22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. McIVOR presented a petition from 2,668 citizens of Australia praying that immediate consideration be given to increasing the rates of age, invalid and widows’ pensions to at least 50 per cent, of the basic wage.
Petition received and read.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister in relation to the recent report of the Auditor-General containing very severe strictures on and condemnation of the administration - the financial administration especially - at the filling factory at St. Mary’s. Has the Government decided upon any action as a result of the report, whether by way of further investigation or executive decision?
– That matter is under discussion between the Minister and myself, and at the moment I have nothing to say about it.
– Can the Prime Minister indicate whether or not the design of Australia’s coat of arms is to be changed so that the kangaroo and the emu will be eliminated? I was informed recently in the King’s Hall, by no less an authority than a visitor to the Parliament, that the original reason for the inclusion of the kangaroo and the emu, as symbolic of Australia, was that they never step backwards.
– I noticed in one section of the press - I think that is the way it is put - a story that the coat of arms was to be changed by eliminating the kangaroo and the emu. That story is quite untrue. It is what I believe is known in appropriate circles as a “ think piece “. It just does not happen to be true. What is true is that the Art Advisory Board, in conjunction with the relevant committee here, has been examining the coat of arms, not with a view to eliminating the kangaroo and the emu, which are a long-established, symbolic and characteristic feature of our native fauna, but to endeavour to improve the design of the coat of arms as it stands, so that it will lend itself more effectively to small reproduction for various purposes. That is a task which, of course, is one purely of considering design and set-up. The present design is open to criticism, and has been criticised a great deal; but whatever may come or go in that, the emu and kangaroo will survive.
– By way of a supplementary question to the Prime Minister on the subject of the coat of arms, I take it that the situation has not changed, and that the matter is still open for discussion before the relevant committee, of which I happen to be a member, so that the view can be put that no change should be made to the design.
– Naturally, the position is exactly as it was the last time the Leader of the Opposition and I attended a meeting of that committee.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. Does the Government realize that, in levying a diesel fuel tax directed at interstate operators, the Victorian and metropolitan operators of diesel road vehicles will be paying three times the road charges - first, a double registration fee; secondly, State road taxes; and thirdly, diesel fuel tax? Will the Government give effective consideration to adjusting this anomaly?
– The basic aspect of the honorable member’s question, of course, concerns the Victorian Government, as it relates to the levying of licencefees, diesel tax and so on for vehicles using Victorian roads; but the broad question of conditions of the diesel tax which we expect to collect as from 1st November is receiving the Government’s consideration as an aspect, or element, of a bill that will be brought down in the near future. The factors which the honorable gentleman has brought under notice will be considered.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. As it is reported that the right honorable gentleman will visit the United States of America next week for a meeting of the World Bank, I ask him: As the American investigators of the Townsville-Mt. Isa railway project, who visited that area in June and July, will by now have completed their report, will the Treasurer, during his stay in the United States of America, take all steps necessary to ensure that the finance will be made available to put this work in hand in the very near future, particularly as the manpower required is readily available from among the ranks of the unemployed, and as the work is vital from a developmental and defence point of view and offers a means of increasing Australia’s overseas balances?
– I should like to advise the honorable member that, as a result of a conference between the appropriate Ministers of the Commonwealth and Queensland some time ago, the Queensland Government agreed to send a representative with a Commonwealth representative to America to try to get a mission with expert knowledge and experience in railway engineering as well as in railway financial matters to come to this country. That mission was appointed and duly visited Queensland. 1 understand that it carried out investigations of a most searching nature. Its report to the Queensland Government which, as a matter of fact, employed these experts, is awaited, and my last inquiries brought forward the information that that report, in the terms of the contract entered into between the mission and the Queensland Government, is not due for presentation to the Queensland Government until the middle of October. So naturally, I do not intend to canvass any field or avenues of finance in regard to a proposition that is under investigation, the elements and recommendations in connexion with which are foreign to me at the present time, and probably will not be available to me during my visit overseas. However, the matter is still in hand.
– Are you going overseas, too?
– It is a pity that you did not go overseas and fail to return. The information that I have given is the only information that I can give to the honorable member.
– I direct to the Minister for Primary Industry a question with reference to the search that is being made off the Queensland coast for prawning grounds, and the discovery of a large prawning area off Tin Can Bay, which is in the Wide Bay electorate. Were any of the prawns discovered of the banana variety, which has a world-wide fame for its quality? Further, did the crew of the “ Challenge “ discover any other prawning areas in their survey north to Mackay? If so, did they find the shoals of banana prawns which recently disappeared from the Bundaberg-Port Curtis coastline?
– The recent survey by the “ Challenge “ off the Queensland coast was remarkably successful and, as the honorable gentleman knows, one very large prawning bed was found. I do not think the prawns were of the banana variety; in fact, I am sure they were not. They were king prawns and, I think, tiger prawns. Various other areas which seemed to have a high potential for future development were discovered. The sea bed in these areas is muddy and the water is clear, and it is thought that they offer real possibilities. So far, no prawns have appeared there, and it is thought that it will be wise to carry out a further survey in, say, a month or two months’ time.
– Will the Minister for Immigration inform me of the number of persons in immigrant camps for whom the Government has been unable to find employment?
– I assume that the honorable member is referring to the present time. The population of immigrant camps is of a transient nature, with people coming and going all the time according to the number of ships that arrive in Australia. However, I can furnish the honorable gentleman with figures showing the position as at Friday last, and also a month ago. A month ago, there were 3,301 persons at Bonegilla and Greta. Of those, 1,784 were workers and 1,517 were dependants. On 16th August, a fortnight later, there were 2,927 persons at those centres. On 6th September, there were 1,250 workers and 1,014 dependants, or a total of 2,264 in residence. During the last week, 57 persons entered the centres and 377 went out. So, of the 2,264 persons who were in residence a week ago 1,944 remain, a reduction of 320.
– Can the Minister for the Interior furnish me with details in regard to the cost, area, and area occupied of the new administrative block in Canberra? Is it also possible for him to give me figures showing the sum that has been expended in each financial year up to the present year, the amount that is scheduled to be expended this year, and the sum that will be required to complete the structure?
– As this building is one of some 9,000 projects that are on the books of the Department of Works, I am sure the honorable gentleman will forgive me if I cannot furnish him with the detailed figures he requires. As I recall the situation, expenditure during the last two or three years has been running at between £600,000 and £700,000 a year. Expenditure to the end of 1956-57 was approximately £3,800,000, leaving about £600,000 or £650,000 to be expended during the current year to complete the job, the total cost of which will be about £4,400,000 or £4,500,000. The gross floor area is approximately 550,000 square feet. Of the three blocks that make up the building, one is occupied, and most of the space in the remaining two blocks is being reserved for the movement from Melbourne of the defence services in 1959.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that the New South Wales Government has decided to close the Waterfall Sanatorium for tubercular patients and to use this very extensive institution for an alternative purpose in the public interest? Further, is the Minister aware that there is a strong public demand to use the Waterfall Sanatorium as a hospital for the chronically ill and as a home for aged and invalid persons, and that that demand is being very actively supported by the Wollongong and Port Kembla branches of the Old Age and Invalid Pensioners Association, by the Greater Wollongong City Council and by trade union and
Australian Labour party organizations in the Cunningham electorate? Will the Minister state what financial assistance this Government is able and prepared to make available for the project if the New South Wales Government agrees to use the institution as a hospital for the chronically ill and as a home for aged and invalid people?
– The honorable member for Cunningham ought to know that the Commonwealth Government has no constitutional competence to violate the sovereign rights and powers of the States. So if the New South Wales Government decides to engage in the project which he has described, the responsibility will rest entirely with the State. There is no provision in the social services legislation for the Department of Social Services to render any assistance to the State in that connexion.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that there is a strong feeling of doubt that the Japanese will honour their pledge not to flood Australia with certain types of goods to the harm of local manufacturers of similar articles? Has he considered the tabulation of goods from Japan under the names of those importing them? If not, will he do so, with the object of having early warning of the flooding of any particular market, and also of knowing the names of the Australian firms responsible for it?
– I am aware that it has been claimed in this House and outside it that the Japanese will not observe a general undertaking by the Japanese Government that, within the limits of its authority, it will ensure reasonable restraint in the export to Australia of goods of a kind that would conflict with our own production. I shall base my reply on two points. The Japanese Government gave a similar undertaking to the Canadian Government in a treaty that is now three years old, and the Canadian Government has never been obliged to have recourse to the authority which it took to itself to restrain excessive Japanese exports to Canada. The official Canadian figures show that last year, after the treaty had been in existence for three years, the Japanese had no measurable proportion of the Canadian market in woollen piece goods, only 1 per cent, of the Canadian market in rayon piece goods and only 2 per cent, of the Canadian market in cotton piece goods. The figures show also that during those three years the Canadian woollen industry had expanded by 29 per cent., the Canadian rayon piece goods industry by 8 per cent, and the Canadian cotton piece goods industry by 14 per cent. Therefore, if we judge what may happen here on what has happened in those three years in Canada - a country similarly situated, with a similar agreement - it would appear that Japanese goods are not competitive or that the Japanese do exercise a very severe restraint of exports. But, as I have said to the House, we have no intention of leaving ourselves completely dependent on Japanese restraint. This Parliament has passed legislation that arms the Government with power to impose, if necessary, emergency duties to protect our industries, or to impose quantitative restrictions. As long as import licensing continues - there is no evidence that it will disappear at an early date - a continuous opportunity remains for the Government, and through the Government for industry, to know months ahead what Japanese imports could arrive in Australia in various categories. We have a very comprehensive arrangement, both with importers and manufacturers, for consultation between industry and the Government with a view to judging what is a fair quantity of Japanese goods to be permitted to arrive here. The Government is also establishing an independent advisory authority to make recommendations to the Minister responsible for the protection of Australian industry against excessive Japanese imports.
– Will the Minister for Supply say what action has been taken to bring the ex-gratia payment now being made annually to the Georgetown council in respect of the Australian Aluminium Production Commission’s works at Bell Bay up to a level that is commensurate with the real rateable value of the industry?
– I am afraid that the honorable gentleman begs the question. I do not concede the premise upon which his question is based. I shall look into the matter to see whether I can give him an answer based on the facts, and let him know.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. The background is that about five years ago I approached the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture with a suggestion that to assist the poultry industry to establish some reserve against falling prices, demonstration farms be commenced to train farmers in profitable sidelines, such as flower and vegetable growing. I ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to the serious position of the poultry and egg business in New South Wales, particularly in the Tamworth district, which, I understand, is the second or third largest egg-producing area in the State. Has his attention been drawn to the fact that the industry there is suffering in a way that is imposing considerable loss and hardship on a great number of producers? If he is aware of these facts, will he consider assisting producers to engage in reserve sidelines pending a satisfactory solution of the present difficulties? Has the withdrawal of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board from the Australian marketing scheme in any way complicated the Minister’s very strenuous efforts to find some satisfactory solution to the industry’s problems?
– I have stated in the House that in my personal opinion the solution to this problem is a more aggressive marketing policy and programme overseas. The honorable gentleman will know that the Australian Egg Board is pursuing its marketing activities as strenuously as it can. I was not aware of the proposal relating to sideline activities for poultry farmers. It appears to me to be a suggestion worthy of consideration, and I will refer it to the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture with the suggestion that it be discussed at the next meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council. That is the best place to discuss it, and I hope that something useful will result. With regard to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I do not know a great deal about the activities of the New South Wales Egg Marketing Board. It has been mentioned in the press quite frequently lately, and I think it has enough problems of its own without my making a contribution, which, instead of solving them, might only make them very much worse.
– I ask the Minister for Labour and National Service whether, at the International Labour Organization conference over which he presided in Geneva last June, the Australian delegates voted in favour of placing Hungarian Government representatives on three of the conference committees, and also in favour of placing Hungarian workers’ representatives on two of those committees. If I may refresh the right honorable gentleman’s recollection, they were the committees on the application of conventions and recommendations, on forced labour and on discrimination. Is it true, as has been asserted by an adviser to the employers’ delegation from Australia, that Australia’s vote was given against strenuous opposition from the employers’ delegations from the democratic countries?
– I welcome the opportunity provided by the honorable member to make clear what was the attitude of the Australian Government in relation to this issue. What is important is the substance of the decision taken by the representatives of this Government, in company with the government representatives of other Commonwealth countries, and many of the other representatives of the free democracies. As I think Opposition members know, and as the Leader of the Opposition certainly knows from his former experience as Minister for External Affairs, at conferences of international agencies such as the International Labour Organization, the governments concerned normally defer decisions on questions about the credentials of governments in order that the matter may be decided by the United Nations. I think that the reason for this is obvious. If it were not done, conflicting views about the attitude of the government concerned would be likely to be put before a variety of international agencies where a number of delegations were represented. In relation to government representatives, it has been the practice of Australia, regardless of the political colour of the government of the day, to leave the decision to subsequent discussion by the United Nations.
On this occasion, the question of whether the government, worker and employer representatives from Hungary should be expelled from the conference arose. A vote was taken first in relation to the government delegates. I am speaking now of the plenary conference, and am discarding what the honorable member for Werriwa has put in relation to the earlier proceedings.
– They were all that I asked about.
– I know that. The honorable member is trying to misrepresent what has happened. The substantial question is: What was done in the plenary session when the question of credentials was debated? Contrary to what the Leader of the Opposition said in this House on Thursday last, the vote in relation to the government delegates was taken first, and not after the worker and employer delegations had been dealt with. We as a government recorded our vote on that occasion by abstaining from a decision as to whether the government delegates from Hungary should be expelled. That was consistent with our own view that the issue should be determined by the General Assembly of the United Nations. Having made our position clear on that vote, when the question of whether the employer and employee delegates nominated by the Kadar regime - a Communist regime supported by the force of Soviet arms - should be expelled, we voted unhesitatingly for their expulsion, and the decision was supported by the overwhelming majority of the delegates attending.
– I address a question to the Minister for Territories. I ask the Minister whether it would be highly desirable for an exchange of heads, and officers second in command, of departments of the Administration of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea with their counterparts in the Dutch New Guinea administration for, say, monthly or two-monthly periods. Ii so, will the Minister consider implementing such a scheme, which would be welcomed by the Netherlands Administration, and would be of great benefit to both territories?
– For several years past, following the visit to this country by the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs, it was laid down as an established rule for Papua and New Guinea that an exchange of visits between Australian Territory and Netherlands Territory should take place. The Administrator of Papua and New Guinea has visited the Netherlands New Guinea twice, and quite a number of other officials have visited the Netherlands New Guinea regularly. Some Netherlands officials have visited our territory, though perhaps not as frequently as we would have wished, probably, I think, because of their pre-occupation with their own administrative duties. What the honorable member desires is already established policy. When I was in Hollandia last July, I discussed the matter with the Governor of Netherlands New Guinea, and there is a common identity of purpose between the two administrations for the exchange of such visits.
– I wish to address a question to the Prime Minister. In view of the admission by the Treasurer that he is next on the list for an overseas trip, will the Prime Minister have prepared a statement giving the following information: - (a) The number of overseas visits made by each Minister since the Government first took office in 1949; and (b) The purpose of the visit and the total cost in each instance? Will the right honorable gentleman also state whether there has ever been an occasion in the same period of time when all members of the Government have been in Australia at the same time?
– The question would be even more interesting if it were made retrospective for a longer period of time. I will consider it in both contexts. So far as the Treasurer is concerned, he is going, I hope - indeed, I am sure - with the approval of the Parliament to represent Australia at the important meetings of the International Monetary Fund and, thereafter, to a conference in Canada. It would indeed be a very curious thing if we, as an important member of this organization, turned out to be the only member nation not represented on the highest level.
– My question to the Minister for Labour and National Service, who is acting as the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, concerns the appointment some months ago of a full-time officer of the organization to study bush fires and their prevention. As the bush fire season is now fast approaching, and, in some districts, has already arrived, will the Minister inform the House whether any recommendations have yet been made by that officer? Would he be available to meet interested members of this House to discuss bush fire prevention with them?
– I will have inquiries made immediately into the substance of the questions asked by the honorable member and ascertain what information I can supply to him.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service by directing his attention again to the serious problem of growing unemployment in the electorate of Macquarie, which 1 represent, and in the Lithgow district in particular. Will the Minister take action to provide work for those who need jobs? The position has been aggravated during the past week by dismissals from a Commonwealth Government establishment and ako from private industries. Will the Minister confer with State authorities, if the need arises, with the object of providing work and proceeding with works programmes submitted by councils in the area?
– I and other members of the Government have indicated previously our general approach to the problem of sustaining employment at a high level in Australia. A few nights ago I took the opportunity to indicate various elements of the recent budget proposals which should have the effect of stimulating the demand for labour. Indeed, due to seasonal demands, to which I had earlier made reference, the demand for labour is showing an upward trend and the level of employment now is what was expected. I shall consider the particular situation of Lithgow, but I personally expect that the measures to which I have referred will result in a general improvement, in which I hope Lithgow will share.
– I address a question to the Minister acting for the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. Has the Minister seen a request by the Premier of Queensland for rain-making equipment to be made available for use in that State? If so, what decision has the Minister arrived at?
– It has been pointed out by my colleague in this place on earlier occasions that it is unwise to build hopes too high on the outcome of rain-making experiments. I do not think anybody would be so foolish as to imagine that we have yet reached the stage at which rain can be produced in substantial quantities as the result of the very limited experiments which can be undertaken with the small number of aircraft provided for the purpose. However, in order that we may conduct experiments on as wide a scale as our circumstances permit, I have discussed with my colleague, the Minister for Air, the possibility of making additional aircraft available for the purpose of conducting rainmaking experiments. There are limits as to both the aircraft and the equipment that must be fitted to the aircraft, and, indeed, to the supply of personnel trained in this class of work. However, my colleague has told me that we can secure two more aircraft. These are being fitted with equipment at the present time, and should be available for an extension of the experiments in about a week. The officers of the research organization point out that the location of the aircraft will be based partly on the advice that comes to us from the State Departments of Agriculture as to the regions most in need of assistance, and partly on the advice of the Bureau of Meteorology as to the suitability for these purposes of the weather conditions likely to prevail in those areas. The request of the Premier of Queensland will be measured against the conditions that I have indicated.
– I address a question to the Treasurer on the eve of his departure to attend a meeting of the International Monetary Fund organization. Is it a fact that the main obstacle to an increase in the price of gold being granted by the International Monetary Fund is the opposition of the United States of America, which holds some 27 per cent, of the total gold reserves? Has the question of an increase been put to a vote at meetings of the organization? Will the Treasurer, when he attends the forthcoming meeting, argue for a review of the price of gold and, if necessary, force a vote on the question?
– The Austraiian Government and the South African Government have been persistent in their efforts to have the price of gold increased, and this Government will continue its efforts in this direction.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral indicate the present supply position of rural automatic telephone exchanges in Australia? Are any of these units being produced in this country at present? What is the total number that will be available in this financial year? Can all available units be installed in this financial year with the present technical staff?
– I am glad to be able to inform the honorable member for Darling Downs, and the House, that the position regarding the supply of rural automatic exchanges in Australia is now quite satisfactory. That arises from the fact that several years ago some of the local manufacturers set out to produce these units, and are now producing them wholly in Australia. So I can assure the honorable member that the supply position is satisfactory and that the units are being produced here.
The honorable member has asked me about the number of exchanges available now for installation, and I am glad to be able to inform him that as a result of the increased vote for Engineering Services in the Postmaster-General’s Department for this financial year, as announced by the Treasurer, it will be possible to increase the number of these very desirable items from about 75 last year to at least 130 in this financial year. I state that number as a minimum, and I assure the honorable member that J have considerable hope that this number will be exceeded - it may be up to 150 - as a result of this plan. While that will not enable us to overtake in this financial year the lag in the installation of these instruments, we shall at least be enabled to make a big advance towards meeting requirements in country areas.
– Has the Treasurer been advised of the increase in the investment by private banking corporations in hirepurchase concerns? Has the Government any power to control such operations so as to secure the diversion of a much more substantial amount by these financial concerns for home-building?
– My answer is based upon the premise upon which the honorable member has established his question. The advice that has been given consistently is that the Commonwealth Government has no power or authority over the use of money for hire purchase in the direction he has indicated.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade by referring to the new import licensing replacement plan announced last week to modify the sales replacement scheme for some 56 items of goods introduced only a short time previously. This plan has been very well received and should greatly encourage those firms denied for some time import licences essential for their businesses. I now ask the right honorable gentleman whether the initial allocations for the new importers will be advised this week, or within a few days, to enable overseas orders to be placed. I ask him also: What form of policing increasing stocks held by importers unable to market goods promptly will be adopted by the Government?
– The honorable member has taken a particular interest in one item that has been included in the so-called import replacement policy. I speak of hog casings. If he is referring particularly to that item, then I believe that applicants will be told their initial quota at a very early date. On the more general basis, this policy is being applied to items which are complex in administration and are fairly essential in character. To apply an import licensing replacement policy to all items, of course, would be to end import licensing. This policy is not the forerunner to a total application of this licensing replacement system. In view of the total number involved and the complexity connected with administration, I cannot give an undertaking to the honorable member that all applicants within the 56 item groups will be told within a few days, but they will certainly be told with the minimum of delay.
– I ask the Minister for Immigration whether it is a fact that Mrs. Barbara Castle, a member of the British House of Commons, declared that intending emigrants are subjected to a political screening as well as a criminal and medical check. Is it a fact that this lady stated, also, that a secret report regarding applicants’ activities is forwarded by the British Government to the Australian Government? Has the Minister any comment to make regarding this statement of this British Member of Parliament?
– I have no comment to make; I have not seen the statement.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Aluminium Industry Act - Australian Aluminium Production Commission - Twelfth Annual Report and Financial Accounts, for year 1956-57.
I direct attention to the Auditor-General’s report on the commission’s accounts in which he says that the commission’s current accounting system is satisfactory, that the prompt completion of its financial statements reflects very favourably on those concerned, and that the commission has made a profit of £52,000 this year compared with a loss of £144,000 last year, its initial and partial year of trading.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Bill 1957.
National Service Bill (No. 2) 1957. Wine Grapes Charges Bill 1957. National Capital Development Commission Bill 1957.
Australian Wool Testing Authority Bill 1957.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) from speaking without limitation of time, and the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) from speaking for 45 minutes, on the budget.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 12th September (vide page 641), 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.
.- This is the eighth budget with which I have been associated as the member for Corio and, as one would perhaps expect, the better these budgets are for the benefit of Australia and its future, the less they are appreciated, by the Opposition, which, politically, can only succeed if we fail to maintain the prosperity of this country. One of the first criticisms by the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt) was that this was not a steady budget but a stagnant budget. I should like to refer to some remarks by the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) on the 1954 budget. He said -
This budget is unsound because the Government is gambling on another good season and upon the maintenance of high prices for Australian wool. The prices of all our other primary exports have declined and the base metal market is lower this year than it was last year. Should the price of wool decline Australia will be in grave difficulties. According to Sir John Teasdale, the Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, a surplus of 140,000,000 bushels of wheat will be carried over from this season’s harvest, and no one can foretell the price of wheat twelve months hence.
There were the same prophets of gloom in those days. However, there is one gleam of logic in this particular statement. It is that we have to be careful that we do not, perhaps, count too much on the prices that are in the future; they are problematical always. The financial dependence on our export trade and prices is such that under conditions that prevail today, we need to have what is termed by the Treasurer a stabilizing budget. But without exception, the type of resistance and attack of members of the Opposition has always been based on predictions of disaster because of the Government’s budgetary action. Never is there any evidence of alternative constructive thought as to how the Opposition would adequately alter the situation for the better,, unless, of course, the underlying threats of destruction of what they term the great monopolies and combines which they consider to be the palliative in every case for everything that is wrong in Australia, and the destruction of these alleged monopolies and combines, could be regarded as Labour’s ideas of democratic socialist construction. However, as the years have gone by, this consistent lack of alternatives has enabled the Australian public to realize that the direction and guidance of the Australian economy and our great responsibility for defence, social services, repatriation, war service homes, labour and national services, immigration and Commonwealth and State relations, to name a few of them, are best left to those who, throughout these eight years have taken action and created policies which, by the effluxion of time, have proved that the criticisms by the Opposition from year to year have been completely groundless and not borne out by what, after all, is the only test, that is prac-tical application.
Probably, no government has ever been faced with so many drastic fluctuations in its spending power or has needed to use such rapid action as has this Government in order to adjust the economy. We must always refer, of course, to one of the most drastic and most dramatic developments. That was in 1950-51 when the great wool export boom was followed by a slump of more than 50 per cent, in prices which made it absolutely essential to take strong measures. This action was condemned at the time and the Government was accused of pursuing an erroneous policy. Now, again, we hear all the accusations which we heard in those days. Honorable members opposite say that this budget is too conservative; that it gives too little here and too much there. Those same criticisms were voiced in that bygone period of adjustment. Without labouring the point, I only wish to emphasize that any government which can handle situations of such remarkable complexity as have been created by the vagaries of dependence upon export prices, essential but finance-straining national development plans, the costs of a great immigration scheme, an ever-widening scope of the most humanitarian social service ideas and ideals, a tight-rope balancing between full employment and inflation, and still be able to show such a solid budget of stability and concession, deserves the highest commendation. I know that this Government will receive such commendation again as time passes.
Personally, having heard so often those dogmatic expressions of censure on a Menzies-Fadden budget and having seen the gloom of the Jeremiahs disappear, I have every confidence that this budget will again maintain the constant expansion of Australia’s industries. It will add to its list of employed, lighten the burden of the aged, and once more, by sheer performance, will show that the Government has a positive approach to the problems of the moment and u proved capacity for providing for the future. By contrast, one sees how the Opposition swings from one opportunist point to the other, according to the mood and temperament of the moment, and the political atmosphere. The Opposition is like a man lost in the bush, constantly in a muddle of thought and distraction as to where he should turn to get on to the correct path. lt is ironical to reflect that in the speeches of the Leader of the Opposition and some other Labour members in this debate, there has been an attack on alleged big monopolies and combines to which in 1954 the right honorable gentleman was endeavouring to sell in his policy speech a depreciation allowance of 40 per cent, as a sop to industries. But now the Opposition libels and labels them as combines. Those honorable members who were present in the House some years ago can never erase from their minds the professed sympathy of honorable members opposite for the graziers who, under the wool sales deduction legislation, were being temporarily deprived of 20 per cent, of their wool cheques. Mark you, Mr. Chairman, that money was not taken away from them as an additional tax, but merely in prepayment of income tax. This system, as time went by, proved very helpful to the graziers. It is obvious that the Opposition then had no more sympathy for the graziers than it has now, but it was a good band-wagon to jump on in order to obtain a few rabblerousing votes.
This budget can be regarded as one which will bring confidence to those who have wondered just how far the tide of import, taxation and financial adjustments could rise. Although there is obviously some carping criticism because the recession of the tide at this time has not been greater, nevertheless the high-water mark has been passed and with the concessions now announced there will be far more pleasant and profitable beaches to walk on. One must admit that if taxation is carried too far it disorganizes individual efforts, discourages capital enterprise and impedes development, but, as will be noted, the burden of taxation has been lightened in this budget.
I am impelled to cite some figures which perhaps will remove some of the cause of the self-pity in which we as a nation indulge. We are a comparatively isolated community. We have no borders wilh other countries and communication with other peoples is not easy. Therefore, the difference between our tax rates and those applying overseas are not readily apparent. Every nation in the free world has the admirable objectives of adequate social services, defence, security and higher standards of living; but the working majority must be prepared to contribute to those things. When I speak of the working majority I mean the industrialist with his ability to organize, the professional man with his scientific and technical knowledge, and the employee with his skill and his labour. They are all in together. Only by a comparison with other countries can we obtain any idea of what the co-operation and contributions of these people mean to us as individuals.
A budget is necessarily a vehicle for explanation and statistics, and I propose now to cite some statistics in order to bear out my point. As a measuring stick I have taken the income tax imposed in certain of the free countries on a man with a dependent wife and one child over eleven and under sixteen years of age, in receipt of an income of £1,000, from personal exertion. In New Zealand, quite a small country, the tax is £129 7s. 6d. In the United Kingdom it is £131 17s. lid. However, in Australia it is £64 4s. A person with dependent wife and two children, one over the age of eleven years and one under the age of eleven years, and on the same income of £1,000, pays £118 lis. in New Zealand, £93 10s. in the United Kingdom, and £53 8s. in Australia.
While I am on this subject of comparisons I will give a comparison of Liberal and Labour taxation in Australia. For that purpose I will again take an income of £1,000. It would probably not be quite fair to cite the tax imposed in 1943-44 on a man with a dependent wife and two children, because those were war years and all sorts of exaggerations were apparent at that time. But coming to 1949-50, the figures show that £96 5s. was deducted in tax. Then, as a direct result of the change of government, the tax decreased to £60, and in 1957-58 it will be further reduced to £53 18s. 1 feel that even honorable members opposite will surely admit that the tendency is in the right direction and that a comparison with other countries shows that high taxation is not the policy of this Government. When we compare our taxation figures with those of other countries it is readily seen that we in Australia are very favorably treated.
Perhaps it would do no harm to recapitulate the series of concessions which have been granted to the family man since this Government took office: A deduction may now be claimed for student children up to the age of 21 years, whereas the limit was previously eighteen years. Taxpayers may now claim deductions for the maintenance of parents. Allowable medical expenses have been raised from £50 to £100 and the provision has been widened to include any dependant for whom the taxpayer is responsible. Funeral and dental concessions have been increased. Taxation concessions are given to men over 65 and women over 60 years of age. Provisions relating to education expenses and life assurance premiums have been liberalized. No honorable member opposite should refer to these concessions as trifling, for had they not been granted I am certain that the need for each one of them would have assumed in the Opposition’s budget criticisms the magnitude of a major crisis.
Many other illustrations could be given of the interest taken by this Government in the lower wage-earner. In this budget the Government has followed the earlier trends towards alleviation and assistance, but the Opposition is endeavouring to gloss over the merits of the very fine things that have been done. It is resorting to extremely wild exaggerations, such as the claim that unemployment has been caused deliberately. It points to what it calls the deficiencies of the immigration programme, and criticizes this country’s expenditure on defence.
Before I refer to these matters, however, I feel that I must say something about one of the finest pieces of helpful and cooperative legislation ever devised - the homes-for-the-aged scheme. Of all people, the aged and physically handicapped are deserving of the utmost consideration, but to be sightless as well can be regarded as the saddest state of complete helplessness. I know from my own practical experience the amazing value of the £1,500,000 which has already been allotted for homes for the aged. The Association for the Advancement of the Blind has already erected a modern, splendidly designed home at Ballarat and another is in the course of completion at Bendigo. I say with all sincerity that the committee, of which I happen to be a member, in its moments of most fervent hope and optimism would never have been prepared to face the great barrier of finance involved in the construction of these homes, had it not been for the knowledge that every £1 left in bequests, given in donations, or raised by street collections, would be matched with £1 from the Commonwealth Government. Now the Commonwealth’s contribution is to be £2 for every £1 raised by the organization. The Commonwealth Government has the very gratifying knowledge that this money is being allied with money painstakingly raised. Therefore, because charitable money, given by the public, is mingled with Commonwealth money, it will be expended with a maximum of efficiency and a very full realization of values. Of course, this latest gesture is surely magnificent and inspirational to all who have special building projects in view. Again, I register my thanks to the Treasurer and to the Minister for Social Services for their very ready recognition of the splendid development that is taking place in the provision of homes for the aged.
Another point I should like to make is that it is rather difficult to bring aged patients within the scope of the scheme for the payment of the 8s. a day additional hospital benefit, but it is essential that this should be done. The extra benefit is paid when people are registered with hospital benefit societies, but most of the aged people concerned are chronic sufferers, and therefore are not eligible to belong to the hospital societies. Consequently, the payment of 8s. a day is lost to the homes. I could cite quite a number of cases in which aged people, blind and helpless, have had to go into homes, but have not been accepted for insurance. Therefore, the homes will not receive the additional rate of 8s. a day. I ask the Minister for Social Services, who obviously desires to assist aged people, to look at what appears to be an anomaly, and to bring the people whom I have mentioned within the scope of this legislation.
Earlier, I mentioned defence and referred to the criticisms that there has not been any indication of how the Government arrived at the defence vote, which has been described as a figure plucked from the air, as though the Government were practising some kind of financial sleight-of-hand, instead of acting in a responsible manner. The Opposition knows quite well that adequate defence in a world which is moving in seven-league boots in its neverceasing, relentless development of weapons of destruction requires extraordinary foresight, and a capacity to choose to-day the protection that will be needed to-morrow. There are specifications and requirements which can be assessed, and a thorough review of strategic and other considerations cannot be dismissed by the easily made statement that the defence estimate is a figure plucked from the air. It was plucked from weeks and months of concentration by experts who know their trade, who intently study world trends, and who have the benefit of the best advice available from overseas. After mature consideration of the problem, these experts have recommended that an expenditure of £190,000,000 on defence is necessary to ensure our security.
As far as human knowledge and skill can devise it within the scope of our resources, we have the minimum programme necessary to provide an adequate and balanced naval, military and air organization in a state of operational readiness, and capable of rapid expansion if it should unhappily prove necessary. Because of the enormous costs of modern scientific weapons of war, it is relevant to mention that, as with taxation, our defence expenditure is proportionately lower than the comparable expenditure in other countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom, and represents only 4 per cent, of our national income. In this we can consider ourselves a very fortunate people.
Labour, since its dramatic Brisbane democratic socialism conference, has turned an aggressive and unfriendly eye upon immigration, evidently feeling that, as eight years have gone by since we inherited its administration from the Labour party, any alleged shortcomings can be regarded as ours and no longer as a legacy from Labour administration. Whatever the reason, a peculiar policy mixture has emerged from that conference. On the one hand, in internal policy, woo the immigrants. Get friendly with them! On the external side, shut down on their entry altogether. It is with something like dismay that Labour members have discovered that the immigrant who has been belted and bashed under communism, his freedom taken away, and his entire life restricted, does not view very kindly a party which runs unity tickets with members of the party from which they have escaped, and which has the same sort of “ grab-all “ policy.
People who have felt the hot breath of totalitarianism on their necks are rather inclined to be more discerning in their political analysis than those who have lived under the benevolent shelter of democracy, and they naturally indicate in their political reactions their distaste for the disciplinary dictatorship of the Australian Labour party which is so evident in to-day’s management. They are quite aware that the old Chinese proverb, “Walk softly, go far” applies to the socialism of the Labour party. The changing of the title to “ Democratic Socialism “, and the white-washing of the socialization platform which demands the take-over of industry, production, distribution and exchange, cannot hide the fact from their experienced eyes that Labour policy must ultimately become red, the colour of the party that fathered it. They know that when complete socialism has over-headed itself, because of costs and maladministration, out of world markets the whip will come out to force them to higher production on lower standards, and that the system from which they escaped will be with them again in this country.
There has been a no-holds-barred thrust by the Labour party to cause dissention and dissatisfaction among immigrants themselves and between immigrants and Australians, and so break down the effectiveness of the immigration plan. Thus, in this chamber during the present session, incessant and unsubstantiated attacks have been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) based on the situation of Hungarian immigrants. It is, of course, not guerrilla warfare or just intermittent sniping. It is part of a concerted plan. In my own electorate, undoubtedly, the statements that have been made and their timing show that they are part of a wholesale and determined attack on immigration. For example, the secretary of the Geelong Trades Hall referred, as did the honorable members whom I have mentioned, to “ starving migrants and unemployed “. Following an attack of the kind to which we have become accustomed in this House, a Hungarian in my electorate replied in these terms which, I believe, state with great clarity the actual position -
May I, as a migrant from Europe, be permitted to answer certain statements by Trades Hall officials as reported in the Geelong “Advertiser” under the heading “ Migrants brought out to starve? “ It is wrong for these officials to claim that migrants are starving in Australia. I think that I am in contact with my own people and with people from other European countries, far more than Trades Hall officials, but 7 do not know of anybody who is starving. It is true to say that some inconvenience is being experienced amongst migrants because of the economic recession being felt at the present time. The European migrants of Australia know what it is like to starve, to work for very little pay, and to be housed under shocking conditions. They went through this bitter experience in concentration camps and prisons of Germany and Russia. Now that they are living in a land of comparative luxury, freedom and comfort, they will strive to increase its standard of living. If, through no fault of their own, some fellow European migrants are feeling the pinch, the migrants who have been here some years will help them in their hour of need. For some considerable time past, migrants from Europe have given shelter, food and other forms of assistance to newly arrived countrymen. Because they have done so, certain politicians and trade union officials have alleged that we live like rabbits.
What a pity the officers of the Geelong Trades Hall Council did not show the same concern for Hungarians at the time of the rising in Hungary. They are prepared to speak out in support of these “freedom fighters “ now, but at the time of the revolt, and for many months afterwards, they refused to discuss the question of Russian atrocities in Hungary. Having talked with many of the new arrivals from Hungary, and having had some of them in my home, I can speak on their behalf. They would far sooner endure the austerity of the Australian holding centres and the prospect of unemployment, than the continuance of an existence where, if one protested, in the manner of the Geelong Trades Hall Council, it would mean imprisonment, execution, or the grinding into the dust by a Russian tank.
That letter sums up the weak and vindictive character of the assaults which, for sheer political purposes, are being made upon immigration by a party which can claim the distinction of having created the immigration plan - no doubt with the highest motives, and for the welfare of this country. Now that party in its quarrelsome and ineffective days has turned aside from the ideals and motives which formerly won it public support.
The unemployment bogey is dragged out whenever this Government brings down a budget - indeed, ever since Labour has not itself been in a position to frame it. The Australian Labour party knows quite well that, at the end of July, 1957, only 20,291 persons, one-half per cent, of the work force, were receiving the unemployment benefit. The number of registered unemployed at the same date, 53,108, represents less than 1.5 per cent, of the work force and, in any case, makes no allowance for persons who remain on the register after obtaining employment. For the last seven years the registered unemployed have averaged 1.2 per cent, of the work force. This has been attributable, in the main, to short periods of unemployment between jobs. The present figure of 1.5 per cent, is well below the lowest figures achieved by Canada and the United States of America since the war. Moreover, it has been bettered by the United Kingdom only three times during the last eight years.
Therefore, whatever honorable members opposite may say, the taxation and unemployment figures of Australia, after eight years of Liberal-Australian Country party government, are lower than those of other countries.
In conclusion, I should like to refer to what was regarded as the hardest and toughest budget that had been brought down in recent times. I refer to the horror budget, as it was then termed by honorable members opposite. We know now that it should have been called the salvation budget. I intend to quote again - for i; has always remained in my memory - what the Treasurer said in answer to the storm of hostility and resentment that then broke over him. He said -
I hear talk of depression; such talk is dangerous nonsense. With export prices high, wilh the seasons good, with great defence programmes going on, with our population increasing rapidly. wilh Ihe worst industrial bottlenecks broken, wilh taxation lower than in any comparable country, it is dear that the broad outlines have never been more favorable for enterprise.
Time has proved that the right honorable gentleman was indeed correct then and history will undoubtedly record that he will be correct again.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) has implied that a project which is socialist in character must necessarily be mismanaged. 1 remind him of such socialized projects as Trans-Australia Airlines, the Australian Whaling Commission, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, the Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited, the Postmaster-General’s Department and the Commonwealth Bank. Does he suggest that those undertakings have been mismanaged? I suggest that in speaking so disparagingly of such projects he is very wide of the mark.
This budget fails completely to tackle the two most important national problems confronting Australia to-day - the rapidly worsening unemployment situation and the critical housing position. The Government also stands condemned for the paltry, and totally inadequate, increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the pension rate. I intend to restrict my remarks to those three items, which greatly effect the electorate ot Watson, which I have the honour to represent in this Parliament. But before doing so. I propose to draw a parallel between this budget and that which was presented by the late esteemed Mr. Chifley for the year 1949-50. It is also interesting to note the views that were expressed by senior members of the Liberal party who were then in opposition. Sir Percy Spender, who was then Mr. Spender, and represented the electorate of Warringah in this Parliament, said -
The wage-earner, and I am dealing primarily with the family man, and his wife are frustrated. Every wage increase is followed by an increase of the price of goods and services like gas, electricity and transport. All these increases eat up the earnings and savings of the people. In truth, under this Labour Government the people have learned that a pound note will buy to-day little more than 50 per cent, of what it would have bought four or five years ago.
It would be most interesting to hear Sir Percy Spender’s opinion about the presentday frustration of the family man, and the value of the pound note after eight years of incompetence and mismanagement on the part of this Government. Sir Percy Spender said further -
I emphasize the inflationary character of the budget and point out that it will increase the cost of living very seriously for the people of Australia. From 1946-47 to 1948-49 the Government’s expenditure has increased from £431,000,000 to £554,000,000.
The 1949-50 budget of £554,000,000, which Sir Percy Spender described as inflationary, is microscopic by comparison with the Government’s estimated expenditure this year of £1,321,700,000. Sir Percy Spender continued -
Consumers will have to find £160,000,000 for the Treasurer this year through customs, excise and sales tax. The cost of goods to the consumer, will, therefore, be at least £160,000,000 higher than if those levies were not imposed. Those taxes permeate the whole of society. Who will pay this huge sum of £160,000,000 in indirect taxation? It will be collected entirely through sales tax, and the hidden impost of customs and excise duties; but that is not the sum and substance of the evil because the imposition of those indirect taxes will have a tendency to increase even more the cost of production. If the cost of production rises, the cost of goods will rise more than proportionately, so that an even heavier burden will be cast on the consuming public by way of this indirect taxation.
The consuming public, I am sure, will be amazed to learn that the collection of £160,000,000 from customs, excise and sales tax, as mentioned by Sir Percy Spender, has now reached the staggering sum of £434,800,000 - an increase of nearly £275,000,000 since 1949. Yet this is the government which was elected on a pledge to reduce costs and taxes and to put value back into the £1.
I should like now to quote a statement by the then Leader of the Opposition who, unfortunately, is now the Prime Minister of this country. As the bodgies and the widgies would say, “ This will rock you “. In his speech on the budget on 21st September, 1949, the right honorable gentleman said -
What can we buy with our money? The real index of national prosperity is how much there is in our pound. I believe that the real task for 1949-50 is to bring value back into the pound.
I believe that the general public is best able to judge the sincerity, or the insincerity, of that statement after the country has been under the guidance of the right honorable gentleman for eight years. i should also like to quote a passage from a speech that was delivered by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Beale), who is now the Minister for Supply, on 21st September, 1949 -
We have been told in the budget speech-
That was the budget speech of 1949 - that this year £100,000,000 will be spent on social services, or an amount equal to the budget of 1938-39. 1 remind honorable members that in 1944-1945 social services cost only £40,000,000. Sooner or later we must determine how much further this country can go in paying for services of this sort, and how much more the real workers of the community can stand in the way of deductions from their incomes to pay for them.
It would be interesting to know whether the Minister expressed the same view during Cabinet discussions on social services prior to the introduction of the current budget. I believe that social service payments should be based on present-day values and cost of living rather than on argument whether the Government has done better than the Opposition in this particular field in the past. In answering the misleading claims of the Government, one is duty bound to make a comparison between the Estimates for social services included in the expenditure as submitted in the budget for the year T 949-50 by -the late Mr. Chifley, with the corresponding Estimates for 1957-58 submitted by the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden).
Of a total estimate of revenue of £532,000,000 in 1949-50, no less than £100,400,000, or 18.87 per cent., was to be spent on social services. Let us contrast that figure with the position in the budget for 1957-58. The Estimates provide for an amount of £243,572,000 to be spent on social services, out of a total estimated revenue of £1,321,700,000. This represents 18.42 per cent., which is 0.45 per cent, less than in the Chifley budget of 1949-50; and 0.45 per cent, of the estimated revenue of £1,321,700,000 for 1957-58 works out at £5,947,650. Therefore, in order to keep social service payments at the same value as in 1949-50, in terms of purchasing power, the Estimate for this year should be almost £250,000,000. After all, it is not so much the amount that is paid to the recipients of social services that counts; the more :important factor is the purchasing power of the payments. It will be the task of a future Labour government to implement a policy in relation to social services based on a just and fair deal to all Australians.
I shall now deal with housing. Let us examine the critical situation that exists in Australia today. I refer particularly to New South Wales. In that State, approximately 24,000 applicants are waiting for housing commission homes, and another 20,000 are on the waiting lists of cooperative building societies. Applications are also being received at the rate of 200 per week for housing commission homes. If we assume that an average Australian family comprises 3.7 persons, it means, in effect, that 177,600 men, women, and children in New South Wales require housing. The figure excludes new Australians who have not been naturalized. A safe estimate would be that at least 100,000 new Australian men, women, and children are in need of proper housing. This would bring the total to more than 277,000 in New South Wales. Yet we find that the New South Wales Government is to be given the paltry sum of £1 1,000,000 for housing, and 20 per cent, of that- £2,200,000- must be given to the co-operative societies. This means that only £9,S00,000 will be available for housing commission homes. If we regard £3,000 as the average cost of a home, the amount will be sufficient for only 3,266 homes. This amount will not keep pace with the provision of homes for young couples who get married this year, let alone catch up the backlag.
At various places in my electorate where I interview constituents, many married couples with families - and particularly young fathers and mothers - have approached me and asked me to assist them to get homes. Many are living in circumstances beyond description. Some are endeavouring to raise families in one room and often it is necessary, because of lack of space, for growing children of different sexes lo share the same bed. 1 venture to say that honorable members would noi tolerate such a state of affairs in their own homes. Despite the fact that we all know this to be true, what are we doing about it? Nothing! We are just closing our eyes to it. There are many thousands of young married couples who are willing to have families but who are prevented from so doing because of their inability to get homes. Surely this state of affairs calls for immediate action. 1 come now to the rapidly worsening unemployment position in Australia today. From time to time the Opposition is accused, particularly by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), of endeavouring purposely to create unemployment by bringing this subject forward. I remind honorable members that unemployment has been the topic of recent newspaper editorials. In any case, we should be failing in our duty as an Opposition if we did not ventilate this urgent matter of public importance.
Many Ministers and other supporters of the Government persist in claiming that this Government believes in a policy of full employment. Well, that is not the view of the Prime Minister. In the policy speech that the right honorable gentleman delivered on 15th November 1955, which was reported by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 16th November, 1955, he stated-
We are following a policy of high and stable employment. 1 stress the fact that absolutely no reference was made to the term “ full employment “. There is no substitute for the term “ full employment”. It simply means a job for every man and woman in Australia who is willing to work.
The term “ high and stable employment “ is very vague. It could mean, for example, that the Government would be satisfied with 92 per cent, or 93 per cent, of the people being employed, leaving 7 per cent, or 8 per cent, unemployed. In any case, it would be very interesting to obtain the Prime Minister’s interpretation of the difference between high and stable employment and Labour’s policy of full employment. The electorate of Watson, which I am honoured to represent in this Parliament, is probably the greatest industrial area in Australia. It contains a great many factories conducted by, amongst other organizations, Australian Consolidated Industries, Imperial Chemical Industries, Australian Paper Manufacturers, Email Electrical Industries, Australian Iron and Steel, Australian Felt and Textiles, Austral Bronze, Bradford Kendall, General Motors-Holden’s. Nuffields, Burroughs Welcome. Peters lee Cream. James Stedman Hendersons. Wunderlichs. Wormald Brothers. Waygood Otis, Akubra Hats,
Taubman’s Paints, B.A.L.M. Paints, Mcllrath Industries, Metters, British Tractor and Farm Equipment, Britstand Machinery, Wrigley’s Chewing Gum and Schweppes’ and Marchant’s cordials. Then there are the F. W. Hughes and Whiddon woolscouring and fellmongering yards, J. Bayley and Son’s tannery, many smaller wool-scouring and tanning yards and also the Alexandria Spinning Mills and the Paton and Baldwin textile mills. There are many other important concerns too numerous to mention. These firms have very little employment to offer to semi-skilled or unskilled workers. As a matter of fact, many are retrenching staff. That statement can be substantiated if any honorable members would care to make a tour of the electorate with me. A year or two ago, it was a common sight to see a host of vacancies listed on signboards outside factories, but the signboards now read “ No vacancies at present “. Surely that is evidence of the seriousness of the unemployment situation. One could safely estimate that there are at least 100,000 unemployed in Australia to-day, yet, strange to relate, the Government intends to bring another 115,000 immigrants to Australia this financial year.
If we cannot find work for Australians and new Australians who are already unemployed, where does the Government expect to find work for these new immigrants? It is not only grossly unfair to bring these people to Australia to compete for jobs with our own unemployed, but it is also unfair to bring them here with little chance of finding either continuity ot employment or homes in which to live. Many of the people from overseas have had painted for them very rosy pictures of Australia. Probably many of them sold their worldly possessions before leaving their own countries, only to be disillusioned in Australia because of the instability of employment and the acute housing shortage.
The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) in bringing down this budget, almost entirely by-passed the immediate future prospects of providing employment for the unemployed. He made only two small references to the subject in his budget speech. He said -
Although total .employment showed only a small increase during the year, it remains much on a par with the exceptionally high level of the boom period. There has been some increase in unemployment but it appears to arise from adjustments going on within particular industries and localities, rather than from any general weakness of labour demand.
That alibi is very unconvincing. Every honorable member knows, if he cares to admit it, that the slackening of employment in Australia to-day is due to the creditsqueeze policy being pursued by this Government, no doubt acting upon the advice of its economic experts. One has only to consult the retailer or the business man to ascertain the stagnation of trade because of the tightness of money.
There has been the loss of a great deal of purchasing power in the community because of unemployment, but the seriousness of the position is further accentuated by the fear that many workers have of becoming unemployed. They stop spending money “ just in case “, and that creates further unemployment. The second quotation I wish to make from the Treasurer’s budget speech is as follows: -
The supply of resources will increase and so will the demand for resources. The vital thing is to keep the two in step. We can expect, for example, that a fair number of additional workers will become available this year, both from immigration and from local sources. It is important that these additional workers should be absorbed into industry.
I submit that when the full impact of the Japanese trade treaty is felt by secondary industries in Australia, many men and women will be retrenched, thus further swelling the ranks of the already large unemployed army. If the Government expects Australian secondary industries to provide employment for an expanding population, and for immigrants coming to Australia, then it must immediately foster and encourage those industries by providing adequate tariff protection.
I now desire to deal with pensions. The paltry rise of 7s. 6d. a week in the pension rate is totally inadequate to provide a reasonable standard of living for many of these unfortunate people. There is no need for me to elaborate. We all know how far £4 7s. 6d. a week will go in purchasing the commodities necessary to sustain life. Those especially hard hit are single persons and married couples who are forced to pay anything up to £2 a week rent for a room or dwelling. According to a report by Professor Downing, published in a booklet entitled “ Raising Age Pensions “, at least 1 30,000 persons are existing under these conditions. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), speaking on the budget last week, stated that the Australian Labour party was shedding crocodile tears over the pensioners. I, for one, refute that suggestion. It is my honest opinion that the Minister does not know what poverty really is. It is idle for a person living on a fat income and residing in a palatial home like the Minister’s to use the term “ crocodile tears “ when referring to people who are trying to improve the lot of these distressed persons.
In concluding my remarks on unemployment, housing and pensions, I should like to make some suggestions. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman) said that the Australian Labour party never offered suggestions, but only criticized the budget. I have three suggestions to offer. I suggest that the remedy for unemployment is to sack the economic advisers, to ease the restriction of bank credit and to let the elected representatives of the people govern Australia instead of the bureaucrats. In relation to housing, I suggest that a special housing loan of £100,000,000 be raised to supplement the already existing housing grants. The grants from this loan should be spread over a period of three years. With regard to pensions, I suggest that at least £20,000,000 should be pruned from the defence vote to give the pensioner a more equitable income.
I wish finally to comment on a recent decision of the Democratic Labour party. This party, masquerading under the name Labour, decided to include in its platform the abolition of the White Australia policy. The Sydney Sunday newspaper “ Truth “ must be complimented on its fine editorial of 1st September, in which it condemned this party for advocating the scrapping of our White Australia policy. It is indeed refreshing to know that at least one newspaper in Australia is willing to fight for the preservation of this long-standing tradition.
.- I listened with some alarm to the suggestion made by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). My colleague from Corio (Mr. Opperman) said that suggestions should be forthcoming from honorable members opposite. Now one has come from the honorable member for Watson. Its effect would be to increase prices in
Australia, not by 6 per cent, per annum, but by about 60 per cent. One can only hope, therefore, that by the time he gravitates to office his advisers will have uttered in his ear a few other thoughts. 1 should like to join the chorus of those who have congratulated the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) on being the first of his line to present ten budgets. He is, of course, less enviously distinguished as the first peace-time Treasurer to deal with budgets of ten figures. 1 should like also to wish the right honorable gentleman every success at the forthcoming meetings of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund. He is by now a very well established and popular identity at those two gatherings. After attending these meetings he will go on to the Commonwealth Finance Ministers’ conference, where he is well known, not only for enlivening the weighty counsels, but also for enriching the repertoire.
Framing the budget is a thankless task for any Treasurer. The budget is the expression of each aspect of government policy, whether or not it is in connexion with the financial world. In this case, it is clear that the Treasurer and the Cabinet are closely circumscribed in the kind of budget they can present. It is essentially a matter of juggling with marginal trimmings and then fitting together a jigsaw of titbits; but it is the limits of policy which dictate the kind of budget that is presented. There is no doubt that, within the limits of the Government’s policies, this budget is both wise and humane.
Our major public finance problem is dominated by the development and immigration programmes, and of those, it is the immigration programme which progressively dictates the shape of what is actually done, as well as the rate of expenditure. The large immigration programme which we have undertaken has necessitated very large-scale public works, which, though not necessarily designed to improve or expand facilities, have resulted in the duplication of facilities. The States and the Commonwealth together have in fact tended, not to run ahead and spend too much on public works relative to physical needs, but to spend too little. They have been spending too little in the absolute physical sense, but in practice, the volume of works that has been attempted has forced back the private sector. As long as we persist with an immigration programme which aims at bringing to this country more than 100,000 people per annum, our whole initiative in the public finance sphere will be taken away. Such a programme compels the undertaking of public works on an enormous scale just to cope with the sheer physical requirements involved. It could be argued that, because we have such a large volume of public works, we should reduce it. That, Mr. Temporary Chairman, would be a dangerous procedure while we still maintained this immigration programme.
Our immigration programme has in fact forced us to look well beyond the bond market to finance public works, even for the States, and to subsidize our programme very heavily out of current revenue. I suggest that, instead of going through the present motions of taking revenue, investing it in the Australian Loan Council programme and putting it with other moneys for the States, there is much to be said for making special immigration grants to the States, because it is immigration on the present scale which has forced the States into such large expenditure. If immigration were financed in this way, the people at large would understand much better why the taxation was being raised and also the purpose for which it was being spent. While we have this large immigration programme we are forced inevitably to cut back the private sector. Those who now advocate a great easing of bank credit, and other expansionary measures, would do well to ponder the fact that even over the last year, which has been one of sound progress and relative stability, the interim retail price index has increased by approximately 6 per cent. If we relate that to the bond market rate of about 5i per cent., we must realize that an investor in Commonwealth bonds who invested fi 00 or £1,000 at the beginning of the year would need to add more than the whole of the interest for the year merely to maintain intact the value of his original investment.
– And that makes no allowance for tax, either.
– That is without any allowance for tax. So, under these conditions, those who advocate expansion of the private sector while maintaining our other current programmes, are playing a game with the inflationary fire which we have only very narrowly escaped. We can be grateful that so many investors are creatures of habit and follow precedent, rather than indulge in close calculation. Unfortunately, it is a fact that the bond market is declining. Our bond market is weakening in its hold over the minds of investors and the people generally. We have only to watch the United Kingdom market, which has deteriorated to a much greater degree than has ours, to appreciate the danger of continuing too long on this inflationary slope.
I suggest that our next step ought to be to curtail our heavy immigration programme and cut back the public sector of expenditure to absolute essentials, if we are to allow the private sector to expand as it ought. One has only to look at the figures for the last twelve months, noting something of the stagnation that has been setting in, to realize that any more employment, any more activity of a measurable character in the private sphere, having regard to our current heavy expenditure in the public sphere, undoubtedly would involve us in another very serious bout of inflation. I know there are people who believe that we can absorb this tremendous immigration intake and at the same time expand correspondingly in the private sphere of the economy. I think that those people feel that, provided our faith is sufficiently strong, we can both eat our cake and have it. What we need is a new outlook towards our major national objective. Since the war we have concentrated mainly on an increase of the gross number of population. I suggest that the time has come when we should consolidate our gains from this huge immigration programme, which have been very considerable, and concentrate on developing the quality of the individual. In order to progress in the world the things we need most are more capital per head of population, better education and, above all, an increasing knowledge of science and technology. We might fare better in the world if public authority were more concerned with the loss of top-flight scientists than with the addition of a few more hundreds or even thousands of people to our population.
The great disadvantage which the western world has, generally, in competing with the Soviet sphere is that under the Communist system it is possible to devote a much higher proportion of income to capital investment than is possible in our system, where the choice is left to the individual. The relevant appeal of the two economic systems will, in the end, in all probability decide the ultimate fate of the world. The hydrogen bomb has effectively put both potential belligerents on an equal footing, and the contest between them is increasingly for the minds of the rest of the uncommitted world, whose opinions will be swayed, above all, by economic success. We have to take extremely seriously this need for increasing our knowledge of science and technology, and I suggest that it is highly important that we provide more capital per head of our population in order to improve our basic facilities - public works, industry, education and all the other paraphernalia of life required in the modern society. Our main aim should be to increase this capital per head and concentrate less on increasing our numbers, because to a very large degree those two things are mutually contradictory. Our main danger at the moment is that gradually the process of immigration will be pressed so hard, so far and so long that it will degenerate into a mere multiplication of mediocrity in sewerless suburbs. There would be many immediate technical advantages in relieving the present pressure of immigration, the evil effects of which are due primarily to the fact that whatever immigrants add to production cannot, except over a long period of years, yield the capital that is required to absorb them on the same basis as the rest of the community.
Outside the main lines of policy of the Government, which are largely determined by national objectives, there is the other aspect of budget-making, which is that of obtaining the most value for the money expended. There is also the question of deciding whether the processes of government are most conducive to the achievement of this end. There is very little doubt that the whole attitude towards public money, in the Public Service and outside it, has greatly changed, and that the sense of responsibility has weakened since the days of the £100,000,000 budget. Our very national growth automatically entails an increase in the size of the budget, and would do so even without inflation. But the fact that over the years it is automatically going to increase does, in practice, make public servants and others careless about the actual raising and spending of money. There are a number of aspects in which this has a weakening effect on our public financial structure. In the first place, it means that, because so much of our capital expenditure for the Commonwealth itself is raised from revenue, a lot of the capital is treated very weakly from the accountancy viewpoint. It means, in practice, that some of our normal business undertakings are tending to degenerate into social services.
The last aspect which has shown up in this sphere is that of the expenditure of government departments themselves, which is rising much too fast. It rises because it is a small proportion of the total, and so tends to become hidden and overlooked. Tn the capital sphere the General Post Office should be looked at much more carefully than it has been in the past. If, in fact, it had to pay interest and sinking fund charges on its capital, like most other undertakings, it would in all probability show a deficit of the general order of £20,000,000, against which some of the State railway deficits would not look so bad. But the General Post Office is only one example. Another example is civil aviation. We are virtually subsidising, each year, the carriage of passengers by air, by providing both the capital facilities at airports and also the running costs, out of revenue, and not charging the airline passengers for the services provided. In the pioneer days of aviation there was much to be said for a direct government subsidy of this character; but to-day, when civil aviation is a wellestablished big business, whether owned by the Government or by private interests, and when most air passengers belong to the groups in the community which can best afford to bear the charge, there is no real reason to encourage this uneconomic use of transport resources. Under ordinary conditions a business undertaking of the size of the General Post Office would be expected to generate most of its own capital, and our public finance system would start to look healthier if we adopted the principle of making those who use the service pay the economic cost unless, for some reason or other, they are among those unfortunate members of the community who cannot afford to pay, in which case the service should be frankly a social service, and not the provision of an ordinary business service.
If honorable members want to see the worst effects of this system of allowing this unfortunate degeneration of public business undertakings into social services, they have only to examine case after case in Latin America. The wastage of resources and the final economic burden on the whole community become extremely heavy and serious.
In the field of departmental expenditure, we should welcome the announcement that a committee of Ministers will review the functions and the workings of departments. I feel that we should all extend our sympathy to them in this unenviable task of purging and plucking each other and their colleagues. It is an unfortunate fact of modern government that the prestige of a Minister is apt to depend on the volume of activity that is conducted in his name and the press statements and publicity which follow. The larger the expenditure that passes under the administration of a Minister, the more publicity and prestige there is likely to be. This very process means that the temptation to overspend is extremely great, and when it comes to a question of budget-making it is difficult under modern conditions for any group of Ministers in any government in any country to avoid the temptation to gang together, ably assisted by their departments, to ensure that the expenditure which each of them in turn requires for his particular undertaking is met by the government and the budget as a whole.
Away in the background resisting the process is only a rather dim and shadowy figure - that of the long-suffering taxpayer. Given the best will in the world, it is very difficulty for Ministers who pass majestically from peak to peak to observe the luxuriant growths within the departments down at the foot-hills. I believe that we should give the Ministers who will comprise this committee every support, because they will certainly need it in overcoming the temptation that will beset them to allow things to continue very much as they are.
There is a number of developments at which they could look with advantage, one of which is the overlapping of Commonwealth and State functions. There is also a certain degree of overlapping of functions as between Commonwealth departments. The committee might also direct its attention to departmental staffing methods, particularly the constant reconstruction of individual departments. This process involves a department, with the approval of the Public Service Board, in the creation of a whole series of new jobs which are later advertised in the “ Commonwealth Gazette “. That process does not involve the bringing into the Public Service of new blood, but is just a reshuffling of the old pack and an indulging in a certain degree of body-snatching from other departments. Then another department in its turn seeks to do the same thing, and so this game of what may be described as departmental leap-frog goes on gaily, with taxpayer genuflecting at each turn.
Within the limits of policy, which should be reviewed during the coming year, we should ascertain whether the time has arrived for us to divert some of our resources from the public sector, for which, of course, we should need to reduce our immigration programme, and explore the possibility of expanding the private sector upon which increaseses of the standard of living very largely depend. Within these limits the budget is a good one, and it merits our support.
.- The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury), in his concluding remarks about reducing the immigration programme, was at variance with the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Opperman), who was the previous speaker on behalf of the Government. The honorable member for Corio made a comparison between the amount of tax that was paid by a taxpayer in receipt of £1,000 a year in 1949-50, when the last budget of the Chifley Government was presented, and the amount which would be paid by the same taxpayer to-day. Let me concede to the honorable member that, if he had looked at the amount paid and the purchasing power of money then and now, he could have reinforced his argument. The 96 Chifley £l’s that were paid by a taxpayer in 1949 were worth more than 200 of the Fadden £l’s of to-day.
The uselessness of his argument is illustrated by the fact that he did not look at what was left. The taxpayer who paid £96 in 1949-50 had £904 left, and the taxpayer who pays £53 to-day has £947 left; but will the honorable member for Corio contend that the £904 left in 1949-50 was in any way comparable with the £947 left to-day? I remind him that a member of the Parliament received £1,000 a year in 1949-50 but to-day gets nearly £3,000; so the person who was left with £904 in 1949-50 was left with almost the equivalent of £2,700 to-day. A man who was in receipt of £1,000 a year in 1949-50 belonged to the privileged class of the community, but a man in receipt of that sum to-day is getting close to the basic wage. In fact, the average waterside worker in Fremantle to-day earns £18 a week, which is £936 a year. So the honorable member’s comparison of different money at different points of time is useless.
The honorable member also made a comparison between the taxes that were paid by an Englishman, a New Zealander and an Australian. I think he regards that comparison as a somewhat new revelation by the present Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), but all federal Treasurers whom I recall have distributed exactly the same statement. Australian taxation in Mr. Chifley’s day was much less than New Zealand and United Kingdom taxation, and the comparison as between Australia and New Zealand, whether made by the present Treasurer or a previous one, is flatly dishonest. The comparison between the Australian taxpayer and the English taxpayer, on the other hand, is valid. The reason why the comparison between the Australian taxpayer and the New Zealand taxpayer never had any validity was that New Zealand’s tax level included, first, a direct social service contribution which gave everybody a pension and social service payments as of right. The Australia social service contribution does not do any such thing; the pension is subject to a means test.
Secondly, New Zealand has believed in direct taxation and has not gone in for heavy indirect taxation. On the other hand, this Government, between the presentation of the budget of 1949-50 and the present budget, has increased indirect taxes by more than £400,000,000. A comparison of tax structures of different countries, made purely on the basis of income tax without taking into account the rest of the tax burden on the community, is invalid. I cannot accept the logic of the honorable member’s comparisons either as between this country and New Zealand or as between 1949-50 and the present time.
However, it is important to look at this whole question of indirect taxation. The budget debate to which the honorable member for Corio referred was characterized by a brilliant contribution by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition. He attacked that budget, on the ground that it emphasized the direct taxes, which, he said, discouraged incentive. He said that we should have a structure of indirect taxation because with indirect taxation the taxpayer, while still paying heavy taxes, is not so conscious of the burden and it does not destroy his incentive. That was the contention of the present Prime Minister at that time. He certainly has acted on it now, because he has emphasized indirect taxes very heavily, especially excise and sales tax.
This question of incentives is worth another look. We think in terms of incentive money, but there have been some statesmen who have thought in terms of incentive goods. There was a direct conflict between two Chancellors in Europe at the time of post-war recovery. One was Sir Stafford Cripps and the other was Paul Henry Spaak. The question arose as to what their two countries, which had been heavily damaged in the war, were to do to assist recovery. Cripps took the point of view of austerity, of Britain not purchasing a great volume of goods, but compulsorily saving her way back and accumulating capital goods. Paul Henry Spaak took the point of view that something to buy was an incentive to people to work. Consequently he spent dollars on filling the shops of Belgium with chickens, eggs, other foods and all sorts of things which at that time were not available in Britain. That was a conflict of two philosophies on what constituted an incentive. I think the Belgians won out - that the incentive of having some goods to buy, even if they were dear, led to some optimism and some willingness in the community to work hard.
This Government, by its increases of sales tax and excise, all of which have been reflected in the basic wage, has systematically destroyed the purchasing power of money. It has systematically destroyed the value of each extra £1 that a person works for. At the same time, in characterizing some goods as luxury goods, it has removed what one might well call incentive goods from the reach of many people. When I was first elected to this Parliament, the sales tax yield was £25,000,000 per annum. Over four years, in the time of the Chifley Government, that yield was increased to £59,000,000. In the budget we are now considering, it is estimated to be £130,000,000.
An interesting aspect of these indirect taxes is that they feed on themselves. The Government puts a heavy excise on beer and tobacco. The yield of £241,000,000 goes into the basic wage component. Up go wages, and up goes the cost of all goods. On many of the goods sales tax is imposed, so up goes the sales tax yield. One indirect tax is feeding on another. Indirect taxation has become a disease in Western countries. In the United Kingdom, for instance, purchase tax, which is the equivalent of our sales tax, yielded £26,000,000 in 1940-41. In 1953-54, it had grown to £299,000,000, and it is more than that today. The revenue from the excise on tobacco in the United Kingdom increased from £85,000,000 in 1938-39 to £627,000,000.
These are attractive taxes from the point of view of us in politics. I have heard frank arguments against a reduction of sales tax, which amount to the contention that the worker can see what is taken from his pay envelope, but he cannot see what is taken from him in sales tax. It is, of course, a tax which enables us, very largely, to evade our responsibilities. In the United Kingdom, purchase tax has been a device for changing consumption. It is alleged that our excise duties and sales taxes are designed to divert expenditure from the luxury sector to the necessities sector, but always, when imposing excise duties on luxury commodities, governments allow for very much the same consumption pattern as existed before, with an increased yield in revenue, which seems to show that they do not believe that there will be a change in the consumption pattern. Personally, being a non-smoker, I pay no excise on tobacco, and, being a non-drinker, I pay none on beer, but I think it is tragic that these carefully calculated increases in excise lead, not to a significant reduction of consumption, but to the diversion of a larger proportion of the family income from other things that are necessary. That money is diverted to these channels, to pay these taxes, which are included in the increased ;prices. It is strange that there is the most -confused thinking on the subject of these indirect taxes. For instance, Mr. Dalton said about purchase tax in the United Kingdom -
In present conditions the tax not only raises -revenue but also mops up purchasing power and so helps prevent inflation.
It is undoubtedly a means of mopping up purchasing power. The London “ Punch “, in its current issue, has a cartoon about the recent coal price increase in Britain, with the man behind the counter saying to the lady, “ The increased price helps to mop up purchasing power “ - he uses the same expression as Mr. Dalton - “ and so helps to arrest inflation “.
What is inflation? I should have thought that inflation was a condition of sharply rising prices. If you raise prices, you are contributing to an inflationary situation. That has been the experience that we have had in connexion with sales tax and excise, which together yield £360,000,000 a year from 4,000,000 wage-earners. That is £90 of inflation a head. I really wonder whether the Government would not be wiser to start re-orientating its budgets back to direct taxation and away from this tremendous structure of indirect taxation, because the inflationary situation is greatly aggravated by it.
One of the new proposals is a tax on diesel oil, which the Government expects will yield £3,000,000 a year. The Metropolitan Omnibus Company in Perth has calculated the very large sum which that tax will cost it. The company will, of course, pass that sum on in the form of increased fares, which will go into the basic wage component. The United Kingdom had exactly the same experience with increases of the petrol tax. I quote from a study of the British tax structure entitled “ Government Finance and Fiscal Policy in Post-war Britain “-
When Mr. Gaitskell raised the duty on petrol in his 1951 budget he contended that there was no reason why transport costs should rise, since the tax represented an extremely small proportion of the latter industry’s total costs. In the event, transport costs rose considerably and industry producing for export protested that its task was made more difficult by such cost increases. The imposition of taxes upon basic commodities such as petrol is highly undesirable, since it generates price increases over a wide range. Thus dearer petrol means heavier transport costs for raw materials and finished goods; it will result in wage demands as fares on public transport systems are raised.
Exactly the same is true of the Government’s new increases of these indirect taxes.
The honorable member for Wentworth felt that Australian airline companies had had very good fortune because they had not had to meet all the cost of maintenance of civil aviation services, aerodromes, and so on. The tax on aviation fuel is very quaintly justified by the Treasurer. One would have thought that an airline company which had the business acumen to purchase aircraft that could fly on kerosene ought to be rewarded, but we learn from the Treasurer that that is unfair. In his budget speech, he said -
During recent years, airlines have been making increased use of aviation kerosene which, up to the present, has been substantially tax free. In the meantime, there has been customs duty of 10d. a gallon on imported aviation petrol and excise of 8id. a gallon on locally produce;! aviation petrol. It is only fair that commercial operators using aviation kerosene should make a reasonable contribution to the heavy costs oi providing airport and air route facilities and the Government has therefore decided that duties equivalent to 6id. a gallon should be imposed on that type of fuel.
It is equally intelligent to say that the Government should leave that type of fuel privileged since it does not make such an appalling charge on our dollar reserves as does imported aviation petrol, lt may be a good thing to encourage all airline operators to change over to an economic type of aeroplane instead of using grossly uneconomical DC6’s, which were really designed for trans-Pacific flights and not for use on our internal air routes on flights from Melbourne to Hobart or Melbourne to Launceston. However, accepting the validity of the arguments of the honorable member for Wentworth, it is fair to say that he was concerned at the proliferation of the bureaucracy and at the growing number of civil servants. When Labour was in office, those statistics were regularly thrown at it, but although the number of civil servants has greatly increased since Labour went out of office, we never hear about it in the press. The other casualty of the change of government was the means test. The honorable member should realize that the Government’s approach to airline companies is the perfect way of doubling up on bureaucracy. We have the interesting situation in which one set of civil servants is calculating all these taxes on the airlines companies while another is calculating all the subsidies, though subsidies would be unnecessary if the taxes were not imposed. lt is a kind of go-round-and-round.
The honorable member for Wentworth said that the private companies were not contributing to the capital costs of airports. That is true. Another consideration is that, if their financial position is such that this Government had to bring in a bill to guarantee a loan of £3,000,000, how can a new tax on them be justified? In the case of Trans-Australia Airlines, it is senseless. If the tax on kerosene of 6id. a gallon is not passed on, the profits paid into the Treasury by T.A.A. will simply be reduced. Therefore, the tax is a meaningless exercise. Alternatively, the whole philosophy of taxing the airline companies to pay for air transport services, and even increasing the tax as the honorable member for Wentworth argued, will make further subsidies for the airline companies necessary. No one can say whether heavy increases in fares to meet such taxes would or would not substantially reduce the number of passengers. But I should have thought that heavy expenditure by the Commonwealth on aerodromes could be justified as part of the defence expenditure.
In a country such as Australia, a wise government would do everything it could to ensure that air transport was as cheap as possible. In any event, there does not seem to be a case for increasing taxes on private airline companies when they must be propped up with guaranteed loans. I make no criticism of that policy, but I ask: What will the Government do if further taxes are imposed on private airline companies? Will it guarantee more loans? What is the sense of subjecting an industry which quite plainly cannot pay to further penalties? In the United States, only three of the competing airlines pay, and only two are internal. One is Pan-American World Airways, which loses internally in the United States and pays externally. The capital outlay in buying enormously expensive aircraft to-day would justify a government which wanted to have many modern aeroplanes in the country - and many reasons exist for wanting that - being merciful, not harsh, in its taxation policy towards airline companies. I am sorry that the honorable member for Wentworth advocates harshness.
The increase in indirect taxes to-day ascompared with the last budget for a full year of the Chifley Government can be measured in two statements - one thenational income and expenditure statement for 1948-49 and the other thenational income and expenditure statement for 1956-57. In 1948-49, indirect taxesyielded £262,000,000, which was reduced by subsidies of £41,000,000 to- £221,000,000. In 1956-57, according to the Treasurer’s statement, indirect taxesyielded £633,000,000, which is nearly three times the amount in 1948-49. That figureis reduced by £19,000,000 of subsidies - less than half the 1948-49 figure - leaving. £614,000,000. The shift in taxation has. been heavily towards indirect taxes, and that is regressive. The tragedy of indirect taxation is that it places special penaltieson the remoter areas, which buy manufactured goods bearing sales tax. For instance, Western Australia exports to the eastern States about £22,000,000 worth of goods and imports from them about £90,000,000 worth of goods. Western Australia stands in the same relationship to the industrialized littoral of the eastern States as does New Zealand. The trade is really triangular through London, payments being made from wool, wheat and so on, sold in the United Kingdom.
The great volume of goods which comes back from the eastern States contains a heavy freight component. Sales tax is not calculated before freight is paid, but afterwards, so sales tax is imposed on freight. The same burden is carried by every one who lives in the country districts and pays sales tax on top of freight. Apart from its general regressive character, the tax has that element of complete unfairness. It is really an internal tariff and is as unintelligent as the tolls that were charged in prerevolutionary France on goods moved internally in that country. It is a tax without a principle; taxing a sale has no principle whatever. It is a tax which has added very greatly to inflation and has consequences that are not predictable.
A close study of this tax has been made in the United Kingdom. Sales tax was used there as an instrument to try to force exports. The Chancellor of the Exchequer at one stage decided that 50,000 commercial vehicles annually were enough for the United Kingdom. He took the view that 50,000 of the 100,000 commercial vehicles :sold on the United Kingdom market should have been exported, and in order to compel the manufacturers to export, he imposed sales tax at the rate of 33i per cent, on sales on the home market, and imposed no tax on exported vehicles. This severely penalized the home market. The manufacturers pointed out immediately - and their forecasts were fulfilled - that cheap production depended on a large turn-over, and that the stifling of the internal market, and the consequent reduction of turn-over, would increase prices, and reduce their ability to compete in overseas markets. Exactly the same thing happened to fine wools, manufactured cloth, and cotton goods, when a heavy penalty tax was imposed on sales within the United Kingdom in an effort to reserve for export the best quality goods. Studies of industries dependent on exports have shown the peculiar effects that the sales tax - or purchase tax, as it is called in the United Kingdom - can have. 1 think that it would be a very good thing to study the extent to which taxes compete with one another. If the £130,000,000 paid in sales tax were left in the pockets of the consumers, they would be able to spend it on things that they needed. The incomes of those from whom they made their purchases would be increased, and so it would go on from person to person. As a result, the yield of income tax would rise. We do not know to what extent the sales tax in fact limits the yield of income tax, but it would be very interesting to find out.
This tax, which was thought of during the depression, and which yielded about £2,000,000 when it was first imposed, has now developed into a very important factor in the economy. We do not know of all its consequences, but one thing that it does is to increase the demand for tariff protection. If an internal tariff is imposed on manufacturers in industries in which it is difficult to carry on when the market is reduced, the demand by Australian manufacturers for tariff protection increases. I think it would be a very good thing if the Government were courageous enough to try the experiment, not of altering its budget, if it is concerned about the possible results of such action, but simply of abolishing this indirect tax and seeing how far the cost of living would fall, how far meaning would be restored to social service payments and how the pressure to increase them would slacken, and what benefit the economy would gain.
The matter to which I turn finally has no direct bearing on the budget, but it has a direct bearing on what seems to be the growth in the Australian community of a tariff philosophy - of a belief that, if unemployment exists in the community, we should immediately increase tariff protection because that is the best way to solve the unemployment problem. John Maynard Keynes pointed out that in 1928-29 many nations competed with one another in trying to export unemployment by introducing tariffs in order to transfer unemployment from one country to another. The competition of nations in an effort to export unemployment jammed the cogs of world trade, and the United States of America, which was the leading exponent of the policy, found itself eventually with 13,000,000 unemployed, and was unable to export unemployment. Keynes pointed out that intensive development policies at home, with no increasing of tariffs, and rising internal consumption in every country, increased world trade, and showed the intelligent way to solve the unemployment problem. I hope that Australia, which also was a leading exponent in 1929 of the false philosophy that unemployment should be exported by increasing tariffs, will have the courage to stand by a policy of large-scale development, and will not return to a discredited policy of hot-housing industries - a policy which Keynes long ago exposed as worthless in the light of the practical experience of the depression, and which the recovery from the depression demonstrated was entirely invalid.
.- The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) used the interesting phrase, “ exporting unemployment “. I suggest that the central theme of the Government’s policy may well be described as importing employment by providing the exchange needed to bring in the capital equipment and raw materials on which employment depends. On the basis of that thesis, we are surely at one with the Australian Labour party, the basic philosophy of which is to provide more jobs. If we import more capital equipment and raw materials, we shall have more jobs, and we shall be importing employment instead of exporting unemployment.
The budget is one of the three principal prongs of the fork of power wielded by this Parliament. The three principal matters over which the Parliament, or the Executive, has control are the budget, banking and import licensing. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has said that the budget occupies a central position, and that its range of influence is wide. The average person, in weighing this budget, considers how it will affect him. Some people have said that one group in the community should be given more or that another group should lose less. But in general the budget provides for the continuation of the Government’s policy of importing employment. Perhaps we can agree with the honorable member for Fremantle that it would be courageous to leave the budget as it is and to do something spectacular that he would like, such as removing a particular tax of debatable merits. Tn any event this budget makes some changes. Because we have enjoyed prosperity, the Government has been able to give more to some of those who are in need, and has been able to take less from employers and companies. More employment will therefore be provided. In this instance, it will not be imported, but will be provided by increasing the ability of employers to expand their staffs.
This is not a spectacular budget. It provides for some relief because the Government can afford to give it. The Government is giving a little away in this budget, and it is trying to maintain the stability mentioned by the Treasurer. Honorable members will recall that the Labour Government, under the strong hand of Chifley, tried to achieve stability by pegging prices and wages. For about three years after the present Government took office, the former Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration regularly increased the basic wage, thereby increasing costs, until cost levels in this country were so high as to leave us at a great disadvantage in export markets. The Government has gone to a great deal of trouble to emphasize in this budget that we are enjoying stability. Prices and wages have not increased greatly for some time, whereas they are increasing in a number of other countries. The
British trade union movement is trying veryhard to obtain higher wages, and I understand that the Japanese are considering proposals for higher wages and a shorter working week, which will increase the cost of Japanese goods. In the United States, Mr. Walter Reuther and other trade unionleaders have approached employers seeking, increased wages. It is true that Mr. Reuther has made the novel suggestion that theprices of all motor vehicles should be reduced, but, in the long run, wageincreases will raise costs. Costs are increasing the world over, but they are static in Australia. This is of great importance toour drive for export trade.
The honorable member for Fremantle said, if I remember correctly, that we should undertake a straight-out drive for development. We are already making a magnificenteffort to promote development. Our population is increasing at a rate probably unprecedented anywhere in the world, and our export earnings are increasing very rapidly. The average earnings of Australians have now reached the high level of about £20 a week. Their lot has been much improved, not so much by a lowering of the cost structure but by greater opportunities toearn more from overtime, by getting jobs done more effectively and by having the use of machines which are fast and are capable of doing better work. In this area of the Pacific where other countries are raising prices and costs, we are holding our own. That is the central theme of this budget. The words occur again and again in the first portion of the Treasurer’s budget speech in which the right honorable gentleman emphasized that we have reached a state of what he called substantial balance, both internally and externally, in respect of trade and industrial activity.
It may be that we are entering a period of tremendous drive for development. Reference is often made to credit restrictions, but I believe that, inherent in them, is a fear by the Central Bank authorities, and those who are in charge of our financial policy, that a boom might be just around the corner. They do not want to make such development dangerous by encouraging higher costs with consequent effect upon the cost structure, because that would embarrass those who are on low incomes and react against our export prices. So we have a very restrained banking policy which will tend to keep our costs as low as possible and delay the boom that might be close at hand. lt is interesting to study the ingredients of this tremendous industrial activity in Australia. The wool industry is at the base of it at the moment and contributes materially to our prosperity and the buoyancy of our economy. Australia’s wool income rose by 50 per cent, this year - an enormous rise in any language. It created a movement of money within the economy and established confidence within Australia. More than half our income from exports came from wool. We have a saying in Australia that money does not talk; it bleats. That is true. Our income from wool keeps in production the industries that are nourished by imported raw materials and capital equipment. It supports our transport systems and contributes to the wages of everybody in the community whether they are journalists or street sweepers, public servants or those in the employ of private enterprise. All are concerned with the health of the wool industry, and the prospects are good.
Some have said that we should raise the ban on the export of merino rams so that the enormous quantity of wool that would be produced would enable wool growers to meet the competition from synthetic fibres. Those of us who know anything about the wool industry believe that we can grow enough wool in Australia for all requirements. We are passing through an agricultural revolution, and the results of the magnificent techniques that have been evolved are fabulous and dazzling. Sir Ian Clunies Ross said at a field day at the Dickson experimental farm near Canberra that it is possible to run seven sheep to the acre on very well managed properties, and that we are on the way to raising that number to twelve. That presents all sorts of possibilities for development within Australia. With that rate of increase in wool production, we cannot fail to keep up the supply of wool to the world.
Credit should be given to the men who have made this development possible. I refer not only to the skilful breeders and graziers, but also to the men who work in tough conditions in the heat of flat, desolate, inland country to produce wool. It is true that our finest wool is produced around Canberra and, perhaps, in the New
England district of New South Wales, but the men who produce the great bulk of our wool work on the broad, flat areas inland which are not very attractive to those who live near the coastline. Let us give credit to the wool industry, and to all our rural industries for the magnificent part they have played in the export drive. The income from many of our staple products such as sugar, wheat and meat and many others rose in the past year. All who are engaged in those industries deserve credit because, as a result of their efforts, we are able to obtain essential imports.
While we have been trying to encourage the rural industries, another revolution has been in progress in Australia. There has been a drive in Australia, not only to increase income from exports, but also to save imports. We are trying to manufacture in Australia many of the things that we imported previously. Twenty years ago one would have expected a lot of trouble from a motor car that had been made in Australia, but we know that Australian motor vehicles to-day are as good as any in the world. We are now exporting the products of General Motors-Holden’s Limited. If costs remain stable, I believe that we will be able to export the Chrysler cars and many others that are to be manufactured in Australia. We are sending diesel-electric locomotives to India and to other parts of the vast area that is adjacent to us.
Australia is about to become a manufacturing nation, with great prospects for a large export trade because of the short haul to South-East Asia, where three-fifths of the world’s population lives. In the past, those people have not had the capacity to pay for the goods they wanted to buy from us, but because of the Colombo plan aid and their internal industrial development, to which Australia has made a valuable contribution, India and other South-East Asian countries are beginning to obtain the means of buying goods from Australia. We are trying to probe those markets. Of course, there are difficulties. We are up against aid programmes in which both the United States of America and Russia are giving goods away in non-commercial deals.
However, we are working towards the development of those markets. We must remember that we are very close to Asia and its huge population. The people of
South-East Asia sorely need a wide variety of our products, from reconstituted milk for the babies of Indian mothers, to steel for Japan and other products for Malaya. Many of these nations have not had the means to buy our goods, but they are trying to lift themselves up by their own shoestrings. They are sending young men to Australia to study, not only for the public service, but also scientific subjects so that they can produce more and obtain the means of trading with us. When that movement gains momentum, surely Australia will have a tremendous part to play in that potential market.
That brings me to the fantastic increase in the production of steel in Australia. I had the privilege of hearing the head of Australian Iron and Steel Limited recently. He spoke of the tremendous increase in production at Port Kembla. From memory, I believe that he said by 1960 or 1962, we will have steelworks capable of producing 2,500,000 tons of steel a year. That unit will be the largest single steelworks in the British Commonwealth of Nations and the ninth largest in the world. The techniques that are being used in the steelworks are so successful, and the Australian steelworkers, steel masters and foremen, backed up by the employees who have come from overseas into the steel industry, are so efficient that in speed of production and the quality of the product we are ahead of people in any other part of the world. In fact, Americans and people from Sheffield are using colour cameras to take cinema recordings of the various processes, so that they can use these processes in their own countries. In the heavy steel industry at Port Kembla 5,000 men were employed in 1950, 11,000 men are employed there now, and by 1960 the industry will employ 17,000 men.
It is well to note that our steel is good and cheap because we have some of the best coking coal in the world in mines close to the steelworks. It can be delivered to the steelworks at a very low price. It is so precious and valuable that the Japanese Minister for Economic Planning, who is a steel expert and was head of the Manchurian steelworks before the war, said, after a visit to this country, that if he could not get enough coking coal and iron ore from this country, he would ask permission to bring the steelworks here, because steel is so im portant to the countries of South-East Asia. Steel and power are the measures of the development of a country to a civilized state. If countless millions of people in South-East Asia cannot get steel, their development will be retarded. Their greatest source of steel is here, because the coking coal is here. When we realize that Pakistan can produce only 600,000 tons of coal a year, and has to mix it with coal from this country in order to make it burn, we can understand what a scarce commodity is coal in some countries and how precious is the coal that we produce. If honorable members think that our coal industry is in difficulties, let me tell them that large orders have been placed for good coking coal and the fulfilment of those orders is restricted only by the loading capacity of ships. In the southern mines particularly, where this coal is found, there are vacancies for men, and the south coast coal-mining industry has a vast potential.
As to iron ore, there will not be unrestricted production in the future. We are now examining low-grade ores found in this country and in Noumea, and perfecting techniques to use them. The steel and coal industries are at the basis of the tremendous manufacturing drive that has taken place in Australia. As we get away from the heavy steels and consider the position with regard to special steels, we find that we can reduce our exports of those steels. Until now, of course, the steelworks have enjoyed the privilege of supplying the very heavy steels, the production of which has been more convenient, and it has left the lighter steels to be sent to this country from overseas. However, we shall shortly be producing those special steels. We are now making tinplate. I believe that we have imported previously about 70,000 tons a year of tinplate, but in the future we will make all our requirements of this commodity in Australia. We shall produce enough to can all our goods, and will probably be able to export tinplate. We are refining enough petrol for our own use, and will be able in the future to export refined petrol.
Everywhere we look we find a tremendous upsurge in production. The men who have gone out into the bad lands of the north of Australia have given us a rich yield in mineral resources. Many references have been made to the exciting discovery that has been made at Weipa in the Cape York Peninsula, where bauxite deposits have been found which contain half as much of this mineral as is known to exist in the world to-day. The Consolidated Zinc Corporation will probably spend £300,000,000 in developing that area. This will, of course, make a great difference to North Queensland. Access roads will be built, and shipping will visit the area. I might refer also to the many important discoveries of uranium that have been made, and to the finding of various metals at Mount Isa and Mary Kathleen. There are widespread possibilities for the discovery of oil. We have heard references to the possibility of our exporting £200,000,000 worth of minerals a year, with that figure rapidly increasing. I think the honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Timson) said that perhaps the value of our exports of minerals will some day eclipse that of our exports of wool.
All these advances to which I have referred have taken place under a private enterprise government. Can we believe that the steel industry would expand in this way under a Labour government when we know that on the list of industries that it proposes to nationalize, the Australian Labour party places the steel industry second?
– The industry would be killed!
– Can we believe that the hundreds of thousands of Australians, including many widows and people in indigent circumstances, who have invested in the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would be willing to risk their money in an industry which, in the words of the honorable member for Wide Bay, would be killed? The moment the steel industry was nationalized it would lose its impetus. People would lose their desire to invest in it, and we would see the end of a magnificent industry, which is so important to us and to the people in the countries around us.
– Has the Liberal Government been responsible for all these discoveries?
– Does the honorable member for Wills believe that men would go out into that very tough country in Cape York and the other equatorial regions of Australia to locate something that, if the Australian Labour party were in power, would belong to the Government? Of course they would not. They would stay in the flesh pots and wait for a hand out, as people did in Rome in the days of bread and circuses. The policy of the Australian Labour party would result in private enterprise in this country being stifled. We have had these golden years from 1950 until the present time because men know that they can reap the fruits of their enterprise. They know that when they find these mineral deposits and work to exploit them, they will, despite taxes and restrictions that have to be applied, get something substantial as a result of their efforts. They know that they will gain some reward. Surely it is natural for men and women to try harder when they know that private enterprise will not be stultified and destroyed and that the incentives they enjoy will not be taken away.
We have seen a magnificent drive for development all over Australia. We have experienced a period of economic buoyancy, of rising exports and imports and of more jobs. We know that at present, unfortunately, there are some men who are in a transitional period. There are unemployed Hungarians in the camp at Bonegilla, but they will be taken up by industry within the next few months and given employment. Perhaps it is unfortunate that in Australia the middle of winter coincides with the end of the financial year, and also with the end of the wool sales. It is a time when no money is coming into the community, and when people are examining their balancesheets. If they are going to re-organize their businesses they will do so at the beginning of the financial year. It is a time when the Government is drawing in taxes and there is a reduction in the amount of money available for investment. So we have a critical situation, with unemployment reaching its peak in August. From then on unemployment decreases. During the period of office of this Government unemployment has never reached the level that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) suggested would be satisfactory. 1 suppose that the honorable member is sorry that he made the statement, but some years ago he said that 5 per cent, of unemployment is a suitable level. Under this Government it has never reached that level. I do not think the level has been as high as half that figure. It is regrettable, however, that of those men who are unemployed in August each year there are a great many who could be usefully employed, and perhaps we should further consider this economic system which results in the simultaneous occurrence of the end of the financial year, the onset of winter, the Government drawing in taxes and the end of the wool sales that bring in £70,000,000 or £80,000,000 while they are being held. We have an economic dead low at that period of the year. Honorable members will have noticed during the last few years that unemployment is usually at its peak about August because of this man-made situation. Perhaps we could change that. Perhaps we could have the financial year terminating at the end of October, or February, or some other period which is not so important. Perhaps we could have the taxation year ending in February instead of June in order to avoid this peak of unemployment which takes place in this dead-low period of the year.
– We could change the government.
– The honorable member gazes at the ceiling as he makes that suggestion, because to hope for a change of government is like building castles in the air. I suppose it is regrettable in a way that a change of government is so far away, because one thing we on this side do like is a strong Opposition. The honorable member for West Sydney knows that at the moment a change is impossible. He knows his party is rent by disputes and is split into factions which prevent it from being etiher strong or great. I should like to see a stronger Labour party, and a stronger Opposition, because a stronger Opposition here would sharpen the wits and ideas of honorable members on this side, but no more than that. It is the best the Labour party can ever hope to attain; it could never bring about a change of government.
Thank God the present Government is in office. It has created golden years for Australia. Let us continue with this type of budget, being always careful to preserve our present stability, of which we are so proud, and being careful also to preserve always the future for Australians, for our young Australians in particular.
Surely honorable members will admit we can be justifiably proud of the personality of Australians, of their initiative and competency. Surely we are proud also of their physique. Year after year the tennis finals at Forest Hills are won by Australians. 0U young men and women win first, second and third places at the Olympic Games, outstripping the athletes from all other parts of the world. We should be proud of the output of our steel works, and of our wool production which outstrip the achievements of all other countries in those spheres of industry. We should be pleased to have a magnificent potential market. One might be forgiven for thinking, when surveying this scene, that we are the chosen people of the next century. All these things have been given to us. How are we to turn them to our advantage? If we have the correct type of government; if we do not have a government which is socialistic; if we do not have a government which has marked industries down for socialization, if we do not have a government which is closely allied in so many ways with Communism, and which has the same ideals as the Communist Party in many directions; if we do not have a government which will discourage and stultify initiative, Australia must make tremendous progress. Of course, the other type of government - the socialist kind - would suit the Russians, for they are stolid people, but it is not good for Australians: In fact, such a government would never be accepted here because the Australians are people of initiative.
It is amazing to me that the Australian Labour party receives as many votes as it does to-day. I suppose it is given these votes because many Australians naturally are on the side of the under-dog. A few men are struggling in a sort of politburo for control of that party without any wish to ‘ make Australia great. The fight for power in the Australian Labour party is a completely selfish one. That party has lost its drive. It has no intention of doing something for the good of the country or the people in it. A few of the leaders have a lust for power and other members jostle for position on the outskirts. That is a deplorable situation in any political party.
The thinking Australian unionist has left the Australian Labour party. His wife, too, is voting Liberal because, as she says, she has never had it so good, she has never had so much money in the home, she has never had so many goods offered to her. Representing an electorate where light industries are developing, I feel that I can speak with some authority on this point. In one town in my electorate, three large factories have opened. In one of them a family of three seniors and two juniors enjoys an income of £88 a week.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– In speaking on the budget, let me say at the outset that I support wholeheartedly the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). In doing so, I state emphatically that this is one of the most disappointing budgets that has been ever introduced into this Parliament. It is particularly disappointing when one considers the good financial position of the Government as outlined by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden). I find in the budget little by way of concessions to be granted to the vast majority of the Australian people.
But before proceeding to deal with the budget, I wish to refer to two other matters. The first relates to the statements made by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) when speaking on the budget last Thursday. He made a number of charges against the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Of course, that is characteristic of him, but I say that those charges are absolutely untrue, unfounded and unwarranted. It seems to me that the honorable member for Moreton, ever since he entered this Parliament, has had an obsession to defame, discredit and belittle the Leader of the Australian Labour party, the right honorable member for Barton. I, and other honorable members on this side, take strong exception to that, and although I know I cannot convince the honorable member for Moreton and perhaps many other honorable members on the Government side, I intend to endeavour to give them the facts relating to the activities of the right honorable member for Barton, the leader of this great Australian Labour party, when he was Minister for External Affairs from 1941 to 1949.
The other matter to which I wish to refer before dealing with the budget is this Government’s decision to dispose of the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool, which has done such wonderful work in Queensland and other States of Australia.
I return now to what I term the very definite charges made by the honorable member for Moreton against the Leader of the Opposition. When replying to the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) last Thursday evening, the honorable member for Moreton said -
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.
Mark that - a disastrous one! I shall endeavour to prove, by quoting facts and figures, that the era during which the right honorable member for Barton occupied the high office of Minister for External Affairs in this Parliament was indeed a very profitable one for Australia and its people. The honorable member for Moreton went on to say -
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-
Mark that - one Jim Healy - who holds no mean affection for the Marxist way of life and the Soviet scheme of things.
Later in his speech, he said -
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 information - 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 for 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.
Those statements and charges are not in accordance with fact, and I feel sure that the honorable member for Moreton realises that. But the honorable member has an obsession, and on every occasion he rises to speak in this chamber he endeavours, by some means or other, for political purposes, to discredit and belittle the right honorable member for Barton. I regret that the honorable member for Moreton is not in the chamber. Politically, he is not fit to tie the bootlaces of the right honorable member for Barton.
Let me deal, first, with the charge that Jim Healy was practically allowed to control Australia’s external affairs policy when the right honorable member for Barton was Minister in charge of that department. I have no time for Jim Healy, and neither has the right honorable member for Barton. The implication is made that the right honorable member, as Minister for External Affairs, appointed Jim Healy, who is a Communist, to a position in which he virtually controlled external affairs policy. That is absolutely untrue. The right honorable member had nothing to do with the appointment of Jim Healy to any position whatsoever. It is true that Jim Healy was appointed to a particular committee, but he was not appointed because he was a Communist. He was appointed to a wartime committee, set up by the Chifley Labour Government, to assist in the war effort. There is no need for me to go into that aspect of the matter.
– Who appointed him?
– I shall tell the honorable member who appointed Jim Healy to that particular committee. In accordance with the policy of the Chifley Labour Government during the war, that committee was comprised of representatives of employers, employees and the Government. The Government asked the industrial organizations to recommend for appointment men whom they desired to represent them on that committee. It is obvious that the right honorable member for Barton had nothing to do with such appointments. It was the Minister for National Service at that time who appointed Jim Healy to that committee. I understand that Jim Healy was placed on that committee because the members of his organization selected him as the best man to represent them. If the honorable member for Moreton, or any other honorable member on the Government side, makes a charge such as has been made against the right honorable member for Barton, he must make a similar charge against the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who allowed that same committee to continue with Jim Healy as one of its members. Indeed, the Minister on a number of occasions praised Jim Healy.
– He called him “ Jim “.
– That is so. Healy and the Minister were “ Jim “ and “ Harold “ to each other. The present Minister for Labour and National Service, on a number of occasions in this chamber, praised the wonderful job Jim Healy was doing in the interests of the war effort as a member of that particular committee. The honorable member for Moreton has tried to lead people to believe that Healy was connected with the Department of External Affairs.
I go further and tell the honorable member and his colleagues on the Government side, particularly those who have come into this Parliament since 1949, what the right honorable member for Barton did. When he was Minister for External Affairs he issued a prosecution against Jim Healy, and as a result Healy was gaoled. That shows how untruthful and unfair honorable members on the Government side are in making such baseless charges against the right honorable member for Barton. The honorable member for Moreton said that at that time there were leakages of information from the Department of External Affairs. Such a statement is absolutely untrue. If there were such leakages during the time the Leader of the Opposition was Minister for External Affairs, the honorable member must make similar charges against the present Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) because he retained the staff of that department when he became Minister. Not one employee in that department was ever charged or found guilty of committing any breach or causing information to leak out. Many of them were promoted to higher positions not only in Australia but also overseas as representatives of the Government.
The honorable member for Moreton said that the situation created by the right honorable member for Barton when the Minister for External Affairs was very serious and disastrous. On the contrary, he did great work in the national interest. In 1942 he introduced the Statute of Westminster Adoption Bill which gave Australia her first taste of nationhood. Anti-Labour governments were in office in this Parliament for many years after the Statute of Westminster was passed, but they made no effort to adopt any section of it. If the right honorable member did nothing else during his political career, he will always be gratefully remembered for bringing down that measure because it gave this country the status of nationhood and enabled Australia to take her place fully among the nations of the world. The debates in connexion with this matter appear in “ Hansard “ for October 2nd, 7th, and 8th of 1942, volume 172. That was one of the first things that the right honorable member for Barton did when he was Minister for External Affairs and it has meant a great deal to Australia and to the Australian people.
I mention now a very important bill which was introduced into this House by the right honorable member for Barton. I refer to the Statute of Westminster Adoption Bill of 1942. When it was introduced it was criticised very severely and in some cases opposed. The then member for North Sydney, Mr. W. M. Hughes, moved an amendment that the bill be referred to a select committee, which would have meant a delay in passing it. However, when it came to the second-reading stage the bill was carried by an overwhelming majority.
The Statute of Westminster, as honorable members should know, was first discussed at an imperial conference of Prime Ministers in 1926 and again in 1930. At the 1930 meeting the United Kingdom was urged to adopt the statute as quickly as possible, which was done. Two Australian Labour representatives, the then Prime Minister Mr. Scullin and Minister for External Affairs, Mr. Frank Brennan, were at that conference and urged the necessity for adopting the Statute of Westminster so that Australia in particular could become and be known as a nation. Up till then Australia was not a nation at all. In the eyes of Great Britain and other countries it was a dominion or a colony. The Government of the United Kingdom adopted the Statute of Westminster in 1931. Twelve years later it was adopted by Australia. It was first brought before this Parliament in 1931 by Mr. Brennan, but unfortunately the Scullin Government was defeated shortly afterwards. From 1931 until 1942 the statute lay dormant. During that interval the Lyons Government was in office, followed by the Menzies-Fadden Government, but neither of those governments attempted to deal with this very important statute. They realized that to adopt the statute would mean that Australia would be on the same footing as the United Kingdom and other nations. At that time Australia was still regarded as the wood-and-water-joey for the United Kingdom Government. We were the primary producers who were supplying Britain in those days with practically all the produce that she required. We had no say whatsoever in our foreign policy. Up to that time, never in my experience in this House had any government submitted a foreign policy to the parliament.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting, I was endeavouring to show the Committee that the statement made by the honorable member for Moreton was not in accordance with the facts. In speaking of the valuable work that had been done by the Leader of the Opposition when he was Minister for External Affairs, I mentioned that he would, no doubt, go down in history for having brought before the Parliament a law to adopt the statute of Westminster. After that statute had been adopted, Australia became known throughout the world, for the first time, as a nation. Before that, the laws enacted in the colonies and the dominions of the British Empire were subject to the provisions of the Colonial Laws Validity Act of 1865. That act operated to invalidate such colonial or dominion legislation as was technically repugnant to imperial legislative powers or which endangered the validity of imperial legislation. The adoption of the Statute of Westminster gave to Australia powers which previously had not been dreamed of by many members of this Parliament.
Another very valuable piece of work was done by the present Leader of the Opposition when he occupied the very high and important position of Minister for External Affairs. After Australia had become a nation, he had the foresight to realize the necessity for Australia to take its place with other nations of the world. At that time, Australia was very little known in the world outside of three other countries. One of those countries was the United Kingdom, in which an Australian High Commissioner was domiciled. The second country was Canada, in which we had a High Commissioner. The third country was the United States of America, in which we had a Minister by the name oi Sir Frederic Eggleston. The present Leader of the Opposition realized the necessity for extending our overseas representation. He realized that if Australia was to become a nation, as he hoped, and as we all hoped, it would be necessary to have representatives in all those countries in which trade discussions could take place, so that Australia would be put on the map.
The right honorable gentleman gave effect to his policy in this regard. When he left office in 1949, Australia, instead of having only three representatives overseas, had representatives in no fewer than sixteen countries. In the United States, the Australian legation at Washington had been raised to the status of an embassy. Ambassadors had been appointed to France, China and Holland. Ministers had been appointed in Rome and Eire. High Commissioners had been appointed to Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand, Ceylon, and India. Ambassadors had been appointed to Russia and Indonesia. Consuls-general had been appointed in New York and San Francisco. Trade Commissioners had also been appointed in the majority of the countries that I have mentioned. That evidence proves that the statements made by the honorable member for Moreton were absolutely untrue and incorrect in every particular.
On more than one occasion, the honorable member for Moreton has made, in my opinion, cowardly charges against the Leader of the Opposition. He has tried to defame the right honorable gentleman, and to belittle the great work that he has done. I challenge the honorable member for Moreton or any other Government supporter to say that any statement that I have made in this debate is untrue or that any figures that I have cited are incorrect. I feel sure that the honorable member for Moreton is using poisonous, wicked propaganda against the Leader of the Opposition for political purposes. Without wishing to be personal, I say that he and others who are of the same opinion as he is should rise in their places and apologize to the right honorable gentleman for the charges that have been made against him. No matter what the honorable member for Moreton or other honorable members opposite may say, the Leader of the Opposition has the goodwill and support of the great Australian Labour party, not’ only in this chamber, but throughout Australia.
– The budget debate presents an opportunity for covering a pretty wide range of topics, and therefore the temptation to be discursive is almost irresistible, perhaps, but I will resist it. I propose to address myself, to-night, to the speech that fell from the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) on the budget. Because the bulk of that speech related to the public finances I prefer to address most of my remarks to that topic. But before the Leader of the Opposition concluded he made a reference to disarmament, and since that is a current problem I crave leave to devote a few minutes to dealing with what he said on that topic before I come to the general financial position.
The right honorable gentleman did not say a great deal about disarmament, but he did say one or two very remarkable things that deserve answers. He said, “ Who are the people who are against disarmament? “ Then he said, in eight words, “ We know that the first group is Russia “. Full stop! That was all that the right honorable gentleman permitted himself to say on that matter. All I want to say is that, for once, we are in complete agreement. We know that the first group is Russia. But, having pronounced those words, he then went straight on to talk, in language which I thought was long since out of date, about the great enemies of disarmament being what he called “ the great munitions trust “! That was his analysis of the problem. Not a word about the proposals made by the Western powers; not a word about their rejection by the Soviet Union; not a word about the pros and cons of the proposals put up; merely this worn-out cliche about the great munitions trusts!
– It is not a cliche. It is the truth.
– As I am not aware of any great munitions trusts in Australia - though I should be glad to be informed on that matter - I can only assume that the right honorable gentleman was referring, if not to Soviet Russia then to Great Britain and the United States of America. Therefore, in effect, either he was violating his general rule and making an attack upon the attitude of the Soviet Union, or he was making an attack, from the side, on Great Britain and the United States. Great munitions trusts! There was no evidence whatever to support the statement. But what the statement must mean, if we may take the case of Great Britain, is that the postwar governments of that country, both labour and conservative - because both have pursued a course of armament, and both have been associated with nuclear development - have been, and are, willing to plunge their people into the risk of mass destruction - a risk which is greater in Great Britain than in any other country you can name - in order to please the private makers of war material, rather than make bona fide efforts to secure disarmament, or reduce armaments. If the statement does not mean that, it is puzzling to know what it does mean. Is this reference to munitions trusts just a slogan - a headline for the “ Tribune “? Or does it contain an allegation that these great nations, the defenders of liberty, are themselves reluctant to disarm, or to reduce armaments, because of the pressure of some profit-making private organization?
The right honorable gentleman knows as well as any one else in this chamber, or in this country, that the only complete munitions trust in the world is Russia, controlled by the Kremlin. The truth is - and it is a truth of which I take leave to remind everybody - that the Western nations have advanced proposals for disarmament, and have pursued them with great earnestness. What are the outstanding features of those proposals? As the right honorable gentleman has not thought fit to refer to them, I should refer to them myself. The outstanding features of their proposals are these: The first is that there should be a period of cessation from the manufacture and testing of nuclear weapons and of the materials which go into them - cessation from making the bomb, cessation from testing the bomb, cessation from making the materials which go into the bomb. The second feature is that there should be extensive rights of expert inspection on both sides during the period of suspension. The third feature is that the negotiating work of such conferences as occur on permanent limitation of the construction, development or use of nuclear weapons, should be continued. The fourth feature is that reductions in conventional forces and weapons should be achieved simultaneously so that the world would not, by getting rid of nuclear weapons, commit itself to an almost equally terrifying imbalance of conventional arms. I. would have thought that everybody in the free world knew by now that if every nuclear weapon disappeared, not only from the sight of man but also from the knowledge of man, to-morrow, the Soviet Union would possess overwhelming strength in conventional arms - overwhelming strength before which free Europe would be practically defenceless. Therefore, the Western powers, in putting their proposals, have taken care - and properly taken care - to say, “ At the same time as we deal with the nuclear weapon let us deal with the nonnuclear weapon. Let us have a genuine measure of reduced armament on both sides of the curtain “.
Now it is permissible to ask whether the right honorable gentleman challenges the wisdom of these proposals by the Western powers. Does he challenge their wisdom, or does he agree with the Soviet Union in its rejection of them? If he agrees with the Soviet Union’s rejection, then we understand beyond peradventure where he stands. But assuming that he supports these proposals in spite of the munitions trusts, does he think seriously that he is helping towards their acceptance by creating the impression that the people of the world - the people of the free world - are more concerned about munitions trusts than they are about the growing power and chronic ruthlessness of the Soviet group?
These are grave and weighty questions. They are questions upon which every political leader in this country must stand up, be understood and be counted. I do not desire to say any more on that aspect because I do not desire to occupy all my time with it, but since it has been referred to I have taken this opportunity of reminding the Parliament of what is the true essence of the problem. Every one of us ought to be hoping and praying that these wise and generous proposals put forward by the Western world will be considered on their merits and judged in the interest of mankind.
Having said that, I turn to the budget proper and to the remarkable criticisms of it which fell from the Leader of the Opposition. I must say that he devoted himself, in the course of his speech, to producing what were thought to be attractive headlines for a denunciation of the budget - a budget which commends itself, and has commended itself, to the good sense of most of the Australian people. What has the right honorable gentleman said? First of all - and I quote his own words - he spoke about a fall, a definite fall - in Australian living standards. This was most attractive as an argument. This was designed to persuade the prosperous and happy people of Australia, in spite of themselves, that they are living in a state of misery, depression and gloom.
– What about the unemployed?
– I am not talking about the professional gloom makers. My colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) had some admirable things to say about them the other night. The second headline was that the story in the budget was the story of a running-down economy. I thought that there was some merit in using that expression, because it distracted attention from the story of a running-down opposition. Anyhow, there it is - the story of a running-down economy.
– It is better than a runningaway government!
– I hope that my voice will reach the people of Western Australia. The third headline was that there had been a 2i per cent, fall in the general living standards of the Australian people. Now, Mr. Chairman, they are very attractive as headlines. Otherwise, they have no merit and certainly, as anybody could demonstrate, no accuracy whatever. I wonder what evidence can be produced. Certainly, the right honorable gentleman did not attempt to produce the evidence; I concede that to him. He did not, perhaps, have time to produce the evidence to support these allegations though the onus of proof - if I might refer to that sacred cow - was on him. What evidence does he have to support those claims and to displace the powerful statement which was, in fact, produced by the Commonwealth Bank on, I think, the same day or the day before. What did the Commonwealth Bank say? I shall quote the very words of that body, issued under the name of the governor and chairman, Dr. Coombs -
The year 1956-57 was marked by a dramatic improvement in the health of the Australian economy.
The right honorable gentleman says the economy is running down; the Commonwealth Bank, speaking out of the depths of its ignorance - it does not understand these problems as well as he does - says that there was a remarkable and dramatic improvement in the health of the Australian economy. The bank’s statement continued -
The growth and development characteristic of the post-war period continued, but on a sounder basis and with a considerable easing of inflationary pressures.
That, Mr. Chairman, is what the Commonwealth Bank said. The right honorable gentleman disagrees with it. The bank has behind it the whole of the statistical data bearing on the state of Australia; he has behind him nothing but some manufactured headlines - no facts, no basis. But perhaps I am wrong when I say that, because I think he undertook to produce what he regarded as evidence - some scraps of evidence. I should like to say something about them.
He started off, of course, by saying that there were 50,000 people unemployed. Again, he pays no attention to whether some of the people nominally unemployed were people who had been thrown out of employment by the overfull economy; he says nothing whatever about people altering their jobs - seasonal employees; and he says nothing about special features which sober students have to take into account. But he says, “ There, you have 1 per cent, of the entire work force of Australia unemployed “, and he talks about that as if it were something not only grave in itself, but bound to go on and on until disaster is reached.
Unfortunately, on this matter, he is like the boy who cried wolf. I remember very well hearing exactly the same argument in 1952. Our budget had been designed to produce depression! There were loud cries about unemployment all over the place. There were almost public prayers for increased unemployment offered by the right honorable gentleman and his colleagues. We replied by saying that, as our budgetary policy was right, the economy would respond to it and would be the healthier for it. And this unemployment disappeared. Therefore, this particular slogan was put away into cold storage for another day. Now it has been produced. Dear me, Mr. Chairman, I would have thought that everybody knew that if we had good rains in September and October - not to put too fine a point on it - that fact alone could destroy this limited amount of unemployment, except for unemployable people, in two or three months’ time. But, of course, the right honorable gentlemen, and such supporters as he can gather on the benches opposite, constantly exaggerate a small temporary unemployment for purely political purposes. I tell them that to their faces - they do it for politicial purposes. They hope, politically, for more unemployment. They do not seem to realize that what they are doing is to attack the confidence which is so important to business growth and to increasing employment. They undermine employment. Therefore, f think I ought to be permitted to say - and to say very plainly - that the one guarantee of mass unemployment in this country would be for the right honorable gentleman some day to form a government, with all sober-minded Labour men purged away - because that is the modern procedure - into the Australian equivalent of Siberia or outer Mongolia.
But I said that the right honorable gentleman had brought some particulars. I should like to look at one or two of them; I cannot look at all of them. He said that no more food was bought last year though there were 200,000 more mouths to feed, and that less clothing was bought, although there were 200,000 more people to clothe. Now, here was something designed to show that either there was starvation for 200,000 people, or a distribution of a modified form of starvation over the entire population. The right honorable gentleman extracted his figures from a white paper, other portions of which he either did not bother to read, or suppressed, because if he had studied the lot, and disclosed the lot, he would have found that all the statistics in Australia show that there has been a change in the spending pattern of the Australian people due, I am happy to say, in this country to the free choice of the people. Food expenditure rose 5 per cent., and retail prices in the food section rose 5 per cent. Therefore, it is quite right to say that the amount spent on food went up by 5 per cent, and no more food was bought. But let us consider what people spent, because it is the spending capacity that he is talking about.
– They spent more.
– They spent 5 per cent, more on food. If the honorable member had done me the honour of listening to me, he would know that I said the same quantity of food, because the prices rose to the same extent. Even the honorable member will be interested to know that the expenditure on liquor and tobacco did not rise 5 per cent.; it rose by 12 per cent. I emphasize those figures.
– You have driven them to it.
– That is the point. That is wonderful. The brilliant member opposite says “There you are, you have driven them to it”. Let us have a look at that statement. According to that view, the starving citizen who cannot afford to pay for food, as a result of the actions of the Government I lead, says “ Well, instead of spending the little I have got on food, I shall spend it on beer and tobacco “. This, of course, is the most ludicrous proposition in the world. All it goes to show, of course, is that people with a large purchasing power in total have been spending no more on food, in terms of quantity, and have been spending more on tobacco and on liquor. And as we are talking about their starvation, and misery and poverty, it is worth remembering that in the same period personal savings increased by over 10 per cent. Therefore, honorable members will see how ludicrous it is to pick out the food item at a time when people are obviously disposed to spend more on tobacco and drink, and to put more away in savings, and to claim that as a proof of disaster. Expenditure on clothing, to which he also referred, has moved irregularly year by year in comparison with prices. Since 1949 expenditure on clothing has increased by almost 90 per cent., as against an increase in relative prices of 80 per cent. The total expenditure on hardware, furniture and articles of that kind has increased by 160 per cent, since 1948-49. Having regard to those figures, it is a pity that the right honorable gentleman’s eagle eye did not light on the summary made in the White Paper, which was -
There has clearly been a shift in the pattern of consumption, the durable commodities gaining at the expense of clothing.
The figures I have just given to the committee are a pretty complete answer to the allegation that if you pick out food by itself, ignoring all the other vastly increased expenditures and the increased savings of the people, you can draw the rich, beautiful conclusion that the community is in a state of starvation.
The right honorable gentleman wearied of well-doing fairly quickly on that aspect of the matter and then turned to another consideration. Falling from anybody else, I would feel at liberty to describe his remarks as a perfect essay in humbug. He said -
The Government has deliberately curbed social service pensions and benefits and war pensions so that their real value has been steadily eaten up.
That was the broad statement that he made. He went into particulars later, and I shall not fail to pay attention to them. He did not seem to be dropping as many tears over the age pension as over some other matters, but he did give it that mention. He said that the Government had deliberately curbed social service pensions so that their real value had been steadily eaten up. Any gentleman who aspires to be Prime Minister in the future ought to remember occasionally what happened when he was almost Prime Minister before, when he was Deputy Prime Minister in 1948-49. At that time his influence in the Cabinet must have been tremendously powerful. After all, a man who can dragoon so many people into proclaiming themselves his supporters could hardly have lacked the talent to dragoon some opinion in his own Cabinet. In 1949, when the Labour government was in power - this was before the time of the exuberant gentleman from Hindmarsh - and when the right honorable gentleman was the Deputy Prime Minister, next to the throne, the age pension represented 32.4 per cent, of the basic wage, but under the legislation that we have introduced, and which I hope will not be long delayed in its passage, it will be 34.3 per cent. It will be a higher percentage of a basic wage which, I remind the committee, has been increased in terms of real value during the last eight years.
The right honorable gentleman referred with great sorrow to the adult unemployment relief payment, which, when he was in a position to control it, was 25s. a week. That was the amount of the Evatt unemployment benefit. Under the provisions now before the committee, it is to be £3 5s. a week - an increase of 160 per cent., an increase going far beyond any increase of the cost of living, because the C series index has increased by only 72 per cent, in the same time. The benefit has gone up by 160 per cent. The totally and permanently incapacitated ex-servicemen, to whom this
Government has always directed very close attention, had a pension under the right honorable gentleman’s government of £5 6s. a week, whereas under this budget it is to be £11. One or two of these matters are deserving of further mention, because if we are to conduct an examination into political humbug, we might as well do it thoroughly.
– Let’s do it now.
– That is exactly what I am doing. I am doing it now. I know the right honorable gentleman does not want me to be heard. He never did want me to be heard, but he has frequently heard me, to his acute discomfort, and, no doubt, he will do so again. It is a pity that the totally and permanently incapacitated men should be made a political chopping block. What the right honorable gentleman, who is now chattering so aimlessly on the front bench, said about them was -
It is now proposed that they should attempt to exist on approximately £3 a week less than the basic wage … a shockingly inadequate payment. The basic wage should be the absolute minimum for these gallant men.
– So it should.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh is innocent on this occasion, because he was not in the last Labour government, although I would not be surprised if he were Prime Minister in the next. Let me remind the honorable member that there was a Labour Ministry. It conducted the affairs of this country for years after the war. The present Leader of the Opposition was then Deputy Prime Minister. Did he pay the totally and permanently incapacitated men the basic wage, which he now says should be the minimum for them? Not a bit. He gave them a pension of 80 per cent, of the basic wage. We have made it 86 per cent, of the basic wage, to say nothing of other collateral considerations, but, in the face of that, the Leader of the Opposition has the nerve to get up and say, “ I was not thinking about this thing clearly when I had the opportunity as Deputy Prime Minister. Now that I come to think of it, it was a shocking thing that we, the Labour government, treated these men so badly.” He will nol hear many complaints from the totally and permanently incapacitated men about the way in which this Government has treated them.
Then the right honorable gentleman referred to unemployment relief. Again, I use his own words. He said -
A married man with children will now receive less than half the basic wage, despite an apparently generous increase in the rate.
If that means anything, it means that at any rate they ought to have half the basic wage. He did not go to the point of saying that the unemployment relief payment ought to be the whole basic wage, because even he would have realized what an economic absurdity that would be, but he was making a strong plea, by implication, for giving half the basic wage. Honorable members will be interested to know that when he was a member of the government and had a chance to make these now retrospective emotions of his effective, unemployment relief was 19 per cent, of the basic wage.
– The honorable member may say “ Rubbish “, but he will not have to confute me on that matter; he will have to prove that the Commonwealth Statistician is wrong. Nineteen point one per cent. - I must not forget the point one - of the basic wage was the unemployment benefit created by the right honorable member. Now, being free of the cares of office, free of responsibility, he has raised the ante - if that is the right expression - to 50 per cent.
The right honorable gentleman spoke about depression - this depression that he is so anxious to create - and about rising costs. I think that, again, he must have forgotten that since his time in office the basic wage has risen by 95.4 per cent, and the retail price index by 72 per cent., the rise in the basic wage being vastly greater than the rise in the cost of living. What does the right honorable gentleman propose to do to rescue the people from starvation and the economy from stagnation?
– Get rid of you!
– Does the honorable member think that that would do the trick? I do not think there would be very much merit in getting rid of me, because after all, it must be remembered that I am showing advanced signs of age and senility - I think those were the words used recently - and therefore to get rid of me would not help the Opposition. I might be replaced by an active and vigorous fellow, although I am bound to say for myself that I am still active and vigorous enough to cope with the kind of nonsense that I hear from the other side of the chamber.
Opposition members interjecting,
– Do not make them too orderly, Mr. Chairman. It is very enjoyable. We have stated our views. Our policies and actions are an open book in this matter; bur what does the right honorable gentleman opposite propose to do to save the people from starvation, apart altogether from accepting the fascinating challenge of Hunter? As I understand the right honorable gentleman - and this is the alternative programme that the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) supports, and I hope he will remember it - he says, in the first place, “ Well, we will increase pensions by something of the order of £50,000,000, and we will put special taxes on big companies “. I suppose these are the companies to which the right honorable gentleman, in one election policy speech, promised special initial depreciation! But anyhow, let that pass. We must not be too miserable about recalling the past. He would put special taxes on big companies, or perhaps what he had in his mind - it is not clear - was special taxes on non-Australian companies. Of course, to put a special tax on non-Australian companies would be to say to overseas investors, “ We do not want you in Australia “. For that to be put forward by an alternative Prime Minister as a policy for a country that desperately needs capital is as crazy as anything I have ever heard.
Here we are at a time when, in spite of a relatively high rate of saving by the Australian people, we need more and more capital in order to do the things we want to do. And at this time, when we have succeeded in attracting overseas investments; when, indeed, many thousands of Australian employees owe their employment to these overseas investments, the right honorable gentleman comes along and in some vague and circuitous fashion suggests that they ought to be subject to a special form of taxation!
Then he says that the interest rates are too high, and that he would reduce them by supporting the loan market and also, believe it or not, by accepting securities at their face value for purpose of tax. I will just say a few words about each of those matters. This Government has done more, through such instrumentalities as are open to it, to support the loan market than has any other government in the history of the country. The right honorable gentleman says, “ We were able to raise all the money we needed at 3b per cent. That was a tribute to our financial genius “ - a genius which obviously is not hereditary. But thai is what he says. He conveniently forgets that, at a time when large loans were being raised in Australia at 3b per cent., we had every conceivable war-time control - rationing of food, rationing of clothing, capital issues control, complete control of building operations, and extremely high taxation on a war-time level - in short, all those things which made it inevitable that the money that people had saved would go into Commonwealth loans because it could go nowhere else. Would he restore all these controls in Australia, if he could do so constitutionally? Is he seriously talking about a 3 J- per cent, interest rate? Does he really mean it? Because if he does, he ought to tell the people of Australia what burdens they will have to accept and what restrictions they will have to grapple round themselves if such a state of affairs is to be restored.
Then, sir, he says, “ Accept the securities at face value for purposes of taxation “. I just want to make a particularly elementary remark on this matter. I have heard this proposal put more than once and so has my distinguished colleague, the Treasurer: “ Why do you not take Commonwealth bonds, which stand at a discount, at their face value in payment of taxes? “ The answer, of course, is very simple. Governments spend money, and in the long run most of it represents payment of salaries and wages to the employees of contractors, the employees of departments, soldiers, sailors, airmen - all the people who receive payments out of the Treasury. Are we going to pay them in bonds? They are oldfashioned people. They like to have cash, and therefore, if a government did this strange thing and took as its revenue, or as a part of its revenue, Commonwealth bonds, it would have to convert the bonds into cash before it could use the proceeds to meet its commitments. That is elementary. I apologise for taking up time on it. I wonder whether the right honorable gentleman has ever given any thought to what would happen to the value of bonds on the market, and therefore to the effective interest rate on the bond market, if we were to throw on to the market, for cash, the quantity of Commonwealth securities that would be received under his proposal? Of course, the fact is that he has given no thought to it at all, nor have most other people who have raised the suggestion.
Next, the right honorable gentleman permitted himself to sneer at the new depreciation allowances that have been announced following an adoption of a most valuable report made by the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme). He sneers at depreciation allowances and says they are a magnificent handout - this constant obsession that he has that we are the humble and obedient servants of big business!
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– This obsession that we are humble and obedient servants of big business and the big manufacturers of Australia. Let us have it all! It is delightful to hear it. It is such a contrast to what honorable members opposite were saying a fortnight ago, when they said that by means of the Japanese Trade Agreement we were slaughtering the interests of the very people whose interests they now say we are in politics to serve. Oh, they cannot have it both ways; but they would like to have it both ways. I wonder whether the right honorable gentleman, or any of his supporters, remembers that the modernizing of machinery - this is worth the attention of every wage-earner in this country - and of equipment is one of the great means of getting down costs without cutting wages. Is that realized by them? Is that remembered? Everything you do to encourage effective depreciation of plant, and replacement of it when it becomes obsolescent, is calculated to reduce the costs of production, to increase the prosperity of production and to extend the employment of people in productive enterprise.
Now, if you sum up the alternative programme you will find that what it means is wholesale reductions of revenue - because every word that the right honorable gentleman said spoke in that direction - and wholesale increases in expenditure, which is a policy of pure monetary inflation. Yet, he professes - though, I admit, on this occasion rather briefly - to criticize inflation.
– You have to be careful. The honorable member for East Sydney follows you.
– Is that so? Well, after the Lord Mayor’s procession-
– Order! There is too much noise.
– Do not restrain honorable members opposite, Mr. Chairman, because for a long time they have not had an opportunity for a good laugh. “It does them good to come out of a caucus meeting occasionally.
Now, there was another point that the right honorable gentleman made in presenting his policy, and that was that Commonwealth works expenditure, which had amounted to some hundreds of millions of pounds in the last seven years, ought to be transferred to loan account. He said that if this were done it would save the Commonwealth budget the hundreds of millions of pounds paid out of revenue. This, of course, is to-day’s funny story, and I would not bother about it if it came only from the right honorable gentleman, who has never been at home with these problems; but I find that it is occasionally produced by people outside who regard themselves as responsible critics. It is so simple! They say, “ Why not put it on loan account? “ What is “loan account”? I should have thought that loan account is an account that embraces the proceeds of loan raisings. It is not an imaginary thing. Does not the right honorable gentleman know, do not the critics know, that in the whole of the last seven years the Commonwealth Government has taken nothing out of the loan raisings, but has, in fact, given the whole of the loan raisings to the States for the loan works programme of the year and has also supplemented it in total by hundreds of millions of pounds over the course of that time out of Commonwealth resources? Therefore, if the only source from which we could get money for Commonwealth works expenditure had been loan account we would have had no Commonwealth works expenditure at all in the last seven years. Let me remind all honorable members’ that that means we would have had no capital expenditure in the Postmaster-General’s Department. We would have had no more telephone exchanges, no more telegraphic and telephone equipment, no Snowy Mountains scheme, no development of housing, no development of Canberra, no war service homes. All these things have been done out of revenue because we had no loan moneys to fall back on. Therefore, to talk about taking it out of loan account is just about as puerile a thing as I ever listened to in my life.
Now, Mr. Chairman, I want to make a reference to tax concessions. There is one phrase that is used in the budget which is an accurate accounting phrase, but which, I find, is occasionally twisted and used as if it exhibited a strange point of view on the part of the Treasury. The phrase is “ cost to the revenue “. The idea is to say, “ Here is a concession. The cost to the revenue will be £7,000,000” - or £25,000,000, or whatever it may be. People say that that exhibits the point of view of the Treasury. All right! Let us put it into lay terms. Every tax concession made in a budget like this, or any other budget, adds up to an amount left with the taxpayer for his own purposes, which would have been collected by the Treasury had the rates and conditions not been changed. This is money left with the taxpayer! Next financial year the cost to the revenue - to use the expression. I have mentioned - of the depreciation provision which increases the rate of allowance by 50 per cent, will be £25.000,000. Is it not understood that that represents £25,000,000 left in the hands of the people conducting those enterprises, and which is available to them, and will be used by them, for an enhanced and accelerated depreciation of the plant they employ in productive enterprise? The same thing is true of family allowances. Of course, it looks ridiculous, on the face of it, to talk about an increase of £13 in the allowance in respect of dependants; but when you take it into the terms of millions of pounds which are involved, and point out that that amount remains in the hands of the family taxpayers, it assumes a proper proportion in the mind of the reader and in the mind of the public.
Now, I do not want to go further in this analysis. I hope, and I believe, that I have said enough to demonstrate that if ever there was a sham attack on a budget it is the one which has been made by the right honorable gentleman. Indeed, the time is coming, if it has not long since come, when the right honorable gentleman and his followers will have to make their choice. They will have to choose between what we stand for - sound finance with a maximum restraint to inflation in order to preserve the value of money and of savings - or, on the other hand, crazy finance with wild inflation, rocketing prices, fabulous costs - which would, of course, be involved - for works and housing, a crippling blow at the export industries and, above all - and I hope that this will never come upon us; it certainly will not so far as we are concerned as a government - a financial crisis, which is the only thing that could be produced by this queer alternative policy, leading, for the first time since the depression, to mass unemployment.
.- lt appears to have some significance that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) always makes the speeches which he regards as the wittiest after some parliamentary dinner. It is not for me to decry the theatrical effort of the Prime Minister this evening, because I have no doubt that as he nears the end of his political career he is not going to become completely inactive but is looking for some position such as that occupied by Bob Dyer or Jack Davey. In his theatrical performance to-night I think he rather excelled himself. But his speech, far from dealing with the actual situation, was remarkable more for the things he failed to say than for what he did say; because he merely clowned through his speaking time. He occupied almost an hour of the time of this committee and, in my opinion, did not use any logical argument to answer the splendid case made by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I do not know whether to put that fact down to the dinner 1 have already mentioned or to the recent loss by the Prime Minister of his tonsils. The fact is that the Prime Minister is so imbued with malice and jealousy against the Leader of the Opposition that these days he finds himself incapable of applying himself to the subject under consideration.
Let us examine his speech for a moment to see what he had to say when he did make some slight reference to the budget. He said that the Leader of the Opposition had declared that we had a running down economy, that living standards had fallen to the extent of 2i per cent., that these allegations had no accuracy, and that the Leader of the Opposition had produced no evidence to substantiate his charges. What evidence did the Prime Minister produce to disprove what the right honorable member for Barton said? He quoted from the report of none other than Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, whose appointment as chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board was opposed by many supporters of the Government on the grounds, first, that he was a socialist and, secondly, that he was incompetent and unable to fulfil that position. Yet to-night Dr. Coombs is quoted as the Prime Minister’s authority!
Why did not the Prime Minister take as his authority Mr. Carver, the Commonwealth Statistician, when discussing whether there had been a fall in living standards in Australia? Mr. Carver has said that per head of population there is now a lower consumption of meat, eggs, oils, fats, potatoes, fruit, green vegetables and grain products than in the pre-war period. The Prime Minister has entered this debate because he realizes that some of his Ministers have made a very poor effort at answering the allegations of the Leader of the Opposition, but he himself has changed his ground. He does not say now that there has not been a fall in the consumption of foodstuffs per head of population; he says that people have changed their living habits and the Australian worker is now buying less meat and vegetables for those who are dependent on him and is buying more liquor and tobacco. Has any one ever heard a more ridiculous argument? In fact, a great proportion of the inflated cost of liquor and tobacco is the result of taxes imposed by this Government, and the greater return from the sales of those commodities is not due to the fact that the workers are now consuming more of them.
I do not wish to occupy too much of my time on the next point because, unlike the Prime Minister, I have not unlimited time at my disposal. The Prime Minister referred to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition spoke about taxing the big companies in order to provide revenue to improve the pension rates. It is perfectly true that the right honorable member for Barton made that suggestion. Labour has advocated, and still advocates, the taxing of excess profits. Is it not a fact that in 1950 the Prime Minister recommended an excess profits tax? But when the Government had control of both Houses of the Parliament and he had the opportunity to impose that tax, the Prime Minister ran away from the question and did nothing about it, merely because big business dictates to this Government. He could not impose an excess profits tax, because it- would not have been approved by the interests that have made his position in this Parliament possible.
Now let us consider whether the workers have obtained justice. Nobody denies that production has increased, that there has been a great expansion of our secondary and primary industries, but the “ Financial Review “ of 8th August contains this statement -
The cost of living, calculated on a post-war pattern of consumption, rose in 1956-57 by twice the margin indicated by the official C series index.
The “ Financial Review “ further states -
Basic wage adjustments-
I am referring to New South Wales - would have been almost twice as great had they been based on the more accurate Interim Index rather than on the older C series index.
It is perfectly true, as the “ Financial Review “ states, that if we had realistically approached the regulation of wages in Australia, wages should now be much higher to enable the worker to maintain the living standards that he enjoyed before the last war.
I turn now to the question of unemployment. According to the Prime Minister, the amount of unemployment that exists to-day is comparatively unimportant. When his colleague, the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey), was asked, in 1952, about the unemployment that existed at that time, he dismissed it as being mere chicken feed. That was the very term that he used in relation to the predicament of the unfortunate unemployed at that time. Despite the Prime Minister’s talk of changing unemployment and seasonal conditions, does he deny that, as has been stated by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), 52,000 persons are now registered for work? The exact figure of existing unemployment is nearer to the 100,000 mark. It is a well-known fact that many unskilled and semi-skilled people, if they are unable to qualify for the unemployment benefit because of the means test, fail to register for work. They know that, under existing conditions, the Commonwealth Employment Service is unable to find work for them, and that they are wasting their time in going along to register.
I invite honorable members to talk to members of the building industry unions and the textile industry unions, who ar? beginning to feel the effects of the proposed influx of Japanese goods. Even the Treasurer has admitted that there has been a small increase of unemployment. As wa* pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition, a small increase of a few thousand in the number of persons employed meant a substantial volume of unemployment, because, in the period in question, the population of Australia rose by 200,000 persons.
What has the Prime Minister to say about the people who are partially employed? There are many such persons, and their number is growing. Let us consider the position of the waterside workers. I refer to the big ports in the various States when I say that on different days in the month of August as many as 66 per cent, of them were unemployed because no work was available. The average earnings of waterside workers to-day are much below the basic wage. I remind honorable members also of the recent decision of Bradford Cotton Mills Limited to introduce a four-day working week. Does the Prime Minister argue that that is full employment? When the Australian Labour party talks about full employment, it says not only that a person shall have a job but also that he shall have the opportunity to earn a decent wage by having continuity of employment.
Despite the conditions that obtain in Australia to-day, the Government still persists with its immigration policy. It not only persists with it but also is determined to maintain the intake and expand it if the opportunity to do so presents itself with the idea, not of increasing the percentage of British migrants but of getting migrants from any part of the world where they can be obtained. Mr. D. Reeves, the president of the British-Australian Society, has said that the Department of Immigration is deliberately falsifying the information it makes available. According to this gentleman, in 1955-56 more than 291,000 migrants entered the country, there being two foreign migrants for every British migrant. Supporters of the Government frequently say that all the information that is used by Labour members comes from the “ Tribune “, but let me remind them of the attitude of Sir Thomas White, who was a Minister in a previous anti-Labour government before being appointed as High Commissioner for Australia in London. He became so alarmed at the situation that he demanded the appointment of a parliamentary committee to examine the question of migration to Australia and the great delay that was experienced by British people in obtaining assisted passages from the Government. On one occasion, the Department of Immigration, in reply to Mr. Reeves, said that 50,969 British immigrants had come into Australia in 1956. When it was challenged by Mr. Reeves, the next day the department corrected its figure and reduced the number to 23,054.
The Australian Labour party has never been opposed to immigration. What we argue is that we do an injury to the people whom we bring here and to those people already resident in Australia when we admit immigrants in greater numbers than we can absorb into our community, than there are homes for them to occupy or jobs for them to fill. A police prosecutor, Sergeant R. Turner, said in the Central Police Court in Sydney, on 8th April, 1957-
Many New Australians were drifting into a hopeless mental condition. . . Increasing numbers of New Australians were appearing in court on vagrancy charges.
That is the statement of a police prosecutor who should know the situation. Not only is the Government bringing these unfortunate people to the country without proper preparation and leaving them to their own resources to obtain a livelihood, but also, as we know, it is applying a political test, because it hopes to bring to this country immigrants who will support a Liberal government. I asked the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) to-day a question about a statement made by Mrs. Castles, a member of the British House of Commons, that the British Government had been required to submit a confidential report to the Australian Government in regard to the political view-point of every applicant for immigration to this country. The Minister said that he had never heard of the statement. When important and prominent members of the British House of Commons raise such questions, it is his business to know what they are saying.
It is rather significant that the Prime Minister did not make any reference to excess profits in this country. I heard him on a previous occasion challenge a statement of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) that what we had in this country was a profit inflation. Let us see whether there is a profit inflation. I have selected at random a few extracts from company reports dealing with earnings. Let me tell the Australian public that there is a section of this community which has done very well under the regime of the MenziesFadden Government. I commence by taking Woolworths Limited, a well-known firm. Let me point out to honorable members how profitable an investment in an undertaking such as this would prove to be. If an investor in 1930 invested £2,500 in Woolworths Limited and exercised all his rights up to December, 1956, making an additional outlay of £51,487, he would now have an investment valued at £248,143. That means that in that period he would have a capital appreciation of over £194,000, after having been paid approximately £64,000 in dividends. His total gain would be about £260,000 on an investment of £2,500 in the first instance and, exercising his rights, an additional investment of £51,487.
Now we will turn to G. J. Coles and Company Limited, another well-known firm in this country. On 30th April, 1957, this company made a bonus issue of three shares for every ten shares held. This meant that a person who was lucky enough to have ten shares in that organization obtained three additional shares without any payment whatever. On 30th June, 1957, there was to be a further issue at par of three for ten, and the dividend was to be reduced from 15 per cent, to 1 li per cent. That was done to try to delude the unsuspecting public into believing that the investors had not obtained any advantage as a result of the bonus issue of shares, but in fact the shareholders now receive more. Here is an example. A person who held 100 ordinary shares at 30th April, 1957, would obtain 30 bonus shares. Exercising his right to take three for ten on a par issue, he would obtain another 43. Those 43 shares would be obtained by him at their face value of 5s., when in fact their market value to-day is 20s. each. That would give him 173 shares in this company in place of his original 100. His capital appreciation would represent £73 for an additional outlay of £10 15s. The profit of original shareholders would be approximately 80 per cent. This company, since its establishment, has made five bonus share issues.
The Minister for Immigration, when dealing with the subject of excess profits, referred to the small shareholders in various companies. I want to make some reference to small shareholders, because we find that Burns Philp and Company Limited, a wellknown shipping firm, has a substantial, interest in G. J. Coles and Company Limited. Its interest amounted to £3,600,000 prior to the issue of the bonus shares to which I have referred. For an additional outlay of £350,000 it has now increased its shareholding to £6,100,000. So it can be seen that some people have done very well.
Might I mention at this stage - not that the members in this chamber are not aware of it, but so that the general public will know - the contemptuous attitude of the Prime Minister who, because of his malice and prejudice against the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) has made a most remarkable speech this evening. He has departed from the chamber, leaving it contemptuously as he has on numerous occasions, because he is contemptuous of the Parliament and of the people of Australia as well.
– You drove him out. He cannot take you.
– The honorable gentleman who interjects says he cannot take it. Of course he cannot take it. The Prime Minister has earned a reputation for running away. He earned it during two world wars, and he has earned it in every respect in this Parliament since.
Let me turn to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. Before 1930 the bonus shares issued by this company were valued at £3.100,000. In 1934 it made another bonus issue, representing an accretion of capital of £5,850,000. The “Financial Review”, of 28th June, 1956, stated-
The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, by a stroke of the pen as it were, suddenly had an issued capita] of £11,750,000, to which profits and the dividend rate had to be related.
That is exactly the position, because as the company waters its stock and the capital increases without any additional investment by those interested in the undertaking, so the profits and dividends have to be related to the additional capital, and the exploitation of the community goes on.
Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australia Limited showed a profit in 1953 of 56.1 per cent; in 1954, 72.9 per cent.; in 1955, 80.7 per cent; and in 1956, 91.1 per cent. Its profit has risen continuously. I have heard it said that banks were forced to go into hire purchase investment because they were doing badly in the field of banking. For the year ended 30th September, 1956, the Rank of New South Wales made a profit of £1,817,000, which was an increase of £123,000, and its thirteenth successive rise in profit, without any tax provision being disclosed at all. Taking into consideration the provision for tax, the profit would obviously be much higher. General Motors-Holden’s Limited in one year’s operations made a profit of approximately 560 per cent, on its ordinary shareholdings. The ordinary shares in this company are held by the parent company in the United States of America, and the only shares in Australia are preference shares. Out of the company’s enormous profits, which in one year were over £9,000,000, preference shareholders in Australia received £33,696. Despite this, the Prime Minister failed to honour his promise to impose an excess profits tax.
Let me turn to the present budget to show how these great companies will benefit in a period when the Prime Minister argues that the maximum assistance is being given to the unfortunate pensioners. A report on company tax reads -
A most prosperous line of company reports, climaxed by the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd.’s bonus issue . . .
That issue was two shares for nine, and represented £8,000,000 to the existing shareholders -
One point worth remembering is that many of the current crop of balance-sheets are even better, than they seem - for many, the 6d. cut in company’ tax has not been allowed for. The 6d. means a saving of £2,500 of every £100,000 of taxable profit. For the Broken Hill Pty. Co. Ltd., it works out at nearly £600,000 on the past year’s figures.
The reduction of sixpence in the company tax will mean that B.H.P. will benefit by an additional £600,000 a year. In order to try to delude the public, the directors have specified that the total dividend payments will not rise as a result of this bonus. I understand that they propose to reduce the dividend of 10 per cent., which they have paid in recent years, to 81 per cent., which is the rate that formerly prevailed. Obviously, as the dividend is brought back to the higher figure, those who have obtained bonus shares will benefit materially. A great deal of the capital of this company is built up on watered stock. In 1940, a bonus issue of 64 shares for every 100 held was made. Its capital expansion, which is going on year by year, now amounts to £24,000,000 a year. Additional profits will be gained in the future from that £24,000,000 expansion, and from those profits a further distribution of bonus shares will eventually be made. Those bonus issues do not come from capital invested in the undertaking but largely from the proceeds of the increased price of steel. The company has made no secret of the fact that it has continually raised its prices in order to obtain the wherewithal to carry out an expansion of plant.
Does that not add to inflation? If steel prices are rising at a rate greater than is warranted, an addition is made to our cost structure. Of course, the Prime Minister does not worry! The B.H.P. is a very substantial and great profit-making concern. For the last year for which I can obtain returns, it showed a working profit of £21,487,000. Of course, the company did not declare all that profit in the form of dividends in the one year, because that would give the game away! In the year I am referring to, £6,500,000 was regarded as net profit, tax provision was £5,600,000, depreciation was £6,719,000. and plant replacement was £2,995,000. The book value of the assets - the actual value would be much higher - was more than £105,000,000. 1 understand that the present capital of the B.H.P. is about £44,000,000, and the argument may be advanced that it should increase or expand its capital. A very good reason why it has failed to do so is that, by keeping capital down to a comparatively low figure, the company is placed in a favorable position to meet competition should any one challenge the position of this great monopoly and attempt to establish another steel-producing organization in this country.
In dealing with these companies, the Minister for Immigration said that a lot of small people, such as clerks, men working on the wharfs, tramway men and widows, hold parcels of shares in these great organizations. He gave the number of shareholders as 44,902. The control exercised by these unfortunate individuals who may have a few shares in these great undertakings is shown by the fact that only 80 persons attended the annual meeting in 1956. At that meeting, Mr. Syme, the chairman of directors, recommended that a scheme of pensions for retired directors and their widows be established. He recommended also that, if the board saw fit, the pensions should be paid in a lump sum. The reason for that recommendation is that very valuable tax concessions flow from lump sum payments. Only 5 per cent, of a lump sum payment is taxed, but a continuing pension at a high scale would attract a tax commitment year by year. I should be interested to know the scale of pensions provided by the B.H.P. for retired directors and their widows.
I shall turn now to social services. The statistics cited by Government supporters leave me cold. Every reasonable person to-day will admit that there is a great deal of misery in our community, particularly amongst those dependent on social service payments. Mr. McKay, sales director of the British Australasian Tobacco Company Limited, made a statement on this subject. I dare say that, from the position he occupies, he would hardly be a supporter of the Australian Labour party, though 1 may be unfair to him in making that statement. He said that in Victoria 100,000 old people had insufficient funds to obtain adequate food, fuel, clothing and accommodation, and that in New South Wales 1 30.000 people were in a similar position. T think the statement of Mr. McKay is a moderate one. Does any honorable member opposite suggest that, if that position exists, as I believe it does, it will be cured by giving an additional 7s. 6d. a week to war service pensioners, an additional 7s. 6d. a week to age and invalid pensioners and a few shillings to war widows and civilian widows? The same comment applies to the tuberculosis allowance. it is well known that great misery and distress exists to-day amongst these people, and that is a scandalous state of affairs. Instead of speaking about a stable economy, why does the Prime Minister not deal with the conditions of the people? Great distress is borne by them, and I do not think they are asking for too much when they seek some additional assistance. The case put by the Opposition is not answered merely by saying that Labour did not solve the problem of these people when it was in office. The fact is that this Government is now in charge and it gave certain solemn pledges and undertakings to the people during election campaigns since 1949. li undertook to keep prices down and to keep the economy stable. In 1946, the Prime Minister agreed to maintain price control. In that year he regarded it as essential, but he failed to do anything when the need arose in subsequent years as inflation increased. Therefore, I say that these payments to pensioners are completely inadequate.
I want to say something now about the disposal of public assets. Time will not permit me to deal in detail with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and all the other public assets that have been destroyed by this Government, but I want to deal particularly with several important undertakings that have been recently disposed of. The Commonwealth’s shareholding in Commonwealth Engineering Company Limited was sold. In the twelve months ended on 30th July last, this company made a net profit of £165.000, which was £16,000 more than in the previous twelve months, after providing £121,000 for taxation and £78,000 for depreciation, putting £40,000 into reserves, and carrying forward £46,000. Those figures indicate a very successful year’s operations by a thriving company. The dividend, which has now been raised from 12i per cent, to 131 per cent., absorbs only £87,000 of the profits earned. The actual profit represents 26.2 per cent, on the capital invested. The Sydney “Sun-Herald” of 8th Sep tember, referring to the Government’s action in disposing of its shareholding in this company, stated -
As things have turned out, the 42s. a share the public paid for the Government’s holding in Commonwealth Engineering only a few months ago was a good deal.
It was a good deal, not for the Government, or for the community, but for the investors who bought the shares.
– Who were they?
– We should like to know. All I know is that the sharebroking firm which handled the sale of the Commonwealth shares, and which no doubt received its share of the rake-off, is a well-known firm, the principal of which is a prominent member of the Liberal party in New South Wales. The value of the shares has already increased by 4s. The “ Sun-Herald “ report added -
Now, at 46s., with a prospect of a new share issue at some later stage these investors have reason to smile.
Of course they have reason to smile.
Let us turn now to the Australian Whaling Commission’s assets, about which we have heard a good deal. They were sold, not for cash, but on terms, to Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited. In the first year after the Government disposed of this successful undertaking, the Nor’ West Whaling Company Limited increased its dividend from 20 per cent, to 30 per cent. Is it any wonder that the Government disposed ot the undertaking to private investors?
Let us consider some of the other national assets that the Government has sacrificed. The Prime Minister ridiculed the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition about’ a munitions trust, and argued that such a trust does not exist. I propose to point out how the Government has assisted one of the private firms that belongs to the munitions trust in the United States of America. We have in Australia an estimable organization known as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. One of the scientists on the staff of that organization perfected a new process for the production of pure zirconium, which is a material essential to the construction of nuclear reactors, and consequently is of great importance in this atomic age. What did the
Government do about this great discovery which could have been a wonderful dollarearner for Australia? We could have turned it to great advantage as a dollar-earner, but the Government sold it - not to the United States Government, but to a private firm, which doubtless will use it to exploit the peoples of the world and to make huge profits for itself from the production of nuclear reactors and atomic weapons. The Australian Government was paid 250,000 dollars for the rights to the process. The Minister for External Affairs said that the price was fair. I leave it to the Australian people to judge whether that was a fair price. I leave it to them also to judge whether Australia is receiving a fair return for its uranium, which is being exported and sold throughout the world at bargainbasement prices. Wherever we turn, we find that this Government has sacrificed national assets.
I want to deal now with the proposal to sell the Newstan and Newcom coal mines and the Foybrook open-cut coal mine, in New South Wales. Every one knows what this Government has done for the coal barons in order to assure them of substantial profits. Under an arrangement with the Joint Coal Board, it allowed them to pay dividends up to a maximum of 10 per cent, of the capital invested, and to make profits at the rate of 5s. a ton, or 20.83 per cent, on shareholders’ funds, whichever is the greater. That should be reasonable enough, but the mining companies water their stock, and get a greater return for the same investment by assessing their profits, and paying dividends, on the expanded capital. This year, the Bellambi Coal Company Limited increased its capital by more than half by issuing bonus shares. It. is clear that, in this way, the mining companies get around the dividend and profit limits imposed. What does the Government propose to do about it? The Newstan and Newcom mines, which are successful government undertakings, and have not been subjected to charges of sabotage by the employees such as we have frequently heard levelled at government undertakings, are to be disposed of. The Government forced up the price of coal in order to increase the profits of the coal barons, and by so doing added to inflation, because the price of coal plays an important part in determining costs in industry.
In the few minutes that I have left, I want to discuss the Government’s bungling in administrative matters. The Minister for Defence Production (Mr. Beale) has made a statement in an attempt to answer charges made by the Auditor-General about the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory project. This project is of some importance, because it will cost the Australian community anything between £26,000,000 and £30,000,000 by the time it is finished. The contracts for the construction of this factory were let on the old cost-plus basis, and there is plenty of evidence of extravagance and lack of proper supervision. The Minister was so dumb that he did not know that the criticism had been levelled at himself and the Department of Defence Production, which he administers. He said, in effect, “ It is very pleasing to note that the Commonwealth Auditor-General has not levelled any criticism at myself as the Minister or at the department over which I preside “. Have honorable members ever heard such a ridiculous statement?
What is the position at St. Mary’s? Time will not permit me to go fully into the details, but I should like to mention some salient facts. It will give honorable members some idea of the shocking waste that has occurred if I say that carpenters employed on the job have told me that hundreds of doors that they had made were found to be too small, and were destroyed. That may appear to be a comparatively small item in a great project costing so much, but it is indicative of what has happened at St. Mary’s. When that is multiplied 100 or 200 times, one begins to understand why the Australian people will have to pay £2,500,000 or more in excess of the original estimate of the cost. What explanation has the Minister given? He said that, in a big project such as this, it is difficult to make any estimate of increased wage and material costs, and the like. However, the documents indicate that provision was made in the original estimate for anticipated increased wage and material costs. So, the Minister’s explanation does not account for the increased cost of the factory.
Another example of waste was the construction of a guard-house. When it was completed, it was discovered that no provision had been made for electric power, and it was pulled down and another one was constructed. That is the sort of thing that has been happening at St. Mary’s all the time. I understand that senior executive officers of Utah (Australia) Limited, from the United States, have been allowed to bring their families to Australia at public expense. I should not object to that if it were necessary for them to be here for a long time. But, I have been informed by a person whose job involved keeping some of the accounts of this great undertaking that, on one occasion, the family of one of the American executives went home to the United States to see “ Mum “ at the expense of the Australian taxpayers. That is stretching things too far, and I do not think that the Australian public, generally, will approve of it.
The Government is not game to have what is needed for the St. Mary’s project - a royal commission to bring to light what has been happening. A great many men who have been employed on the project do not like what has been going on. They are anxious to do a good job, and would be prepared to state under oath what they know to be the facts, if the Government was game enough to have the project investigated by a royal commission. The Government has squandered millions. The national service training scheme was introduced with a great flourish a few years ago and involved great expenditure of public moneys. Then the Government decided that it had to be abandoned. We are to have the new concept of defence which was expounded by the Prime Minister in this Parliament in a speech on 4th April last.
Then what happened? The Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) went to America. We were told that the Royal Australian Air Force was to be equipped with the latest Starfighters. I invite honorable members to read the statement in which that was announced. There was no equivocation. The Government was not going to consider whether the Starfighters were suitable or not. They were to be bought and the R.A.A.F. was to be equipped with these ultra-modern fighter aircraft. The Minister for Defence returned to Australia after an unsuccessful mission and then got the Minister for Air (Mr. Osborne) - who, incidentally, was trained in the Navy - to say, “ We have abandoned the idea of buying the Starfighters because we have now discovered that they are not suitable for the role that is to be played by the R.A.A.F. in future operations “. Obviously, the Government has bungled things right along the line, and the sooner the people realize it the better.
I have only two minutes left, and I want to tell the people of Australia what this Government has done. It has attempted to create an illusion of prosperity by borrowing to an extent that has placed Australia on the very verge of disaster. Between 30th June, 1949, and 30th June, 1957, the national debt has increased by no less than £1,166,000,000. We are paying interest at the rate of £137,000,000 per annum, or £2,635,000 a week. Honorable members can see what is happening. We are being crushed by the burden of debt.
It is perfectly true that, in the past few years, the Commonwealth section of the debt was slightly reduced while that of the States mounted enormously because the Government, by unfair treatment of the States, has been placing the States deeper in debt. It is crippling the States and trying to show that the Commonwealth itself is operating very successfully. Let us consider public loans that are maturing. According to the Treasurer, we have to redeem in three or four years no less than £1,300,000,000 of maturing debts. Much of the money that is being invested in Commonwealth loans is not invested on a long-term basis, but is invested in the form of short-term revolving loans. The money we borrowed last year has to be redeemed in the coming year.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The time allowed me to speak in this debate will not permit me to answer one twenty-fifth of the statements that have been made by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). It is significant, however, that in his criticism of the budget, whether it was based on fact or fancy, the honorable member did not offer one alternative or any constructive suggestion. He attempted in his usual fashion to ridicule the Government and the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I sat looking at the clock and thinking that if the children in Western Australia were still awake and listening to the radio at 7.30 p.m. Perth time, they would hear the best bed-time story that has ever been told. 1 wish to comment on a few of the points that were made by the honorable member for East Sydney. He started with a bitter attack on the Prime Minister and, having in mind the dinner that honorable members attended to-night, I do not believe that one of the honorable member’s colleagues would agree with him. He went on to speak of the shocking conditions of the workers and their low standard of living, and I wondered for how long it is possible to fool all of the people. There is an old saying that you can fool some of the people for some of the time. In the light of the honorable member’s speech, it is amazing to recall that, if one goes to a football match in any capital city of Australia on a Saturday afternoon, it is impossible to park a car near the football ground, not because the bloated capitalists have driven there, but because the ordinary working men have driven up in their cars to attend the football match. After the match the Australian working man goes to his home, which contains the latest radio set and refrigerator.
I am not speaking of isolated cases. That state of prosperity is general throughout the working men’s suburbs of Australian cities to-day. If the honorable member for East Sydney believes that the Australian standard of living is so low as he represents it to be, the Government should sponsor the honorable member on a trip around the world so that he can learn for himself the real meaning of the world “ low “ when it is applied to the standard of living elsewhere.
The honorable member referred to unemployment in Australia. Talk of unemployment has a chain reaction. Last year, during the debate on the state of the Australian economy, reference was made to the situation in Western Australia, where, I believe, there was a purposeful effort to increase unemployment to gain political advantage.
– By the Liberal members of this chamber.
– The honorable member for Stirling recently circulated a pamphlet in his electorate asking, “ Are you fed up? Because Harry Webb is fed up! “ He was fed up with lots of things, including the profits made by the companies. We heard the same theme from the honorable member for East Sydney. I shall comment upon that matter later. In Western Australia, business firms, on hearing this talk about unemployment, started to retract on plans that had already begun. In addition, the legislation that went through the State Parliament did nothing to encourage capital investment from overseas or from the eastern States for the development of Western Australia. One piece of legislation alone - the anti-profit legislation - was sufficient to frighten people away.
Last year, we heard that every State was in a good position except Western Australia, and that the only reason we were not in an equally good position was because of the treatment we had received from the Commonwealth. If honorable members look at die budget, they will see that the treatment meted out by the Commonwealth to the States is to be more generous this year, and yet the honorable member for East Sydney cries that the Commonwealth is wrecking the States. It seems that the honorable member suits conditions to his case without respect for the truth.
We had from him the usual attack on immigration policy and the intake of immigrants. We heard criticism of foreign immigrants and complaints that there are two foreign immigrants to each British immigrant entering the country. It is amazing to realize, however, that when any hard work has been undertaken in the post-war period, the greater percentage of people engaged on that hard work have been those who are called new Australians. They have been willing to come to Australia and labour under difficult conditions in parts of the country where the average Australian has no desire to venture. Any criticism of them is quite unjustified. If any one has played his part in the development of Australia it is the immigrant whom the honorable member for East Sydney has criticized to-night. Foreign immigrants are to be found ballasting the Commonwealth railway line, canecutting in Queensland or working on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project. Australians should be pleased that these men have come to Australia, and not look for ways and means of stopping others from coming here.
Then we have heard the story about profit inflation, a new phrase that has been coined during this debate and one that will be used often as it proceeds. A hymn of hate has been sung about the profit-making companies in Australia. What we should regret is not that we have companies like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited and General Motors-Holden’s Limited, but the fact that we have not a thousand more companies like them. If honorable members examine the conditions of the workers employed by those companies, they will find that they are among the finest in Australia. We do not get criticism from the people who are employed by them, lt comes only from persons like the honorable member for East Sydney, who has not the faintest idea what working conditions now really are like. He talked about an annual general meeting of shareholders, and said that it was a shocking thing that of a total of 4,590 shareholders, who he admitted came from all walks of life, only 80 were present to decide policy. Is it not obvious that if only 80 people attend an annual meeting of shareholders, the rest of them are completely satisfied with the conduct of the company and with what is being undertaken by the company?
– The honorable member does not say that about union meetings.
– I am addressing the Temporary Chairman, not the honorable member who has just interjected. Usually, a shareholders’ meeting is fully attended only when a company has ceased to make profits or when the shareholders believe that what the company is doing is not in their best interests. In those circumstances, the honorable member for East Sydney might see 4,000 of a total of 4,500 shareholders present at a meeting.
– The number was 43,000.
– I have forgotten the actual figure, but I know that the figure of 80 was correct for the number of persons attending the annual meeting. I should imagine that if the honorable member for East Sydney conducted himself as he did to-night at meetings of his electoral council, or whatever it is called, the percentages of attendances in future would be even smaller than that at the shareholders’ meeting that he spoke of.
I come now to the question of defence. It is obvious that the honorable member for East Sydney does not like defence or anything associated with it. When one hears criticism of the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride) on his visit to America, it should be borne in mind that the Minister was accompanied by the Chief of Air Staff, and I think that that gentleman would be slightly better qualified than the honorable member for East Sydney to give a judgment on whether an aircraft should or should not be used in the defence of of Australia. Criticism has been forthcoming, not only of the decision in the matter of aeroplanes, but also of the fact that this Government has firmly resolved to spend £190,000,000 this year on the defence of Australia. Not only do the members of this Government agree with that policy, but also the great majority of the Australian people agree with it and are firmly behind us. I think that is why we hear these outbursts from the honorable member for East Sydney. He realizes that the things he detests are being accepted and appreciated by the people of Australia.
I now pass to the question of immigration. The honorable member for East Sydney said that we should immediately curtail our plans for immigration; otherwise the immigration programme would cause further unemployment and would mean an end of security for all Australians. In 1951 there was much the same sort of talk about the economy of Australia, and Professor Copland said -
Everybody must be secure against everything. Have you ever heard of progress on these terms? Such timidity is absolute nonsense for a progressive country. You cannot have progress free of cost without some rise in prices, some inconvenience and some risk. The country simply has to choose whether it wants stability or progress. If it chooses the former it will stagnate. Too many Australians are to-day looking backward. We have not yet overcome the experiences of the early thirties when a depression paralysed our development for a decade.
Those remarks were quite true. What Professor Copland said in 1951 aptly applies to 1957, and it aptly applies to the criticism that has been levelled at this budget by the Opposition, especially in regard to immigration. We can make the choice. We can choose either progress or stagnation. But if we choose progress, we must be prepared to accept the pains of progress and development and we must be prepared to take action within the best of our ability to overcome the attendant difficulties. Unless we are prepared to take these risks we will slip backwards into the type of community envisaged by the honorable member for East Sydney.
If we look back through history we find that in 1925 the idea of deflation was widespread in Great Britain. Then in 1929 and 1930 the great depression arrived. We can create a crisis in Australia by great foolishness if we curtail immigration and stop development. What we must overcome is this constant flashback in thought to the 1930’s, and, in some people, the wishful thinking that those conditions will develop again. If we are to have any hope for the future of Australia, we must go forward with courage, as the Government, in some of the aspects of this budget, has asked us to do.
Reference has been made to the “ Bring Out a Briton “ campaign. I do not doubt that past efforts, not only of this Government but also of the previous government, under which the immigration scheme started, were directed towards acquiring a majority of British immigrants. But I think it has been obvious to everybody associated with the immigration programme that there was great difficulty in persuading British people to come here. We had to overcome, first, the reluctance of the British Government to let them go, because they were needed for the rehabilitation and development of their own country. If we look at the figures with regard to immigration shown in the budget papers, we find that of a total expenditure of £1,900,000, departmental administration will take £1,085,000. Then the figures showing expenditure in various countries reveal that in Italy we will spend £207,000, in Germany £138,000 and in Great Britain £111,000. Perhaps the Government could increase its expenditure in Great Britain, in an effort to overcome this resistance to migration to Australia. In this regard there is one suggestion I should like to make, although I do not know whether the scheme I am about to suggest is already in operation. The Canadians are getting a fair percentage of British immigrants. The Canadian Government encourages travel agencies throughout Britain to persuade those thinking of emigrating to go to Canada rather than to some other country. When a person does emigrate to Canada, the travel agency responsible receives a commission, just as it does when it books a passage for an ordinary tourist. Of course this has the effect of encouraging big business, but, after all, big business is progress, and this scheme may enable us to obtain the British immigrants that we seek. I commend the idea to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) for his investigation. I suggest that it may help us to increase our intake of British immigrants.
I was intrigued when the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), in his speech last Thursday evening, spoke of a race between Mr. Bolte and Mr. Cahill to convince Australia that Victoria in one case, and New South Wales in the other, was the most progressive of the States. He cited certain statements by Mr. Bolte to the effect that various American firms and, I think, some British firms, were intending to build factories worth £2,000,000 or £2,500,000 in Victoria. He then quoted a statement by Mr. Cahill to the effect that New South Wales was on the verge of a new era of tremendous industrial expansion. I wondered whether the honorable member for Stirling (Mr. Webb) was listening to that speech and taking heed of it, because I believe that Western Australian progress is being retarded at present because of a lack of overseas capital investment in that State. As I said earlier, overseas companies have not much incentive to go to Western Australia, but if that did not have such political disadvantages, the many other advantages would be more apparent. Land is cheaper for commercial building. There is a labour force, including a supply of skilled labour, readily available. Yet we see these overseas companies establishing themselves in Victoria and New South Wales, while Western Australia is languishing as a result of insufficient industrial development. I believe that Western Australia accounts for about 4 per cent, of the industrial output of Australia. I do not believe that this figure will go much higher unless we encourage industrial development in that State on a large scale. I think the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) mentioned this afternoon that there was four times as much trade from east to west as there was from west to east. We have a trade balance with the eastern States about as unfavorable as was the Australian overseas trade balance about twelve months ago. But, as I said before, the solution does not lie in a grant of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 by the Commonwealth Government. What we need to develop our State is something permanent, some industries that will keep on earning money for us and assist us to adjust the balance of trade between east and west.
– But you do not believe in things of that sort.
– I do not think the honorable member knows what I believe in.
– Yes I do.
– Where the Commonwealth could help, perhaps, is in respect of public works. I have not worked out the percentages, but I do know that a perusal of the figures given by the Treasurer will disclose that Western Australia does not appear in many of the allocations. There are certain reasons for that. For instance, it is of no use whatever undertaking the construction of large public buildings in Western Australia merely for the purpose of spending money. Unless there is need for that type of administrative block, it is quite useless to spend money just to be able to say that money has been expended in Western Australia.
One building could be started immediately in Perth. I refer to the new building to house the officers and studios of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the early construction of which was strongly recommended by an all-party committee, the Public Works Committee, only last year. That committee recognized the urgent need for the building. The present building in which the staff of the A.B.C. is working is most unsuitable. The conditions under which the staff works are most intolerable, and I venture the opinion that it will not be long before the city council’s health inspector condemns the main concert hall and some of the offices because they are unfit for human occupancy. Failure to proceed with this project is hindering the growth of the city.
It seems strange to argue that failure to erect one building can adversely affect the growth of the city. In this case, failure to proceed with the construction of the new building for “the A.B.C. is, in fact, having that effect. The building at present occupied by the A.B.C. is a temporary structure some 50 years of age. It would seem that the only things which are permanent in Australia are temporary buildings. As soon as the A.B.C. moves out of it, the building is to be pulled down and a new town hall, costing approximately £1,050,000, is to be erected on that site. The Perth City Council is in a difficult position. It intends to conduct a competition in which architects will be invited to submit plans of the building. Under the conditions of such a competition, the work must be undertaken within twelve months, or the authority conducting the competition must pay a penalty. In this case, the penalty would amount to £42,000. It will be seen, therefore, that failure to proceed with the building for the A.B.C. is preventing the construction of another building - the new town hall. Meanwhile, the Government is desirous of moving its offices directly opposite; I think the building was called the old General Post Office. These offices are to be moved to a site out from the city. Under those circumstances, it can be appreciated that failure to proceed with one project is holding up a series of activities essential to the city’s growth. Further, I think it is time that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, as a commission, met in Western Australia, instead of having most of its meetings in Sydney or Melbourne. If it did so, it would be able to see these problems at first hand.
I should like now to refer to other matters relating to Western Australia. The honorable member for Stirling said last week, if my memory serves me correctly, that now that the Commonwealth had decided to go ahead with the standardization of the rail gauge from Wodonga to Melbourne he hoped it would not be long before a start was made on other sections. It is true that two committees comprising members of this Parliament recommended that this work should be started promptly, but I think that the main opposition to such work being done in Western Australia comes not from this Parliament but from the Western Australia Government and the Commissioners for Railways.
– That is not correct.
– I do not like being told that my statement is not correct when I am basing it on actual facts. I know for a fact that the Premier of Western Australia wrote to the Treasurer saying that if work started he would not mind.
– He asked the Commonwealth Government to give it a high priority.
– It is strange, but I heard the Chair call the honorable member for Perth, not the honorable member for Stirling, and I rose to speak.
Mr. Curtin interjecting,
Order! The honorable member for Stirling and the honorable member for KingsfordSmith will remain quiet.
– The commissioners have stated that they are not interested in the standardization of rail gauges in Western Australia.
– That is not true.
Order! I will not warn the honorable member for Stirling again. If he interrupts, I will name him.
– The commissioners have said that if any money is available they would like it for the rehabilitation of the 3 ft. 6 in. railway system. It is estimated in the Western Australian budget that the State’s railways will show a deficit of £7,000,000 for this year; but I feel that before criticizing a State railway system, it is essential that we relate the estimated deficit to the total earning capacity of the State. I believe that the railways, which are so important to the development of a State, especially the main line, have got to be looked at in the light of the earning capacity of the whole economy of the State. If, for instance, railways carry so many million bushels of wheat, if they carry so many thousand bales of wool, it seems to me only logical to expect the railways to make some charge upon the money earned from those sources. Western Australia has a vast area and a small population. It probably has fewer people to the square mile than any of the Commonwealth countries. I do not think we should expect to run the railway system at a profit to serve such a small, widely scattered population. It should be looked upon as a charge to progress. I do think, however, that it is urgent that these standard-gauge links, especially the one from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle, should be constructed.
I come now to what has been said about the state of the economy, the working man and the low standard of living. I feel that the honorable member for East Sydney, who mentioned that certain money was being spent in particular spheres, has entirely misconstrued what the Prime Minister has said. Let us examine the figures relating to Western Australia. In that State, the people have a jackpot tote, which went up to £20,000 the first time.. This was contributed in amounts of 5s., 10s, and £1, not in any investments of £100 or £10,000.
– What does that prove?
– I am coming to the point. I know one has to speak in words of one syllable most of the time here. Each week, the people in Western Australia have two lotteries. A colossal number of new cars and refrigerators is being sold to people who are called the working people of the community. That being so, it is obvious that one cannot stand in this chamber and rant about the low standard of living.
I shall now deal with one part of the budget to which reference was made in somewhat terse terms. The Treasurer made the following statement: -
I have already mentioned that the Government proposes to impose a tax of ls. a gallon on automotive diesel oil consumed by road users. This tax is expected to yield about £2,000,000 in this financial year and £3,000,000 in a full year.
At this stage, I should like to plead the case of the timber industry of Western Australia, because I believe that careful consideration should be given to the system of applying the tax. In the main, the vehicles used in the timber industry - tractors, trucks and so on - are used on private property. I should think, therefore, that these operators should be exempt from the tax. Their haulage vehicles - trucks and tractors - sometimes use public roads, but in the main they are used on roads put down by the timber companies. Under those circumstances, some consideration should be given to the users of these vehicles. If it is considered that they should not be liable for the tax, it would be much better to exempt them instead of intro.ducing a system of rebates, because every time a rebate system is established it is essential that accurate figures be kept. This means the employment of additional staff and, as a consequence, a higher pay-roll, which adds to the cost of production. [ ask the Treasurer to consider these facts. I think the gold-mining industry is similarly affected.
I feel that the budget must give rise to favorable comment, generally, in Western Australia. There are many phases of it in which the advantage is entirely with that State. This is appreciated by the State as a whole as a recognition by the Commonwealth of the difficulties which beset it because of its size and small population. I consider that, having regard to the economic circumstances to-day, the Treasurer deserves our sincere congratulations on the presentation of this budget, especially as it is one of a record number of budgets brought in by him.
.- The Committee of Supply is asked to approve a budget brought down by the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), and the Opposition has moved an amendment which, in effect, is a motion of want of confidence in the Government. Before concentrating on some of the more important aspects of the budget as far as honorable members on this side of the chamber are concerned, I wish to deal with one or two points made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) this evening and secondly, with some of the observations made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney), who has just concluded his speech. The Prime Minister has attempted to drag a red herring over the case, so far as the Government was concerned. All that he succeeded in saying was that those who have the most will be given more and those who have the least will receive less from this budget. He quoted, by way of example, figures to show that more beer and tobacco are being consumed, or that the people’s habits have changed. That may be so but it is not the case with the people to whom the Prime Minister referred. The people about whom he spoke - the ones who will receive - are those in a segregated class - the privileged. The people about whom I am talking and about whom the Minister at the table knows nothing, are those who have least and will receive less.
The Prime Minister, in a manner unbecoming to anybody holding the high office that he occupies, this evening misquoted figures. The figures I quote have been provided by the Commonwealth Statistician and relate to the March quarter of 1957. They show that over a period since 1952 the percentage of all food purchased rose in the last few years, but not in the last year. But the percentage of food consumed has decreased in comparison with the increase in population. The population has grown by at least 225,000 this year, but the percentage increase of food purchased, comprising groceries, butchers’ meat and other foods has dropped to 2.2 per cent. Last year the increase was 11.6 per cent. In actual fact, excluding meat and groceries the people consumed, consumption was 0.4 per cent, less this year whereas last year it increased by 12.3 per cent. Those figures demonstrate the complete misrepresentation and equivocation with which the Prime Minister this evening sought to mislead not only people in this chamber but also the whole nation. He sought, because of his own personal vindictiveness to belittle the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and he had to have recourse to misquotations and misrepresentations to do so.
The honorable member for Perth quoted, with approval, a statement by Professor Copland. If I am not very much mistaken it was in the same article that Professor Copland - who, after all, has backed every horse in the economic race, and with Colin Clarke, is one of our foremost political economists - admitted that immigration and these expansionist tendencies in our economy were not going so well because there was not enough investment capital. I think he advocated the grand idea of a compulsory savings scheme. However, that has been blown out and he has not had the temerity to revise it.
In complimenting the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) on the excellent answer he gave to the Prime Minister, I should like to add figures relating to the same fifty public companies that I took for the last budget, representing a comprehensive spread of interests. Their financial status has improved considerably under the policy of this Government. Whereas at this time last year, their profits, after paying taxation were just below 25 per cent, of their invested capital, they have advanced to slightly above 26 per cent. Admittedly, they had a bad year last year. This is indeed preference for the few. If workers could buy their blocks of land in four years at unimproved capital value and not have them re-valued, it would not be so bad for them.
However, I pass to a more constructive consideration of the budget. I said, earlier, that this Government has divided the people into two classes, the underprivileged and the privileged. This division was commenced and brought to fruition quickly in the “ little horror “ budget in March, 1956, and this budget continues that policy. I submit that it could be described far more accurately and be known much better as the “Little Rock “ budget because it segregates the people into the classes of “ haves “ and “ have nots “. There are, however, two most aggravating factors affecting our economy to which I wish to refer particularly. The first is the uneconomic and wasteful use or misuse of our capital resources, and the second ‘ is immigration. These two factors have not only been abused or misused by the Government and the positive aspect of them neglected, but they have also been applied for the benefit of one section of the people which is comprised of the classes represented by many of the Government supporters. These two factors are having a most, adverse effect on our economy. They interact on each other so the failure of one aggravates failure of the other.
Before proceeding to consider this aspect further I should like to quote from the “ Financial Review “ of 22nd August last a statement from one of the Government’s own supporters. It reads -
What an extraordinary thing to find, after seven years of Liberal government, complaints coming thicker than ever before - not from Labour but from business. If this policy had stopped inflation it would gain some sympathy. But internal prices have risen 73 per cent, under the Government and are still rising. The Government has actually encouraged inflation by higher sales taxes, excise, company tax and charges for its services.
– Where was that written?
– That was written in a paragraph entitled “ Speaking Personally “ by Mr. H. W. Herbert. If the honorable member wants to deny that he is a supporter of the Liberal party he will be only heaping insult upon injury, as I will show later in regard to misrepresentations by honorable members on the Government side. In spite of the warnings given from time to time by honorable members on this side of the chamber, and, indeed, by the whole of the Labour party, the Government has chosen to ignore those warnings and has proceeded in its own way. It has closed its eyes to human sufferings in its. immigration policy that it is now carrying; out, and its Ministers, particularly the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley), have deliberately misled the people. He has misquoted the facts and distorted the truth in order to cover up their own failures. The Labour party does not believe in, nor will it ever be a party to the use of individuals, men women or children as pawns in the game of political chess played by the Liberal party. That is a fair comment of the Liberal party and of the present Government’s attitude towards immigration. We know that it takes eighteen months to two years for the impact of changes in the immigrant intake rate to become apparent in our economy. I repeat that we have warned the Government before and I ask the Government again to take notice of our warning.
Firstly, judged even by Asian standards, Australia’s rate of population growth is one of the most rapid in the world. In 1955 our rate of increase was approximately 2.5 per cent. In 1956 the rate dropped slightly, to 2.36 per cent. The first and most simple question to be asked is: Can we maintain an increase in population of 250,000 a year - this year it was 225,000 - and employ those people whom it is necessary to absorb into industry? No, of course we cannot. In the Melbourne “Age” of 12th September it was reported that 6,000 waterside workers are out of employment now and that more than £500,000 has been paid this year to them for doing nothing but stand by in idleness. In Victoria alone, 2,450 waterside workers are unemployed in the port of Melbourne.
Another question is: Can we say that our housing is adequate and suitable for the immigrants who come to this country? In other words can we house this increase in our population? Of course we cannot. Home-building in Australia last year was the lowest for very many years, being 12 per cent, below even the Spooner target of 77,000 homes. Even if that were correct, which I doubt, we are in all 9,240 houses short. This shortage is caused directly by the Government’s bad credit restriction policy. According to the “ Financial Review “ of 25 th April last, Sir Thomas White, returning from duty in England as High Commissioner, said -
It would be surprising if the unresolved housing problem was not found to be at the root of the departure of British immigrants.
I know of my own knowledge that British immigrants in this country have written home and told their countrymen what the housing conditions are in Australia. Yet the honorable member for Perth says that we should pay a commission to an agent to encourage British immigrants to come here! Further evidence of this nature comes from the Melbourne “ Age “, of 27th June, in which Mr. A. Thyne Reid, director of James Hardie Asbestos Limited, was reported to have said that the lack of hous-ing was a major factor deterring skilled tradesmen from coming to Australia as immigrants. Yet this Government cannot conceive a plan which is necessary to build homes, not only for our immigrants but above all for our own people! In its supine adherence to American policy, it might well follow American housing practice. In the United States, under the Federal Housing Administration’s scheme, a house up to the value of 5,000 dollars may be purchased, and the Government finds the difference between the purchase price and the deposit of 300 dollars. Three hundred dollars is all the individual is required to find! Is that too much to expect from this Government? Of course it is, because this Government is not really interested in immigration. It is not interested in the happiness and welfare of human beings as such. It is interested in them only as working units and as profitmaking units.
Can we provide the other essential services that are required - the schools, the hospitals and the like? I referred earlier to the statement made by Professor Copland that Australia had insufficient expenditure in its public sector. Every economist who is worth his salt will agree that expenditure in the public sector of a country is most desirable, and that excess expenditure in the private sector, especially from overseas sources, is dangerous to any economy. But here, most of the expenditure necessary to accommodate our own people and the present immigrant intake is in the public sector. If we look at Table X in the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure we find that public authority expenditure on public works increased last year by a miserable £16,000,000. Professor Henderson, writing in the “ New Commonwealth “, on 11th June, 1956, estimated that to maintain an intake rate of 100,000 immigrants Australia would need to spend an additional capital investment of £240,000,000 a year. Yet all this Government has been able to muster is a masterly increase of £16,000,000 in the public sector! Is it any wonder that States are finding themselves in difficulties?
In Victoria, the Liberal protege, Mr. Bolte, has budgeted for a £4,000,000 deficit this year, and next year it will be £5,000,000. Last year it was £3,000,000. I submit that the real motive behind the Government’s immigration policy is to reduce the living standards of the wageearners and so to reduce labour costs. Already we see too much evidence of unemployment. We see evidence of sweated labour conditions. I can quote numerous instances where the ignorance of the new Australian is being used to exploit him to his own detriment. The Government must be deliberately conniving in this, because 1 cannot find any other reason for it maintaining its present programme.
It is well known in Australia that owing to the failure of this Government over past years to provide necessary margins for skill, Australia has not anything like the number of skilled tradesmen that is needed. The Government says it is going to bring out tradesmen and that preference is being shown to them. Let us look at the number of craftsmen and tradesmen who have come here since the end of the war.
In 1946, under a Labour government, 7 per cent, of new Australians were craftsmen and tradesmen. In succeeding years the figures were 12 per cent., 12.2 per cent, and 14.8 per cent. In 1949 the figure reached 16.2 per cent, and in 1950, still with a carry-over of Labour administration, it was maintained at that level. In 1951, with a Liberal government in office the proportion dropped to 15.1 per cent, and in the ensuing years the decline continued to 10 per cent., 10.6 per cent., 11.5 per cent, and 11.1 per cent. Now, when the Government says it is concentrating on an intake of immigrants, we find that the figure is down to 3.8 per cent, for the first half of the year. We need skilled labour and skilled tradesmen to absorb the huge reservoir of unskilled labour that we have at the moment. We have been told by Sir Thomas White, a previous Liberal member of this Parliament, that 50.000 of these men are waiting in Britain to come to Australia, and are inquiring at Australia House continually, both in person and by correspondence. Has the Government made any endeavour to obtain skilled workers from the famous Fiat works in northern Italy? Of course not! It is not interested in obtaining skilled labour.
The Opposition seeks to preserve our essentially British traditions. That is why we suggest looking to the United Kingdom for tradesmen. Certainly we must accept tradesmen from other countries too. We are not worried about racial distinctions, but we are concerned about economic preferences and about qualifications which will suit the nation. I believe that this Government is prepared even to sell our British heritage if it suits it economically. In this regard the Government has covered its tracks and misled the public by deliberate misstatements and untruths. For instance, when welcoming 36 United Kingdom families in July last, the present Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) stated, according to a report in the “ Age “ of 4th July -
You won’t be lonely, I assure you. Over 500,000 of your people have come here in the past 10 years.
The real figure was less than 300,000.
– Which Minister said that?
– The present Minister for Immigration, Mr, Townley. Table 2c of the Statistical bulletin shows that permanent arrivals up to December, 1956, numbered 1,155,000, of whom it is alleged 51 1,000 were British. Of course they were British - British so far as this Government is concerned, but they included Maltese, Cypriots, and the like. They included United Kingdom visitors staying more than twelve months. They included Colombo plan and other Asian students and, oddly enough, they included Australians returning from overseas trips of more than twelve months’ duration.
In the Melbourne “Herald” of 11th, July, 1957, the same Minister, Mr. Townley, is reported, under the heading, “ Migrant figures may give a false picture “-
– Order! The honorable member will not mention names.
– The Minister saidand apparently there was some uncertainty at that stage - that of 1,155,000 immigrants, who had arrived in Australia by the end of 1956, 547,000 were British and about 75 per cent. - I ask the committee to mark that figure - or 412,000 were from Britain and Ireland. That was again untrue. In. “Hansard” of 4th October, 1956, the United Kingdom arrivals are given as 263,759. 1 submit that the figure of 32 per cent, is more accurate, because in arriving at that figure I have taken both the net permanent immigration figure and the net total immigration figure and I have related them, by places of birth, to the inter-census period, that is the period between the census of 1947 and that of 1954. Therefore, the Minister and his predecessor have completely misrepresented the facts in a desire to cover their ulterior motive which is the economic exploitation of the working classes.
We have heard a great deal about the “ Bring out a Briton “ scheme under which the Government bowed reluctantly, I agree, to the Opposition’s demand for some constructive measures in connexion with immigration. If the Government was not afraid of the Opposition it was afraid of the people whom the Opposition had persuaded it was right. With the reduction in the United Kingdom defence forces, there are thousands of skilled technicians who were serving in those forces and who are ready and willing to come to this country.
– The honorable member has no factual information to support that statement.
– As the honorable member is a master of fatuous information, I bow to his supremacy in that respect. Can this Government seriously expect the people of Australia to believe that such difficulties exist as it has claimed? The Government has said that it cannot bring these immigrants to Australia because of transport difficulties, because there is insufficient housing and for other reasons. Does the Government seriously maintain that these difficulties exist in view of the number of immigrants who were recently brought to Australia from Italy in “ Fairsea “ at the behest of rural industry for fruit-picking and other seasonal work? The same question may be asked in relation to the 5,000 Basques whom the Minister for Labour and National Service is recruiting in Spain. They are to come here for seasonal work such as cane-cutting, although there is permanent unemployment in this country. The Government is able to bring Hungarians and German refugees by air to Australia, but it is not able to bring highly skilled technicians from the United Kingdom. The Minister says that two-thirds of the immigrants who do come from the United Kingdom are brought here under individual or group sponsorship and the Minister does not require that they should have any trade qualifications. The Government shoves the responsibility of providing a job and housing for British immigrants on to their nominators instead of assuming that responsibility itself as it does for alien immigrants.
At the recent citizenship convention the Minister said - “It will always be Australia’s desire to encour age a big proportion of migrants from Britain, but selective and balanced immigration of young skilled workers must be the basis.”
Does he expect us to believe that, in view of the complete denial that is provided by the figures I have read to the committee? Such statements are clearly designed only for the purpose of disguising the Government’s ulterior motive. The Government is guilty of duplicity and misrepresentation. The statements of the Minister are those either of a fool or a rogue. By way of completing the Minister’s indictment of himself, we learn that there are no requirements as to trade qualifications for twothirds of British immigrants. This doubledealing on the part of the Government has been reflected in many ways.
Next, I pass on to the consideration of the recent Hungarian relief programme. There, again, the Government could not resist playing politics. Under the smokescreen of humanitarianism the Government advocated the admission of 15,000 Hungarians to Australia. The United States of America, with its vast economy, decided that it could only absorb, in fairness to the immigrants and its own people, 20,000. Yet, apparently, Australia can absorb 15,000. At the meeting of the Immigration Advisory Council in Brisbane last month the official attitude of the Government and the Department of Immigration was expressed as being that the Hungarian refugees were so undesirable that the department would seek every legal means at its disposal to avoid any further intake of Hungarians under its agreement with the United States of America. That is to say, it would endeavour to avoid living up to its contract with regard to the admission of 15,000 refugees. Yet, the Government had stated that it had made that contract on ordinary humanitarian grounds. If the Government seeks to justify its immigration policy on humanitarian grounds I ask it to take note of the following statement which was published in Volume 199 of “The Atlantic Monthly “.
More than 200,000 refugees in Austria, Germany, France, Italy, the Near East, Greece, and other places have neither homes nor jobs. They are the “ hard core “ of the refugees - the hopeless cases. Over 75,000 live in crowded squalor in 200 “ official “ refugee camps (most are in Germany) under the mandate of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
Those refugees have been awaiting assistance for the last ten years at least. The same humanitarian grounds that exist today existed ten years ago. I submit that the Government brought Hungarian immigrants to Australia because they represented the cheapest form of immigrant that it could get. The United States of America has financed 48 per cent. of the cost of bringing these people to Australia. In other words, America pays a great proportion of the cost of bringing these immigrants to Australia and the Government has very little choice in the matter. It wants to carry out an exploitation programme on the cheap and therefore puts forward false, hypocritical, humanitarian grounds in support of its case for Hungarian immigration.
I notice that the Minister for Labour and National Service who was previously Minister for Immigration is now back in the chamber. To sum up the substance of my argument I say that through our inability to control and direct our capital investment to essential purposes which would maintain and build up our economy we are denied the ability to absorb immigrants. Insofar as this Government is bringing out the wrong type of immigrant, it is reducing the effectiveness of our economy. The Labour party has a policy. We ask that the Government introduce some form of immigration legislation under which a proportion of at least 60 per cent. United Kingdom immigrants should be maintained to 40 per cent. of non-British immigrants in order to preserve our British heritage. We also ask that the ramifications of the department should be examined. I do not blame the men but the officers of an inefficient Army unit. We ask that investigations be made at the top so that some truthfulness and forthrightness may issue from official statements, and so that there will be no conflict between the statements of the Minister for Immigration and the statements of the Department. We believe that human beings, men, women and children, should not be used as political pawns in a game to justify the economic policy of a conservative and reactionary government. The Government has shamelessly brought thousands of immigrants to this nation without any consideration for the welfare of its people and the migrants. The Labour party is concerned for those people who are already here. We want to see them housed. We want to see them educated. We want to see them united with us in our high living standards. We do not want to see our standards broken down. We do not want to see people being economically exploited by capital. We certainly do not want to see immigrants returning to their own country. Britains accounted for 41 per cent. of arrivals but almost 80 per cent. of departures in the last eighteen months. That figure has been supplied by the department. Those departures include not only Australians, who have emigrated but also those who have changed their status from temporary to permanent departures. In other words, it is not possible to ascertain correctly the number of British immigrants who have returned to their own country. The Opposition asks for a full investigation to be made of the immigration position now so that some semblance of sanity may prevail in this most important aspect of our national development.
Progress reported. [Quorum formed.]
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following reply: -
The 1945 Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, as amended in 1955, permits the sale of houses to tenants on terms as follows: -
The States determine the prices at which the houses are sold.
z asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Health, upon notice: -
– This matter is being investigated and a further reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
k asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable gentleman’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 September 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1957/19570917_reps_22_hor16/>.