22nd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs whether he has received any report which would either confirm or refute allegations that reinforcements are being sent from Communist countries to assist the central government of Indonesia in its war against rebel forces.
– We have no information at all which would suggest that reinforcements are coming to Indonesia from Communist countries.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Is the Minister aware that last year France bought £90,000,000 worth of goods from Australia and that we purchased only £9,000,000 worth of French goods in return? Is the Minister aware that the decline in our Trying from France has brought a sharp reaction from French interests, especially in New Caledonia where, for half a century, we have enjoyed a profitable market for Australian goods? Is the Minister aware that, as a result of French reaction to this trade lopsidedness, France has abruptly ended the import into New Caledonia of Tasmanian potatoes, although for more than 40 years our Tasmanian potato sales to New Caledonia were consistently worth £40,000 a year, and that the loss of this market is further depressing an already heavily hit industry in Tasmania? Finally, can the Government do something to restore this trade with New Caledonia?
– I cannot confirm the precise figures mentioned by the honorable member with regard to the balance of trade with France. I accept them as being, no doubt, correct. I am aware that there is, and has been, in French eyes, an adverse balance of trade with Australia over a period of time, and that the French are naturally as anxious as we would be in similar circumstances to secure an improvement of the balance of trade. Many discussions have ‘been ‘held and a good deal of thought has ‘been given to the problem, both in Paris and ‘in Australia. I have visited Paris and discussed this very issue. The French have sought special treatment for their exports to Australia, and that is a request to which the Government cannot accede. The very basis of our international trading, as determined by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and by the policies of the Government, is equality of treatment of all overseas suppliers to this country. The only exception is in the case of Japan, and as honorable members well know, an opportunity for discrimination against Japan is still retained, although I hope that there will be no need to resort to that.
The Government is anxious that the French should have an opportunity to sell more of their products to Australia. Recently, some action was taken by the Government to facilitate a French trade exhibition in this country, from which may flow more French sales to Australia. The French are in the same position as Australia. They cannot buy more from other countries than their overseas reserves will permit. The Government is conducting intensive trade drives so that Australia’s overseas trade position may not deteriorate until we find ourselves in the same dilemma as now confronts France.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Trade. In reference to the Government’s recently announced decision on special licensing for protective purposes of imports of printed cotton textiles, can the Minister say whether the action taken by the Government is contrary to the provisions of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade? If so, will the Minister refer the House to the section under which the action was taken? Has action under such a provision ever been taken before by any signatory to Gatt? Has any signatory to Gatt complained about the decision taken? Has the present action been taken only as an emergency measure, and will the restrictions be removed as soon as the emergency has ended?
– The action to which the honorable member refers was, and is, an emergency action taken to give temporary protection to a new Australian industry that, up to the present time, has never been accorded any tariff protection at all. The emergency protection is intended to continue only until the Government receives the report of the Tariff Board on this matter, and reaches a decision on that report. The protection will remain no longer than that.
This kind of action to afford prompt but temporary protection to a country’s industry is contemplated in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade which, in general terms, provides for a more orderly and more permanent method of protecting the industries of a country. Article 19 of Gatt explicitly provides for the kind of action that we have taken in this instance. Acting under that authority, and in the terms and spirit of Gatt, the Government immediately informed all the contracting members of Gatt of its action, of the reasons for that action and the circumstances in which it was taken. There have been no protests from any contracting party. This is the first time Australia has taken action of this kind. This is not the procedure that would ordinarily be taken by any industry that felt it was in trouble. The normal thing to do would be to have recourse to the Tariff Board. I remind the honorable member that this particular industry is in a special position, since it has not, arid’ never has had, a protective duty. I think I may have misled some honorable members in the course of private conversation by saying that this kind of action has not been taken by any other country. To the extent that I have conveyed that impression, I have been in error. It has been taken by several other countries, including the United States of America.
– Order! There is too much audible conversation at the table. I remind honorable members that the microphones are very sensitive; and in any event, honorable members are out of order in engaging in audible conversation while an honorable member has the floor.
– Is the Minister for Social Services aware that an apparatus known as the Aplivox Speech Training Hearing Aid is being installed in schools for the deaf in Great Britain and in many other parts of the world? Does he know that this instrument is proving a great boon to deaf mutes, as such hearing as they have is being developed to enable them to hear speech, and so learn to use it? Will the Minister investigate this matter and secure these instruments for use in our own institutions in order that the inmates may benefit from this great gift of scientific development?
– With very great respect, may I suggest to the honorable member that his question might more properly have been addressed to the Minister for Health. There is in the Repatriation Department an acoustics laboratory, the officers of which keep themselves informed of developments of the kind mentioned by the honorable member. I am quite certain that in this chamber, the ministerial expert on devices of the kind is, undoubtedly and unquestionably, the Minister for Health.
– Can the Minister for Primary Industry give the House some information about the reduction that has taken place in freight rates on wheat shipped from Western Australia to New South Wales in recent months? Can he say how much these freights amount to and what effect the reduction will have?
– Yesterday, the Minister for Shipping and Transport announced that there had been a second reduction in freights on wheat shipped from Western Australia and South Australia to New South Wales. I think the total reduction is 7s. 6d. a ton on the former freight of 115s. a ton. I do not know the actual effect of this reduction, on a bushelage basis, on the bread and poultry industries in New South Wales. However, I will obtain these particulars and convey them to the honorable member. I should like to stress, also, that the Minister for Shipping and Transport has given an assurance that these freights are being constantly watched and that they will be reduced when practicable.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Navy. Has any further consideration been given to the provision of a naval base, with essential docking facilities, on the Western Australian coast? If not, when is the matter likely to be considered, bearing in mind the fact that existing naval bases in the Indian Ocean are not now considered safe?
– The question of the provision of a naval base on the Western Australian coast is one which has been mentioned and discussed from time to time in this House, and on it I have stated the present policy of the Government. I think it was referred to again last night by my colleague, the honorable member for Canning. All that I have to say in reply to the question by the honorable member for Stirling this morning is that there has been no change in policy since I last outlined what that policy was and gave the reasons therefor.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade a question which relates to a circular - a copy of which I have received - addressed to honorable members by Mr. A. Date, a member of the Tariff Board. Can the Minister yet say whether reports of the Tariff Board have been altered at any stage or whether views on matters under examination sought to be incorporated in the report by Mr. Date have been excluded?
– This is a highly important matter. It touches the basis of Australian tariff making and the rights of this House, because Tariff Board reports must be presented to this House. I repeat the assurance I gave two days ago that no Tariff Board report has ever been altered subsequent to the Tariff Board sending the report to the Minister and the Department of Trade. Mr. Date has a long record of grievances and protests which he has directed to many people. I am informed that the records of the board show that on a number of occasions Mr. Date has endorsed Tariff Board reports dealing with assistance to a particular industry and has referred, over his signature, to one of his many grievances and protests about board procedure quite unrelated to matters being reported upon by the board. Mr. Date’s grievances and demands that matters be organized to suit his convenience and judgment commenced immediately upon his appointment and there has been no cessation of them. Appointed to a board which is situated in Melbourne, he wanted to live in Sydney. He wanted special allowances for living in Melbourne. There have been arguments about the payment of his telephone account and other allowances. As late as yesterday I received a letter from Mr. Date claiming a special allowance of £1,000 for travelling and rent allowances and what he describes as “ capital losses “. He is continually challenging board procedures. (Opposition members interjecting) -
– Order! I draw the attention of the House to the interjections that are going on. They are entirely out of order. A member who is seeking information is entitled to hear the reply to his question.
– I rise to order. The Standing Orders provide that questions shall not be asked in which names are mentioned. The object of the Standing Orders is to prevent undue reflection being made on the character of persons outside the Parliament. The Minister for Trade is obviously making a personal attack on a public servant. I submit that he is entirely out of order.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I am dealing with a question which was first raised in this House by the Leader of the Opposition concerning a communication addressed to every member of the Parliament by a member of a statutory body which is obligated, by statute, to report to the Minister for Trade. I believe that it is completely competent for me - and, indeed, my responsibility - to present to this Parliament the facts of this situation.
– I submit that what the Minister has just stated is quite beside the point. In answer to the question by the honorable member for Corio, the Minister is attacking a distinguished public servant, probably by prearrangement. I say that because he has a written statement there. The point of the question addressed to him was whether the Minister had kept back from Parliament any portion of Mr. Date’s statement on public affairs as put in his report. That is the point, and what the Minister is saying is not really in answer to the question.
– A question was asked by the honorable member for Corio seeking information in relation to a subject already referred to by the Opposition. It is for the Minister to use his discretion as to how he answers the question.
– When I was interrupted I had mentioned that as recently as yesterday I received a letter from Mr. Date claiming, as a special allowance, £1,000 for what he described as travelling and rent allowance and what he called capital losses. Mr. Date has continually challenged Tariff Board procedures - procedures which, notwithstanding Mr. Date’s challenges, have been acceptable to his colleagues on the board, and, indeed, as to a number of points raised by him, have been standard practice of the board for 30 years. Some reports have been forwarded with observations of this kind by Mr. Date attached to them.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask you again how long you will permit the farce to continue of members addressing questions to Ministers, claiming they are questions without notice, when obviously it has all been prearranged, the Minister coming to this chamber with a carefully prepared reply.
– There is no point of order involved.
– I understand the discomfort of members of the Opposition, who, having raised this matter, now wish to censor it and suppress it.
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I ask you to rule that the last comment made by the Minister is out of order and that he must withdraw it.
– I withdraw it. I am sorry if I have offended the sensitivity of the right honorable gentleman. I was saying that some reports have been forwarded with observations of this kind by Mr. Date attached to them. However, I understand that the board finally reached the point, in regard to Mr. Date’s endorsements, at which the chairman declined to accept a signature by Mr. Date to which he had sought to attach an observation upon one of his grievances. I think this has resulted in Mr. Date’s declining to sign more than one report. Upon specific inquiry by me this week, at the request of the Leader of the Opposition two days ago, I was assured that in any Tariff Board report dealing with assistance to a particular industry no dissent raised by Mr. Date, nor any minority report related to the product under examination, has been excluded from the report prior to its despatch to me. To cite an example of what Mr. Date has done or sought to do, I mention the annual report of the Tariff Board, dated 28th August, 1956, which was tabled by me in this Parliament, and to which the members of the board had appended their signatures.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I refer to Standing Order 151, which reads -
Notice must be given of Questions regarding the character or conduct of individuals other than Ministers or Members of the House.
The Minister is referring specifically to the conduct of this gentleman, and it seems to me that the question also had reference to that subject. Therefore, notice of the question should have been given. It should not have been asked without notice at question time.
– I have already ruled that the Minister is in order. (Honorable members interjecting) -
– Order! I ask the House to come to order. The Minister is entitled to give the information within his own judgment, but I ask him to respect the Standing Orders.
– This annual report of the Tariff Board, presented to the Parliament, and tabled by me in this House, embodied the signatures of all the members of the board. Mr. Date added his signature to the report with the following notation in his own words, written in his own fair hand -
Signed at Kew, Victoria, subject to observance of the provisions of the Act and reply to letter dated 15th December, 1955, to the GovernorGeneral
But as something of more consequence than Mr. Date’s voluminous correspondence and curious endorsements, I emphasize to the House what I have already said about the work and organization of the Tariff Board. The Government has been considering, over some months, what steps may best be taken to secure greater expedition in having applications to the Tariff Board finally dealt with. A strengthening of the secretariat behind the board has already commenced, and I give an assurance that this will proceed until the board is adequately equipped to ensure expedition and maxi-. mum efficiency in its. work. This review has been extended to a study of the Tariff Board Act, which could lead me to re.commend to the Government that it introduce some amendments in this House, particularly to avoid questions of ambiguity in the interpretation of the act.
– I desire to ask the Minister a supplementary question. First, is Mr. Date still a member of the Tariff Board? I take it, from what the Minister has said, that he is. A few minutes ago, the Minister said that the.re had been no exclusion of certain matters from the Tariff Board’s report while the report was on its way from the board to this Parliament. I ask the Minister, secondly, whether any exclusion of observations made by a member of the board, and contained in the report, has been authorized by either the chairman pf the board, or the Minister, subsequent to the report’s preparation, thereby preventing the Parliament from seeing the observations made on a matter of public interest by a member of the Tariff Board, with the weight of his statutory tenure of the position. Thirdly, will the Minister try to deal with this matter without the obvious malevolence against Mr. Date that he has displayed?
– Order! I think that the reference was unfair, and I ask the Leader of the Opposition to withdraw it.
– The reference was part of the question that I asked the Minister. Instead of the words “ obvious malevolence “, I substitute the words “ personal feeling “.
– Order! I ask the right honorable gentleman to withdraw the reference that he made.
– I withdraw the reference objected to, and substitute the following request: Will the Minister try to deal with this matter without the feeling that he has displayed in his references to Mr. Date this morning?
– I can think of nothing more ludicrous, than, a reference by the Leader of the Opposition to feeling displayed by me, when my attempt to answer a question has. encountered nothing but a continuous barrage from all Opposition members for ten minutes.
– Order! I again ask the House to come to order. Question time is designed to permit questions on urgent matters,, and it should be utilized for that purpose.
– I can conclude only that, owing to the interruptions from Opposition members, the Leader of the Opposition did not hear my original answer. The answer to the question that he has now asked is to be found in the answer that I gave previously, which was drowned by the noise made by the right honorable gentleman’s supporters. For his benefit, what I said was-
I repeat the assurance I gave two days ago that no Tariff Board report has ever been altered subsequent to the Tariff Board sending the report to the Minister and the Department of Trade. . . Upon specific inquiry by me this week-
I interpolated there, “ at the request of the Leader of the Opposition, two days ago “ -
I was assured that in any Tariff Board report dealing with assistance to a particular industry no dissent raised by Mr. Date, nor any minority report related to the product under examination, has been excluded from the report prior to its despatch to me.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Government’s decision to extend the application of the guaranteed price for seed cotton for a further five years from 1st January next year, is the best boost that the cotton industry has had in the last twenty years. I ask the Minister whether it is proposed to start immediately, during the currency of the present agreement, on extensive activities in the cotton industry, research into the growing and treatment of seed cotton, and the renovation and modernization of the plant in Brisbane, or to defer these activities until the new term commences. I trust that action will be taken immediately in order to permit a greater yield per acre and to give a further boost to the industry.
– The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is engaging in research activities, in conjunction with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Stock, and I have assurances from the Queensland Minister that extension activities will be not only continued but increased, so that the bounty payments can be supplemented. I have had conversations on this matter with the Queensland Minister and I feel that, for the first time since I have been Minister, there is close co-operation between the Commonwealth and the State and that we are looking at this matter in a co-operative way to see how we can assure the best interests of the Queensland cotton industry. If there is anything further that I can report to the honorable gentleman, I shall inform him at a later date.
– I direct to the Minister for Trade a question which also relates to the Tariff Board. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether the Tariff Board’s inquiry into the timber industry has been completed? If it has been completed, has the report yet been received by the Government, and when does the Minister expect the report to be made public?
– I know that the honorable member is very interested in this matter. I understand that the Tariff Board has completed its public inquiries into the timber industry, but I have not yet received the report of the board, and I am not in a position to say when the board will be forwarding that report to me. I have intimated to the board that the Government regards the matter as being one of importance and urgency.
– I direct the Postmaster-General’s attention to the fact that in the town of Kalgoorlie there is no provision for the lodgment of telegrams after normal trading hours.
– I rise to order! A while ago, you, Mr. Speaker, corrected me for talking to the Leader of the Opposition. I ask you to request the Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour and National Service to desist from talking at the table, because the microphones are very sensitive.
– Order! In the interests of the working of the House, I ask honorable members at the table to remain silent. That applies to both sides. The microphones are sensitive.
– I wish to take a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I take it, Sir, that your purpose is to maintain order and to avoid the occurrence of audible conversation.
– I also wish to take a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
– I am in the middle of a point of order, and I am speaking to the Chair on it. Sit down.
– Order! The Leader of the House is at present speaking to a point of order.
– I was saying, before I was interrupted, Mr. Speaker, that your purpose, I presume, is to maintain order and avoid the occurrence of audible conversation, and in particular, having regard to the presence of microphones at this table, to prevent conversation which could be picked up by the microphones and constitute an interference in some way with the proceedings of the House. It has never been ruled, nor has it ever been the practice, that we should sit in this chamber as mutes. It is necessary, particularly for those of us who have responsibilities so far as the procedures of the House are concerned, to conduct conversations from time to time. My current conversation, which was quite inaudible to anybody but the Prime Minister and myself-
– It was not. I heard it. You were criticising Sir Garfield Barwick.
– My conversation with the Prime Minister was directly related to the proceedings of the House - a necessary step at this stage - and provided there is no audible conversation interfering with the proceedings I suggest that discussions of that kind are in order.
– May I, Mr. Speaker, for once at least, support the observations of the Leader of the House. It is quite impossible for the Leader or Deputy Leader on either side to arrange the procedures of the House, ana so forth, unless they have conversations from time to time, and without such arrangements it would be very difficult to carry on the business of the House. Perhaps the microphones at the table could be toned down.
-Order! I should like to say that a great deal of latitude is customarily extended to the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister or the Minister who may be at the table. Let me say that I hope that that will not be abused.
– When I was interrupted, I was directing the attention of the Postmaster-General to the fact that there is no provision in the town of Kalgoorlie for the lodging of telegrams after the normal closing time of the post office, although this provision is made in many centres throughout the Commonwealth which have smaller populations than Kalgoorlie and Boulder, where the population is 23,000. Such a service would prove very beneficial to the residents of Kalgoorlie, and to the travelling public generally.
– 1 shall be very glad to look into the matter raised by the honorable member. I think he knows that the Postmaster-General’s Department is always desirous of providing as efficient a service as possible to the people of Australia, and I am sure that when this matter is gone into we shall be able to do something to help in the direction desired.
– Is the Minister for Trade aware that many regular importers of printed cottons from Europe, who had placed firm orders in accordance with normal business practice before the commencement of the current licensing period, had not applied for licences before the period was prematurely closed by the Department of Trade on 27th February last? Is the Minister aware that those importers are now denied licences for printed cottons even though their B category quota is not fully used up, and that they are faced with the cancellation of those European orders which may result in great losses in Europe and consequent destruction of confidence in Australian merchants as well as financial loss to the merchants themselves?
Will the Minister give special consideration to applications for licences from such importers?
– The honorable member has asked me whether I am aware that many regular importers have not placed applications for licences. I am not aware of that, and I would be quite astonished if that were a fact. The temporary suspension of the issue of new licences was announced on 27th February, which is approximately four weeks before the end of a four months’ licensing period. I would not have the slightest doubt at all that the great majority of licence holders had taken out licences during the preceding three months.
If any licence holder has not taken up any of his entitlement through some circumstance of his business, then I am quite sure that the department would, in accordance with an indication 1 gave in my first announcement on this subject, regard it as a special case. Indeed, my first announcement made it quite clear that if any manufacturer of garments was left short of manufacturing material by reason of this decision consideration would be given immediately to the issue of a licence to him.
If the honorable member will bring the particular case that is troubling him to my attention, or if the merchant concerned will bring it to the attention of the Department of Trade, I have no doubt that, if the facts are that this licence holder has not taken out a licence previously, he will be given special treatment. But if, in fact, he has taken out, say, 80 per cent, or 75 per cent, of his licence entitlement, he will not be given the additional amount, because the whole purpose of the temporary suspension was to put some limitation on the issue of licences.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Government has introduced the practice of having searches made of desks, lockers and drawers of public servants during their absence by special officers and members of the Commonwealth Investigation Service and the Commonwealth Security Service? Is it a fact that the taxation authorities have used, and are using, their powers of search under existing taxation legislation and practice to check officers’ bank accounts and their financial status generally, and also to inquire into their living habits and those of their families?Is it a fact that departmental officers are being approached to complete questionnaires, including queries as to their religious and political beliefs? Finally, is it a fact that the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association has reported these matters to the Prime Minister and has asked for an assurance that such practices will be discontinued immediately? If so, what reply has the Prime Minister given to that organization?
– A great number of these alleged facts are not facts at all; but the question is clearly based on a resuscitation recently of publicity which occurred last year in relation to certain searches made in the Taxation Branch by, or with the co-operation of, the Commonwealth Investigation Service. Questions have once more been raised about procedures. They have been under discussion between the departments concerned, particularly the Attorney-General’s Department, in which the investigation service is placed. These discussions have not yet been concluded. When they have been concluded, I will be in a position to state whatever decision is arrived at.
– Win the Postmaster-General consider asking the Australian Broadcasting Commission to include a comprehensive market report on wool sales in its programmes? Is it correct that at present the market reports cover beef, mutton, vegetables and fruit and. indeed, almost every primary product, but do not include wool, which is the most important of all?
– My understanding of the broadcasts by the Australian Broadcasting Commission is that such an important product as wool receives the same treatment as other agricultural products in the rural reports, which are given from time to time. Naturally, the amount of time given to any one product in comparison with other products, would vary according to the prevailing circumstances. There would be occasions. I should think, when reports on wool sales would be of greater importance than otherreports and would receive more time thanother reports. I know, too, -that reports on wool are included in the : general news wheneverit is considered that that subject isof general interest. I also know - and I think this will answer the honorable member’s question - that the Australian BroadcastingCommission is considering the improvement of the whole of the rural services, including the market reports Which would cover wool as well as other products. I think that review willmeet the honorable member’s requirements.
– by leave-I desire to make a personal explanation concerning a newspaper report about an alleged attack upon Mr. Monk. The newspaper concerned is the Sydney “ Sun “, which stated thatI had made an attack on Mr. Monk in caucus yesterday. I say quite categorically that the report iscompletely without foundation. Every member of caucus will know that I did not speak on any subject in caucus yesterday. It is monstrous that a newspaper should be permitted to publish reports of this kind that are complete fabrications, and be allowed to get away with it without any action being taken. When a member of Parliament belonging to the Australian Labour party - and a similar thing could happen to any honorable member on the opposite side of the House - is falsely accused of attacking a leader of the trade union movement in Australia, although in fact he did not open his mouth on any subject, immeasurable harm can be done to the member concerned. This newspaper should be dealt with in some way. It is called a newspaper, but it is nothing more than a sausage wrapper and should never be called a newspaper. I suggest that you, Mr. Speaker, seriously consider banning all representatives of the Sydney “ Sun “ from the precincts of the press gallery.
Reserve Bank Bill 1957.
Commonwealth Banks Bill 1957.
Banking Bill 1957.
Banking (Transitional Provisions) Bill 1957.
Audit Bill 1957.
Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Bill 1957.
Crimes Bill 1957.
Gold-mining Industry Assistance Bill (No. 2) 1957.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Bill (No. 2) 1957.
National Debt Sinking Fund Bill 1957.
Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Bill 1957.
Officers’ Rights Declaration Bill 1957.
Re-establishment and Employment Bill 1957.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill (No. 2) 1957.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
– I move -
That, in relation to the proceedings on the following bills, viz., Reserve Bank, Commonwealth Banks, Banking, Banking (Transitional Provisions), Audit, Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough, Crimes, Gold-Mining Industry Assistance (No. 2), Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment (No. 2), National Debt Sinking Fund, Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee), Officers’ Rights Declaration, Re-establishment and Employment, and Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) (No. 2), so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent -
one motion being moved without delay and one question being put in regard to, respectively, the introduction, the first readings, the second readings, the Committee’s report stage, and the third readings, of all the bills together, and
the consideration of all the bills as a whole together in a Committee of the Whole.
I do not propose to speak at length to the motion. Quite obviously, it is of an abnormal character, but all honorable members will know that it deals with an abnormal situation. It is designed to meet the convenience of the Parliament and at the same time to enable a representative expression of viewpoint to be made on issues which already, and very recently, have been determined by this House. I do not wish to recapitulate in detail the position as to the group of bills to which I have referred. As all honorable members know, the legislation includes the four principal banking measures, which were before the House in the last session, and the ten minor bills which were linked with the four principal measures. Those bills were debatedin this House and were passed without amendment. They were then sent to another place; in other words, to the Senate. When they reached the Senate, they were presented. However, the Senate did not at any stage debate the bills, but rejected them without even having them read a first time.
It is the intention of the Government to invite this House to adopt the legislation again, so that the bills can be transmitted to the Senate a second time. I repeat that each of these measures was adopted without amendment. I do not need to emphasize that rejection by the Senate on a second occasion would create a constitutional position which the Government would be able to consider in due course. However, I am not entitled to assume at this stage that the Senate will reject the measures; let us hope that it will not. As this chamber, by an overwhelming majority, adopted the bills without amendment, it would certainly be the desire of the overwhelming majority of honorable members that the Senate should adopt the legislation in the form in which we previously presented it. It is our intention to present the bills again in precisely similar form.
In order to avoid taking up the time of this House unduly on a repetitious debate on issues so recently determined - andI inform the House that in this session it is expected that between 40 and50 bills will be presented for its consideration - I have, with the concurrence of the Government, adopted a procedure which, I hope, will not only meet the convenience of the House but also provide an opportunity for the expression of any afterthoughts which may have developed since the legislation was last passed. At the same time, this procedure will enable us to bring all the bills before the Senate with reasonable expedition so that there need be no delay in providing opportunities for further consideration in that place.
– The Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) has given no indication to honorable members of the effect of this motion- The motion is an extraordinary one. It is unprecedented, not only in this Parliament, but in similar representative assemblies anywhere in the British Commonwealth. The proposal treats Parliament with absolute contempt. If carried it will mean that honorable members will be prevented from voting separately on these fourteen bills- Some of the bills are important. Amendments may be necessary to some of them, but under the Minister’s proposal it would be impossible to move any amendments. If the Government merely wanted to save time, arrangements of a reasonable character could be made, having regard to the fact that this legislation was debated on a previous occasion. However, the situation in Australia has changed since then, and the private banks have come under closer study. The private banking institutions of Australia seem to be able to dictate to the Government. The reason for that was explained on one occasion by the late Mr. Chifley, when he dealt with the relationship between the private banks and the parties that now form the Government.
The proposal means that all Standing Orders, which are for the protection of honorable members, will be suspended, not for minor matters, but for all this legislation. There are fourteen bills in all, and the four principal bills were debated together in this House previously, but dealt with separately in committee. Apart from the four main bills, ten other pieces of legislation are to be amended, and the Minister’s proposal means that only one question will be put in relation to the fourteen bills. It is impossible to deal with this legislation in the manner proposed. One question will be put for the introduction, the first reading, the second reading, the committee’s report stage, and the third reading. There will be one question and one debate.
With regard to the ten supplementary bills, an’ honorable member may wish to move an amendment to one or more of them, but that will be impossible at the second-reading stage. The House will not be permitted to vote against any particular measure. Honorable members will have to say “yes” or “no” to all of the bills. There is no precedent for this in parliamentary history. The whole purpose of Parliament is to enable decisions to be given on every piece of legislation. On the last occasion, the Opposition moved certain amendments to the four main bills. How will it be possible to deal with amendments to individual bills if they are all to be dealt with as one?
I submit that what the Minister wishes to do can be done by providing for reasonable limitations of time. These could be accepted by the House, or reasonably imposed upon the House. I wonder who invented this method of dealing with legislation. It would be a higgledy-piggledy way of doing things. The bills will be introduced, and at the first reading the House will have to vote for or against all fourteen of them. The same thing will happen at the second-reading stage. Debate will have to take place on all of the bills together. There will be no scope for real debate or reasonable separation of subject-matters. What will the Chairman of Committees have before him when the bills go into the committee stage? The suggestion is not a practical one in any way at all. The proposal is completely contrary to accepted parliamentary practice. There should be, in the circumstances, more scope for debate. I realize that there was a lengthy debate on the last occasion. The Opposition does not think that the debate was adequate - the gag was used extensively - but a reasonable effort was made to meet the situation. In view of the fact that the Senate rejected these measures previously, the debate on this occasion should not be restricted. If the Government wishes to shorten the debate it should do so by allowing a certain time for each bill, and allowing each bill to be voted on separately. There is some value in debating the four major bills together. This was done by arrangement on the last occasion, because there is an interlocking relationship between them. A similar arrangement might be agreed to now. But the Minister is like a young man in a hurrry. He wants these fourteen bills dealt with together. When is it proposed to conclude the debate?
– On Wednesday night.
– Very little progress can be made to-day. The debate will be finished by Wednesday. The time allowed is unreasonable in the circumstances. The first four bills are somewhat related, but the others do involve debate, which was prevented on the last occasion because the bills were forced through the House. Some of the legislation was not opposed by vote in this House on that occasion, because the Senate by then had rejected some of the major measures.
The Opposition cannot accept the Minister’s proposal. It is a scandalous proposal. The Government should consider my suggestions, and another proposal should be submitted. If that is not done the Opposition will certainly vote against this motion. Honorable members on this side of the House regard it as undemocratic and completely without precedent. I am not at present dealing in any way with the merits of the legislation itself, but I refer to the way of handling it. If any member has a particular amendment he wishes to move, the Minister’s proposal will prevent him from moving it.
The procedure proposed by the Minister is unsatisfactory, and the Opposition asks that the Government reconsider the matter. The Opposition is duty bound to oppose this motion, and it does oppose it.
.- The anxiety of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) to secure an extension of the debate on the proposals put before the House on banking, is in sharp and dramatic contrast to the behaviour of his colleagues in another place a few months ago. On that occasion his colleagues were extremely reluctant to allow the legislation to proceed even to the stage at which it could be reviewed or considered. I may have some rather unsophisticated views, but I have always regarded the Senate as being a house of review. But the Labour party, acting on the instructions of its executive or its caucus, decided to prevent the Senate even from considering the legislation relating to banking.
To-day, this House and the country have witnessed an illustration of the right honorable gentleman’s faculty for being able to twist his arguments to suit the circumstances and the convenience of the occasion. It ill becomes him to preach and prattle in this House about protecting parliamentary democracy because in the final analysis, his party is bent on the destruction of the bi-cameral system by destroying the Senate, and, ultimately, establishing a supreme economic council. Therefore, for the right honorable gentleman to say that this motion is not necessary, is the height of oddness on his part.
This motion is essential. Why? On the last occasion that the banking legislation was before us, the Parliament was subjected to obstruction of a petty and miserable kind, and if the same procedure were to be followed on this occasion we would witness again obstructionist tactics on the part of the Opposition and frustration of the will of the Australian people. The fact is that the people have approved of the Government’s intention regarding this legislation; but the Opposition has dedicated itself to the task of trying to prevent these measures from being placed on the statute-book. I support, unreservedly, the motion. I can quite understand the motive of the Leader of the Opposition in opposing it.
.- The Opposition strongly opposes this motion. From my knowledge of the history of this Parliament - it is by no means complete, but it is not inadequate - this sort of thing has never happened before in the whole 57 years of federation. We have never before had fourteen bills introduced into this House with one question only being put in regard to, respectively, the first reading, the second reading, and the committee stage of all the bills together.
– I suppose the nearest approach to it would be when you put fourteen amendments to the Constitution in one bill.
– I do not know what the Government’s alternative would be; but I do know that what the Government proposes to do is an alternative to democratic procedure. The Government is seeking alternatives. The Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) says that we are facing an abnormal situation. What is the abnormal situation? Is it the situation created by the result of the Parramatta byelection last Saturday, or is it that Senate Ministers can no longer fool themselves into believing that if they can play with the lives of sick men they can possibly jockey this legislation through their chamber. There is no need to hurry; there is plenty of time to consider this legislation. This is the first time, when legislation is under consideration, that adequate time is not allowed to the Opposition, or, indeed, to all members of the House to express their views.
Even though we disagree with it, we recognize that the Government has in the past acted in accordance with the traditions of Parliament. So did the Chifley Government. The 1945 legislation, which wrote into the statute-book for the first time the principle that, in relation to banking, provision should be made for the maintenance of full employment, and established at least, the right of the Parliament to determine the credit policy of the nation, was debated in this House for 96 hours. The rather contentious banking legislation of 1947 was not jockeyed or bull-dozed through the Parliament. The discussion of that measure at the second-reading and committee stages occupied 73* hours. The 1950 legislation, introduced by the present Government, occupied the time of this House at the second-reading and committee stages for 55i hours; and the 1953 legislation was debated for 34 hours. Even the 1957 bill, which set out to repeal the whole of the 1945 legislation and relegated the question of the maintenance of full employment to the Reserve Bank Bill by taking it out of the Commonwealth Bank Act,, was debated here for 37i hours.
What do we find under this proposal? We will have two and a half hours’ debate on Tuesday next and five and a half hours on Wednesday. That means that honorable members will have a total of eight hours in which to discuss fourteen bills containing 300 clauses. We are to be permitted to have sixteen speakers out of a House of Representatives membership of 124 to discuss these measures at the second-reading stage and, in the committee stage, the whole 300 clauses they contain. If the late Herr Hitler were alive, he would roar with laughter at this Government claiming to favour democratic processes; and on the passage of this legislation he would send for a description of the method by which a so-called democratic . government successfully operates dictatorially.
The Minister put up very weak, flabby arguments and concluded with the threat that if the Senate rejected these bills again the Government would consider the constitutional situation. Let us face it: members of the Opposition are not afraid of it. If the Government will carry its threat to the point of a double dissolution, nobody will be happier than members on this side of the House will be and nobody will be more afraid than members on the Government side. Government supporters do not want a double dissolution on this miserable attempt to destroy the Commonwealth Bank - the people’s bank. They want to maul, mutilate, disrupt and dismember the legislation which had and has the support of the people, and they are doing that at the behest of their financial masters. The one thing they want to avoid is an election on the issue.
The late Mr. Chifley said that he knew where the Liberal party and the Australian Country party got their money. He said that it came from the private financial institutions; and his charges were never answered. Of course, the banks are waiting for their pay-off, and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), is waiting for his job. If these bills are passed in the lifetime of this Parliament, the Treasurer will retire to the managing directorship of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, on a salary of £5,000 a year for seven years. But if the legislation is not passed, but happens to get through after a double dissolution or an ordinary election, the. Treasurer will have to rely upon the tender mercies, of his Liberal party colleagues, and he is afraid they will double-cross him. He is not prepared to take any chances at all. He fears another stab in the back.
The Minister says that eight hours will give an opportunity for the expression of representative views. What representative views? There will be a statement by the Minister and probably there will be a statement by the Leader of the Opposition. Then, the rest of the time will be occupied in dividing the House as the Labour Opposition exercises its right to resist the passage, at every stage, of this iniquitous legislation.
We do not care when the Government has an election on the issue. This will do - this and unemployment and the shortage of houses and a lot of other things. We should be very pleased to see the Government take its banking bills to the people. We have got them cold on this issue. They are pandering to the banking institutions and even the banks are beginning to have second thoughts as to the wisdom of further tinkering and monkeying around with the 1945 legislation. The people gave their votes for that legislation in 1946 and they have never given a vote since for the repeal or the mutilation of that magnificent and monumental legislation which stands to the credit of the Australian Labour party as every other decent piece of beneficial, progressive legislation ever passed by this Parliament stands to the credit of some Labour party.
[11.461. - I should like to congratulate my friend the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) upon having got back into form. I missed his fine talents - the synthetic passion that he has. For some time I thought that he was a little sad, even a little subdued, a little ill at ease. Now I am delighted to find that he is right back into it, tearing a passion to tatters and sitting down, breathing like a baby. The short answer to all this alleged excitement and to the statement about the matter being higgledy-piggledy and without precedent is that it is not without precedent. This place has, more than once, dealt with bills in a group when it has been convenient to deal with them in a group.
But the real answer to all this passion is this: The Labour party is, I understand, one party with one caucus, governed by one set of decisions and bound by those decisions in each of the two Houses. That, I understand, is the Labour constitutional position. In this House, the Labour party was given an opportunity to debate this legislation. The debate went on for a substantial period of time. The bills were carried by this House, the democratic process having been observed. The bills then went to the other House. The Labour party which here demands the right to debate, in the other House denied it. It would not permit the bills to be debated at any stage in the Senate.
The Opposition may think of all the plausible explanations in the world for that but I am pointing out - and it will take a lot of getting away from - that whereas the Labour party here wants to debate these bills, not once but twice, although they have been exhaustively debated and voted upon; whereas the Labour party here -says that it is undemocratic to prevent us, in this place, from going through the whole business again and debating it a second time, in the Senate the Labour party’s view is that if they have the numbers not one word of debate shall be offered.
In view of the explanation of the legislation by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), who is in charge of the bills, what humbug it is for the Opposition to plead tearfully in this House for a second debate, to complain bitterly about denying members an opportunity for debate, and to say that that is undemocratic; whilst in another place saying, “ Debate it twice? No, not once! “ Democratic rights of debating a measure!
They do not operate in that branch of the Labour caucus which exists in the upper House. (Several honorable members rising in their places) -
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion (vide page 277) be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) proposed -
That leave be given to bring in the following bills:-
A bill for an act relating to the Reserve Bank of Australia, and for other purposes;
A bill for an act to establish a. Commonwealth Banking Corporation and to make provision for the conduct of the business of the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia;
A bill for an act to regulate banking, to make provision for the protection of the currency and of the public credit of the Commonwealth, and for other purposes;
A bill for an act to enact certain transitional provisions consequential upon the enactment of the Reserve Bank Act 1957; the Commonwealth Banks Act 1957 and the Banking Act 1957;
A bill for an act to amend the Audit Act 1901-1955, as amended by the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Act 1957;
A bill for an act to amend the Commonwealth Employees’ Furlough Act 1943- 1953;
A bill for an act to amend the Crimes Act 1914-1955;
A bill for an act to amend the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1954-1956, as amended by the Gold-Mining Industry Assistance Act 1957;
A bill for an act to amend the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1936-1956, as amended by the Salaries (Statutory Offices) Adjustment Act 1957 and by the Income Tax and Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1957, and for purposes connected therewith;
A bill for an act to amend the National Debt Sinking Fund Act 1923-1950;
A bill for an act to amend the Northern Territory (Lessees’ Loans Guarantee) Act 1954;
A bill for an act to amend the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act 1928-1953;
A bill for an act to amend the Reestablishment and Employment Act 1945-1956, and
A bill for an act to amend the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935- 1956, as amended by the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1957.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the motion be agreed to.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . . . 18
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) put -
That the bills be now read a first time.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move -
That the bills be now read a second time.
Honorable members will recall that during the last parliamentary session the House passed four major and ten minor bills relating to a proposed re-organization of the banking structure. The bills were, however, rejected by the Senate without consideration of their contents. Notwithstanding the intensive consideration that had been given the bills by the House of Representatives, and the widespread public support for the Government’s proposals - which included, for instance, the proposed establishment of a Commonwealth Development Bank - the bills were rejected out of hand by the Senate on the motion for their first reading, and consequently the merits of the proposals were not debated at all in that chamber.
The Government attaches great importance to its banking proposals, which were evolved after months of careful thought and the implementation of which it considers essential to the harmonious and fully efficient operation of the Australian banking, system. It has therefore decided to resubmit its banking proposals to the current session of the Parliament, and the fourteen bills now before the House are being reintroduced in accordance with that decision.
Each of the fourteen bills contains precisely the same provisions as those contained that were passed by the House during, the last session, after lengthy debate. This being so, I do not think it is necessary for me to explain the proposals again in any detail. So as to refresh the minds of members on the subject, however, I shall very briefly recapitulate the main features of the proposed legislation.
There are two key proposals involved. The first is to separate from the present Commonwealth group of banking institutions the central banking element, including the Rural Credits Department, and set it up as the Reserve Bank of Australia; and then to re-constitute the other elements, each with its own functions and responsibilities, under a new organization to be known as the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. The second is to replace the present system of Special Account deposits, which, under the provisions of the Banking Act 1945-1953, the trading banks are required to maintain with the central banking department of the Commonwealth Bank, by a system of reserve deposits.
The first of the fourteen bills - the Reserve Bank Bill - relates to the separation of the central banking element and provides for the establishment of the central bank as the Reserve Bank of Australia.
The separate re-organization of the noncentral banking elements of the Commonwealth group of banking institutions is provided for in the Commonwealth Banks Bill.
It is proposed in that bill to set up the Commonwealth Banking Corporation as the controlling body for the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Development Bank, the last of which is to take over the present Mortgage Bank and Industrial Finance Departments of the Commonwealth Bank.
The third of the four main bills - the Banking Bill - is proposed to replace the Banking Act 1945-1953, which is the act regulating generally the conduct of banking business in Australia and embodying the general powers of the central bank in relation to the banking system. The principal proposal embodied in that bill is to substitute a system of reserve deposits for the present Special Accounts provisions.
The last of the four main bills - the Banking (Transitional Provisions) Bill - contains provisions relating to the change-over from the present banking structure to the proposed new structure.
The ten minor bills contain proposals for amending those acts of Parliament which, although not themselves dealing with banking as such, will require amendment as a consequence of the Government’s banking proposals.
Honorable members will appreciate that I have given only a very bare outline of the proposals embodied in the bills. For a fuller explanation of the provisions of the bills, I invite attention to the second-reading speeches that I delivered on the occasion of the introduction of the bills during the last parliamentary session (which are reported in Hansard, at pages 1765 to 1782 and 1937 to 1942).
I commend the fourteen bills to the House.
– I wish to point out, in the presence of the Treasurer, that the motion regarding procedure referred to fourteen bills. Were these bills, Mr. Speaker, in any way officially before you or the House before the motion was submitted? This is only a formal point. The motion concerning procedure, which the Leader of the House submitted and which was carried, referred to certain bills lacking identification at that stage. Since then, of course, we have had these bills, but was there any definite identification of the bills for pur poses of reference before the right honorable gentleman submitted his motion?
– They were presented in the usual way.
– The normal practice in relation to the first-reading stage was followed.
– What was done was the same as with every other bill.
– The resolution concerned fourteen bills with certain names, which must be regarded as specific bills, and at that time, as far as I know, the bills were not in the presence or custody of the House. I merely want to check that point.
– The matter was placed on the notice-paper, and notice was given by the Minister.
– The usual procedure was followed.
– Do the bills have to be in the custody of the House before then?
– It was the usual preliminary procedure.
– It was a very unusual preliminary procedure.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
.- I move-
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the appointment of the Committee of Ways and Means and the taking of all necessary steps for the introduction and motions for the first and second readings of the following bills: - Life Insurance, Stevedoring Industry Charge, Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment, and Diplomatic Immunities.
I hope that this motion will not evoke the same response from honorable gentlemen opposite as did that which preceded it, because I can inform them that the motion meets their convenience as much as that of anybody in the House. Indeed, it meets a particular point of convenience which has been brought to my notice on other occasions by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) - namely, the desire of members of the Opposition to have before them the terms of legislation which they will be expected to discuss, before they have their normal party meetings on Wednesday mornings. At the present time, when the Address-in-Reply debate is before the House, there is a standing order which would prevent our giving consideration, even through the formal stages, to forthcoming legislation unless some such motion as this were adopted by the House.
– What is the programme?
– It is proposed that two of the bills - the Stevedoring Industry Charge Bill and the Stevedoring Industry Charge Assessment Bill - will be taken to the first-reading stage this morning, and I shall move that the secondreading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Yes, and the intention is to deliver the second-reading speeches on these bills on Tuesday night, and I will invite the House to resume the debate on them - they are not large measures, and they can be quite readily understood - on Thursday of next week. I expect that the second-reading speech on the Life Insurance Bill will be delivered on Tuesday night. The Diplomatic Immunities Bill is quite a small measure, and I am trying to arrange for the secondreading speech on it to be delivered on Thursday of next week. It can either be debated that day or, if preferred by honorable gentlemen opposite, the debate can be adjourned to a time which meets their convenience.
– The programme set allows sufficient time for consideration of the measures. I take it that the Leader of the House (Mr. Harold Holt) will not necessarily fix the time at which the debates must be terminated. I do not say that they will be long. The programme is reasonable, and the Minister need not concern himself about any attempt to delay the acceptance by the House of a motion of this character. It is a simple motion which is rendered necessary, I understand, by the state of the business paper, which still includes my amendment for the Address-in-Reply. It is quite different from the first effort, in which the Minister established a world’s record.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Sir Arthur Fadden) agreed! to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for anact to amend the Life Insurance Act 1945-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to make four amendments to the Life Insurance Act. The principal amendment results from recent legal advice that the business carried on by funeral funds comes within the definition of life insurance business contained in the act. The Life Insurance Act, as passed by Parliament in 1945, was not intended to cover funeral funds. It was then, and still is, considered that the control of these funds is a matter for the States, which already supervise similar organizations such as friendly societies, co-operative societies, &c. In addition, many of the provisions of the Life Insurance Act cannot be applied to funeral funds without some difficulty.
To clarify the position, the bill now before the House adds funeral benefit business to the classes of business specifically excluded from the definition of life insurance business in the act. There is a proviso to this exclusion in clause 4 (c) of the bill, which provides that any funeral benefit business carried on by a life insurance company registered under the act, is deemed to be life insurance business and, therefore, remains subject to the same supervision as the balance of the company’s business.
In response to representations by honorable members, section 94 of the act, which permits a person to effect a life insurance policy on his own life for the benefit of his wife and children, is being extended to include adopted children, step-children or ex-nuptial children. This amendment follows similar amendments adopted during the last session of Parliament in connexion with income tax, gift duty and estate duty. The opportunity is being taken to make two minor drafting amendments. I commend the bill to honorable members.
Debate (on motion by Dr. Evatt) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee to consider the Ways and Means for raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty.
In Committee of Ways and Means: - (Quorum formed.)
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That, in lieu of the rate imposed by the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act 1947-1957-
the rate of the charge in respect of the employment of waterside workers on or after the first day of April, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight, and before the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-nine, be Three shillings for every man-hour of employment; and
the rate of the charge in respect of the employment of waterside workers on or after that last-mentioned date be Two shillings and sixpence for every manhour of employment.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Harold Holt and Dr. Donald Cameron do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Harold Holt, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Stevedoring Industry Assessment Act 1947-1953.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Sitting suspended from 12.44 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 12th March (vide page 252), on motion by Mr. Malcolm Fraser -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to: -
May it Please Your Excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Dr. Evatt had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added to the address: - “But we desire to inform Your Excellency that Your advisers have failed to realize the urgent necessity of putting into effect positive policies and measures aimed at -
the prevention of unemployment and the securing of full employment;
the building of sufficient homes;
an immediate and substantial reduction in the migrant intake until the serious deficiencies present in the existing programme are removed;
the provision by the Commonwealth to State Governments and local governing authorities of funds necessary for the building of public works and housing, roads, schools, hospitals and services essential to public health; and
effective defence administration and organization.”.
– I should like to make a few comments on that part of the Governor-General’s Speech which refers to immigration. On Tuesday night, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) referred to the conflict of opinion which exists in the Australian Labour party about their concept of the immigration policy. He pointed out that, whilst the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) calls for an immediate reduction of the immigrant intake, other members of the party are asking for a substantial increase.
– That is not correct.
– If I may answer that interjection, Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) said this -
The A.L.P. says Australia can and must maintain a migration programme far larger and better than that of the Menzies Government.
– And that is not asking for an increase, as was explained in the House yesterday.
– I have not finished the quotation yet. The honorable member continued -
We [A.L.P.] say it is a disgrace that the overall figures have been so low. We say that it is a disgrace that Southern Europeans have been discriminated against . . .
It is quite clear that the honorable member suggested then that the immigrant intake should be increased.
– Yes, but-
– Order! The honorable member for Yarra will remain silent.
– In any event, the Prime Minsiter dealt with that aspect. All I want to do in the time I have available is to refer to the three main points of criticism that have been directed against the Government in the remarks of the Opposition in regard to immigration. The first point of criticism was that the intake of British migrants should be substantially increased. The Leader of the Opposition gave a figure of 60 per cent. The second point of criticism was that the immigration programme should be stopped until such time as the housing position has been resolved. The third point of criticism was that the migrant intake should be cut until such time as there is no unemployment in the country.
I shall take those three points one at a time. The first is that the intake of British immigrants should be increased and that it should represent a figure of 60 per cent, of our total intake. I think it is desirable that I should briefly outline the policy in regard to migrants from the United Kingdom. Within our overall intake of 1 per cent, of the population, which, in practice, is about 115,000 people, we get as many British migrants as is possible. They are given the highest priorities. I could list a dozen priorities that British immigrants receive in this country. The most important ones are, first, that we pay a great deal more for British immigrants than we pay in cash for any other type of migrant. Over the years - and this includes the years when a Labour government was in office - Australia has paid £28,500,000 to bring British migrants here, compared with £9,500,000 to bring nationals from 38 other countries. So, approximately three times as much is paid to bring British immigrants here as is paid to bring migrants from other countries. The second priority is this: The nationals of other countries who come here as migrants are required, if we so desire, to work in jobs that we nominate. Those jobs may be in the Northern Territory or the Snowy Mountains, and they must be accepted. The immigrants must be prepared to live apart from their wives and children. No such requirement is demanded of the British migrant. When we bring him here, he is housed with his family complete, perhaps in a hostel, and he has a free choice of occupation. The third priority is in the matter of social services, which my colleague, the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) announced recently. When the British migrant arrives here, he has a most comprehensive system of social services available to him. Other priorities are given to the British migrant, but those that I have listed are possibly the most important.
The point that has been most emphasized by speakers on the Opposition side is that the percentage of British migrants should be higher. As I said, the Leader of the Opposition suggested that the figure should be pegged at 60 per cent. A most fundamental point arises here, and it must be stressed because it seems to have beenoverlooked not only by members of the Opposition but also by many people throughout Australia. The Government, through the Department of Immigration, reserves in every available ship every available berth for British migrants. I should like to repeat that: We reserve every available berth in every available ship to bring British migrants to this country. If that point is understood - and it is quite fundamental - it is abundantly clear that it is physically impossible to bring more British migrants than the ships will carry.
– Why do you not fly out the British as you do the Spaniards?
– If the honorablemember does not know more about the immigration policy of this country than to compare what we do with people whocome here under a United Nations organization with what we do by agreement with the United Kingdom Government, then it is just a waste of time to try toexplain it to him.
I want to stress that we bring to this country every British migrant for whom we can get accommodation in a ship. But obviously there is a limit to the number that it is physically possible to get here. If we are to insist on a proportion of 60’ per cent., then, remembering that we have an overall limitation of 115,000, there is only one logical end to that proposition, and that is, clearly, that we must cut down the intake of nationals from other countries. If we are getting every British migrant that we can get on a ship, if there is at present an annual intake of 115,000, and if the number of British migrants who come here is to be 60 per cent., then we must cut down the intake of migrants from; other countries. The Government will not accept that proposition. We say that, within the 115,000 people that we bring - here, we will bring as many British people as we can get and then will make up the balance with the good people who meet our high standards of character, health and so on from the other countries of Europe. Perhaps at this stage I should pay a tribute to the work that is being done by these good people who have come here from the other countries of Europe. They are making a magnificent contribution to the progress and development of Australia.
The second point that has been taken by the Opposition is that our migrant intake should be stopped until such time as the housing position is resolved. ‘ This is a most interesting point. I assure the House that I am not using my next references party politically, but merely to give an illustration. In the last four years the Labour government was in office, the average number of dwelling units - houses and flats - completed in Australia was 36,200. We all recall that, in those immediate post-war years, there was enormous pressure throughout the country for more houses. I cannot imagine that the government of those days would not have been acutely conscious of this pressure. Therefore, the Labour government would be doing everything in its power to construct as many homes as possible in those immediate post-war years. However, the average was 36,000 and the best year was the last year of office of that government when 52,684 dwelling units were constructed. That was in 1949, and the interesting point - and this may be party political - is that in that year the Labour government brought into this country no fewer than 176,000 migrants!
– They were from International Refugee Organization camps.
– That does not matter.
– Of course, it matters. It is most important.
– I will come back to that later. The best year was 1949, when 52,000 homes were built, a year when the Labour Government brought in 167,000 immigrants. In that year the Prime Minister, the late J. B. Chifley, said that if America had not done something similar to what Australia was doing, the Allies would have lost the last war. In his policy speech in 1949 Mr. Chifley said that the great immigration drive would be continued.
So in 1949 we find that 52,000 homes were provided, and 167,000 immigrants were brought to this country. The Prime Minister of the day promised - and it would be a promise made with full consciousness of everything that was implied - that the immigration programme would continue.
– Subject to housing and employment.
– That is not what Mr. Chifley said. In November, 1949, he said -
The great immigration drive, launched by the present Labour Government in 1945 and carried out with remarkable success, will be continued vigorously until Australia has the population she needs to achieve the development of all her resources and guarantee her security.
In May, 1949, Mr. Chifley said -
If the United States had not done something like we are doing now, but not so methodically, decades ago, we would not have won the recent war. They got -where they are only because they took risks. We have always felt there is room for more people here - from 20,000,000 to 25,000,000 people.
In 1949, 52,000 homes were built and 167,000 immigrants were brought to Australia, with a promise that the immigration programme would be continued. The average number of homes completed during each of the last four years has been 76,000, but the intake of immigrants has been an average of 115,000. In other words, speaking in round figures, 50 per cent, more homes have been completed, whereas the intake of immigrants has been reduced by 32 per cent.; yet the Labour party says that we should still further reduce the intake of immigrants.
In Australia to-day 117,000 persons are engaged in the building industry, and of that number 46,000 odd are immigrants. Approximately one-third of the building force to-day is made up of immigrant workers, but of those 46,000 immigrant builders, only 9,000 entered Australia during the regime of the Labour Government. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) reminded the House by interjection that those who came from Europe at that time were displaced persons and refugees. I do not dispute that, but the fact is that when 9,000 immigrant builders were brought to this country under a Labour government an average of only 36,000 homes a year were being completed. This Government has brought in an additional 37,000 immigrant builders, and the number of dwellings completed each year has risen to an average of 76,000.
The argument can be carried a little further. Since 1946, there have been 747,000 dwellings completed in Australia, sufficient to house 3,000,000 people. The immigration intake, plus the natural increase of population, has been only 2,250,000. So not only have we, on those figures, housed the immigrants and the natural increase of population, but we have done something substantial towards overcoming the general housing shortage.
On this question of housing as it applies to immigration, let me compare the position in New South Wales with that in Western Australia. All honorable members will agree that the State with the greatest housing shortage is New South Wales. But as far back as August, 1956, the Minister for Housing in Western Australia said that the housing shortage in that State was over. “Western Australia has no housing shortage, and New South Wales has the most acute housing shortage in the Commonwealth. When we look at the figures we find that New South Wales has the smallest proportionate increase in population and the smallest proportionate intake of immigrants, yet that State has an acute housing shortage. But in Western Australia, where there has been the greatest proportionate increase of population, and which has the largest proportionate intake of immigrants, there is no housing shortage at all.
My submission is that not only do immigrants provide their own homes, but that they provide far more homes than they themselves occupy. Far from placing a strain on housing accommodation in Australia, immigrants are the chief factor in alleviating the shortage.
I come now to the third point that has been made by the Opposition in this debate, namely, the effect of the immigrationprogramme on unemployment. All honorable members are aware that unemployment exists, and they are deeply worried about it, I should hope, but there are various factors to be considered. There is the unemployment factor, but there is also the factor of vacancies for employment. A third factor is the total number of people who are engaged at work in any country at any given time. I have the latest figures - up to the end of December last year - of vacancies in Australia, as supplied by the Department of Labour and National Service. At that time, there were 24,447 job vacancies in Australia that could not be filled by people living in this country. An analysis of the vacancies is as follows: -
A breakdown of the figures shows the following vacancies: -
People to fill these vacancies are not available in this country. The Department of Labour and National Service cannot fill these vacancies. I think it is a well-known fact that in many skilled trades a craftsman creates work for other semi-skilled or unskilled workers. Australia can obtain these skilled workers from overseas and they will not only fill the vacancies that exist, but in many cases they will create employment for people now out of work in this country. Yet the Opposition would stop the immigration programme. That is a defeatist attitude, an archaic attitude. If we allow those 24,000 jobs to remain unfilled the industries of the country will stagnate. I submit that that is a most negative approach. Let us be a bit more precise in the analysis of this matter of job vacancies. There seems to be a curious idea in the minds of some people that the Department of Immigration just picks up a group of people in some other country, brings them here to Australia and then starts looking around for work for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Department of Labour and National Service, working in the closest co-operation with the Department of Immigration, reports that there are certain vacancies which cannot be filled from local resources. Then the Department of Immigration, from the applications it receives from overseas, recruits those workers and they are brought here to the jobs which are open for them.
In some cases this is not an easy thing to do at all; it takes a great deal of judgment. Sometimes it means bringing in skilled workers to absorb unskilled workers, and sometimes unskilled workers to help skilled workers; and if skilled and semi-skilled workers are not required, the programme is so flexible that the emphasis can be placed on bringing in dependants, and consumers and customers who will help to provide work in Australia.
To give a precise illustration, I shall outline what happened recently at the immigration centre at Bonegilla. That is the centre to which all immigrants go before they are placed in employment. We did not do much with these people over the Christmas and New Year period. That was not an appropriate time to place them. During the week ended 9th January, there were 500 or 600 people in Bonegilla. Between 9th January and the end of February 1,450 people came into that receiving centre from overseas. In the same period, against the 1,450 who came in, 2,100 left and went to jobs; and at the end of February only 66 people were left at that centre.
That is a short-term illustration. Now, let us look at a long-term example. Let us take the immigration programme over the last ten years. During that period both Labour and Liberal-Country party governments have been in office. In 1946 - I am ignoring for the time being the defence services, female domestics and rural workers - 2,100,000 people were in employment in this country. At the end of last year, ten or eleven years after the immigration programme started, the number in employment in Australia had risen from 2,100,000 to 2,800,000, an increase of 700,000. As honorable members know, the immigrant intake was roughly 1,000,000, and of that number approximately one-half are working. Thus, although about three-quarters of a million more people have gone to work only half a million people have come here from overseas to take jobs, leaving a sur plus of a quarter of a million jobs. That has happened over the last ten or eleven years.
– How many of the immigrants are unemployed?
– The Leader of the Opposition can get that figure from the Department of Labour and National Service.
– They will not give it to me.
– The Leader of the Opposition should ask the department for it politely and nicely. I summarize my remarks by simply restating the Government’s immigration policy. We have been advised by men of the greatest capacity we can find in Australia that the country can safely and easily absorb an immigrant intake up to 1 per cent, of our population; and we have agreed to that principle. Within that 1 per cent, we include as many British people as we can get - as many as we can bring here in the ships that are available. Then we take, as the balance of the 1 per cent, immigrant intake the very good people of the other countries of Europe who meet our requirements of character, health and capacity and who can be readily assimilated. These people are making, and will continue to make, a magnificent contribution to the welfare of this country.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister stated that I said the immigration programme should be bigger and that “the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) said that it should be smaller. The misrepresentation is that the Minister said that there is an inconsistency or contradiction between those two statements’. I wish to inform the House of what I did say so that this practice of misrepresentation by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Immigration can be brought to an end.
What I said was that the immigration programme must now be cut because the present Government has failed to apply an economic policy to make available full employment, adequate housing and services. Secondly, I said that immigration can and1 will rise to the Labour objective of 1 per cent, of the population per year - which is far higher than the rate of immigration under the Menzies Government - but only if full employment and adequate housing and services are provided.
– Both for immigrants and Australians.
– That is so. Further, I said that as a result of the Government’s’ failure, it is now discriminating not only against British immigrants, but also against southern European immigrants who are now restricted to dependent relatives, those engaged to sponsors in Australia, and females between 18 and 35 years of age. That statement was quite clear. There is no inconsistency whatever between what I said and what the Leader of the Opposition said. I want to make that clear so that the practice of misrepresentation by the Minister for Immigration and the Prime Minister may now be brought to an end.
– I am pleased to follow the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) on this subject. I wish to refer, first, to one of his concluding statements. He said that a certain number of immigrants had been brought to Australia and that at a particular time there were about 1,600 in camp at Bonegilla.
– In the period I mentioned, 1,400 came into that centre.
– The Minister went on to say that there was only a very small number in that camp at the end of February I recall reading at that time in the South Australian newspapers reports of a great influx of people into Mildura looking for employment. It was said that the police there were having a very difficult job in dealing with them. The same thing occurred at Renmark; and the police warned Australians not to go to that town. People were arriving there in hundreds looking for employment in the fruit-picking season which was about to commence. I read also press reports about special trains from Melbourne taking people to Mildura for the fruit-picking season.
The Minister stated the difference between the treatment given to British and European immigrants. He said that the British immigrant went into a hostel and could please himself what job he took, whereas the European immigrant had to go wherever he was sent. It seems to me, from what the Minister has said, that the Government Employment Office can direct non-British immigrants to jobs, whereas British immigrants are looking for jobs.
The Minister referred to the difference in opinion between the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), who stated that we wanted fewer immigrants, and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns), who said that we wanted more immigrants. I was pleased that the Minister did not proceed very far along that line. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made this suggested difference of opinion one of his main points when he was dealing with immigration policy. He put that over to belittle the Leader of the Opposition, and suggested that the policy of the honorable member for Yarra was opposite to that of his leader. I want to say here that if the Prime Minister or the Minister for Immigration wants to throw any blame at all on the Labour party, he should not throw it on the Leader of the Opposition.
I wish to state some facts on this matter. I shall not rely on newspaper reports but shall state Labour’s policy on immigration. When I cite some of these facts honorable members will realize that even this Government has had to adopt some of the recommendations that the Australian Labour party put forward at its conference in Brisbane twelve months ago. This is the declaration of the Commonwealth Labour Conference on Immigration in Brisbane in March, 1957:-
Conference declares that the Menzies Government has so gravely prejudiced the immigration programme that an immediate and substantial reduction in the immigration intake is regrettably necessary for the orderly development of the Australian economy.
The statement of the honorable member for Yarra was in accordance with that declaration. The statement of the Leader of the Opposition was in accordance with it. He has spoken very strongly and at great length both in this House and elsewhere on the continued flow of immigration. The Government has told us that the tap cannot be turned on and off as we desire and that we have to accept the people who are coming to this country. But let us see the actual position. I cannot read the whole of the policy that was laid down by the Labour conference because I have not time but here is another of the decisions of the conference -
Labour believes that such a reduction should be based upon -
A preference to tradesmen with a high degree of skill for whose services there is a demand in this country which cannot be met from available local labour sources.
A few minutes ago the Minister for Immigration read to us a list of the number of vacancies available for skilled men such as boilermakers, engineers and electricians. He said that those people were wanted in Australia. That is what we said at the Labour conference. We said that a reduction in immigration should not exclude those people from the country. The next sub-paragraph of the declaration of the conference to which I have referred read -
The Minister stated that immigrants were needed to fill jobs in rural industry. All honorable members, particularly members of the Australian Country party, know that men are wandering the country looking for jobs. Statements have been made by Labour members that we should do something to provide work for men in agricultural districts. Throughout New South Wales, in particular, hundreds of men who would work on farms if they could get jobs have found that there are no jobs for them. That is why the Labour conference declared that immigrants should be brought to Australia to work in primary production only if such jobs could not be filled from local sources.
The next sub-paragraph of the conference declaration read -
Government supporters took the honorable member for Yarra to task when he stated that Labour policy had been adopted by the Government. Did the Government have that policy twelve months ago with regard to southern Europeans?
– Yes. We had it long before then.
– I thought that the Government adopted that policy about twelve months ago. But even if the Government adopted it before then, it is still in agreement with the principles laid down by the Brisbane conference.
The other week an Italian who had brought three of his children to Australia came to me. His wife and son were still in Italy. His son had lost an eye through an accident when he was a child and the Government would not admit him to this country. I shall not argue about that point at the moment. But the immigration people told me that even if the son now had an operation for the eye to be removed, as had been suggested earlier, he would not be eligible to come to Australia under the immigration scheme because he was now over 21 and not a dependant of his father. Consequently, I can quite understand what the honorable member for Yarra means when he says that this policy can operate harshly in some cases. Referring to the nationality of immigrants who should be admitted to Australia, the Labour conference in Brisbane recommended -
That was decided twelve months ago. Yet, because the Leader of the Opposition mentioned it a couple of weeks ago at the immigration convention, it was suggested that he had just thought of it. As I said earlier, the policy to which the Leader of the Opposition has given voice was brought in last year at the Labour conference. A further sub-paragraph in the conference’s declaration read -
Then there is another one about foreign languages. I attended the Australian Citizenship Convention. In one of the study groups of which I was a member was a young priest who said to me afterwards, “ Can’t you do something to have these people taught English before they get here? “. He told me about a young fellow in Melbourne, a Greek, who could not get a job because he could not speak English. He said, “ Do you know that this is causing these people to get into such a condition of mind that many of them may soon be in mental institutions? “ I would say, by his appearance, that the priest who spoke to me was a southern European. I do not know to what denomination he belonged. He said that many immigrants had been going around, week after week, looking for jobs, but because they could not speak English they had no hope of getting work. If the Government wants to bring immigrants to Australia it should follow Labour’s policy.
Reference has been made to what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said when he was Minister for Immigration. Let us hear what he said in August, 1945 -
On the other side of the picture, the department will approach its problem from the basis that it is economically unsound to bring migrants to the country until there is continuous employment for them, and second, proper housing and other social amenities to help them to fit themselves quickly into the Australian way of life.
Is that not what the Opposition is asking the Government to do now? Is that not what the Leader of the Opposition said should be done at the present time? It is not something new. It is not something to capture votes, but something that was in Labour’s original immigration policy. Speaking about” the number of immigrants to come to Australia, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, then Minister for Immigration, said -
The Department of Immigration, accordingly, is facing its problem from a realistic basis rather than a sentimental one, and is taking all the relevant factors into consideration. We make two things clear, first to the British people, and then to other peoples who might make good Australian citizens. The one is that Australia wants, and will welcome, new healthy citizens who are determined to become good Australians by adoption.
We still stand by that statement, which was made thirteen years ago.
The second is that we will not mislead any intending immigrant by encouraging him to come to this country under any assisted or unassisted scheme until there is a reasonable assurance of his economic future.
Any immigration plan can succeed only if it has the support and the goodwill of the Australian people. These assurances, therefore, are extended equally to immigrants and to our own Australian people.
When I hear honorable members opposite alleging that we do not want immigrants, and saying what our policy is, I feel impelled to remind them that I have had a lot to do with immigrants, both British and European. I have had much association with displaced persons, as they were called in the beginning, and, since that time, with people who have paid their own fares to come to Australia. I have found, among those people, both British and European, some of the finest men and women that one could wish to meet. In any section of the community, of course, one will find certain persons who are not acceptable. Even in this Parliament there are some persons who are not acceptable to honorable members1 opposite. This situation will be found in all walks of life. However, it cannot be said that the Labour party objects to immigration.
The Minister spoke of the housing problem and about the record of the Labour government in that field. In 1943, the late Mr. Chifley asked me to act as a member of the Commonwealth Housing Commission, to investigate the housing situation and recommend to the Government measures to be taken to solve the housing problem. The commission made its investigation and submitted a report, and I may say that the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement was based on that report. The commission was not a parliamentary body. As a matter of fact, I was the only parliamentarian included amongst its> members.
– When was this?
– It was appointed in 1943, and we submitted our report in, I think, August, 1944. We made an investigation of the housing that was required, taking evidence from the various authorities interested in the matter. The report contained a recommendation that in the year in which the war ended there should be 50,000 houses either built or in course of construction, and that the number should be increased until, three years later, it should reach 80,000 a year. I had quite a lot to do with the compilation of the recommendations in that report.
Honorable members opposite have suggested that in 1949 only 36,000 houses were built. They know as well as I do that in 1949 if a person wanted to build a house for himself, as a private individual, he would have had the dickens of a job to find the necessary labour and materials. Honorable members opposite are well aware that in those times all governments, whether Labour or Liberal, required that permits had to be obtained before building materials could be purchased. One could build a house of only a certain size, because of the shortage of materials. However, on the Minister’s own figures, in 1949 we built 52,000 houses, and if we could increase the rate of construction from just a nominal number in 1945 to 52,000 in 1949, surely this Government could have done much better than it has in the period since then.
– The very next year after 1949 showed a big increase.
– But it was not because of the efforts of this Government. It was because of the tradesmen who were brought here as immigrants and were put to work in the building industry. The Labour government had the housing programme working smoothly, and this Government reaped the benefit of it. It has not, however, made much progress on its own account. (Government supporters interjecting) -
– Order! Interjections must cease.
– I would like to hear some of these interjections, and to have time to deal with them fully, because, perhaps fortunately for the people I represent, I happen to have a pretty intimate knowledge of housing, immigration and the unemployment situation. In answer to those who say that there is no need to worry about unemployment at the present time, I can only repeat what other honorable members on his side of the House have said. Look at your daily newspapers - not the Labour dailies, but the “ Sydney Morning Herald “, the Melbourne “ Age “ and newspapers of a similar character. Read the leading articles and the subleaders. In every case it will be found that the Government is criticized for not doing enough.
This afternoon I want to tell the House what I think should be done about housing. I will put forward a revolutionary scheme, and I hope that when the Labour party comes to power it will give effect to my plan. When the Commonwealth Housing Commission was making its investigations, it took evidence from the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, who at that time was Alderman Chandler. He suggested that the Labour government of that day should make available a sum of money as the foundation of a revolving fund to be used for housing purposes. I suggest to the Government that if it wants to do something worthwhile about housing and unemployment it should say to the States, “ We will give you, not £5,000,000, but £50,000,000”. Honorable members opposite will probably say, “What is the man talking about, to suggest that we make a grant of £50,000,000? “ If I had my way, I would take £50,000,000 out of revenue next year, divide it between the States on an equitable basis, and tell them to do with it what Government supporters have boasted is being done by Sir Thomas Playford in South Australia with the £380,000 that that State will receive from the recent special grant by the Commonwealth. That gentleman has said that he will use the whole amount to build homes for persons in poor circumstances, widows and others, who will pay rents based on one-sixth of their weekly income, with a minimum of £1 a week. He is prepared to lose money on the transaction.
– Is the honorable member suggesting £50,000,000 in addition to what the States are getting now?
– I am suggesting that the £50,000,000 should be over and above any assistance that the States are getting at present. I want to catch up with the lag of 100,000 houses. In addition to that, I want to make possible the removal of the shanties that people are living in in my own electorate and in other places. I have seen the conditions under which many people are living. In many cases they are in huts not fit for human habitation. When I was in Darwin last year I saw some of the hovels in which people are forced to live. I suggest that we can achieve these objectives by establishing a revolving fund with a grant of £50,000,000. As Sir Thomas Playford intends to do, we could build more homes with the income from those that are built first.
Perhaps my suggestion is a revolutionary one, but I believe that if it is accepted the needs of the people will be met. At the present time, if a worker tries to build a house we all know how he will get on. Even if he is earning £15 or £16 a week, and if he has a couple of children and receives another 15s. a week in endowment, he cannot possibly find sufficient money in addition to what he can raise by way of loan from a bank or housing authority. I have not time to go into the details of my plan, but they can be worked out, and I am convinced that the scheme is worthwhile.
The Labour party welcomes immigrants to Australia. We want to see our country populated. We realize that the more people we have the greater the demand for goods and the more employment there will be available. But we do not want to bring immigrants here unless there are houses for them to live in, and, at the same time, there are houses for our own people. We do not want to bring them here unless there are jobs for everybody. If the Government pursues its immigration policy with these requirements well in mind, it will suffer no criticism from us. I am not biased against southern Europeans or northern Europeans.
– The honorable member’s colleagues are.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken. There is no bias against those immigrants. But we contend that a British immigrant is more loyal to the British Commonwealth, and I suggest that we should do our utmost to attract British immigrants. The Minister says that he is doing all he possibly can in this regard, but if anything further can be done to attract British people it should be done.
I do not like having to talk in the way that I have talked to-day, but I feel that, either intentionally or unintentionally, Labour’s attitude to immigration has been misrepresented to the people. Only a few weeks ago, after I had addressed a gathering of immigrants at a naturalization ceremony, one of them shook my hand and indicated his desire to talk to me about the things that I had said to the gathering. He eagerly assured me that he would vote for me when he was entitled to vote. That was his feeling, and it is typical of that of immigrants who are told the things that I told the immigrants at the gathering to which I refer. Whether we are Liberal or Labour in our sympathies, we shall receive support from immigrants if we show them that we want to do something for them. Whether or not they understand the distinction between Liberal and Labour policies does not matter. I tell immigrants what the Australian Labour party believes in, because ‘I feel sure that their assimilation is made easier when they are told those things. Perhaps I should make it clear that a Liberal member, also, attended the ceremony. He made no objection to what I had said, because I did not introduce party politics. All I did was to tell the immigrants what we as Australians think should be done, and what we stand for. We all should do what we can to provide jobs for all.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– It is always a pleasure to follow in debate the honorable member for Port Adelaide (Mr. Thompson), who always speaks with a great measure of sincerity. However, I want to cross swords with him on several issues with which he has dealt in this debate. He devoted most of his remarks to housing and immigration. His final assertion that Labour welcomes immigrants, so long as employment and housing can be provided for them, is sound common sense, and we who belong to the Australian Country party agree with it. However, I should like to ask the honorable member whether he considers that immigration can be turned on and off like a tap.
What has given rise to the unemployment problem with which we are confronted to-day? It is a problem; nobody denies that. But what is the main reason for it? I venture to say that one of the main reasons, as the honorable member for Port Adelaide mentioned, is that the entire Commonwealth has recently experienced one of the worst and most widespread droughts in history. Most previous droughts have been confined largely to one or two States. On this occasion, the States that have suffered most, and have the most serious problems in unemployment and housing, are Queensland and New South Wales. The honorable member for Port Adelaide said that hundreds of people were travelling about the countryside looking for work, and he wondered why. He provided the answer himself, when he mentioned the drought. Hundreds of people are travelling about the countryside looking for work for the simple reason that country people, with their very bitter experience of previous droughts, are the first to tighten their pursestrings in time of drought.
In the past, all governments have failed people in the bush. I am not talking only of graziers and other rural producers; I am talking about the bush people generally. Those who live in country towns could have been a lost legion for all the attention that they have received from governments. I am firmly convinced of that, because I have found that Queensland problems are not given the consideration that is their due when they are ventilated in this Parliament. My colleague, the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie), who is a Western Australian representative, has had similar experience in raising in this place problems of his State. Recently, we have heard much about floods in Sydney, and about bushfires nearby. There is no doubt that those calamities are terrible things, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker. When a hamlet in the outback of Queensland or Western Australia is flooded, and homes are washed away, the disaster receives much less attention in this place. In a fairly recent flood in Queensland, tobacco crops worth £1,500,000, 40,000 sheep, and thousands of miles of fencing were washed away. I made special representations for relief in this Parliament, and to the Government, and officials made a special visit to the area to examine the damage that had been done. Yet no relief was given! Country people are deserving of more consideration than that.
The drought has aggravated the unemployment problem. One has only to study reports made by union organizers in central Queensland to see this. This year, in Queensland, there are 1,000 fewer employees in meat-processing establishments and 1,000 fewer employees in the wheat industry. I could enumerate many more illustrations of the reduction in employment caused by the drought. Another cause of the present level of unemployment is the decline of base metal prices. Prices in overseas markets are falling. Naturally, people are becoming more cautious, and they are doing their own work, whenever they can, instead of letting it out to others. Small businesses, and especially one-man establishments, are being hit hard. A ladies’ hairdresser in
Dalby, in the Maranoa electorate, employs three hands. Last week, he told me that in the four preceding weeks he did not take enough even to pay wages, and that, in a period of five weeks, his salon was fully booked for only one week, although it was the only one of its kind in the town. That is clear evidence that women in that district arc not having their hair done as regularly as they used to have it done. Why? The simple reason is that they are looking to the future. They have had bitter experience of droughts, and they know what it is to have to tighten their pursestrings and live on their capital.
When I heard that this was happening, I decided to investigate other kinds of businesses. 1 found that some of the drycleaning establishments in which, perhaps, four or five employees were engaged, were looking for custom, and were dismissing staff. Men’s barber shops also are dismissing employees. Children are not being taken to the barber for hair-cuts now. Parents are cutting their children’s hair themselves. Most garages, especially those that did considerable work in repairing agricultural implements and tractors, are putting off hands, because farmers have had plenty of time to make their own repairs on their properties, and they will not spend money to have their machinery repaired by garages when they can do the work themselves.
Could any one foresee these events? Did the Opposition foresee the drought and the recession in prices?
– We had a run of ten good seasons.
– I am not talking about the good seasons. I am talking about the drought. If the Opposition was able to foresee the drought, it had a clear duty to tell us. But it did not foresee it, and neither did we. Immediately we paw signs of unemployment, we took action. The honorable member for Leichhardt (Mr. Bruce) is well aware of the action that was taken by the present Queensland Government to combat unemployment. It kept on employees who were about to be sacked by the previous government.
It is a curious thing that most Opposition speakers in this debate have quoted from reports published in what they call the tory, capitalist press. I can understand their willingness’ to do that, because they are completely devoid of ideas and suggestions of their own. They are merely casting about to appropriate the ideas of others. There is some reason for their lack of constructive thinking on this1 matter: They are too busy trying to reconcile the differences within the Australian Labour party. Opposition members hope that they will gain some political advantage by using criticisms of the Government that have been published in the so-called tory, capitalist press, and they are content to seek this political advantage without making any effort to advance constructive and positive proposals. Their only proposal is contained in the cry, “ We will make more money available “. They do not tell us how they would raise the money, but we know their philosophy and their socialistic outlook. We know that they believe in the direction of labour and capital. That is in conformity with their policy. We know their policy and what they would do if they held the reins of government. In the so-called capitalistic press we read that more money should be made available for various purposes, but in adjoining columns the newspapers criticize the Government for retaining pay-roll tax, sales tax and other taxes. Apparently we are expected to remove taxes, yet still make more money available! How are we to get the money? There has been no constructive thinking evidenced by members of the Opposition, or by the capitalistic press which they are so anxious to use in argument for political gain.
I want to deal with another matter which I do not think has been mentioned previously in this debate, although it is of great importance to Australia to-day. I refer to our overseas trade. We know that this Government has made great strides in sending delegations overseas in order to promote trade and open new markets, particularly for primary products. That is all very well, and I am all for it, but whilst we are doing that we should do something in our own country to ensure that the products we sell overseas conform to reasonable standards and compare favorably with the products of other countries. The first essential is that we should put our own house in order. Recently, the president of the United Graziers Association of Queensland stated that if we continued to export certain canned meats of poor quality our market would be ruined. I should like to know if anything has been done with respect to the firm that is exporting this grade of meat. This criticism does not apply only to products that are exported. Each and every honorable member will know of instances of poor quality goods. I try to buy the best brands of tinned goods when I have to use them. As an old “ digger “, I do not like tinned food, on which I lived for years, but sometimes I buy it.
– Where is this meat processed?
– In Victoria, I understand. The criticism is applicable to some of our other products. There is no uniformity in the quality of many of our canned goods. Last week I bought a number of tins of canned fruits of various brands, and I found that there was a substantial difference between them. I bought peaches and apricots, and we had to throw away one tin of apricots because they were half green and nobody would eat them.
It is all very well to find a market, but once it is found we have to keep it. There is only one way to keep it and that is by sending the best that we have to the market. Otherwise, we are just wasting our time. I could continue to enumerate products which we send overseas and which do not conform to the required standard, but I am dealing with canned goods particularly. People buy by brand, and if goods of one brand do not come up to standard, the whole trade will be damaged. Markets are too hard to get and the competition is too keen for us to allow this to happen.
I do not claim to be an authority on foreign relations, but I am impressed particularly by the interest that has been taken in Australia by prominent visitors to this country in recent years. His Excellency’s Speech refers to the fact that we have had visits from the President of the Republic of Viet Nam, the Prime Minister of Japan, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and last, but of course not least, the Queen Mother, who has just left us. We have also received trade delegations from various South-East Asian countries. This indicates that Australia is, every day, becoming more important in international affairs. It indicates also - to me, anyhow, and it should do to everybody else - that we have something to contribute to world affairs and the cause of world peace. I agree that our internal publicity on this subject is not good enough. We are not taking enough action to educate our own people in the value of having friends, particularly in South-East Asia, and in the need to be more tolerant and understanding of the peoples of that region. We have become too complacent, and it is time that we snapped out of it, because we cannot isolate ourselves from world affairs. We must take a greater interest. I refer not only to the leaders of the country but to the general public. Our educational system should be revised to inform the youth of Australia of the value of good international relationships. The general public should be shown how we can assist people from other countries and how they can assist us. If we do not take this step, Australia will become a backward nation in relation to South-East Asia. I was particularly impressed by the fact that all members of overseas trade and commercial delegations, and visiting school teachers and public servants, can speak our language. Even the members of Parliament who come from some of these countries can speak our language. How many honorable members in this House can speak any language of South-East Asia?
– Or our own!
– They probably cannot speak our own either. We should bring ourselves a little more up to date in relation to what is happening in the countries to our north. It has been said that the Governor-General’s Speech was negative and did not contain anything of any value. But any one who reads that speech quietly will find that it contains quite a lot of information. It gives a review of what the Government has done in recent years and also a very definite pointer to what the Government is contemplating for the future. Two of the main subjects that should interest Australia to-day are foreign relations and trade, and they are covered in this document. If we can give more consideration to these matters, without neglecting our own private affairs, we shall be doing a better job for the country.
– The matter being debated by the House is the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General. I feel sure that we are all in agreement with what other honorable members have said about the recent visit to this country of the Queen Mother. Her Majesty’s visit was a pleasant and happy one for the Australian people.
His Excellency’s Speech, which was prepared, no doubt, by the Government, was. to my mind, futile and barren on all important issues.
There was only one comment on the unemployment situation in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. It reads -
There has been some increase in unemployment, some part of which was undoubtedly attributable to the less favorable seasonal conditions. It still represents a relatively small proportion of the total work force; nevertheless it is a development which my Government continues to keep under closest scrutiny.
But the present unemployment position is not due to seasonal conditions, although it is true that these conditions have affected it to some degree. The latest figures produced by the Department of Labour and National Service show that at 31st January 74,765 persons were unemployed - an increase of 15,000 over the December figure, and of 22,000 over the figure for January, 1957. The number of those receiving unemployment benefit, which is the equivalent of what is known as the dole, increased by 3,800 to 29,856. Very caustic comments have been made, particularly by sections of the press which usually supports this Government. For instance, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ had this to say -
The ranks of the unemployed are fully comparable with the extreme trough of the 1952-53 recession. And still we have had no word that the Government proposes to do anything abour checking the drift.
The newspaper goes on to refer to certain statements made by the Minister for Labour and National Service. It says -
On both these vital issues of employment and housing the Opposition can literally say that the Government has not only taken no steps whatever to correct trends which are proving contrary to its expectations, but that it has not even deigned to offer a word of explanation of its inertia. Its silence can either be construed as a confession of its own insincerity or stubborn, touchy vanity, which could be disastrous.
Notwithstanding the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service said that at 1st January, 74,765 people were unemployed, the actual total number was near 100,000. Many thousands of persons who are not even registered as unemployed visit their trade union offices from time to time seeking employment. 1 should like to direct the Government’s attention to the desperate position in Queensland, where about 25,000 people are unemployed. Many of them are drawing unemployment benefit but, unfortunately, there are many thousands of skilled tradesmen who are not included in the total number of registered unemployed in Queensland. It is a tragedy that there should be so much unemployment in a State which is crying out for money to be made available for building and other important developmental projects.
When the Queensland Premier, Mr. Nicklin, returned from the recent Loan Council meeting in Canberra, he said that an extra £1,750,000 would be made available to Queensland within the next four months. At the same time, Queenslanders were disappointed to learn that he estimated that from then until 30th June every £500 of the grant meant the employment of only one other man. Thus, between that time and the end of June, 3,500 unemployed would obtain jobs. That was regarded as a very poor consolation to the unemployed in Queensland. The Premier stated at the Loan Council that the very steep rise in unemployment in Queensland could not be explained by the normal seasonal trough. He said that the increase in Queensland’s unemployment registration during 1957 was the highest of all the States, both absolutely and relatively. He also pointed out that, on 31st December last, registered unemployed in Queensland had been 2.78 per cent, of the working population, and by 31st January the figure had reached 3.5 per cent.
When the Premier was questioned, at the Loan Council, regarding the formula he used to ascertain the working population he submitted a figure of 40 per cent, of the total population, which he stated was a statistician’s formula. Therefore, taking the population in round figures as being 1,400,000, the formula would show the working force to be 560,000 persons, and 3.5 per cent, of that number would be 20,600, a number which is on all fours with the Queensland Trades and Labour
Council estimate that there are 25,000 unemployed persons in Queensland. As I have pointed out, the Queensland Premier does not believe that seasonal conditions are responsible for the high rate of unemployment in Queensland. However, the Prime Minister endeavoured only recently to make the people believe that, during the last year of the Chifley Labour Government’s term of office in 1949, there were more unemployed than has been the case during this Government’s term. On the floor of this House he said that in 1949 101,000 persons were in receipt of unemployment benefit. The right honorable gentleman did not tell the people that those persons were unemployed only during the short-lived coal strike which lasted two or three weeks. It was only a passing phase. Persons who had been employed for many years and were temporarily out of work were quickly put back into employment. The Chifley Labour Government took action against the miners and many of them were punished, some with gaol sentences.
In that same year, the number of unemployed in the remaining months averaged only approximately 2,000. As a result, for the whole year of 1949, the average number of people in receipt of the unemployment benefit was 10,247. Those figures prove that the statements that have been made by the Prime Minister and many of his supporters are not in accordance with the facts.
I wish to turn my attention now to the housing problem which is agitating the minds of many people in every State of Australia. The position is indeed very serious. This Government has fallen down on its job because it has not made enough money available for houses. The latest housing returns reveal that the number of houses and flats completed in recent years has been the lowest since 1950. Estimates for 1957 show that completed dwellings totalled 70,097 as against 73,945 completed in 1951. That is a decrease of 3,848. Buildings commenced in 1957 totalled 71,514, a decrease of 14,700 on the figure for 1951. For the December quarter of 1957, houses and flats commenced numbered 16,976, a decline of 1,944 compared with the September quarter.
I was interested to note an announcement in the press recently that the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Cahill, had called a meeting to discuss housing. The meeting was attended by many persons who are interested in this problem. Among them were practical builders, bankers and others. One of them was Mr. Turner, the president of the Building Industry Congress of New South Wales, who stated that an increase of 20 to 25 per cent, in construction was realistic and practical. He said that a survey had shown that building materials were in adequate supply. His statement shows that honorable members on the Government side were wrong when they said that there was a shortage of building material.
The president of the Rural Bank of New South Wales, Mr. C. R. McKerihan, stated at the same meeting that the central bank had announced on the previous Friday the release of £15,000,000 of trading bank funds held in special accounts. He added that the banks should add £15,000,000 from their liquid funds and use the total amount for housing. Mr. McKerihan also said that, in 1951, housing loans granted by the trading banks amounted to 16.1 per cent, of the total advances, but in 1957, this was reduced to 9.9 per cent. I am convinced that this Government has failed in its duty to make homes and more credit for housing available.
I should like to direct the attention of honorable members to some statements that were made at the recent Australian Citizenship Convention in Canberra. A paper was presented to the convention by Dr. J. R. Darling, headmaster of the Geelong Grammar School who said that houses must be built. In his paper entitled “The Current Picture of Immigration”, Dr. Darling said that the whole problem of housing must be solved. He said -
It could be solved if it was regarded as a matter of absolute urgency by all those on whom the building of houses depends - governments, bankers, architects, suppliers, contractors and workers.
Houses are essential, and I shall remain a critic of every government that fails to solve this absolutely basic problem.
You cannot ask a family to leave a home, even a home in a poor street of an English city, and not guarantee to house them in their new country.
For political reasons you cannot, however, treat your migrant better than your similarly placed Australian. Therefore, the whole problem must be solved.
This Government has fallen down, on its job because it has not attempted fo make further credit available so that the States can fined homes for the many thousands of persons who are living in inadequate accommodation and cannot help themselves. The results of a recent by-election show clearly that if the Government does not do something about the employment and housing situations, it will be wiped into political oblivion at the next election.
.- The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson), who has just resumed his seat, repeated a fallacy which is constantly being put before the House. He alleged that the figures given by the Department of Labour and National Service are not a true reflection of the number of unemployed in Australia. He said, as so many of his colleagues have said, that a number of unemployed complain to the unions that they are out of work, and consequently they are not recorded by the department. If that is true, presumably the unions find work for those people and they do not need to register. That lends added emphasis to the truth of the statements of Mr. Monk and Mr. Loft of the interstate executive of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that there is no real unemployment to-day. Apparently, when these unemployed persons go to the unions, the unions can find work for them. If that is not the position, is it suggested, in accordance with the present warfare between the political wing of Labour and the A.C.T.U., that the unions are so disinterested in the welfare of these unemployed that they do not advise them to register, and hence the unemployed man does not receive the unemployment benefit? I think that argument should be disposed of once and for all. It is quite fallacious. It is constantly trotted out in this House and elswhere, but it has no basis of truth whatever.
A great duty devolves on the parliaments of the Commonwealth, be it the Commonwealth Parliament or the State Parliaments, on public organizations, on unions, on employers and even on individuals to accelerate the development of Australia as quickly as possible. It is a responsibility shared by everybody. There are many ways in which this acceleration can be achieved. There is, of course, immigration, and we all know the dramatic effects of immigration in the post-war years on the development of Australia. Another method is the flow of capital into Australia from overseas. We have never had such a prolific flow of capital as we have had in the post-war years. However, I arn concerned to-day with four aspects of this development. They are, first, the improvement in employer-employee relations; secondly, improved productivity within industry; thirdly, the utilization of the full potential of the work force; and, fourthly, a more specialized encouragement of the conversion of our natural resources. If these things can be achieved, there will be vastly increased investments, both from home sources and overseas sources, and a far greater variety and frequency of employment opportunities. 1 shall now deal with the first aspect, employer-employee relations. Machinery exists at present through the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the whole paraphernalia of arbitration, the Industrial Court, the presidential members of the commission and the commissioners, to foster these relations. It is also necessary, however, to inculcate responsibility into the organizations that are concerned with employer-employee relations. The organizations to which I refer are not, of course, exclusively trade unions; there are employer representatives and organizations. It is most essential, as soon as possible, to break down and destroy the old conceptions of hostilities which are held between employers and employees. In this respect I am bound to say that the hostility is kept alive principally by the unions. This is done, not by the unions as a whole, but mostly by specific members of the unions who at some time have had unfortunate experiences and refuse to believe that times have changed since they had those unfortunate experiences. They try constantly to divert the natural course of the activities of unions and of the individual members of unions towards breaking down that hostility.
Over the last three or four years, we have had a very real attempt to break down that hostility. The vehicle of that attempt was the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. That council was established by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt). It was based principally upon the British organization, which is known as the British National Joint Advisory Council. The British cousin of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council was formed in 1939, at the outbreak of war, when it was realized that it was most necessary in the interests of an efficient war effort to bring together both sides of labour, the employer and the employee, and to pool their respective thoughts, so that the advice proffered to the government of the day would be tenable and acceptable to both sides. The representatives of the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council were drawn from all segments of the employers’ interests in industry and from the employees’ representatives, the A.C.T.U. Four very eminent members of the trade union movement served on the council. They were Mr. Monk, Mr. Souter, Mr. Evans and Mr. Kenny. Each of those four members are and, I understand, have been throughout their term on the council, jointly officers on the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U.
In the course of its deliberations, the council has brought forward a most interesting and informative report on automation. lt has brought forward a most interesting report on productivity. It was about to undertake the publication of a report on industrial accidents. It has been concerned in an investigation of the shortage of skilled workers and with youth employment. Nobody can suggest that those five matters are not the concern of every individual in Australia. It is the concern of every individual throughout the world, no matter where he lives. It is a job that is most necessary to be done, and it was in the process of being done. Then, a few months ago, the method of electing the representatives of the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. was changed. As a result, an additional three Communist members were introduced into the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. Now, five out of the twelve members on the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. - the top union body in Australia - are Communists.
It is an interesting matter of coincidence that, shortly after the change of membership, the A.C.T.U. carried a resolution by seven votes to five to cut adrift from the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. The most spurious reasons were given for this breakaway; none of them have the slightest scintilla of truth, none of them convinced anybody, but they laid bare the true facts ot the matter, which are that the Communist influence on the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U. was sufficient to drive away from the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, a very worth-while body, those very eminent members of the trade union movement, Messrs. Monk, Souter, Evans and Kenny. The Communist members of the interstate executive include the celebrated Mr. Healy, who is now fermenting as much strife as he can on the Australian waterfront. This is the Mr. Healy who has recently diverted his efforts from Sydney to Melbourne, the Mr. Healy who managed to organize marches through the streets of Melbourne, the Mr. Healy who is advising members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia not to report for work but to go on strike. It is the same Mr. Healy who has advised people to leave the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, the same Mr. Healy who led the forces of communism who, by their vote, destroyed the effectiveness of a truly great organization for the development of understanding between employees and employers in Australia. Mr. Healy is reinforced in his activities by other celebrated Communists on the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U., such as Messrs. Dawson, McDonald and Seelaf.
Another interesting thing about the A.C.T.U. is that it is something like a three-tiered wedding cake. The political wing says that Mr. Monk does not know what he is talking about, nor does Mr. Loft. Then there are the Communist members of the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U., who say that Mr. Monk does not know what he is talking about, nor does the political wing know what it is talking about. On the other hand, Mr. Monk says that there is no real unemployment problem in Australia to-day. Honorable members opposite say that is nonsense. Then Mr. Loft, also a member of the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U., says, according to this morning’s press: “ I agree with Mr. Monk “. All the time around the periphery, hoping to pick up some crumbs of self-aggrandisement by creating mutual mistrust, are the Communist members of the A.C.T.U.
In his speech during this debate the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E.
James Harrison) suggested that it would have been traitorous for the A.C.T.U. to continue to support the Ministry of Labour Advisory Council. What an extraordinary flight of fancy in his choice of words, or does the honorable member mean them?
– I meant every word I said.
– Well, honorable members can only assume where the honorable member for Blaxland stands in relation to the structure of the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U.
Such is the sorry state into which employer-employee relations have fallen in Australia that the one true bid to break down hostilities has been blasted out of existence, principally by the actions of five Communist members of the interstate executive of the A.C.T.U., five out of a total membership of twelve. By their activities they have got rid of those eminent servants and advisers of trade unionism in Australia - Messrs. Monk, Souter, Evans and Kenny.
– Why do you not get your names straight?
– I should like to know in which list I might put the honorable member’s name. The second matter about which I was concerned is productivity. Productivity is most vital to the development of Australia. Attempts have been made to increase productivity. Private industry has encouraged young tradesmen to travel abroad in order to learn more advanced methods of production and industrial processes. The unions have also played a vital part in this matter, through the leadership of men like Messrs. Monk, Souter, and Evans - not Messrs. Dawson, Healy, McDonald or Seelaf, er perhaps even the honorable member for Blaxland. The unions have paid great attention to technical school training associated with apprenticeships. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has conducted experiments in rainmaking, with a view to making our desert lands productive. The C.S.I.R.O. has played an important part in the improvement of materials for use in industry. I recently asked the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) to consider sponsoring trips abroad by skilled workers in industry so that they might learn the newest overseas trends and compare them with trends here in Australia. The Minister promised to consider the matter. The request was not an unusual one, because it has been announced that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade is shortly to lead an overseas delegation of Australian trade representatives. I believe that it is a proper exercise of departmental discretion to sponsor such a trip abroad.
Once again, I refer to the honorable member for Blaxland when 1 say that members of the Opposition have said that the basic wage fixed by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which was set up under legislation passed by the Parliament, is not sufficient for the needs of the people. The basic wage is fixed by the commission, which is an absolutely independent tribunal. The commission has long since adopted the principle that the basic wage shall be based on the capacity of industry to pay. With increased productivity there will be a reduction in unit cost and a greater capacity in industry to pay. Then the basic wage can rise. This matter is before the commission at the moment, so I do not want to say anything that would be sub judice. But the honorable member for Blaxland has criticized the Government over the basic wage. As far as I can see, if there is any criticism to be made of the Government with relation to the basic wage it is that the Government has not played as active a part as it should by putting before the tribunal information that must be available in various departments so as to assist the tribunal in fixing the basic wage. The honorable member for Blaxland said that in the United States of America consideration is being given to working 32 hours a week. By implication, if not in so many words, the honorable member said that he favoured this move. If we have increased productivity we can absorb the benefits in one of two ways. We can either have a higher real wage or we can reduce the number of working hours. If given a choice the people of Australia would, without doubt, say that they wanted a higher real wage, and that they would work 40 hours a week. In the not far distant future it may be possible to consider such a step, but at the moment any such talk m this country is quite idle. With increased productivity and a reduction of unit cost, this country will be in a far stronger position with relation to overseas trade.
Another matter with which I am concerned is the utilization of the labour force to its full capacity. It is most necessary to make an accurate assessment of aptitudes, particularly among school leavers, to ensure that they go info spheres best suited to their capacities and their mental attitudes and thus enable them to engage in productive work. A great deal of publicity has been associated with the very excellent report of the Murray committee. I hope, however, that not too much emphasis will be placed upon the development of scientific teaching to the detriment of administrative training, vocational guidance training and psychological training which must be the qualification for good personal relations.
In the utilization to the full of the labour force we come to that very important group, the physically handicapped. In 1946, 2,348 deaths from tuberculosis occurred in Australia. In 1956 the number of deaths from this cause had dropped to 724. I believe that decline was due not to a markedly smaller incidence in the contraction of the disease but rather to the very quick detection of it by mass radiography. As a result of this detection, many people are saved; and because they continue to live they will need to work, and many of these people, in order to work, must be rehabilitated and given special training.
Then we turn to motor accidents. In 1947-48, 24,062 people were injured in motor accidents. By 1956-57 the number had climbed to 48,773. Undoubtedly, the greater proportion of these people will go back to work physically handicapped - perhaps having lost a limb or because of some great contraction in the moveability of a limb. It is most necessary to have a very real rehabilitation training programme for these people to re-establish them in their work. Apart from motor accidents, of course, there are the ordinary household accidents and common illnesses. But only by the full utilization of the labour force will the development of Australia be assisted.
Now, I come to the final point with which I am concerned. That is specialized planning and publicity to utilize the natural resources. There is not enough publicity associated with the natural resources we have. It is most necessary, at a very early date, to introduce legislation which will provide for the working out of differential tax charges for national development of proclaimed projects. It may be that a power reactor is needed in central Australia or at Mount Isa or somewhere else. The initial capital outlay may be so great that it may be necessary to encourage the building of such a structure by having a tax agreement worked out to provide for a very substantial rebate to be written off the capital. The very important matter of depreciation allowances was recently dealt with in the report of the Hulme committee, presided over by our respected colleague, the honorable member for Petrie. That report has been adopted almost in its entirety. The Government should appoint a similar committee to investigate and concern itself with the obsolescence of plant. For example, West Germany, with its new plant, is probably the most productive of European countries to-day.
But, perhaps, the most important matter is the reversal of investment policy. The figures provided by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in the listed companies, share capital invested in 1954-55 was £59,700,000. This was new money. In 1955-56, the sum had dropped to £59,200,000 and by 1956-57 to £43,700,000. In the first six months of this financial year - that is, the last six months of last year - the sum had dropped to £18,300,000. Over that period the average was £36,000,000 a year. On the other hand, debentures, notes, securities - those things which are not applied to new plant but to stockholding and soft spending items - in 1954-55 represented a value of £27,500,000. In 1955-56 the figure had climbed to £50,200,000, in 1956-57 to £51,600,000 and for the first six months of this financial year the sum was £39,100,000, averaging over that period £78,000,000 a year. The interest paid on this sort of investment in the second category is a taxation deduction. It is not money invested for the development of plant and productive capacity. A very quick reversal of that policy is most necessary to encourage new capital to be invested in new ventures and not in share capital, debentures, notes and securities.
.- 1 rise to speak to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply which is being debated in the House this afternoon. The thing that forces itself on my mind is the hypocrisy of Government supporters in the criticism they have levelled against the Opposition in respect of the amendment that has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Let us analyse just what the amendment proposes. Government supporters have said that the amendment is similar to amendments moved on previous occasions. Nevertheless. I am proud to support this amendment.
First, it points out that the Government has failed to put into effect positive policies and measures aimed at “ the prevention of unemployment and the securing of full employment “. Will any honorable member claim that it is wrong for any section of honorable members to be vitally concerned about employment and unemployment? 1 do not think a more important question faces the Government at the present time. I have heard it said often during this debate that there is nothing to worry about, that only a paltry 100,000 in our community are unemployed. I do not think that any member on the Government side will, deny that to-day at least 100,000 of our people are unemployed. Others suggest that the figure is higher. If any one says that the existence of 100,000 unemployed, in our community is nothing to worry about and claims that we have nothing to fear, I shall ask him whether he is one of those who are unemployed. Is he one of the 27,000 or 30,000 who to-day are seeking unemployment relief? Is any member of this Parliament obliged to subsist and rear a family on unemployment relief?
It is easy for supporters of the Government to say that a figure of 100,000 unemployed is paltry, or that there is nothing to fear because those who are unemployed will be absorbed in the near future. If plans were placed before this House that would lead me to believe that in the near future these 100,000 unemployed persons will be found employment, I would not be concerned. But after listening to speakers on the Government side and after hearing the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) indicate just what the Government proposes to do to relieve this very serious situation, I do not believe that it will be possible to absorb these unfortunate unemployed in the very near future.
I have heard speaker after speaker refer to the very serious unemployment situation. I think it is wrong for Government Sup.porters to claim that those of ais who desire to see full employment in this country are using the present unfortunate situation for political purposes. That is not true. I do not believe that there is one member of this Parliament, be he on the Government side or the Opposition side, who wants to see one person unemployed in this country. I, for one, would never use the plight of the unemployed to gain: any political advantage. I have seen in years gone by, and every member of this Parliament has seen, the sorry spectacle of unemployment. We saw how unemployment grew in a situation similar to this. There were 20,000 unemployed; then there were 50,000, 75,000, 100,000, 200,000, 300,000, 400,000, and ultimately 500,000. Will any one deny that this country was crying out for development during those years, just as it is crying out for development to-day? I remind the House, too, that in those days the population of this country was only 5,500,000 or 6,000,000. There was an abundance of the necessaries of life, not only for 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 people, but for 20,000,000 people. Who will deny that in those days, whilst people were going hungry, wheat was being destroyed by rats and other vermin? There was ample food for the Australian people. There was ample clothing and ample materials to house our population- Yet we saw that sorry spectacle. I hope and pray that this Government, or, failing this Government, another government, will do something to rectify the serious situation that has arisen.
The situation that we are facing to-day is similar to the situation that arose in Australia only a few months after World War II. Prior to the war a Liberal-Country party government had been in office, but over the years of great prosperity it had not had to do much. With favorable seasons and ample natural resources, its path was smooth. But soon that government had to face war. It had to organize the country for an all-out war effort. What was the result? It was similar to the state of affairs existing in this country to-day.
The then government, which was politically similar to the present one, was not capable of organizing an all-out war effort, and the plight of this country grew more desperate every day. Subsequently, the Labour party became the government, not at the will of the Australian people, but because certain disgusted members of the government parties crossed the floor of the House, voted with the Opposition, and placed the responsibility for war-time administration on the Curtin Labour Government and, afterwards, on the Chifley Labour Government.
History is repeating itself. Never before did any government have such gloriously prosperous seasons as those which have occurred since the present Government has been in office. Yet, only yesterday, one Government supporter declared that seasonal conditions were the reason for the present unemployment! Despite all these prosperous years, have we had a government which has not been able to organize this country to stand up to one bad season? It is an everlasting disgrace and shame that any member of a government should claim that 100,000 people have become unemployed because of one bad season. I only wish that during the years in which Labour controlled the destinies of this country it had had the prosperous seasons that the Menzies Government has enjoyed. Surely the Government can offer some explanation other than seasonal disabilities for the existence of 100,000 unemployed. There was not a universal drought throughout Australia last year.
– How would the honorable member know? He has not been outside Adelaide.
– I have been all around Australia in the last two years, so the honorable member cannot claim to know more about Australia than I know. I shall take up that challenge with him. In any case, one would know the facts, even if one had not moved out of Canberra. The position must be obvious to all who have brains in their skulls because reports from the various States on wheat, wool and other primary products are published in the newspapers. There was no need to travel around Australia to know that the drought was not Commonwealth-wide. Therefore I say that it is a great shame that the
Government is making a weak attempt to defend itself by saying that we have had a serious drought.
What confronted the Labour Government when it took office in 1941 - not, as I have said by the vote of the Australian people, but because of the disappointment of the Government’s own supporters? Those were desperate years. After the years of war came the years of rehabilitation and re-adjustment. Honorable members opposite have referred to the number of unemployed in 1947 and 1948. Do they not realize that the Labour Government had to take out of war organization and put into peace-time avocations more than 1,000,000 Australians? So well did the Government do the job that it earned the admiration of the world, and Australia is still spoken of as having performed the work of rehabilitation more quickly and better than any other country that participated in the war.
I give the Government, therefore, two pieces of advice. If it goes to the country on the issue of the banking bills, I suggest that it should not tell the Australian electors that there are 100,000 or more unemployed in this country because of seasonal conditions. The electors will remind the Government that Australia has enjoyed the most prosperous seasonal conditions from the very first day on which it took office in 1949. I suggest, too, that the Government should not tell the Australian people that there were so many thousand unemployed in 1947 and 1948, because the people will reply that the Labour government of that time had had the responsibility of carrying on a war after a Liberal government ran away from that responsibility. The electors will tell the Government these things, and Government supporters will not be able to hide behind their excuses of droughts and other seasonal conditions.
It is not sufficient for Government supporters to allege that we on this side of the House are using the unemployment situation for political purposes.
– It is quite true.
– Do not say that to any of the 100,000 unemployed, or to their wives and children. Do not tell them that we need not worry about the unemployment situation. Those people will admire and support any individual who is prepared to spring to their defence in this Parliament and to do something towards finding employment for them. If the Government cannot face up to its responsibility in this regard, and if it cannot devise ways and means of putting the country back on a sound economic basis, then I suggest that it should get out of office and make room for a government that is prepared to accept that responsibility.
– I have not heard one worth-while suggestion from any honorable member on the other side of the House.
– Many suggestions have been and will be made from this side. The subject of housing has been discussed. The Labour party has been criticized because it has brought up the question of housing. If this Government had a sound proposal with regard to the housing shortage alone, having in mind the various incidental industries that are affected by the housing shortage, I say that it could absorb the 100,000 unemployed by next Monday morning.
– Complete rot!
– It is all very well for my friend to talk in this fashion. It is not complete rot. It is surely known to the honorable member and to all other honorable members in this Parliament that the building of a home requires not only the provision of bricks, mortar and concrete. There are many incidental industries that are affected by the housing shortage, and in which employment could be provided if the Government had a worthwhile plan. There are the industries that have to do with the manufacture of furniture, refrigerators, stoves and the various other items that are required when a home is built.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– It is of no use for the honorable member to say that I do not know what T am talking about. I suppose the honorable member for Petrie (Mr. Hulme) is the beginning and the end of all things. ‘ He knows all things. I insist, however, that if we were to put into operation a housing policy designed to provide a home for every person in Australia who requires one, we could absorb our unemployed by next Monday morning.
I heard the Prime Minister telling us that the Government had made provision for a grant of so much money to the States, and that it is the responsibility of the States to decide how they will spend that money. I suggest to the Prime Minister and to the members of his Government that they should make a grant of some millions of pounds to the building societies of Australia and tell them that they will be responsible for building homes with that money. The money would hot then be diverted into the hire purchase field. The building societies would lend it to persons who have been seeking homes but have been unable to obtain the necessary finance.
One does not have to be a wizard to think of schemes for providing employment for the people of this country. There is no other country in the world that is crying CUt more for development. We could find a thousand avenues in which the unemployed could be absorbed, and work provided not only for them but also for many thousands and even millions more. Let me refer, for instance, to our highways. The honorable member for Petrie said that I do riot know anything about Australia; Let me tell him that during the last three months I have travelled over 10,000 miles in various parts of Australia. I have travelled over the highways that urgently need attention. I have seen water running away into the sea when it could be used for irrigation purposes. Let honorable members of the Australian Country party, who have referred to droughts-, face up to the responsibility of harnessing that water and letting it spread over thousands of acres of our country, and thus make fertile vast new areas of land.
Let me also refer to rail standardization. I said on an earlier occasion in this House that if Labour had remained in office rail standardization would be ah accomplished fact to-day. The present honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) had the plans ready, and work was about to start on the standardization scheme in 1949. Honorable members opposite know that this is true. They know that the work would have been started if Labour had remained in office.
I get sick of listening to honorable members opposite saying that if we release so much credit we will have inflation. I am more concerned about filling the stomachs of the Australian people- I am more concerned about providing homes for the Australian people, and about clothing the Australian people. I am more concerned about giving them decent schools so that their children can be given a high standard of education. These are the things I stand for.
I heard the speech made a few minutes ago by the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden). I thought it a poor attempt, and the only part of it of which I took notice was that in which he trotted out the old war horse of communism. He tried to give the impression that on this side of the House we are a pack of Communists. Let me warn the honorable member for Bruce, and all other honorable members opposite, that nothing will foster communism more successfully in this country than the growth of an army of unemployed. Communism will thrive if we have a community in which men are unemployed, and their wives uncertain of how they will clothe and feed their children. Consider the various countries in which communism has prospered. Those are the countries whose inhabitants have been hungry and cold and in need of the amenities that are available to the Australian people - and which could be available not to a mere 10,000,000 of them but, I believe, as many as 30,000,000. But to provide ideal conditions for our people the Government must have sound and progressive plans- This Government is bereft of any such plans.
Before I conclude, I want to make one point quite clear to all those who may misunderstand my attitude in this Parliament; This may be the last time that I will speak on an Address-in-Reply debate. I have devoted my life to the great Australian Labour movement, and you can take n from me that, whatever happens to me as an individual, I will stand behind the great Australian Labour party, hoping that the day is not far distant when Labour will once more grace the treasury bench, and be enabled to use our great national resources for the benefit of our people and for many more millions of people who desire to come here.
.- I rise to support the motion for the adoption of the
Address-in-Reply, and to oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition. Before I proceed to answer the comments that have just been made by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), I feel that it would be appropriate for me to make mention of the recent visit of Her Majesty the Queen Mother, who, as a matter of fact, returned to this national capital on the very day when her daughter’s representative, the Governor-General of Australia, delivered his Speech to us in the Senate chamber. I support the remarks that have been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and other members of this Parliament who have expressed their appreciation to the Queen Mother and other members of the Royal Family for the visit that she paid us- It is true that the spontaneous reaction of the people towards her was a fair indication of the intense loyalty that is felt by the Australian people to the throne and to the Royal Family.
One of the best illustrations of this feeling was seen in Brisbane on the night on which the Queensland Royal National Association staged a bushmen’s carnival at the Exhibition Ground. The Queen Mother was expected to visit the carnival for fifteen minutes. Sitting around the ringside in torrential rain were thousands upon thousands of Brisbane people who had turned out. despite the weather, in order to show their loyalty to the Queen Mother, and to cheer her as she was driven round the oval. It is on record that Her Majesty stayed for an hour and twenty minutes, instead of a mere fifteen mintes, and thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition of the bushmen’s skill. Her Majesty’s visit to Australia was one of the most popular visits that has ever been made, and I doubt whether it will ever be surpassed in its appeal to the Australian people.
While I am speaking of the Royal Family, I should like to mention another matter. The Queensland Lawn Tennis Association has been able to conclude arrangements to hold the Davis Cup Challenge Round at the Milton tennis courts, in Brisbane, late in December of this year. As you, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, know, this event will coincide with the beginning of the celebrations of the centenary of responsible government in the queen State of the Commonwealth. Mr. Edwards, the president of the Queensland Lawn Tennis Association, has suggested to me that this would be an appropriate occasion for an invitation to Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent to be present at the challenge round. As all honorable members know, the Duchess is the patron of Wimbledon, and she takes a very keen interest in championship tennis. We, in Queensland, consider that the occasion would be an appropriate one for a visit by Her Royal Highness, and we would greatly appreciate it if the Australian Government would extend to the Duchess of Kent an invitation to be present at the challenge round.
I should like to mention, also, the proposed visit to Australia by Her Royal Highness the Princess Margaret. The main purpose of her proposed visit is to enable her to be present at the celebrations of the centenary of responsible government in Queensland. The honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) will agree with me that important visitors from overseas almost invariably seem to come to this country at a time when Victoria has its most pleasant weather. In the middle of summer, the weather in Victoria is usually reasonably mild, but visitors from countries with cooler climates find the temperatures somewhat trying in Queensland at that time of the year. Since Princess Margaret’s visit is mainly to enable her to be present at the celebrations of the centenary of responsible government in Queensland, a primary consideration should be to have the visit at a time when the weather in Queensland will be mild. For that reason, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, Queenslanders of all parties feel that all members of the Parliament, and the citizens of the other States, will agree that Princess Margaret should visit Queensland at a time when that State is enjoying its best weather - in winter, when so many people from Melbourne flock to the Queensland “ Gold Coast “ to enjoy the sunshine and the warmth. I suggest that any time between the middle of April and the end of June would be suitable, and I urge the authorities to give serious consideration to this proposal, for the sake not only of Queensland but also of Her Royal Highness.
I turn now to the Opposition’s proposed amendment to the Address-in-Reply, the first part of which deals with the prevention of unemployment and the securing of full employment. We have heard a great deal about these matters from Opposition members over many years. I recall that, when I was fighting the election campaign in 1949, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. George Lawson) was one of the Labour spokesmen who told the people from the hustings that if a Liberal partyAustralian Country party government were elected, Australia would have a depression and people would be out ot work throughout the country. Labour campaigners tried to instil that fear into the minds of the people in 1949. They suggested that Australia’s prosperity had been due to the administration of the Labour government, and that a Liberal party-Australian Country party government would destroy that prosperity and cause unemployment. Our answer to those assertions was to remind the people that the only really serious depression that Australia has experienced occurred when a Labour government was in office, and that it was only after that government had been thrown out of office, and the Lyons Government had taken over, that the depression began to lift, jobs became available to the people, and some rays of sunshine began to penetrate the economic scene.
Honorable members will recall that there was some fluctuation in the economy in 1951. It was not considerable, but, immediately, the Leader of the Opposition and all his supporters told us that we were again on the brink of a depression, and that colossal unemployment would soon occur. This was followed by another election campaign in 1954, when Labour again came out with the cry that there was going to be a depression. Labour supporters did their utmost to destroy business confidence, and to prevent the investment of capital in commercial enterprises which would have increased employment. The Australian Labour party did its utmost to discourage the expansion of industrial activity because it knew that its only hope of winning the election in 1954 was to convince the people that there would be serious unemployment. Therefore, Labour supporters did their very best to cause it. I have checked the record in “ Hansard “, and I find that, in 1954, the Opposition tried, by instigating an urgency debate, to tell the people that there were going to be depression and unemployment. Just before the 1955 general election, we heard the same story again. It was peddled on the hustings everywhere. In 1958 - another election year - the Australian Labour party is again peddling the story that there are going to be unemployment and depression.
We know only too well that there is some unemployment in this country, and nobody on this side of the House is unconcerned about that. Everybody is concerned, but we are very pleased about the quick remedial action taken by the Government to grant to the States money which the Government believed would be sufficient to cushion the effects of the drought and bad seasonal conditions. Like Mr. Monk and other responsible Labour leaders, we have complete confidence that unemployment is diminishing and that more jobs are being created. We have complete faith that within only a short time we shall again reach the stage of full employment.
I am unable to make up my mind on what might be the real policy of the Labour party in relation to immigration. I was very interested to hear the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Townley) inform the House of the policy of the Australian Labour party in 1949. He told us the number of houses that were then being built. Fewer houses were built in 1949, when the Labour party was in office, than are being built this year, yet the Australian Labour party had an immigration programme which allowed the admission of over 100,000 people in that year! We on this side find it difficult to understand what the Labour party wants in regard to immigration. We have heard and read reports of a broadcast made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) on 9th February, 1958. The press published reports, together with comments along the lines that the two doctors in the Labour party were unable to reach agreement on the subject. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) had said that we must reduce the intake of immigrants. Indeed, in his proposed amendment to the Address-in-Reply, he has demanded a reduction in the number of immigrants. This view is completely contrary to the view expressed by the honorable member for Yarra. When this matter was taken up, first by the Prime
Minister (Mr. Menzies) and again this afternoon by the Minister for Immigration, the honorable member for Yarra gave a different view from that which was expressed by him in his broadcast on 9th February. We have available to us a tape-recording of what was actually said by the honorable member for Yarra on that date. I should like to read the exact words that the honorable member used in his broadcast. He said -
The A.L.P. says Australia can and must maintain a migration programme far larger and better than that of the Menzies’ Government.
– Read the rest.
– I shall continue, but even in that first paragraph is a complete contradiction of the view expressed in the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member for Yarra continued, again referring to the Australian Labour party -
We say it is a disgrace that the overall figures have been so low.
I ask honorable members to take particular note of this -
We say that it is a disgrace that Southern Europeans have been discriminated against to the extent that only dependent relatives, those engaged to sponsors, and unmarried women between 18 and 35, will be admitted.
That is a complete contradiction of the policy enunciated by the Leader of the Labour party in this House. Yet the honorable member for Yarra has not opposed the proposed amendment! Therefore, we on this side of the House may well be forgiven if we treat the amendment as being only a political sham and completely insincere.
– Do not misquote it. Read his whole statement.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lawrence). - Order! The honorable member for Darebin will cease interjecting.
– He read only parts.
– I read the complete passage dealing with that subject, and I left no words out.
– Read the whole speech.
Order! I shall not warn the honorable member for Darebin again.
– I said a moment ago that I believed the Labour party was depending on unemployment to provide an oppor tunity of regaining the treasury bench. Honorable members opposite see unemployment as their only possible hope. They know that the Australian people have absolutely no confidence or trust in the Leader of the Opposition, particularly in relation to his foreign policy. While world tensions exist and the Leader of the Opposition continues to be the leader of the Australian Labour party, because of his foreign policy the Labour party will never occupy the treasury bench. I, therefore, say that the Labour party’s only hope is that there will be substantial unemployment in the country. So clearly is that indicated that not very long ago the Queensland Labour Government was actually dismissing men in order to create unemployment, lt then argued that these dismissals were caused by a shortage of funds. Examination of a report tabled in the Queensland Parliament by the present State Treasurer proves beyond any dispute that that statement was completely untrue. The Queensland Labour Government was not short of money, but it dismissed men from its own service because of political expediency.
– That is a lot of rot.
– Ask one of the Queensland Labour members whether it is a lot of rot. You will find that my statement is completely true.
Order! The honorable member will address the Chair.
– Let me remind the House of the Ministers who embarked on this programme of dismissing men. One was John Duggan, the Minister for Transport, who led the official Australian Labour party at the last election in Queensland. He sacked about 600 employees of the Queensland Railways Department. Another was the Minister for Housing, who sacked over 450 men employed by the Queensland Housing Commission. The importance of that action lay not only in the dismissal of those 450 men. The sacking of trained carpenters and builders created unemployment in other fields. Immediately the Country-Liberal Government was returned to office in Queensland, those men unemployed in these departments found they now had security, and money from the same funds which the Queensland Labour party said it did not have available was found to ensure continuity of the housing programme. We on this side of the House believe confidently that unemployment is completely transitory, and that within a matter of weeks this problem will have vanished from our economy.
– Finish on that note.
– The honorable member would probably appreciate it if I did. However, I shall now turn to a less provocative subject. I want to refer to a matter that I consider to be of the greatest concern to the whole world. It was expressed most perfectly by Mr. Duncan Sandys, Minister for Defence in the Government of the United Kingdom, when submitting a white paper on defence to the House of Commons a few weeks ago. His opening remarks were -
The world to-day is poised between the hope of total peace and the fear of total war.
I believe that that expresses exactly the thought that is uppermost in the mind of every man in every parliament in the world. We have read a great deal lately in the newspapers about the possibility of a summit conference. We have also read recently of a statement that was signed by 350 scientists asking the Federal Government to ban atomic tests. We have also heard in this Parliament a similar policy enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable members who sit beside him. Because we on this side believe that we can negotiate at the summit only from strength, because in strength lies our only hope of achieving lasting world peace, we reject this idea of a unilateral disarmament. It is true that the Labour party in Australia is out of step with the British Labour party, notwithstanding the fact that the Leader of the Opposition here made a statement only a few weeks ago that the two parties were as one, and that their ideals and principles were as one.
– You do not know what you are talking about!
– The honorable member for Stirling has interjected that I do not know what I am talking about.
– We believe in banning all atom tests.
– The honorable gentleman says that the Labour party believes in banning all atom tests. I shall quote, for the honorable gentleman’s information, a statement made by the leader of the Labour party in the House of Commons, Mr. Gaitskell, when he was speaking on the white paper on defence that was tabled by Mr. Duncan Sandys. Mr. Gaitskell said -
Nor do we favour unilateral disarmaments. At our conference in Brighton last year a resolution asking us to pledge ourselves - the future Labour Government - neither to test, use or make nuclear weapons, was defeated overwhelmingly by a vote of eight to one.
Then Mr. Aneurin Bevan, who is regarded as an extreme left-wing member of the Labour party in the House of Commons, said in the same debate that there was a strong argument for the possession of these hideous weapons as deterrents. He was referring to atom bombs and hydrogen bombs. He continued -
We could not possibly throw aside all our allies, all our obligations, and all our friends, and negotiate with other nations, with Great Britain having no friends anywhere in the world.
In other words, the British Labour party believes, as we do on this side of the House, that we must argue at the summit from strength. If we accepted the suggestion of the honorable member for Stirling to ban atom bombs the strength of the armed forces of Russia and Communist China, the details of which I have received from the Minister for Defence (Sir Philip McBride), would far outweigh those of the free world and we might then be completely overwhelmed by the Communist forces. The details supplied to me by the Minister for Defence are -
Russia - Ground Forces include an army of approximately 2,700,000 troops organised in wellbalanced, hard-hitting, modern formations. Air Forces include 11,000 jet fighters and 2,000 jet bombers with a sufficient transport force and a personnel strength of about 800,000. Naval forces are organised into four fleets each of which has 6 cruisers, 40 to 50 escort vessels, about 500 submarines and about 700 naval aircraft.
Communist China - Ground forces consist largely of a regular army of 2,500,000 men including Public Security Troops. This army is at present being modernised. The Air Forces include 1,100 jet fighters and 250 jet bombers with a small transport force and a personnel strength of probably 100,000.
I shall not read the rest of the details. Are not the facts I have already cited evidence enough to show that if all the powers’, including Russia, were to ban nuclear weapons, the Soviet and its allies would have such overwhelming superiority in conventional arms that we would be completely at their mercy. That the Soviet aim is world domination is well known and has been clearly expressed.
Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- I wish to associate myself with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), and also with the expression of opinion given by the people of the division of Parramatta, who last Saturday most certainly censured the Government for its handling of the economic problem and the unemployment position to-day. Before I speak in support of the amendment I wish to make some reference to a speech delivered by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) in the House a few days ago, when he referred to the shocking fact that applicants for advances from the War Service Homes Division to enable them to purchase existing houses have to wait eighteen months before their requirements are met. I am pleased to see the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) still in the chamber, because when the honorable member for Melbourne Ports was speaking on this matter the honorable member for Lilley was continually calling out, “ lt is not true “. I say that that statement by the honorable member for Lilley is not true.
– Of course, it is!
– The honorable member for Mallee says, “ Of course, it is “. That is untrue also. The fact is that it is the policy of the War Service Homes Division, as stated in a letter which I have received from the deputy director of the division in Queensland, to compel exservicemen to wait eighteen months for an advance for the purchase of an existing home. Why the Government is following that line I do not know. There is no reason why it should. Such a policy certainly penalizes ex-servicemen.
There has been brought to my notice the case of a young man, who served during the whole period of the war, and who has applied for an advance to purchase an existing home. He, has been told that his case will be completed in March, 1959. He has to wait fifteen months for his- advance. He has now become a tenant of the home that he will ultimately buy, and because of the policy laid down by the present Government, is compelled to pay rent of £3 10s. a week for the next fifteen months to the person who will eventually sell him this house. I say that it is a scandalous thing for members of the Government, and Government supporters, to claim that there is no waiting list for advances, and no delay occasioned to ex-servicemen who wish to purchase homes by borrowing from the War Service Homes Division. Those honorable gentlemen are being mischievous in making such observations, and either they do not know the policy of the Government or they are deliberately attempting to mislead exservicemen. This does not reflect very much credit on the honorable member for Lilley and the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), who were so loud in their criticism of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports when he raised this matter in the House the other evening. 1 noticed that while I was making these observations the conscience of the honorable member for Lilley must have been worrying him somewhat, because he has withdrawn from the chamber.
As I said at the outset, I have much pleasure in associating myself with the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I am at one with the Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “, which said in its leading article of the 21st February -
Rising unemployment in Australia will demand early consideration by the Federal Parliament in its new session which begins next week.
Well, that is very strong coming from the “ Courier-Mail “, but apparently the words have been wasted on the Government, because no consideration is being given by it to the unemployment problem. Rather are the charges levelled by the responsible members of this Parliament - the members of the Opposition - in relation to unemployment being brushed aside by the Prime Minister; and, of course, when he brushes them aside so does every other loyal member of his party. The fact is that unemployment is a serious problem to-day, and it is growing more serious, particularly in Queensland, where it is increasing at a faster rate than in any other State. Queensland, which has the doubtful benefit of a Liberal-Country party government, now has a greater percentage of its population unemployed than any other State. 1 am afraid that the position will deteriorate still further, not only in unemployment but in the whole economy of Queensland.
Quite recently, the Commonwealth Statistician released figures which showed that more than 74,000 were unemployed in Australia. At the same time, a survey was made in Queensland by the Trades and Labour Council. It estimated that there were 20,000 unemployed in Queensland. Those figures might be discounted by honorable member opposite, but the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Nicklin, a member of the Country Party, informed the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) at the recent meeting of the Australian Loan Council that there were 17,000 unemployed in Queensland. They must have accepted his word because they gave a special allocation of £500,000 to Queensland and the same amount to New South Wales, and divided the other money that the Loan Council made available on the taxation formula rebate system.
The fact that the Loan Council was prepared to accept the figure on unemployment supplied by the Premier of Queensland indicates that the delegates believed him. I believe that Mr. Nicklin was erring on the side of conservatism. In my opinion, the figures that have been cited by those who are more competent to obtain the latest figures - the officials of the trade unions - must be accepted as reliable.
It is true that seasonal conditions in Queensland have been adverse. To put it bluntly, there has been a severe drought. Many primary industries have been suffering considerably and many exporting industries in Queensland which process products of the land will be unable to maintain employment because of the drought. That will apply particularly to the beef processing industry. I regret that situation because the principal beef processing works in Queensland are situated within the electorate that I have the honour to represent. I believe that there will be a still further slump in employment in the meat processing industry.
At the request of some of the Premiers, and particularly the Premier of Queensland, an effort was made to meet the unemploy ment situation. The Loan Council met and certain loans were made available. The Premier of Queensland claimed that 17,000 men were out of work in Queensland. He returned to Queensland from Canberra with a grant for unemployment relief and, according to the press, the grant was sufficient to provide jobs for 3,500 unemployed. With 20,000 men out of work, as the trade unions have shown, this Government was prepared to provide jobs for 3,500. What a tragic way to deal with a national problem! I suppose the others who are out of work have to depend on their own resources and do the best they can.
The Prime Minister has dismissed the matter by saying that this is only a scare put up by members of the Australian Labour Party. He said that stability had been maintained and the economy was very sound. To quote the right honorable gentleman’s own words, any criticism or charges about unemployment are “ jolly silly “. It is all very well for the right honorable gentleman to brush this problem off as easily as that, but when there are 74,000 registered unemployed in Australia, and probably twice as many actually out of work, it is not so easy for them to accept the statements of the Prime Minister that attempts to direct the attention of this Parliament and the nation to unemployment are merely an effort to create a scare and are “ jolly silly “. Members of the Parliament have a responsibility to direct the attention of the people to the situation that exists. By our advocacy and our agitation, we must try to force the Prime Minister and, subsequently, the Treasurer to release money so that unemployed may be put into productive work.
On the eve of the Parramatta byelection, the Prime Minister said that fear breeds fear. That is quite true, and with fear of unemployment mounting, the people are becoming more fearful of the future. It is disastrous for the worker when he feels in his mind that he may lose his job at any time. The figures that have been produced by the Commonwealth Statistician reveal that each week more persons are joining the ranks of the unemployed. What is the Government doing about it?
The Prime Minister has dismissed the problem. He said, in effect, that there is some unemployment at times and at other times there is over-employment. I think he said that the situation was fluid. That does not satisfy the man who is out of work. In these days of high costs, the savings of a man who is out of work are eaten up rapidly. Every Australian man wants to work so that he is producing something of value to the community. He does not want to be out of work, and he looks to the national Government to provide the wherewithal so that he may obtain employment. Apparently, the Government is brushing him aside.
At the recent Australian Loan Council meeting, the Treasurer said that the local government authorities in Australia would be permitted to raise an additional sum of £3,000,000 to carry out works for the relief of unemployment. The Treasurer was of the opinion, apparently, that local government authorities would have the best opportunity to absorb men in employment quickly. I heartily agree. There is no authority in Australia that can absorb men into reproductive work more quickly than can the local government authorities, because in every city, urgent work requires to be done, from the construction of highways to the provision of sewerage for important cities like Brisbane.
It is all very well to say that the local government authorities have authority to raise £3,000,000 more. Who is going to provide the £3,000,000? The States are fortunate. They get the approval of the Australian Loan Council to raise more money and the Australian Loan Council makes the money available, but the local government authorities are not in that fortunate position. They merely get approval to raise the money. That is only the first hurdle. Having got the authority, they must get somebody to provide the money. At present, the Brisbane City Council is trying to raise a loan, but the attempt has been a calamitous failure. The people will not subscribe to local government authority loans while there is so much competition for investment in the financial world. First, the local government authorities have to compete with the marvellous return that is given to investors in the hire-purchase field. The return there is as high as 10 per cent. The best that the local government authority is able to offer is £5 7s. 6d.
I am not advocating a rise in the interest rate because I think that £5 7s. 6d. is high enough, but something should be done. I am not blaming this Parliament because I am aware, from the statements that have been made by the two leading constitutional lawyers in the House - the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) - that the powers of the Commonwealth Government in relation to hire purchase are rather sketchy. I do not say that the State governments are responsible for this calamitous state of affairs. I know that Mr. Gair, when he was Labour Premier of Queensland, said in his policy speech during the 1956 election campaign that, if the Australian Labour party supporters were elected to office, he would be prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth Government the powers that the State possessed in relation to hire purchase. After the election, no more was heard of the matter. Mr. Bolte said that he would not hand any further powers to the Commonwealth. So, where we will get in this matter without a referendum, I do not know.
People will not subscribe to local authority loans while they can get fantastically high returns from their investments in hire purchase. In addition, a measure of competition exists between Commonwealth loans and local authority loans. The investor in Commonwealth loans receives a taxation rebate of 2s. for each £1 interest when he furnishes his return at the end of the financial year. No such rebate is allowed to investors in local authority loans. The local authorities are the poor members of the family; yet they offer the best opportunity to meet the unemployment situation quickly. They also offer the best opportunity for a government - either Federal or State, and I suppose it must be federal because that is the source of all money - to raise the standard of living by permitting the local authorities to provide more amenities in their cities. However, I can do no more than draw attention to this matter, as other honorable members have done in the past. I hope that some time in the future - and not the distant future - the Parliament will be given the power to display a greater interest in local authorities so that these poor members of the governing bodies will not always be going through a period of financial crisis.
I now wish to refer to housing. This is an important social problem and is associated with the unemployment situation. Much could be done to relieve the housing situation, and in this way to absorb the unemployed, by making more money available for the construction of homes. The figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician are alarming. The following statement appeared in an article in the “Courier-Mail” of 7th March, 1958: -
The figures show some dramatic employment changes in different industries.
They are most dramatic in the building industry -
The number of building workers at December 31 was 202,400, a fall of 7,900 over the two years and a decline of 17,300 on the June, 1956. peak.
Those figures are fantastic, when we realize that the housing situation is not good. Many houses have been built, but many people are in dire circumstances and are very worried because they cannot get a home. Not enough homes are being built to meet .the demand. Even if enough homes were being built to meet the demand, the position of many of the old homes that are at present occupied is rather alarming. Many old homes in the City of Brisbane were built long before the flood. I am not referring to the biblical flood; the history of Queensland apparently started with the flood in 1893. Many homes in Brisbane were built long before 1893 and their architectural standards are of that period. Many of them are in a shocking state of repair and it would be in the interests of the occupants if they could be given a better type of home. That can happen only when sufficient money is made available for people to build homes. I was very sorry to learn from the recent statement of the Treasurer that the £15,000,000 that has been released from the special accounts will not necessarily be used for housing purposes. The private banks will be able to use it for whatever purposes they think fit.
I am most alarmed at the situation in the building industry to-day, and that situation will continue to deteriorate. I know from my own experience in Brisbane that many people are desperately seeking assistance to obtain a home in which to live. They are living on verandahs and some families are living in one room because they cannot get homes from the housing commission. The rate of construction of the Queensland Housing Commission is being reduced. In addition, under the new legislation, the rents of existing homes are being increased to such an extent that economists in Queensland fear that, when the next cost of living figures are published, the basic wage will increase by £1 a week.
I hope that some good will come from the speeches that have been made by Opposition members and that something, will move the almost immovable object - the heart of the Treasurer - so that more money will be made available under the housing agreement to meet the terrific social emergency in housing that we are experiencing. That would be, perhaps, the best means of solving the unemployment situation quickly.
In the few moments that I have left, I want to make some reference to the very important matter of overseas trade. The figures available show that we are rapidly approaching a position in our internal economy, associated with overseas trade, similar to that which we experienced just before the “ little budget “ was introduced in 1956. It is true that last year we had a very healthy overseas trade balance, but since then trade has steadily deteriorated. Figures recently published show that for the first six months of 1956-57 we had a surplus of exports over imports of £161,000,000, but for the same period in 1957-58 the surplus had dropped to £51,000,000. That was a fall of £100,000,000 in our overseas trade. More alarming than that is the fact that the prices for our overseas products are continuing to fall. With each wool sale, we find that the price of wool is steadily dropping. The price at the last Brisbane wool sales dropped by 2i per cent. The Australian Broadcasting Commission reported that prices at the last Sydney wool sales were firm on the last Brisbane price. That means that they were firm on the lower price at Brisbane. This week, the prices dropped further. A statement issued by the Australian Woolgrowers Council revealed that the average price for 1956-57 was 78.39d. per lb. and for 1957-58 was 67.4d. per lb. That is a decrease of about Hd. per lb.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- At the outset, I desire to associate myself with the expressions of loyalty that have been voiced in this House on the occasion of the visit of Her Gracious Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. I was interested to hear the viewpoint of the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts), a fellow Queenslander, concerning economic affairs, particularly as they relate to Queensland. Earlier to-day, honorable members heard the speech of the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers), and 1 was surprised to hear him make such erroneous -statements concerning unemployment in this country. He usually goes back to the depression days to start his ranting, and proceeds from that time onward, but he knows nothing about the present position in Queensland. The honorable member said that Queensland has had one of its best seasons in years, and that there has really been no drought. The honorable member apparently does not see beyond his own electorate of Adelaide or he would know better. He certainly cannot have seen the conditions that have existed during the past nine or twelve months in New South Wales and Queensland or he would not have made the statement he did. In the southern parts of Queensland there has been a record dry season. The rainfall was an all-time low, lower than during the 1902 drought. (Mr. Daly interjecting) -
– The honorable member for Grayndler stays in Phillip-street, Sydney, and smokes his cigars. He belongs to all the clubs in Sydney, and does not get beyond the city limits.
Let me deal with the conditions on the land. Wheat has had a poor year, so much so that Queensland has had to import wheat. It is true that there have been markets for hard grain wheat overseas, so much so that Japan is prepared to take all the wheat Queensland can grow in addition to what is provided for in the agreement with that country. However, Australia has had to import wheat to meet her internal requirements and in order to export some of her own wheat so that markets will not be lost. Those are some of the effects of the dry season. I hope that the Wheat Industry
Stabilization Act, which expires this year, will be renewed by the Government for another five years in order to maintain the stability that has been enjoyed in the past. It is imperative that this should be done.
I should like to say something about the conditions affecting the dairying industry, including low overseas prices for the industry’s exports. Victoria, in the main, has been much better off with respect to dairying than has Queensland or New South Wales. In Queensland there have been no summer rains, and the dairymen have had to feed their entire herds since the end of last winter. In doing so they have exhausted their surplus capital, and in many cases have had to borrow money. This is in addition to what the Nicklin Government in Queensland has been able to arrange by way of drought relief to help the dairymen keep their stock alive.
During what is usually the peak killing period in the beef industry in Queensland men were dismissed from the meat works because there were no cattle to kill, and in many cases meat works were closed down. When the honorable member for Adelaide and the honorable member for Griffith say that the drought conditions did not affect Queensland industries they are not speaking the truth, and that is putting it mildly. As a result of the closing of meat works in Queensland hundreds - and I think the figure is in excess of 1,000 - of workers have been dismissed. Heavy losses continue to be sustained in the sheep industry. Forty per cent, of Queensland is still in the grip of that State’s worst drought. When honorable members are told that the average rainfall in the southern part of Queensland since June last year has been 2 inches they will know how much grass is available for stock. That condition still obtains. The rains that have come to Queensland have benefited the coastal areas, but have not gone any farther inland than about 100 miles. They do not seem to cross into the interior. It will be a happy day when we see the rains reach the inner part of Australia.
The grain crops in most cases were not sown this season, so Australia has not yet seen the full effects of the drought. It was not possible to plant our summer crops, which are normally maturing at this stage, because there was no moisture in the ground.
In the southern parts of Queensland, particularly in the electorate of Wide Bay, the sugar industry has suffered as bad a season as ever in its history. There has been no growth of the cane crop at all. There has been no rain, which has meant no work, and no planting of crops. There has been no cleaning of crops because weeds could not grow. There is no meat to kill. So any honorable member who suggests that drought conditions have not affected the employment position in Queensland or the northern part of New South Wales is not speaking the truth.
How has the drought affected the Australian economy? A glance at the value of our exports for the first eight months of this year, compared with the first eight months of last year, shows a drop of £48,000,000. That must have an effect on the economy. Dry conditions mainly have brought about the increased unemployment in the two States that the Government considered have been most seriously affected, and which, as a consequence, were granted the major amount of money at the recent Premiers’ Conference.
– The Prime Minister does not agree with your statement.
– I do not care who agrees with it; they are the facts. The Prime Minister must agree with my statement, because he was present at the Premiers’ Conference and was responsible for allocating the money to keep the States affected. The honorable member for Adelaide made a noble suggestion that the Australian Country party should correct these ills by irrigation and other means. Where are we to obtain the water? The drought was so bad in Queensland that the Mary River, one of Queensland’s largest rivers, ceased to flow. Irrigation was stopped entirely by the Irrigation Commission weeks before the drought broke in order to save a little water for the town of Gympie and other towns with water supply schemes. Never have conditions been so bad. I remember the drought of 1902, and I know how bad conditions were then. In spite of the effects of the drought, as a result of improvement of pastures and by the storage of fodder many farmers have been able to come through it, having lost little more than their income would normally have been for that period. But those who had just started on the land and had no capital are now in serious difficulty. They received no dairy cheques; they rushed in and obtained fodder relief for their cattle and incurred a debt which will be around their necks in the future. The prospect for them is not a happy one. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers)’ suggested that housing corrects all ills. It is all right to suggest building houses for people to live in; but if there are no primary products, that is food for them to eat, I cannot see how we shall improve the position merely by building more houses. The drought has made it most difficult for farmers to grow crops.
After listening to the speeches made during this debate, I say frankly that Labour members have shown they are entirely barren of ideas to solve our present problems. They have not advanced anything more valuable than the noble idea of the honorable member for Adelaide that more houses should be erected. If everybody rushed to build houses, how would the rural workers get on and the unskilled who do not know anything about building? Do honorable members opposite suggest that all workers should be employed in building houses? Obviously, that could not be. But that is the honorable member’s suggestion to meet the position. The Labour party is equally barren of ideas about how to govern this country and stabilize our economy.
The obvious answer to the unemployment problem is the progressive policy of this Government which has always been the encouragement and expansion of industry. That has been evidenced in Queensland, where, after a period of stagnation since 1914, when Labour came into office and failed to encourage industry, the present Australian Country-Liberal party State Government, which has been in office for only a few months, has already signed a contract for the opening up of an industry in the mineral field worth £45,000,000. That Government also is already extending the Mount Isa field, and the Commonwealth Government has given encouragement in the shape of a grant of £300,000 to provide efficient rail transport. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech contained further evidence of the Commonwealth’s progressive policy in its reference to the opening up of the north-west of Western Australia for which it has promised financial assistance to the extent of £2,500,000. At the last meeting of the Australian Loan Council various sums were allocated to be applied in the ways mentioned by previous speakers. All these facts show that this Government has acted while the Opposition has talked. It is still a fact that actions always speak louder than words.
I wish to say something in reply to the point raised by the honorable member for Griffith (Mr. Coutts) concerning war service homes. He repeated the assertion that applicants for money for war service homes have to wait. He said that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) was referring to the purchase of homes. I shall quote from the speech of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, and honorable members will see that he was referring to the building of homes. When the honorable member said that there was no reason why a man should have to wait before he could obtain finance for a war service home, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) interjected and said that there was no delay. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports had said -
I can see no reason, thirteen years after the cessation of hostilities, why any soldier should be denied finance for a house. With the building industry in its present plight, why should these people be forced to borrow money on second mortgage. . . .
He went on -
If finance were provided at once in these cases, it would not result in inflation. It would provide a stimulus to the building industry.
Obviously he was talking about the erection of homes. The honorable member for Lilley rightly interjected -
There is no delay.
There is no waiting period for finance for the erection of war service homes. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) answered the honorable member for Melbourne Ports quite effectively when, in referring to the honorable member’s statement about building new houses for ex-servicemen, he said -
He was talking about the building of new houses for ex-servicemen. He appears to be under the impression that there is a waiting list. I think perhaps he has failed to realize that with the very largely increased sums of money that the Government has made available under this heading - now £35,000,000 in this year - there is in respect of the building of houses, the acquisition of new homes, no waiting list at all.
All these things demonstrate the common sense of this Government. In the allocation of money, priority is given to home construction.
– That is a lie.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member will withdraw that statement and apologize.
– I apologize and withdraw. What the honorable member said was a misstatement of fact.
– Order! I ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– Can you not keep the honorable member for Fisher to the truth?
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert is one of the offenders.
– I was saying that, in the allocation of money for war service homes, the Commonwealth Government has shown sound common sense. This is also a practical means of solving the problem of unemployment. If members of the Opposition had any regard for employment, they would agree with the Government’s policy of providing money for building homes rather than for the purchase of homes, which does not provide additional employment. Money provided merely for the purchase of homes would not be used to provide additional employment in the construction of houses. Members of the Opposition profess to be very concerned about the shortage of houses.
– The seller of a house often has to build another house.
– The returned soldier is often penalized.
- Mr. Speaker, 1 am wondering when I can be heard above the din.
– The honorable member does not deserve to be heard.
– That is certainly an unparliamentary remark.
– Order! I warn the honorable member for Herbert that if he does not obey the Chair, I will deal with him. I ask the honorable member to refrain from interjecting. The honorable member for Fisher is entitled to be heard. I also ask honorable members at the table to cease audible conversation.
– I mentioned the help that has been given by the Commonwealth in making additional finance available, including £500,000 to local government authorities in Queensland. The honorable member for Griffith referred to this with approval, but he pointed out that it might be somewhat difficult for these bodies to raise the necessary money they still needed. I do not think that that is a particular problem. We have had proof of what the present Queensland Government is doing in regard to providing employment through local government bodies. It has cut out all red tape procedure. For instance, it has eliminated the requirement of one month’s notice, previously provided in order to permit ratepayers, who may desire to do so, to object to a local council incurring liability. In that way, local government bodies are being enabled to get on with the job immediately and to use the money that has just been made available to them for the four months that remain of the current financial yeal.
If we look at the sums that have been made available for what is a very important matter in Australia - transport - it will be seen that this Government has made a great contribution towards the building of roads. This- problem is not yet completely solved by any means; it remains with us. But when we look at the Commonwealth aid roads grants to the States over the years, we find that the amount has risen from about £7,500,000 or £8,000,000 in 1949 to £31,250,000 in the financial year ended 30th June last.
The additional £3,000,000 granted to the States by the Commonwealth from the proceeds of the diesel fuel tax, of which Queensland’s share is £500,000, will bring the total amount available for road construction and maintenance to about £37,000,000 by the end of this financial year. Of that amount Queensland will have received approximately £7,000,000. The amount made available by the Commonwealth for road construction and maintenance throughout Australia represents 8d. on every gallon of petrol consumed. But the road problem still remains with us. State governments and local government authorities are not really getting ahead of road maintenance difficulties. We all admit the existence of the problem.
I hope the Constitution Review Committee which has been set up by this Parliament will make a recommendation which, will enable us to overcome the difficultiespresented by the iniquitous section 92 of the Constitution as it has been applied tointerstate road transport. I think that everybody agrees that an amendment to that section is necessary. I cannot understand some of the High Court judgments that have been given in relation to it. I can understand how the Constitution limits thepowers of the Federal Parliament but when the High Court says that the States have not the sovereign right to deal with matters. outside the Constitution, I cannot understand its ruling. The reason why the States, which have sovereign powers over matters in which they are not limited by the Constitution, cannot deal with this problem takes a lot of understanding. I cannot understand why the High Court has ruled that interstate transports cannot even be charged a registration fee. It seems to me that the court might just as well say that private enterprise could put a train on an interstate railway and run it, free of charge. Why has the court not ruled that interstate aeroplanes must carry goods free of charge? If the court wants to be logical, it should rule that everything that goes from one State to another should be carried absolutely free.
To say that State governments should provide free services by constructing roads is just as stupid as it would be to say that the charges of interstate haulage contractors are illegal. I cannot find any authority which states that the State governments have not sovereign powers outside the matters in which the Commonwealth is limited by the Constitution. I hope that this problem will be solved by the Constitution Review Committee with a suitable recommendation which all parties in this’ House will be able to support so that the Australian people will give us the right to clear this matter up. It is certainly one of the most unsatisfactory aspects of Commonwealth and State relations.
Sitting suspended from 5.49 to 8 p.m.
.- I support the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Two subjects are exercising the minds of
Australian people to-day. They are unemployment and housing. To a certain extent, all our other worries flow from these two main problems. His Excellency the Governor-General referred to unemployment, but we heard nothing at all about housing. The reference to unemployment was as follows: -
There has been some increase in unemployment, some part of which was undoubtedly attributable to the less favourable seasonable conditions. It still represents a relatively small proportion of our total work force; nevertheless it is a development which my Government continues to keep under closest scrutiny.
I shall repeat the last few words because they relate to what I propose to say on the subject later - continues to keep under closest scrutiny. The decisions taken at the recent Loan Council meeting will result in some additional finance being available to the State Governments and some increase in the borrowing programmes of the local Government authorities. This should assist in providing additional employment opportunities. 1 repeat, not a word was said about housing. In the time at my disposal I propose to deal solely with the question of unemployment as it affects Australia to-day. However, I wish first to refer to a certain statement which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in addressing the House last Tuesday. Among other things he said -
Mr. Monk, the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said on Sunday in Melbourne that there is no serious unemployment in Australia.
To-day, both the Leader of the Opposition and I received an identical telegram from Mr. Monk in these terms -
Reference speech made by Prime Minister on Tuesday evening on unemployment and the use he made of an alleged statement by me during last Sunday’s television broadcast Melbourne. I did not use statement attributed to me by him and others as will be disclosed by recourse to reproduction of tape recording of my statements on unemployment in todays issue Melbourne Sun.
So that this matter will be settled once and for all, I propose to read exactly what Mr. Monk did say. I have before me this morning’s edition of the Melbourne “ Sun “, in which a transcript of the tape recording appears. I may add that the statement was alleged to have been made during a telecast feature known as “ Meet-the-Press “, which was broadcast last Sunday evening. These are the questions which were put to Mr. Monk on unemployment and his answers -
Mr. Tipping. ; There’s been a lot of talk lately, Mr. Monk, about unemployment. What’s the score? Are the unions really worried?
Mr. Monk. ; Well, I wouldn’t say so much that we’re extremely worried as that we are concerned at the drift that’s occurred in the last few months. It may be that the February unemployment figures will show a better position than what occurred in December and in January.
I think you’ve got to have some consideration for the fact that factories were closing down towards the end of the year - no one was working in effect during January; but I’d be surprised if the position does not improve in February.
Taking the major position, 1 think there is a responsibility on the Federal Government to take up the lag where private enterprise has not been able to provide employment and that the Governments should - mainly, of course, at the instigation of the Federal Government, who has the sinews cf war - improve the position by providing public works and other types of work - roadmaking and all that type of thing - which would provide immediate relief.
Mr. Tipping. ; But the figure is not too bad really ; seventy odd thousand isn’t it? It’s nothing like as bad as in America?
Mr. Monk. ; No, it isn’t as bad as America. I think our position is different to America and even to the United Kingdom which is better than America.
Mr. Tebbutt. ; If the position doesn’t adjust itself soon, Mr. Monk, which specific measure would you suggest the Federal Government should take to improve the position?
Mr. Monk. ; I think it should release credits immediately to the Commonwealth Bank or to the Central Bank to improve the position. I think money should be made available particularly to local councils where men can be employed very quickly without planning.
Mr. Leonard. ; In the Parramatta by election the Labour candidate was saying there are 100,000 unemployed. Do you agree with that figure?
Mr. Monk. ; Well, I don’t know on what that is based. I think that the unemployment figures produced by the Department of Labour and National Service serve as a trend, not as an exact figure. I don’t think that we have yet any serious problem with part-time employment-
I repeat the last few words -
I don’t think that we have yet any serious probkm with part-time employment - for instance, that we had during the depression that I went through,, and when I organized the unemployed, as you know that, Mr. Leonard.
The final question and answer were -
Mr. Leonard. ; Tell me, in a few words, could, you, what do you think of the Parramatta byelection result?
Mr. Monk. ; Well, obviously I think the Government stocks have slumped, and I think that unless they’re prepared to take some action - to get back to our first question - of doing something to relieve the unemployment situation, well, they’ll1 have to look to their laurels to win.
I believe that the Prime Minister accepted a press report as the basis for his statement, but it provided a classic example of taking a thing from its context and thus giving it an entirely different meaning. In fact, Mr. Monk said -
I don’t think that we have yet any serious problem with part-time employment . . .
No one has suggested that part-time employment has, as yet, suffered greatly in Australia. However, Mr. Monk’s statement was broadcast far and wide as being, “ There is no serious unemployment problem “. lt -appeared that way in the press, and was used by the Prime Minister and other Government supporters in an attempt to demonstrate that unemployment was not really serious. I regret that the Prime Minister made that, statement. It might have been better to check the press report before using it. This position would not then have arisen.
I wish now to deal with the actual question of unemployment. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) makes available monthly certain figures showing the level of unemployment as at a certain date in the previous month. As has been mentioned previously in this debate, the highest unemployment level was reached in January, 1953, when, taking the figure to the nearest 1,000, the number of unemployed was 80,000. From then there was a steady decline, until the lowest level of unemployment, as shown by the number of persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service, was reached in October, 1955, when the number was about 14,000. Since then there has been a steady increase in the number -of persons registering for employment. In January, 1958, again taking the nearest 1,000, there were 75.000 persons unemployed.
In January, 1953, when the number of persons registered for employment was 80,000, there were 21,585 receiving unemployment benefit. In January, 1958, with fewer persons registered as unemployed, the total number of persons receiving unemployment benefit was 26,000 - again to the nearest 1,000.
– Our population has increased by 1,000,000.
– I will come to that later on. We do not know to what extent per sons are remaining unemployed for longer periods to-day than was the case formerly. In this regard I shall merely cite figures that appear in the “ Quarterly Summary of Australian Statistics “ for June, 1957, which indicate that in 1953-54, when unemployment was at a high level, the amount paid in unemployment benefit was £2,505,463. In the previous year, when unemployment had reached its highest level, the amount paid was £4,569,747. But in 1956-57- and it cannot be said that in that year seasonal conditions would have had any effect upon the figures - the total amount paid in unemployment benefit was £2,096,036. These figures indicate, to me at any rate, that there is a tendency for persons who are unemployed at present to remain unemployed for a slightly longer period than was the case in 1953-54.
I agree with the Minister for Labour and National Service that we cannot rely only on the figures showing the number of persons who are registered for employment. No one suggests that every unemployed person in Australia to-day is registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment. Obviously there are more unemployed than are registered as unemployed. The only way in which we can check whether the economy is geared to give the greatest measure of full employment to our people is by looking at other figures that have a bearing upon the economic position of Australia. One of the first things to do is to examine the figures with regard to our increase in population. This has been mentioned by the Minister. At the same time one must ascertain whether the work force of Australia is increasing in proportion to the increasing population, and whether we have a dynamic and progressive economy in which we are finding avenues of employment for the people of Australia who each year become available for employment.
The figures that I cite have been taken from the official publications of the Commonwealth Statistician. In June, 1955, our population was 9,200,691 persons. By June, 1956, it had increased to 9,427,558, and in June, 1957, the figure stood at 9,643,079. In two years our population had increased by about 443,000 persons. Approximately 60 per cent, of this was due to natural increase, being the excess of births over deaths. The other 40 per cent, was due to the immigration policy followed by the Australian Government. It is admitted, therefore, that the population is increasing, and if we have a dynamic economy geared to meet the situation, and if full employment is to be maintained, we should also show a progressive increase each year in the total work force of the community.
I refer now to the “ Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics “ for October, 1957, issued by the Commonwealth Statistician. On page three of that publication we find figures showing total civilian employees and defence forces, excluding wage-earners in rural industry and in private domestic service. In the figures that I shall cite to the House I exclude persons engaged in the defence forces, and I give the civilian work force only. From July, 1941, when the work force numbered 1,919,000, we see a steady increase until June, 1951, when it reached 2,630,000. In 1952 and 1953, when a recession occurred in Australia, the work force decreased substantially. It then commenced to pick up again, and in June, 1954, the figure stood at 2,655,000. I shall now give the figures from 1954 to 1957, the last complete year, to show the perilous position into which we are drifting. Between June, 1954, and June, 1955, the work force increased by 84,000 persons. At the end of that year the figure stood at 2,739,000. In June, 1956, it reached 2,784,000, the increase for the year being 45,000. But the really alarming position is apparent in the figures for the following year, because with an increase of about 220,000 in population, the work force increased between June, 1956, and June, 1957, by only 4,000, to 2,788,000. If one examines the monthly figures since June, 1957, one sees only a. very gradual increase in the work force, by no means keeping pace with population increase. It appears that when this year ends, and perhaps another 220,000 have been added to our population, our work force will have increased by only about 4,000.
One is impelled to ask this question: If in the past thousands have been added to the work force each year, why is it that to-day there is only a very small increase? Honorable members should keep in mind that we have 30,000 young persons leaving school each year and looking for employment. In addition - and I am being conservative with this figure - of the large numbers of immigrants coming into Australia at least 30,000 each year would wish to secure employment. If we are to keep on an even economic keel, the numbers of persons in employment should be increasing each year by 50,000 or 60,000. Let me also point out this interesting fact: Although the work force increased by 4,000 in the 1956-57 year, the number of persons in the defence forces actually decreased, from June, 1955, to June, 1957, from 59,800 to 47,900. So, in addition to those who were waiting to be drawn into industry from school and from immigration, there were about 11,000 people from the defence forces who would be seeking employment. I point those things out because I think a serious position is developing, and I simply say that if the Government has been giving the close scrutiny to unemployment that is suggested in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, then apparently nothing has been done to stop the rot or to stop the drift. Unless something is done very soon we will find ourselves with a constantlygrowing unemployment that will be causing embarrassment to everybody throughout the nation. With a 4,000 increase in the work force, we have to expect 75,000 people or more to be unemployed and we have to adopt the steps necessary to right it.
Let me, in the two or three minutes left to me, ask what is the position of the Government in respect of this matter, and what is the position in industry? I shall give some figures. The Government itself has helped to build up the unemployment problem because between 30th September, 1956, and the present time, 435 people have been dismissed from the Bendigo Ordnance Factory, 20 have been dismissed from the Echuca Ball-bearing Factory, 2,771 have been dismissed from the defence establishments in Melbourne, 800 have been dismissed from the Department of Aircraft Production, and the number dismissed from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory is about 300. On top of that, the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, known as C.A.C., a private enterprise existing solely upon government work, has in the same period reduced the number of its employees by 1,500. It seems that, in the matter of developing constant employment, the
Government has not played its part. It has helped, by the dismissals, to swell the unemployment force in Australia and to make conditions as difficult as they are to-day.
There are many more things that I should like to say, but I want to stress that we in this country - a young country, a country that needs development, a country where the people are vigorous and virile - want, above all things, security. We want our country to be developed on lines that give the greatest measure of happiness and contentment to our people. That will not be achieved if, while the population is growing, our work force is gradually diminishing. Steps have to be taken to correct this position otherwise, whether we like it or not, in the near future we will be facing a crisis. The people may have been contented with 10 per cent, of unemployment before the war, but to-day the people expect full employment; 5 per cent, of unemployment in Australia to-day would cause almost a revolution in the minds of the people. Something has to be done to correct the position. Government members have asserted that everything is all right, that wc are living in the best of all possible worlds. That is a foolish attitude for us to adopt.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– It is quite refreshing to hear one of the honorable gentlemen opposite discuss this question of employment in a temperate and earnest way, but then, we naturally expect such an approach from the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). However, many honorable gentlemen opposite have been trying in the course of this debate, for their own political purposes, to create an impression with the public that another depression is upon us. Now, the honorable member for Bendigo would certainly not attempt to do that because, like myself-
– But he said there was a crisis.
– Oh, yes, he said it was a crisis. You are putting words into his mouth for him. The honorable gentleman, unlike the newly appointed doctor from Yarra-
– The honorable member for Yarra, unlike the honorable member for Bendigo-
Mr. Calwell. - Are you jealous? (Mr. Cairns interjecting) -
– Order! The right honorable gentleman will resume his seat. The last speaker was heard in silence, and I ask the House to extend the same courtesy to the Minister. I have previously had occasion to-day to ask the honorable member for Yarra not to interject.
– The honorable member for Bendigo - unlike the honorable member for Yarra - in company with some others around this chamber, including myself, has had experience of a real depression. I had that experience. The honorable member for Yarra may be interested to know that 1 campaigned in Yarra in 1934 in the depth of a depression which the Labour Government of 1931 had been unable to arrest in this country.
Let us take a quick look back for a minute or two to a real depression, because there has grown up in this country a generation of Australian voters and Australian workers who have never had any experience of an actual economic depression. Those people are listening to honorable gentlemen opposite as though they were their own spokesmen, and are being persuaded by them that the situation in this country is approaching that of a former depression. The Labour Government led by Mr. Scullin was in charge when the depression of the 1930’s hit Australia. The collapse of the stock market in Wall-street, which touched off the depression, occurred on 29th October, 1929. The Scullin Government had come into office just a week earlier, on 22nd October.
As the honorable member for Bendigo has pointed out, the proportion of unem-. ployed in the pre-war years was high. That was a normal experience. He said that we would now not accept the 10 per cent, of pre-war times as normal. Of course we would not! The proportion in 1929 was not 10 per cent., but 11 per cent. - round about what the honorable member for Bendigo would have regarded as a normal pre-war experience. But the 11 per cent, of 1929 had risen to 19 per cent, in 1930 - the first year of Labour’s administration during a depression period - and by 1931 it had risen to 27 per cent. In the federal election which followed there was a landslide against the Labour government because that government had shown itself powerless to remedy the position. The newly formed United Australia party was swept into office on 6th January, 1932, and the electors of those days, having had some experience of Labour’s attempt to govern the country through difficult times, did not quickly forget their grim experiences of those days. It was not until eleven years later - in 1943 - that they voted Labour back to office. Under the Lyons Government, the people’s confidence was restored and the economy steadily improved. If the honorable member for Bendigo regards the employment situation of to-day as serious, it is interesting to recall that in 1937 he was the principal advocate of the trade unions before the Arbitration Court, and at a time when unemployment was still running at 10 per cent, he applied for a prosperity loading as an increase in the basic wage.
– And got it.
– Yes, he got it, too. He is a very good advocate. He has demonstrated that to-night. He has been able to persuade many people that 2 per cent, of unemployment is a terribly serious matter, whereas in 1937 he was able to persuade the Arbitration Court that 10 per cent, of unemployment justified a prosperity loading on the basic wage. Here are his exact words, if I may quote them, to refresh a few memories around this chamber -
In the period 1933 and 1934 we noticed an emergence from the crisis with a stabilization of prices. During this period confidence returned and the tendency was towards an extension of capital facilities with values rising and unemployment decreasing. The period from 1935 to 1937-
I remind the House that that was under Mr. Lyon’s administration- shows practically the most spectacular recovery ever witnessed. Normality was regained.
Normality was 10 per cent of unemployment! In conclusion, Mr. Clarey submitted -
The case of the trade unions was essentially that of a comparison of present with past conditions.
I think it is interesting to hark back to a real depression when we are being told by honorable gentlemen opposite that the present situation indicates that another depression is coming up. It was not surprising, having regard to our pre-war experience, that the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), a senior member of the Opposition front bench, should say, as he did in 1945, that 5 per cent, of unemployment could, for all practical purposes, be regarded as full employment. Beveridge, who wrote the standard work on full employment, said that 4 per cent, could be taken as a practical minimum in a free society. More recently, Mr. Gaitskell, the leader of the Labour party in the United Kingdom, has said that 3 per cent, unemployment is a tolerable figure. I am not accepting those views myself. I am not saying that that is a socially desirable state at all, but those are comments, based on economic grounds, on the situation as those men found it from time to time.
What are the facts in Australia to-day? There are some elements which could be said to be in common with that tragic period in the 1 930’s. We have lower export prices for our primary produce. We detect some business uneasiness in the United States of America. Undoubtedly, there has been growing unemployment there. The figure now is higher than they have known for many years. But look at our Australian situation. At the end of January there were fewer than 75,000 registered applicants for work. This figure is much higher than any of us would wish to see it, and it is admittedly a higher figure than that for any other year since 1953. But it is still less than 2 per cent, of the work force, and I ask the House to examine with me how close it is to the actual number of unemployed- If we are to have an argument about the employment situation, let us at least be arguing about the same facts. Some Labour members, in the course of this debate, and some trade union officials recently - indeed, while the debate has been in progress - have claimed that 100,000 or even 150,000 is nearer to the mark. Mr. Stout, the secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in Victoria, has claimed in the last few days that the figure is 150,000, and he is echoed by honorable gentlemen round this chamber. What evidence has he or anybody else to justify making that claim? Certainly these people have no official information which would justify it.
– Because they cannot get it.
– Oh, yes, they can get it. Presumably, they base the claim on the known fact that some people do not register with the department as applicants for work. What they choose to ignore is that the total figure of registered applicants includes many who, after regisering, have secured work by their own efforts, without notifying the department, and others who, having been referred by the department to an employer, have not notified the department of their engagement. There is, thus, a time lag between their securing employment and the subsequent check by the department which results in their being taken off the list of applicants.
– But that would apply to all figures.
– Yes. All I am trying to show is that there is a time lag. When employment opportunities tend to be scarce, the number of persons who do not register must be comparatively small. When it is known that the department places more than 5,000 people a week in new jobs, a person who does not register cannot feel very anxious about his prospects of getting work.
– What rot!
– Of course he cannot. It is all very well for honorable gentlemen to brush aside the figures from the department. I may say that I have invited the Australian Council of Trades Unions to check our methods and to make any suggestions that it can make as to how those methods can be improved. I still await any practical suggestion from the council.
– Will you invite the Opposition to do it?
– Order! The honorable member for Herbert will cease interjecting.
– The evidence obtained from the last two censuses in 1947 and 1954 suggests that our total of registered applicants may be actually higher on the day than the number of persons in the work force who describe themselves as being “ unable to secure employment “. That rather confirms the point I was making a little earlier, that our figure for registered applicants tends to be inflated by the number of persons who have themselves found jobs and those who have been referred by us to an employer and have not notified us of their engagement.
– That is a mere guess.
– It is not a mere guess. It is all very well for the right honorable gentleman to throw in his interjections. I have the census figures before me and I invite him to study them. The number of persons recorded under the heading “ unable to secure employment “ on 30th June, 1947, was 18,620. On the same date 21,576 persons - nearly 3,000 more - were registered with the department for work.
– This was in 1947?
– Yes. There are only two censuses, one in 1947 and the other in 1954, to which we can refer. There was no Department of Labour and National Service at earlier censuses. The census of 30th June, 1954, showed that persons who were “ unable to secure employment “ numbered 12,424, while the applicants for work, registered with the department, were 22,364. An interesting conclusion, which I think, can be drawn, is that as the work of the department becomes better known more and more people tend to register with it. Certainly those figures do support my point that the figure for registered applicants tends to be higher than the actual number out of work. If time permits, I shall give a few other illustrations to confirm this view. The figure of 75,000 which I have mentioned is less than 2 per cent, of the work force, and if the number of persons who are generally unsuitable for even unskilled employment on health and other grounds is taken into account, it would be nearer to 1 per cent.
I have had some interesting examples from Victoria, where, admittedly, the degree of unemployment is not as high as it is in New South Wales and Queensland, the drought-affected States. In the last couple of weeks two instances have been brought to my notice in the department where government instrumentalities seeking men for work had the greatest difficulty in obtaining men. Admittedly, they wanted healthy men. In one instance, at any rate, they wanted them within age limits of 18 and 45 years, but the facts are interesting, as we hear lamentations from the other side about another depression coming up. One instrumentality has 200 jobs for relatively unskilled persons now waiting to be filled, but applicants need to be fit and between the ages of 18 and 45 years. Our district office in Melbourne made a comb of 1,400 male workers registered with the office. Only 38 seemed to us to be suitable for even these relatively unskilled jobs. Notices were sent to them. Twenty-eight of the 38 failed to reply. Of the ten who replied, two were found to be sick; one was a seaman who wanted to remain in that occupation; three were unsuitable; one declined the position; two, it was found, had other jobs; and one was referred to the employer - to fill 200 vacancies that we were trying to meet for this statutory authority!
Then we had another instance involving a request for comparatively unskilled people, but again, they had to be ablebodied and, in this case, capable of doing heavy labouring work, such as trenchdigging.
– In what month were the instances to which the right honorable gentleman is referring?
– In the last couple of weeks. Some experience of trench-digging, or heavy labouring work of a similar type, was asked for, and they had to pass a medical test. We sent information about these vacancies to six of our metropolitan offices covering the areas of work. We had 3,500 men registered at those offices. In just under five weeks we have sent 93 people to the employer. Of the 3,500, only 37 have passed the medical test and been engaged in that time. That may not be typical of, say, New South Wales and Queensland at this time, but it does show that an aggregate figure can be misleading when we come to consider the number of available people for even relatively unskilled work which might be offering.
I have given these facts to restore the employment position to its proper perspective. We have a variety of problems. Even where opportunities exist in some places, the people who are wanting work may live in other places. We have, for example, a special problem developing, in these days of heavy mechanization in rural areas, in relation to youths in country districts. It would be helpful if, instead of this clamour which the Opposition makes about the unemployment position generally, honorable members opposite were prepared to examine the matter constructively and tell us how we could cope with some of the special problems that are involved.
I think that the facts I have given put the position in better perspective, but I do not present them with a view to suggesting any complacency about the current position, or to convey any lack of concern or sympathy for those who are unable to find work. The lack of a needed job, even for a matter of weeks, can mean hardship for an unemployed person, or for his family if he is a breadwinner. If unemployment is prolonged, it can become a personal tragedy, and where the numbers are considerable it becomes a grave social evil.
Our policy as a government is, as it has been throughout our term of office, one of full employment. No government of any industrialized country in the free world has pursued such a policy with more consistent success. We have averaged less than 1 per cent, of unemployment over our term of office, and for much of that period we have had more jobs than applicants for work. No aspect of policy engages more of the Government’s attention than does its policy of full employment. The employment figures are under weekly review in the Department of Labour and National Service, and employment, as a basic element of the overall economic position, is studied by the Cabinet at frequent intervals. The Ministry of Labour Advisory Council, on which the Government, employer organizations, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have been represented, has made a thorough analysis every three months. I regard it as something of a national disaster that the trade union movement, for purely political reasons, should have cast aside this valuable opportunity to make a regular survey of the employment position.
The Opposition criticism - the honorable member for Bendigo has- repeated it tonight - is to the effect that we are doing nothing to keep the demand for labour high. Honorable members opposite suggest that our scrutiny of the employment position, referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, indicates a negative and passive attitude. Let me give just a few illustrations of the positive measures that we have been taking, both last year and this year.
In 1957, through Loan Council and Commonwealth Budget decisions, because we could see this trend and were determined to check it and to keep the economy buoyant, we increased Commonwealth and State expenditure by some £80,000,000. Tax remissions in the most recent Commonwealth Budget will amount to £56,000,000 in a full year. My colleague, the Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden), is in close touch at all times with the central bank. Since May of 1957, when this trend could be seen developing, the Commonwealth Bank progressively has removed credit restrictions. The present position is that no restrictions are currently in force regarding the purpose for which banks may lend, other than for hire purchase and instalment selling. I ask honorable members opposite to bear these facts in mind, because we hear so much talk about credit restrictions being a part of the trouble at the present time. Other than in respect of those two relatively minor aspects - hire purchase and instalment selling - no restrictions exist. The trading banks, indeed, have been encouraged by the central bank, with the concurrence of the Government, to increase their advances above the 1957 level, and to give particular attention to housing. The Treasurer made it clear yesterday that that is not to be the last word in this direction.
Already in 1958 - and we are only in the early days of the third month of the year - this Government has assisted the State governments to increase employment opportunities by approving of an extra £3,000,000 of borrowing capacity for local government works, and a grant from Commonwealth revenues of £5,000,000 to the States, with Queensland and New South Wales getting an especially large share because they have been most affected by the drought.
– That is only chicken feed!
– That may be so, but the grant covers only a four-month period. Much of this grant is going into housing, and the balance into work with a high employment content. For example, the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, has stated that £300,000 of the amount he is to receive will go into works undertaken by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works. But what is frequently forgotten by honorable gentlemen opposite is that private enterprise provides the bulk of work opportunities - approximately three out of every four jobs in this country. It is vital to the success of the full employment policy that private enterprise should feel confidence in the Government and its policies, and that private investors, both inside Australia and from overseas, should be encouraged to risk their capital in the hope of a reasonablereturn. Are they likely to feel that confidence in the kind of government and the kind of policies that honorable gentlemen opposite would provide? Of course not This Government, throughout its term, has been blessed by a steady flow of investment capital from overseas, and we hope to preserve that confidence.
The Opposition also seems to forget that rash and unsoundly based economic decisions, even if designed to provide more employment, can have the opposite effect. Excessive government expenditures which forced up costs could result in Australia being priced out of export markets, with unemployment, in consequence, on a scale which would dwarf the present numbers. We must not do too little too late. On the other hand, we must guard against doing too much too soon. It is not so long ago that honorable gentlemen opposite were attacking us because of inflation and because, they said, we were robbing the pensioner and wage-earner. To-day we have stability, a very precious thing which we are determined to preserve. The Australia of to-day requires full employment, of course; but we want full employment associated with a high rate of development and population growth, and linked with a stable price level. These are three great national objectives, and it is the Government’s aim to keep those three objectives in balance. That task is not easy, but is there anything in Labour’s record to suggest that it could do better than we have done?
In the last minute or two at my disposal I shall give the House the latest employment figures - those for the month of February. They give the following picture: Registered applicants numbered 70,029, a decline of 4,736 on the January registrations. Recipients of unemployment benefit numbered 26,879, a decline of 2,976 on the figure at the end of January.
– I bet you have pruned them!
– That is a reflection on the senior public servants who prepare these figures for any government. The suggestion is typical of the right honorable gentleman and those who sit behind him. Vacancies numbered 20,747, a decline of 5,177 on the January total of 25,924. We are frequently asked about migrant workers in the holding centres. As at 1st March, there were 185 migrant workers awaiting their first placement in work.
This downward trend, while useful, is not claimed to be spectacular but no effect would have been felt in February from the Loan Council decisions to make available an additional £8,000,000 to the States, or from the release of £15,000,000 to the trading banks. The Government will continue, not only to watch the employment position closely, but also to deal actively with it as the circumstances appear to require. Another meeting of the Australian Loan Council will be held not later than June of this year. The Commonwealth Budget is likely to be introduced somewhat earlier than usual. In the meantime, flexibility of action is available inside Commonwealth government departments.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
.- For several reasons I welcome the opportunity to join in this debate now. I welcome the opportunity to speak after the Minister tor Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), because during the last session, when J raised some of the matters to which he has referred this evening, he was able to reply to my remarks on those matters. On this occasion I have the opportunity to refer to some of the matters that have been dealt with, only in passing, by the Deputy Leader of the Parliamentary Liberal party. I shall confine my remarks to one or two matters mentioned in the Governor-General’s Speech. That speech, of course, dealt with many matters, some of which were important and many of which were unimportant.
The subject which was dealt with mainly by the Minister for Labour and National
Service was touched on by His Excellency only in passing, in no more than a cursory way. Later, it was dealt with effectively by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and by most of the speakers in the debate from this side of the House. It is a subject that is of paramount importance in the minds of the more thoughtful people of this country. I refer to the serious unemployment which has arisen in recent months and which, despite assurances and half-hearted promises from the Minister for Labour and National Service, is steadily worsening in every State of the Commonwealth.
This Government was elected to office on a pledge to maintain full employment. I do not wish to enlarge upon that point; I merely mention it in passing. The point I do want to stress is that everywhere today people are apprehensive about unemployment. They are asking - quite rightly, in my opinion - whether this Government has kept its promise or has fallen down on its job. I believe that it has been proved conclusively by honorable members on this side of the House that the Government has fallen down on its job. Since I raised this subject as a matter of urgency during the last session, it has been shown quite conclusively that there has been a substantial increase in the number of persons unemployed in this country. In September, 1957, when I raised the matter, I pointed out that even then in every State of the Commonwealth unemployment was reaching serious proportions.
I suppose much depends on one’s outlook on these matters. We have heard the Minister for Labour and National Service apologize, not for the number of persons unemployed, but for the Government’s attitude to unemployment. It feels it must adopt the attitude expressed in other countries. The Minister quoted statements by people in other countries who have said that 1 per cent, of unemployment in a country is desirable. He also quoted people who have suggested an even higher figure. That may be the attitude of the Liberal party, but it is not the attitude of the Parliamentary Labour party, nor is it the attitude of any person who subscribes to the principles of the Australian Labour party. We believe in a policy of full employment and we intend to have full employment here.
Although the Minister says, possibly in all seriousness, that this Government has no desire to see a repetition of the state ot affairs that prevailed in the 1930’s, we, as members of Her Majesty’s Opposition are determined to ensure that those conditions will not prevail again so long as we have the power to discuss these matters in the Commonwealth Parliament. I want to make it perfectly clear that the only defence of the Government submitted by honorable members from the other side of the House who have spoken in this debate is that we of the Labour party are guilty of spreading discontent, and of attempting to worsen the situation. The Minister for Labour and National Service knows as well as I do that when unemployment reaches the proportions it has reached in Australia now, it penetrates every aspect of our economic and industrial life. When that position arises, the degree of unemployment existing does not have to be advertised by myself or any other honorable member from this side of the House. It becomes apparent to people engaged in industry, and the natural result is a loss of confidence.
When I raised this subject as a matter of urgency in September, 1957, I gave the House the precise figures that had been supplied to me a few days previously by the Minister for Labour and National Service. At that time the number of persons registered with the Department of Labour and National Service as being in receipt of unemployment benefit was approximately 21,300. The number of people registered with the various offices of the department, but who, because of the vicious means test, were not in receipt of the benefit was, according to the same reliable source of information, approximately 32,000. In September, 1957, approximately 53,000 people were unemployed in Australia. I emphasize one of the points I made on that occasion, namely, that the figure did not represent the actual number of people unemployed. That point has been dealt with most effectively by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey). He showed quite conclusively that the number of persons registered as unemployed with the Department of Labour and National Service represents only a fraction of the total number of unemployed in the country. Therefore, in September, 1957, a more accurate assessment of the number of people unemployed would have been a figure approaching 65,000, not the figure of 53,000.
During the course of this debate the Minister for Labour and National Service has presented, the case for the Government. On the previous occasion to which I have referred he dismissed the situation as being, in his opinion, of little or no consequence and went on to describe the actions that could, or would, be taken by the Government to relieve the situation which had then arisen. If I remember rightly - and I rely on my memory in these matters - he made several points. The first was that appropriate action would be taken in the Budget that was to be presented to the Parliament a few days after that debate took place. The second point was one to which he has referred to-night. He said that the Government would ensure there would be a healthy expansion of private industry in Australia. The third point was that the Australian Loan Council would be given an opportunity to decide what, in its opinion, should be the level of public works necessary to sustain employment at a reasonable level. They were the points made on that occasion by the Minister for Labour and National Service. In the light of the position to-day, it is interesting to recall them.
Let us look at what has happened. So far as I am aware, no additional money was made available to the States by the Australian Loan Council for some time. It was only quite recently that the council decided to provide extra money for the States to undertake urgently required public works. Recently, of course, the Government gave an additional £5,000,000 to the States for that purpose, but surely nobody will seriously suggest that £5,000,000 spread over six States will be sufficient to relieve the serious position that has arisen in regard to unemployment throughout the Commonwealth? What is the amount that will be available to Tasmania under this programme? In fact, Tasmania will receive £142,000. That is the share Tasmania will receive for the relief of the serious unemployment that exists there.
At this stage, I take the opportunity of referring to a matter mentioned by the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr.
Duthie) a few days ago in this Parliament. He spoke of the serious unemployment situation in Tasmania. All honorable members are fully aware of the fact that the Minister for Labour and National Service returned to the chamber and accused the honorable member for Wilmot of distorting the facts. The honorable member for Wilmot had said that at that stage unemployment in Tasmania was higher than it had been since 1945. And that was the actual fact. The Minister for Labour and National Service confirmed what the honorable member for Wilmot had said because he admitted that at that time 359 persons were in receipt of the unemployment benefit in Tasmania. 1 emphasize that this was the number of persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit. The total number of persons who would be unemployed would be substantially greater than that.
On perusing the statistics contained in the bulletin issued by the Bureau of Census and Statistics, I find that the next highest figure was in June, 1953, when 223 persons were in receipt of the unemployment benefit. That, of course, was the year following the one in which this Government created the first recession in this country during its short occupancy of the treasury bench. The honorable member for Wilmot was accused of distorting the facts when, in actual fact, the person who accused him of doing so confirmed what he had said. I support the assertion by the honorable member for Wilmot that, in proportion to the population of that State, the unemployment position in Tasmania has reached serious dimensions.
I now register an emphatic protest at the action being taken at the present time by the Minister for Supply (Mr. Townley) and, I have no doubt, the Minister for Labour and National Service, who are sending unemployed persons from New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania to work for the Australian Aluminium Production Commission at Bell Bay. While unemployed residents of Tasmania are ignored either by the Commonwealth Employment Office or the industry - I am not sure which - people are being imported from New South Wales and Victoria. The intention of the Government is obvious. It wants to lead the people to believe that the unemployment position is easing and for that purpose seeks to reduce the number of persons in receipt of the unemployment benefit in New South Wales by sending them to Tasmania. I am not prepared to accept a set of circumstances under which, merely to satisfy the wishes of this Government, unemployed persons are brought from other States to Tasmania and given work there, especially when we have unemployed already in Tasmania.
I return now to what I have said about the conditions obtaining in 1957 and the promises made by the Minister for Labour and National Service about measures that would be adopted to bring about the expansion of private industry. I have indicated already that until quite recently no money was allocated to the States for public works. Now let us consider other aspects. In my opinion, only a raving lunatic would suggest that the last Budget contained any proposals calculated to assist private industry. To illustrate the insincerity of the promises made by the Minister for Labour and National Service, one need only point to the present state of the building industry in Australia. Irrespective of what has been said by the Minister I am reluctantly forced to the conclusion that this Government desires to maintain a permanent pool of unemployed in Australia. If it did not, it could have taken the necessary action only a few months ago to provide incentive and stimulus for the building industry. Homes are urgently required in Australia; indeed, they have never been more urgently needed.
I remember referring on other occasions in this Parliament to the serious housing position. This is due to the fact that the present Government has never made sufficient finance available to promote home ownership. Apparently it is determined that there never shall be sufficient finance to assist private builders. High interest rates - a subject which was dealt with so effectively a few nights ago by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) - and the requirement of a deposit of from 60 per cent, to 70 per cent, are both effective measures deliberately designed by this Government to prevent home ownership. If that policy was deliberate - I believe it was - then we must concede at once that it has been most effective because 100,000 Australians are looking for work to-day.
It is interesting to compare the number of people registered with the Department of
Labour and National Service as unemployed in 1957 with the present figure. I point out at once that during the urgency debate on unemployment the Minister for Labour and National Service suggested to me that the position was only temporary, that it was of a seasonal character and that it would not be long before there were no unemployed in this country. Let us look quickly at the figures. First, they disclose that the number of persons registered and in receipt of the unemployment benefit has increased to 29,856 and that the number who are registered as unemployed but who, because of the application of the means test, are not in receipt of unemployment benefit, has increased to 44,909. In other words, the total number of persons registered with the Department of Labour and National Service as unemployed is almost 75,000.
– And vacancies are down.
– And they will not listen to any argument.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition is not making a speech now.
– During the urgency debate, I referred to a point that was dealt with most effectively to-night by the honorable member for Bendigo. I pointed out that during 1956 Australia’s work force increased by only 3,000 compared with an increase of approximately 80,000 in 1954 and 60,000 in 1955 respectively, if I remember correctly. In other words, the demand for labour is not expanding sufficiently to absorb the additions to the Australian work force each year according to the process described by the honorable member for Bendigo. At the moment, our population is increasing substantially, from natural increase and immigration, while at the same time there is an alarming decrease in the number of jobs available to additional workers.
Let me conclude by repeating the point made by the Leader of the Opposition in reply to the Government’s claims during this debate. Full employment was achieved in Australia in 1942 when we had a Labour Government. During the short period this Government has been in office, Australia has been faced with two deliberately caused recessions. Notwithstanding what has been said by the Minister for Labour and National Service, they have during that period imposed most severe credit and consumer restrictions. To-day, it is practically impossible for any one to secure the finance with which to build a home for himself, his wife and family. The Minister knows that that is perfectly true. He may say that there are no restrictions, but let us look at the restrictions in their proper perspective. The fact remains that, if any young man goes to the Commonwealth Bank or to any of the private banks, because of the policy imposed by the Government, he cannot secure any more than £2,500 to help him meet the cost of a home. We all know that the cost of home building has risen during the period of office of this Government and that the average cost of a brick home is in the vicinity of £5,000.
– What increase?
– The honorable member may have other views about the cost of a home. I am afraid I have not sufficient time to tell him what increases have taken place, but I suggest that he look at the last report of the Director of the War Service Homes Division. There he will find a good indication of the increases that have taken place each year in every State in the cost of a home. It is not possible for any young man with a limited income and with large family responsibilities to secure the finance necessary to build a home for himself and his family.
This Government has neglected its responsibilities. It was elected to office on a pledge to maintain full employment and to house the people. Indeed, it said, “ That will be one of our greatest responsibilities “. In both of those matters it has fallen down on its job and, for that reason, I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in its entirety.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), who has just resumed his seat, reminded me very much of the child at the party; however much he was given to eat, he would never be satisfied until he became ill. In this instance, however much the Government did, the honorable member would never be satisfied until we were suffering from a disease called inflation. I know that, for a member of the Opposition, the proper thing to do is to accuse the Government of inhumanity and of not bothering about the unemployed. However, the honorable member did not make any attempt to describe the conditions that had caused unemployment. He referred to the depression of the early 1930’s and said, “ These conditions, we have sworn, will never apply again”. Neither the honorable member for Bass nor any other honorable member has control over the conditions which have occurred again.
The changes in the world markets, the catching up of the deficiencies in the postwar years and many other things of that nature, which were the cause of the economic depression of the 1930’s, have occurred again, despite the oath of the honorable member for Bass. The only difference is that the greater wisdom of the Liberal and Australian Country parties and of the Government has prevented the recurrence of the big recession and the unemployment which occurred previously after the same lapse of time following a world war. In the 1930’s, it was World War I.; now it is World War n. The honorable member might at least have given the Government credit for that. Had the debate been on the same high plane as were the speeches of the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) and the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), the unemployed, if they had been listening, would have been much more satisfied.
Almost the whole of the debate on the Address-in-Reply, as a result of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt), has naturally revolved around social security, a matter which is of immediate and intense interest to each and every member of this House and of the community. But this is a problem, I suggest to honorable members opposite, which cannot be solved except by a very large measure of give and take, and understanding and teamwork on the part of members of the community.
I want to talk to-night very briefly on two subjects. The first is social security. During this debate on social security, we have almost forgotten entirely something without which social security is not worth twopence, and that is national security. As regards social security, I am not at all alarmed. However, I am not entirely happy with the present position. I admit that quite honestly, as I think every honorable member would.
As regards national security, I am not only unhappy and uneasy, but I am definitely alarmed at the indifference that is displayed by the Federal Parliament to important changes which take place and to events which happen around our own shores. As result of that indifference, not a mere 1 per cent, but 99 per cent, of the people of Australia can have little interest in following what is happening and cannot realize the importance to their own destiny of what may occur elsewhere because of something over which we have only a very small modicum of control. In that respect, we are probably in a much more dangerous position to-day than we have been at any time since V.P. day in 1945. I issue that warning very bluntly because of the neglect and lack of interest in foreign affairs, and I hope that the Government will allot much more time for debates on foreign affairs in this House, instead of merely having statements, as we did last year, covering the whole range from Moscow to Mawson and from Algeria to the Argentine. Foreign affairs should be discussed at the time they are of interest so that the public may realize the facts and understand their importance to our own private lives, our standards of living and to the destiny of our nation. If we do not give events that importance in this House, we cannot expect ordinary John Citizen to understand for one moment even the basic principles of what is happening.
I might perhaps be allowed to claim some reason for speaking on the question of unemployment. I had a very difficult and the most distressing job I have ever been asked to undertake in my life in the early 1930’s when I was Minister for Sustenance in the Victorian Government. My experience at that time made indelible impressions on my memory. I resolved then that, if I remained in politics and I felt that certain things ought to be said, I would be recreant to any trust imposed in me if I did not say them. If I express myself bluntly, and if I say things with which some people may not agree, I can say only that I speak with a deep conviction, which I believe is in the heart of everyone here, and that I believe plain speaking to be necessary to avoid something that is likely to happen. Until the Minister for Labour and National Service and the honorable member for Bendigo spoke - I should like to include one from each side - I think that we have been inclined to drown the real facts and the real importance of any unemployment that exists in a flood of desires to score off each other on what might be called purely sixthform debating issues. No unemployed person will thank any one of us here for making his position infinitely worse by creating panic or fear.
– It is fearful when you cannot eat!
– Yes, and if you had known and understood the fear and panic that was created in the early 1930’s, you would understand the significance of what I am saying. Surely we have learned that lesson from the ‘thirties and are not going to be stampeded like a mob of cattle at a few claps of thunder from the Opposition.
– It is a reflection on the Australian people to refer to them as a mob of cattle.
– I said “ we “, and I included myself. Perhaps the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith was too young to experience the horrors of the depression. If the Opposition is not trying to stampede the people, what it is saying is having the same effect. Do not let us fall into that error.
The second thing for which the unemployed person will not thank any of us is if we, on the other hand, treat the situation too lightly, minimize it or neglect it. Fear will then be created in the hearts of some of those who are employed that they will be unemployed before very long. Between the two extremes lies the policy of the Liberal and Australian Country party Government, of full employment. The Opposition does not realize the mischief it is doing, but I hope its policy is the same as the policy of the Government parties - full employment. We are intimately concerned that there should be even the present degree of unemployment.
– The honorable member tor Chisholm is the only Government member who has said so.
– If the honorable member for Stirling had been in the house earlier to-night, he would have heard the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) say the same thing. I shall make a few comparisons although I was in a great deal of trouble about three years ago in certain places for expressing a similar view to a deputation from the building industry in Canberra. I told the deputation I would not agree to anything which would increase building industry costs at that time when we were feeling the very slight breeze, which has now turned into the cold wind, of certain changes taking place in world trade conditions.
Let us examine the position. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and Mr. Monk have stated that there is no large-scale unemployment, and that is true. It may be 1 per cent.
– The Prime Minister did not say that.
Whether the Prime Minister said it or not, that is the position. If the figure of unemployment is 1 per cent., that is not large-scale unemployment.
– What would the honorable member call large-scale unemployment?
– If I took the figure quoted by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) it would be 5 per cent. If large-scale unemployment exists, we admit it and regret it, but unemployment is not on such a large scale as to create fear and panic.
The second thing I state very clearly and distinctly, as some honorable members do not understand it, is that the happy halcyon period of the post-war years, when people could sell anything whether it was good, bad or indifferent, is over. We have reached the stage when beaten nations now claim their share in the world’s market; when competition is much keener; when some countries are getting rid of their surplus production, and when the prices of minerals and primary products are falling.
We have heard a lot about unemployment but not a single word from the other side of the House about the primary producers who are suffering the biggest cut in income. If Australia did not have a good government the conditions I have mentioned would have created a recession much worse than we are now experiencing. The Government has done a very good job.
We are now going through a period of readjustment which may last three, four or five years. It will not be easy; it may well be difficult. But I do not see any reason for alarm provided we seek out the remedies and realize that the readjustment is necessary due to world conditions which may change to-morrow for the good or for the bad. However, so long as we are wide awake and watch the position we will not get into very much trouble.
When I was Minister for Sustenance in the Victorian Government during the depression I kept very accurate statistics of unemployment covering ages, sexes and trades. I recommended equal pay for equal work because the girl to whom a man was engaged got the job for a lower rate of pay while the man was walking the pavement looking for work. I was laughed at by the Trades Hall people in 1933 as a result of my recommendation. The position may now have changed, but the important point in those statistics was that 66 per cent, or more of the unemployment at that time was caused by a slump in the building and allied trades. The panic which was created reduced the building programme in Melbourne and its environs within eighteen months from £8,000,000 to £750,000 a year. Ten per cent, of the unemployment was due to primary industries and the remaining 24 per cent, was due to the loss of the purchasing power of those two particular groups.
Let us examine the figures to-day. The building industry covers not only housing but also all forms of building. Looking at the industry generally, it is fair to say in broad figures that there has been a recession of perhaps 5 per cent., which is not a very large amount. The building industry is the barometer, and I am satisfied that as long as the Government watches the building industry figures and takes corrective action we will not go very far wrong. I suggest, however, that a little more priming of the pump would be judicial at this stage. Municipal works are the first to reflect unemployment, followed by State and Federal works. The three years’ works programme which existed at the time I left office is still in existence. Plenty of plans and specifications for federal works are ready for work to be put in hand should the need arise, but I suggest to the Minister in charge of the House that more priming of the pump is necessary in order to reduce unemployment.
The other economic problems are more difficult but do not present any cause for alarm. We all must realize that the halcyon days are over and be prepared to accept a little less; in other words, less overtime, less profit and so on to help during the readjustment which is facing every country in the world but is apparently better managed in Australia than anywhere else. To use good Australianese, the challenge is to pull up our socks and not hang our head and wring our hands. Australia is lucky. We have the essentials of food and shelter and I think we can make the readjustments necessary, but we are not making them fast enough at the present time.
In the few moments left to me I shall turn to the international situation. We are a nation of peace-loving people, and in this changing age those who have been through the valley of the shadow of death in one world war, let alone those who have been through two, cry out with a stronger voice. We want peace. But we do not want peace at any price; nor do we want to say that there are not certain values, as there have always been, without which life is not worth living. Unfortunately, we are faced with the fact that other people, either from suspicion or for some other reason - personally, it seems to me to be desire for world conquest - are still carrying on the war. The war is not over. The serviceman in the front line has just as much respect for a bullet, which will kill him, as he has for the H-bomb, which will kill him and others as well.
To-day the war is being carried on, not with bullets made of lead, but with radioactive propaganda of which the fall-out zone is all over the world; with political subversion, as we have seen in certain of our neighbouring countries; with whispering campaigns in all the bazaars throughout the Far East, and even in the corridors of Canberra; and even by visits to forbidden cities, at no cost, by mushy minds with itchy feet.
What is the policy of the Australian Labour party with regard to the recognition of red China, its admittance to the United Nations, and also with regard to Nationalist China? The Communist daily “Chun Pao”, of 21st July- and I quote it word for word - said -
Mr. Haylen again stated to reporters the Australian Labour party’s three-point policy was the recognition of the Peking Government, unlimited trade with China, and China’s admission to the United Nations. Every one knows there cannot be two China’s in the United Nations at one time, and so America’s desire to preserve Taiwan’s position cannot stand. Taiwan is part of China. The Cairo Declaration laid it down that Taiwan should be returned to China. The Australian Labour party is aware of this.
I should like to know whether that is the full Australian Labour party policy.
– Of course it is.
– Then you are more Communist than I ever thought you were, because if you propose to wipe Nationalist China off the slate then you propose to hand over the whole of South-East Asia to the Communists on a platter.
– Nothing of the kind.
– I have not time to go into all these points, but what I do say, and say very definitely, is that perhaps you, too, are adding to their strength by lulling Australians into a sense of security which is not justified. The world close to us could change almost overnight. Unfortunately, already next door we have Indonesia torn by civil strife. For a long time the Labour party’s friends have been fishing in the troubled waters of the Java Sea, and they are probably very happy at what is going on now. Nobody else is. It is an internal struggle, and we hope that peace, progress and prosperity will return to that nation; but what happens there is of the utmost importance to Australia’s destiny, and I trust that no external influence will try to turn Indonesia into another Korea.
I hope that the trouble in Indonesia will soon pass. At the same time I cannot understand why we continue to sell our gold in Macao where, it was reported after an investigation, it is smuggled out into South-East Asia, used in the drug trade, which originates in red China, and the profits then go to the peace front to help the Communists in their campaign.
I cannot understand why we have never recognized Nationalist China, and so caused loss of face to the Chinese community, of whom there are 14,000,000 overseas in South-East Asia. Why does the Labour party advocate the recognition of red China, but will not support the recognition of Nationalist China? As far as I am concerned, I will stick to those people who are responsible partly, anyhow, for Australia being in the position it is in today. We might be in a very different position had it not been for the Nationalist Chinese.
There are many other things I should like to discuss, but lack of time prevents me from doing so at the moment. However, one thing I want to say is that this House of the Parliament does not pay enough attention to foreign affairs, with the result that we do not educate the public in any way into a complete realization that changes in the countries just outside our shores could bring overnight changes in our security and prosperity. There should be a very much greater interest taken in foreign affairs, therefore, and perhaps there should be also a wider realization that, although we want peace on earth and goodwill towards men, you can only get peace among men of goodwill. We want to go to summit conferences. We are always prepared to meet people and talk; but it is no good letting people think that just by holding a summit conference you can get something done unless there is on both sides a spirit of goodwill and a desire to get something done. Ohe of the greatest mistakes we ever made in our foreign policy was that we were not represented at the Bandung conference. I advocated representation at the time, but was in a minority. I have always thought that personal contacts and talks help a lot; but do not let us be hoodwinked by it. Do not let us forget that modern armaments are much more subtle than the more straightforward kind. They are not bullets made of lead. Sometimes they are not seen and sometimes, if seen, they are so camouflaged that they are not recognized. That is why the position is difficult and dangerous. Certain events in our own area may have sown within their soil seeds of very great danger and - though I trust not - disaster for every country east of Suez.
.- I hope it will not be many days before we have an opportunity to have a debate on foreign affairs in order to review certain subjects that were brought up in this debate by the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes). But I am not going to be diverted from the real objective that I feel this House has at this moment, which concerns the most serious of questions affecting the lives of the Australian people.
I support very warmly the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) regarding the unemployment position and the fact that so many Australians are homeless, including newly arrived immigrants. The amendment seeks to direct the attention of the public to the -very serious problem that this is creating in this country.
Members of the Government seek to dismiss the unemployment position as something unimportant, something that does not require any special effort on the part of the Government to correct. They even go so far as to imply that any one who seeks to direct the attention of the Government to this serious position is exaggerating, and seeking to cause panic and produce a condition that is likely to worsen the economy. I should like to draw attention to the significance of the unemployment figures, and show how they affect the lives of the people. Supporters of the Government seek to dismiss these figures as negligible. According to the official figures, there are 74,000 unemployed. What does that represent? I feel obliged to point out just how serious the position is. Seventy-four thousand people represents the total adult population of the City of Ballarat and 75 per cent, of the adult population of Bendigo.
– An army of at least three divisions.
– Yes, and surely that is a serious position. As another illustration, I point out that 74,000 people represents four and one-half times the adult population of the Australian Capital Territory. Just imagine an unemployment force four and one-half times as large as the adult population of the Australian Capital Territory! That is an extraordinary state of affairs at a time when the country is supposed to be developing in order to accommodate large numbers of immigrants. I applaud the action of the Leader of the Opposition in bringing this matter to the attention of the nation in an effort to obtain a remedy. If people are unemployed, and thereby faced with economic insecurity, their morale must suffer. Nothing is more demoralizing to a man than to be out of work. I have experienced unemployment. I would not wish any man or woman to go through the experience that is now being suffered by 74,000 of our population. Not only the man in the family suffers; his whole family suffers with him. To the figure of 74,000 registered unemployed must be added the large number of people who, though unemployed, have not registered for the unemployment benefit. The numbers cannot be regarded as insignificant or unworthy of attention.
The Government is not facing up to Its responsibility with regard to rehabilitating those areas of Australia that have been ravaged by flood and fire! In many parts of the country homesteads have been destroyed. Fences, roads and bridges have gone. The Government should take some action towards rehabilitating those areas, so that our primary industries may flourish and help to build up the nation. But the Government does not seem to realize its responsibilities in this regard.
I should like to deal shortly with the question of housing. Many of the people who come to this country from overseas are required to remain for too long iri hostels. Hostels are not a very desirable form of habitation, particularly for couples with children. Many newcomers to this country are required to live in hostels because they are unable to secure employment or unable to secure a home. Living in hostels is a very poor way to start life in a new country. The Government should take all steps possible to remedy the situation.
Honorable members opposite seek to make light of the unemployment position by saying that it is not as bad as it was in 1930, or some other by-gone day. The people are not concerned with what happened in the past. They are concerned that 74,000 people are to-day unemployed in Australia. To quote figures relating to the position in years gone by will do nothing toward providing employment for those people. Honorable members opposite should not underestimate the gravity of the position facing this country. Honorable members on this side of the House are accused of endeavouring to create panic in the community, and desiring to exaggerate the importance of the situation. Government supporters assert that there is no prospect of a recession and that the nation’s economy is in a very healthy condition. In that regard let me read to the House what the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) said. These are his words -
Without a doubt, the Government faces a very difficult time in the loan field. Its redemption programme is a formidable one. By the end of this calendar year, £428,800,000 will fall due for redemption. In the calendar year following, an amount of £367,700,000 will fall due for redemption, making a total in two years of £796,500,000. I fear that the Government’s plea for conversion to new loans will not meet a very good response and that new loan money will be difficult to find. The Treasury may take a comfortable view that if people will not subscribe to loans it will “tax it out of them “. But this would be a dead-end way of raising finance and would only lead to killing the taxpayer in the long run and creating unemployment.
That reference by the honorable member for Mitchell indicates the seriousness of the position which presents itself in regard to the redemption of moneys which will become due both in this year and next year. No doubt those moneys would be used for the extension of public works and the provision ot additional homes as well as for the stabilizing of the economy. The honorable member for Mitchell indicated that there is trouble ahead.
– Is he a Government member?
– Yes. The statement of the honorable member for Mitchell indicates that a serious period faces the Government and that it will not readily find an adequate addition made to the working capacity of this country through opportunities of employment which, rightly, the people should have. At this time, we are bringing 115,000 people into this country as new settlers, as people seeking a new fortune.
I suggest to the House and to the country that the Leader of the Opposition in his amendment seeks a very wise provision. He asks that the inflow of people from abroad be adjusted to ease the unemployment situation in this country. Until there is a reasonable prospect of finding employment not only for the people already here but also for those who desire to come here, it is desirable that the rate of the migrant intake should be adjusted to meet present circumstances. That seems to be a logical and proper course to take. It is proper in the interests of those people who may desire to come here and also for the protection of our own people, particularly those who, to-day, are looking for work. They wish at least to have the opportunity of employment which this country should be able to make available to them.
The action of the Opposition has been proper in emphasizing these matters and expressing a strong desire that the Government should be moved to some activity at least to make available through the agencies at its disposal sufficient credit to provide a stimulus to homebuilding. Furthermore, we urge the Government to undertake public works which are essential to the development and needs of this country. I give my strongest support to the amendment which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– We are drawing towards the close of the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General on the occasion of the opening of this session of the Parliament, and also the debate on the amendment to the Address-in-Reply which has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). Before I proceed to discuss certain aspects of the amendment, I should like to take the opportunity - and in doing so, I think I speak on behalf of all honorable members - to refer to what was said in the opening paragraphs of His Excellency’s Speech in connexion with the visit of Her Majesty, Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
Since the Speech was delivered we have all had the happiness of watching the progress of the royal tour throughout Australia and marking the great success with which it was attended. I think that we should record the sentiment that that visit has done a great deal both in strengthening that devotion towards the Throne which, I believe, lies very deep in the hearts of the great majority of Australians, and, perhaps more important, has had a great effect from one end of this country to the other in making more and more Australians feel proud of being Australian, proud of the British heritage, and proud of the link with the Mother Country, and, in a very strong and sensitive way, feel their unity as a people.
Having said that, I propose to pass to rather more controversial subjects. The Leader of the Opposition, in moving his amendment to the Address-in-Reply said, in effect, that the Government had “ failed to realize the urgent necessity of putting into effect positive policies and measures aimed at “ - and he listed a series of subjects. But in the course of the debate, it has turned out that only two of the several headings in the amendment have attracted much debate. They are the prevention of unemployment and immigration. Most of the speakers on the Opposition side who followed their leader also devoted their main attention to those two topics.
They are two very important topics, and there is no member of this House who would attempt in any way to say that they are not important, or to question the propriety of exploring them very carefully and very thoroughly and looking at them in all their aspects. But the disappointing feature about the debate has been that when one listened to the speeches of the Opposition, and particularly when one studies in “ Hansard “, sentence by sentence, the speech with which the Leader of the Opposition presented his amendment, one finds such a complete poverty of thought on these two subjects as to lead one to ask whether the Labour party has really thought about them, or has only put them forward in an attempt- a frank political attempt - to embarrass the Government and bring it into disrepute?
There is a great difference between those two attitudes. If a party which dignifies itself by the name of “ Labour “ approaches employment simply as a political stunt, it is false to its own name and false to its traditions. Yet, one looks in vain to see that the Labour party has approached this subject either in an honest attempt to analyse the causes of any unemployment that may exist, or in an attempt to discover methods by which any unemployment which may exist may be overcome.
I have studied the speech of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition very carefully, and I find three propositions in it. One proposition in it with regard to unemployment, is the statement “ We will not tolerate it “. What charm or happiness can it bring to a fellow who is out of work if, when he asks for a job, the only answer is, “ The Leader of the Opposition will not tolerate your being out of work “? That will not provide him with a job. lt is no use Opposition members saying that they believe in full employment. It is no use their saying that they will not tolerate people being out of jobs. They must advance some ideas, produce some policy or show some thinking on the way in which jobs will be provided for people and the way in which they will always be kept available.
We find a second proposition lurking in the murky corners of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. One of his propositions was “ cheap money “. It took a great deal of trouble to disinter even this glimmering of a policy from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. Cheap money! Let us explore that proposal a little further. What does he mean by “ cheap money “? He does not disclose that in his speech. None of the members who have spoken in support of him have disclosed what they mean by “ cheap money “. One can only guess what they would say if they were to develop the theme. Perhaps their way of producing cheap money would be to fix rates of interest and clamp on controls so strongly as to maintain those rates of interest over the whole of the financial operations of this country, without any variation. One knows exactly what would happen in that case. Money, like water, must seek its own level. Controls could be clamped on but they would lead inevitably to the complete nationalization of the whole of the financial operations of this country. That spectacle might be quite acceptable to the Opposition, but I am sure that it would be horrifying to all other people in Australia.
If that is not what the Leader of the Opposition means by “ cheap money “ the only thing that he can contemplate is that the Government, within a restricted sphere, having raised money at one rate of interest - and it would have to offer a reasonable rate of interest in order to attract the money - would then make it available for stipulated purposes at a lower rate of interest. Of course, that sort of thinking is dodging the real issue because that sort of operation simply means that the burden is shifted somewhere else. The fact that money is raised by loan at one rate of interest and then applied to a certain purpose at a lower rate means that the price that is paid for that money has to be met by the taxpayer or from some other source of Government revenue.
The price of money cannot be made disappear by carrying out a manipulation of that kind unless, of course, one is prepared to carry out some sort of socialistic control which may be acceptable to the Opposition but is not acceptable to the rest of the people of Australia as they so clearly showed on one occasion.
As I have said, I fail to discover what the Leader of the Opposition really meant by “ cheap money “. In trying to interpret his thoughts and in trying to probe into the mistiness of current Labour policy, I can only see it as resulting either in a device which has no real meaning in this situation or as a proposal for the nationalization of all financial institutions in the country.
The only other point of policy which I was able to discover in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition related to immigration. On the one hand, he said that in order to create employment we must get cheap money. The next thing he said was that we should cut down immigration. Again, I suggest that he has not thoroughly thought out the implications of what he has said. In the first place, he has not thoroughly explored the relationship between immigration and employment. It is not, by any means, as simple and direct as he would represent when he says, “ Stop immigration “.
– He did not say stop it.
– Well, cut it downwhatever you like. Immigration, if accompanied by other policies aimed at expansion, as it is at present, is not simply a claim on jobs. Immigration is also a creator of jobs. The immigrant is not merely an applicant for a job; he is also a customer. He is not only someone who wants to take a position; he is a producer. Immigration, both in that individual aspect and considered as a great, expanding and developmental project, is not something which can be seen in the simple and direct terms in which the Leader of the Opposition saw it - just as immigrants coming in and wanting jobs. An immigrant adds to the wealth of this country; the immigrant adds to the demand current on the consumer side of our economy, and immigration, if accompanied by correct policies, adds to the general strength of our economy.
In traversing the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, I have tried to be as discerning and charitable as I possibly can be. As I say, I can see a glimmering of nothing positive in that speech except these two rather vague suggestions that the Leader of the Opposition would create employment by providing cheap money and cutting down immigration. Is that enough to expect from a party which professes to take the Government to task on this great topic? Surely one should expect from Opposition members a closer analysis of the causes of unemployment, such as it may be. Surely one should expect some constructive thinking from them about the way in which unemployment may be overcome.
I suggest that, throughout the whole of the speeches delivered by members of trie Opposition on the subject of unemployment, there has been discernible this wish that there were a little bit more of it - this hope for disaster to come. They remind me of nothing more than those people who, sometimes, in the suburbs, bankrupt, thirsty, get the greatest blessing of their lives when a brewery van breaks down and they can retrieve a few broken bottles to quench their thirst. I think that Labour members, in their speeches on this matter, have had that attitude from beginning to end - hoping for a smash so that they can retrieve something for their thirst for power out of all the things that have been broken around them. It must be remembered that, in the things that are broken is the unemployment for which Opposition members wish, not mere comestibles but things that are human and things that affect individuals.
I want to pass from that fundamental criticism of the deficiencies of the Labour party case to say that this debate - particularly the quotation of figures - has revealed that the state of unemployment has been very much exaggerated. There is room for difference of opinion about which figure is the more exact reflection of the number of people out of work. But even if we take the highest figures that have been cited in this debate, I would suggest to all seriousminded persons who may be capable of making a sober and non-political judgment, that the measure of unemployment that has been claimed is not so serious at this stage as to call for any panic measures.
I would recall to the memory of the House - although they are well-known - the measures that this Government has actually taken. First of all, through the meeting of the Australian Loan Council, with the co-operation of the State Governments, the Commonwealth Government has made an immediate injection into government spending throughout Australia of £8,000,000 which will take effect in the course of the next four months. That is an injection which, we hope, will have useful results. Accompanying that action has been the expansion of credit through the trading banks to the extent of £15,000,000, a move which, again, we hope will have the effect of creating a stimulus. Behind that has been the Government’s assurance that, within the limits of existing works programmes and works which can be put in hand without undue delay, further additions to our own works programme will be made if the necessity arises in the next few months. That is>, of course, nothing more than a shot in the arm or, as some honorable members would say, a priming of the pump. A shot in the arm at the right time, and to the right extent, can be very useful in setting the economy going along a normal path, but too many shots in the arm at the wrong time can put the economy into its coffin. One has to calculate nicely in these matters. Any government with a sense of responsibility must ensure that it does not overdo its remedial measures.
That brings me to one of the fundamental points of the Liberal approach - and I think I may associate the Australian Country party with it also - to these problems. The real core of the question of employment is the health of the Australian economy. It is not an injection of this kind of government spending, or of some other kind of government spending. It is not the taking of emergency measures. The real core of the employment problem is to be found in positive policies designed to maintain the health and activity of the Australian economy. Over the last eight years the Government has had a record of care and discretion, of responsibility and success in the measures that it has taken in order to maintain Australia’s trade and industry in a state of vigour. It has achieved that by giving private enterprise the opportunity to carry out its purposes, to expand, to enlarge its investments, and to develop - and in so doing provide work. When the economy is healthy there are jobs. When the economy becomes inactive there are not so many jobs.
We must remember - and this point was made earlier - that governmental employment represents only a fraction of Australia’s total employment. Happily, the greater part is still provided by private enterprise. Of the total number of civilians employed - about 3,600,000 - fewer than 750,000 are employed by governmental or semi-governmental bodies, or by local government authorities. Therefore, one can maintain employment by maintaining the vigour and health of the economy rather than by concentrating purely and solely on measures relating to governmental employment. It is true that, for the shot in the arm, for the temporary emergency measure, we can use our own spending power to take up such slack as may be apparent, but that does not represent a permanent solution. A permanent solution is to be found only in efforts to maintain the vigour of the general economic activity of the country. The efforts of this Government over the last seven or eight years, and the success that has attended those efforts, are well known. There has never been a period in Australian history when economic activity has been sustained for so long with such vigour, and with such a degree of expansion.
– And with such high interest rates.
– The honorable member for Werriwa refers to interest rates. To return to a theme which I was developing earlier, one cannot consider, or manipulate, interest rates without taking into account the effect on the whole economy. You cannot use an interest rate for one purpose, and simply neglect the effect that it will have on some other sector of the economy. As a Government, we recognize the great and intimate importance of employment to all the people of Australia. The maintenance of employment is our avowed policy.
– What about full employment?
– Full employment cannot be obtained through such expedients as the Opposition has suggested. It can be achieved only by maintaining the vigour and activity of trade and industry in Australia.
Earlier to-night the honorable member for Chisholm (Sir Wilfrid Kent Hughes) spoke with great eloquence about the situation in which we find ourselves to-day. Every Australian who approaches this subject should be conscious of the fact that we are making our decisions under the shadow of great changes throughout the world. Great changes have taken place in Asia. Great changes have taken place in Australia itself. We are, in many ways, a stronger country to-day. We are a more populous country. Our economy is far more diversified and, by the same token, far more involved than it formerly was. It is an economy which, in some of its aspects, is perhaps less vulnerable than it was 25 years ago, but in the outside world there have been changes which affect us both economically and from the point of view of security, and of which every Australian must be conscious in discussing these problems.
The honorable member for Chisholm referred to the situation in Indonesia. I am sure that he put the view of the Government when he said that it was our wish that that situation should remain a civil and domestic situation free from outside intervention. However, while we say that, the events of the last few weeks have surely put very starkly before every one of us the fact that we could have a Korea right on our doorstep. That is something which cannot be brushed off lightly. It is not something of which Australians can say, “ It can’t happen here.” It could have a profound influence on the future of this country, and leave Australia a far lonelier place in the world even than it is to-day. If we are conscious of those changes in the world, if we have any conception of the perilous path that we are treading and of the hazards that surround us, surely we must come to one conclusion, and to one conclusion only - that in a world of power - with power conflicts raging, and power conflicts imminent, on the political horizon - we must do the best that we can as Australians to strengthen our country, to build up its population, and to ensure that the people are united in spirit, confident in the future and possess faith in their own integrity.
None of us, engaged as we are in politics, would object in the least to the most trenchant criticism by one party of another, but we can surely ask in times of such peril that criticism should not be of the kind intended to shake the confidence of Australians in Australia, or hamper the strengthening of this country. It should rather be directed, in a constructive way, to the strengthening of the economy, the uniting of the people, and the building of confidence and faith in the future. It is that element which is missing from all the speeches made by Opposition members in support of the amendment. It is that constructive element, that Australian-ness, that is missing from their speeches, and it is because that element is missing that the Opposition’s amendment receives it final condemnation.
.- I am very pleased to have the opportunity of supporting the amendment so ably moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I do not want to repeat the terms of the amendment, because it has already been recorded. I do want to say, however, that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) is completely wrong when he tells us that only two of the five items in the amendment have been referred to by honorable members on this side oT the House. I direct his attention to the fact that every section of the amendment has been spoken of, and if he does not know this it is because he has been in the chamber only on very rare occasions during the debate.
The Minister also said that the policy of this party seems to be to provide cheap money. That is nothing to be ashamed of. We had a policy of cheap money when the Chifley Labour Government was in office.
– And we were able to fill all the loans.
– As the honorable member for Werriwa says, we were able to fill all our loans. It is because this Government has allowed interest rates steadily to increase that we have dear money to-day. It is because of the policy that this Government has followed that hire-purchase companies can charge overall interest rates of from 10 per cent, to 18 per cent. These high interest rates are largely responsible for our inflated costs, especially in the field of housing.
The Minister also referred to immigration and said that the Opposition wanted to stop immigration. I do not know whether he meant that we would be prepared to stop immigration entirely. If he did, his statement was completely false. He knows very well that we want to control immigration so that we bring into the country as many persons as we can, but without causing further unemployment. That is all that we wish to achieve. With a sane administration you could bring many more people here from overseas, because you would have a plan of development ready to absorb them. This was the case under the last Labour administration, and it will be the case under the next Labour administration. It cannot be done, however, under the administration of this Government.
I shall refer to some other matters mentioned by the Minister as I continue with my speech. I wish now, however to direct the attention of the House to the fact that during a similar debate to this a short time ago, I concluded my speech by saying that the skies were black with chickens coming home to roost, and that when they did come home to roost the members of this Government would get it where the chicken got the axe. That time is now very close, the chickens are well on the way home. As a matter of fact, one chicken, the gentleman recently elected for Parramatta, has already got it where the chicken got the axe. His head was not lopped off, but at least it was half severed. At the next election many honorable members opposite will have their heads completely removed. (Government supporters interjecting) -
– We will wait and see. I thought I would stir up something by that remark, because, of course, honorable members opposite must all be somewhat anxious, having in mind the results of the Parramatta by-election, which has placed them in an uneasy position.
Let us get down to fundamentals. The fact is that the economic ills of this country have been slowly but surely worsening for some time, and the blame for that lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of this Government. When referring to the unemployment position, the Minister for Territories said that a part of the policy of this Government was to maintain employment, lt was noticeable that he did not say full employment. Apparently he does not take seriously the unemployment that exists at present. He suggests that we are getting into a panic about it. He is devoid of all sympathy for the 100,000 persons, and their dependants, who are suffering as a result of the maladministration of this Government.
It is interesting to note that successive Menzies Governments since 1949 have been elected on promises of full employment. We of the Labour party, knowing the history of the Liberal party, have always realized that Government supporters, when making these promises, were talking with their tongues in their cheeks. We knew they had no intention of maintaining employment, and that it was just a talking point for the purpose of getting votes. Now it can be seen that the Government is allowing a repetition of what occurred during the depression years, when unemployment reached its zenith.
Most honorable members will have read of the old Chinese custom, under which mothers tied their daughters’ feet so that they were cramped and hobbled. That is exactly what is happening to our economy. First of all, the Government introduced credit restrictions. It has lacked adequate plans for development throughout its term of office. It has had an inadequate housing programme. Its immigration policy has been out of balance, and is still out of balance, with the state of the economy. All of these factors have resulted in our economy being hobbled and crippled, as were the daughters of Chinese mothers in the olden days.
Credit restrictions were imposed by this Government in September, 1955, and there is no doubt that this was done for a specific purpose. The Government wanted to create some unemployment. How much we do not know, but obviously it wanted to create some unemployment. It is all a part of a definite plan. This Government, in company with all other tory governments, past and present, has never had any real solution of our economic ills.
All such governments, whether in this country, in Great Britain or the United States of America, have tried only one solution in circumstances such as those facing Australia to-day. That is, to place the responsibility for economic recovery on those least able to accept it - the little people. That is why the present Government believes in the remedy that it is using at present.
– There is no doubt about it. Some big business interests have no hesitation in saying that there should be unemployment for the purpose of disciplining the workers. They believe this and bluntly say so. In their opinion, the creation of unemployment is the only remedy for our economic ills. The Prime Minister himself has made a statement to this effect. A report in the “Western Australian Wheatgrower “ of 24th April, 1946, indicates that the Prime Minister said there should be a pool of unemployment to discipline the workers. Those were his very words, as reported in that journal. Apparently he believes that the unemployment pool has not reached the required depth. Did not this Government appoint the notorious Professor Hytten to the Commonwealth Bank Board, and was it not Professor Hytten who recommended a pool of unemployment of from 6 per cent, to 8 per cent, only a few years ago? Is it any wonder that a policy was introduced which provided for credit restrictions and less money for housing and development?
The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) directed attention to the fact that less money for housing and development had been the policy of this Government. He said that in 1952-53, 9.6 per cent, of the gross domestic expenditure of Australia was expended on development, while to-day the proportion is 8.3 per cent. I ask honorable members to look at these figures closely.
Of course, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Territories say that we should not talk about these things. According to them, it is not very nice to talk about unemployment. They would like all those who are at present unemployed, and their dependants, not to talk about it. But how in the name of goodness are we going to analyse a problem and solve it if we do not talk about it? We must talk about it if we wish to get anywhere with it.
During the last Budget debate the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt) said that the unemployment problem was being taken care of in the Budget. The number of unemployed registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service at that time was 48,743. To-night the Minister told us that the number has increased to 70,029. This represents an increase of 21,286 since the time of the last Budget debate, when the Minister told us that the unemployment position was being taken care of. We know, of course, that the unemployment figures increased tremendously from December to January of this year, the increase being more than 15,000. I do not want to deal with these points in detail, because the Minister gave some later figures to-night, and perhaps it would not be fair to cite the highest figures. However, let us have a look at the figures that he gave to-night. He said that the number registered for employment at 31st January, 1958, was 74,765, and that in February, 1958, it was 70,029. This shows a decrease of 4,736 for the month. In February, 1957, the number registered was 49,449. The number increased, therefore, by 20,580 between February, 1957, and February, 1958. We know, of course, that there is usually a drop in the unemployment figures in the last quarter of the year. They rose in the January quarter. The figure was 52,629 at 1st February, 1957, but declined to 49,449 at 1st March, a drop of 3,180; but the drop this year, do not forget, is less than the drop last year.
The same applies to the number that are in receipt of the unemployment benefit. It was 29,856 at the end of January, 1958, and it is now 26,879, a drop of 2,977. The number in receipt of the unemployment benefit dropped from 15,711 in February, 1957, to 13,135 in March, 1957. Therefore, the number of persons receiving the unemployment benefit has more than doubled in twelve months. The Government cannot get away from those figures. We have to compare like with like if we are to analyse a problem properly.
A few days ago, the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) wanted some information about the way in which the unemployment figures were analysed.
The Minister for Labour and National Service brushed the question off, but he has admitted to-night that there are more than 100 persons in migrant camps that are not included in the figures of registered unemployed. Actually, there are far more than that number. Of course, all those who are unemployed do not register because they think that they can get work within a few days. They may have a bit of casual work which prevents them from getting the unemployment benefit. And there are husbands who cannot get the benefit because their wives are in employment. The wives do not necessarily have to get the basic wage; they might earn only a few pounds a week. But because the wives are earning, the husbands are debarred from receiving the unemployment benefit.
An important aspect of this problem which the Department of Labour and National Service should note and which effects the unemployment figures is the number of juveniles between fourteen and sixteen years of age who cannot register. The Commonwealth Employment Office will not register them until they turn sixteen years of age. In Western Australia, there are hundreds of teenagers who cannot get work. This position was revealed a little while ago, and it exists not only in Western Australia but also in other States.
There is another factor which indicates that the figures from the Commonwealth Employment Office are not correct. They do not reveal the full position regarding unemployment. I do not necessarily blame the Commonwealth Employment Office for this. There is obviously an instruction to the office to keep the figures down as far as possible. Monetary assistance is being given by the Child Welfare Department in Perth to about 3,000 unemployed persons. Some assistance is given to some of them in addition to Commonwealth assistance, but many of them have been refused assistance by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services. It is erroneous to think that if a person becomes unemployed all he has to do is to register at a Commonwealth Employment Office and if no work is available he automatically receives the unemployment benefit. That is not so, as the Minister must admit, because the person must prove loss of earnings; and if his work history indicates that he has not been previously engaged in full employment he is not entitled to the benefit; and he is not entitled to the benefit if he is considered unemployable.
During the period which has been referred to as the period of over-full employment, a percentage of men managed to get a living - quite a reasonable living - by casual work, but that is now at a minimum. Many of these men have recently applied for the unemployment benefit, but in some cases their applications have been refused. Consequently, they have had to get assistance from the Child Welfare Department. This is one group that is not included in the unemployment figures.
– Cannot they register for employment?
– They are not registered for employment at all. They do not get employment in any shape or form. That applies also to unemployed persons who cannot prove loss of earnings.
There is another group which is very important - those persons not considered eligible for the unemployment benefit but whose mental and physical condition precludes them from competing in the labour field. As they are not classified as 85 per cent, incapacitated, they are not eligible to receive invalid pensions.
I have before me particulars of a case in which an invalid pension was refused. I shall not mention the name of the person concerned, but if the Minister would like the information I shall furnish it to him later. On 24th December, 1957, the man concerned received a notice from the Director of Social Services that a medical opinion which had been obtained indicated that he was not permanently incapacitated for work within the meaning of the Social Services Act. This chap registered at the Commonwealth Employment Office to try to get a job or the unemployment benefit. His application was rejected on 8th January, 1958, on the ground that his work history indicated that he was not normally engaged in employment. What is he supposed to do? But he is only one of many. On 21st January, further efforts were being made to do something for him, and others in a similar position. I do not know whether anything has been achieved in this regard. This case shows that the figures themselves do not reveal the true position regarding the number of unemployed. I say that the number of unemployed in Western Australia now is higher than it has been for a considerable time. According to reliable figures, 2i per cent, of the work force there is unemployed.
I want to emphasize to the Minister and to the Government that because of the nature of Western Australia’s economy we should have special assistance to enable us to meet this problem. Western Australia is a primary-producing State, and consequently, when the price of primary products falls, we get hit first. Some financial assistance should have been given a short time ago when a case for assistance was submitted by the Premier of Western Australia and by honorable members on this side of the House. After considerable pressure, we did get some assistance, but not the degree of assistance to which we were entitled. According to the Premier of Western Australia, the recent Commonwealth grant to that State will not do anything worthwhile toward relieving the position of the workless in that State. The Premier said recently, when referring to the decision of the Australian Loan Council to give Western Australia a grant of £316,000-
The grant which we have received towards consolidated revenue will meet ordinary needs. Our consolidated revenue fund is already heavily in deficit.
He went on to say that although local authorities in Western Australia had been permitted to raise another £303,000 in loans, they were not likely to be able to raise that amount, but they might be able to raise about a third of the extra money before 30th June next. This indicates clearly that although the municipalities are entitled to raise loans for works, the general impression is that they will not be able to fill those loans. The matter about which I am concerned, and about which all honorable members should be concerned, is the number of unemployed people of both sexes who are in their early twenties. There is a danger of their becoming delinquents because of being unable to get work. Then there is another age group which is very important. I refer to people over 40 years of age who are told by private enterprise that they are too old. It is shocking to think that when a man reaches 40 years of age he should be told that he is too old for a job.
– Just when he is in the prime of life.
– That Is true enough. We have not heard very much from the Prime Minister about what the Government intends to do. He is treating unemployment as though it were just an every-day affair. He and many honorable members opposite are inclined to brush it off, although one or two of their colleagues have expressed concern. The Prime Minister said that credit had been relaxed, but the relaxation was too late. The point is that the banks will not lend money for housing at an interest rate of 5i per cent, while they can obtain; from 18 per cent, to 20 per cent, through hire-purchase companies. The credit squeeze has forced the banks into this field in order to obtain higher interest rates. The latest bank to do so is the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited, which has taken up 40 per cent, of the shares in Commercial and General Finance Limited. That is the last of the trading banks to enter this field. This means simply that the banks will not be prepared to lend money for housing as they can obtain a higher rate of interest in other quarters. For the three years ended December, 1957, aggregate bank overdrafts fell by £5,200,000 to £860,700,000, while outstandings of hirepurchase companies increased by £60,500,000 to £242,900,000. That is a clear indication of where the increase is taking place.
The Prime Minister said that control of hire purchase was within the province of the States, but no effort has been made to transfer that power to the Commonwealth, either by getting the States to so agree or by conducting a referendum. When this problem of hire-purchase control is tackled, it must be tackled on a national basis, otherwise the attempt will fail.
Rail standardization is a very important issue. The standardization of the line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle would relieve much of the unemployment in Western Australia. More than 85 per cent, of the workers required for the project would be unskilled, and an analysis shows that that is approximately the percentage of unskilled workers amongst the unemployed.
When the Labour Government was in office in Canberra, it was always being warned that Australia, being a primary producing country had to beware of the time when the prices of wheat and wool fell. The difference between the Labour administration and this administration is that Labour had plans for development. It had blueprints for public works, so that the slack of unemployment could be taken up at any stage. Unfortunately, that is not the case with this Government, and the sooner such plans are prepared and implemented, the sooner we shall overcome the problem with which we are faced.
The fact is that the tight money policy of this Government has been responsible for slowing down the economy. So much is this so that the brake has grabbed and we are in real trouble. Too few are getting too much at the expense of too many at the present time. The only section which is not hurt by this Government is the big business interests. Monopolies and trusts are progressing by leaps and bounds, and their profits are increasing. The national income has been redistributed in their interests. This has been accomplished by taxation concessions, higher interest rates, and higher prices. The worker, on the other hand, has been hard hit, because quarterly automatic adjustments of the basic wage have been abolished. This means that the worker is not getting the full purchasing power of the basic wage. Margins have lost their value because they have not kept pace with inflation. In the past, the worker, being paid overtime, working at week-ends, and having his wife working, has been deluded into the belief that his income was fairly adequate. Now that overtime has almost ceased, week-end work is virtually non-existent, and wives, in some instances, are being thrown out of work - although there has been a greater increase in male unemployment than in female unemployment - workers are beginning to feel the pinch. Recipients of social service benefits have been hard hit. Child endowment has lost its value to a large extent. In 1948, child endowment for two children amounted to 10s. a week. For child endowment to have the same value to-day, a family with two children should receive £1 2s. l0d. a week. Instead, it receives 15s., a reduction of 7s. l0d. a week or £20 7s. 4d. a year. A family with five children which received £2 in 1948, should receive £4 l1s. 4d. to-day for equivalent value. Instead, it is paid £2 5s. It is therefore losing £2 6s. 4d. a week or £120 9s. 4d. a year.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Dr. Evatt’s amendment) be so added.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) agreed to -
That the House will, at the next sitting, resolve itself into a committee to consider the Supply to be granted to Her Majesty.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn. (Several honorable members rising in their places) -
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Majority . . 17
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
How many persons have (a) been given, and (b) failed to pass the dictation test in each of the last five years?
– Prior to 1st July, 1956, statistics were not maintained of persons who were given the dictation test after arrival in Australia. During the period 1st July, 1956, to 31st December, 1957, 117 persons were given the dictation test. All failed to pass.
d asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice -
Will he furnish for the information of honorable members a copy of the contract entered into between the Commonwealth and the successful tenderers in respect of the building of the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory?
– The main terms of the arrangements for construction of the St. Mary’s filling factory have been made public on several occasions, for example, in a statement to the press in July, 1955, when the contractor was appointed and later in a statement to the House on 15th October, 1957. The contractual arrangements are a confidential matter between the Commonwealth and the contractor, but I will make arrangements, with which I have the contractor’s concurrence, for a copy of the contract to be placed on the table of the Parliamentary library for a limited period.
d asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice: -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. Some 440 persons are employed on various jobs at the St. Mary’s factory. At the present time attention is being given to the initial running in of plant and the training of senior taff. This will ensure that the best safety practices are followed and the risks of serious explosion minimized. By June, 19S8, it is anticipated the factory employment figure will be of the order of 600 persons. 3 and 4. In the initial production a small order is being processed for New Zealand.
d asked the Minister for Defence Production, upon notice: -
Will he furnish the following information in respect of the official opening of the St. Mary’s ammunition filling factory on the 17th December - (a) How many persons (i) received invitations and (ii) accepted the invitations? (b) How many representatives of trade unions or those employees who participated in the work of construction were amongst those invited? (c) Who prepared the list of invitees and upon what basis was eligibility determined? (d) Was any assistance in the form of travel and accommodation, etc., provided at Commonwealth expense to those invited? If so, what are the details? (e) What was the cost per head in respect of catering for the official luncheon? (f) What was the total cost of all functions and other arrangements associated with the official opening?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the acting Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
Which of the following nations does he classify as being of the “ free world “: - Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burma, Byelorussia, Cambodia, Canada, Ceylon, Chile, China (Formosa) China (Continental), Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Finland,
France, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Laos, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Luxemburg, Malaya, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Roumania, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela?
– I interpret the phrase “ the free world “, in its current usage, to mean those countries which are not committed by the ideology or politics of their governments to imposing on the world a political system and ideology requiring the suppression of individual and national freedom. The honorable member should find no difficulty in applying this test to the list of countries he has given.
d asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
These figures relate to meetings of the full councils. They do not include meetings of standing and other committees established by each council from time to time to report in detail on matters of special importance, such as the revision of the Immigration Act, conduct of migrants, adult migrant education, social service benefits payable to migrants, the scale of accommodation in migrant hostels, migrants with professional skills, rural production, recruitment and employment and long-range planning. It is also relevant that members of both councils give considerable time outside of meetings of both the councils and committees in consultations, the preparation of material and in other ways associated with their membership of these two bodies.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 March 1958, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1958/19580313_reps_22_hor18/>.