, have abstained from voting on the question of Hungary’s admission to membership of the International Labour Organization. The Minister said that the representatives of other Australian governments had done the same thing on previous occasions.
– And so did the representatives of the governments of other Commonwealth countries except the United Kingdom.
– I know, but I do not believe that it was right for the government of this or any other Commonwealth country to abstain from voting on this question or any other question of equal magnitude. Whether or not the representatives of employers and employees made their positions clear before or after the government representatives took their action, the Government will have difficulty in explaining to the Australian people why its representatives abstained from voting.
A fortnight ago, I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) asking him to table in this House the reports of the government, employer and employee representatives who comprised the Australian delegations to International Labour Organization conferences, from the 34th to the 40th conferences inclusive. I hope that those documents will be tabled and that, as a result, the Government will change its attitude towards manoeuvres - that is all they are - by the representatives of the Australian Government and the governments of other Commonwealth countries in relation to Hungary, or any other Communist power. The Government has weakened its position in relation to the Hungarian question by the action that its representatives took under its direction.
In the minute or two that I have left, I should like to put into the record portion of one of the most moving documents that I have ever read. The document is a telegram sent by the Rector and seventeen professors of Szeged University in Hungary to Dr. George Polanyi on 3rd November, 1 956. It states -
The reborn democratic Hungary, having regained its national independence, wishes to live in peace and friendship with our immediate neighbours and all nations of the world. We, the University of Szeged, address our appeal to all the universities of the world to rally to our side with their moral authority.
The Committee on Science and Freedom, in England, of which Dr. Polanyi and his wife are joint secretaries, on 6th November. 1956, addressed to the world a letter that states -
On Saturday November 3rd we received a telegram from the Rector and seventeen professors of Szeged University in Hungary, appealing “ to all the universities of the world to rally to our side with their moral authority “,
As you know, the Hungarian people have since been engulfed by the Russian invaders and the freedom which they enjoyed for a few days has been extinguished.
We feel, nevertheless, that we should do our best to carry out this last wish of our Hungarian colleagues, uttered before their voice was again silenced by the dictatorship, and we appeal to you to help us in this endeavour.
The professors who signed the telegram may be dead now, but if they are alive they are enduring a living death in prison. Among those who authorized Dr. Polanyi to send his message to the world are men like Earl Russell - better known as Bertrand Russell - Salvador de Madariaga, Jacques Maritain, Otto Hahn, Sir Henry Dale and Robert Oppenheimer.
The House has spent its time profitably in discussing this matter to-day. Let us hope that what happens at the United Nations also to-day will produce results beneficial to the oppressed people of Hungary.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In the very limited time at my disposal, I wish to remind the House that this proposal for discussion has two purposes. The first, of course, is to enable us to express approval of certain action to be taken by the United Nations General Assembly, and the second is to enable us to express our horror at, and condemnation of, the conduct disclosed in the report of the special committee of the United Nations that inquired into events in Hungary. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and, to a degree, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), have introduced into the debate matter that tends to obscure the real business before the House. The Leader of the Opposition, in the first place, questioned, to some degree, the authenticity of the abbreviated document that has been issued under the authority of the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) and suggested that it may be considered as a Casey document. I have before me a copy of the full report of the United Nations committee, another copy of which is on the table immediately in front of the position in which the Leader of the Opposition stood when he addressed the House. The summary issued by the Minister for External Affairs states completely and clearly the facts set out in chapters 2 and 17 of the full report.
What are the facts? They are that the uprising in Hungary was not engineered by the West. It stemmed spontaneously from the objection of the people of Hungary to control by a foreign power, and was a clear expression of lack of faith in, and disillusion about, something that the Hungarian people had accepted as a means of bringing on the millennium. I suggest to
Opposition members that, when they advance their present theories, they should have some regard to what can happen under the influence of a theory that, if it is taken to its logical conclusion, must bring with it not only international communism, but also dictatorship, and finally, tyranny of mankind.
In conclusion, I say that the United! Nations report is a human document which must make any one who reads it feel ashamed of mankind, and realize clearly the nature of the evil power that masquerades in the guise of the brotherhood of man. It is really only a form of dictatorship that uses the power of great armies and the secret police to enslave men, and destroy the freedom that they have cherished through the ages.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 11th September (vide page 546), on motion by Sir Arthur Fadden -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division No.1 - The Senate - namely, “ Salaries and allowances, £30,000 “, be agreed to.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- When. I first came to Canberra there was a most unreal atmosphere about the place, and it gradually dawned on me that the Government did not govern the country. Certain persons years ago decided to build the capital city on a second-class sheep station. Then, of course, they had to get public servants. They dragged public servants from Melbourne and Sydney, away from their social contacts and their family relations, and brought them to Canberra, where they had to live without any amenities and under very difficult circumstances. However, the community that was brought intobeing in those days gradually came together and assumed power. To-day that community completely controls the implementation of government policy. The members of the community have built an aristocracy of their own, in which positions are handed down from father to son, even unto the third generation. Many of them receive salaries as large as that of the Prime
Minister. When the salaries of private members of Parliament are compared with those of the top public servants, the politician has to take the place of Lazarus at the rich man’s gate.
The public servants are definitely in control of government to-day. It is useless for any honorable member to place important matters affecting his electorate, or his State, or Australia generally before these people. They have a knowledge of Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, and they may have had a couple of trips overseas, but they have no knowledge whatever of the rest of Australia. Yet these are the people who at present are in control of the government of Australia. I visited one department recently and was passed on to five different men in turn. Of course, these men must be kept in their jobs. When I came to the fifth man I said, “ You should have the required knowledge; I shall go no further “. Of course, his answer was “ No “. Whoever he was, he was a Caesar in his particular domain, because that “ No “ stood. Rather than go to these men, one may adopt the alternative of seeing the secretary to a Minister, who will then ring up a departmental officer, and between them they will decide whether an application will be granted or not. It is a sorry state of affairs when we have a group of men who do not represent the people, and who have no responsibility to them, in control of the government. I remember an occasion when these public servants asked for a flat increase of salary of £1,000 a year, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) obediently passed legislation through this Parliament to give effect to that request. Now I understand that another flat increase of £500 a year has been asked for, and the Prime Minister will again obediently introduce legislation to grant this increase. These things show the control that the top public servants have over the Government.
I now wish to comment upon the attitude of the Prime Minister towards the government of this country. The Prime Minister should not leave the Government as a leaderless legion, as he has done several times since I have been here. Every year he has had some excuse for going overseas. Last year he was away from Australia for a longer period than he was in Australia. He attended a Prime Ministers’ conference at which he criticized very strongly a gentle man called Nasser, who was in charge of Egyptian affairs. Certain action was decided upon by Britain, France and Israel. The shrewd diplomats of Britain knew that if representations were made to Nasser no satisfactory answer would be forthcoming. They decided that they needed somebody unsophisticated enough not to realize this fact, and sufficiently conceited to think he could do the job. The Prime Minister was still meandering around Britain, and so the position was offered to him. He accepted it with both hands, and he publicly criticized Nasser. When he arrived at the airport in Cairo he was met by the No. 3 man in the Egyptian Government. Later on he was allowed to meet other men and discuss matters with them, although these men had no power to give a reply one way or the other. Then the Prime Minister was given a personal interview with Nasser, and no doubt he presented the case in his usual flowery manner, but Nasser’s answer was in the negative.
But how well Colonel Nasser knew our Prime Minister! After the negotiations were completed he gave a dinner on the banks of the Nile. The Prime Minister, who could have told us something about it in order to dispel some of the gloom in this chamber, said not one word about that dinner that was given on the banks of the river of romance. Did he tell us whether it was held in the moonlight and whether the silhouettes of the dancing girls traditional to Egypt were faintly seen by the spectators? Or did he tell us whether there was artificial lighting which allowed a closer view of the houris who were entertaining the people at the dinner? Not one word did the Prime Minister say about it. What a story he could have made of it! I am sure that if he had built up the story, as he undoubtedly could, Hollywood would have been filming it to-day. Why has he been so quiet about it? Why so confidential? Why so secretive about this dinner? We do not want long, windy reports, and we have never got them from the Prime Minister, but a story like this would have been worth listening to, and it would have shown that he was at least observant.
Having failed in his mission, the Prime Minister came back to Australia, and we saw him here almost on the point of declaring war on somebody. I do not know whether it would have been on the United
States of America because of its action as a senior member of the United Nations, or whether it would have been on Egypt, but he was certainly talking war on the floor of this chamber. Fortunately the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) was able to point out that we were members of the United Nations, and that the United Nations was the proper body to discuss and settle this question.
This year the Prime Minister decided to go to Japan, and there he engaged in some amateur diplomacy. The people of the world know the Prime Minister’s habit of giving away the assets of Australia and getting nothing in return. I am sure that many of them look on him as Father Christmas. He went to Japan and, under what he terms an agreement, he gave Japan millions of pounds. What did he bring back? The Asian ‘flu. That is the return Australia got from that trip. He was unable to attend the House because of this wog, and daily bulletins were issued about his health. Then he gradually started to recover. Soon he recovered very rapidly and was ready for another trip overseas. When he arrived overseas, his press agent did a mighty good job. He said that the Prime Minister would, no doubt, control the Commonwealth Prime Ministers conference. No doubt the other Prime Ministers would take great notice of him and he would definitely make an impact on the thought of the world. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister could not live up to his press agent’s expectations. He slipped. Whether the press agent missed out or not, I do not know. The press agent had said, also, that he would spend a considerable time in the United States of America and in Canada. It turned out that at the Prime Ministers conference there was a new Prime Minister from Canada and many of the Prime Ministers at that conference resented the attitude of the Prime Minister of Australia in trying to run the whole show. As a matter of fact, his representation there was not of a very high standard.
When he went to the United States of America he stayed only a few days. He had intended to make a lengthy stay, but I assume that the American “ tops “ did not make him very welcome because of what he had had to say about the United States of America over the Suez Canal affair. He stayed only a day or two in Canada alsoI assume that the Prime Minister of Canada, had a job to do and had no time to waste on our Prime Minister, whom, by now, all the Prime Ministers regarded as simply a play-boy.
But the great thing about it has been hisneglect of Australia and of his job. The de facto Prime Minister of Australia is the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). The de jure Prime Minister is not here half his time. That is the situation to-day. The PrimeMinister should retire from the stage. He is a great actor, I admit; but there is nothing more pathetic than a great actor who lingers too long on the stage and evokes the disdain, of his audience and becomes a laughing stock. I should hate to see the Prime Minister reach that stage. But, he is rapidly reaching it. whether his supporters like toadmit that fact or not.
– How do you know?
– 1 can see it. I have eyes. I do not need a microscope to see what is happening. He does not speak so often. We do not see him so often. He does not put the kick into his speeches that he used to do. Of course, he may be getting ready for another trip; I do not know. That may be the reason. But he is definitely declining. As a matter of fact, we all do when we get older, and he is getting older every day.
– Why pick him out?
– I cannot hear my friend’s interjection, but I can see what is happening to the Prime Minister. I have given an outline of the present set-up in Canberra. We have the bureaucrats running the Government. The Prime Minister, who should be in charge of the Government, is running around the world in different directions and not doing his job. There are plenty of young men in the Government who never get a chance, and only about half a dozen men in the Cabinet can hold their positions there efficiently. But the Prime Minister has complete control. As long as those big boys on top pay his expenses for these various trips around the world, that is all he worries about so far as Parliament is concerned. The Prime Minister has entirely neglected his position.
On the subject of defence the Prime Minister said that £190,000,000 was set aside for this purpose last year and another £190,000,000 has been allocated for defence this year. But the country is no better defended to-day that it was before the last war. We are back in the horse and buggy days in respect of defence. Huge sums of money were paid for carrier planes, but these planes are inefficient and have been put away in store. That is only one featureof the defence of Australia. When the Prime Minister was talking about war - whether with the United States because of the country’s attitude on the Suez Canal crisis, or with Egypt - it was childish of him to suggest that Australia had any defence. As for a tradition of aggression, it was absolutely and utterly ridiculous to suggest that Australia was in a position to be an aggressor. Certain experiments are being carried out, but as far as Australia is concerned these might as well be conducted in Timbuktu.
The British Government has said that i> will allow the Americans to carry out certain experiments with atomic bombs in the various places in Australia where this is done, but it will not agree to the Australian Government doing this. We are just simply bowing to the dictates of the British Government. No information is given to the Parliament in regard to any of these experiments although, God knows, they are not secret, because reports of them subsequently appear in every newspaper. But as far as information on defence is concerned, judging by the fact that none is given to members of Parliament, a defence programme does not exist.
The budget contains a proposal to impose a tax on aviation spirit. This represents a devious method by the Government to destroy Trans-Australia Airlines. The Government knows that public sentiment would be entirely against doing away with T.A.A. immediately, but this proposed tax on aviation spirit will cost T.A.A. a large sum of money because of the type of aeroplane it uses. Yesterday, I asked the Treasurer a question about the proposed tax on diesel fuel. It related to the tax of ls. a gallon on diesel fuel oil used by log haulers. For the benefit of those who do not know, I mention that the log hauler is the chap who does the primary work in the timber industry. He cuts and carts the log from the forest to the mill, and the distance usually is not great. Much is said about trying to reduce the cost of home building, yet in this instance a direct tax is imposed upon the prime mover in the production of timber. A tax is imposed upon the man who hauls the log from the forest to the mill!
I included farmers in my question yesterday because 1 wanted the Treasurer, in his answer, to differentiate between farmers and log haulers. While I agree with the imposition of the tax upon diesel oil used in long-distance hauling, an occupation in which many make huge profits, I disagree with such an imposition upon the man who hauls logs from the forest to the sawmill, usually a distance of from only 5 to 10 miles. Such a tax is an unwarranted addition to the cost of building homes. I admit the Government derives some benefit from the tax, but in actual fact it is simply another tax on material required for home building.
The Government has been carrying out an active immigration programme, and the reason given for it is that there are many jobs vacant in Australia and it is essential that we bring people to this country to fill them. To illustrate the weakness in that argument, I point out that there is seldom unemployment at Cairns; but recently, just prior to the cane-cutting season, there was unemployment, and the Government ignored the fact and landed a shipload of immigrants there. That action only made the position worse. Again, if it is true that we need immigrants to fill vacant positions, we should be most careful in all our overseas negotiations not to take any action which would tend to reduce the avenues of employment in this country. I emphasize that not only members of the Opposition but also many honorable members on the Government side, as well as tens of thousands of the members of the public, hold the view that by signing the Japanese Trade Agreement this Government has done the very thing we were afraid would be done; it has denied to probably thousands of people in Australia the opportunity of employment.
Much has been said about Japan’s purchases of wool from Australia. Up to a point, it is possible to gauge Japan’s requirements, but I remind the committee that it was only after the disastrous Petrov business was introduced into this Parliament bv the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), for political reasons, that Japan became
Russia’s agent. Prior to that, Russia, next to Great Britain, was possibly the biggest buyer of our wool. She was certainly one of our biggest buyers, and, after the Petrov incident, she simply handed over to Japan the task of buying wool for her. As we have refused also to trade with China, there can be no doubt whatever that Japan is an agent for China. Because Japan happens to be the agent of those countries, the Government says that we must give concessions to her, that we must let Japan sell us goods in order to improve her trade balance with us. I point out that the Government at the same time allowed our trade balance with Great Britain to fall to a dangerous level. I heard a question asked about that to-day. Great Britain is our best customer. We look to her to take the greater part of our primary products yet, at a time when she was trying to achieve economic balance, we refused to take goods from her. It would seem that it is better to be an enemy nation if a country wants to get anything from the Australian Government. Great Britain’s trade with us has been cut down while Japan’s trade with us has been opened up.
We have heard the Prime Minister express in flowery words his loyalty to the Queen and to the Throne. What must people think, after hearing such declarations, when they discover what he is doing to the economy of Great Britain? Why, under an agreement such as this, it would be possible for a nation like Japan to take the place of Bradford in England, which has bought the bulk of Australia’s wool for many years. Under this agreement, we could eventually reach a position in which we would be buying our cloth, clothing and everything else from Japan instead of from Great Britain. There can be no doubt that the economies of Australia and Great Britain have been definitely damaged by this agreement. I know that many honorable members on the Government side agree with what I say on that point. They realize that the Prime Minister handed something to Japan. They know that after his visit to Japan the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) had to go there to complete the agreement. I fail to see how people can reconcile the Prime Minister’s action with his flowery declarations of loyalty to the Throne and of his belief in and support of Great Britain. The public are not so simple as all that. It is hard to understand the attitude of not only the Prime Minister but all members of the Government. Of course, the position is that the Prime Minister has complete control over every member of the Government. Whatever he does goes, whether it be good, bad or indifferent. The members of the Government follow him just like sheep follow a bell wether.
There are at least half a dozen Cabinet Ministers who could look after Australia’s affairs, who could be prime minister and who could do the job efficiently. My main concern is to see that the interests of Australia are adequately protected. To me, it does not matter two hoots whether the Prime Minister wanders round the country so long as we have here somebody who will control the Government and do the things which should be done to prevent Australia from being given to other countries without anything in return.
There was a time when I visualized the day when Australia would be the centre of the British Empire. Actually, with better handling, she could have been the centre of the British Empire, and no man has been more disappointed than I have been during my six or seven years in this Parliament.
The Government does not control the destinies of Australia to-day; they are controlled by the top public servants who have made it a close preserve for themselves. Neither members of Parliament nor Ministers have any control whatever of those people. These top public servants, quite rightly, treat us with the greatest contempt. We are only members of Parliament! You know they are the big boys, they are the aristocracy. They have not to stand for election every three years; they are permanent. They are more firmly fixed than the aristocracy of Great Britain. Some of the aristocrats of Great Britain are rocking a bit, but these fellows will never rock. They are in office for life and their positions are handed down from father to son and from son to grandson. Every member of this House knows it. Let any member try to get a car before some of those young people. He is pushed aside; he is not in the race. That is the attitude throughout Canberra. I have spoken of the top branch of the Public Service, but there are many public servants doing a worthwhile job in this building who do not get recognition.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, I always listen with great respect and interest to what the honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) has to say. And I should, because he is a Queenslander, middle-aged before I was born, and he has packed into his life a great deal of experience. However, I believe that the sentiments he has just expressed are a typical indication of the insularity and the inferiority complex that seem to go hand in hand with the Queensland Labour politician. One thing that has been wrong with Queensland for a long time is the fact that Labour politicians who have been in charge of Queensland’s affairs for many years have always, because of this insular attitude and inferiority complex, concentrated their attention on their own State rather than on trying to learn what is happening in the outside world. The honorable member’s criticisms of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other Ministers because of their journeys overseas was no credit to the Parliament. This is no time for an insular attitude towards world affairs. Our very security, the friendships that we have in the world to-day, and the great measure of prosperity that Australia is enjoying, are due in no mean part to the fact that the Prime Minister has been able, by his ability, by the power at his command, to emphasize to the world that Australia is able to play a part in world affairs and that Australia must be taken into consideration.
There is a great difference between the days of 1949 and the present time. In 1949 another Marco Polo was wandering around the world. I refer to the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) who in the near future may step into the shoes of the sick man who represents the electorate of Hunter and so become the honorable member for that constituency. Temporarily at least he is the Leader of the Opposition. In the days of 1949 he wandered around the world. We hear very little about that from honorable members opposite because I believe that it has dawned on them at last that when the right honorable gentleman lost the reins of office in 1949 he left behind him, amongst the peoples of the world, bitter hatred and contempt for the part he had played in the affairs of the nations. Australia in 1949, as the result of the efforts of the right honorable gentleman, was left bereft of strong and powerful friends, and it is a tribute to the present Government, and particularly to the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) that over a period of time Australia has advanced in prosperity and security because we have been able to regain powerful friends who were tossed aside by the efforts and the words of the right honorable member for Barton when he was Minister for External Affairs.
In the period since 1949, this Government has been able to regain old friends and to make new friends overseas, and has thus ensured within Australia an era of prosperity and advancement in the most difficult time of so-called peace with which this country has ever been confronted. There have been difficult decisions to make and complex situations to unfold, but at all times the Government has been able to meet these contingencies, sometimes having to be courageous in doing things that were unpopular and in saying things which meant loss of votes but which were in the best interests of the nation. To-day, we realize that the measures taken by the Government have paid off and that Australia has gained in prestige and prosperity because it has had a government that has been courageous and firm and able to meet situations as they developed.
I have listened to the debate as it has proceeded and I have been struck by the fact that so much of the time of this Parliament and so much of the effort of the nation is concentrated upon the southern part of Australia. We see great developmental works proceeding in the southern region of our land. We see great cities rising and great industries springing up in the south; but the time has arrived, I believe, when Australia will enter upon an era of development in the north, our most vulnerable region. This move was triggered off by the elections held in Queensland recently when, owing to a fortuitous wrangle in the Labour party, two Labour factions took the field and were defeated. A new government took over after a quarter of a century of Labour administration. Already, as the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Edmonds) will agree, if he has kept his ears open, there is throughout Australia a new outlook towards Queensland. People with money to invest, with businesses to establish, and with tasks to perform, are looking to Queensland for opportunities. As this move progresses we will see a wave of development in Queensland which, I believe, must eventually spread to the Northern Territory and in Western Australia.
– It may even reach Burdekin Valley.
– It may, and I hope it does. This Government will take an interest in that development and make up for the lack of interest shown by Labour governments. It has to come and we must ensure that it does come, because northern Australia is our most vulnerable area, and it must be developed. As 1 have said, a new confidence in the future of Queensland has resulted from the election of a government that believes in the basic rights of individuals and of institutions to carry out their functions as they choose within the law, free from the fear of socialization that has beset them in the past. Most important - and this concerns the Commonwealth Government - 1 believe that within the next two years we shall see what men and women in Australia have been seeking for nearly 100 years, namely, the establishment of new States within the Commonwealth. I am convinced that as the result of a change of government in Queensland, and the pressure that will come from the people of north Queensland, within two years the Commonwealth will have to admit into its membership at least two new States. That will be to the great advantage of Australia as a whole and certainly to the great advantage of the people of the north. Honorable members should realize that along a line from Melbourne to Cairns, the last point of any reasonable form of self-government is the half-way mark at Brisbane. Between Brisbane and Cairns there is no form of responsible government of the people by the people. But the day has come and the movement has started, and it would be well for the honorable member for Herbert to keep himself up to date on this matter, otherwise he will be left behind in the race that is going on.
– The honorable member for Herbert has demonstrated many times his ability to jump on the band wagon, and 1 have no doubt that he will do it on this occasion; but the demands of the people will not be satisfied until they get selfgovernment through the creation of new States in central and northern Queensland. We should do well to look to the two years ahead with the realization that the people of the north will not be thwarted in their desires. Plans should be made in this Parliament for the admission of these new States. We must examine the problems that will arise from this situation. It will be necessary to prepare legislation so that, when the time comes for the new States to be invited into the Commonwealth, their entry will not be delayed by the unreadiness of this Parliament to accept them. I believe that within the next two years these new States will be admitted to our Commonwealth. I ask the Government to prepare now for their admittance.
When we look to the north of Australia and then look to the south, we realize how overcrowded the southern part of the country is. I have listened to Victorians in this and previous budget sessions talking of the requirements of their overcrowded cities. Many of them know very little about the northern part of Australia. When we look to the north, we realize its tremendous potential about which so many millions of words have been spoken over a period, and about which so little has been done by any government during that same period. We must develop the north of Australia ourselves within the next fifteen years or the north of Australia will be developed by us under slave conditions. Lel. us not forget that. Within the next fifteen years we must make a firm effort to develop our northern areas or the people who live farther north, in South-East Asia, will come and force us to produce for them the goods, both primary and secondary, that can be produced in northern Australia. I urge all people who are interested in the welfare not only of this generation of Australians, but also of future generations to take notice of these facts.
Let me give an example of the wealth that exists in the north. In central Queensland, there is the great Fitzroy River basin. Recently, Mr. Morris Juppenlatz, a lecturer in the University of Queensland, published a thesis on the Fitzroy basin which he had prepared whilst studying in London from information obtained in that city. His information was so accurate that his thesis, having been handed around among the experts, could not be faulted. That information, which was gathered in London, could be gathered in the universities or libraries of any capital city in the world. So what Mr. Juppenlatz has stated in his thesis can be known by the people of any other nation.
The great Fitzroy River basin covers an area of 58,000 square miles, an area equal to the area of England. It is peopled by 120,000 men and women. It is an area that is rich in every possible way. It contains at least 10,000 square miles of country under which there are seams of coal measuring over 100 feet in depth. The area has giant rivers which flood at least yearly, bearing thousands of millions of gallons of water into the sea. It has a virtually unlimited supply of coal which has been estimated at about forty billion tons. It has great, fertile valleys through which flow the Isaacs, the Mackenzie, the Dee and the Don rivers as tributaries to the Fitzroy. It has at least 20,000 square miles of wonderful, fertile land. It is capable of producing soya beans, for which there is a world market. It has river flats which are capable of growing rice, which could be sold to neighbours close by. It has land rich enough to bear improved pastures and carry ten times the amount of stock that it carries at the present time.
The Fitzroy River basin is capable of producing electricity at the cheapest rate in the world because of the abundance of coal which could be put into power-houses at the site for less than £1 a ton, and the water that can be obtained at a small cost by throwing a weir across a river. Yet, we are doing nothing about it. Between the holding of the last two censuses the population of that rich area fell by 17,000 people. The development that should have taken place in that area has not been undertaken. The area has one of the greatest copper and gold mines in the world, and other copper deposits that are astounding in their quality and quantity. There are square miles of great hills bearing pure limestone, which is capable of being manufactured into cement or used in the iron and steel industry. Near these great hills of limestone there are great serpentine flats impregnated with the necessary clay and gypsum for a cement industry that could supply the needs of Australia as far as the cement could be carried. It contains magnesite and manganese, and precious stones such as sapphires and rubies. The area contains riches that are untapped and unknown, and we are doing nothing about it. We are leaving it to Providence, or the curiosity of a few brave souls who are prepared to go out and scratch in the hills and make their small finds. As I have said, this area of 58,000 square miles is as big as England, but it carries only 120,000 souls. How long can we hope to hold it without challenge?
In the Burdekin River basin, farther north, there is also untold potential wealth. There are great plains which are capable of intense agriculture. Throughout the whole of the area, from just below the Tropic of Capricorn, there is vast wealth about which we are doing nothing. This area contains the essentials for the establishment of many primary industries. The tobacco industry and the cotton industry could be extended in this area, and dairying intensified. Agriculture could be made more prosperous. Untold mineral wealth is waiting for man to take it from the earth. There are building materials in the form of clay to make bricks, and trees to make boards. For the purposes of secondary industry, there is the great output of wool which comes from the far west, but no woollen mill. You have cotton output, but no cotton industry. Surely the time has come to take up this problem of our great river basins - especially that of the Fitzroy River basin - and begin overseas a selling campaign in order to attract investors, who can come here knowing that their investment will be safeguarded by the policies ot a Country party-Liberal State government. Surely it is time to attract capital for the purpose of establishing industries, and thus obtaining the trade that is waiting to be taken up in the East and in South-East Asia. I believe that we have not a great deal of time left to us, and must set about our task at once.
The Government should ensure that our overseas representatives are fully supplied with information about these vast areas, which are unknown to so many Australians but well known to many who may be our enemies. Our representatives would then be in. a, position to interest investors. The Government could offer every security, because there is a need to place people in the north, and develop the whole of that region.
I should like to see our immigration programme streamlined so as to put more immigrants into the north - not haphazardly, but on particular developmental work. They could establish their homes and families beside a growing industry which would supply them, and future generations, with all their living requirements. We bring a great many immigrants to this country each year. If the net result of all this is to place an ever greater strain upon the cities of Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, and to some extent Perth, we are heading for catastrophe. We shall be unable to hold this country if we continue to mass our population in the south. We simply cannot hold it without a substantial population in the north. Moreover, if we look at the facts, and are truthful to ourselves, we must acknowledge that unless we develop the north we have no moral right to hold it while people in other parts of the world are starved of land on which to grow their food. That is, perhaps, a dangerous statement, but let us be truthful. We hold that area at present, but some day some one will try to take it from us. In Indonesia, to the north of Australia, we have a country whose population is expanding at the rate of 800,000 a year. Most Asian countries are bursting at the seams, and looking for land on which to grow food. In the northern part of Australia we have a Godgiven potential, but we are neglecting to develop it.
The steps that must be taken are these: This Parliament must at once make preparations for the emergence of new States in the existing State of Queensland. Selfgovernment for the central and northern parts of Queensland would give necessary impetus to development in those areas. The people would go out after industry, money, men and materials, and population and development would come to regions which have for a very long period remained undeveloped.
Secondly, the Government should, while there is yet time, exercise, through its representatives overseas, its undoubted power and influence in order to sell to investors the idea of starting in Queensland the industries that we all know must prosper - industries that will lead to valuable overseas trade and help our balance of payments. Moreover, such industries would help to establish goodwill between ourselves and the nations of South-East Asia. The vast importance of doing this should not be overlooked. We should, by every means at our command, be endeavouring to influence people everywhere towards the belief that Australia has enormous possibilities, and that great potential wealth can be won if only investment and development take place. We should be pointing out what good returns will come from such investment - which cannot but help save Australia from the threat that continues to hang over this country.
My third point relates to our immigration programme. This programme must, in future, be directed no longer towards populating the southern part of the country, but instead, towards filling the northern portion - the great land mass which lies beneath the Tropic of Capricorn. It represents half of Australia, but only a fraction of the Australian people live in it. If we are to have the population that we seek we must look for it overseas. Those who are brought here must not come in dribs and drabs, and merely to enter an existing industry. The value of special importations of man-power to meet the needs of a particular industry has been proved in the sugar industry, but in future we should say, “ Here is a plan which involves housing, schooling, a project, a job, and security “, and bring people out here as part of a plan to develop selected parts of northern Australia. Only in that way can we get on with the job that we have neglected for so long.
I make no apologies for bringing this matter forward. Whatever our politics, we must face the effect of a change of government in Queensland. The people of that State are thinking in terms of change and I, for one, am well satisfied with the political climate - including the attitude of the rest of the Commonwealth - that has been engendered by that change. The coming of a new government has triggered new developments and we, as a National Parliament, should now cease to look so hard at the south of Australia and, instead, cast our eyes northward. There, on the near horizon, we see a great land that is as yet undeveloped. On the far horizon we see great lands and vast numbers of people who, in turn, are looking southward at a prize upon which so far we have placed little value. I hope that from now on we shall tend to look northward and take action to hold the inheritance to which we have been entrusted by past generations. I hope that, in days to come, no man will be able to say that, by our neglect and near-sightedness, we gave away to another people a land that was ours to develop and bring to a state of prosperity.
.- The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) is one of those Government supporters who never miss an opportunity to describe the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) in unfavorable terms. He has attempted, in the most derogatory language, and by statements that I shall show to be utterly false, to blacken the right honorable gentleman in the eyes of the public. He said that in 1 948-49 the Leader of the Opposion, who was then Minister for External Affairs, by his actions had left us bereft of friends. That is so patently untrue that I am surprised at the temerity of the honorable member for Capricornia in making such a statement. One has only to look back over the years to see how completely he is in error. Shortly before the period of which he speaks the Leader of the Opposition was elected by popular vote as president of the General Assembly pf the United Nations. Only a country which was regarded as a friend by a great number of other nations could secure the election of its representative to that high and honoured position. Furthermore, at that time the right honorable gentleman, as Minister (or External Affairs, w,as responsible for a greater expansion of our diplomatic service than had occurred before then or has occurred since. During his period of office as Minister for External Affairs there was a great increase of the number of our missions to other countries to promote friendship or strengthen existing links of friendship between Australia and those countries. The facts that I have mentioned provide a complete answer to the criticism of the right honorable gentleman by the honorable member .for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce).
But those are not the only ways in which the Leader of the Opposition has proved himself. I remind the committee of the relations between Indonesia and the
Netherlands in the transitional period between the time when the Netherlands had full control of affairs in that part of the world and the time when the struggle of the Indonesians for the right of self -deter-, ruination ended. It was due to the personal efforts of the Leader of the Opposition and others who were devoted to the cause of peace, working through the agency of the United Nations, that a reconciliation of the opposing parties was effected. Much credit is due to the Leader of the Opposition for the part he played in helping to bring about a satisfactory state of affairs in that part of the world, which is so vital to Australia. Let honour be given where honour is due. By their fanatical disregard of the achievements of the Leader of the Opposition, some honorable members are denying him the great credit that is his due for what he did, as a great Australian, on behalf of this country and the world generally, to bring about better relations between nations and peoples. Honorable gentlemen opposite surely should adopt a much more tolerant and generous attitude by recognizing the value of the services rendered to the world by a good Australian. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition will be remembered by future generations in this country for much longer than many of those who are criticizing him to-day.
The budget presented by the Treasurer each year is a document which is supposed to give a clear indication of the economic circumstances and the general well-being of the country. It is supposed to contain a recital of the principal lines of policy that have been followed and are to be followed in the coming year. It is equivalent to what is called in the United States of America the presidential address on the state of the Union, in which the President declares the policy that has already been followed and that which is to be followed in the future. I think I can say that this budget has not been received very enthusiastically. Honorable gentlemen opposite should be aware that the public have not been very much impressed by what has been presented to them in the budget. Even those interests that have been most generously treated - public companies and private investment companies, which will share in taxation remissions and depreciation allowances - are not fully satisfied with the .budget.
I have read many of the reviews of the budget by financial commentators. I was very interested to read a comment in a leading article in which I regard as the most conservative of conservative journals in this country - the “ Bulletin “. Although I do not agree with many of the views expressed in that article, 1 agree entirely with the introductory words and the conclusion. When I look at a document, I generally look most carefully at the conclusion, because it is there that I find what the writer has in mind. Let me read what this journal has to say. I think its reference to the budget is one of the most delightful expressions of opinion that 1 have read about that most uninteresting and unimaginative document. The “ Bulletin “ sums it up rather interestingly. This is what it has to say -
It was a superficial tentative Budget which bumped over the rather startling problems of this atomic economic age. Treasurers in these days have the consciousness of balancing on a surf-board on the topmost peak of a frothy wave of prosperity and give the impression of never knowing from moment to moment when they will wake up at the bottom of a dumper with a mouthful of sand and seaweed.
I think that is a delightful description. The conclusion of the article is most effective, lt reads -
The main feature of the present Budget, as of most Budgets in these days, is the shirking of the issues of national productivity and the creation of real capital with which to go ahead with the development of the country, at the same time incurring a minimum of inflation which has dogged our footsteps since the beginning of World War II.
That is a pretty effective statement, and honorable gentlemen opposite will require some ingenuity to answer it. I repeat that this budget has not been given an encouraging reception by the people of Australia.
I feel that the Leader of the Opposition gave the best reply that could be given to the great mass of figures presented in the budget. 1 am sure that all honorable members have difficulty in sorting out the figures and assessing their relevancy to particular circumstances. Let us take one simple illustration. I wanted to know what was the surplus of revenue over expenditure as at 30th June this year. There is no indication in the budget of that figure. If I and others who are expert in analysing financial documents could not find the relevant figure, how could members of the general public be expected to do so? Of course, I naturally got a line onto it when I found that an amount of £111,000,000 had been applied towards financing the works programmes of the States. That was the answer.
There is a way of salting away amounts of money so that the figures presented do not reveal readily the true position. For example, the amounts that are set down in the financial statements in relation to defence could be rightly challenged. I think that the Leader of the Opposition gave a good explanation of the whole matter when he pointed out that the state of the economy and the well-being of our people generally are not as satisfactory now as they were last year, or even the year before that. Although several Ministers became upset at our leader’s statements and said that the figures in the financial documents were perfectly clear, the right honorable gentleman was able to prove that the figures in relation to food and clothing - which are the material means by which we are able to gauge the well-being of the community - are on exactly the same mark as they were last year. In the interim, 115,000 or 117,000 people have come to Australia, but purchases of food and clothing have not increased. The position is akin to what happens in an ordinary family when visitors arrive unexpectedly; the members of the family have to accept smaller helpings of food on their plates to enable sufficient food to be placed before the visitors. That is what has happened in relation to the economy of this country.
But not all sections of the people have shared the sacrifice equally. I do not believe that the persons who comprise the upper strata, or even those of the middle class, have had to deny themselves one single item of foodstuffs. It is the members of the ordinary working community, the pensioners, and those of the poorer strata who have had to accept a lower standard of living than they had last year. Anyone who has anything to do with the purchasing of foodstuffs for ordinary families realizes that prices have steadily increased. Increases of municipal, and water and sewerage rates, as well as increased charges for other public services, bear most heavily on those in the lower income bracket. The people in the middle class and upper class brackets can absorb these increased charges without reducing their standard of living. Therefore, I think the Leader of the Opposition adopted a proper approach to this matter when he directed attention to the hardships that are being suffered by the less fortunate members of the community. 1 have referred only to the persons who are in receipt of regular incomes. But what of the unemployed? To-day, about 52,000 people are registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment. But that is not the full extent of unemployment in this country. Many people prefer to seek employment by their own efforts rather than to worry the employment agency. However, the ever-increasing number of persons registered with the government agency for employment is proof of the need for concern on the part of this Parliament, and of the Government, in relation to this part of our economy. Honorable members opposite apparently believe that this is a normal circumstance, about which they need not be unduly concerned. Let me point out to them that this state of affairs has arisen during a period in which we have been highly favoured with satisfactory prices for our exports of wool and other primary products. Any recession of export prices will accentuate our economic problems. This would be followed by a reduction of opportunities for employment, and the position would be further aggravated by the Government’s immigration programme. The supporters of the Government want us to believe that it has discharged satisfactorily its obligation to the people who have come to this country, but I suggest that if honorable members opposite had an opportunity to meet some of these people, particularly Hungarians, they would think differently. Only last week I met two Hungarians who had been in this country about four months, and who had walked to Canberra from Wagga seeking employment with the Department of Works. They had had no employment during the four months that they had been here, although they both appeared to me to be able-bodied men. Surely treatment of that kind must give the greatest discouragement to immigrants.
What worries me is the effect that the policy of the Government is having on our economy, particularly now that it has negotiated a trade treaty with Japan. As honorable members know, we have not been given a real indication of the nature of the items that will come to this country under the agreement, nor have the total quantities and values been indicated. Therefore, every opportunity will exist for the products of Japanese industries to flood our markets.
– We have had all this before.
– Yes, and you will have it again. The Government will hear much more of the matter than it cares to hear. There are aspects of this agreement with Japan that 1 cannot understand. World affairs really seem queer when we come to examine them. Only a little more than a decade ago we suffered grievously at the hands of a country to which we have now accorded most-favoured-nation treatment in respect of trade, and to whose people we have given equality with our own kith an<1 kin, the people of the United Kingdom.
– That is quite incorrect.
– The Japanese have been placed in the most-favoured-nation category, which will enable them to compete substantially with manufacturers in the United Kingdom. I believe that textiles from Lancashire will have no chance to compete satisfactorily on the Australian market with textiles from Japan, nor will Australian-made textiles be able to compete with them, largely because of the cheap labour employed by the Japanese. Yet the Government has negotiated a trade treaty with and accorded mostfavourednation treatment to a nation which caused us to suffer so much when it attacked us.
– Is the honorable member not a Christian?
– Let me say what I have to say. By negotiating this treaty the Government has passed by our great ally, which fought Japan and held the bridge alone against our enemies for a considerable period. In doing so it helped to screen this country from attack. Now, we refuse to have anything to do with it. That indicates the attitude of some people in this country to those who helped to defend them.
– What are you talking about?
– Honorable members opposite know what I am talking about.
Indeed, they have no right to be in this. Parliament if they do not. I say that this trade treaty with Japan will have disastrous effects for us, and that it is totally opposed to the principles that should underlie our trading relations with other countries. The budget which we are now discussing does not provide any safeguards against difficulties that may arise as a result of the trade treaty, and for that reason the Government ought to be condemned. Not only has it presented an unsatisfactory budget but, in addition, its policy does not do justice to the interests of the people of Australia or protect their rights in matters that are of vital importance to them.
.- I suppose it will not be a terrible shock to you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, if I say that I cannot join with the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) in his admiration of the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). The honorable member laboured somewhat heavily, I thought, to try to prove to the House that when the right honorable member for Barton was in charge of the external affairs of this country Australia was indeed in fields of asphodel, as it were. I want to say quite bluntly that I think that the era when the right honorable member for Barton was Minister for External Affairs was a disastrous one. The committee will recall that in the years between 1945 and 1949 the foreign policy of this country, in great measure, was controlled by one, Jim Healy, who holds no mean affection for the Marxist way of life and the Soviet scheme of things. Honorable members will recall the effect of Mr. Healy’s machinations on Australia’s foreign policy in relation to Indonesia and our friends the Dutch.
The honorable member for Bonython says, “ Well now, you must do honour to the right honorable member for Barton and give him credit where credit is due “. I say to him that, equally with the right honorable member for Barton, he must be prepared to take legitimate criticism when such criticism can be made. I pause to interpolate a thought for the honorable member to consider. It was expressed by his leader, the right honorable member for Barton, in the halcyon years to which he referred -
Having no clear evidence to the contrary, and having during the last four years come to know some of Russia’s greatest statesmen, I take the view that the Soviet Union’s policy is directed towards self-preservation and security against future attack.
That would provide the people of the Baltic countries with a loud and long laugh! It is useful for us to remind ourselves of the fact that when the right honorable member for Barton was in control of the external affairs of this country there were serious leakages of informations-classified information - from the Department of External Affairs. So I repeat the charge, and I do not make anything in the nature of an apology foi making it - that I believe that the years in which the right honorable member for Barton was Minister for External Affairs were years of great disaster.
I come now to the budget itself. Here again, we are presented with a rather peculiar state of affairs. The honorable member for Bonython generally supported the line of argument followed, in the main, by honorable gentlemen opposite that this is a bad budget. Some of the analyses that have been made by those honorable gentlemen are staggering and somewhat engaging, to say the least. Turn, for example, to the speech - I think that is a charitable description of it - which was made by the right honorable member for Barton on Tuesday evening. I think that speech will, among other things, be recognized by discriminating individuals - and one would immediately eliminate the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who is interjecting, from that class - as a compound of falsity, nonsense and fantasy.
The right honorable gentleman set out to convey to the committee that millions of people throughout Australia were starving, that there was a devastating fall in the calorific content of food consumed and in the purchase of clothing in Australia. That was approximately the content of the right honorable gentleman’s argument, and it is deserving of some examination, however casual it may be. He made, among other things, two astonishing charges. He suggested in the first place that employment in this country was down on the figure for last year. That was his charge. I do not know where the right honorable gentleman got his information. Possibly, his speech was written by a Fabian professor of economics trying to put into effect the gradualism - the concepts of Fabius Maximus Cunctator. That is what it sounded like. He was trying to confuse and bluff the people and to convince them that some- thing was very real when, in actual fact, it shrieked of unreality.
If we turn to the Tariff Board’s report to check on the argument of the right honorable member for Barton in respect of employment we find that in June, 1956, there were 2.748,800 civilian employees in Australia, whereas in May this year there were 2,790,800 civilian employees in this country. Maybe 1 have an odd approach to mathematics; maybe I cannot work out elementary sums. But I am quite sure that by taking the first-mentioned total from the last-mentioned total even my friend the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) would arrive at approximately the same figure as I would. So, why have the right honorable member for Barton and subsequent speakers on the Opposition side been pursuing the line that there has been a decrease in employment? The charge cannot be substantiated. It is completely unreal; it seems to be one of those engaging flights of fancy for which the right honorable member has achieved some notoriety.
Then we turn to another rather extraordinary charge made by the right honorable gentleman last Tuesday evening. He said that consumption in Australia was down. He said there had been a shocking falling-off in the consumption of goods. Here, again, I am somewhat puzzled as to the source of the right honorable gentleman’s information, because if one looks at the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure presented by the Treasurer with the budget one finds that the total value of goods consumed in Australia in 1956-57 is estimated at £3,529,000,000, whereas during the previous year consumption was valued at £3,327,000,000. Once again, it is a matter of simply subtracting one figure from the other; and if the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb), who is interjecting, addresses himself to that proposition perhaps he might, for once, be following something that would be fruitful and achieve worth-while results. Then the right honorable gentleman said that people in Australia were starving, that the consumption of food was falling away. Once again, it is difficult to come to such a conclusion when one examines the relevant papers and documents. For the year 1956-57 the value of food consumed in Australia was £923,000,000, whereas the corresponding figure for the previous year is £883,000,000.
The facts speak for themselves, and it is very difficult to find any ground upon which to excuse the flights of fantasy of the right honorable member for Barton. The introductory paragraph of the report recently issued by the Commonwealth Bank reads -
The year 1956-57 was marked by a dramatic improvement in the health of the Australian economy.
The report continues -
The growth and development characteristic of the post-war period continued, but on a sounder basis, with a considerable easing of inflationary pressure.
So, it is extremely difficult to square the argument put forward in this debate by the spokesmen of the Opposition with the facts of the case. On the employment side, of course, it is relatively simple to follow the thinking of honorable gentlemen opposite, because the Labour party is essentially a party of depression. I have said before in this House, and I believe it is worth saying again, that the Labour party is essentially a party of depression. It depends upon creating in Australia a circumstance, an atmosphere, in which widespread unemployment will become the order of the day. The Labour party believes that in such circumstances it might be able to capture the treasury bench.
It is a singular and notable fact that while the Department of Labour and National Service has been under the ministerial control of the right honorable member for Higgins (Mr. Harold Holt) full employment has been given a very real meaning in Australia - minus the contraption that would be erected by the Labour party to secure full employment. My friend, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), who is sitting so patiently at the table, agrees with me that the Labour party believes implicitly in creating the contraption of direction of labour. It realizes that only by erecting such a mechanism will it be able to secure full employment. Yet, under a system of enterprise, with no harsh and rigorous mechanism, Australia has had, over the last seven or eight years, substantially full employment. That is something that distresses honorable gentlemen opposite a great deal.
During the course of this debate there has been something in the nature of an absence of plain speaking by honorable gentlemen opposite as to what they would do if, by some mischance, they were on this side of the chamber. 1 think we had the answer this morning during another debate to which 1 shall not refer directly, but only in passing. The argument this morning was simply that the Labour party is a party pledged to democratic socialism. It is worth while for honorable members to consider what democratic socialism involves. I mentioned a moment or two ago that it would involve direction of labour. For the information of the honorable member for Parkes, who, I am quite satisfied, has not yet found out what democratic socialism is really all about, it would mean bank nationalization and stringent control of prices, profits and rents; it would mean the destruction of the Australian federal system, the sacking of every State Governor, the creation of a republic in Australia - because nobody in this Parliament knows better than the right honorable member for Barton that so long as the reserve powers of the Crown remain, his dream, his hope, his objective of establishing democratic socialism, which would mean the complete socialist State, in Australia, cannot be achieved. Democratic socialism in Australia would mean increased death duties. It would mean the imposition of harsh capital issues control, an extension of import control, the virtual prostitution of this parliamentary institution and the creation of a supreme economic council along Soviet lines. The right honorable member for Barton and his colleague, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward), have already suggested that Australia should begin to think along Soviet lines. I urge the committee, and the people of Australia, to face up to the fact that the alternative that is offered by the Australian Labour party, under the guise of democratic socialism, will mean the destruction of so much that is valued in this country.
I would be the last person to deny that we, in Australia, have not problems. Of course, we have problems, but they are essentially problems associated with a rapidly developing economy. I propose to make one or two fleeting references to this development because I believe, as my friend, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce), mentioned this afternoon, development is essential if we are to preserve this country for a future generation. There are few countries that have experienced a rate of development which is comparable with that of Australia. Many faint hearts say that we should slow down, but I do not subscribe to that view. 1 believe that we should get into a higher gear.
That leads us, quite plainly, to this question: How are we to secure this increased development? 1 believe that, for many years, we have been approaching the problem in the wrong way, and have been trying to do too much with our limited supply ot capital. The committee will be aware that, just recently, the United Kingdom Government issued a white paper dealing with the role of the United Kingdom in the development of the British Commonwealth. It contained a very interesting reference to the Commonwealth Development Finance Company, which was established in 1953 as a new channel for the investment of private capital in Commonwealth developmental schemes likely to benefit the sterling area’s balance of payments, and, in particular, schemes for which adequate capital could not be raised from the ordinary sources. When one reads the white paper, one cannot help but note that Australia is not participating in the area of operations of the company. Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland are participating. I repeat that Australia is not participating, so it is essential that, if Australia is to achieve the degree of development that she indeed must, we should commence to think about an extension of the area of operation of the Commonwealth Development Finance Company.
Within a few days, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) will leave to attend a Commonwealth Finance Ministers conference in Canada. I hope that, at that conference, he will seriously consider the possibility of extending the operations of the company to Australia. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) said that he had hoped Australia would become the centre of the British Commonwealth. That is a sentiment which I share thoroughly, and I hope that all our efforts will be bent towards achieving that end. But it will not be achieved simply by pressing the fact that development is needed and without approaching the problem in a sensible and realistic way. Capital is urgently required in Australia, and that is one of the great difficulties with which we are confronted in our programme of development. 1 refer now to the question of pensions which, unfortunately, has generated a great deal of heat since the presentation of the budget, lt is interesting to note that 1,200,000 people in Australia, or between 12 per cent, and 13 per cent, of the population, are over the age of 60 years, lt is perfectly clear, of course, that not all those people are pensioners. It is interesting to note, too, that the proportion of the population which is in that age group rose from 6.4 per cent, in 1911 to 12.2 per cent, in 1947. After taking into consideration the immigration programme, one can count upon the proportion settling down to between 10 per cent, and 12 per cent. So the Parliament must face up to the fact that, for the next twenty or 30 years, it must provide for the care of between 10 per cent, and 12 per cent, of the Australian population, being people who are over the age of 60 years.
As the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) said yesterday afternoon, one cannot criticize the overall expenditure on age pensions; but what 1 believe to be plainly wrong is the distribution of that expenditure. It seems to me to be quite crazy. In this financial year the Government proposes to expend £121,800,000 on age and invalid pensions. The National Welfare Fund stands at the staggering total of £243,572,000, which is equal to 5.1 per cent, of the gross national income and 19 per cent, of the gross taxation receipts. I repeat that the weak point is not the amount of expenditure but the distribution of that money. lt is possible to go to two extremes in the provision of age pensions. It is possible, on the one hand, to have a couple who are each receiving a pension of £4 7s. 6d. a week, who are in receipt of an outside income of £7 a week, and who live in their own home and have their own furniture and car. On the other hand, there is the single person who is living by himself and paying rent. I suggest to the committee that the first of two immediate objectives in the provision of pensions should be to exclude politics. We should get out of the habit of making the pensioners a political chopping block. For one party to say to them, “ If we are returned to office we will give you such and such an increase “, and for another party to say, “ If we are returned to office we will pay you a certain increase “, is an insult.
By citing figures and showing their relationship to the actual pension one can prove many things, but that does not give any satisfaction to the pensioners who are in genuine distress. Nevertheless, let me mention the figures. For the three years between 1946 and 1949 when the Labour party was in office, the pension was equal to 33.7 per cent, of the basic wage. For the last three years, it has been equal to 33.53 per cent, of the basic wage. In other words, there is a difference of .17 per cent., which, in the ordinary scheme of things, is insignificant. Between December, 1949, and the June quarter of this year the pension rose by 105.9 per cent., and the C series index by 75.5 per cent. What do these figures prove? Are they of any satisfaction to the well-intentioned members of this committee who genuinely want to assist pensioners? I repeat that it is essential that we should take politics out of the payment of pensions.
It is essential, too, that we should obtain all the facts relating to pension problems, because there seems to me to be a large amount of conflicting information on the subject. A great deal of the information is confusing and misleading. It indicates a number of anomalies, and that is why I propose this afternoon that the Government should give serious consideration to the establishment of a select committee of members of this Parliament to examine all the facts surrounding pensions in Australia to-day. As I say, I believe that we should have two objectives. The first is to take politics out of the consideration of pensions, and the second is to get all the facts.
Then I go further. I believe that an advisory tribunal or authority on pensions should be established. I propose that such a body should comprise a social worker, a representative of the pensioners, a doctor, a representative of the Department of Social Services and a representative of the Treasury. I do not propose that this committee should have judicial power in the sense that it could arbitrarily determine pensions, but that it should say to whatever government was in power, “ This happens at the moment to be a weak spot in the pensions structure “, or “ This is an anomaly that the Government may well consider “. If such an authority were created, we would move measurably towards the stage where politics would be removed from the consideration of pensions.
I should like the Government to give serious consideration to amending the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement to provide for flats for aged persons in all States, lt distresses me very much to find elderly people living on their own. Their families have put them to one side, as it were, and many of them have a fierce, intense spirit of independence. They are not interested in going into charitable homes, which in some instances are institutionalized. They resent any suggestion that they should do so. One can understand their fears, anxieties and attitude of mind. Many of these elderly people are living in rather difficult circumstances. They are paying heavy and even savage rents, and they have little or no companionship. I believe that there is a responsibility upon the community, upon State governments as well as this Government, to see that these people are catered for. If an amendment were made of the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement to provide that each year a certain percentage of the homes, flats or apartments erected shall be for elderly people, that would be of material assistance to many thousands of Australian pensioners.
I conclude simply by saying that this budget marks the attainment of a record by the Treasurer. It is his tenth budget and, irrespective of politics, honorable members will give due recognition to that record. The budget has been designed on prudent and somewhat cautious lines. Australia has reached the stage where it must make up its mind that further development is required. This budget looks to the future. It is not embedded in the past. It is not a tired, old man’s budget. Certainly it is cautious and prudent, but those characteristics are not to be despised. I support the budget and I look forward to the debate on the Estimates, when the House will have an opportunity to examine in greater detail the expenditure of many government departments. This is a budget that the people of Australia can support with alacrity. They can see in it an assurance of the continuation of the prosperity that commenced in 1949.
.- Despite whatever provocation there may be, I have no intention of paddling in the cesspool of personalities. I agree with some of the comments of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen), and I disagree entirely with others. I agree with his statement that figures are but little consolation to pensioners and others. That statement is applicable to many other matters - for instance, unemployment, housing and profits. I agree, too, that politics should be taken out of the consideration of pensions. I think the honorable member will agree that the proposed increase of 7s. 6d. is most niggardly.
In my view, this budget can be rightly called the big man’s budget. There are no real concessions for the average man. This, coupled with the fact that prices are continuing to rise while wages are pegged, leaves little hope that the worker can look to this Government to do anything to arrest the steady depletion of the contents of his pay envelope. One can understand the growing concern of the people, in view of the Government’s admission that 52,000 persons are registered for employment, 20,000 are drawing the dole - it is a nasty word, but it is appropriate - and avenues of employment are becoming fewer and fewer day by day. What hope can there be for many workers when, as surely as night follows day, further unemployment will be caused by the Japanese Trade Agreement that has been the subject of debate in this chamber .recently?
Perhaps one of the most significant items in the budget is the proposed increase of unemployment benefit by 27s. 6d. a week. The increase will, of course, help in some small measure the unfortunate people who are the victims of this Government’s financial policy, but the amazing feature is that in the past few months - these words cannot be challenged - we have heard Government members say that the incidence of unemployment here was nothing to worry about. It would appear to me that this proposed increase is an indication of the shape of things to come in the field of employment in Australia.
It is true to say that the dominant feature of the budget is the lucrative manner in which big business has been catered for. To use the vernacular, the small man has been pushed further and further down the drain. It is true, also, that this budget means that fewer homes will be built for our ever-increasing population and, because of the callous neglect of housing by the Government, one can visualize emergency housing settlements again becoming a feature of our community, to the detriment of the Australian way of life and the standard of living of Australians and new Australians alike, as is apparent from an inspection of some immigrant hostels.
An increasing population needs an everexpanding economy. Our immigration programme likewise demands this. It demands homes and employment for our citizens and a reasonable standard of living for all. It is to the everlasting disgrace of this Government that it talks of the wonderful potential of Australia and then blatantly admits that 60,000 persons are unemployed. I listened with interest to the dissertation of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) on the potential of the north of Australia, and I agree with what he said. I agree that the potential of the north is almost beyond imagination, but, in the main, it is being given away on a silver platter to overseas interests. This budget has done nothing to arrest the drift in the building trade caused by the drastic credit restrictions in the last budget. In fact, as every one knows, it is almost impossible for a man to build or purchase a home with money borrowed at a rate of interest that will give him a chance to clear his debt during his lifetime. The demand for hospitals, schools, roads and local health amenities becomes greater every day. The Government is content to describe these demands as growing pains, and it looks with callous disregard at the spectacle of our age and invalid pensioners being plunged further and further into the cruel pit of poverty.
I am rather surprised that the Government has done nothing to rectify the alarming drift in the rate of home-building that has been evident over the past two years. The demand for housing is urgent, but increased interest rates and higher mortgage charges are greatly retarding home-owner ship. These factors deprive those on the lower incomes of any chance of purchasing a home, and are responsible for the appalling housing conditions. The strangulation of the housing co-operatives through credit restrictions is a feature in which we can take little pride. Of course, there has been much building in the luxury class. Many hotels and factories have been erected. Those people can pay the increased interest rates and charges that arise from the Government’s financial policy. They can not only pay these charges, but can also pass them on to the underdog by increasing prices. The Government’s callous disregard of the major problem facing this country is an evasion of its social and moral responsibilities. Its neglect is causing anti-social, unhealthy and dangerous conditions to become predominant.
No one can deny that housing conditions have become progressively worse because of the failure of the Government to meet the demands that arise from immigration. The deplorable state of affairs in immigrant hostels proves that contention. In fact, I go as far as to say that so clean has the bottom of the barrel of housing finance been scraped, that British insurance companies are being asked to finance Australian building societies. An article in the “Daily Mirror”, of Thursday, 5th September, 1957, read as follows: -
Spooner housing scheme attacked.
Money, not reassuring statements, was needed immediately to solve the housing shortage, a building consultant said to-day.
The consultant, Mr. J. N. Whitfield, was commenting on a statement by the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner).
Senator Spooner said he had had discussions with representatives of British insurance companies about a suggestion that they finance Australian building societies.
Mr. Whitfield said: “ Local building societies have been negotiating with their British counterparts and insurance companies for several years for the transfer of capital. “ But England will not allow the investment of surplus capital in Australian housing. “ While this is the position, words won’t help. “ Credit squeeze.” “ Those of us in the building game who accepted Senator Spooner’s assurances of good faith two years ago have enjoyed the doubtful privilege of watching millions pour into hire purchase. “Finance for homes has been provided at the outrageous interest rate of 10 per cent. “ The credit squeeze on housing as a counterinflationary measure is the result of the Government’s policy. “ The squeeze caught the honest builder who preferred to deal through conservative organizations and tender on a competitive basis for a properlysupervised job. “ The house-hungry are sick of promises.”
That statement sums up the housing position. At this stage I should like to make a brief comment about war service homes. The extra money provided for war service homes will only raise false hopes in the minds of ex-servicemen. The demand for which the Government is making allowance will be lost in the flood of thousands of fresh applications from ex-servicemen who have been waiting and hoping for some assistance over the years. The small business man and the worker will still try in vain to obtain finance. They will be able to obtain it only if they are prepared to pay exorbitant interest rates. That means another season of record profits for big businesses and combines.
Recently the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) went to some pains to try to correct a statement on the C series index of retail prices. He tried to establish that the increase has been only 1 i per cent. We claim that the increase in the cost of living has been 5 per cent. I go further and say that it is an indisputable fact that the cost of living cannot be measured except by the experience of one’s actual purchases. In fact, the worker is not living; he is merely existing, though he may be fully employed. He is getting further and further into debt. Those who are so learned about the C series index being the measuring rod for the cost of living are not themselves measured by it. How can it apply when wages are pegged and prices go uncontrolled? It is essential that quarterly adjustments of the basic wage should still be made, and that prices should be controlled, in order to enable the income of families to keep pace with the cost of living, and permit them to satisfy their needs in a modern society. Adjustments of the basic wage in accordance with price increases are the basis of our wage structure.
It is worth while, at this point, examining the list of items on which the C series index of retail prices is based. The groceries list in section A of group 1 comprises bread, ordinary flour, self-raising flour, tea, sugar, sago, plum jam, golden syrup, oats, raisins,, currants, apricots, canned peaches, canned pears, potatoes, onions, soap, and lighting kerosene. Section B of group 1 - Dairy Products - comprises butter, cheese, eggs, bacon rashers, condensed sweetened milk, and fresh milk. Other sections in group 1 and group 3 cover meat, clothing for a man, clothing for a woman, clothing for a boy aged 10i, clothing for a girl aged 7, clothing for a boy aged 3i, household drapery, household utensils, fuel and light, and miscellaneous items. The miscellaneous section comprises union dues, lodge dues, medicine, newspapers, recreation, smoking, fares, and school requisites. The amount allowed for lodge dues is 2s. a week; for medicine, 2s. a week; for recreation, 2s. a week; for smoking, 3s. 8d. a week; and for school requisites, 4id. a week. It is ridiculous to accept the provision in the C series index for school requisites as adequate in the preparation of a measuring rod for the assessment of the basic wage, in view of the high cost of school books and other requisites for school children.
Let us now consider some of the groceries which, are not included in the list on which the index is based. Here are some of them: Baking powder, barley, biscuits, beef extract, blue, breakfastfoods, candles, carrots, cocoa, cleansers, clothes pegs, cordials, cornflour, cream of tartar, custard powder, curry powder, dates, disinfectants, essence, gravy salt, honey, insect and pest destroyers, infant food, jelly crystals, jams other than plum, lunchwrappers, matches, margarine, methylated spirits, mustard, oil of all kinds, pepper, pickles, polish, sandwich spread, shaving soap, starch, toilet rolls, vinegar, patent medicines, headache powders, ointments, razor blades, toothpaste, stationery, toilet soaps, and soap powders. These omissions indicate that the C series index is absolutely unrealistic as a measuring rod by which to assess the wage that governs the standard of living of the people. If the 1920 Piddington royal commission standard were applied to-day, the basic wage in Melbourne would be £3 a week higher than it is.
The policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on the basic wage is stated as follows: -
The basic wage must provide as a minimum for the reasonable needs of a married wage earner and his family; what are reasonable needs being determined from time to time in the light of standards generally accepted in progressive communities and the social aspirations of the Australian people.
Subject to the maintenance of the minimum standard referred to above, the basic wage shall be assessed on the basis of the increased productivity of the nation, and should be the highest wage that the full resources of the community fully employed can provide.
I thoroughly agree with that policy. In 1883, T. B. Macaulay wrote -
Society is constantly advancing in knowledge. The tail is now where the head was several generations ago. But the head and the tail still keep their distance.
As it was then, so it is to-day. Wasteful government expenditure continues. I read in the newspapers recently that the use of electronics will enable government expenditure on administration to be reduced. In his budget speech, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) gave no indication of what the Government intends to do in that regard. It is interesting to note that, under pressure, the Government has given in to big business, and reduced company taxation. In this connexion, I should like to read a report that appeared in a newspaper some three weeks ago, under the heading “ Recession wanting”. It states: -
Present taxation policy, if continued, could start a recession, the Associated Chambers of Commerce warned last night.
Under current conditions, the Government was taking too big a share of business incomes, the Chambers said in a leading article in their official journal, Canberra Comments.
This meant that too many businesses were finding themselves with acute financial problems and were having great difficulty in maintaining the volume of trade. “Company taxation and the system of taxing dividends should be reviewed “, the journal said.
They have been reviewed. I can only say to the people who expressed those opinions that the whole financial stability of the country is being mortgaged.
I propose now to discuss civil defence briefly, Mr. Temporary Chairman. I note with concern that the Government is apparently not going to do anything about civil defence against atomic or nuclear weapons. Millions of pounds are being spent on atomic experiments in the race towards death and destruction by the governments of the world, and there is grave danger that civilization will be virtually destroyed. It is true that there is no defence against nuclear attack, but surely it is the Government’s duty to make a great effort to ensure the defence of our people as far as possible. However, the Treasurer’s budget speech made no mention of civil defence.
I turn now to municipal affairs. Owing to the limitation of State loan programmes, the old fabric of municipal administration is slowly crumbling. Valuable assets in all the capital cities, and in provincial cities, are falling into ruin because local authorities cannot get enough money to maintain them properly.
– In spite of the big contracts that are being let?
– Apparently, the honorable member knows nothing about municipal finances.
– He just knows nothing.
– I agree. The construction of roads and footpaths, and drainage works, is being neglected because municipalities cannot obtain loan funds to undertake them. Kindergartens, health centres, libraries, and playing spaces that are badly needed are not being provided, because this Government has imposed financial retrictions. A classic example of the impact of these restrictions upon the provision of services that are vital to the health of the community is to be found in their effect on water and sewerage authorities. In Melbourne, approximately 65,000 homes are unsewered, and about 450 miles of water reticulation mains are needed.
– What about the country?
– There is a great need for the extension of services in the country, also. In addition, millions of pounds should be spent on roads and other facilities in Melbourne.
I was interested to hear the references made by the honorable member for Capricornia to Australia’s far north. It is regrettable that private enterprise is being allowed to exploit for its own benefit the potential of the far north.
– The honorable member should know. The latest national asset to be swallowed up by private enterprise is the Commonwealth Handling Equipment
Pool, with which I have been closely connected for a number of years. That organization, which did yeoman service for Australia in the war and post-war years, is now to be put up for auction, and, possibly, will be sold to the highest bidder. The bauxite deposits discovered in the far north, also, have been given away to private enterprise. Uranium resources have suffered the same fate. Another example of this giving away of national assets is to be seen in the Humpty Doo rice project. For every £1,000 spent by this Government on development in the north, £1,000,000 is taken out in profits by overseas companies. This giving away of our national assets is consistent with the Government’s approach to matters such as shipping freight increases. In fact, Australia, which is eighth on the list of exporting countries of the world, is in the grip of a great overseas shipping combine. There has been an increase of 24 per cent, in shipping freights in less than eighteen years, and all but 10 per cent, of that increase has been imposed during the rule of this Government. The Australian Labour party believes that, in the national interest, it is our duty to enter into vigorous competition with overseas shipping lines. The fact is that an increase in freights of 14 per cent, absolutely crippled the Australian egg export industry.
Every Australian has a right to a decent home. That has been the principal theme of my speech. It is the duty of this Government to house those who have not the means to house themselves. It is the duty of the Government to provide finance for the construction of homes on a low deposit and at repayment charges that are within the reach of all. It should build homes for sale at low interest rates, and provide homes for the aged and the sick. Money and other forms of assistance are required. This Government could give both money and help. While those engaged in the building industry are fully employed, there is nothing to fear in the economy of the nation.
.- As I speak in this chamber very seldom, I wish to open my speech by congratulating some honorable members who have spoken in this debate. First, I should like to congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), who, in presenting this budget, established a record which will probably last for a century. The right honorable gentleman has presented ten budgets in the House of Representatives. I am sure we all wish him well, and hope that he will keep on giving us more budgets and, perhaps, set a record that will stand for two or three centuries.
I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), who came into this Parliament with me some 38 years ago, on the vigorous manner in which he puts his views. They are always quite opposed to mine, but that has not prevented us from being personal friends for many years. Although he went away for a while and supped with the great, I am glad that he is with us on this occasion.
I should also like to congratulate the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Pearce) on the wonderful speech he delivered on the development of the northern areas of Australia. For many years, I have felt strongly - and my visits overseas have convinced me in my views - that unless we can get hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of people into those areas and give them self-government in the immediate future, we might easily lose that portion of Australia and, perhaps, lose the whole continent.
To-day, I am not going to follow the general rule of budget debates. This is the thirty-eighth budget debate I have heard in this Parliament, and I feel like Macaulay, who was a good writer and a politician. Near the end of his days he said -
All my life I have heard of nothing but decay, but have seen nothing but progress.
When I compare the present conditions of the working man, the housing conditions and the amenities that are available generally throughout Australia with what they were 40 years ago, or 70 years ago when I was a boy, I feel that the tale of woe we hear so often, to the effect that everything is going down the drain, should be taken with a grain of salt. So, to-day, I wish to examine the budget figures, not from the point of view of the past, but looking to the future. In particular, I want to consider what we are doing in Australia to meet the problems, in peace and war, of the atomic age.
First, I want to look at the financial position of Australia. An examination of the budget papers discloses a huge increase in the public debt since the end of World
War IL, or between June, 1946, and June, 1957. I have found that capital expenditure in that period has grown enormously. I am referring now to expenditure from loans that Australian governments have obtained from the people. In addition, there has been tremendous capital expenditure which has come out of taxation. I do not want to discuss the merits of that method of raising capital. Needs must when the devil drives, and when we need a lot of money, we have to get it by taxation if we cannot get it any other way.
The important thing is that the public debt of Australia to-day is £3,992,000,000 compared with £2,794,000,000 eleven years ago. That means that we owe practically £4,000,000,000, or roughly ten times the amount of Australia’s public debt when the honorable member for Bonython and I first entered this Parliament. Much of that debt is due to war, but when we examine what has happened since World War II., we can see what an interesting position has developed. First, if I may deal with the matter as a whole, the debt has increased in that time by about £1,200,000,000. Interest payments have grown by about £57,000,000, from £79,000,000 to £136,000,000, and sinking fund payments have increased from £25,000,000 to £65,000,000. That means that the service of the public debt of Australia has increased in eleven years from £104,000,000 to £201,000,000.
When we dissect the public debt, we find that, in the eleven years since the end of the war, the Commonwealth public debt proper has really decreased by £4,000,000, whereas the State public debt has increased by over £1,200,000,000. This increase in the public debt of the States - which is roughly £300,000,000 more than they borrowed in the previous 90 years of their existence - and the significant increase in the interest they have to pay, means an impost of something like £5 a head throughout the whole of Australia.
I do not suggest that this borrowing is too much. I merely say that when I was the Commonwealth Treasurer, I tried to make borrowing by the people of Australia absolutely safe to the investor. I established the National Debt Sinking Fund in 1923, I am glad to say that the proceeds of that fund have been used to pay off no less than £900,000,000 of the Australian national debt up to the present time. By bringing the National Debt Sinking Fund into the Financial Agreement, and having provision for such an agreement incorporated in the Constitution, I believe we have been able to make Australia the only country in the world in which repayment of public investments in Commonwealth loans is guaranteed constitutionally. Because of the terms of the Financial Agreement, that guarantee also covers all money borrowed by the States.
The interest and redemption funds are, therefore, a first charge on the resources of Australia. They are really independent of the Parliament. The salaries of honorable members would come second to the allocation of these funds. In effect, the Financial Agreement makes the national debt a first charge on every individual in Australia. That being so, it is reasonable and prudent to ask what has been the effect on the national economy, on national security and on our preparations for the atomic age of this increase in the public debt in the past eleven years.
At present, Russia is looked upon as a very great menace to the freedom of the Western world. For several years, Russia has faced its problems by what one might describe as regionalizing all its areas. By dividing their land into regions roughly the size of Victoria, the Russians have devised a system of transport which enables the people to get most of their products with the minimum of transport. They have been able to make tremendous advances, not only in cutting down the cost of goods, but also in providing for the safety of their people by better distribution of them throughout the whole area. Russia has a much bigger area than Australia has.
I suggest, therefore, that we should consider carefully what we have done with the £1,200,000,000 that has been borrowed during the last eleven years, and which we have spent, together with a good deal more money that has come from taxation, and see how much of it has been used in such a way as to give returns sufficient to cover interest charges and payments to the National Debt Sinking Fund or to provide us with intangible benefits. I am very glad to have lived long enough to see that the various major projects that I have sponsored financially in this Parliament have all paid for themselves. There is no doubt that the co-ordination of borrowing and the financial agreement between Commonwealth and State governments have reduced the cost of money for every government in Australia. Money costs much less now than it did when there was acute competition between those governments. The Federal Aid Roads scheme has paid for itself, by reducing the extent of repairs required to motor vehicles and the wear and tear on tyres, and increasing the distance that one can travel on a gallon of petrol. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has paid enormous dividends. The national health scheme is already paying dividends decause of the lesser time that people spend away from work because of illness. The Australian Agricultural Council has been able to introduce home-consumption prices and marketing schemes that have kept many thousands of people on the land. Various taxation concessions that we have introduced have undoubtedly stimulated production. I noticed that Colin Clark, in a lecture delivered in Adelaide in 1938, pointed out that in seven years in the 1920’s we reduced direct taxation substantially and increased the real value of wages by 80 per cent. That was a world record at the time, and I think it still stands.
Do the debts that we have incurred in. the last eleven years stand up to the test? Have the moneys been so invested as directly to pay interest and sinking fund charges, or are they to be a dead-weight burden, without any return to us, until liquidated in 53 years time by the National Debt Sinking Fund? Do they give us a satisfactory return in better conditions, or in actual savings to the community such as have been made by our expenditure on tuberculosis hospitals and mental institutions? The segregation of tuberculosis patients in special hospitals has meant that a very great number of patients have been returned to their normal places in the community. The incidence of tuberculosis has been reduced to such an extent that the hospital buildings are now being returned to the State governments to be used for other purposes. This is evident from questions that have been asked in this House during the last few days. We hope that, in the same way, the money that we have provided for mental homes will enable great numbers of people who are acutely ill mentally to be restored to their families and to lead active lives in the community, instead of being immured indefinitely in these mental institutions.
What other tests should we apply? The first is this: Has the distribution of population increased the rate of decentralization of industry? That is a matter that we must consider in an atomic age, because if a number of industries are operating close together, that area will be most severely damaged in the event of enemy attack, having in mind the potentialities of the H bomb and other powerful nuclear reactions. What is the position regarding decentralization? The census figures of 1947 and 1954 show that the numbers of people in the great metropolitan centres are still increasing in proportion to those in the other parts of the States. The population of Sydney increased from 49 per cent, to 54 per cent, of the total population of New South Wales. For Melbourne the increase was from 59 per cent, to 62 per cent.; for Brisbane from 36 per cent, to 38 per . cent.; for Adelaide the increase was from 59 per cent, to 60 per cent., and similar increases occurred in Western Australia and Tasmania. Obviously the money that we are spending at present has not had the effect of spreading the population more evenly. This is an important consideration, especially from a defence point of view.
The next test is this: Has governmental expenditure increased our productivity, or strengthened our competitive power as a nation in all our various industries by lessening the cost of production? Has it helped to eliminate the avenues of waste that have appeared, almost insensibly, in our national resources? Has it made our resources more accessible for exploitation, or has it saved time and energy in the ordinary life of the community? It seems to me that the tests I have mentioned might be called touchstones to measure our capacity to increase the real value of wages, and so make our population better able to carry the burden that is the price of social security, and to provide, by investment in Commonwealth bonds and payment of taxation, our tremendous requirements of power, transport, food, health and cultural facilities in our education system and universities to enable us to compete on even terms with other countries that have been making great advances in these fields.
Has the expenditure of this huge amount of money produced all these results? It has in some respects, and if we could be assured that the further use of large amounts of money would result in a continual improvement of the position we could let it go on. But can we get such an assurance? If we cannot, then how and where can Australia obtain the capital that it needs to prevent the waste of its natural resources, such as is occurring in many places that I shall mention? If we cannot use the methods that have previously been used and are only partly successful, then we must look for other methods. It seems to me that one of our objectives should be to achieve some combination of local, State and Commonwealth governments so that an advisory and executive body may be appointed to determine priorities for various projects, and so ensure that the basically essential projects receive sufficient money, and that what might be called the “ milk bar “ propositions do not get ahead of them. Secondly, we could help very greatly to encourage the introduction of fresh capital from outside by endeavouring to ensure that local areas are given full powers by State governments to develop all their resources without restraint. In this way they could make contracts with foreign organizations or even their own people, or give franchises and charters, which would enable these essential developments to be carried out, on a kind of time-payment basis. The third method is the sub-division of the larger States. I believe that if we could have a number of States of the size of Victoria in this continent of ours we would see very rapid development. It is rather interesting to note that Victoria at present is the most attractive State in Australia for foreign investment. It is said that in Victoria every farmer is within 14 miles of a railway line. Honorable members from New South Wales and Queensland will know that in many cases farmers in those States have to go hundreds of miles before they see a railway line or even a decent road.
I believe that if we could follow the three methods T have outlined, side by side with the activities of governmental organizations, we would be able to greatly increase our rate of development, and handle our problems in a much more satisfactory way. One of the first problems that we should tackle is the regular and continuous supply of our rural products. That can only be achieved by an overall system of water conservation and irrigation, fodder conservation and power development. Australian seasons are traditionally irregular. We have a few good seasons, and then we have a drought. In the following year we have, perhaps, two or three disastrous floods, and it may take years to recover from their effects. The Federal Government has felt that this is not a matter for the States alone, and in 1951 about six members of the Federal Cabinet went to Sydney and discussed the matter with representatives of the New South Wales Government. They said that if New South Wales would produce a scheme for preventing or dealing with floods that might occur in all the eastern rivers of New South Wales the Commonwealth would give substantial assistance to enable it to be carried ®ut. The New South Wales Government said they would get a plan ready, but that has not been developed up to the present time. But this must be done. I shall give figures to illustrate the terrific losses in production and how these losses affect employment in every State and also the prices the people have to pay for our failure to prevent them. In Queensland, for several years, in good seasons as many as 2,800,000 boxes of butter a year were produced. But in other years, owing to floods or drought, production dropped to 800,000 boxes, a drop of over two-thirds. Mr. Sheehy, who is the chairman of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, and is well acquainted with butter production in Queensland, and in fact all Australia, told me that over the last 30 years Queensland dairymen have lost over £200,000,000 worth of production, based on present butter prices, as a result of floods or drought. A tremendous amount of work could be done to dam rivers or establish irrigation schemes with such a sum, but nothing has been done.
These losses have interfered with our marketing overseas. Leading agents overseas have told me that they advertise our butter for two or three months and when they receive a shipment they sell it, but that for four or five months they have no butter, and all the value of their advertising is lost. In 1930, when I was Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, Australia joined with New Zealand and agreed to supply 60,000 tons of butter whilst New Zealand agreed to supply 90,000 tons. When we produced only 30,000 tons for export, the New Zealanders were very sore about it, and as a result the market overseas was without butter for some months. In my own district farmers in the areas from the Tweed River down to the McLeay River have collected records which show that during the last eighteen years they have lost more than £50,000,000 worth of butter and milk production because of alternate droughts and floods. It is easy to imagine the great improvements that could be made for an expenditure of that sum.
– That would be a conservative estimate.
– I agree. The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffiths) is aware of the production in the upper Hunter district, and it is probable that the losses in all the northern areas of New South Wales would be nearer £100,000,000 in that period of eighteen years. If something is not done to control the rivers so as to cope with floods, much valuable farming land will be washed put to sea. If these rivers were harnessed to generate electric power, other benefits would result by checking erosion, assisting navigation and providing water for industry. I am amazed that no proper analysis has been made of what is called the ancillary benefits that would be gained from the harnessing of these waters. Recently, the New South Wales Government induced a firm called Ebasco, a great research, engineering firm from America, to examine the position. The firm was asked to investigate particularly the possibilities of an electricity supply in northern New South Wales, but the terms of the task it was asked to undertake were very limited. Ebasco produced a report on electricity supply, but the chairman of the investigating committee said to me, “ We should have been asked to report not merely on electricity supply, but also on the ancillary benefits that come from harnessing rivers. In America, we have provided a formula for this “. He handed me a manual with passages marked in it, showing what could be done. I believe that the revenue derived from these ancillary benefits would more than pay for he establishment of power schemes by way of harnessing the rivers. But, since the New South Wales Government has received that report, it has decided to generate electric power for the whole of northern New South Wales by using coal almost exclusively.
What will happen to the coal-driven power schemes from the Hunter valley down to Port Kembla? They will provide a neat target for atomic bombs, and if these were dropped in that area, a great part of eastern New South Wales would be in complete darkness and all electric power would be cut off. On the other hand, if electrical development were decentralized, both primary and secondary industries could carry on over a wide area while damage was being repaired. New South Wales has always had a strong urge to put its electricity installations in danger spots. I believe that there is not a better target in the world for a bomb than the Bunnerong power station. It stands out like a bandage on a sore thumb inviting an enemy to bomb it and smash up the whole works.
Electricity supply must be put on a proper basis. We must remember that we are in the atomic age, and it is important that we should have our people and our industries scattered. The same applies to transport. Victoria is well served with transport facilities, but in New South Wales and Queensland they have only single-line railways or few branches joining the various main lines. One bomb attack could do infinite damage to these transport systems. For example, in New South Wales, a bomb dropped on the Hawkesbury River bridge, or on the Newcastle railway transferring centre, could cut off the whole of northern New South Wales and southern Queensland from Sydney services.
The question of the full use of our timber assets is also bound up with that of water conservation and power development. On the upper Clarence River is a huge stand of 3,500,000 acres of timber. It lies midway between, and 60 miles distant from, each of the two main highways between Brisbane and Sydney - the Pacific Highway and the New England Highway - and also between the northern and coastal railway systems. But it is not possible to get this timber out, because it is inaccessible owing to lack of communications. If a water scheme were established, the whole of this valuable asset could be used. A dam could be built and the river could thus be made navigable. It would then be possible to use that timber instead of having to pay terrific freights to import timber from overseas, and it would no longer be necessary to pay exorbitant freights to take it to Sydney for shipment overseas.
That brings me to the point that it has always seemed to me that Australia has lost its sense of perspective of the extraordinary value of its assets. Australia is the greatest island in the world and has the wonderful advantage of being completely surrounded by deep oceans. It is far more fortunate than either the United States of America or Canada, where millions of dollars have been spent on waterways to connect the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. In Australia, within only 300 miles inland from the coast, all around the island, are most fertile areas, but there is scarcely a railway line to join the hinterland directly with the coast and nearest potential port. If adequate transport were provided, Australia would at once have an advantage in marine freights over nearly every other nation in the world. Cheap transport would enable the goods to be brought to the seaboard, shipped abroad and sold at a profit. Other nations have to bring their primary products and manufactured goods as far as 1,000 miles and even further before they reach the ocean. It seems that Australians are casually turning their backs on this great advantage of proximity to unrivalled water transport.
I shall not weary the committee with other examples, but those I have given are symbolic of the wastage caused by failure to harness our water and other resources. This is the sort of work that should be given a high priority and financed either by government investment or by private capita] under private control. Such investments would return sufficient profit to meet fully interest and sinking fund commitments on the capital invested without detriment to other activities. I am satisfied that if action were taken to harness our water and associated resources a vast improvement would be made. We would thus bring about a proper balance of population and general industrial and rural activities. We would be able to maintain in this continent a great population and the highest standard of living as well as increase the efficiency of our production mechanism. As a result, our position would be much safer in this atomic era, and Australia would attract many more immigrants whom we would be able to house and employ fully.
.- I do not propose to reply to the arguments of the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) who has just delivered an excellent speech on financial relations and the expansion of our rural and industrial resources. Possibly, if more of us were better acquainted with public finance it would be better for the nation as a whole. Some of the arguments used by the right honorable member concerning public finance may be entirely opposite to the views held by honorable members on this side of the chamber. I feel that the Government’s allocation of finance causes much of the trouble in our country, especially in respect of employment.
I support the amendment moved by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). I support also his contention that the Government, in its financial proposals, has failed to provide adequate payments for the aged, invalid and infirm. The Government is deserving of severe censure not only by the Parliament but also by the people for its handling of the nation’s finances. Government supporters, many of whom wallow in the lap of luxury, may feel satisfied with what the budget contains, but 1 can assure them that we on this side arc anything but satisfied with its contents.
The 1957-58 budget will long be remembered by the unemployed, the sick, the unemployable and the invalids of this country, not for what it contains but for what is does not contain. I do not suppose any other government since federation has enjoyed such prosperous conditions as this Government has. There has been a long succession of good seasons and bumper harvests. Production from primary and heavy industries is breaking record after record yet to-day, despite the Government’s boast of a surplus of £119,000,000, thousands of unemployed men and women cannot find work.
The Government has been recording huge surpluses for years. In the last three years, more than £300,000,000 has been stacked away in a trust fund known as the Loan Consolidation and Investment Reserve
Fund. Revenues have been buoyant and increasing during the whole time this Government has been in office, yet during that time it has been arranging its finances to suit itself, using at will the now famous expressions, “ inflation “ and “ stability “.
The budgets for the last eight years contain some very interesting reading. While revenues have continued to soar, the Government has used the terms “ inflation “ and “ stability “ to deny to pensioners and others a just and equitable living. At the same time, proceeds from direct and indirect taxation have continued to mount. The incomes of pensioners have lost their value due to increases in transport charges, land and water rates and so on, and the unemployed are finding it more difficult to obtain employment because State governments are being compelled to prune their budgets in order that they may be presented to the State parliaments in balance.
The Treasurer admits that for the current year he will receive at least £107,000,000 more in revenue than last year, yet he increases the total payment to States by a paltry £22,662,000, and he expects the States to absorb 120,000 more immigrants and possibly 140,000 of our youths and girls who will enter industry this year. Does the Treasurer forget that each year plant, machinery, public buildings and government utilities become run down and worn out from work and that sooner or later they must be replaced? If he does consider these aspects of State administration, why does he grant the States only a paltry extra £22,662,000 this year, while stacking away £119,000,000 in trust funds? The whole thing is ridiculous.
I well remember that in 1951-52 the Treasurer got such a shock when his huge surplus was computed that he did not know what to do with it. He could only say, “ What the Government proposes to do is to draw at least part of it off and put it for the time being where it can do the least harm “. Ever since that time, he has been stacking money away to satisfy the Government’s stupid financial proposals. I suggest it is about time some one woke up to the Government’s capers and got stuck into the Treasurer and the Prime Minister about them.
I do not intend to quote percentages relating to pension increases or the unemployment benefit because they have been given already to the committee by my leader and others. What I want to stress is that although I give the Government credit for the pension increases proposed in the budget, those increases fall far short of what they should be. Why, the proposed increase of 7s. 6d. a week does not cover even the last quarterly adjustment of the basic wage earlier this year. It would appear that no consideration has been given to other wage increases and other cost increases that have taken place over the past two years.
The basic pensioner is worse off to-day than ever he was. No increase whatever has been granted to the wife of an invalid pensioner. She still has to battle along on £1 15s. a week. The invalid pensioner and his wife will have the princely sum of £6 2s. 6d. a week to live on, and this at a time when the basic wage is over £13! Why the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) has neglected to give an increase to the wives of invalid pensioners is beyond my understanding. Many of these unfortunates are worse off than the age pensioners. Some of them are just short of being 85 per cent, incapacitated, and God only knows how they manage!
There is to be no increase in the funeral benefit paid to pensioners to help to meet the cost of laying to rest their beloved partner. A burial now costs up to £70, and more, and thousands of pensioners are starving themselves in order that they may save the money necessary to pay their funeral expenses. I do not think anything could be more criminal than that, and as soon as the means test is abolished, or reviewed, the better it will be for all of us.
I wish to refer to one or two other matters, and I do not think that there could be a more appropriate opportunity than that accorded during the budget debate to do so. The matters cover unemployment, the coal industry and the inadequate defence and protection of the industrial City of Newcastle.
It is well known that global wars in future will be waged on a far more destructive scale than any previous war. Inter-continental weapons and guided missiles will play the major role. The civilian population and cities will be destroyed almost as completely as military installations. Our geographical position on the earth’s surface is such that if we are to survive as a nation we shall have to plan our development, expansion and defence carefully. In effect, we must have adequate and proper lines of transport and communication. We must be able to transport by road, rail, air or sea to every corner of Australia the materials of war, especially guided missiles and rockets of the interceptor types. It will be imperative that the great industrial cities of Australia have major and secondary means of transport and proper protection from attack. I regret to say that preparations for those eventualities are not being made today. This Government is doing nothing about them.
It is true that a great amount of work is being carried out at Woomera and Maralinga in the development of guided missiles and rockets, but I doubt whether there is a road in Australia, especially in the north and south coast areas, where we have the greatest concentration of population and industries, which could stand up to the haulage of mobile launching platforms for interceptor weapons, guided missiles and other forms of huge modern equipment of war. The Prime Minister and his colleagues always blame State Premiers and the State governments for the condition of the roads, harbours and railways. I suggest it is time the Commonwealth Government woke up to itself and accepted its share of responsibilities for matters of a national character. I shall explain what I mean. If it is seen that a State government is unable to keep, or is not keeping State instrumentalities up to a proper standard, and if that deterioration is likely to affect the defence of the nation, the Commonwealth Government would have a duty to intervene and offer technical and financial assistance to have the work brought up to date. To do so, it could invoke the powers vested in it by the Defence Act or trie War Precautions Act.
A classic example of a city that could be completely destroyed in time of war is to be found in Newcastle. The harbour is silting up to a dangerous extent because funds cannot be found to enable the problem to be dealt with adequately. That great industrial city is one of the best examples of a city that could be hopelessly and totally destroyed, and its industrial potential immobilized, in the event of war. I know that honorable members opposite and Ministers will say that responsibility for these matters lies with the State governments and that if the Commonwealth were to interfere with State functions there would be an outcry from the governments concerned. That may be true, but the Commonwealth Government is charged under the Constitution with the responsibility of the defence of Australia, and if we are to survive this Government must be strong in the action it takes to ensure a strong and adequate defence. The responsibility of the Commonwealth Government in national problems becomes more pronounced because the Commonwealth Government is the collector of revenue and distributor of finance to the States and I suggest that, as such, it has treated the State governments most shamefully with respect to tax reimbursement payments and all other handouts. That is reflected in the deterioration of many State instrumentalities over the past eighteen years. It is time that the Commonwealth Government reviewed its fiscal policy and amended its formula for payments to the States so that full use may be made of man-power resources and mechanized means of industry. It is quite useless for the Government to harp continually on the amount of money it pays to the States each year when it is clearly seen that the States cannot meet their commitments or provide fully for existing services in an expanding economy. Transport services are being reduced; hospitals owe millions of pounds to their creditors; education is being neglected; home building has been restricted; highways and railways are falling to pieces; and tens of thousands of homes require sewerage. The whole nation is short of public buildings. In the last ten years our population has increased by millions. Thousands of them, unfortunately, brought nothing to this country except their labour. Australian industry in the main has been able to absorb them, but the Commonwealth Government still sticks to its outmoded system of finance under which tax reimbursements are paid to the State governments. At the same time, the Commonwealth expects the States to maintain their essential services, many of which have been provided for over 50 years. It cannot be done under the circumstances. Australia cannot continue to admit more than 100,000 people each year, in addition to the natural increase in population, if this Government is not willing to provide more money for education, river and harbour dredging, railway recapitalization and maintenance, road building, housing, and numerous other public undertakings. Our people are already one of the most highly taxed in the world. Even married workers earning only the basic wage feel the impact of taxation.
The budget sales tax concession of H per cent, on household requirements is niggardly compared with concessions allowed to companies. While the vast majority of taxpayers receive practically nothing from the budget, big businesses, hire purchase companies, and industrial enterprises are showing colossal increases in earnings, profits and dividends.
I do not think the Australian people object to high taxation provided they can see where and how their money is being spent. But when they see huge waste, such as at the St. Mary’s ammunition filling plant, which is costing about £30,000,000. and in defence expenditure and other moneys, while housing, education, hospitals, railways, wharfs and harbours aTe being neglected, they are entitled to squeal. I believe that a more forthright financial policy and the provision of limited national credit by the Government to meet the financial requirements of the nation can provide the answer to many of our problems.
Why is there not a closer scrutiny of American methods of finance? For more than fifteen years America has been providing many billions of dollars in foreign aid to undeveloped countries, and I suggest that the greater part of it will never be recouped. Only a few weeks ago America voted £1,649,000,000, or 3,692,710,000 dollars, for foreign aid. That amount represents almost £10 per head of the American population. While all that money is being found for foreign aid, billions of dollars are being made available to American farmers in subsidies to boost farm production. Huge quantities of food have been stored in America for years - food produced with the atd of subsidies. In addition, huge quantities of food have been dumped or destroyed; but the American Government still finds the money to produce more and more. I would like to know where all this money comes from. I suggest that much of it is the product of national credit. I remember the Vice-President of America, Mr. Nixon, saying, when he was in Australia, that America could never balance her budget at home. He implied that the administration was not worried about it. 1 believe that statement to be true. America not only has the know-how; she has the industry, the plant, the man-power, the raw materials, and a great rural potential, and her administrators use them to the best advantage. In short, the Americans display initiative - something that our leaders sadly lack.
Australia has enjoyed unprecedented prosperity. We have all the attributes that a great and expanding country requires. We have the know-how, the industry, and the plant. We have a surplus of man-power and great agricultural production. All we need is money, and I believe we have that also. But this stupid Government would rather pay men the dole than provide funds to State governments and local government organizations to allow the unemployed to perform useful work of a national character which, although primarily beneficial to the State and within the ambit of State administration, nevertheless cannot be performed without special financial consideration. Thousands of good, hard-working Australian citizens are simply straining in the traces to build their own homes, but finance is denied them even though there is an abundance of materials and labour.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) becomes offended when leaders of various associations take him to task on his financial proposals and the continued high taxation with which the people are slugged. But why are hundreds of millions of pounds stacked away in trust funds while the people of large cities are unable to obtain proper amenities, transport, sewerage, homes, and schools? Why are the unemployed being paid the dole while local governing bodies require roads to be built and other work to be carried out? Much work needs doing, and in the main it only requires labour and tools. Yet we are continuously told that there is no finance available! The housing of new Australians calls for the opening up of new estates and the building of new houses. New roads are needed for this purpose and once those roads are built they need maintenance to keep them in proper condition and serviceable for those who use them.
The port of Newcastle and its ancillary establishments, such as wharfs and coalloading facilities, is a disgrace to that great industrial city, as is also the harbour and river siltation. I believe that most of the port facilities were established on loan moneys upwards of 50 years ago. Since their establishment they have been in continuous use, but government after government has neglected their proper maintenance. For years the Federal Government has not provided sufficient funds for renewals and replacements. Great floods have brought down billions of tons of silt from upper reaches of many rivers. Bad engineering on harbour installations has accelerated the silting of the harbour. The State government must accept much of the blame for that. It has allowed vehicular ferry docks to be built out into the stream, causing heavy silting around and beyond the docks. Hulks of old dredges and ships have been allowed to clutter up the river banks. Recently the New South Wales Public Works Department and the Newcastle City Council commenced to build a 300-ft. causeway out into the harbour for the Stockton passenger ferry to tie up to, so that it will not continue to get stuck on a sandbank. That causeway will cause increased silting of the Newcastle harbour, and I believe that before many years have passed the harbour will be doomed so far as accommodating large ships is concerned. “While it may be contended that the matters I have referred to are State in character and that it is the responsibility of the State government to attend to them, there is a national aspect associated with the maintenance of the harbour depths so that shipping may continue to navigate the harbour. The Federal Government must be aware of the tragic state of the Newcastle harbour. Many Ministers visit Newcastle from time to time and they must know that ships large and small get stuck on mud banks in the harbour. More than 30 years ago, ships of up to 15,000 tons could move anywhere in the harbour without fear of mudbanks Sailing ships tied up side by side to wharfs and dolphins, waiting to be loaded with coal. To-day, it is impossible to pull a rowboat to where those ships once tied up.
What of the future? Can any of us imagine the confusion and the tragedy that would occur in Newcastle, and throughout the nation, in time of war if, after an alarm was received that enemy aeroplanes or guided missiles with atomic bombs were approaching Newcastle, ships loaded with war materials should race towards the open sea for safety, and get stuck on the mudbanks that shoal the sides of the channel to the steelworks and the wharfs. What a holocaust of destruction would follow! Practically every ship in the harbour would be destroyed. I believe that the ferry causeway that is now being built will make matters much worse in the years to come. It is possible that, although war may not occur, the city will be strangulated, and will die as an industrial centre.
I mentioned earlier that there was a national aspect to the silting of Newcastle harbour and the deterioration of the harbour installations. There are great sources of raw materials in the area and, in addition, great industries have been established which represent wealth to the city and strength to the nation. Therefore, it is clear that the Government has a special responsibility in regard to any city of Australia in which the national interests become endangered. The Government should intervene and use its authority under the Defence Act, the War Precautions Act, or some other act, in order to ensure that every effort is directed towards the restoration and improvement of the facilities which are required for the national safety or in the public interest.
The environs of Newcastle represent the very best possible area for future industrial development. There are many thousands of acres of land in the islands of the Hunter River which, if money were made available, could be transformed into an industrial arsenal. The silt which is now closing the harbour and clogging the Hunter River should be thrown up on the islands as fast as possible, instead of being run out to sea, so that the land could be reclaimed for industrial expansion, and the river and the harbour restored to their former state. Funds should be obtained immediately tor this purpose, either from the numerous trust accounts, or from national credit. The reclamation of the areas to which I have referred would provide thousands of acres of additional land for industry. I doubt whether land could be found anywhere else in Australia so suitable for industry. There would be quick access to the sea, and the industries would be close to their markets. They would have road and rail connexions, also. 1 now turn to the possibility of industrial expansion in the northern coal-fields, which the Government is shamefully neglecting. There can be no doubt in the minds of most people that the burning of coal in the ordinary way is sheer waste, lt is the view of eminent scientists all over the world that coal is now too dear to burn just for household and steaming purposes. Unemployment is rising in the coal industry through over-production. Some years ago, when some of us on this side of the chamber sought an assurance from the then Minister for Labour and National Service that the miners should be guaranteed continuous employment, the Minister ridiculed the idea of over-production in the industry, and said that the men would have employment for as long as they cared to work.
The facts are that, with modern scientific and technological advancement in the uses of fuel, many industries have turned their attention to other fuels such as oil for use in oil-burning furnaces and locomotives. Diesel-electric plant is more extensively used in industry. Brown coal and low-grade black coal are now being used for steaming purposes because of the latest scientific developments. For many years all the major countries of the world have been studying new techniques in the uses of coal, especially coal such as we have in northern New South Wales with a very high British thermal unit reading. The Commonwealth Government has been consistently opposed to any movement to expand the uses of coal. Britain, France, America, South Africa, China and Russia are all engaged on intensive research into coal by-products.
Recently, an American firm made inquiries as to whether it could purchase 96,000 tons of Maitland coal. I wonder whether the Government thinks that the Yanks were inquiring about the purchase of our coal for the purpose of hauling it 9,000 miles to burn for steaming purposes. We can be sure that they are seeking to use it for some more important purposes than that. The Americans are carrying out a programme which is designed to ascertain the real values of coal everywhere in the world where coal is produced. I believe that our coal has a far greater British thermal unit reading than any other coal in the world. 1 believe that its value for synthetic fibre and plastic industries is equal to that of the best American coal, if it is not better. I further believe that the Australian Greta seam coal is richer in byproducts than any other coal in the world.
In China, coal is playing a major part in the industrialization of the nation. Recently, at Fushun, in north-eastern China, I saw four plants for extracting oil from shale. There are many by-products of shale. Besides petroleum, many other types of oil are being produced from it, including diesel and transformer oils. More than 30 different kinds of dyes are being extracted from it, as well as wax, pitch7blende, sulphate of nitrate, and numerous other products. Synthetic rubber is also being produced from coal. We were told that the Chinese rubber output had increased by more than 3,000 per cent. Chemical fertilizer is also being produced in Kirin at new works. Surely those illustrations indicate the necessity for the Government seriously to consider examining the possibility of doing something for the expansion of the industrial uses of coal in this country.
Has the Government no regard whatever for the welfare of those people who have given a lifetime of service to the coal industry? Has the Government no concern for the future of this country in the event of war? Is the Government smug in the knowledge that it is not possible for a foreign foe to cut our industrial lifeline by preventing the importation of oil to this country? Has the Government no regard for the families who have been born and reared on the coal-fields, and who require work near their homes? I suggest that the new techniques in the treatment of coal would permit of flourishing industries in oil. rubber, petroleum, dyes, synthetics, plasties, and hundreds of other valuable by-products.
There are several methods of treatment for coal, but I understand that the process of low carbonization is a method which is likely to give outstanding results in Australia. By this method, a chain of valuable, integrated industries could be set up, both on the coal-fields and on the islands of the Hunter River. I suggest that it would serve the Government far better to finance the establishment of these industries than to go on encouraging the financial race that is taking place in the wilds of Western
Australia in the search for flow oil. Many people have lost thousands of pounds in that venture, but 1 am game to say that if the Government will give the coal industry a fair go, and assist it to set up a coal-based chemical and liquid oil industry, before long this country could have a rich and profitable overseas trade from the by-products of coal. 1 ask the Government to do something in these matters so that more employment can be assured for our people, and greater prosperity assured for the nation.
– Earlier this afternoon, the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) said that the trade agreement that was signed recently would give the Japanese the same advantages as our own kith and kin in the United Kingdom. Whilst I do not intend to go into any details, I think it is necessary to deny that statement. As all honorable members know, our kith and kin in the United Kingdom, in their trading relations with this country, benefit from the British preferential tariff. The Japanese will merely come under an arrangement that is known as mostfavourednation treatment, a rather inaccurate description.
The honorable member for Shortland (Mr. Griffith) spoke of the necessity to overhaul, maintain and improve certain public works and facilities in the port of Newcastle. He also referred to the coal industry, and its importance in the Newcastle area. Whilst I do not intend to deal with all the subjects on which the honorable member commented, I think it is necessary to make some reply to several of his statements. Like the honorable member for Shortland, I can remember when the port of Newcastle was a very busy one, especially in relation to the coal trade. I can remember when the sailing ships to which he referred were lying side by side, waiting for their turn to get to their berths and be loaded. The honorable member should realize that over-production of good coal is not the reason for the present problems facing the coal industry. Owing to the difficulties, many self-inflicted, that the coal industry has encountered in past years, supply to regular and good customers has been intermittent. As a result, those customers have been forced to experiment with certain alternate fuels, and then begin consuming them. I might give as an example the development of the brown coal industry, which occurred largely as a result of that state of affairs. The Labour government of New South Wales is, for similar reasons, substituting, more and more, diesel locomotives for coal-burning locomotives.
The Commonwealth Government, especially in recent years, has been playing its part in the search for overseas markets, and has experienced a good deal of success. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), in answering a question put by me in the House only a week ago, made it clear that, if the necessary facilities for loading coal into ships were available in Newcastle, we should be able to export more coal this year than last.
The honorable member for Shortland says, to use his own phrase, that “ it is time that the Commonwealth Government woke up to itself” and took what he calls a more “ national “ view. Apparently, when State governments fall down on their responsibilities, the Commonwealth should accept them, and finish the job. We should be quite clear in our thinking on this matter. The port of Newcastle is not an isolated example. For years now the State governments, whenever they have been unwilling or unable to undertake particular responsibilities, have been prone to say, “ Let the Commonwealth do it “. It has become a popular cry, and it has been taken up by a number of organizations throughout the country. When a State government falls down on its job, those whom its inaction is hurting or injuring choose, not to make strong representations to that government, but to say, “ Let us put the responsibility fairly and squarely on the Commonwealth, and see if it will undertake the task “. No doubt they do so because they realize the hopelessness of appealing further to the State government concerned.
As I have said, we should get our thinking on this matter straight. Are we all to become unificationists, and gradually wipe out the State governments by relieving them each year of some of their responsibilities? We must not forget that they still control sovereign States, with complete responsibility in all matters except those which have been surrendered by the Constitution, to the Commonwealth. Is it the wish of the Australian people that we should become unificationists and spoil our federal system? I do not believe that it is. I am convinced that most Australians, in their political thinking, are federalists. We cannot have a strong federal system unless we also have strong and responsible State governments. It is up to the honorable member for Shortland and those who think along the same lines, to see to it that the State governments are, in fact, strong, do recognize their responsibilities, and do whatever is necessary for the advancement of public utilities, wherever they may be.
It is not possible, of course, to refer to all the items in the budget, but. I shall endeavour to make some general comments regarding several of them. First, I am very glad to see that the sales tax on carbonated beverages containing 5 per cent, of fruit juice is to be removed. The honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and I, for quite a considerable time, have been making representations to this end. As honorable members probably know, the citrus industry is facing a number of problems, many of which have relation to the marketing of produce. This, of course, is a matter in which the Commonwealth cannot be of great assistance, but the Government has taken this opportunity to help the industry over its difficulties, and its action has been very heartening to all concerned.
I might also refer to the inquiry held by the Tariff Board in the last quarter of 1956 into the importation of passion fruit pulp and juice - mainly from Africa. It was what one might call the second of a series, for an earlier inquiry had been held in the previous year. It became necessary, in the middle of 1956 - I am speaking from memory - to take further evidence. The Tariff Board was asked to make its decision known to the industry before the harvesting of the summer crop of the 1956-57 season, but, as is generally known, it did not do so. Indeed, the result of the inquiry is still not known to the industry. Yesterday, I asked the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), in the absence of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), whether, in view of the fact that the report had been with the Government for several months, it could be made public and the industry given an opportunity to make its plans before the summer crop was harvested.. I now repeat that request because, as honorable members will no doubt have noted, from the weather in the last few days, spring is with us, and summer is not far away. As the summer crop will shortly be harvested, an early announcement of the Tariff Board’s decision would be of great assistance to the industry.
I want, now, turning to a more general aspect of the budget, to refer to what I believe is a basic truth - that in an expanding economy there are two prime factors which demand attention. The first is that the responsible government should see tothe improvement of essential services, and the second is that it must do all in its power to reduce the national cost factor. Before I develop that theme, may I refer briefly to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who forecast a series of disasters for Australia. The right honorable gentleman almost gloated over the fact that, in his opinion, there would be increasing unemployment. He was supported in those ideas by the honorable member for Shortland and several other honorable members opposite. Only last week, I read in the financial and business sections of the metropolitan daily press reports confirming the stability and progress of a great many companies, representing a cross-section of Australian trade and commerce. One also learns of proposals to establish new industries in Australia. On 6th September - which was only last week - the British Motor Corporation announced that it proposed to commence the erection, in Australia, of a factory which would produce, solely for the Australian market, 1,000 cars a week. That, in itself, must suggest to the mind of honorable members a great degree of confidence in our expanding economy and, further, that it is not only expanding but also stable. So that honorable members will not think that anything I have been saying has a party political bias I shall quote from the annual report of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia for the year ended 30th June last. Under the heading of “ Economic Survey “ the bank says -
The year 1956-57 was marked by a dramatic improvement in the health of the Australian economy.
The growth and development characteristic of the post-war period continued but on a sounder basis and with a considerable easing of inflationary pressures. More stability developed hi the labour market and the rate of increase in prices slackened, reflecting levels of expenditure more in accord with the flow of resources available.
Australia’s international balance of payments benefited from the marked improvement in export income, due primarily to an increase in the wool clip and to significantly higher wool prices. As a result of import restrictions and also of the continued inflow of capital, international reserves, which had fallen to a dangerously low level, recovered to a more satisfactory position. As a consequence, the Government relaxed certain import controls to a welcome degree.
I quote that because it bears on the point that I am trying to make and gives an unbiased view. 1 introduce the next portion of my remarks by saying that I believe that in the expanding economy of Australia there are two prime factors in respect of which the Commonwealth Government has certain responsibilities. They are, firstly, the maintenance and expansion of essential services, and, secondly, the creation of the right climate for a reduction of the national cost factor. In this budget, both of those prime factors are recognized. To digress for a moment, I think we owe a great debt of gratitude to the members of the rail gauge committee. As honorable members know, the budget provides for certain funds to be allocated for the standardization of railway gauges. I understand that the first project programmed is the Albury-Melbourne link. It may be of interest to honorable members to learn that in 1955-56 the cost of transport in Australia represented over 30 per cent, of total expenditure, but in other countries which enjoy a similar, or even a better, standard of living - I am taking the general figure for Europe, the United States of America and Canada - one finds that 10 per cent, of total expenditure is regarded as a high percentage.
Therefore, the contribution that the budget will make to the standardization of railway gauges will reduce our overall expenditure on transport and will help to bring costs down. Speaking from memory, I think the saving on New South Wales railway charges alone will be about £60,000 a year. If I can become slightly parochial, let me say that that will be of great advantage to the small farmers who produce fruit and vegetables in the area which I represent, because a quite large amount of their products is sold to interstate markets, especially the Melbourne market. For the six years ended in June, 1956, the annual rate of capital expenditure on railways in Australia was in the vicinity of £36,000,000. Compare that with the capital expenditure on road vehicles of £268,000,000 for 1955-56. In view of the necessity for competition between the two forms of transport, this contribution that is being made in the budget to the reduction of the cost of rail transport will indeed be of great benefit.
The second prime factor I mentioned was the cost factor. In that connexion, I refer to the new depreciation allowances provided for in the budget. Approximately £26,000,000 more will be available to industry in a full year to re-equip itself. I hope I have shown that the two contributions I have mentioned will go hand in hand to benefit the general economy.
The next matter I wish to discuss is the fund provided for Asian visits. For a number of years honorable members, especially those from this side of the House, have pressed for more visits to be made to the countries of South-East Asia, with reciprocal visits to Australia by people from those countries. It has been suggested that the personnel of the visiting parties should not necessarily be limited to members of Parliament, but that they should be composite parties. The committee knows that a parliamentary delegation went to the International Parliamentary Union conference at Bangkok, and then was formed into a goodwill mission, which, in December of last year, was the guest of the Government of Viet Nam and the Administration of Malaya. Finally, the party visited Singapore and Indonesia. We know also of the most successful visit of His Excellency Ngo Dinh Diem, the President of the Republic of Viet Nam, which concluded on Monday of this week. Mr. Speaker has since announced that a parliamentary delegation from Viet Nam will be in Australia for approximately a fortnight. I understand the delegation is due to arrive next Saturday. I want to say how much I support such invitations to our colleagues in the Asian countries, because visits of this kind help them to get to know us better and help us to a greater understanding of their problems. Without going into too much detail, it is obvious that the future of Australia is becoming linked more closely and intimately with that of the countries of South-East Asia, and that that linking process is proceeding very quickly. President Ngo Dinh Diem has proved himself to be an able administrator and a strong President. His fight against communism proves that he is indeed a Head of a State with whom we should make friends. The same consideration applies to the Government and people of Thailand and also to our new brothers in the British Commonwealth, the Federation of Malayan States. Anything of mutual assistance to ourselves and these countries is not only good for us, taking a selfish point of view, but also for the whole of the free world. A strong, democratic bloc in the South-East Asian area would, in itself, be of great assistance to the cause of peace.
I have mentioned these visits - the one that has just taken place, and the one that is about to take place - in the hope that the Government will be active in arranging an interchange of visits with other countries that are close to us geographically - the new democratic nations of South-East Asia which believe, as we do, in the democratic form of government and way of life. They deserve our support. I think it would be of great value, and a worthwhile gesture, if a delegation were sent very shortly to the new independent Federation of Malayan States - independent within the British Commonwealth - to express our good wishes for the success of the great experiment that they have just undertaken, to assure them of our continued help and assistance, and to give to them the full knowledge that we have at the present time as a result of our own experience in this democratic form of government.
The same thing applies to our friends and neighbours in Indonesia, which is even closer to us. They have their own problems at the present time, many of them very difficult. Their own desire to be a people with a democratic form of rule - a democratic form of government - has been fulfilled and I therefore suggest to the Government that it would be, once again, of great advantage for us to have closer personal contact with Indonesia.
Finally, there is the question of our own relationship with the Territory of Papua and the Trust Territory of New Guinea. The Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in co-operation with the Government,, makes it possible for members of this Parliament, and Parliamentary delegations representing all parties, to visit the territoriesonce a year. I believe these visits to be of great value.
I want to pay a tribute to both theadministration and the staff in each territory for the manner in which they are carrying out their duties, and the dedication that they evince towards their task. I havenot had the opportunity of making very long visits, or very wide ones, but those I have had have been sufficient to impress me greatly with the sense of duty and vision that our own representatives have in those two’ territories. When I was there, I was asked what is to be the political future of thoseterritories. Obviously, 1 could in no way speak for the Government, but I gave anoffthecuff answer to the effect that I havealways had it fixed in my mind that in due course - one could not indicate a date - the Territory of Papua, at least, will becomethe seventh or the eighth State, as the case may be, of Australia. I look forward tothe time when a free vote can be taken in. the trust Territory of New Guinea, and I hope that a great majority of the indigenous people, Europeans and Chinese, will vote in favour of the Territory being joined with Papua. I hope that that will happen, and that these two territories will become a self-governing State within the Commonwealth of Australia, so strengthening our federation. They will then have an opportunity to send their representatives to this place. I believe that that is the great objective to which we must dedicate all our future planning in relation to those two territories.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
.- The committee is considering the spending of £1,331,009,000 belonging to the taxpayers of Australia. This indeed is an important occasion in the parliamentary life of this country. The budget is a remarkable document. In any other parliamentary institution it would be regarded as amazing; but in this Parliament, inured as it is to similar performances by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), it has been received with wonderment and dismay. The central fact stands out that a “ wilful, lavish land “ - to quote the words of Dorothea Mackellar - blessed by bountiful seasons and unrivalled mineral resources, is capable of finding the immense sums of money required by this Government.
The budget itself has no clear-cut objective. It sets out to solve no single problem. It attempts to deal with no given situation; neither does it satisfy in any way the mass of the people, least of all those who have, for twelve months, sought from this Government social justice and a way of life such as the amazing revenues that we are considering this evening might be considered to warrant. As I say, this budget does not solve the challenging problems that face the Australian people. Again, the States will come forward, as they do from time to time, with their pleas for more money for health, education, war service land settlement, water and sewerage schemes, and other works that are essential for development. Much work of that kind is necessary to develop this land for the reception of new citizens, both Australian-born and from overseas. Yet, we find this Government adopting the attitude that the States are almost foreign authorities. They are regarded as though they belong to an entirely different domain; almost as if they are divorced entirely from the British Commonwealth of Nations and have no relationship in fact with Australia.
The challenging thought comes to my mind: What has the Government provided in this budget for the development of the Northern Territory? I should like to say how much I appreciated the privilege, which I had recently, of again visiting that vast Territory, occupying 500,000 square miles, but having a population as small as that of Goulburn, Bathurst, Lithgow, or similar cities of New South Wales. This budget makes no dramatic attempt to deal with the problem of the development of that great area. No attempt is made to solve the problems of the Australian dairy-farmer, or to help him to produce butter for less than the found cost of production. That is a pertinent matter at the present time, because we as a Parliament, and also as a people, claim that we are devoted to the interests of the man on the land. We all know that most of the vast wealth of this country comes from the soil, and it is a reflection on this Parliament, and particularly on the Australian Country party section of it, that more vigorous protests are not made from time to time on behalf of the people on the land.
Little is being done for the vine-fruit growers who recently held a referendum in an attempt to deal with their specific problems. There is little comfort for those who require homes while the timber industry languishes under this Government. I suggest, therefore, that a budget of this kind, which neglects all aspects of development and hands out a miserable pittance to the pensioners, is a budget which will not be accepted by any section of our community. An attempt by the Government to deal with one matter thoroughly, for instance to satisfy the pensioners, or to devise a plan for the development and the peopling of this vast continent, would have been far better than this holding budget which makes certain concessions here and there but in no way deals with the major problems that face us.
My mind goes back to the historic statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who, I am pleased to note, is in the chamber this evening, about putting value back into the £1. I suggest that the only way in which this Government has sought to do that has been by increasing interest charges, increasing prices, restricting credit and imports, and generally hamstringing the freedom of the people. It is not surprising that the only result that has emerged from the economic policy of the Government is that the rich have become richer while many sections of the community have become poorer. That condition must always remain while we have a Government of this kind, pledged as it is to its wealthy friends, prepared to dissipate and give away the people’s assets one after the other, behind the back of the Parliament in some cases and without reference to the Australian people. I refer to Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and the other organizations which have been sold or given away. Conduct of that kind is characteristic of the Administration which has brought to the Parliament the budget that we are considering now.
The fall of living standards has been clearly indicated by the excellent speeches that have been made during this debate, especially those of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), who made an outstanding contribution in a factual way, supported by statistics, last evening. I think that the committee is indebted to him. We on this side of the chamber say that, despite what the budget proposes to do, these crumbs from the rich man’s table in the form of 7s. 6d. here and a few pence there, and a little assistance to the man who is unemployed, do not meet the situation at all.
I wish to refer at this stage to the central problem that faces Australia at the present time, that of unemployment. I believe that in this land, now or at any other time, we cannot countenance anything less than full employment. It is a shocking state of affairs that unemployment should exist in a country that is trying to develop its resources, a country with such vast potential and which is capable of voting annually almost £200,000,000 for defence. The £190,000,000 which is to be voted for defence on this occasion will do little, I suggest, to assist the real security of our people by financing the construction of better roads, railways and harbour facilities, and providing those things that we need for our security.
Before I discuss the question of unemployment in detail, I want to say a word or two about the speech that was made late this afternoon by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean), who attempted to defend the failure of this Government to face its responsibilities to the coal-miners. We all recall that during the war when the Labour government was in office, the miners pledged themselves to produce the coal that the nation required. In peace-time also, not only the mining unions, but also the mining communities gave assurances that the coal the country needed for heat and power would be produced, that Australia would not be without the coal needed for its development. In pursuance of the need to keep up coal production the Commonwealth Government and the New South Wales Government acted jointly to establish the Joint Coal Board, a joint authority set up under complementary legislation by the Commonwealth and New South Wales, which were acting in partnership in order to do a job of work for Australia as a whole. The Joint Coal Board succeeded in promoting coal production to such a degree that more coal was being produced than was required. Under the board, machines were introduced into the mines and it was found that in a mechanized mine one man could produce more coal than perhaps ten men could produce previously. In the western district, in which I am especially interested, the number of members of the miners’ federation has fallen from 1,700 in 1952 to fewer than 700 now. In short, those 1,000 men worked themselves out of a job as a result of carrying out their promises to the people of Australia. In the northern field there are something like 4,000 fewer men engaged in the mining industry now than was the case previously. But the only contribution the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) - this man who could be better described as the “ Minister for No Development “ - makes to this problem is to decide, without consulation with New South Wales, to sell the New South Wales Mining Company, to sell the coal mines at Newcom and Newstan, both most profitable collieries which are owned by the people of Australia. These mines are to be sacrificed by the Commonwealth without consultation with the New South Wales Government. Yet, this afternoon I heard the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Dean) say that the rights of the sovereign States must be protected and secured. But this Government, through its Minister for National Development, was prepared to by-pass New South Wales and offer for sale some profitable collieries owned by the people, without consultation or so much as by-your-leave or any courtesy.
This state of affairs should be ventilated, and I ventilate it here in this chamber because I feel that a protest must be made on behalf of the mining community, because unemployment has grown rapidly throughout the land. There are no fewer than 53,000 registered unemployed at present, and in my electorate alone 1,000 people are without jobs, despite the fact that many of those who worked and lived in my area have left it to seek work elsewhere. These people are incapable of finding work at present. Plea after plea has been made to the Government to do something about it, and every plea has fallen on deaf ears.
I say to the Government this evening that it is of little use talking idly about the development of Australia unless we can develop established centres of population and production in this country. I want to go on record as saying that I am opposed to the building of satellite cities whether they be near Sydney, Melbourne, or any other city, when there are established centres of population already in existence, with all the amenities, all the services such as water, gas, electricity and sewerage, playing fields and business houses already in existence. It is idle and foolish to talk about building completely new settlements while those centres are here and only awaiting the opportunity to develop. But we cannot do much about this unless we get the co-operation, the active co-operation, of the Commonwealth Government, which controls Australia’s purse strings.
Only to-day I was looking at the annual report of the Commonwealth Bank and under the heading “ Duty “ I read - lt shall be the duty of the Commonwealth Bank, within the limits of its powers, to pursue a monetary and banking policy directed to the greatest advantage of the people of Australia, and to exercise its powers under this act, and the Banking Act of 194S, in such a manner as in the opinion of the Bank will best contribute to the stability of the currency in Australia, the maintenance of full employment and economic prosperity, and the welfare of the people of Australia.
I salute the Commonwealth Bank for its great contribution over the years to the needs of the people of this country. The bank records a profit of some £19,000,000 for the last financial year. I would much prefer to see some of that £19,000,000 being spent on the development of areas of Australia which are languishing at present. I would much prefer to see the Commonwealth Bank spending vast sums on and investing the nation’s credit in works such as, for example, the Trans-Continental Railway, which was established with the help of the Commonwealth Bank while the bank was in its swaddling clothes. There is plenty of use for that £19,000,000 when country towns are unable to afford to put in sewerage.
What I have said of the Commonwealth Bank can be said of the trading banks which are to-day devoting their money to hire purchase finance and so on, rather than to meeting the essential needs of the people. I do not want to be an alarmist, but the position to-day is a most unsatisfactory and most unhappy one for many of our people. I can visualize the day in the not so distant future when many decentralized factoriesin our country districts, whether they be in
Lithgow, Goulburn, Orange or anywhere else, will suffer because of the squeeze that will result from the importation into Australia of vast quantities of cheap goods as a result of the recently concluded Japanese Trade Agreement. The most likely businesses to go to the wall will be those with the greatest costs - that is, those established in rural centres which have to pay high freight and other charges. I submit the Government has a responsibility in this matter, not only to a few people in these communities, but also to the Australian people as a whole.
I want to make an appeal and some suggestions to the Government. The Commonwealth should subsidize freights to assist decentralized industries throughout Australia. The railway systems of the various States are doing a grand job for the Commonwealth. They were essential to the defence of the nation in the last war and, should another emergency occur, they will be called upon to play a similar role. These railways cannot be maintained, neither can they give away vast sums of money in freight concessions when they are called upon to pay staggering sums in interest overseas. So, the responsibility rests on the Commonwealth Government to make freight rebates available in order to help the State governments to continue to run their railways systems. Something similar is being done in regard to the airways.
Australia has a badly balanced population. Sydney and Melbourne hold something like 60 per cent, or more of the people in New South Wales and in Victoria. Adelaide contains an even higher percentage of the population of South Australia. This is unhealthy economically. It behoves the Commonwealth and the States to work out a co-ordinated system for decentralization of industries and population. The States can assist the development of industries in country centres by making concessions in railway freights supported by the Commonwealth Government and by granting electricity rebates as well as in regard to water charges. They can do this in association with local government and semigovernment authorities. The Commonwealth Government, for its part, could assist in concessions in air freight charges where TransAustralia Airlines is concerned, and could make grants to the State governments toenable petrol supplies to be sold at lower rates. It could also act in collaboration with the States to see that petrol companies sell their petrol at a fair price. Profiteering has been rampant in the oil industry since the liquidation of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited and the Glen Davis shale oil project; and the people should be given justice and a more reasonable deal. The Commonwealth could make grants to the States, which in turn could use the money to offset the effects of the customs and excise duties. It could also make larger grants, even up to 100 per cent., of the petrol tax collections on the condition that the State governments spent the money on feeder and developmental roads and the building and maintenance of roads where new industries were being established or where old ones already exist. Existing federal aid roads legislation is an indication of what can be done.
I hope that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will arrange as soon as possible for a conference with the State Premiers on the urgent problem of decentralization. The more industries we remove from the coast and place behind our protective mountain ranges, the better it will be for both defence and development. Surely no fault will be found with that proposition. Surely that is good rural policy and will be supported by members of the Australian Country party, especially the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who speaks as a Country party man when he is in his electorate, but as an extreme rightwing Liberal when he is in this chamber. He might well take cognizance of the proposal I have advanced. If he does not accept it here, I am sure he will do so when he goes back to some of the areas in his electorate. These matters are of the utmost importance and I should like to develop them, but time does not permit me to do so.
I should like more to be done to house the people. I am dissatisfied with what has been done so far. The dismissal of workers throughout my electorate has been most disturbing to me. Even the Department of the Interior, through the works office at Bathurst, has recently dismissed a number of employees, one of them being a married man with nine children. That is part of the contribution that is being made towards full employment!
As time will not allow me to discuss certain other matters that I should like to raise, let me address myself briefly to the question of education. The Commonwealth has a responsibility to face up to the task of educating the people of Australia. It is my firm belief that it is necessary to set out immediately to provide the money that is necessary to build up the kind of education system of which this great democracy is worthy. We have proudly claimed in the past that we have led the world in certain fields, and so we have. It is a source of great satisfaction to any Australian who is overseas to know that he belongs to Australia, to a self-reliant community, to a very great democracy which has pioneered the way in many reforms. But it is saddening to discover just how far behind we are lagging in many respects, especially in regard to technical education. It is acknowledged that in this field we lag behind the United Kingdom and the United States of America, and I am told that our position in relation to the Soviet Union is most alarming. The people of Australia and the Parliament are confronted with the challenge to produce a better educated and more skilled community. We are a nation of only about 9,000,000 people occupying an area of 3,000,000 square miles, and the Parliament has a responsibility to see that the people are educated to the best possible advantage.
We also have a responsibility to ensure that equality of opportunity is afforded to every person in the land and that no son or no daughter is denied the fullest education merely because that child’s parent lacks the wherewithal to send his child through the high school and ultimately, if the child has the capacity, to the university. The Prime Minister, in a speech that he made in 1946 and repeated in 1949, in his own way expressed similar thoughts, in relation to the need for the Commonwealth to accept responsibility in the field of education and for the provision of funds to carry out the work.
The provision of money for specialized education in this atomic age, an age of specialists and technicians, is the responsibility of the Commonwealth. While we are going ahead with technical education, we must not overlook the humanities. It is necessary that the people of Australia should preserve those broad traditions which have kept this country to the fore among the great nations of the world. If these things are to be done, positive action must be taken. First, the Commonwealth must make available to the States vast, additional sums of money. It should also help the families. Child endowment should be increased greatly so that families would have an opportunity to educate their children, because the burden of education falls largely upon families. I submit that the only way of assisting them is to increase the child endowment payment, and that it should be paid while children remain at school. The present method of. discontinuing the allowance at a certain age, although the child is still at a high school or university, is quite wrong. When a child is at a high school or university, the cost of maintaining and educating him becomes greater, and the additional money is needed at that time more than at any other.
A more liberal manner of dealing with Commonwealth scholarships should be evolved. I am really tired of hearing so many complaints about people being denied Commonwealth scholarships because of the means test and about the fact that, despite the advances which have been made in assisting children to obtain the education they require, the scholarships are not adequate. With the concurrence of honorable members, I shall incorporate in “ Hansard “ a table that is of a non-partisan and noncontroversial nature, and which contains statistics obtained from the Bureau of Census and Statistics in relation to the number of children who have left State schools in Australia. The table is as follows: -
Let me say, in conclusion, that the responsibility for carrying out the proposals I have submitted rests with the Parliament. A great task confronts the Parliament, and a great challenge faces the people of Australia. We can face up to our responsibility if we are prepared to be big Australians and to appreciate the problem that is before us. I am mindful of the difficulties that confront this country. I am no alarmist, but I believe that it is against the best interests of every man, woman and child in Australia if one person is allowed to be unemployed. The policy of full employment was enunciated by a Labour government and was set out in a white paper. That document should be preserved for the people of Australia. It should be preserved in every home so that all will be reminded that no person, irrespective of whether he was born in this land or was brought to it from a foreign clime, should be denied the opportunity to serve and build up this great nation.
– The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), said, early in his speech, that this Government had no clear-cut objective in its budget. He could not be more wrong. We have the same clear-cut objective in this budget as we have had ever since we took the reins of office in 1949. Advance, Australia fair! That is our national motto. Never in the history of Australia, has Australia possessed a fairer prospect for its citizens, and never has its advance been more rapid or more successful than under the leadership of my colleague, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and other members of his Cabinet. Just as the other budgets we have presented have been directed to that broad objective without regard to their effect on sectional interests, or without being necessarily responsive to sectional pressures, so, in this budget, the Government has endeavoured to deal in a fair and balanced way with the problems of the nation as we see them in this financial year, 1957-58.
The honorable member for Macquarie takes a gloomy view of the Australian economy at this time. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), also takes a gloomy view of the economy, and so do all the other members of the Opposition who sit behind him. But, I suggest that it is the professional gloomy view of the undertaker and his hired mourners. You know, Mr. Chairman, that in some countries of Asia, in order to create an atmosphere of grief at a funeral, people are hired to put on a bit of an act so that there will be a really impressive show. The right honorable gentleman has the gloom of the professional undertaker, not the gloom of conviction, because I know that in his heart he realizes that there would be no happier man in Australia than he if he could stand where I stand now and present to this Parliament the budget which was presented, on 3rd September, by my colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden).
So, the public must accept with reserve the criticisms which come from the Leader of the Opposition. I concede that he has plenty of justification for gloom, not necessarily induced by the policies of this Government, but we must not harrow him unnecessarily or unreasonably about his domestic embarrassments. I suggest that, just as we accept with some reservation the criticisms which come from honorable gentlemen opposite, the public should accept with some reservation also the criticisms which come from the spokesmen for special interests, which sometimes, by the manner of the presentation of their story, degenerate into pressure groups and which can never, irrespective of the relief granted in any budget, acknowledge publicly gratification at anything that falls short of the full amount of relief that they have publicly claimed.
I say that the Government has to try to deal fairly and in a balanced way with all sections of the Australian community. It has earnestly sought to do that in this budget. The Leader of the Opposition tells us that the economy is running down. When this story comes from him, it is as though the passenger sitting next to the driver of a car who has taken his foot slightly off the accelerator as it mounts a slight incline, says, “There is something seriously wrong with this car because it is not going quite as fast as it was a few moments ago “. I appeal to the public to accept, not the biased judgment of the Leader of the Opposition, not the biased criticism of representatives of pressure groups in this country, but the views of more competent and less biased observers. If I had more time this evening, I would quote many of them, and quote them at length, but let me give just a few expressive sentences. We could hardly have a more authoritative commentary on the state of our national economy than that of the board of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, our own national bank. The board, in its report just published, said, in opening its economic survey for the year 1956-57-
The year was marked by a dramatic improvement in the health of the Australian economy. The growth and development characteristic of the post-war period continued but on a sounder basis and with a considerable easing of inflationary pressures.
This is the economy that, in the words of the right honorable gentleman, is “ running down “!
In recent days we have had spokesmen for three governments in this country - not spokesmen for the Commonwealth Government, not all of them spokesmen for governments of the same political persuasion as this Government - looking at the problems presented by their own economic situations from the viewpoint of the interests of their respective States. Did they come to the conclusion that the economy was running down? The Premier of South Australia certainly did not. When presenting his budget on 3rd September, he said -
I have every confidence that progressive effort of the people of this State will ensure that the next twelve years will record accomplishments even more extensive than those of the immediate past.
He is not worried about the show running down.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Order! I ask honorable gentlemen to refrain from continuous interjections, which are led by the Leader of the Opposition, who himself had unlimited time in which to speak.
– This week we have had two very interesting statements by the Premiers of our two principal States, Mr. Bolte, of Victoria, and Mr. Cahill, of New South Wales. Mr. Bolte claimed, not without some justification, that Victoria was the most rapidly developing State of the Commonwealth. When Mr. Cahill heard of this, he was anxious to impress upon the Australian people the fact that New South Wales was making progress that was no less satisfactory. Articles under the name of each were published this week. Let us remember that the Leader of
Her Majesty’s Opposition in this place - the alternative Prime Minister, should the people be so foolish as to entrust their government to him! - has said that the Australian economy is running down. Mr. Bolte certainly does not believe that. He spoke of an industries promotion campaign, instituted by his Government, which already was making itself felt among other countries. He said -
The Government looks to the future and doesn’t live in the past. For this reason it has been fighting to give the State a new look. The possibilities that industrialists see in Victoria are reflected in some of the industrial announcements which have been made in the last twelve months. Here are some of them:
A £2,000,000 carbon black factory at Altona.
A £2,000,000 electrical lamp and TV factory at Heidelberg.
An £8,000,000 plant by Kodak at East Coburg.
A £1,500,000 to £2,000,000 roller bearing factory at Ballarat.
Those are private enterprise developments, not established by government expenditure. They are a healthy expression of confidence in the development of that State. Mr. Cahill claimed that New South Wales was on the verge of a new period of tremendous industrial expansion. He said -
British, European and American firms are interested in spending many millions of pounds to establish factories in this State. Some have already sent their representatives here to look over the possibilities. More will arrive during the next few months.
New South Wales has become a focal point for overseas investors. They want to bring their capital, plant and know-how. Those who become established here will not only augment our existing industry, but they will employ thousands of our people, reduce our overseas spending, and help to build us into exporters of secondary products. The overseas investor is smiling on us like a favorite son, but we will not be endowed without some efforts of our own. We have already had tremendous success. More than half of £800,000,000 of overseas investment in Australia since the war ended has been in New South Wales.
In echoing Mr. Cahill’s note of confidence, I remind the committee that most of the £800,000,000 to which he refers as having been attracted here for confident investment in the future of Australia, was invested as a result of the policies followed by the present Commonwealth Government.
Australia, in 1957, continues to enjoy a high level of prosperity, and a spread of that prosperity which would have been beyond our most optimistic expectations of earlier years. It is certainly not surpassed at the present time in any country of which 1 have knowledge. I invite honorable gentlemen opposite to tell us of one country that has made more successful progress over the last eight years than Australia. The Leader of the Opposition spoke about a reduction in consumption standards. I do not see how he can derive much comfort from a comparison of the consumption standards during our period of office with those which obtained during the period of office of the government of which he was a leading member.
I shall give some of the more obvious illustrations, because time does not enable me to cover the field. I shall refer first to motor cars. We are told about the damage we have done to the motor car industry. The number of motor cars registered during the last year of office of the right honorable gentleman was 66,471. For the year ended 30th June, 1957, the last full year of office of this Government, the number was 149,695. In his last year of office, the number of houses completed, in round figures, was 51,000. In our most recent year, the number was 65,000, and a much greater rate is obtaining at present. I turn now to National Welfare Fund expenditure. This is the area in which honorable gentlemen opposite weep crocodile tears about the plight of the less favoured members of our community - the sick, the aged, the unemployed and so on. Opposition members have no monopoly of compassion or anxiety for these people. We are quite happy to rely, not upon what we mouth in this place, but upon the record of our achievements since we have been in Government. The total expenditure from the National Welfare Fund in the last year of office of the right honorable gentleman was £80,000,000. In our last year it was £227,000,000 and in the current budget it rises to £243,500,000. I know the argument is advanced that money is not worth was it was, but the figures certainly show a very marked improvement in real purchasing terms when a contrast is made between what we have provided and what the Labour Government provided. Not only is the expenditure greater but, indeed, the range of benefits has increased very widely, as my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), will tell us in more detail as this debate proceeds. So this Government was left the task of providing a scheme to house aged persons. This Government also worked out a practical scheme of health and medical benefits, which has helped nobody more greatly than the aged and invalid members of the community.
The Leader of the Opposition spoke about the economy running down. I claim that our prosperity to-day is even more soundly based than it was in the earlier years of this Government’s term of office. Development continues at a healthy rate, but the price level is more stable. As an added item of interest for honorable members, 1 mention that this year working time lost through strikes has been less than in any year since 1942 - the year Japan came into the war, the worst of our war-time years. If honorable gentlemen opposite like to make some cynical comment to the effect that that is a reflection of some unemployment, 1 remind them that 1951 - the year of our highest level of demand for employment - ranks next to this year as being the best we have had since 1942.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), speaking very effectively last night, stressed that this budget contains an element of prudence. I am quite certain that thoughtful, sensible Australians will find good reason for that. We have some uncertainty still as to the price of wool, which is a basic factor in the economy of this country. We have the very real possibility of our first year of drought for a decade, and we have the massive task of redemption of outstanding loans incurred in the war years. It would be a rash Treasurer who employed all his resources in this year and left himself without a reserve to meet contingencies of the kind I have mentioned. We are accused of saving a nest egg for the election which will take place next year. If that had been our approach, we would not, in this budget, be making taxation reductions which will amount in a full year to £56,000,000 nor would we be allocating substantially larger sums to the State governments for their own works expenditures and other expenses. We certainly hope to be in a position to give further relief in our next budget, but we made no fancy promises before the last election nor are we aiming to do so before the next election.
A valid line of examination by the Opposition would have been to analyse whether we are doing enough to keep the economy moving at a reasonable pace. That would have been a fair and reasonable line of discussion. Opposition members have twitted us with the unemployment situation as it exists to-day. That is, I suggest to them, a very dangerous line of criticism, because, should they come to office again - fortunately the prospect seems remote - I should be very surprised if they could sustain a level of employment as high as that which now exists. The task successfully tackled by this Government of maintaining at one and the same time a high rate of development, full employment and a stable price level, calls for skill, judgment, careful planning, experience and, I readily concede, an element of good fortune. The Opposition is so lacking in the first four requirements that it will need an abnormal share of the last - good fortune - to see it through, should it ever come to office.
I have claimed before, and it has never yet been successfully contested by honorable gentlemen opposite, that no industrialized country in the free world has succeeded in sustaining employment at the levels that Australia has enjoyed during the term of office of this Government, and at the same time made the progress that we have made. As my colleague the Minister for Primary Industry pointed out last night, full employment is indeed an article of faith with this Government and we have demonstrated during our term of office, by any reasonable test, that we have sustained full employment. By no manipulation of the figures, and not even by the most extravagant statement, can the Opposition claim that present unemployment amounts to more than 2 per cent, of the work force. Certainly, the Leader of the Opposition was much more reserved on this point than the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron). In fact, unemployment is nearer 1 per cent, of the work force.
I have said publicly before, and I repeat now, that we are not complacent about the employment level. While there is any slack that can reasonably be taken up by plans and programmes, and an environment for expansion by private industry, which this Government can create, our endeavour will be to maintain full employment without the excesses which characterized the overfull employment of earlier periods. We are twitted with the employment situation, but we have a record which I forecast will never be approached by honorable gentlemen opposite, if they are ever in office, and which has not been surpassed by any other country. I feel obliged to remind honorable members opposite of what they regarded as a substantial measure of full employment when we were discussing this matter in the years towards the end of World War II. We then had in mind our pre-war experience and the prospects ahead of us. I shall cite what the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) said - and I do not do so in a critical way.
– We have had him twice before.
– And you will get him a lot more. The Opposition did not disown his statement at the time, and it knows that, in the light of the experience that we had then, it was a reasonable statement of what might be expected. It has been the good fortune of Australia that we bettered what the honorable member for Parkes felt was the best that we could hope for. The honorable member, who was at the time a senior member of the Australian Labour party, as he is now, said: -
J realize that there cannot be total employment, but if we can get down to 5 per cent, of unemployment, for ali practical purposes that can be regarded as total employment.
– In what year was that statement made?
– In 1945, during the debate on the Re-establishment and Employment Bill. I want to emphasize these matters, Mr. Chairman, because 1 believe that there is considerable danger in a situation in which the people of this country take for granted conditions that are the product of good government, and good fortune - I concede that - over the years in which this Government has been in office. There is growing up a generation of Australians that has never known anything other than abounding prosperity, full employment, a rapidly developing economy, and a high rate of population growth. Those who belong to that generation rather naturally assume that these things can be taken for granted in the light of modern experience. It would be very foolish for any one to assume that these things can be taken for granted, because, as I said earlier, they are the product, not only of experience, skilled planning, and a good deal of cooperative effort on the part of governments and the representatives of private enterprise and the organized trade union movement, but also, in part, of very favorable seasons such as we have enjoyed recently. Opposition members are building up in the public mind, for their own immediate political purposes, an impression that these things are there for any government to take advantage of, and that departure, even to a marginal degree, from the conditions that we have known before is a ground, not only for indictment, but also for rejection, of a government with a record such as this Government has been able to establish. That is a dangerous line of argument for the Opposition to develop.
To return to my claim of a moment ago that, with us, full employment is an article of faith, when we were analysing the position a short time ago, I admitted frankly that there was a degree of unemployment which was to be expected with the normal slack occurring in the winter months. I expected that the position would improve, and that as a result of measures that would be announced in the budget, we should be able to provide work, not only for those already seeking it, but also for the 60,000 people that we expect to be added to the work force in the year to come. I find that my forecast is being borne out by the results. I admit that, earlier, I had anticipated this. In August of last year, the number of vacancies registered with the Department of Labour and National Service declined by 1,816. In August this year, the number of vacancies increased by 1,987, and the number of people registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment fell by 1,846 - a favorable movement in both groups. In the last four weeks, the number of people receiving unemployment benefit has fallen by 736, whereas, in the five weeks ended 3rd August last, the number increased by 2,712. So the trend is in the right direction, Mr. Chairman.
When I analysed the position a short time ago, I foreshadowed that the budget would reveal a variety of proposals that would stimulate the demand for labour. If honorable members study the facts and the various details outlined by the Treasurer in his budget speech, they will find that there has been a contribution to expansion, not only by way of increased expenditure, but also by way of a reduction of taxation revenue. In the result, this will put more spending power in the hands of the Australian community. In aggregate, expenditure, not only by the Commonwealth Government, but also by the State Governments, will increase by more than £80,000,000 for a full year. We are looking to the full year in which the expected 60,000 additional people will be added to the labour force. The reduction of revenue by taxation remissions in a full year will amount to £56,850,000. The combined effect will be a fillip of approximately £136,000,000 to the economy. The Australian people will have more money to spend, and the Commonwealth and State governments will spend more, and provide more employment. However, that is not our last resort. We have told the Premiers that, at the end of this year, we shall examine the operation of the works programme. The Parliament will have an opportunity when it meets in the autumn of next year, to review the economy again, and to see how things are working out.
Within the outline that I have given arc proposals that, as I think honorable members appreciate, will provide useful employment for many people. Payments to the States will total £266,739,000, or £22,662.000 more than last financial year, and therefore the States will be able to increase their expenditures. In addition, we have added £3,000,000 to the provision made in the ordinary way for road works. We have indicated that, if a satisfactory basis can be worked out, financial assistance will be given to enable the standardgauge rail link between Wodonga and Melbourne to be constructed as rapidly as the resources of the Victorian Government will permit. My colleague, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), has wasted no time in discussing this” project with the Victorian Premier and Minister for Transport, and I hope that the Cabinet will shortly be able to consider recommendations by the Commonwealth Minister based on those discussions. Expenditure on Commonwealth works will total £122,403,000 or £14,601,000 more than last financial year. Included in that figure is an additional £5,000,000 for war service homes, which will give a very useful fillip to the housing programme. That is a matter to be considered in conjunction with a statement made in the last few hours by the’ Governor of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.
– By the Commonwealth Bank Board, not by the Governor of the bank.
– lt was made by the Governor of the bank, and the right honorable gentleman should be the last person in this place to question his authority on a matter such as this. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has told us that all the indications are that finance for housing up to the level of performance of the industry will be provided by the banking system and private investment in the period ahead.
One could go on at length examining details in this way. The Government stated, before the budget was brought down, that it would provide for measures - many of them flexible - that could be adjusted according to need as the year wore on, in order to enable us to maintain a healthy level of development, and a high rate of employment for the people. The budget has given direct financial Incentive to enterprise. The policies favouring population growth and development that the Government is pursuing will themselves maintain a powerful stimulus. Many private projects that are already under way, or are contemplated, will promote national development. In the light of that fact, and of our awareness of the rapid growth in the working population in the period ahead, we as a government could not do other than try to provide for the needs of an expanding economy. Nothing in this budget suggests that we have done otherwise, Mr. Chairman. If ever there was a budget calculated to maintain healthy progress and development, which have been the proud accomplishments of this Government throughout its term of office, it is this budget. The people of Australia will form their own judgment of what it means to them in terms of prosperity, continuing employment, and living standards, all of which have been so notably enhanced bv this Government.
.- I think that honorable members on both sides of the chamber will agree with me that, if self praise is any recommendation, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) will be in office for life. On no other occasion that he has risen in this chamber and dogmatically praised himself has the right honorable gentleman bettered the performance he has just completed. Apparently, however, lacking a little in confidence because his voice might not carry conviction in the face of rising unemployment, he turned from what he described as one unbiased authority to another.
Let us consider these unbiased authorities to which the right honorable gentleman referred. He said that it would be possible to quote quite a number of others, but of course he did not do so. The first unbiased authority to whom he turned was the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. He cited the Governor of the bank as his authority for stating that there was an improvement in the state of the economy. The right honorable gentleman was really referring to the board and the Governor of the bank which this Government is planning to upturn and destroy by legislation that it is now preparing. If the Government is so confident about the virtues of the Commonwealth Bank, as the Minister for Labour and National Service would have us believe, what is the need for legislation to change the structure of the bank? I should think that, in the light of the wonderful statements expressed by the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Government would not go on with its proposal to introduce this legislation later this year.
Let us look at some of the other unbiased authorities who were quoted by the Minister. The next was the Premier of South Australia, Sir Thomas Playford who, I understand, is not altogether regarded as unbiased in South Australia. He happens to be a premier of the same political colour as the Minister, although he is a little more progressive. The electors of Wallaroo hardly regarded him as a fine authority when an election was held there recently. I am sure that the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), who shows a tendency to interject, would not be regarded as an authority there either if anybody in South Australia knows him.
The next unbiased authority to whom the Minister for Labour and National Service referred was the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, who happens to be a member of the Minister’s own political party, although a little more to the right than the Minister. Another authority was the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill. Recently, both Mr. Bolte and Mr. Cahill have been asserting that their States are the most progressive in Australia despite the policy of this Government, despite the restrictions that the Government has placed upon them and despite restrictive laws that their respective States tried to defeat through the instrumentality of the High Court of Australia. Those gentlemen were not praising the policy of this Government. They were claiming that their States were the most progressive because of the flow of overseas investments into them. Not one word did they say about the policy of this Government.
In a desperate attempt to paint a picture of the great confidence that had been engendered by this Government, the Minister turned to the worn-out trick we have had played on us time after time. He quoted the value of money payments from the National Welfare Fund. The right honorable gentleman paid no attention to the increase of 120 per cent, that has taken place in prices. He did not mention that there are 1,500,000 more people dependent on social services than there were in 1949. He paid no regard to the fact that the years immediately after the war, which he used as the basis for comparison, were years when the Australian economy was being steered back to civilian and peace-time use from the greatest distortion that the economy has ever known. At that time between 800,000 and 1,000,000 men and women were being transferred from the fighting forces to civilian life without the loss of a day’s work. A basis of comparison expressed simply in terms of money is not reliable.
I propose to reply to a number of other statements that were made by the Minister, but before doing so, I should like to bring this debate back to the proper line. I do not intend to deal in rancour or to indulge in wind-bagging as the Minister has done ever since he became Leader of the House. 1 put the basic proposition in this way: This budget is based on the proposition that the Government has gained economic stability and strength during the past twelve months, and that the economy has reached a stage of stability, internally and externally. I propose to state some facts and invite honorable members to consider them closely. The attitude of the Opposition on this question may be simply stated. We say, first, that the economy is unbalanced in favour of 100 or so private companies and a few hundred wool-growers against wage and salary earners, pensioners, small business owners and farmers. The latter comprise the great majority of the people of Australia, and they are represented, in the main, by honorable members on both sides of the chamber although some honorable members will not accept their responsibilities.
Secondly, we say that the external balance of payments is threatened by the need for higher tariffs and more rigid import controls. In these circumstances, instead of a negative, conservative and “ prudent “ budget, we should have a budget that is active and definite. We should have a budget which is planned to redress this imbalance that has been created in every year of this Government’s term of office. As I have said, the imbalance that I have mentioned is in favour of about 100 companies and a few hundred wool-growers and against the others. The income increase first gave us a lead to this imbalance.
Wages and salaries have risen about 120 per cent, during the term of office of this Government. There has been a vast increase in the number of persons who shared in that income from wages and salaries. The income of pensioners, on the basis of the most favorable rate, has increased by 106 per cent. The number of pensioners has also increased. The income of manufacturing companies has risen by 150 per cent, at a far more rapid rate than that of any of the other incomes I have cited. However, the number of persons sharing in that company income has probably not increased at all. ls this the balanced economy that the Government prides itself on having created in the past seven or eight years?
Included in the companies I have mentioned are a few who have taken the greater proportion of the total income. These are facts and not so-called authoritative opinions, such as those of the Premier of South Australia which have been quoted by the Minister for Labour and National
Service. My authority is the reports presented by the Commissioner of Taxation. The 34th Annual Report of the Commissioner of Taxation shows that the income of 22,873 companies in the assessment year 1953- 54 was £405,000,000. The report for the following year shows that the income of 25,508 companies was £527,000,000. The growth of the large companies has continued through to 1957, probably at an increasing rate. I am sure that the correctness of that statement will be borne out when the report of the Commissioner of Taxation for 1956-57 is published.
How has the income of these companies been distributed among them? In 1953-54, companies earning from £1 to £10,000 numbered 17,536 of a total of 22,000 companies, and they earned £45,000,000, or 11 per cent, of the total company income. In 1954- 55, companies which earned between £1 and £10,000 totalled 19,337 and their income amounted to £50,000,000, representing only 9.6 per cent, of company income. Thus, there was a fall from 11 per cent, to 9.6 per cent.
Let us compare the great majority of the small companies with a few giants at the other end of the scale. In 1953-54, Australian companies which earned between £500,000 and £1,000,000 a year numbered only 89. They earned £110,000,000, or 26 per cent, of the total company income. In the next year, that group of companies had increased to 130 and they took £178,000,000, or 34 per cent, of the total company income. Their share had risen from 26 per cent, to 34 per cent. Not only has there been a great diversion of income and resources to this private sector of the economy, but also there has been a great concentration of wealth in a small number of concerns. In 1954-55, 130 companies which earned between £500,000 and £1,000,000 received £178,000,000 by way of income, but the other 19,337 companies which earned less than £10,000 received only £95,000,000. Is this the kind of balance that the present Government is trying to achieve?
Let us have a look at the rate of increase of incomes of these companies. We shall take, first, the small companies with capital of up to £10,000, of which there were about 17,000 and 19,000 in the two years concerned. Their income has increased by 12.8 per cent. That is a rate of increase considerably greater than that which is found in wage and salary incomes, and considerably greater than the rate of increase of pensioners’ incomes. It is also considerably greater than the rate of increase of incomes of unincorporated businesses and small farmers. These small companies could manage an increase of only 12.8 per cent, in their incomes. The next group, with capital of between £10,000 and £50,000, showed a slightly smaller increase of 11.5 per cent. But now we begin to see where the increased income has gone, because the next group of companies, with capital between £50,000 and £500,000, of which there were only 1,558, showed an increase of income of 23.2 per cent. But they are only in the second form. When we come to the top form, the companies with capital between £500,000 and £1,000,000 - and there were 76 of themwe find that their incomes increased by 59.6 per cent. As to the big fellows, the untouchables, with capital of £1,000,000 or more, of which there were 54, their incomes increased by 63.1 per cent. Is this the kind of balance that the Government was elected to achieve?
When we consider the increase in the assets of these companies we find that between 1952-53 and 1953-54 their assets increased from £342,000,000 to £411,000,000, representing a 20 per cent, increase. In the next year the assets increased from £411,000,000 to £500,000,000, which shows an increase of 23 per cent. These companies, on whose capital investment Mr. Bolte so prided himself, will add to this mammoth structure. The concessions made in this budget, which in a full year will amount to £26,000,000, will go mainly to these 100 or so companies that I have been mentioning, and will increase the tendency to concentrate a greater proportion of the national wealth in the hands of those companies. This has been one of the sources of inflation in Australia. The inflation that we have experienced has been a profit inflation, arising from the activities of these companies that I have been describing. The Australian Labour party has seen clearly that until these mammoth industrial concerns are subject to public control for public purposes, we will have a continually distorted economy, and we will have inflation or unemployment to contend with.
This Government has told us that inflation resulted from wage increases, increases in government spending on social services and increases in consumption spending. We have heard that story often enough. Therefore, the policy of this Government was to remove, or encourage the removal of, cost of living adjustments in wages, and to make sure, as best it could, that wages were frozen by the arbitration authorities. The Government also decided that increases in pensions should be granted gradually and tardily, and, as a result, years have gone by without any increases in pensions being granted at all. The Government’s policy also included restriction of bank credit for small concerns and small farmers, but not for these mammoth companies that could themselves extract income from the community for their investment purposes, and that did not depend upon the banks but were powers unto themselves. But inflation is continuing despite the policies that the Government has adopted. It has done so because these 100 or so large companies have been free to increase their profits by about 60 per cent, in each and every year. They have not been subject to any of the controls that have been applied to other sections of the community. Is this the kind of balance that this Government stands for?
Inflation continues because economic and social policy imposes controls, restrictions and delays upon wages and wage increases, consistent with the argument that is continually brought forward that costs must be kept down, and consistent with the argument that there should be no great change in the social services structure. The welfare fund payments that the Minister mentioned a little while ago have fallen slightly each year when considered as a proportion of the national income. Small businessmen and farmers have been subjected to bank control restrictions, but the 100 or so large companies have been left free to fix their prices, and to feed their own investment funds upon excess profits, thereby escaping the threat of bank credit restriction. This results not only in inflation but in a redistribution of income. Wages and salaries in the last twelve months have fallen from 63. 3 per cent, of the national income to 62.7 per cent. Consumption has similarly fallen. Re i wages have, at best, been stable thoughout the years. The Commonwealth
Statistician’s figures show that in March, 1957, the index for real wages was at a figure of 1226. In June, 1956, the figure was 1230; in June, 1955, it was 1229, whereas in 1954 it was 1223. Where is there any improvement in the standard of living of persons who receive those real wages? Here is stability, and it is the only place in our economy where stability may be found. The stability is in the real wage index, which in itself hides another distortion of distribution within that range.
There is yet another result flowing from these facts. When you have a distortion of national income in this sense, a distortion with regard to its distribution, you have also a distortion in the spending of it, and therefore in what the economist calls the allocation of resources of production. This is indicated nowhere as clearly as in the building industry. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), speaking a short time ago, took great pride in the Government’s housing record. I wish to direct the attention of the committee to that housing record. In 1951-52 there were 82,830 houses under construction. In the next year the figure fell significantly to 69,714, in the following year to 69,573, then in the next year to 65,359, followed the next year by a fall to 60,687. In December, 1956, we find that the number of new houses under construction was 59,934. During the term of office of this Government the number of houses under construction was reduced from 82,830 to 59,934. That is the housing record that the Minister is so proud of! What kind of record would disturb him?
At the same time as the number of houses under construction fell by 21,304, or 25 per cent., the population of Australia increased by about 1,500,000. What kind of a housing record has this Government? Of course there is a housing crisis in this country.
– “ Rubbish “, says the honorable member. The people are living in rubbish, which Government supporters call houses. That is where rubbish enters into this question. I have told the committee the facts regarding the housing situation. That is what has happened in the matter of the provision of services for the people.
Now let us have a look at “ other building “, as the Commonwealth Statistician calls it. Under this heading are included buildings such as service stations and office buildings in the cities, and hotels in the electorate of the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). What has happened with regard to that kind of building? In 1951-52 investment in building of that kind amounted to £254,000,000. The figure rose continuously until in March, 1957, it stood at £409,000,000. We see an increase of £155,000,000, or 60 per cent., in the value of that kind of building in the same period during which the number of houses under construction was reduced by 21,304. The Minister for Labour and National Service left the chamber some five minutes after I commenced to answer his speech. It is no wonder that he is completely unaware of the housing situation, if this is his way of treating the facts.
The increase in the value of “ other building “ that I have just mentioned resulted in increased pressure on living standards in the community* Consumption as a whole, as recorded by the Commonwealth Statistician, has been rising in value, if one disregards the fact that every £1 spent on consumption has been worth so much less each year. The amount spent on consumption has been rising; but the percentage increase each year has been significantly falling. In 1954-55 it was 11.5 per cent., in 1955-56 it was 11.6 per cent:, arid this year it is 2.2 per cent.
I should like to refer to the amounts of increase in the different sectors of expenditure. In the case of food, expenditure rose from £883,000,000 in 1955-56 in cashFadden’s flimsies- to £923,000,000 in 1956-57, an increase of 4.5 per cent. At the same time, prices rose by 5.5 per cent. There was no real increase in food consumption at all, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out last Tuesday night. The situation worsened in regard to clothing, footwear and drapery. It increased from £441,000,000 in 1955-56 to £448,000,000 in 1956-57, ari increase of 1.6 per cent, compared with an increase in prices of 5.5 per cent. In the case of hardware and electrical goods the increase was from £351,000,000 to £358,000,000, an increase of 2 per cent. Other retail purchases increased from £322,000,000 to £326.000,000, an increase of 1.2 per cent. compared with an increase in prices of 5.5 per cent. Is this the kind of balance this Government has been working to create? The result is that people are being forced more and more into debt and are compelled to save less.
When we look at the hire-purchase trading figures we see what has been happening despite the appeal by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) last year to the hirepurchase companies to regulate their activities. We find that hire-purchase sales of household and personal goods rose from £3,076,000 a week in June, 1956, to £4,268,000 a week in May, 1957, an increase of 38 per cent, in the last twelve months. People do not go into debt because they like to do so. They are forced to enter into hire-purchase agreements to maintain a living standard to which they feel they are entitled and this forces them to go into debt. At the same time, they are compelled to save less. This is clearly evidenced by deposits in savings banks. In January, 1956, these amounted to £1,095,000,000. By May of that year they had increased by £117,000,000 to £1,112,000,000. In January, 1957, the deposits were £1,190,000,000 and in May £1,201,000,000, an increase of only £11,000,000. that clearly indicates the decrease in the volume of savings bank deposits. Despite the operation of four new savings banks established by trading banks, endeavouring to increase their deposits by fair means or foul, the deposits increased by only £11,000,000 between January and May, 1957, compared with an increase of £117,000,000 for the corresponding period last year. How can the Minister or anybody else deny that the people are not worse off when they are forced to spend their savings like that?
The Government, too, of course, has been forced into debt* The outstanding characteristic of the Government’s financial operations has been a constant increase in debt. In 1950-51, the Government’s increase of net indebtedness was £216,000,000. In 1951-52, it was £94.000,000; in 1952-53, £196,000.000; in 1953-54, £102,000,000; in 1954-55, £118,000,000; in 1955-56, £137.000,000; and in 1956-57, £96,000,000. The total indebtedness over those years amounted to £959,000,000. Turning to the short-term redeemable debt we find the Government is always preparing for some great debt repayment. In May of this year the shortterm redeemable debt was £147,000,000, whereas it was £270,000,000 in February and in December it was £270,000,000. The Government is now preparing to meet an indebtedness of £265,000,000 next year.
The Australian economy is based upon control and regimentation of workers and pensioners by wage and pension freezes, penalties on unions and the intimidation of trade unions through the Arbitration Court and otherwise. It is no good beating about the bush. The Government also imposes control upon small businesses and farmers through harsh credit policies, including that of restricting general demand. Government supporters who are interjecting do not like these facts.
– Where is the Minister?
THE TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Mr. Freeth). - Order! The honorable member for Stirling will be named if he interjects in that manner again.
– There is an ever-rising public and private debt. As against this control and regimentation of workers and others who are unable to resist, I invite honorable members to compare the power exercised by the hundred private companies with incomes of about £1,000,000 each, which are free to fix prices, make excess profits and set the conditions of their own expansion and operation. They have been the authors of inflation, and their operations have unbalanced the economy away from full employment.
What is the employment situation? We have just heard a diatribe from the Minister responsible for this situation. At a time like the present anyone would expect a responsible Minister in Parliament to pay some heed to statistical facts. Recently, the Minister said, as reported at page 105 in “ Hansard “:-
The recent trend has been a steady growth in the number of people registered for placement for work . . .
But to-night, a fortnight later, he identifies a new trend because the latest information he received over the telephone from the Bureau of Census and Statistics was that the figures showed a slight improvement. The Minister regards a trend of a fortnight’s duration as a new trend! This is the gentleman who is the Minister directly concerned with unemployment. He considers his job done when he finds that a trend of a fortnight’s duration shows a slight improvement.
What is the position? The Minister told us the other day that there were 20,828 persons in receipt of unemployment benefit and 53,000 people registered for work. About 80,000 additional persons are now becoming available each year for work. Of that number approximately 40,000 are immigrants and 40,000 are young persons who reach working age. What has happened to these people? In 1954-55, the total employment situation appeared to be satisfactory. There were 83,100 more employed, but of that number only 16,100 were males. There was no increase in unemployment between June, 1954, and June, 1955. What has happened since then? Full employment has disappeared in this country and this Government is showing that it is completely incapable of dealing with the situation. Let us examine the facts and see how full employment has vanished. Between June, 1955, and June, 1956, there was an increase of 45,800 in the total number of persons employed in this country, but that was a deficiency of about 35,000 in relation to the 80,000 who become available for employment that year. In the following year, 1956-57, the increase in the number of persons employed was only 5,800. That is almost 75,000 short of the 80,000 annual addition to the work force; and only 600 of those persons employed were males. I emphasize that fact.
The employment situation appeared to be satisfactory two or three years ago when 83,000 persons found employment, but since then the number who have reached employable age in excess of those who found work number 1 10,000. In addition, many persons have been forced to work part time because of economic conditions prevailing in their industries. It is quite possible that there are as many as 1 10,000 people out of work. The Minister admits that 53,000 are unemployed. Is this the kind of balance the Government is trying to achieve? I suppose that the Minister is outside now. achieving a balance of some other sort instead of being present in the chamber, considering whether this is the kind of balance which he, as Minister for Labour and National Service, should be achieving. The Minister has said that there should be some changes at this time of the year to make up for this lag in employment. He said that there should be greater expenditure on public works, but the increase in public works budgeted for at the present time is only £20,000,000, which represents a little over 5 per cent. The Minister admitted that it would take six months for the increase to become effective. There has been no change in banking policy, which the Minister, a fortnight ago, said was necessary.
This budget is designed to reduce unemployment, but the Government has not taken any of the steps necessary to achieve the conditions in the economy to effect a reduction. I repeat that this Government has given away full employment. I do not say that it wants to force down wages, but it is the servant of industrial forces in this country which produce that kind of condition. This do-nothing laisser-faire Government is the servant of those monopoly concerns which dominate our economy and it does nothing to help those unable to help themselves. That is the issue the people of this country must face. Until these large industrial monopolies of which I have been speaking are brought under some kind of reasonable social control the present conditions will continue.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is unfortunate that I have to follow the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) because two people more dissimilar in outlook could not be found in this chamber. I believe in the dignity of man. I believe in the private enterprise system. I believe in freedom of speech. Indeed, I believe in every form of freedom.
Mr. Whitlam interjecting,
Order! The honorable member for Werriwa will maintain order, or I shall have to name him.
– I believe in the Australian way of life. The honorable member for Yarra does not. He is a doctrinaire socialist. The Australian way of life is the capitalist system. Whatever the Opposition says, that fact cannot be denied. The honorable member for Yarra represents the degrading philosophy which wants to shackle men. Wherever there is a socialist state in this world, men are shackled. In view of the wide divergence in our opinions, I repeat it is unfortunate that I have to follow a doctrinaire socialist
The honorable member for Yarra sought to impress us with figures. I have often wasted time analysing figures he has used here. They have been completely illogical. Let me give one example to bear out my assertion. The honorable member referred to monopolies.
– My figures are correct.
– The honorable member realizes that it is unfortunate for him that I am speaking after him. After I have completed my speech, he will be sorry indeed that he did not speak after me. He said that a considerable proportion of the profits in this country go to the great combines at the expense of the wage and salary earners. He omitted to tell us that the great combines to which he refers are comprised mainly of wage and salary earners.
– Let me prove that it is not rubbish. Not one of the statements made by the honorable member for Cairns will bear investigation. I happen to have in my hand particulars of the shareholdings in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. There are 11,000 shareholders of whom only fifteen hold more than 1,000 shares and those holdings represent only 2.7 per cent, of the share capital. No person holds more than 3,000 shares. Thirty per cent, of the capital is held by persons holding less than 100 shares. For every 100 male shareholders, 21 are wageearners and the rest are doctors, farmers, lawyers, engineers, professional men, salesmen, public servants and retired persons. Every other big combine has the same type of shareholding.
The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) quoted figures relating to the big combines. It is part of the socialist policy of this country to try to create suspicion of monopolies. Opposition members adopt the Communist method of arguing and attack the things they want to introduce. If a combine is a monopoly, what greater monopoly can there be than a government monopoly? What greater monopoly are there than some of the Labour monopolies? We hear nothing about them from honorable members opposite.
The purpose of a budget is to illustrate the tasks confronting the Government over the past year, and I shall place those tasks in the order of their importance. The first is the maintenance of the system of freedom. Next in importance, in my view, is defence. The next is the creation of an atmosphere for the progress of the national economy for the next year. Then comes the tackling of such social problems as unemployment and pensions, and the last in order of importance is the close scrutiny of the cost of government. As I have said, the purpose of the budget is to illustrate the tasks of government, because it is through the budget that a government is enabled to govern the country.
All post-war governments in the free world have been confronted with the same difficulties relating to inflation, but this great problem has been aggravated by the fact that we have been experiencing a cold war. No amount of arguing by the socialist thinkers can alter that fact. The cold war has a grave economic effect by increasing inflation. Other factors affecting us in our fight against inflation are a large-scale immigration programme, great industrial expansion and full employment. Make no mistake about it, full employment is highly inflationary. The Government’s task is to plan for the defeat or control of inflation.
All governments are having trouble with this problem. A government can go only so far. The real attack on inflation is the responsibility of every person in the country. Whether he be a trade unionist, an employer, a public servant or any one else, his task is to assist in making the Government’s attack on inflation successful.
While dealing with this point, I should like to emphasize that this problem of inflation is not peculiar to Australia. At the present time, it is causing grave concern in America. During the last twelve months, the Americans have had what they call a creeping inflation. Professor Slichter of Harvard University, who is prominent in the field of labour economics, has stated that full employment creates a problem in that labour unions will make full use of the bargaining powers that full employment confers on them to push up wages faster than the gains in labour productivity. We should remember that point. The Government is committed to a policy of full employment, but we ask all representatives of labour to appreciate that they, too, have a responsibility in this national fight against inflation.
What was the climatic condition of Australia’s economy when this budget was conceived? There is no doubt that we were achieving a condition of stability. That is borne out by the statements issued by the Commonwealth Bank. As yet, we are not certain what the season will be. Australia’s economy is based largely on the rural industries and rural industries are not yet secure for the next year. In view of those facts, the Government introduced a certain degree of caution into its plan of action for the next year. A third factor that has had to be considered is the fact that We shall be faced with enormous debt redemptions as a result of the 1939-45 war.
Coming now to the order of importance that I have given to the Government’s tasks, I shall deal, first, with the freedom of the citizen. This Government does all it can through its budget to ensure the freedom of the citizen, but I warn the committee that at no stage since the beginning of time have more people lost their freedom than during the last ten years. Millions and millions of people have goine into socialist slavery in the last ten years. It is true that many people have gained complete freedom. They never were slaves under the British, but they have now gained their complete freedom in the sense that they are now independent. But, to offset that, 700,000,000 or 800,000,000 people have lost their freedom. That freedom is being challenged in Australia, as I shall show later.
Another important task of the Government is defence. In view of the present world situation, I say without fear of contradiction that anybody who considers it is not important to have a strong defence policy in these times is either a fool or a knave. He could not be anything else. I was indeed shocked when the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) suggested cutting down the defence vote in order to obtain money for building roads and railways. They would not stop an invasion.
The next task of the Government is the creation of an atmosphere for the development of economic security. This is where the fiscal measures proposed by the Government will affect us; but we on this side believe that the measures proposed by the Government will create conditions in which industry, employment and so on, can flourish. How will this be done? It will be done through depreciation allowances on machinery and plant. Commerce and industry admittedly have had some grouch in that depreciation allowances have been inadequate to permit the modernization of plant that is necessary in a world that is becoming more and more competitive. The reduction in company tax is another stimulus to industry. There is some alleviation of pay-roll tax, but on that subject I agree with the honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan). I do not like the tax. When it was introduced it served its purpose, but I feel that it should now be removed. It is a tax on costs. It is similar to the land tax introduced by the New South Wales Government, which is a tax on capital.
Sales tax has been reduced to encourage greater trade. We believe that there is sufficient stimulus in this budget for industry to maintain its progress and to produce another successful year. The report of the Commonwealth Bank shows that the Government’s policies have so far been proved right. That is also borne out by the fact that the share market is buoyant.
I join with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) in criticizing the spokesmen of interests such as the chambers of manufactures and the chambers of commerce, as well as the city press. Every budget and every measure that this Government has brought in to defeat inflation in times of great crisis - it has been brave enough to introduce many unpopular measures - has been met with a scream of woe and havoc, but always the Government has been proved right. I would remind those people of their prophecy of disaster when the little budget was introduced in March, 1956. To-day the Commonwealth Bank says that there has been a dramatic improvement in the stability of the country. I believe, therefore, that the time is ripe for a little more leadership and courage in industry.
The matter of pensions has been dealt with fully by my colleagues. The Labour party has attacked the Government frequently on its employment record. What stimulus to employment is there in the budget? First of all, there is a great stimulus in the fact that taxation concessions have been made to companies. Those concessions, in themselves, will create more employment. Then, the capital works programme of the Postal Department has been increased by £7,000,000. We are giving to the States an additional £22,500,000 for public works. For Commonwealth public works, the increase is £14,500,000, which includes an extra £5,000,000 for war service homes. In those fields, therefore, something like £50,000,000 is being pumped into the economy this year to increase employment. There we have the stimulus which the Minister for Labour and National Service said would be produced in the budget to improve our employment position. Finally, with the withholding tax system being introduced, capital investment from overseas will be encouraged, and consequently more employment will be created. In addition to that, bank credit is under the control of this Government, and adjustments can be made to improve employment.
Some critics of the Government have always accused it of spending too much money on public investment compared with investment in the private sector. It does not require a great economist to realize that as our population is expanding at a very rapid rate, more utilities are needed to meet that expansion. Therefore the government sector of finance has to be adequate for that purpose. More schools, hospitals, power plants, and irrigation projects are required to meet the needs of the increasing population. I invite those who say that the Government sector is using too much investment, to indicate the projects that they would omit. I remind them, however, that if public works are inadequate the Government will be culpable because we shall be unable to absorb the increasing population.
I agree that there is a need for a priority system for State works. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has often asked the State Premiers to agree to priorities. They will not agree, but responsibility for that failure cannot be placed on the shoulders of this Government. One thing I do not like about the budget - and it is something we cannot change - is the fact that much of the money for Commonwealth public works and, of course, for the support given to the States, will come from revenue. That is, the taxpayer of to-day is providing the housing, the electric power, and the utilities for the citizen of to-morrow. I would like to see the Government try to find some way whereby that expenditure could be met from loans.
The budget is designed to perpetuate the Australian way of life, about which we all boast. Australia is one country whose inhabitants have no wish to migrate overseas. Therefore, it can be assumed that Australia has much to commend it. But our freedom is under very subtle attack. That attack is coming from this panacea of all ills, the democratic socialism that we heard of this morning in the urgency debate. The arch-priest of that philosophy is, of course, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt).
We heard the sermon preached by the apostle, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns). Such appeals are made to the lowest common denominator. When we hear the arguments produced by honorable members opposite we realize how stupid they are. But they are not directed to people like us who are analytical; they are directed to the lowest common denominator in our society. I do not mean that in any unkind way, but if you wanted to sway men you would not go to university professors, because they are men with wide and diverse ideas. You could not unite them under one philosophy. However, if you went to coalminers, whose interests are narrow and confined to their particular industry, it would be very easy to win support. It is to such sections of the community that these dissertations by the socialists are directed. Therefore, it is well to be wise to the fact that what we may think is stupid will be believed by many of the lowest common denominators in our society.
What do the socialists attack? They attack monopoly capitalism. That is, they attack something which is big, something which they cannot understand, something which is easy to damage by innuendo. That is always done. Every attack made by the right honorable member for Barton is an attack on monopoly capitalism. As I have said before, these people always attack the things they themselves want to introduce. Russia attacks colonialism, but what is Lithuania and what is Latvia? Are they not colonies? What is East Germany, and what is Poland? Are they not colonies of Russia? Russia attacks colonialism because she wants colonies herself. Socialists attack monopoly because they want to introduce it. Is not socialism a State monopoly? It is a materialist creed and completely dishonest.
We simple folk, we capitalists, do not understand the double talk that goes on. The right honorable member for Barton said this morning that the only thing which will ensure peace in the world is democratic socialism. That is to say, in the socialist society he wishes to create lie the only possibilities of peace in this world. We all want peace, and that is why the right honorable gentleman uses that argument. But every single socialist society which was capable of its own determination proved an aggressor. We have had the example of Russia in Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and other countries. Russia is a socialist State. Nazi Germany, a national socialist State, was an aggressor. Fascist Italy, another socialist State, became an aggressor. They were all part of the same collective creed. China is an aggressor, as was North Korea, and North Viet Nam. Everywhere thai socialism has been capable of its own determination it has proved to be an aggressor. The right honorable member for Barton would have us believe that democratic socialism will bring peace to the world. Has it been tried anywhere? It has. It is being tried among people of a nation in which, at the same time, our system :s being tried. I refer to the peoples of West Germany and East Germany - both of the Germanic race. Whilst, since the last war, East Germany has had a socialist system, West Germany has had a democratic capitalist system - the first time that Germans have lived under such a system. Cheek by jowl with the people of West Germany, the people of East Germany are living under democratic socialism, for that is what it is. There, one may see the difference between life in East Germany and life in West Germany. In West Germany, men live in freedom and their dignity as human beings is respected; their economy is expanding and their way of life is decent. In East Germany and West Germany it is a case of democratic socialism versus democratic capitalism; and democratic capitalism is triumphing.
The method of achieving democratic socialism is to unite people in the lowest common denominator. For that purpose, Stalin attacked the Koolaks. He knew that one could not take a man’s land from him and fail to make him a revolutionary. When one takes a man’s land, he will fight. Stalin realized that and made the Koolaks enemies of Russia in the minds of the masses. Over 30,000,000 Koolaks were destroyed. Democratic socialism chooses capitalism to make of it an enemy in the minds of the lowest common denominator. Time and time again the honorable member for Yarra speaks passionately in favour of the small business man and attacks the big companies which, after all, only represent a number of small investors. He says that big business is bacl; that it is all right for a small business man to employ five persons, but that the moment he employs 100 persons he is exploiting the poor. The fact that motor cars, radios and refrigerators are produced more cheaply does not matter to honorable members opposite because it does not suit their purpose. Yet it is quite in order, in their view, for one man like Dougherty to control 60,000 workers. That is all right; but honorable members opposite say you cannot have big business because that introduces the profit motive. Therefore, they make profit appear to be ugly and in that way try to defeat capitalism.
The Opposition attacks the profit motive in the capitalist system. But man will only work for two reasons, either to make a profit or because he is forced to work; it is a matter of profit or force. We on this side of the chamber believe in the profit motive, but the socialists believe in the use of force. Therefore, they say that profit is ugly; so the capitalist system should be destroyed. It is a curious thing that the State Labour governments rely on lotteries to raise money. Are they not actuated by the profit motive? The honorable member for Yarra despises wealthy people, but the Labour Government of Tasmania is offering prizes amounting to £250,000 in one lottery. The State Labour governments recognize the need to make profit; they recognize that man prefers profit to force. The New South Wales Labour Government is trying to persuade big business to establish monopoly companies in that State. The honorable member for Yarra denounces such companies. Is there one Labour party? Or are there two, or three Labour parties? Thus honorable members opposite indulge in double talk.
I now wish to speak about something which to me is extremely unpleasant. The Labour party talks about the freedoms of speech, education, assembly, organization and association. Yet, when a small number of people in the Labour party say that their leader has their confidence any member of the party who criticizes that statement is expelled. That is how the Labour party controls its own affairs - by force; yet it would have us believe that it would bring these freedoms to Australia. Nobody in that party can criticize its leader. It is not a question of theory but of fact. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Johnson), who has the respect of honorable members on this side of the House, will not be nominated as the Labour party candidate at the next general election, nor will the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers). That is an example of freedom of speech that prevails in the Labour party.
Recently, I was at a good hotel in which the relationships of the licensee to the staff were excellent. The licensee, who was also the owner, told me that the day before a union organizer had gone into the hotel kitchen and said to her cook, “ You are not a member of the union. If you do not join our union you will be replaced to-morrow.” The cook went to her mistress and said, “ Is that a fact? “ The mistress said, “ There is no way out of it. I am afraid you will have to join.” The cook was a woman from Scotland and she said, “ I was told I was coming to a free country “. That is the kind of freedom of association in which the Labour party believes. The principle is laid down in the magnificent platform of the Labour party. People are forced to join associations. Is there any merit in compulsory unionism? The only countries in which it prevails are Roumania, Bulgaria, Poland - and Australia! Yet, we are supposed to be free; freedom of association is guaranteed by these democratic socialists! Such people talk double talk. Under democratic socialism the human personality is invaded by the State. In those circumstances, the old law of nature that a man who wants to eat must work gives way to the rule that if he wants to eat he must obey.
I have just sufficient time to read a summary of the Chifley memorial lecture that was delivered by Professor H. W. Arndt, who was a decent Labour philosopher. He said -
I no longer believe that Labour should aim at a socialist economy in the old meaning of the term, an economy in which all or most of the means of production are publicly owned and the whole economy is centrally planned and controlled. I no longer believe that “ socialism “ in this traditional sense is the best way of advancing towards the fundamental objectives of the Labour party. The time has come, I think, for Labour to free itself from the absurd situation in which the party has ceased to believe in its official platform, does not dare avow any part of it for reasons of political expediency, and does not dare disavow it for fear of offending the pious traditionalists in its ranks.
Who in the Labour party dares to disavow socialism in the party’s platform? The Labour party has been infiltrated by the Communists. That is the reason why the Labour party is now torn apart. The heading of the article to which I have referred is -
Labour’s “ Desperate Need “: Fresh Economic Thinking.
I believe that this budget will implement the Government’s policy of the freedom of man in the Australian way of life. The members of the alternative government would bring to this country the conditions that apply behind the iron curtain. There is no freedom in democratic socialism and I regard as suspect all those people who put forward that idea. I do not distrust all the honorable members on the opposite side of the House. Not all of them are democratic socialists, but some are; and they now control a party which once had fine traditions.
– The dissertation by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), suggesting that the Australian Labour party was hampering freedom of speech, and placing shackles on the worker, was very interesting. I am reminded of the days when there were real shackles on the working people. I recall a man stopping his trolley on the corner of the street in order to speak to me. He looked behind him to see if any one was watching, and said, “ I want to tell you about something that is happening in our factory.
Will you see the secretary and tell him to try to stop what they are doing? Don’t let any one know that I have told you about it or my job won’t be safe”. That is an example of the way in which shackles were placed on the worker by the capitalists of those days. No one could feel that he had security in employment, or a satisfying way of life.
The honorable member for Hume has referred to the Australian way of life and has called this a capitalist nation. If capitalism is the “ ism “ upon which we are to depend in making this country a wonderful place in which to live, I should like to know why there is so much poverty and misery, and why people are living in such dreadful homes, in my electorate. If capitalism can cure that sort of thing, why is such misery to be found everywhere?
About 50 per cent, of the big capitalist enterprises of South Australia are to be found in my electorate. Before the alteration of electoral boundaries a year or two ago the figure was nearer 70 per cent. When I walk through my electorate I see, in the vicinity of those great industries, stark poverty and misery. Capitalism will not cure that condition of affairs. It will be cured only when the capital of this country is used as it should be used.
I do not propose to discuss the actual numbers of men unemployed. Last night the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) demonstrated that fewer males - men and boys - were employed at 30th June this year than at 30th June last year. Last year’s immigration target was 115,000, but we learn from the report on immigration that that figure was exceeded by 8,000 or 9,000. When one reads the newspapers one learns of the excess of births over deaths, and of the steadily increasing birthrate. In every State one hears complaints about the overcrowding of schools, and the high numbers in classes. The Government itself tells us how many new schools have had to be built in the last few years. In my own electorate five or six big schools have been built in that period. More people are coming into the country, and more and more young people are reaching working age, but fewer males were employed at 30th June this year than at 30th June last year. If the little budget of eighteen months ago has cured our economic troubles, why does that state of affairs exist? We were told that the little budget would cure all our troubles, and when we argued to the contrary we were told that we were wrong. The figures have since proved that we were right, and that despite the great increase in our potential work force, fewer people are employed now than was the case in June last year.
The Government’s economic policy has been shown to be anything but a cureall. In considering how the Government intends to rectify the position this year, I should like to make special reference to the womenfolk of Australia, who for many years past have been treated worse than any other section of the community. I direct the attention of the committee to a particular group of women whose plight has been ignored by the Government. Every one will agree that the man who is struck down in youth or middle age, and receives an invalid pension because he is at least 85 per cent, incapacitated, is in a pitiable condition. The Government gives him a pension of £4 a week and says, “ We will give your wife an allowance of 35s. a week because she has to look after you “. That allowance was paid as long ago as 1952! I challenge any Government supporter to say that the cost of living has not increased since then by nearly 100 per cent. The Government chooses to ignore the wife of the invalid pensioner and continues to say to her, “ You will get only 35s. a week “.
I do not know why we have so often to fight for the cause of these people. I can recall many other occasions when I have stood up here and fought for those who were at the bottom of the ladder. About three years ago I pleaded the case of the A-class widow seeking a definite allowance for each child after the first. Five shillings was paid for the first child, but nothing was provided for the other children. I said then that until provision for payment of the additional allowance was made I would continue to ask for it. Last year this Government realized how unfairly the A:class widow had been treatedand granted an allowance of 10s. for each child after the first. I may not have influenced the Government in the matter, but I felt that, in raising my voice in no uncertain manner against the injustice that such widows had suffered, I had done something worth while.
I raise my voice again to-night on behalf of the wives of invalid pensioners. Labour is at present not in office and therefore I cannot move that the allowance of 35s. a week be increased by so much as a Id. However, one can try to make out a case for assistance to these women. Three weeks ago I attended a pensioners’ meeting. A man whom I judged to be about 45 years of age came to me and said, “ Can’t you do something about the dependent wife’s allowance? I am getting £4 a week, and my wife 35s.” Between them they were receiving £5 15s. a week. He said, “ We just cannot get along on £5 15s. It is not enough to enable us to exist”. I know that such people receive free medical treatment, and in that regard I think the Government has done a good job, but more help can, and must, be given them.
On 29th August, when my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), raised for discussion, as a matter of urgent public importance, the subject of unemployment, I said that I did not intend to argue about the figures but that I considered the Government should ensure that those who were unemployed were given something to do. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), or a Government supporter speaking on his behalf, said that when the budget was introduced we would see that the Government was taking action to relieve the employment position. I think the Minister would contend that he has done so.
We discussed, as a matter of urgency, the rates of age and invalid pensions. In that debate I said that I was not going to contend that pensions should be 37 per cent., 30 per cent, or any other percentage of the basic wage, but that we should pay as much as the economy would stand. Honorable members may recollect that last year, when a bill was introduced to amend the social services legislation, I moved, on behalf of my party, an amendment to the motion for the second reading to the effect that the bill be withdrawn and redrafted to make provision for a payment as high as the economy could stand, but not less, in terms of real value, than that which was paid in 1948, when the Chifley Government made its last adjustment of the rates. The minimum increase required on that basis would have been roughly 37 per cent. However, as I said when speaking recently on this subject, my argument is based on the proposition that we should pay what the economy can stand. Could the economy stand something more than the increase of 7s. 6d. provided in this budget for age, invalid and widows’ pensions? I say definitely that I believe it could stand much more. Honorable members opposite often compare the position of the pensioners now with their position when a Labour government was in office. I ask them a simple question. At the time the Chifley Government provided for a pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week, were representations made by the highest religious authorities, professional men at the universities and other people, pointing out that the payment was not sufficient and that something more should be given? The government of that day did not receive such a request, but now petitions are being presented to this Parliament every day, by honorable members on the Government side as well as by honorable members on this side, and many of those petitions ask for a pension at least equal to 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
I am not going to argue in favour of that percentage now, but I do say that it is about time that we came to a decision on what the minimum percentage should be. I would suggest that the Government make it 40 per cent, for a start, and it could be increased later. A payment equal to 40 per cent, of the basic wage would be about £5 5s. a week. If this Government had had the courage to say, “We will increase pensions, not by 7s. 6d. a week, but by 25s. a week “, it would have taken the wind out of our sails, but it was not prepared to do that.
Honorable members opposite may ask, “ How could we afford that? “ I have been looking at the figures supplied to us by the Treasurer. The Consolidated Revenue Fund figures show how the Government is taking extra money from the workers. I cannot recall any increase in wages being granted in this financial year. Last year, an increase of 10s. was granted, but that has not affected the total wages because hardly any overtime is being worked now and many of the married women who were working are out of jobs. Let us look at the revenue figures. It is estimated that this year customs revenue will show an increase of £5,500,000, excise revenue an increase of £13,500,000, and sales tax revenue an increase of £3,000,000.
It is expected that there will be an increase of about £61,000,000 in income tax collected from individuals and an increase of £6,000,000 in income tax collected from companies. Ten times more is to come from individuals than from companies, yet the Minister says that the Government is helping those at the bottom. The Treasurer, in his statement, said that the dependant’s allowance for income tax purposes was to be increased by £13 from, I think, 1st October, and that that would help the average man. The Adelaide “ Advertiser “, on the day after the budget was presented, published a table showing just how much extra taxpayers would get in their pay envelopes as a result of that concession. Some would get Id. a week and some a little more. It may be true that the Government is helping the individual, but it is not helping him very much by these increased taxation allowances for wives and children. Some years ago, I argued that the allowance for a wife should be increased to £150 a year. It has now been increased from £130 to £143, and I suppose I will yet see it go up to £150. I also argued that the £78 allowance for the first child should be increased to £100. It has gone up by £13 - just about half way. I also wanted the £52 allowance for subsequent children to be increased to £78. That allowance, too, has been increased by only one-half of £26, but I suppose it will go up a bit more later. Had there not been a socialist party, as honorable members opposite call it - had there been no Labour party asking for increases every time it got an opportunity to do so, these increases would not be granted now.
Let me say to the honorable member who is interjecting that when I was speaking to a lady recently when I was electioneering in the Wallaroo electorate in South Australia, 1 said to her, “ You know, there are fine, decent men on both sides of the House “. I do not want honorable members opposite to think that 1 am slinging off at them as individuals. I told this lady that we had good men on both sides of the House. But it was not the individual who counted when the budget was being prepared; the Government had the determining voice.
We have been told that, very shortly, the Commonwealth Bank is to be re-organized.
The leading financial man in the Government is the Treasurer. For years honorable members opposite have been congratulating him for the budgets he has brought down. Did the Treasurer bring forward the suggested alterations of tEe legislation covering the Commonwealth Bank? Was he the one who argued in favour of them? Who is it who wants to restrict the Commonwealth Bank? Who is fighting against it? The leaders of honorable members opposite have been opposing the change, but pressure has been brought to bear upon them. Members of the Government parties have said that our executive tells us what we should do, but the simple fact is that our party has a platform and is governed by rules. We are prepared to stand by those rules and support the party. When we subscribe to the rules, the party has every right to expect us to abide by them. If, having agreed to certain things, I do not carry them out and some action is taken against me, I am getting only something I have asked for.
I am not criticizing any individual for exercising his rights. I have said what I think at Labour party conferences. When we have had conferences to consider our rules or lay down our policy, I have stated what I thought should be done, but if the majority of the conference thought that something else ought to be done, 1 have been prepared to abide by their decision. When Government members had a joint caucus meeting to discuss proposed new banking legislation, some of them argued that the powers of the Government over the banks should be restricted, but senior members of the Government parties spoke against that view and carried the majority with them. The minority had to abide by the majority decison. The minority began working at the back again, and, with other people, continued to bring pressure to bear. I am sure that many supporters of the Government do not know any more about banking, which is a difficult subject to understand, than many of my colleagues. However, I have had some experience of banking and I know what can be done.
Let me relate one of my experiences. When I was a struggling “ cocky “, a certain bank manager came to me and said, “ If you want to borrow money, come to us. Never mind about the government, you can get it from us”. But what is the position during bad seasons? Banking practice demands that the banks keep a certain proportion of their funds in a fluid state. When deposits fall, those who have borrowed money from the bank are asked to reduce their overdrafts. A farmer may want to buy a machine, but he cannot get finance because the bank will not increase his overdraft. After all, banks only lend the money that has been deposited with them, and when deposits fall they have to ask borrowers to reduce their overdrafts.
I well remember an occasion when a bank manager asked some poor old “ cockies “, including me, to reduce our overdrafts. I told the manager of that grand capitalistic concern that I would see the general manager about the matter. Subsequently, I called at the general manager’s office in Adelaide, and he asked, “What do you want?” I said, “I have come to see you about my overdraft”. He said “ Oh, you want us to carry the baby “. I replied, “ Oh no, you people came to me and offered to lend me money “. He said, “We are not money-lenders. If you want money, go to the money-lenders “. I have related my personal experience in a period before the Commonwealth Bank introduced controls. When supporters of the Government say that we are socialists and that we want to put shackles on people, they should remember the way in which our people were shackled in those times. Happily, those days are gone. Yet when union leaders seek to improve the conditions of their members, honorable gentlement opposite refer to them as agitators! I shall develop that theme.
Recently, I visited Darwin with the Public Accounts Committee. Before leaving Adelaide, I read a report in the press to the effect that certain workers at Darwin had held a stop-work meeting. They had carried a resolution about the housing conditions at Darwin, and indicated what they thought should be done. I had the impression, from reading the newspaper report, that the secretary of the union concerned was a real agitator; I thought that his action was too strong. But when I met the man in Darwin subsequently, I got quite a shock. He was a very decent type of fellow, and he said to me, “ Can I show you the conditions under which some people are living here? “ I accompanied him. I have seen some bad housing conditions in my time, but those that he showed me in a suburb of Darwin were the worst I have ever seen. In reply to my question, he said, “These houses belong to the Government “. I commented, “ They are not fit to live in “. He said, “ That is so, but the Government will not do them up, because if the occupants move out, they will be pulled down “. This Government talks glibly about giving the people a fair deal. I will tell honorable members what happens at Darwin. If a public servant is appointed to Darwin, the Government builds a house for him to live in; but it will not provide a house for a labourer who works for the Government. Apparently, labourers can live anywhere-
– They live in tents down at the beach.
– That is so. One woman in the suburb I mentioned told me that the Government had warned her that the house in which she was living would be pulled down by a certain date, in order to make way for the building of a high school. Yet the derelict Vestey’s building will not be pulled down until the Government approves an expenditure of about £250,000 on its demolition. As far as I know, that approval has not yet been given. I asked the woman, “ Have you anywhere else to live? “. She replied, “ There is nowhere else for me; we cannot get a house. The Government has told us to get out, but will not provide another house for us “. Let us compare that state of affairs with conditions in New South Wales. Although supporters of the Government have run down the New South Wales Housing Commission because it has built houses for rental, I point out that when an old house is condemned, the commission makes available to the occupant a new house at a reasonable rent.
I should like, also, to remind the committee of what happened in Victoria in 1943. When a slum clearance scheme was commenced at Fishermen’s Bend in 1943, before the old houses were pulled down the government built new ones, into which the occupiers of the sub-standard dwellings m’oved as soon as they were completed. That is the kind of scheme that this Government should introduce at Darwin. If the Government wants to pull down the condemned houses in Darwin that I have mentioned, by all means let it do so; but first the Government should provide alternative accommodation for the occupiers of the condemned houses.
A few minutes ago, I mentioned that I had spoken in Darwin to a woman who had received notice from the Government that the house she was occupying was tobe pulled down by a certain date. I asked her, “ Where can you, your daughter and grandson go? “
– She could only pick out a. spot at Mindil Beach and put up a tent.
– Yes. Yet we are told by honorable members opposite that this Government is doing everything possible for the people. I say that it is not providing for the needs of the people. 1 come now to the matter of housing for immigrants. If a British migrant whocomes to this country can put a deposit of £700 or £800 on a house, he need not live in a hostel. But British immigrants who are unable to find that amount of deposit are compelled to remain in the hostels. Housing trusts and commission* will not help British immigrants who are unable to pay a substantial deposit on a house.
Recently, I asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt> whether sitting rooms could be provided for British immigrants who were living in hostels. He informed me that the decision* on the matter had been taken when he was Minister for Immigration in 1955. He stated that the committee that had inquired into this matter had advised that, becauseof the pressure on hostel accommodation, if the request were acceded to the intake of British immigrants would have to be restricted.
This Government claims that it treatseverybody fairly. About six weeks ago, I was asked to look into the conditions under which a certain family is living. I found that the family consisted of a man, aged 43 years, who is a wood machinist; hiswife, aged 41 years; a daughter nearly seventeen years of age, and two boys aged twelveand five years respectively. This family was allotted three rooms, each measuring approximately 12 feet by 9 feet. They are supposed to be bedrooms, and no sitting room is provided. What will that family do- in a few years’ time? As I have said, there is no common lounge where they may sit. They have to trudge through mud and slush, after a shower of rain, in order to reach the ablutionary section, which is about 70 yards away. The man and his wife decided to utilize one of the rooms as a sitting room. In order to do that, the mother and father and one boy have to occupy one small bedroom and the daughter and son aged twelve years share the other small room. Another room is attached to the quarters, but the family is not permitted to use it. When I went there, the elder boy was doing his homework at the table and the other lad was reading a book. Before these people came to this country, they occupied a six-roomed house in England. When I discussed the matter with the mother she said, “ We want to go back “. If they remain here for two years and if they then return to England, the money that was expended to bring them here will have been wasted. I advised them to keep their chins up and not think of going back to England.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice - 1, What is the total number of branches of the Commonwealth Bank, including the CommonWealth Savings Bank, in Australia? 2, What is the total number of its employees?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
There are thirteen private trading banks in Australia, and five of them have announced that they hold shares in hire-purchase companies. The following is a summary of published information: -
The National Bank of Australasia Limited subscribed for 800,000 5s. shares in Custom Credit Corporation Limited as part of an arrangement whereby, on and after 1st March, 1954, the corporation would extend its facilities throughout Australia with the bank acting as its financial agent. If the bank has since subscribed for its entitlement of shares in new issues, it would now hold 4,800,000 5s. ordinary stock units, representing a 40 per cent, interest in the corporation.
The Bank of Adelaide was a sponsoring company for the Finance Corporation of Australia Limited, which was incorporated in South Australia, in December, 1954. It was announced that the Bank of Adelaide would subscribe for 400,000 10s. shares, representing a 40 per cent interest in the finance company.
The English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, having developed hire-purchase business on its own behalf since 1953, formed Esanda Limited to take over this business as from 1st December, 1955. The bank subscribed all of the capital of £2,000,000. Esanda Limited subsequently issued £3,200,000 of debenture stock.
The Commercial Bank of Australia Limited announced, in August, 1956, that it would take up 3,142,000 5s. shares in General Credits Limited, paid to 2s. 6d. These shares became fully paid on 1st August, 1957, thereby giving the bank a 45 per cent interest.
The Bank of New South Wales announced, on 1st July, 1957, that it had purchased 2,490,000 ordinary 20s. fully paid stock units at a premium of 12s. 6d. per unit in the Australian Guarantee Corporation Limited. This acquisition gives the bank a 40 per cent interest in Australian Guarantee Corporation, whose ordinary capital will now be £6,225,000. There is also £650,000 in preference stock.
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. Of the seven major private trading banks operating in Australia, two, viz. the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited and the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, have their head offices in London, while the others have their head offices in Australia. In June, 1957, the two banks with head offices in London together held approximately 27 per cent of the total deposits of the major private trading banks. Besides having share registers in Australia, almost all the major banks have share registers in London and some also have registers in New Zealand. Some of the major private banks, including one whose head office is in London, conduct business through branches in New Zealand and Fiji. Most of the major private banks therefore have some business interests which extend outside Australia, but Australian business predominates in the case of all banks including those with head offices in London. There are three smaller trading banks operating in Australia, viz. the Bank of China, the Bank of New Zealand and the Comptoir National d’Escompte de Paris, which have their head offices in overseas countries. Another small bank, the Brisbane Permanent Building and Banking Company Limited, has share registers only in Australia and conducts all its business in Australia.
son asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The only destination to which Australian beef cattle have been exported in large numbers for slaughter during the past ten years is Manila. The numbers shipped to Manila each year since 1947-48 were as follows: - 1947-48, 3,026 head; 1948-49 to 1953-54, nil; 1954-55, 5,310 head; 1955-56, 5,674 head; 1956-57, 14,785 head. A number of small shipments have also been made to Singapore and Hong Kong in the last two years, the total being less than 1,000 head.
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following replies: -
z asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
Will consideration be given during this financial year to the re-sealing of additional lengths of the main strips of the Oakey airport, Queensland?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following reply: -
Some re-sealing of the runway at Oakey was completed last financial year. Further re-sealing will be carried out in the next financial year.
d asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Long Bay Rifle Range.
r. - On 3rd September, the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) asked me the following question concerning the Long Bay rifle range: -
Will the Minister inform the House whether he intends to dismantle all military installations at Long Bay rifle range and return that Crown land to the New South Wales Government, so that it may be made available for the extension of that government’s home-building programme?
I now furnish him with the following answer: -
Negotiations are proceeding with the State Government for the release to them of approximately 67 acres of land from the Long Bay rifle range. The remainder of the land forming the Long Bay rifle range proper is a military requirement, and will continue as such for some time to come.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 September 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570912_reps_22_hor16/>.