23rd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement made by the present Minister for Labour and National Service in a television debate over Channel 7 Sydney on 16th November last and described in the newspapers as “ the great debate “ in which that Minister and the former Minister for Labour and National Service represented the Government viewpoint, and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition spoke for the Labour party, and in which the present Minister described China as “ our detested and implacable foe”? Did this statement represent the Government viewpoint or was it an expression of the Minister’s personal attitude?
– I regret to say that, being a resident of Canberra, I do not have a television set, so I did not see this performance on television, nor did I hear it, nor did I read it. But I was attracted by the subtle distinction expressed by the honorable member for East Sydney when he said that two of my colleagues represented the views of the Government and two others spoke as members of the Opposition. I have made a note of that. I think it is a matter of considerable interest.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service, and I refer him to the second annual report of the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, particularly that sentence at page 9 which reads -
The heavy full bench list and the burden of work on Presidential Members, two of whom are fully occupied with separate industries, are such that it will not be long before serious consideration should be given to at least one additional appointment.
Will the Minister inform the House whether such consideration has been given to this matter, and whether an additional appointment of a presidential member will be made?
– I have given consideration to this problem and have discussed it with officers of the department under my administration. I have come to the conclusion that, at least for the time being, it is not necessary to appoint one additional presidential member.
– Will the Minister for Air inform the House what steps are taken to verify claims to university degrees made by applicants for appointment to the Educational Branch of the Royal Australian Air Force and to verify the degrees attributed to officers in the Air Force List? Is it still possible for a man to be commissioned and later promoted in the R.A.A.F. on the basis of a degree he has never received and, later, to secure employment at a school on the basis of an inaccurate entry in the Air Force List, as was apparently done by the present Leader of the Country party in the New South Wales Parliament?
– I am not aware that any special steps are taken by the R.A.A.F. in the way suggested. I will make inquiries and inform the honorable member of the result.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Army. I understand that one of the new FN. 30 rifles, which have recently been adopted by the Army in lieu of the Lee-Enfield .303 rifles, is at present on display in this building. Can the Minister say whether an Army officer will be present while the rifle is on display, to explain the mechanism and advantages of the new weapon?
– I welcome this question, because it gives me an opportunity to tell every honorable member in the House most of whom already know, that we have brought here one of the new FN. 30 rifles, which were handed over by the Minister for Supply last week, for display purposes. All members and senators will have an opportunity to see the rifle. It will be appreciated that this item of equipment is now not only of national importance but also of national interest, and I think that all who possibly can do so should inspect and acquaint themselves with it. We have therefore arranged for the rifle to be on display in the lower Senate Committee Room in this building. In addition, at 7. IS this evening an Army officer will give a short address on the rifle, which I think will be of particular interest to honorable members and will enable them to understand just how the rifle works. I hope to see all honorable members in attendance.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. In view of the great inconvenience caused to many taxpayers by delays in making tax refunds, will the Treasurer arrange for an administrative change? Will he see to it that where refunds are due, the details will be prominently recorded on the taxation returns, to facilitate sorting, so that priority of consideration can be given by the assessors in these cases? No doubt the Treasurer is aware of the long delays that have been occurring, and he might use this suggested method of expediting the making of refunds.
– I have not had many cases brought to my notice of apparently unreasonable delays, but I welcome the constructive suggestion which the honorable gentleman has made. I shall see that it is fully examined by the Treasury officers, in the hope that we may be able to arrange for the more expeditious despatch of documents bringing some relief for taxpayers.
– Can the Prime Minister say whether any request has been made by the Victorian Government for a Commonwealth Government grant to aid people who suffered serious losses in the recent bush fires in Victoria?
– I am not aware of any such application, but in case one has arrived in the last few hours I will make inquiries and advise the honorable member of the result.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. I refer to the proposals placed before the State Premiers recently by the Federal Treasurer for a scheme of road construction in the various States, to cost the Commonwealth £250,000,000 over a period of years. Has the Government drawn up a Commonwealth-wide plan for road construction, and, if so, what proposals have been agreed to in respect of the needs of the Northern Territory, and what is the estimated cost of such proposals?
– As honorable members will be aware, under the scheme which is still current, and which will expire later this year, there is a provision for funds to be made available for the construction of roads of special interest to the Commonwealth. In the new scheme, which was put before the Premiers at the recent conference, no provision was included for particular Commonwealth roads, it being decided by the Commonwealth Government that in future the departments concerned should make the necessary provision in their own votes for roads that it was decided to construct. There has not been any special detailed programme of road construction drawn up, so far as I am aware, for Commonwealth purposes, but no doubt those of my colleagues who have matters of this kind coming within their jurisdiction will be giving thought to what is needed, and their recommendations will be considered in connexion with the forthcoming Budget.
– Has the Minister for Supply been informed that it is the intention of the French Government to explode a hydrogen bomb on the Antarctic island of Kerguelen? Does the Minister know that when a question was put to the Director of the South African Weather Bureau, Mr. H. van Loon, as to what the effect would be on South Africa and the protectorates because of their proximity to the explosion, he said that Australia and not South Africa should worry about the radio-active fall-out? If it is the intention of France to explode a hydrogen bomb, are the dangers mentioned by the Director of the South African Weather Bureau a possibility? What action does the safety committee provide for such a possibility?
– There has been no official announcement in this regard although there have been newspaper reports that the French intend to make an atomic test in the Sahara or near the island of Kerguelen. France is not one of the foremost nations in relation to atomic tests and I should think, in the first place, that the test would be of a fission bomb. I am informed that there is no real hazard from the fall-out from a fission bomb. However, I should say that if any country proposed to explode either a hydrogen bomb or an atomic bomb in the vicinity of Australia, representations would be made to protect Australia and Australian territories from any hazard from fall-out.
– I ask a question of the Treasurer, who will be aware that, under the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, a public servant is entitled to receive the cost of such hospital treatment as, in the opinion of the commissioner, is reasonably necessary or appropriate. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he approved the commissioner’s recent ruling that an employee must not be paid more than public ward rates, even if his doctor can secure prompt and proper treatment only in a private or intermediate ward, and whether he will review this blanket restriction on the operation of the act.
– I do not recall the particular matter raised by the honorable member for Werriwa having come under my notice. Now that he has brought the matter to my attention, I shall examine it and see whether the suggestion that he hus made can be adopted.
– Will the Prime Minister say whether or not he has yet received any specific request from the Queensland Government for financial aid for victims of the recent cyclone in north Queensland?
– The honorable member for Herbert asked me about this yesterday and I looked at the present position. I had a letter from my friend, the Premier of Queensland, which did not deal particularly with cases of hardship but treated the matter in a broader way. I have subsequently written to him and perhaps the best way to answer this question would be to read what I have put to him. I have no doubt that the Queensland Premier will answer this letter as soon as he can.
– A Dorothy Dixer!
– Well, Dix, but not Dorothy.
– The answer is nix.
– Not nix. Far more than that. You listen to this and if you remember it, it will be very valuable. The letter reads -
We appreciate fully the special hardship which this cyclone has caused following, as it does, upon last year’s Bowen cyclone. The Commonwealth Government would, as always in such cases, be prepared to contribute with your State on a pound for pound basis towards the cost of any scheme designed for the immediate relief of personal hardship and distress.
I quote that because honorable members have heard me say the same kind of thing before and this is a long-established practice. The letter continues -
It is also willing to consider, as it has in the past, applications for assistance on the basis that the damage involved has assumed the dimensions of a national disaster and the cost of restoration work is clearly beyond the financial resources of the State though it is our policy not to assist financially in the restoration of private assets. Thus, in the past, the Commonwealth has participated with the States on a £1 for £1 basis in the cost of restoration of roads and bridges, the replacement of embankments and flood levees and undertaking emergency flood protection measures.
Then I added - and I am not complaining, because this is a fairly recent letter -
No doubt you will write to me again when the extent and nature of the damage becomes clearer.
I quote that because I think it is desirable that honorable members should understand what are the two principles upon which the Commonwealth Government deals with this matter. I have no doubt that although up to this time there has been no particular proposal about cases of hardship, we will very soon have one.
I appreciate the interest of the honorable member who, at my request, made a very close examination of the matter. The Government deeply sympathizes with the people who have suffered from this damage. But this other is, if I may so describe it, a business matter. It is a financial matter between two governments and we are, of course, largely dependent upon the State Government for information as to the amount it is proposing to provide for hardship, and what other matters, under the other principle, may need to be considered.
– I ask the Treasurer: Is it true that the Department of the Treasury has secured an option to purchase the premises of the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited at Civic Centre, Canberra, and to take over this building when the bank vacates it later this year? If this is so, can the Minister say whether it is proposed to use the building for the purpose of storing materials and not for any purpose which would involve public use of the building? Was any consultation sought with the National Capital Development Commission to ascertain whether this use of the building fitted in with the general commercial anc retail trading activities in that area? If the Minister has not any present knowledge of these things, will he make inquiries, because the matter is causing concern in the community?
– I will make inquiries and see what information I can convey to the honorable member.
– Can the Minister for Trade inform the House of the outcome of the international wheat conference which concluded in Geneva yesterday?
– My understanding, from advice that has come through, is that agreement was reached at the conference upon the structure of an international wheat agreement to replace the one which will expire at the end of July. That does not mean that a new agreement has been completed. It is a matter now of referring the proposal back to all the governments for ratification or rejection as the case may be.
The proposal is that there shall be a new agreement to have a three-year duration. It has one basic change from the present agreement, that is, instead of the exporting countries each having individual quota rights, the importing countries which are members of the agreement will undertake to procure a stated percentage of their imports within the terms of the new agreement. The exporters would be free to compete for that business within the price bracket. The price bracket mentioned is 1 dollar 90 cents Canadian as the ceiling price - which is a reduction from 2 dollars Canadian, the ceiling price in the current agreement - and a floor, or minimum price as it is called, of 1 dollar 50 cents Canadian, which is the same as the floor price in the present agreement. It would appear that the United Kingdom would be prepared to join this agreement. That is, itself, a very great advance, because the United Kingdom is the biggest importer of wheat, and the result would be that, within the guarantees of the agreement, there would now be included, subject to ratification, 420,000,000 bushels of wheat as against 295,000,000 bushels under the current agreement. Our Government will, of course, examine this in due course as the precise proposals come to us.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Trade. I preface my question by stating that the Minister is no doubt aware that the existing meat agreement allows Australia to sell to any country in the world, other than the United Kingdom, poor-grade lean meat. I therefore ask the Minister: Is he aware of the high prices being paid for third-grade and fourth-grade lamb, mutton and beef, and of the demand for these by American interests? Does the Minister know that this state of affairs is causing concern in the meat industry, because it is feared there could be a swingover in the meat-growing industry from prime beasts to poor quality beasts, with consequent disastrous results on overseas markets? Is the Minister also aware that, due to the high prices being paid for poorgrade meat, higher prices are being demanded for prime meat with the result, it is stated, that there will be in the very near future a rise of 40 per cent, in the price of meat for local consumption? If the Minister is aware of these facts, will he undertake to see whether any action can be taken to prevent this rise, which would have a very adverse effect on the already reduced living standards of the people?
– Within the terms of the long-term meat agreement with the United Kingdom, on the most recent price review in respect of beef, arrangements have been reached with the United Kingdom under which that country continues to take an unlimited quantity of all our grades of beef other than third-grade beef and at guaranteed prices. This arrangement, which hitherto has covered all grades, including low-grade meat, has been of immeasurable advantage to the Australian beef industry because, under it, the United Kingdom Treasury has been providing a subvention to the Australian export cattle industry of as much, I think, as about £6,000,000 in a year.
I have said in this House that the longterm meat agreement has operated over the last couple of years in such a manner that this support, reflecting not only in the volume of beef exported, but also in the competitive prices which local butchers must pay against export parities and the sympathetic values for store stock and breeding herds, means that Australia’s beef herds have, over the last couple of years, had a capital value in the export beef areas alone of not less than £50,000,000 higher than they would have had without the long-term meat agreement. Now there is an added and very great advantage in the terms of the renegotiated aspect of the agreement, in that the lower grades of beef may now be offered freely in the United States, or any other country, without impairing our rights of protection in relation to the higher grades. It is true that this has produced a very welcome demand for lower grades of beef, providing an excellent outlet for culled dairy cows and for culls from the breeding herds. The honorable gentleman has a complete misunderstanding of the practical features of the beef industry if he thinks that some one would deliberately try to breed cattle to produce low quality beef merely to export it four or five years later, possibly, to the United States of America.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. It refers to the recent Premiers’ conference. Will the right honorable gentleman inform the House whether an offer was made to the Premiers to return taxing powers to the States? If an offer was made, was it made in general terms, or did the Commonwealth put forward to the Premiers for consideration and discussion any concrete alternative to the present scheme?
– I could readily enough give a summary of this matter but, as it happens, all these discussions began with a statement by myself, on behalf of the Commonwealth, affirming the desirability of the principle, but posing the practical problems that had to be dealt with. Thereafter, it was quite clear that five States, at any rate, were not anxious - shall I put it that way - to resume their taxing powers. The sixth State put forward a proposal which received no support elsewhere. As the meeting was accurately recorded by “ Hansard “, I think perhaps I shall arrange to have distributed at the earliest possible moment the complete record of the discussion on that matter, so that all honorable members may be accurately informed about it and be able to form their own judgment.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister in relation to the Public Service. I have received representationsfrom the Australian Advisory Council for the Physically Handicapped, through the Tasmanian Society for the Care of Crippled Children, with reference to the employment of the physically handicapped in the Commonwealth Public Service. Is it a fact that it has not been the practice or the custom to engage physically handicapped people on the permanent staff of the Commonwealth Public Service? If it is a fact, can this unjust anomaly and restriction be removed from the conditions of employment within the Commonwealth Public Service?
– I cannot answer by the book on this matter, but I also cannot quite accept the word “ unjust “ in reference to it. The honorable gentleman, of course, certainly knows that permanent employment in the civil service carries with it superannuation rights, and that if a superannuation scheme is to be properly conducted there is always some insistence upon medical tests. In relation to the details of his question, as I do not know about this matter at first hand, I shall secure an answer and make it available to him.
– I direct to the Minister for Trade a question concerning the discussions which he and, more particularly, members of his department have with industrialists seeking to establish new undertakings which depend for their success upon being granted or having some understanding about a line of imports over a period of time. In view of the vast implications to the future pattern of the Australian economy of many of the decisions that are given, will the Minister consider publishing some statement setting out the principles which he and his officers seek to apply in reaching their decisions?
-Yes, I think that this can be done, but I think that I can state the position in broad terms here in a moment. It is this: When some one proposes to establish a new manufacturing industry in Australia, the point that interests him principally is whether he will be accorded tariff protection for his industry. The answer to that question is standard, and has been the historic one adopted, I think, by all governments; that is, that protection will be accorded by the Government and the Parliament after a public examination by the Tariff Board and a report by the board. Therefore, a proposed new industry must first establish itself and go into production in order to provide a basis of cost for the Tariff Board itself to examine. That is the principal factor, and that is told to every one who approaches us in these matters.
These days, there quite normally flows an inquiry - which touches import licensing - as to whether the Department of Trade will provide licences for equipment, raw material or components, and therefore the proposal is examined. Provided that it fits in with the import licensing policies and ceilings, approval is given.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in the absence of the Attorney-General, a question without notice. Has the right honorable gentleman’s attention been drawn to the statement made recently by Mr. Justice Ashburner, when he dismissed the appeal of a waterside worker named Gold, of Hobart, against his disqualification from employment, that, in his opinion, two witnesses in the case - Frank Hursey and his wife - had committed perjury? If the matter has not been brought to the Prime Minister’s attention, will he read the judgment and consult with the Attorney-General to see whether charges should not now be laid against Mr. and Mrs. Hursey for perjury?
– I appreciate the interest of my honorable friend in this matter. The Hurseys appear to be a somewhat sore point.
– Like old Petrov.
– You are quite right. Petrov is a very, very sore point with you. The Attorney-General will be back later to-day. I will tell him about the question, and he may be able to say something about it to-morrow.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister for Air. Following the question asked by the honorable member for Shortland, I ask the Minister whether action can be taken to prevent unwarranted slurs upon the reputation of officers who have served in the Royal Australian Air Force, the person referred to in this instance being known in his own State as a fine scholar, a first-class sportsman and a man of considerable attainments and of great ability - a man who, in the city of his adoption, over the past fourteen years, has rendered magnificent service both to education and in a mayoral capacity, as well as in response to every call that has been made upon him in the public life of his State.
– As we all know, action can be taken by people to protect their reputations, but not against statements made or questions asked in this House. I shall be glad to look into the whole background of the matter to which the honorable gentleman’s question relates.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Does the answer that he gave to a question a few minutes ago, so far as it related to import licences and the policy of the Government, mean that persons who have not had import licences in the past, but genuinely desire licences in order to carry on their business in a proper manner, are not able to obtain licences in any circumstances, or is every application dealt with on its merits, and are the interests of the particular business and of the public considered, before a decision is made?
– The policies applicable are broadly policies that have been carefully studied by the Cabinet, having regard to the advice that flows from an import licensing consultative body, which includes commercial interests. In addition, there is a system of boards of appeal, to which an applicant may direct an appeal if his application is not approved by the department. To-day, notwithstanding the tightness of our funds, 27 per cent, of all goods imported into this country are imported without restriction. They are essential goods and goods that come within the category of import replacements. For that proportion of our imports anybody is free to compete.
In addition, there are two other systems that apply to particular major items in which the licensing is predominantly on an historic basis. Those items are referred to as those subject to import licensing by quota. Because there is a restriction, the licences are confined to people who have been in the relevant business for some time and who derive their livelihood from it. An additional licence can be given to somebody else only by subtracting from people who have been established in the type of business concerned for a number of years.
Finally, there are items in the “ B “ class category for which, again, a licence is issued to import a percentage of an historic quota. The Government’s policy does enable the percentage entitlement of particular people to be increased, having regard to the volume of their trade compared with previous years. Question time does not permit me to explain the arrangement in detail, but I assure the honorable member that import licensing is administered not merely on the department’s judgment of what is fair, but in the closest consultation with representative groups from business and industry. The point that must be borne in mind is that so long as restrictions occur, it would be possible for the department, or the Minister, literally, to give a document of cash value to a new applicant. A livelihood can be given in this way merely by issuing a piece of paper. Thus, a tremendous responsibility rests upon those who administer these matters.
I should like to assure the House and the country that I, and the officers with whom I work, are constantly conscious of our re sponsibility. Never is there any temptation to deprive people in business of a percentage of their rights by bestowing new rights on other people.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Army, is to some extent complementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. Having arranged for a FN rifle to be made available for examination by honorable members, will the Minister also endeavour to obtain an Enfield Mark II. rifle so that honorable members .may also examine that weapon, which was produced in England and considered to be the perfect rifle with which to equip the infantry soldier? This assessment of the Enfield Mark II. has been confirmed by Army experts, gunsmiths, world renowned rifle men and ballistic experts. If the Minister will also provide this rifle for honorable members to examine, they may be able to discover why the FN rifle was selected in preference to the Enfield Mark II.
– I cannot enter into a discussion as to the merits of the two rifles, but so that honorable members may compare them, the currently used Lee-Enfield rifle will also be on display this afternoon and to-night.
– Will it be the Mark II.?
– It will be the current model.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Army. Is it a fact that the Minister expressed the opinion - last year I think it was - that the existence of rent controls in New South Wales prevented about 40,000 homes from becoming available for habitation? Is it also a fact that until the eve of the New South Wales election, a similar view was expressed by his Liberal party colleagues in New South Wales? If these are facts, will he say what has caused the belated reversal of opinion as evidenced in the New South Wales Liberal party’s election promise to support Labour’s policy of retaining rent control while the housing shortage exists?
– Order! The question deals with a subject outside the control of the Minister for the Army.
– I am sure that the arrangements made by the Minister for the Army to inspect the Australian-made FN rifle in Parliament House to-day are appreciated. I ask the Minister whether rifle clubs throughout Australia will be affected by the introduction of this new rifle and, if so, to what extent. Will new rifles be made available to rifle clubs? If not, will the Minister give an assurance that the supply of .303 ammunition to clubs will be maintained?
– As it will be some considerable time before the Army is completely fitted with the new rifle, 1 can give no undertaking as to when rifle clubs will :be able to secure it. I will look into the other matter raised by the honorable member,
– I ask the
Prime Minister whether he recalls the question I asked him concerning an inquiry by a committee of Privy Councillors into the practice of telephone tapping in the United Kingdom. I asked whether the right honorable gentleman would consider the report of the committee with a view to adopting some of its recommendations, and he said that he would. Has he done so yet?
– I devoted quite a little attention to the report. It has not been possible since the election to have it discussed in Cabinet, but I propose to have that done.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade, in the absence of the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the alteration in the world supply of sulphur, which means that the bounty on sulphuric acid is no longer necessary to ensure a supply of superphosphate, will the Government consider directing the large sum of money that will go to the manufacturers because of the low price at which they can now buy sulphur, to the more practical assistance of graziers, to whom a subsidy would mean a valuable reduction in the cost of production?
– 1 shall have to answer this question without anticipating a Tariff
Board report which is due for consideration in the near future. I can answer the honorable member by pointing out that the interests of the grazing industry and farmers generally have never been more directly attended1 to than under the policy of the Government, under which indigenous substitutes for sulphur were used to produce sulphuric acid, with which superphosphate is made, when sulphur was scarce and the price was very high indeed. Australian industrialists were led into very substantial capital expenditure to conform to the desires of the Government in this regard, and I am sure that the honorable member, upon reflection, would not wish that these people should be left with their capital expenditure now unprofitable merely because sulphur has become freely available and cheaper elsewhere. All these points will be taken into consideration by the Government when the Tariff Board’s report is before it.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board at the end of 1958 showed that between September, 1957, and September, 1958, the percentage of Australian television programmes showing on ATN fell by 25 per cent., on TCN by 18 per cent., on GTV by 18 per cent, and on HSV by 11 per cent., or an average of 18 per cent.? Will the Minister contrast these figures with the optimism expressed by himself during 1958 about the growth of the Australian content of television programmes, and will he say whether he is satisfied with the position that is revealed by these falling percentages?
– Mr. Speaker, I am aware that the report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, which I tabled recently, shows a reduction in the percentage use of Australian artists and Australians generally in the programmes of the television licensees to whom the honorable member has referred. I am also aware that that report shows that the hours of viewing by the various companies have been increased considerably. The result is that, although there has not been any material reduction in either the number of artists employed or the hours for which they were employed, there has been a reduction in the percentage of time for which they have been employed in relation to the total time that the stations have been showing. While I state that quite definitely, I assure the honorable member that this is a matter which we are constantly watching and to which from time to time I direct the attention of the television licensees. I point out also that the Government’s policy is the steady expansion of television and that the attainment of the Government’s goal of employing as much Australian talent as possible depends on the further expansion of television, with which the Government is steadily proceeding.
May I point out as a matter of interest, Mr. Speaker, that reference has been made to some of the television licensees. The latest report of the Australian Broadcasting Commission shows that in the year 1957-58, over 3,000 Australian artists, musicians, writers and others were employed by that body. That is comparable with the employment of Australians by other licensees.
– During question time, the honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory asked me a question about negotiations for the acquisition of the premises in Canberra formerly occupied by the Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited. I have now some information to the effect that there is no Treasury plan for the acquisition of these premises. I understand that negotiations are being conducted by the Department of the Interior for purposes - and I say this subject to correction - of the National Library, but that is as far as I understand the situation.
Motion (by Mr. McEwen) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill proposes two substantive amendments and one drafting amendment to the
Export Payments Insurance Corporation Act 1956. The Government introduced the 1956 act to provide a new facility for the Australian exporter. Briefly, the corporation was established to insure Australian exporters against risks of loss arising from non-payment of their overseas accounts. The functions of the corporation do not overlap the functions of the commercial insurers, as the latter do not cover risks of this type.
As the Commonwealth is, in the last resort, responsible for any losses incurred by the corporation, it was necessary to stipulate in the principal act a maximum liability figure. This was set at £25,000,000. It was also necessary to provide adequate working capital for the corporation and this figure was set at £500,000.
Before establishing the corporation, the Government, after extensive consultations with exporters, manufacturers, primary producers and banking and insurance interests, had satisfied itself that there was a real need for export payment insurance in Australia. The activities of the corporation to date have fully justified this assessment. Although the first policy of the corporation was written only in September, 1957, business worth over £11,000,000 had been written by 30th June, 1958. The corporation, in its latest annual report, stated -
In addition to the benefits of greater security and readier access to finance, exporters were enabled by their guarantees to obtain new and additional business.
The value of the corporation and its facilities to the exporting community is now accepted by an increasing number of Australian exporters and commercial institutions, including the Australian trading banks who are prepared to give special consideration in arranging finance for those export transactions guaranteed by the corporation.
This growing recognition has been accompanied by a considerable increase in the number and value of policies written by the corporation in recent months. The volume of business written has now reached the level where the existing liability limit of £25,000,000 as specified in the act is already inadequate, and there is every indication that, given the necessary scope, the corporation could significantly exceed this figure and thus make an even greater contribution to increasing our exports.
To ensure that the corporation can continue to accommodate the business offered to it, the Government’s proposal in the bill is to double the existing maximum liability figure in section 28 of the act from £25,000,000 to £50,000,000. In arriving at this figure, the Government has considered carefully the latest trading position of the corporation. This shows that the contingent liability figure of current business written, under firm offer by the corporation, or in the course of negotiation, is over £24,000,000. This liability results from business which has a face value of some £52,000,000. The Government also had before it the unanimous recommendations it has received on this matter from the consultative council of the corporation and the Export Development Council. Both these bodies recommended a maximum contingent liability level of £50,000,000.
The Government proposes also amendment of section 23 (1.) of the act to enable the capital of the corporation to be doubled to £1,000,000. This capital, together with reserves - currently some £4,000 - represents the working funds of the corporation. Normally, an organization of this type can expect to have considerable sums of money tied up pending recovery from overseas. As the corporation is charged to conduct its affairs on a commercial basis, it is appropriate that it should have sufficient capital to meet its anticipated normal requirements It is also a fact that as the corporation expands to take advantage of the new scope offered it, money will have to be expended on staffing and promotional activities which will not immediately be covered by increased premium income.
The third amendment proposed, that to section 18 (3.), is purely a drafting change designed to clarify the wording of the principal act in relation to terms and conditions of employment.
It is the intention of the Government thai the substantive amendments to the liabilty and capital figures will enable the corporation to increase its usefulness to the Australian export trade. Last year, the corporation covered Australian primary and secondary exports, ranging from greasy wool to earthmoving equipment, to some 64 countries, and showed a surplus of ove £4.000 on the year’s operations.
The Government is currently reviewing the functions of the corporation to determine whether its powers need to be extended to meet the full requirements of exporters and to make the maximum contribution to export earnings. This review may well indicate that some further legislative amendments are desirable. However, there is an immediate need to increase the corporation’s permitted maximum liability and capital limits so that additional export business can be insured. The Government has therefore decided to proceed with these amendments to the act as a matter of some urgency.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - Erection of Sydney mail exchange building, Redfern, New South Wales.
The proposal provides for the erection of a building at Redfern on a Commonwealthowned site bounded by Pitt-street on the west, Cleveland-street on the north, and Castlereagh-street on the east. The building is required to provide a central mail exchange to serve the Commonwealth in general and the State of New South Wales in particular. The committee has stated in its summary of conclusions that there is an urgent need for the proposed mail exchange, that it is favorably impressed with the plans for the structure, and that the site proposed is the most suitable for the purpose. I concur in the committee’s recommendations, and instructions will be issued accordingly.
The estimated cost of the work is £4,170,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - Erection of automatic telephone exchange and post office building, Potts Point, New South Wales.
The proposal provides for the erection of a building at Potts Point on a Commonwealthowned site bounded by Macleaystreet on the west and Greenknowe and Crick avenues on the south and north. The building is required to provide additional equipment area for extensions to the automatic telephone facilities serving the metropolitan area of Sydney. Space is also required to establish a new post office for the area which will replace the present post office operated in rented premises.
The committee has stated in its summary of conclusions that there is a pressing need for a new exchange and post office building for the present and near future period and that although the site is a valuable one for other purposes the establishment of the proposed building upon it is fully justified, and will result in an adequate use of the site. I concur in the committee’s recommendations and instructions will be issued accordingly.
The estimated cost of the work is £325,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1953, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the results of its investigations, namely: - Extensions to Repatriation General Hospital, Hobart, Tasmania.
The proposal provides for the erection on the present hospital site of replacement accommodation for the existing hospital facilities which are housed in outmoded timber structures which will require to be demolished to make way for the new buildings. The committee has stated in its summary of conclusions that there is an urgent need for the replacement of the old wooden buildings, that the site is convenient and appropriate for the purpose, that the plans are pleasing and adequate and that the estimated cost is reasonable. I concur in the committee’s recommendations and instructions will be issued accordingly.
The estimated cost of the work is £220,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 10th March (vide page 468), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- During the course of this century central banking has begun to come into its own, but in this country the growth has been haphazard, and certain weaknesses have been displayed owing to the manner in which central banking has developed. Those weaknesses are upon both the political and the economic sides. The purpose of the legislation now before the House is to ensure that the weaknesses in the banking system of Australia shall be cured, that our banking system shall be rendered strong, and that central banking may, in every true sense, really be central banking and be fully efficacious.
So far as the political weaknesses are concerned, the central bank, through no fault of its own - and that must be emphasized - has come to be associated with the movement for the suppression and crushing of the private banks of Australia. This in itself has been enough to weaken the position of the central bank and to render it suspect. Then when one looks at the economic side one sees a central bank with very great powers indeed, and with great powers of control over the private banks,
This is essential to the system of central banking, but in this country we have a central bank governed by a board which also governs the government trading bank. This government trading bank is in active competition with the private banks, and, in addition, it enjoys certain benefits, such as freedom from taxation, which are not extended to the private banks. The result is that it is in a position to compete with the private banks on terms which are unfair to those banks.
– What rot!
– If, on the one hand, there is an organization with great advantages and, on the other hand, there are other organizations which lack those advantages, then the rot referred to by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith can only be that that sort of thing should continue.
– One belongs to the people.
– If people are to have private banks - and the people have decided, up to date, that the private banks should be retained - then there has to be an absolutely fair basis of competition. Of course, I fully realize that the honorable member does not understand the meaning of “ fairness “. He has shown that repeatedly in this House by what he has said. I shall desregard his further interjection because, as he should well know, interjections are disorderly.
The government trading bank, while it is controlled by the same board as controls the central bank, has knowledge of the transactions of the private trading banks which can be used - I do not say it is being used - to the detriment of the private banks. Under that system, the competitor of the private banks has an unfair advantage. That is a state of affairs in which the private banks naturally distrust and have no confidence in the system of central banking.
It is clear and accepted that central banking can be satisfactorily carried out only if there is absolute confidence and trust between the central bank and the private banks. The private banks, under the present system, have not that trust and confidence in the central bank which is essential to the proper working of the central banking system. The central bank is aware of that position and, in consequence, it has leaned over rather too much in favour of the private hanks in order to try to make conditions fair. It is natural that it would try to do that; but the consequence is that the community has suffered and that the central banking powers have not been properly applied to treat all banks in exactly the same way. That is a very great weakness which has affected the government trading bank and it should be cured.
Let us look, for a moment, at the political side. The feeling that the central bank could be used for the nefarious purpose of suppressing the private banks has quite a basis because, since the early 1920’s the policy of the Labour party has provided for the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange.
– What is wrong with that?
– For the sake of the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith to whom things should perhaps be explained in words of one syllable, I point out that Labour’s policy provides for the socialization of banking. In 1947 the Labour government introduced a bill, which was passed through this House, for the socialization of banking. It is quite true that that measure was held to be unconstitutional and, consequently, is not operative. But the rabid members of the Labour party, of whom there are plenty, still say that they will socialize banking if they can. It is true that one or two of them, with their tongues in their cheeks, say, “ No. That policy is gone. The Privy Council has held that there can be no legislation of that sort.” But the live wires, of whom there are plenty, say, “ Yes, but there is still the method of economic squeeze - strangulation without compensation “. That is the policy of the Labour party to-day. The private banks are to be strangled without receiving any compensation. The reason that the Labour party opposes the present legislation, is that the aim of the bill is to prevent that from happening.
As I have pointed out, under the present act, it is possible to injure the private banks by unfair competition. But I have not yet referred to the provision relating to the special accounts. Under this provision, it is possible so to freeze the assets of the private banks that they would be driven out of business. Consequently, there is a wellfounded belief that, on political grounds, the central banking system as it stands is very weak.
The legislation before the House is aimed at terminating the link between the central bank and the government trading bank. It aims, primarily, at bringing about a strong central bank and a true system of central banking. One of the steps in doing that is to induce confidence and co-operation between the central bank and the private banks. Therefore, the link between the government trading bank and the central bank is being removed. The one body of directors for the two banks is no longer to exist. There is to be a clear separation of these two banks. Any special advantages which would allow the government trading bank to compete unfairly with the private banks will be removed also.
As Professor Arndt has pointed out, under this legislation the government trading bank will be in a stronger position to trade than before. I refer to Professor Arndt because he, apparently, is the modern Messiah of the Labour party. It is quite right that the government trading bank should be able to compete fairly with the private banks, but equally it is right and proper that the private banks should be able to compete fairly, squarely, reasonably, and in every way with the government bank. That is what is being provided under this legislation and that is what will be secured. In other words, the whole cause of the distrust by the private banks of the central banking system will be removed in order that there may be that confidence in the central bank which will induce the private banks to co-operate fully and freely with the central bank. This will bring about an improved central banking system and secure the real strength of the central bank so that the community will get the full benefits of central banking.
In addition, the legislation contains the provision for the new Development Bank which has been so highly acclaimed. That was discussed in the course of debates in the previous Parliament. The views that I have put forward in favour of these bills were also discussed at length by members on this side of the House. On the other side of the House, the story has been that this legislation is an attack upon the Commonwealth Bank. Members of the Opposition said that it would lead to the destruction of the bank, that it was being introduced only for the benefit of the private banks, so that these institutions could secure more profits, and, in a general way, the private banks were vilified. It was said that the legislation would lead to the downfall of the Government. It was said also that it was contrary to public opinion and against public interest and that the Government was in the grip of the great financial interests. That was the story put forward by the Opposition.
– Of course you know that is true.
– Of course honorable members opposite said that, if that is what the honorable member means and that is what they placed before the electors.
– And that is true.
– Of course it is true that these suggestions came before the electors. This banking legislation was placed in the forefront of the Government’s policy. The Government said, “ We stand by the legislation and when we get back, as we know we will get back, we will put forward this legislation and have it passed by Parliament”. The issue was plain. The arguments used on both sides of the House were used to the electors. They knew, yea or nay, just what the position was and what they were asked to vote upon. The issue was clear.
What happened? Were the Labour prophecies right? We know that Labour prophecies are generally wrong. What happened on this occasion? Was there the downfall of the Government? As honorable members all know, the Government was returned with a record majority. That was a plain indication that this Government’s legislation was approved by a record majority of the people. In other words, they approved of the principle that the private banks should have free and proper competition with the Government trading bank and that likewise the Government trading bank should be put in a position in which it could compete on fair terms with the private banks. The people approved of a development bank. The people approved also of the idea of a strong central banking system. All the things which the Government had put before them, the people approved. Consequently, when this House to-day is asked to pass this legislation there is a definite mandate given by the people of Australia that this legislation should be passed.
– There is not.
– The person who says that there is not a definite mandate from the people of Australia that this legislation shall be passed, comes, I should think, within the clauses of the Constitution which provide that certain people are unsuitable to be members of this House. Mr. Speaker, it is easy enough to say that there is no definite mandate, but after all, when one looks at the number of members on this side of the House and the paucity of representation on the other side of the House - and the word “ paucity “ includes the meaning of lack of quality - I suggest that there can hardly be any question that there is a definite mandate upon this matter.
– No wonder the honorable member was beaten for the AttorneyGeneralship!
Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will cease interjecting.
– I know that the irrelevancies in the honorable member’s mind are such that he is not able to concentrate on anything for any time at all. But if one may come back to the subject before the House, it will be realized that the control of the credit system of a country is something which greatly affects the lives of the people. If a government has control of the credit system of the country, then that government has control of the life of the people of that country. That is the reason why the people of Australia will not have socialism. The vote on 22nd November last upon this banking legislation which, as I have said, was placed in the forefront of the Government’s policy, was a definite vote against the socialization of banking.
Not merely was it a definite vote against the socialization of banking; it was a definite vote in favour of free enterprise. It was a definite slap in the eye to those people who support socialism. It was a definite vote to the effect that Australians will not have socialism at any price and that those who support socialism will find themselves defeated at the polls. It is on the socialist rock that the Australian Labour party has split. There are far fewer members on the other side of the House now than there were before that party split upon the socialist issue. Because so many mem bers of the Labour party would not have socialism its representation here has been thinned and the quality of the members hh become far less.
Socialism is a product of theories of a bygone day. The Labour party generally goes back to the past. It is always talking in the past. It has no forward policy. It? socialist policy is one of past days - one which we have grown beyond - and a policy which Australians will not tolerate.
.- There were some interesting comments in the speech of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). I noticed that he repeated himself continually and that he raised a few matters which were not completely relevant to the subject under discussion, but which, perhaps, call for an answer. I shall begin by referring to some of the concluding points of the honorable member’s speech. He referred to the Australian Labour party and its policy of the socialization of industry, production and exchange. The implementation of that policy would prevent exploitation of the people.
The honorable member mentioned the fact that in the last few years the Labour party’s ranks in this House have been thinned. We have got rid of the antisocialists and now we have representatives here who know exactly what are the aims and objectives of the party and they have the unqualified support of the people in their electorates. There are 21,308 Labour supporters in Wills, anyhow, who knew that their member, when standing for reelection to Parliament, was a socialist in certain respects. We have taken extraordinary care to show the people that and the Liberal candidate received the smallest vote ever recorded in the electorate of Wills. This is an indication of the shape of things to come as the Labour organization gets under way. Unfortunately, we will not have the resources, financial or otherwise, at our disposal which now keep the honorable member for Balaclava here.
This is a proper time to read some remarks made by Mr. Chifley in 1950 when speaking on the banking legislation. They are recorded in “ Hansard “ and they have never been denied. He said -
In any event, the establishment of the proposed board will fall far short of the expectations held by the bankers, who subscribed hundreds of thousands of pounds to assist the anti-Labour parties to defeat us at the last election.
That was the 1949 election. He went on -
It is idle for honorable members opposite to deny that huge funds were made available to them because I can produce evidence to show the source of the funds, the amount subscribed and the purpose of the subscriptions.
Is there anybody in this House who so far, perhaps excluding yourself, Mr. Speaker, has managed to establish a reputation for integrity and sincerity such as that of the late Right Honorable J. B. Chifley?
What are the facts? In 1947 the banks chartered bus services to bring people to the protest meetings against the banking legislation. Bank clerks and their managers went from street to street, knocked on people’s doors, and asked for support for opposition to the banking legislation. Within the last few years, the private banks have been indulging in practices which I suppose the honorable member for Balaclava would describe as “ unfair competition “ if the Commonwealth Bank did the same. These are facts which cannot be denied.
There are many reasons why we oppose this legislation. There are many reasons why the people of Australia did not vote for it at the last election. One of the most notable features in the election campaign of the honorable member for Balaclava was his continual attempt to smear the Australian Labour party by suggesting that it was Communist-dominated. Reports to that effect were published in Melbourne papers as being quotations from the speeches of the honorable member for Balaclava. Never was any mention made of liquidity, or central banking, or unfair competition by the Commonwealth Bank. These were not the issues upon which he faced his electors. The people of Australia have not yet had the opportunity to make a clear-cut decision on these matters.
The Labour party’s attitude is quite clear and if one takes an opinion poll, as I have done, in order to discover the opinions of people of various political persuasions, one soon gets the attitude of the average Australian. If you ask people, “ What do you think of a policy to give the Commonwealth Bank the green light to go ahead and take on the private banking interests? “, the average Australian says, “ That is exactly the sort of policy I would support “.
The present provisions are not here to strengthen the central banking system. They are here completely at the behest of the private banks, because pressure has been continually put on the Government to produce this legislation. Back in 1953, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself had a few words to say about it, as was mentioned last night by the Leader of this side of the House. The Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) last night quoted the following statement by the Prime Minister in 1953:-
We believe that the Commonwealth Bank’s general trading activities have great merit because they act as a source of information to the central bank. They enable the central bank to have an instrument by which it may give leadership in banking policy.
That was the Prime Minister himself, some five or six years ago. But, of course, pressure has been applied. We have evidence of that fact in the second-reading speech of the former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, when he introduced the bill in its first run-round. He said -
Eventually the private banks submitted revised proposals which, while not wholly satisfactory from our stand-point, did offer a basis on which we could create a new system -
We have plenty of evidence from journals and publications that the people behind the private banking system were really in earnest in the pressures they applied. We have the statement by the president of the Bank of New South Wales, in November, 1952. He said-
The structure of the Commonwealth Bank, which combines central banking, trading and specialized functions, is not conducive to the unbiased leadership of the present banking system.
Then we have the statement by Sir Leslie Morshead, the then president of the Bank of New South Wales, in 1956. He said -
Existing legislation could be manipulated as the weapon of nationalizing the banking system and for the ultimate control of industry and commerce.
Then we have the statement of Sir Edward Knox, chairman of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited, in 1952, as follows: -
The competitive trading sections of the Central Bank are a serious barrier to complete confidence and co-operative goodwill.
Well, it is nice to know that the whole banking system of Australia has to be altered to retain, or gain, the co-operation and goodwill of the directors of the private trading banks. After all, that is the aim of this legislation. It is a case of the 49 directors of the private trading banks versus the rest of us. It is a matter of the kind of confidence you have in the parliamentary institution, because an attempt has been made in this legislation, as it has been in all the banking legislation introduced by this Government since it was returned to office in 1949, to shackle the power of the Parliament over this sector of public and private enterprise. This measure can only do just that.
And who are those people who are so important that they must be considered? Who controls each of those private banks? The Australia and New Zealand Bank Limited has nine directors; the English Scottish and Australian Bank Limited has eight directors. So there we have seventeen directors of private banks who are resident in the United Kingdom. The Bank of New South Wales has seven directors, the Bank of Adelaide has five directors and the National Bank of Australasia Limited has nine directors. The Commercial Bank of Australia Limited has five directors, and the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited has six directors. So we have a total of 49 directors, 17 of whom are not even ordinarily resident in this country. These 32 Australians and 17 expatriates are so important and must be in harmony and show co-operation and goodwill towards us, that the Government has had to shackle and attempt to strangle the Commonwealth Bank. Do not say that that is not the case. We know full well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the Commonwealth Bank has got them frightened of its competitive power. A recent issue of the publication “ Broadcasting and Television “, told us in an article on page 24 that the Commonwealth Bank was the top air user. The Commonwealth Bank is using all the media of public communication to get the public to expand its business. And, of course, with the backing of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the goodwill of its 10,000,000 shareholders, who are the citizens of Australia, the bank is in a very powerful competitive position.
I am not at all in sympathy with the arguments from the other side of the House about fair competition. Exactly what do we mean by fair competition? Was it fancompetition when the Ansett airline interests ran smaller airlines out of business because they had the power to do so in view of their size, and because they had the support of this Government in doing so? Was it fair competition when great industrial enterprises made take-over bids in order to absorb other companies? We hear no words about this from the other side of the House. So the terms “ fair competition “, “ just competition “ and “ free competition “ mean nothing when used by the people opposite. Was it fair competition last week in the South Australian general election when, although 170,000 persons voted for the Labour party and only 130,000 voted for the Liberal party, the votes of the 130,000 electors returned to office a Liberal government in that State? Of course that was not fair competition! The term means nothing when it comes from a party with the record of the Liberal party, a party which has gerrymandered electorates and1 retains its control of governments in three or four States by the preservation of legislative councils. The words that honorable members opposite use are contradicted by the very policies that they carry out in every other sector of private and public enterprise. I, and the party I represent, will fight every effort to control and strangle public enterprise to this extent.
What are the aims of banking? The other night the Treasurer said that banking operations go “ to the very root of the national well-being “. It is an essential and vital point in the whole control of the public welfare. So we are discussing here to-day the need for the good will and co-operation of 48 or 49 directors of private trading banks, and their general managers, in relation to something which is admitted by the people opposite to be part of the essence of the good management of the community. We say that in no way should the public control exercised by this Parliament, and the public control exercised by the leadership of the Commonwealth Bank, be prejudiced by any action of this Parliament That is very important.
We look at the aims of banking as specified by the Commonwealth Bank. Provisions in the Banking Act have been read here by numerous honorable members on this side of the House. The Commonwealth Bank has specific tasks to carry out - the maintenance of full employment, the maintenance of the stability of the economy. But what are the objectives of private banking? Are they in any way relevant to these aims? They are the direct opposite if and when necessary. The Minister foi Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) last night said the principal interest of a bank is to build up deposits, and the deposits it is able to build up provide its capacity to make profits. It is profit that is the principal motive of the banking system, and1 nobody can blame banks for wanting to make profits. That is what they are there for. Theirs is a form of private enterprise just as are farming, shop-keeping and newspaper proprietorship.
Therefore, there is a direct contradiction between the aims of the Commonwealth Bank and the banking structure as they ought to be applied for the welfare of the people of Australia, and the aims of the private banking system. If there were no contradiction in this way it would be unnecessary for the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) to stand up here and say that the central bank should be powerful and should be able to exercise control. If the motives of the private banks were of such a high-souled nature there would be no need for anybody to control them. Their objectives would be the same as those of the community. But, of course, it is admitted that they must be controlled. There is no evidence so far of any intention to use such control. When the profits of the private banks are at stake, or can be extended, there is no evidence that the banks have done anything other than what they thought best for their own interests. So we have quotations from statements by Dr. Coombs that the private banking system ignored appeals to restricted advances, that in fact only one private bank joined the Commonwealth Bank in observing the desired liquidity ratio. So we realize that the private banks just cannot be trusted with the sort of power that is being given to them in this legislation. That is point number one - that the aims of private banking and of public banking are in contradiction. Therefore, for members of parties supported by half the people of Australia, or thereabouts, and forming a majority in this
House, to come here and sponsor what is, after all, the cause of the private banking system, is to go against the duty that was entrusted to them by the people who voted for them last November.
The second point relates to the control of the banking system. Who controls the private banks? I have mentioned the numbers of directors involved - 49 as against 184 members of this House and of the Senate. Who is to be entrusted finally with the authority? In accordance with our philosophy, the power and direction of policy should lie firmly in this place. This series of bills is part of the method used by anti-Labour parties over the last 100 years to make sure that parliaments are strangled, shackled and hobbled in the application of their power. So we are against the legislation.
Central banking has been referred to as something of a highly mystical nature. I jotted down the words of the honorable member for Balaclava, who said that it was “ clear and accepted “ that central banking should be such and such. Clear to and accepted by whom? I do not claim any validity for the argument that something should be done here because it is done in America, England, Canada, or India, or because it is not done in South Africa, Spain or Japan. It is time that we applied our own system of thought to our own system of government.
– This is a different nation. Even the honorable member for Macarthur is probably very much akin to the rest of the people in the community. The homogenous nation which is ours and which we develop mostly on our own account, should be giving leadership and not dragging its heels by looking overseas for models. So that argument has no validity. The suggestion that these things ought to be done has no validity. Reasons must be given for doing them.
The Minister for Labour and National Service said that trust and interest were in conflict. He suggested that the trust and interest of the Commonwealth Bank Board as a central bank board were in conflict with its trust and interest as the board of a banking institution trading with the general public. In what way can these trusts and interests be in conflict? In what way are the duties of the Commonwealth Bank Board to the central bank any different from the duties of the board to the banking institutions, including the Trading Bank? This is a false view of the community’s efforts. This is viewing Government enterprise as simply another form of private enterprise. This is the method of thought that is brought to bear on these subjects by honorable members opposite.
The Commonwealth Bank is not just another banking institution. It is a part of the nation’s way of doing things.It has no relationship in any way to the general principles of banking as applied by people who are seeking their own profit. So to attempt to split the work of the bank into two diverse parts is to take a completely false view of the purpose of the bank. We do not admit the validity of that argument. We think it is petty, narrow, and mean in the extreme to insist that the bank should actually sheer off the members of the staff who are to conduct central banking and move them to another building at the end of the street. We think that that is nonsense. The viewpoint that for this purpose certain human beings must be completely dissociated from others, not only administratively but also physically, does little credit to those who hold it. It is an attitude that may lead to the difficulties under which honorable members opposite labour, in that they are unable to remove themselves and do a job objectively; but it is unfair of them to prejudice the activity of the Commonwealth Bank. This action will cause a certain amount of heartburn amongst the people on the staff. It will remove some of their opportunities for promotion and for entering wider fields of banking.
The Minister for Labour and National Service said last night that bank officials would be able in the ordinary course of public service procedure, to move from one section to another. But most people who know anything about public services know how difficult that is. Therefore, that is an argument of no great validity.
What about the Commonwealth Bank itself? In its 50 years of operation, it has expanded into Australia’s most important bank. A great proportion of the people of Australia deposit money with it. It has been a powerful influence on the ability of governments, in two world wars and in time of peace, to finance the nation. It is one of the fundamental instruments by which the Treasurer will direct the finances of the nation over the next few years. Therefore, it is a very important institution, and it cannot be sold out just because a number of private banks want it that way.
I am interested in the general structure of the private banks. One has only to examine their records to find out who controls them. We in this place, at least, are answerable directly to the people who are the shareholders of the Commonwealth Bank, but let us consider the case of the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited.I have here its annual report. The notice of meeting reads -
Notice is hereby given that the sixty-fifth annual general meeting of the company will be held at 5 Gracechurch-street, London, E.C.3, on Wednesday, the 4th day of December, 1957, at 12 o’clock noon, for the following purposes namely: -
To receive the Directors’ Report and the Accounts for the year ended 30th June, 1957, and the Auditors’ Report.
To declare a dividend.
To elect directors.
Democratically,I assume! In what way are the functions of that institution relevant to parliamentary functions? In what way is that body of directors answerable to the people who, presumably, control and own the shares? It is a figment of the imagination to talk about the great shareholdings of the private banks, with interests going back into the community and with the ordinary person owning bank shares. Competition, too, is a figment of the imagination.
I suggest that honorable members should read the report of the speech made last night by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). He pointed to the failure of the banks to compete in the only real field in which there could be competition, namely, in the matter of interest. What chance has one of going from one bank to another and being quoted interest rates which range from5½ per cent. to 5 per cent. or4½ per cent.? Of course, banking is no more competitive than are petrol companies and many other undertakings in the community. The slow process of amalgamation of banks is, in addition, reducing this field. Admittedly, more bank buildings are being erected all over the country, but this is not the kind of free competition that appears to be meant when one talks to the people in the street from whom honorable members opposite claim to have such a clear mandate. Therefore, these arguments have no validity.
We on this side of the House will continue to oppose the attempt to shackle the Commonwealth Bank. We will do this for the reasons I have enumerated and because of all the arguments that have been traversed and encompassed in this House over the past several years.
There are several matters which, 1 think, ought to give the country and the public great concern. One is the concentration of almost monopoly power over commercial, industrial and other concerns in the country in the hands of a very few people. I advise honorable members to get hold of an. interesting book, “ Jobson’s Investment Digest”, which gives lists of shareholders, directors and so on, of various companies. I shall not read out all of their names, but there is one person in whom I feel one ought to take a considerable interest. This is just a sample or symptom of the pattern by which this Government is proceeding. We have now an amalgamation or concentration of power over newspaper companies, radio companies, and television stations. We have the aggregation of power in, as the advertisements say, “ One mighty airline “. We have a concentration of power in the hands of a few people in control of banks. This book shows, for instance, the concerns in which the chairman of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, Mr. Giddy, has interests. He is chairman of Australian Newsprint Mills Limited, chairman of Herald and Weekly Times Limited, chairman of the National Bank of Australasia Limited, and chairman of the Tweedside Manufacturing Company Limited.
– Who is this?
– This is Mr. H. D. Giddy. My eyes, like those of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), may be failing a little, but I can make out these details in the digest under the entry -
Giddy, H. D., F.C.A. (Aust.).
– He controls the Commonwealth Bank Board, indirectly.
– Yes. This is the kind of man who has so much influence through the general structure of commerce, and on the Government. He is one of the people who have been making speeches demanding this sort of change, and he has much more influence in the community than he ought to have. So we see this general pattern of the destruction of government power to act in banking and other fields. The Government’s approach to Trans-Australia Airlines is another example of the application of this general pattern of building up and aggregating power in the hands of private industry and commerce - a pattern which must be opposed to the last. And we on this side of the House propose to oppose it to the last.
I should like Government supporters who follow me to answer some of the questions that have been asked. I believe it is in the order of battle that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) is to follow me. Perhaps he can define, within the limits of Liberal philosophy, just what the Government means by “ fair competition “. Just what is the final definition of the word “ fair “? Can the honorable member define it in such a way that simple souls may be able to apply it to other fields such as elections? Perhaps he can explain why central banking ought to be as it is in other countries and not as it has been in Australia. These are questions that are not answered, and we know that the Government cannot answer them. The Commonwealth Bank of Australia is too important an institution to be destroyed in this way, and we will fight to preserve it. Indeed, I suppose that Government supporters use it to no less a degree than we do.
We know that these terms such as “ liquidity “ are just more sacred cows that have been conjured up in order to hide the secrets around the banking system. Perhaps honorable members opposite can explain what are the secrets which the central bank could learn and which could be used by the Commonwealth Trading Bank to its own advantage in its branches at, say, Brunswick or Coburg, in my electorate. What are these secrets that must be kept from the powers that be in the central bank? That is another matter that needs explaining. We know - and an examination of the figures indicates - that, in effect, liquidity is no more important to-day than the gold standard was 30 years ago. We were told, 30 years ago, that if the gold standard were abandoned the country would go to ruin and we all should remain out of work. The sacred thing now is liquidity. In twenty years’ time, it will be some other god that has been raised in order to perpetuate this mystical atmosphere so that the ordinary citizen shall not know what goes on.
I completely support the remarks that the Leader of the Opposition made last evening. T suggest that Government supporters take his speech away and read it carefully. Along with it, they might take the speech made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean). I might even add for their benefit the reference under which they will find the speech that I made when these measures were first before this House, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It would probably do them the world of good to read those speeches. In the hope that the honorable member for Wannon has read them, I pass the debate on these bills over to him with a request that he answer these questions such as, “ What is ‘ fair competition ‘? “ These are questions that really must be answered.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have before me a copy of the “ Hansard “ report of the debate on these bills when they were first before the House in November, 1957. On that occasion, I had the honour to precede the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant).
– He has made the same speech again to-day.
– I think his speech on the previous occasion had a little more fire in it than the one that we have heard to-day. What he has said to-day is a perfect example of the approach of the members of his party - a party that is weary and sick and tired of opposing these measures which many Opposition members must know will benefit Australia and its people. They must know that, if they can look at the matter impartially from the stand-point of banking and central banking, and if they can divorce their attitudes and minds from the complete political failures which have become inevitably associated in their minds with banking, and which led to their lack of electoral success.
The honorable member for Wills said that the people of Australia had not had an opportunity to give judgment on these banking measures. He implied that they were something that had come up out of the blue, and he said quite plainly that the Government has no mandate for them. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Opposition has been defeated at the polls five times since 1949, when it suffered its initial defeat over these banking issues. On more than one of those occasions, banking issues have been mentioned in election campaigns, and if the honorable member had taken the trouble to read the policy speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) during the recent election campaign, he would have seen quite plainly that it was the Government’s intention to re-introduce these measures early in the new Parliament if the Government were returned. The Government, as the honorable member realizes, has been returned with an increased majority, and that is why these bills have been introduced again.
The honorable member implied that the purpose and functions of a government bank and of a private bank must conflict. He did not for a moment try to make any distinction between a government central bank and a government trading bank, and that omission makes it difficult for any one to follow his speech and to find out exactly what he meant. Clause 28 of the Commonwealth Banks Bill 1959, which sets out the charter of the Commonwealth Trading Bank as it will be under the new Commonwealth Banking Corporation, states the general functions of the Trading Bank in these terms - (1.) The Trading Bank shall carry on genera] banking business. (2.) It is the duty of the Trading Bank to develop and expand its business. (3.) The Trading Bank shall not refuse to conduct banking business for a person by reason only of the fact that to conduct that business would have the effect of taking away business from another bank.
Those purposes and functions are applicable to any trading bank, whether government or private, and much of the confusion in the honorable member’s mind arises, I feel, Mr. Deputy Speaker, from the fact that he made no distinction between central bank and trading bank functions. As honorable members will realize, there is a very wide difference between the two.
Many Opposition members have implied, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that these bills should not have been brought in, because officers of the private banking system, quite plainly and openly, have supported them. But I have not heard the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) or the honorable member for Wills say that a proposal should not be made or supported because Jim Healy, or Elliott, of the Seamen’s Union, says that something should be done.
– What is the point that the honorable member is trying to make?
– If Jim
Healy’s support for a proposal resulted in legislation, the honorable member would support that legislation to the hilt. It is just plain nonsense to say that legislation should not be supported because a certain outside group or organization supports it. That sort of statement adds nothing to the debate.
No matter what any one says, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the purpose of these measures is not to support the private banking institutions, lt is to create the best possible banking structure, as regards both central banking and private trading banking, for the benefit of Australia and its people. This implies three or four things, including the establishment of the strongest possible Reserve Bank, as it is termed in the Reserve Bank Bill 1959. The term “ central bank “ has been used in the past. Our objective implies, also, that we must have an active trading bank owned by the Commonwealth Government and competing actively and fairly with the private trading banks. It implies, further, that we must have an active Commonwealth Savings Bank, such as we have had in the past. A new development, which also is implied, and which is provided for in the Commonwealth Banks Bill 1959, is the establishment of the Commonwealth Development Bank, which is designed to fill a gap in the structure providing finance for certain purposes, and especially for certain rural interests.
There have been several handicaps in the operation of the banking system under the existing legislation. These have been mentioned by previous speakers. Indeed, since this is the third time that these measures have been debated in this House, I think it is impossible for any honorable member on either side of the chamber to breathe anything really fresh into the debate. Therefore, I hope that honorable members will forgive me for a certain amount of inevitable repetition. The first of these handicaps is that the central bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank are joined together and are under the one management. This gives rise in the first place to suspicions on the part of the private banks that the governor of the central bank, who is to control all of the trading banks, might use his semi-privileged position to engage in unfair competition with the private banks by means of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. It is an historic fact that the Commonwealth Trading Bank has never been used in this way, but it is also an historic fact that the private banks have this suspicion. Since they have this fear, and since this fear makes difficult the smooth working of the central banking system and the banking structure as a whole, it is only sensible to try to remove the fear. Indeed, this kind of symptom has been recognized time and again by the Bank of England, which has voluntarily - without government action and without any coercion - given up all its trading bank functions and now acts purely as a central bank. That is a result of recognition of this attitude, which can be, and indeed has been, present in Australia.
The union of the central bank and trading bank functions in one organization inevitably weakens one of those institutions. If the Commonwealth Trading Bank, to give an Australian example, is to compete as actively as possible, and as actively as Government supporters would like to see it compete, with the trading banks, inevitably the central banking functions, which in the long run are of more importance to the Australian people, will suffer. But on the other hand, if, as has happened in the past, the governor of this combined institution realizes that central banking functions are the most important, and therefore regards it as his first duty to see that they are properly carried out, the Commonwealth Trading Bank functions will suffer and the private banks will not have as active competition from the government institution as they otherwise might have. This is borne out by the fact that even though in recent years the private banks have kept to the
L.G.S. ratios that have been required by the central bank, the Commonwealth Trading Bank has always had much higher liquidity ratios. I admit that in this regard some of the private banks did not play the game a little earlier in the past. The Commonwealth Trading Bank has always had higher liquidity ratios in order that the private banks could not level the charge at the governor of the central bank that he was using the Commonwealth Trading Bank for unfair competition. When the two institutions are divided, as they will be under this legislation, there will be an immediate latent competitive ability in the hands of the managers of the Commonwealth Trading Bank. That will give them an opportunity to seek the chance to make advances to the public in real competition with the private banks. I believe that when this legislation becomes law the private banks will have competition from the Commonwealth Trading Bank of a kind that they did not realize was possible and have never experienced in the past, but it will be fair and clean competition.
The second drawback in the present set up is that there is a gap in the financial structure so far as it relates to the finance available for certain classes of rural development. The reasons for this are plain. In the 1945 Chifley legislation two new departments were created - the Industrial Finance Department and the Mortgage Bank Department. Both those departments were intended to operate in roughly the same way. They were intended to make finance available for small enterprises where finance was not available from normal banking sources. The managers of the departments were intended to look at the profitability of an enterprise, or the chances of an enterprise being successful, rather than at the security that could be offered for a loan. This system has operated reasonably satisfactorily so far as the Industrial Finance Department is concerned, but the Mortgage Bank Department, which was meant to operate in the rural sector of the economy, has been so tied up with collateral restrictions that it has never operated to the benefit of rural interests. The creation of the Commonwealth Development Bank will do away with this handicap as it applies to the rural sector of the economy.
Dealing with the Reserve Bank, some comments have been made by honorable members about the power of the proposed Reserve Bank as opposed to the power of the present central bank. The new power is much stronger and simpler than the complicated special deposits procedure, which many people find difficult to understand. Also, the new power eliminates any fear on the part of private banking institutions, because the central bank no longer is able to discriminate between any of the private trading banks. Under the present arrangements the central bank can call up as special reserves a higher percentage of deposits from one bank than from another. Under those circumstances it would be theoretically possible to put the squeeze on one bank at a time. Under the proposed legislation such action will be impossible. The new power is stronger and more simple. Up to 25 per cent, of deposits can be required to be kept in the coffers of the Reserve Bank as statutory deposits. There has been some criticism of this 25 per cent, upper limit, but it has been pointed out that at no time in the past has the present procedure drawn into the reserves of the central bank anything like that amount. Furthermore, on giving 45 days’ notice, up to 100 per cent, of deposits can be required to be placed in the coffers of the new Reserve Bank. Quite obviously that is a power that could never be used to its fullest extent because it is too severe and would be too drastic. That power has been criticized and it has been said that because of the 45 days’ notice, it is a weak power and one that will have no effect. I would say that any governor of the central bank who knew his job - and I trust that any future governor of the central bank will always know his job - would be able to predict much earlier than 45 days in advance whether or not reserves over the limit of 25 per cent, should be called into the coffers of the Reserve Bank. If this can be done, quite clearly there is no danger and no actual limitation on the power of the Reserve Bank. One should not forget that the Reserve Bank has considerable power over the trading banks through its advances policy and by its control of interest rates. These are two formidable powers which have been used to the benefit of the economy in the past.
I should like to say a few words about the Development Bank. Clauses 72 and 73 of the Commonwealth Banks Bill provide -
The functions of the Development Bank are -
for the establishment or develop ment of industrial undertakings, particularly small undertakings, in cases where, in the opinion of the Development Bank, the provision of the finance is desirable and the finance would not otherwise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions; and
– (1.) In determining whether or not finance shall be provided for a person, the Development Bank shall have regard primarily to the prospects of the operations of that person becoming, or continuing to be, successful and shall not necessarily have regard to the value of the security available in respect of that finance.
The latter provision is the most important part of the legislation and is the hinge upon which the Development Bank will operate in the future. Since this is a new facility for the rural industries, I very much hope that it will be of great advantage to them. However, recent articles in certain newspapers may have tended to give a false impression of the importance of the Development Bank. It has been suggested that it is or can be or should be a cure for all the problems that may confront various primary producers. I should like, as much as anything else, to find some institution that could be the answer to ail the problems of primary producers, but I regret that the Development Bank will not provide all the answers to all the problems. We hope it will provide an answer to some of the problems of primary producers.
It has been said that, because of lower prices for certain primary products, the Development Bank will come into its own and will be more useful than it would have been during a period of high prices. I regret again that this gives a false impression and is the opposite of the actual position. Most of the people with rural interests who will be coming to the Development Bank for loans will be those who have some development work or pastoral im provement work to do on their properties. Many may be people with 100 or 200 acres out of 500 or 600 acres in production. They would require finance from the bank to bring the rest of the farm into production or to increase production from old pastures, under its charter, the bank must look to the chances of an enterprise being profitable. Quite clearly, with low returns for primary products of various kinds, many enterprises which on the prices of two or three years ago would have been profitable will on present prices not be profitable. Therefore, the scope for the operations of the Development Bank becomes increasingly smaller as the profits from rural enterprises generally decrease.
It may be that some other means will have to be sought to overcome this difficulty, but we will serve no useful purpose if we do not recognize the limits to the functions of the Development Bank at present. Furthermore, the managers of the hank will need to seek expert advice not only on the production possibilities of any particular piece of land but also on the market possibilities for the goods that may be produced. It would be quite senseless, in my opinion, if, through loans from the Development Bank, the production of the dairying industry was greatly increased. Already, we find it impossible to sell all our dairy products to the markets of the world at a price that is satisfactory to the farmer. If loans from the bank resulted in the production of more dairy products, which we must sell abroad at a loss, the existing dairy-farmers, with considerable capital and equity tied up in the industry, would suffer. However, despite these possibilities, I believe that the Development Bank will make a substantial contribution to rural production. If the bank is managed wisely, as I hope it will be, it may effect a substantial increase in the volume of our rural exports, and this would be of considerable value to the community and to Australia in general.
The passage of these bills as a whole will be a landmark in the history of this Parliament. I am quite certain that they will endure by reason of the performance that will follow their passage, and that this performance will be to the benefit of al) the people of Australia.
.- The bill now before the House, described as “A bill for an act relating to the Reserve Bank of Australia”, is quite voluminous, but a study of it reveals the intention of the Government. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) failed to give any answer to the question submitted by the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant), who sought information on what was regarded as fair competitive trading. As yet no honorable member on the Government side has been prepared to give any clarification of that very important aspect of the legislation.
This bill is the first of a series introduced by the Government as part of its programme. The banking legislation was the principal feature of the Governor-General’s Speech, which enunciated the policy of the Government for the present session of the Parliament. Clearly, the private banking corporations have insisted on the Government undertaking, on their behalf, a revision of the Commonwealth banking legislation so that it will better accommodate their needs. On one occasion, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) expressed the hope that the private banking institutions would learn to take a holiday after the banking legislation had been amended. I deny that these people have a right to dictate the financial policy of this country at any time. The general administration of public finance is a matter for this Parliament and should not be influenced by pressure exerted by private banking institutions. The action of the Government in seeking to dismember the Commonwealth Bank will definitely weaken the foundations of our general economic policy and will adversely affect the well-being of the community.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske) asserted that the notorious policies of the Australian Labour party from the early 1920’s justified the introduction of this legislation. I have been paying some attention to the report of the royal commission which was appointed to inquire into the monetary and banking systems and I wish that honorable members opposite had done so, too. That royal commission undertook an extensive review of banking practices in Australia and made certain recommendations to the government of the day. The commission was appointed by a Liberal administration and comprised men who were well qualified to inquire into and report on banking. They included Mr. Justice Napier, Mr. E. V. Nixon, who would be known to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske), Professor R. C. Mills, Mr. J. B. Chifley, Mr. H. A. Pitt, who was another good Victorian well qualified in financial matters, and Mr. J. P. Abbott. They reviewed banking practices in Australia.
– A generation ago!
– If the honorable member for Wentworth will have patience, I will state my case and he will see its application. As usual, he has jumped in a little prematurely. The review to which I have referred was undertaken in 1935 and the report was presented in July, 1937. The honorable member for Balaclava has indicated that the reason for the legislation now before the House was what he termed as the nefarious practices or policies that have been enunciated by the Australian Labour party since the early ‘twenties. The royal commission had opportunities to review those alleged nefarious practices or policies but it had not one word to say about them. It gave no indication in its recommendations that there was any justification whatever for any allegations such as those made by the honorable member for Balaclava.
The honorable member also indicated that the purpose of the Government was to terminate the link between the central bank and the Commonwealth Bank. I say that by that dismemberment, the Government will definitely destroy the full effectiveness of the operations of the central bank and other associated features of banking which are identified as the Commonwealth Bank. From 1901 until 1914 at least, the private banks undertook their own central banking business. Since that period, the Commonwealth Bank has really become a bank undertaking progressively central banking practices. That was regarded as a desirable development and the report of the royal commission stated -
Central banks are of comparatively recent origin and there is no universally recognized technique of central banking. The first central bank was the Bank of England, which developed powers and practices suitable to the peculiarities of the monetary and banking system within which it had to work. The chief function of a central bank may be said to be the regulation of the volume of credit, including currency, and in performing this function the Bank of England made use of the bank rate and of purchases or sales of securities on the open market.
The Commonwealth Bank has undertaken those duties with equal effect and with results satisfactory to the people of Australia. The progress of the Commonwealth Bank as a central bank resulted, in great part, from the exercise of powers which it possessed under the Commonwealth Bank Act 1911- 1924, and only in a less degree through powers added by later legislation. That was shown definitely by the report of the royal commission. So it is not by accident that the general system of banking as set up by the Commonwealth Bank, has really become accepted as the real source from which the financial strength of this nation has been made possible.
I should like to direct the attention of honorable members also to the relationship that a central bank has with the policy of the Government and with the general conditions that are laid down by the Parliament. The report of the royal commission states -
It is essential for a central bank that its relations with the Government responsible for monetary policy should be close and cordial in order that there should be consistency between government financial operations and those of the bank. It was not until the Financial Agreement concentrated borrowing power in the hands of the Loan Council, from 1927 onwards, and the depression necessitated short-term as well as long-term borrowing, that the influence of the Commonwealth Bank in this respect became important. From 1912 the Commonwealth Bank held the Commonwealth Government account, and by 1920 those of most of the States. By doing so the Bank was better able to avoid the dislocations which might be associated with large government operations in the money markets and with any lag of revenue behind expenditure. By holding the Commonwealth Government account, the Bank was brought into closer relation with the Government responsible for monetary policy.
That indicates how essential it is that there should be proper relationship between the Government and the body which is the chief financial authority of the nation. Any effort to deny to the Government or to the people the security that such an institution could make possible must be seriously deprecated. I emphasize that the statements on banking by the royal commission are certainly authoritative. There can be no doubt about the ability of those who made the investigation and submitted this report. Therefore, although honorable gentlemen on the Government side might not appreciate these references to the report of the royal commission, I believe they should go on record as important in any consideration of banking within the structure of our national life. The Commonwealth Bank has taken the view that its central banking activities are of paramount importance, and that its development as a central bank should proceed hand in hand, with some limitations, with its trading activities. This was the view adopted by the late Mr. Chifley, who was certainly a great authority on financial matters. He was without equal in his day, and I do not think any man has appeared upon the public stage since his time who has been nearly as competent to deal with financial issues as was Mr. Chifley, who was the Leader of the Australian Labour party and the Prime Minister of this country. He played a magnificent part in bringing Australia through its period of great trial and crisis, and was able to stabilize the economy of the country in a way that has not been excelled since his time, and certainly has not been equalled by the members of this Government. On this question Mr. Chifley expressed himself in the following terms: -
I realize, however, that a government-owned centra] bank with ample powers, whose policy is determined and directed wholly toward furthering the interests of the community by men of capacity and courage, is a most important feature of any banking system.
He felt that it was desirable that, rather than weaken the powers of the Commonwealth Bank, we should try to strengthen them. To this end he made certain suggestions at the time when the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems inquired into the matter and made certain findings. He said -
In my opinion, the objectives of a monetary and banking system for Australia, as outlined in the Report, can only be achieved with the Commonwealth Bank functioning in the following way: -
As a central bank controlling the volume of credit and currency.
The central bank to have a trading bank department through which this volume is distributed direct to industry.
The savings bank department of the bank to continue as an adjunct to its central bank activities.
There should be a mortgage bank depart ment for the provision of fixed and long-term lending.
There should be an industrial bank depart ment to assist in providing capital for developing industry.
These suggestions would surely give the greatest possible strength to the banking system, which has such an important influence on our national life and our general economic stability.
Let me now refer to a matter that was mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser). He said that on only one occasion had the private banks failed to follow the advice and guidance of the central bank on matters affecting the general economy of this country. I find that Mr. Chifley made reference to this very situation. He said -
Since 1930, the Commonwealth Bank considers that it has functioned as a central bank. It should now, therefore, have a clear conception of its duties and responsibilities. The impression created on me by the evidence before the Commission, however, is that the Bank still has not assumed that leadership which its position requires. The instance in March, 1936, when it allowed two trading banks to increase interest rates against its wishes, seems to me a sign of considerable weakness so far as leadership is concerned. Although the Commonwealth Bank intimated that it did not desire interest rates to rise, two trading banks disregarded its wishes, and increased their rates, and the Bank itself and the trading banks subsequently took the same action.
This indicates that the trading banks may, in certain circumstances, be unwilling to follow an honorable and reasonable course when the economic stability of the nation is at stake. It is most important that we should safeguard our financial structure and ensure that our people have confidence in it.
One of the provisions of this banking legislation is for the creation of a Commonwealth Development Bank, by the amalgamation of the present Mortgage Bank Department and the Industrial Finance Department of the Commonwealth Bank. This step seems to have been taken because of pressure from the Australian Country party section of the Government, and we find that as part of their price, or as their pound of flesh, for accepting the legislation the private banks have insisted that they be allowed to act as agents for the new Development Bank, and so have the power to buy and sell the people of Australia. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that it is a piece of impertinence on the part of the trading banks to make such demands, and that they have been able to obtain such concessions demonstrates the influence that they have upon the Government. They have already been able to persuade the Government to allow them to undertake savings bank activities. The granting of this concession was surely contrary to the best principles of banking practice in this country. Control of savings was the means by which governments could foster war loans and provide the funds essential for the housing programmes which are making an increasing demand upon State governments as well as on the Commonwealth. Therefore, I feel that whatever has been done by this Government has been designed to accommodate the interests of the private banking corporations rather than those of the Australian public.
I have the strongest possible objection to the kind of legislation that is now before this Parliament. I feel that the community generally sincerely resents the action of those responsible for proposals of this description. The Government’s claim to have a mandate for the introduction of this legislation cannot be justified. During the general election campaign, banking reform was mentioned on only one occasion by the Prime Minister, and then more as a passing reference than as a positive expression of policy. Honorable gentlemen opposite have said that everyone knew that the Government would introduce this legislation. Everyone did not know, for the Parliament had dismissed similar legislation on two occasions. In view of that action, surely the Government realized that this class of legislation was not in keeping with the desire of Parliament.
I urge the House, in its further consideration of these measures, to realize the dangers with which their acceptance will be fraught. I urge it to give effect to much more progressive laws which will give the Commonwealth Bank that assistance and assurance in regard to its future to which it is entitled and which will give to those who are employed by it the fullest opportunity to give their best service to this institution, whether in the Trading Bank, the central bank, or any other department. Let the best men be employed in the highest positions and thus make possible the success of an institution which is vital to the well-being of our country and which has served the people of this nation well.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker-
– Tell us what you did in 1924.
– I shall in a few seconds. I must confess that I am very sorry that my old friend the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), who has been for so many years here with me should have apparently hypnotized himself during the last four or five minutes of his speech. Early in his speech he praised the central bank. In 1924 the Labour party fought the central bank like the very devil. It is now in favour of it. The honorable member for Bonython suggested that the last general election was not fought on the banking issue. The previous banking legislation was twice rejected by the Senate last year - on the first occasion it reached only the first-reading stage. It was treated with scant courtesy despite the fact that, in this House, various members of the Opposition had said that they were in favour of most of its provisions. In fact, they said that they were very much in favour of the 1953 legislation, which they had fought like the devil, too. Now they say that anything that was working as well as the Commonwealth Bank was working since 1953 should be left alone.
Let us see what Mr. Chifley said when introducing the 1945 banking legislation. As the honorable member for Bonython said, Mr. Chifley had been a member of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. He was appointed to that commission by a government similar to the present Government because it had a great deal of confidence in his judgment. That royal commission pointed out that there ought to be a central bank in this country with certain definite functions. In introducing the Commonwealth Bank Bill 1945, Mr. Chifley said-
The principal function of the Commonwealth Bank must be to fulfil its responsibilities and duties as a central bank. The royal commission stated in paragraph 13S that the chief function of a central bank may be said to be the regulation of the volume of credit, including currency. What this involves was put more fully by the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) when, as
Treasurer, he introduced amendments of the Commonwealth Bank Act twenty years ago. He then said -
The important functions of banking can properly be performed only with the guidance and control of a central bank. Decision and settled policy are essential. Divided counsel and clashing interests of individual bankers must in the end be fatal to good credit management, and banking can be raised to its greatest perfection only by the action of a central bank working always for the good of all.
Many years have passed since I made that statement. The depression came in the 1930’s. The mechanism that I created in this Parliament was operating then and it saw us through.
– lt made a pretty bad job of things.
– The royal commission did not say that. It said that it did a very good job. We came through. Then the war came and during that period, the mechanism that had been created in 1924 still functioned. Mr. Armitage, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, spoke in the highest terms of praise of the cooperation that he had received from the trading banks in handling the great problems of the central bank. Of course every one knows - or ought to know - that it was the trading banks themselves that first suggested to the Commonwealth Bank that the special accounts system should be introduced in order to prevent too much inflation. The chairman of the Associated Banks brought this proposition to Sir Arthur Fadden, the Treasurer of the day, and discussed it with him. The system was introduced on a voluntary basis, and it was working when Mr. Chifley came to office. He put it on a compulsory basis by regulation, but originally the system came voluntarily into being, not by force majeure, but by the definite action of the trading banks, which wished to make certain that the whole mechanism would operate.
Considering Mr. Chifley’s views on the 1945 legislation, I cannot understand the Labour party’s present attitude. Of course, somebody put Mr. Chifley wrong in the 1 947 legislation when he started to nationalize the whole banking structure. But I cannot understand why the Opposition should be against the division of the Commonwealth Bank into several sections as was suggested by the royal commission. This policy was carried out by Mr. Chifley and further effect is being given to it by the present Government.
It is no use trying to burke the issue. The real issue before the people of Australia at the last election was the need to make the Commonwealth Parliament workable so that the banking legislation to be presented again by the Government was sure to be carried by both Houses and then employed to do the work which the Government desired that it should do. The vote on that issue resulted in the number of members of the Opposition being depleted in this House and the Government gaining a majority in the Upper House. During my election campaign I spoke mainly on this subject. I said, “ This is what we want to do with the Development Bank and the Savings Bank. This is what the Government is trying to do with regard to housing and other urgent things.” I told the electors that there were men in the Senate who had deliberately refused to allow the banking bills to be read a first time. They would not allow the measures to be debated. That is a scandal which will stand before the public for ever.
After all, this is a Parliament of two deliberative chambers, and surely to heaven the people who sent us here are entitled to the best we can give them! There should be a full discussion of these measures, not only by this House which represents the people completely, but also in another place which represents the people on a State basis. The Government made clear what should be done in the future. It showed what would be done immediately and what would be done also over the next six years.
Everywhere I went I found that the people were disgusted and worried because the Labour party in the Senate had taken full advantage of the constitutional position, which is that when voting in the Senate is even, the decision is taken as in the negative. As a consequence, the Government’s banking legislation was negatived last year. The Opposition parties did not have a majority in the Senate. They simply secured even voting and the Government’s legislation was thrown aside. The Opposition refused even to allow the banking legislation to be discussed in the Senate.
Now that the electors have given such a definite verdict for the Government and for this legislation, I cannot understand why members of the Australian Labour party try to delay the passage of these bills by prolonged discussion. This is the third time that this bill has been discussed in this chamber within the last two and one-half years. The Labour party would not allow the measure to be discussed in another place. Such a procedure was the greatest fiasco that has ever occurred in regard to the passage of legislation in this Parliament and it will be long remembered by the people of Australia. They will make certain that no similar farcical position will arise again.
Now that this legislation is being debated once more, honorable members opposite have introduced issues which they would not mention on the previous occasion. They have talked about hire purchase and all sorts of things. These are not the real issue. Whereas on the previous occasion Opposition members would not allow the machinery of Parliament to operate so that the legislation could be discussed in another place, this time they are discussing side issues in an, attempt to draw red herrings across the trail. As a Parliament and as sensible men representing a sensible nation, we do not intend to allow just a few members who do not want to have the laws of the land discussed, to delay the passage of important legislation such as this. These banking measures ought to become the law of the land because the people definitely determined at the last election that they should be passed. Every day the passage of this legislation is delayed, the position is made worse. This is remedial legislation aimed to help the people to build homes and to set men up in useful industries.
Members of the Opposition may laugh at what I say. They have a comfortable position here and can afford to laugh, but the man outside who cannot get a house or cannot obtain an advance does not laugh. He could obtain an advance from the proposed Development Bank, which is a feature of this legislation and which has been discussed here. Again, I say that the tactics of the Opposition have made the position regarding this legislation farcical. The introduction of side issues is merely a facesaving device on the part of the Opposition.
The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) who preceded me read the story of the banking commission which the government of which I was a member set up to deal with these very matters. That commission said that certain things ought to be done to strengthen the banking structure, and since this Government has been in office those measures have been taken as far as possible to meet present needs as they arise.
It is well to remember, and to remind the public outside, because they have short memories after the election is over, that this bill is especially directed to make liberal provision for two great advantages to home builders, farmers, mechanics and any man or woman desirous of getting a real start in life. These advantages are provided for in the new set-up of the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank and in the creation of the Development Bank. In the bill which the Labour party rejected in the Senate, these various banks were given not merely legal authority but actual legislative direction to make loans to building societies and to invest at the lowest practicable rate of interest for the erection or purchase of homes or for the discharge of mortgages on homes.
The carriage of this legislation will immediately give a tremendous impetus to the whole of the timber industry. In my electorate there are millions of feet of timber but the mills are not working at the present time. If the previous measure had been passed it would have been of extraordinary value just now. Owing to recent heavy floods, normal production of crops is temporarily suspended but if finance had been available timber could have been brought to the mills and so provided employment. The New South Wales Labour Government will do nothing to help the people in their distress. The Scullin Labour Government threw out a suggestion for assistance of this kind when there was the Migration and Development Commission. The New South Wales Government has held up development of this kind all the time.
Under this legislation there would be a chance of circumventing State governments of that kind and of obtaining money from the banks especially established to provide finance for development. Such a provision would undoubtedly have lessened the reaction in Australia to the recession which is almost worldwide at present and which is backing up on us from overseas.
In the bills presented to the Parliament last year, preference was to be given to loans for the erection of homes and for the purchase of new homes up to 90 per cent, of the value of the security at a very low rate of interest. These loans for homebuilding would be on Credit Foncier terms from five to 35 years and the balance of the loans could be repaid at any time, if desired, at the expiration of five years. This would have been an extraordinarily attractive proposition to people without homes. There are many of them.
The Development Bank is designed to help lame dogs over stiles. It will be the first time that such a form of assistance has been given in Australia. The need has existed for years and years, but when the legislation was brought down the Labour party refused to allow it to be passed. Members of the Opposition said, “ We will let the lame dog stick on the wrong side of the stile; we won’t help him over “. The way they held up that legislation was intolerable and the people of Australia showed that they would not stand for such obstruction. Even now the people are looking with considerable concern at the way in which the Opposition is delaying the passage of this bill. They realize that even a few days’ delay can have a far-reaching effect.
The first function of the Development Bank is to provide finance for the purpose of primary production. Its second function is the establishment and development of industrial undertakings, particularly of the smaller types. The idea is to give advances to the real triers. It is rather remarkable that the only time that Labour senators of the two factions were able to agree was when they decided to delay the passage of this legislation. Now we have the opportunity to get this legislation through Parliament, for heaven’s sake let us finish the debate and pass it! Every day counts.
– Well, sit down now!
– Will the Opposition agree to a vote being taken if I sit down now? If the honorable member has such a quick wit, why has his party held up this legislation for two years? Labour governments have been in office six times since federation and they have never before proposed anything like a development bank. They destroyed the power which I had given the Commonwealth Savings Bank in 1927 to use half the natural increase in savings bank deposits for direct advances to individuals and building societies at a very low rate of interest for housing. The Labour party has really held up progress throughout the years.
What Australia needs now is that this new banking machinery should operate at the earliest moment. This bill will make that machinery easy to operate very quickly. What will happen in regard to this matter is very simple. A man desiring financial assistance will go to his bank. The banker may find that the security is not good enough for a loan from his bank, but he will at once recommend, as agent of the Development Bank, an application for provision of finance by the Development Bank. This is a most valuable aspect of this bill. Provision is made for it in clause 83, which reads -
In the exercise of its powers and the performance of its functions the Development Bank -
may establish branches and agencies at such places within Australia as the Development Bank thinks fit;
may arrange with a person to act as agent of the Development Bank in any place, whether within or beyond Australia, and shall, on request by a bank specified in Part I of the First Schedule to the Banking Act 1959, appoint that bank to be an agent of the Development Bank for the receipt and transmission of applications for the provision of finance by the Development Bank.
That makes it possible for the bank to start operations immediately. As the banking system has buildings all over the country, the new institution will be able to use the existing machinery. It can start right away to do something about providing finance for development, which is very urgent indeed. So we want to be sure that we make as quick a start as we can with the Development Bank.
What are the functions of the Development Bank? Its first function will be to provide finance to primary producers and industrial undertakings in cases where, in its opinion, provision of the finance is desirable and the finance would not other wise be available on reasonable and suitable terms and conditions. That is the important thing. When determining whether or not to make a loan the Development Bank will have regard primarily to the prospects of the borrowers’ operations becoming, or continuing to be. successful, rather than to the amount of security the borrower can provide in support of the loan. I say quite deliberately that this is the first time that that provision has been put in legislation. Yet its operation is being delayed by men who claim they represent the people who need the assistance that will be provided by the Development Bank. Surely this is the most awful fiasco the world has seen. The Development Bank will be prohibited from providing finance for the purchase of goods otherwise than for use in the course of the borrower’s business. That safeguards the position. Loans for housing made by the Commonwealth Savings Bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank are dealt with in such a way as to permit such loans to be made up to 90 per cent, of the cost of a house. Provision is also made for the repayment of the loans in accordance with the borrower’s capacity. They will be made at the lowest possible rates of interest, as provided in the legislation.
The question arises as to how this scheme will work out. The Development Bank is not designed to make profits. Of course, it must charge a reasonable rate of interest on its loans. If the bank charged a very low rate of interest it is not likely that it would make much profit, or that it would be able to attract great deposits from the people, but it will be able to combine with other banks already in existence in helping to finance the needs of the community.
Members of the Opposition are always attempting to blacken the characters of the trading banks. But it was these very same banks which from 1817 to 1917 provided the capital which held Australians together as a people and enabled them to develop this country. They did the whole of that job during that period, and they still are really the financial doctors of the people. When anybody wants financial advice he goes to his banker, in the country centre or town where he lives, who knows the borrower’s circumstances and is able to advise him accordingly. The banker helps the borrower in every possible way, but on occasions now when he cannot do so he will be able to refer him to the Development Bank for assistance.
We have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite about the need for laws to control hire purchase. The private banks have been forced to put a lot of their own funds into the hire-purchase business to keep funds in their own control. They have made very considerable investments in hire purchase; but to the degree that they have made these investments the hirepurchase system comes under the banking laws of the Commonwealth because, by virtue of these investments in hire-purchase business by the private banks, hire purchase becomes part and parcel of the banking system.
– You are pulling your own leg!
– I know what I am saying, and I know what will happen. I have submitted referendum proposals on subjects which have been unanimously supported in this Parliament, but which have not been supported by the electors. I say that unless we have an organization like the Development Bank to get on with the job we will find that years will pass before we can get any real control of hire purchase. What is proposed now will help substantially to enable the central bank and other banks to assist in Australia’s development, especially in rural development, because rural development requires long-term loans. So I would urge everybody, no matter what his party leanings, to help to get this legislation through as quickly as possible. For heaven’s sake, let us get it on the statute-book and in operation.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) waxed very hysterical about the machinations of the Labour party in not assisting the speedy passage of this bill in order to enable the Development Bank to help all and sundry as quickly as possible. I should like to point out to the right honorable member that there is no need for this legislation to push the Development Bank project along. After all, the Labour Government in 1945, by inaugurating the Industrial Finance Department and the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank, went very directly along the road to the ultimate objective of a development bank. Indeed, it is quite competent for the Commonwealth Trading Bank, by arrangement with the Government, to increase its activities in such a way that we would, in fact, have a development bank without having to put the legislation now before us on the statute-book.
The Commonwealth Trading Bank is the only bank which has observed the request made by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank in relation to what is known as the L.G.S. ratio. Dr. Coombs asked all the trading banks to maintain an L.G.S. ratio of 25 per cent. The private banks took no notice of the request, but the Commonwealth Trading Bank cooperated to the full, and at all times has maintained a ratio far in excess of 25 per cent. The following are the figures for the L.G.S. ratio maintained by the Commonwealth Trading Bank: March 1957, 27 per cent.; June 1957, 28 per cent.; September 1957, 31 per cent.; the last figure for last year, 5th December, 1958, being 32 per cent. L.G.S. ratio figures relating to the private banks over a period were, 21 per cent., 22 per cent., 24 per cent., 18 per cent., 19 per cent., 22 per cent., and 19 per cent., giving an average of about 20 per cent, despite the fact that the Commonwealth Bank had raised its ratio to 32 per cent. If the Commonwealth Bank had lent out funds in accordance with the L.G.S. ratio adopted by the private banks there would be available to-day another £100,000,000 for the people who will be dependent on the paltry £5,000,000 that is all that will be provided through the Development Bank under this legislation. In other words, the primary producers, who may think they are going to get something worthwhile out of this legislation, are being sold a pup. If they had a sympathetic government in office they could have twenty times the accommodation granted now by the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
All this talk about it being necessary to get this bill through to-night in order that the primary producers and small business men will be able to get speedy assistance from the Development Bank is so much eyewash. For many years it has been possible for the Commonwealth Bank to grant far more in the way of accommodation to small business men than it has been granting. M the Commowealth Trading Bank were to adopt the: L.G.S. ratio that: the private banks- have used, it could make available another- £100;000,000 for the assistance, of small business men.
Everybody knows; of course, that the project for the formation of the Development Bank was only a sop to the membersof the Australian Country party in this Parliament. It was a sop because, when this banking reform- was first mooted’ - and I am. using- the term- “ banking, reform “ in in-verted commas - the. former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, was not very keen about it. Neither were his fellow members of the Australian Country party, and it was not until’ such time as the Government dangled the carrot in front of the nose of the donkey - the Australian Country party - that that party decided to support the projected banking legislation. Everybody knows, of course, that that was. the price of the support of the Australian Country pa«rty. Therefore, it is not to be wondered at that the Government is on the horns, of a dilemma. The Country party wanted’ a developmental bank, but the private banks did not want it at all. So we find in this legislation amending clauses which alter the form, of the legislation- as it was presented to the House on two previousoccasions. This is to- placate the private banking interests.. On the one hand is the Country party, which wants, a developmental bank to assist the primary producer and small farmer, and on the other hand are the private banks,, which are not very keen at all on a developmental bank.
Included in this legislation now is a clause to the effect that private banks can act as agents for the Development Bank in various transactions. To suggest that the millenium is just around the corner for primary producers is to believe in Father Christmas. The Development Bank is only a very meagre sop, because of the £20,000,000 capital proposed for it, £15,000,000 is already out, and only another £5,000,000 will be made available. Any further capital can be granted to the bank only by means of an appropriation by this Parliament.
– No, you are wrong.
– rn present circumstances, very few further appropriations will be made. The honorable member for
Macarthur has not read the bill. The relevant clause is. different from that of thebill as previously presented. The money will have to be granted by appropriation! of this Parliament and not by the Treasurer direct.. In opposing this legislation, theLabour party is actuated by one motivealone. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) suggested that we had no right to use the constitutional forms of the Parliament on the last two occasionsto. stop the passage of the legislation. Appa.rently, members of Parliament should not have been, allowed to exercise their constitutional prerogative to oppose the bills and vote against them. Although, constitutionally,, a majority had to be obtained in. the Senate in favour of the legislation, and that majority was not obtained, apparently the Labour party was to blame for the inclusion of such a provision in the Constitution. Such a suggestion, is too ridiculous to contemplate, but. it is typical of all the Government propaganda in relation- to the legislation.
The Labour party is prepared to fight tothe last ditch to maintain the prestige and influence of the Commonwealth Bank. The Government states that it is fortified in bringing: forward this legislation by the fact that it received a mandate from the people. With that assertion I beg to differ. There was very little agreement between the policies of the Australian Democratic Labour party and the Australian Labour party. I suppose that to the extent of 90 per cent, or 95 per cent. the. policies differed, but there was one matter in relation to which the views of the two parties were in agreement, and that was in direct, opposition and antagonism to the Government’s alleged banking, reform. The- D-.L.P.. spokesmen, right throughout- the election- campaign, made opposition to- this bank reform a firm plank of their platform. When wecouple the first preferences in- favour of theA.L.P. with those in favour of the D.L.P., we find that they aggregate 53 per cent, of the votes cast, which; shows that more- thanhalf of the Australian people indicated; by their first preferences, in unmistakable terms that they were opposed to this part of the Government’s programme. I refuseto accept that the Government has a mandate from the people to proceed with this, legislation, when 53 per cent, of the first preference votes were .recorded against the Liberal and -Country parties.
The reason for this series of bills is universally known and widely acknowledged. The -private banks, by ceaseless pressure over many months, were able to persuade a sufficient number of Government supporters to force the measures through, despite opposition at a ministerial level, led by ‘Sir Arthur Fadden. As I mentioned a moment ago, that opposition was circumvented by the inclusion of provision for the establishment o’f the Development Bank, but this will be valueless unless there is a sufficient influx o’f new capital to make it worth while.
Ever since the legislation was contemplated, there has been consistent propaganda to obscure its real purpose, which is a calculated and deliberate move to strengthen the private banking system at the expense of the ‘enormously successful people’s bank. Yet we ‘have the quaint idea expounded by Government supporters that this legislation will strengthen the Commonwealth Bank. How on earth they can make that out, 1 do not know. Can one imagine private bankers insisting on this legislation if it would strengthen their competitors? After all, the directors of the private -banks ase hard-headed businessmen. They know that two and two make four, and they will not advocate the passage of any legislation that will strengthen their competitors. That would be totally contrary to the principles of private enterprise, at the shrine of which they worship.
Labour would be recreant to its trust if it failed to point out just what these proposals really mean. The Government has been very shrewd in its approach, because it recognizes the esteem in which the Commonwealth Bank is “held. The Government does not like the present set-up of the Commonwealth Bank, because it offers much too severe and increasingly successful competition to the private banks which, of course, provide the sinews of war for the Government at election time.
The Government would like to weaken the Commonwealth Bank. That is its objective, but it ss -not prepared to do it by a frontal onslaught. That would be too apparent to the people and would have severe repercussions at the next elections. Everybody acknowledges the efficiency of the bank. If the Government were to say, “ This bank is becoming too strong. We want to reduce its potency “, many Liberal supporters would not be too keen. It has therefore decided to use Trojan “horse tactics in order to get inside the mechanism of the bank and utilize control of the mechanism to destroy the prestige and power of the bank, so that ultimately the bank will become a mere cipher in the banking structure. By this legislation the Government will, not to-day or to-morrow, but finally, if the plan is carried to its ultimate conclusion, secure its objective which is the stultification of the Commonwealth Bank’s progress and activities.
The Labour party makes no apology at all for its interest in the Commonwealth Bank. In 1907 provision for the establishment of a Commonwealth Bank was added to our .federal policy, because in those far-off days we recognized that the control of credit literally meant a power o’f life and death over -hundreds of thousands of Australians and decided whether the -queues of unemployed would be long or short. It is also interesting to recall that Liberals in this Parliament predicted failure for the newly formed Commonwealth Bank, saying that it would be inefficient in competition with the private banks, and would suffer an early .death. Of course, that was not the position. It was not until 1945 that the Commonwealth Bank, by Act No. 13 of that year, really became an instrument to be used in the interests of the people. That was because the Chifley Government stood up to the private banks and was determined to see that the Commonwealth Bank functioned fully as a bank operating national monetary policy and as a central bank in every sense of .the term.
Prior to the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1953, the central bank carried out its function in an impartial and efficient manner. Never at any time did the central bank discriminate between the private banks and the Commonwealth Trading Bank, but we are being told ad nauseam by honorable members opposite that one of the reasons for this bill is that the central bank, being a part of the Commonwealth Bank, can use its powers to the detriment of the private banks. Not one instance to show that this has happened has been cited. We have had all sorts of governments, Labour and Liberal, but not on one occasion has the reserve bank section of the Commonwealth Bank said that because the Commonwealth Trading Bank was part of the same bank it would be given preferment over private banks.
The 1953 act went part of the way towards separating the Trading Bank from the central bank, but by degrees the Government has come round to believing that complete separation is necessary. The reason why it has come round to that belief, of course, is that the private banks delivered an ultimatum. The representatives of the private banks who visited Canberra a couple of years ago held a pistol at the Government’s head, as it were, but no intelligent and logical reason for this proposed change has been submitted. No evidence at all has been forthcoming that the proposed change will make the banking system stronger and that it will end all discrimination.
On the other hand, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has stated unequivocally and without any strings attached - and his opinion must receive some notice, because, after all, he is responsible for the successful functioning of the bank in all its monetary aspects - that the link between the central bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank can be of particular value in times when the economy is threatened by declining employment. To me - and to hundreds of thousands of Australians. Mr. Speaker - this is a more important reason why the link should be retained than the Government’s reasons why it should be severed. If the retention of the link means that, in time of unemployment, the central bank, by using the Commonwealth Trading Bank, can ease the unemployment situation, that is, to me, a good and sufficient reason why the present arrangement should be retained and not altered. I have vivid recollections of the way in which the Commonwealth Bank dodged its responsibilities in the last depression, and I want all the machinery at present provided in the act intact - it will not be shortly - in the event of another depression. The maintenance of the level of employment is most vital to all Australians, and any move calculated to remove safeguards for the maintenance of full employment must be resisted with all the strength at the disposal of the Australian Labour party.
The second change of note in this legislation is that dealing with special accounts. Prior to 1953, the central bank was empowered to call into the special accounts up to 100 per cent, of any increase in the surplus investable funds of the private banks. In 1947, in order to facilitate the meeting of the post-war demand for credit to finance expansion, the central bank adopted a policy of calling into the special accounts such proportions of the increase in the trading assets of the private banks as would maintain a ratio of 50 per cent, between the amount of cash in the special accounts, together with treasury-bills, and the deposits of any one bank. This was altered in 1953, when the Government placed greater restrictions on the ability of the central bank to control the nation’s credit policy. The central bank was then permitted to call into the special accounts 75 per cent, instead of 100 per cent, of any increase in the Australian deposits of a trading bank. Under the legislation now before us, the proportion is to be reduced to 25 per cent., which may be called in on one day’s notice, 45 days’ notice being required for the calling up of anything in excess of 25 per cent.
I am at a complete loss to understand the necessity for any change, because the existing legislation inflicts no hardship on the banks. At present, the amount that may be called up is limited to the small sum of £186,000,000, as at September, 1953, plus 75 per cent, of the increase in deposits since 1953, which, so far, has been relatively small. Last month’s figures disclosed that the private banks had £250,000,000 in the special accounts. This was 16 per cent, of their total Australian deposits of £1,580,000,000.
The present legislation provides for uniform treatment of all major trading banks, including the Commonwealth Trading Bank, in respect of special accounts. There never has been any discrimination in the administration of the special accounts. Therefore, we are quite entitled to ask why the legislation now before us has been considered necessary, Mr. Speaker. There have been no abuses of any kind. The Commonwealth Bank has not received favoured treatment at the hands of the central bank. The present arrangement is part of a pattern under which the 1945 act gave the central bank effective power to control the volume of money in the community. In my opinion and that of the Australian Labour party, the 1945 act was a most important milestone in our legislative history. Indeed, it was monumental legislation, because, when the Commonwealth Government has the power to control the volume of money in the community, it has the power to prevent a recurrence of the conditions of misery and destitution experienced in the depression of the 1930’s. That is a most important power. Power to control the volume of money enables the government to prevent gross inflation, should it so desire, but this Government, of course, has not used that power as it could have used it, and has permitted rank inflation during the nine years that it has been in office.
The proposals now before the House are part of a plan to whittle down, indiscernibly but remorselessly, the power of the central bank because it conflicts with the profit motives of the private banks. One of the reasons given by Government supporters to indicate that this projected legislation is necessary, because it will add to the protection provided for the private banks in the future, is that it will mean that a Labour government cannot, in the words of one Government supporter this afternoon, by deceit and fraud surreptitiously snipe at the power of the private banks and ultimately destroy them. Surely Government supporters realize that if one Parliament enacts legislation another can repeal it. One of the first acts of an incoming Labour government, of course, will be to repeal these measures and revert to the situation that existed under the 1945 legislation. That is all that will happen, and it is merely begging the question to suggest that this change is necessary in order to prevent a future Labour government from acting overtly against the private banks. There is no chance, I take it, that the present Government, in the words of one of its own supporters, by deceit and fraud, will attack the private banks. Therefore, what is the need for this legislation, which a Labour government will throw overboard as soon as it takes office, so that the principles of the 1945 act may operate again? The whole statement by Government supporters of the purpose of these measures becomes bogus.
This legislation is not introduced1 in order to protect the private banks. It is introduced in order to make a surreptitious attack upon the government bank. To use a cricket term, the Government is starting a body-line attack on the Commonwealth Bank because that bank, as the records show, is increasing its deposits month by month. Whereas, about seven or eight years ago, the Commonwealth Bank ranked seventh or eighth in magnitude of deposits, it has now risen to number four position - not because of this Government’s support, but in spite of the Government. It has risen to number four position because the people have confidence in it. To suggest that this legislation will strengthen the Commonwealth Bank is merely to sidestep the ultimate objective of these measures.
This legislation provides for a realinement of the various departments of the Commonwealth Bank. A public instrumentality that has been working successfully for years is now to find itself split into unnecessary segments. The reasons for this advanced by Government supporters are meaningless and ambiguous. No logical reason has been advanced for separating staffs that have worked well and harmoniously, and with great efficiency, in the public interest ever since the Commonwealth Bank was established. But apparently the Government is determined that in no circumstances will there be any link between the central bank and the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
Another reason why the Opposition rejects this legislation is that it places the bank in a weaker position because of the restriction of capital. Before the 1957 legislation, which was similar to the. present legislation, the Trading Bank was left with one-half of its profits to build new branches in competition with the private trading hanks. That money proved to be very useful, because public demand was causing many new buildings to be required all over the country. Now the Government proposes to compel the Commonwealth Bank to pay taxes. That will mean that of every £100 profit that the bank makes, about £37 10s. will go in taxes. Of the remaining £62 10s., Commonwealth revenue will receive £31 5s., leaving only £31 5s. for capital development. In other words, available funds for capital development will be reduced from £50 in every £100 of profits to £31 5s., a reduction of 37.5 per cent. Can there be any doubt that this situation will weaken the Commonwealth Trading Bank? Of course the bank will be weakened, because less money will be available for expansion and the building of further branches to compete with the private banks. This is all part of the Trojan war tactics designed to weaken the Commonwealth. Bank, from within.
The Government has been munificent. It will grant £2,000,000 additional capital to the Commonwealth Bank. But what will it cost to transfer the bank’s offices? It will cost more than £2,000,000 to put the central bank info its own head office, so the grant of £2,000,000 is meaningless.
Dealing with the Commonwealth Development Bank, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) pointed cut that the £5,000,000 additional capital that the Commonwealth Development Bank will’ receive will not be enough. If the Government is really sincere about helping primary producers and small businessmen, it has- ample power to arrange for the carrying out of the functions of a development bank without all the entanglements contained in this legislation, which will only hamper the workings of the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
I am satisfied, Mr. Speaker, that the further this legislation is debated, the more apparent it becomes that the legislation has been conceived in a spirit of Machiavellian intent for the purpose of expanding the ramifications and the profits of the private banking system. It is a. matter of small consequence to Government supporters that this will be achieved at the expense of the nation’s bank. The abject, acquiescence of the Government to the peremptory demands of the bankers is, indeed, something to be wondered at. The day will arrive, and it will arrive quicker than honorable members opposite think, when a Labour government will have as one of its prime objectives the repealing of this obnoxious and antiAustralian legislation. That will be a task that honorable members now on this side of the House will essay with great relish.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
.- I was amazed last night to hear the feeble approach of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) when dealing with the banking bills-. His arguments were not sustained and he indulged in diversionary tactics. He attacked- the hire-purchase system in preference to> directing his attention to the essential banking, system. He appeared to set a pattern for honorable members on his side of the House, because the debate has been characterized by the fact that Opposition members have shied away from the banking situation and have been quite willing to devote their time to speaking on anything but banking. That was the pattern followed by the honorable member for Batman. (Mr. Bird) - whose sincerity in this place I respect - in his address to the House before the sitting was suspended. These tactics alone give me some misgivings. I suspect that Labour welcomes these bills and is- merely staging a token resistance, realizing that the legislation has many loopholes which may be exploited by a future socialist government. That the present Government is loath to close these loopholes at this stage is, I believe, unfortunate, but I hope with the passing of time that the Government will be convinced of the necessity to introduce amending legislation.
Another feature of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition was that he leant heavily on the authority of Professor Arndt of the Australian National University. Professor Arndt’s enthusiasm for socialism is well known .and it occasions very little surprise that the right honorable gentleman quotes him as an authority. But it is disturbing to realize that the Opposition case rests largely upon excessive quotations taken from speeches delivered by Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. As a member of Parliament, I have refrained as much as possible from publicly criticizing a public servant in the administration of his duties. But surely it is the responsibility of any member of the House to deplore the action of a public servant such as Dr. Coombs when, on his own initiative, he openly attempts to justify decisions, taken in private, on which there is little possibility of obtaining a contrary view. This becomes particularly incumbent on a supporter of the Government when the Leader of the Opposition uses speeches made by Dr. Coombs as the basis of an attack upon the Government.
The Mills Memorial lecture given by Dr. Coombs in 1958, and so fulsomely quoted by the Leader of the Opposition to bolster up bis :speech, was in essence an -exercise by the -Governor -of the Commonwealth Bank to justify, on his own responsibility, a whole range of credit policy decisions for which the real responsibility should have rested on the Commonwealth Bank Board as a whole and not upon the Governor. Virtually, the Governor of the Commonwealth -Bank -was defending his own decisions and using, as he has done so much in the past, the Commonwealth Bank Board as a stalking horse. Therefore, it is possible to speculate on the propriety of the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, in a public lecture, expounding and attempting to -explain away his financial decisions of the .past. However, .in fairness to ‘Dr. Coombs, I should imagine that he must be deeply concerned that his oration should have been used in the way .the Leader of the Opposition used it, as a stick with which to beat the present Government.
I hope to make passing comment on another speech delivered .by Dr. Coombs. I realize that it is a great temptation for a man occupying a high public position to make .speeches. To some, it is the elixir of life, and when a civil servant touches this heady tonic, then descends from a position above .the clouds and becomes a political civil servant, I am sure he has no justifiable complaint if he receives the rough political justice that we hand out in this place of being cut down to size.
The Leader of .the Opposition complained bitterly about the private banks expanding their activities into the hire-purchase business.
– Hear, hear!
– I ask the Deputy Leader of the Opposition to note that his leader did not mention that the Commonwealth Bank has been engaged in the hirepurchase business for many years - longer than its private competitors - and has charged high rates of interest. In some cases, its rates of interest have been higher than those now charged by private hirepurchase companies. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech, refrained from mentioning the fact that the Commonwealth Bank has engaged in hire-purchase business for a considerable time past. The action of the private banks in entering into the hirepurchase field is .just a financial symptom, and I have warned this House about the danger -of it for ‘years. By the harsh application of the squeeze methods brought in by the Chifley Government and the subsequent restrictions placed on private banks by this Government, banking in its true form has not been profitable. The credit squeeze placed on private banks did not permit them to -lend, and other organizations such as life assurance companies, pastoral companies and hire-purchase companies, filled the normal role of the banker.
I am sorry to say that the present Government is hoist with its own petard. Because of the regulation of the interest rate and the control of credit placed on them, the banks could not meet the needs of the average person applying for .-finance, and he was obliged to seek credit elsewhere than .from the banks. He was forced to pay a irate of .interest higher than would have been necessary if the -Government had not placed such a firm .control on normal banking overdraft facilities. As a direct result, the private banks, finding the profits reduced ‘by rigid control, were forced into other fields of activity. The regulations have strangled their true functions of banking and thz fac? .that money may be borrowed from hire-purchase companies and .other sources indicates that the restrictions have failed to achieve their purpose.
The bills now before the House represent to me something more than just another piece of legislation. They represent in part the culmination of the light against socialization which originally brought me and many of my colleagues into .federal politics in 1949. It will be remembered that in 1947, as part of its socialistic programme, the Labour .government of the day tried to inflict on Australia something that is not found in any other civilized country on this side of the iron curtain - a government banking monopoly. That attempt pushed the Australian Labour party into the shadows of Opposition where its members seem to have settled down permanently.
– Don’t you believe it!
– What did the electors say only a few weeks ago? The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has said that the only thing wrong with the elections was that the people did not vote for the Labour party. Since then, the Australian Labour party has made persistent attempts to convince the public that bank nationalization is a dead issue, to use the words of members of the Opposition themselves. But they have always obstinately refused to denounce it as part of their policy and have carefully kept it in their platform, 1 can only say that it would have been simple for them, if they had abandoned the idea, to have said so in plain language. The fact that they will not do so is very significant.
If the Labour party is ever returned to office, it is obvious that it will attempt to nationalize the trading banks. Labour would do so by stealth, just as Labour attempted to do before, without giving the public a chance of voting on the proposal. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said just before the sitting was suspended that once Labour was returned to power it would repeal this legislation and throw it out. Honorable members opposite freely admit that bank nationalization is still a plank of the Australian Labour party’s platform. To guard against the bank nationalization, some honorable members on this side of the House have been pressing for the past ten years for some safeguards to be inserted in our banking legislation. The results in some respects, have been peculiar and, if I may say so, unexpected, but one very good thing has come out of the struggle. Australia is to have something of inestimable value - a properly constituted central bank which this country has needed for many years. It is an essential part of any sound financial structure and it is in line with Liberal policy. It was part of Labour’s policy in the days when Labour had a policy for Australia and not one that was aimed merely at gaining the sweets of office.
This legislation means the end of an era in which the central bank was merely a doityourself annexe to the Commonwealth Bank with unfortunate results, quite frequently, to the economy of Australia. I do not think anybody will doubt that Australia has had a controlled banking system for the past twenty years. Now, at last, we have put the driver on the front seat so that he can concentrate his attention on the road ahead. I have a feeling that when historians are assessing the achievement of our first decade in office, this new central bank will rate as one of the most notable achievements of this Government.
However, along with it the legislation introduces to us a new creation. It is called a Development Bank mainly, I think, because that is an attractive name which would help to sell it. I would have thought that the setting up of a Development Bank would have been considered such an important step as to merit a bill of its own. In its present form, its introduction gives only a sketchy appreciation of the functions of the Development Bank. The amazing loose piece of draftsmanship which introduces this Development Bank was a product of those hectic and confused days when the Australian Labour party and the Democratic Labour party between them controlled affairs in another place. Some Labour votes had to be attracted if the bill was to pass. In addition, there was a general election looming ahead.
The result is that we have a bank conceived in haste and prematurely delivered. In spite of . all the efforts to have the functions defined and the course chartered, it appears that the processes of birth of legislation, as in nature, cannot be stopped once they have begun. This strange creature must, therefore, be let loose on the financial world as it is, for better or for worse. I believe it could be for better. A true development bank directed to the financing of worthy projects - individual or collective - which were not eligible for normal bank finance could do a great deal of good in the community.
I will give this proposal credit for being the outcome of good intentions, but it will be a very strange organization if it does not wander from the road allotted to it. It is a hard road, for very careful selection and supervision of borrowers will be needed to maintain profitability or even solvency, lt is straining credulity to think that its controllers will not seek the easier paths. These are available in any direction. The bank can set itself up as a general bank which, unlike its competitors, will have no restrictions on its tendings, no calls on its funds by the central bank and no taxes to pay. It starts off with a free gift of £20,000,000, and it can keep all its profits. Moreover, it has borrowing powers which, in the original bill, were almost unlimited, but I am glad to see now that amendments have been accepted which will ensure that Parliament has some control over borrowings. Nevertheless, with a socialist government in power, obviously this Development Bank could still be used to put all other banks out of .business.
– Hear, hear!
– The interjection supports my contention. Other banks would not have a hope of competition on such terms, and once a government monopoly has been secured, I shudder to think what sort of service the public will get. Thus, it would be an instrument of socialization under Labour, but it could also be an instrument of inflation under liberalism which, in my view, is a far more present danger. It is outside all central bank controls and when those controls are strictest over the trading banks, obviously the demands would be the greatest on the Development Bank.
Thus, unless there are strict safeguards laid down, the bank could function in complete defiance of the policy of the Government which created it, and could make a mockery of the elaborate system of special deposit controls which operate over its competitors. Moreover, it has been presented to the public, especially in the country districts, in such a manner that it will be under considerable pressure to make advances. Many of its advocates have pictured it as a veritable Father Christmas among banks; one that will give loans of any amount to anybody who has been refused by other banks, even though the reason for refusal may have been the excellent one that the borrower had little chance of making repayment.
With such assets as this, and with £20,000,000 of interest-free capital to work on, it will be seen that the new Development Bank is not only highly privileged but also highly subsidized. Such treatment can be justified only if the bank performs some special and valuable service for the community as a whole. It was, therefore, astounding to find in the original bill that these benefits were to be restricted to customers applying through the Commonwealth Bank. I am glad to say, however, that the Government has now agreed to make the private banks eligible to act as agents for the Development Bank. I know that the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), who is seeking to interject, is opposed to this system, but if the bank is to have a good effect it must have widespread agencies, and the Government in its wisdom has seen fit to provide that private banks may act as agents for this Development Bank.
Contrary to what may have been gathered from what I have already said, I wish this Development Bank success, but I believe it has a hard road ahead. In this matter, strangely enough, I am in agreement with the Opposition’s authority, Dr. Coombs, who recently addressed a meeting in Melbourne of the Australian Agricultural Economics Society. This was about a fortnight ago, and, referring to the Development Bank, he said -
It will not be a simple institution to administer. It is easy to exaggerate the scope that will be available for it.
Dr. Coombs went on to enlarge on the difficulties ahead of the Development Bank, and I suggest that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) should examine the report of the speech that he made on that occasion, not only for substance, but also because the question again arises of the propriety of a public servant making observations on a matter contained in a bill before the House.
There is another important aspect of this legislation. For the first time the Government recognizes the principle that the Commonwealth Trading Bank, in common with its private competitors, should be liable to company tax. Although in actuality this will not mean much, and will represent only a token gesture, it establishes the vital principle of fair competition between the government banking concern and its private competitors. In addition to this, the bill provides that the old special accounts system shall be amended, and I believe that the new system should work out equitably for all those concerned.
Tn fact, the bills as a whole, as I see them, are a mixture of welcome banking reform, long overdue in this country, and of proposals which, in my view, contain inherent dangers. I regret that the Government his not accented suggestions for further amendments, but I hope it will keep an open mind on these matters and be disposed to accept them later on, as experience shows them to be desirable.
.- The legislation before the House is designed to create a- Reserve- Bank of Australia, to establish a Commonwealth Banking Corporation, and to replace the special accounts system with a system of statutory deposits. Those, briefly, are the objectives of the bill, as outlined by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when introducing the legislation to the Parliament a few days- ago.
I have listened, as have other honorable members, to the periodical attacks made by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) on the Commonwealth Bank, on its governor and on certain aspects of the legislation. I think it is about time that the honorable member for Mitchell declared himself and said in this Parliament whether he directly and exclusively represents the private banking interests of this country,, which are pledged to destroy the Common. wealth. Bank and its structure, or whether he represents the electors who sent him here He admitted a few moments ago that he is a product of the 1949 elections, and he was put into this Parliament by the private banks that are opposed to Labour legislation. I know this to be true, because his campaign director was a. bank manager, and his campaign was financed by the private banks, as was the case with many other honorable members on his side of the Parliament. The speeches that he reads in this chamber from time to time are written by the economists of the private banking institutions. He is unable to speak without notes because he does not know his brief before he comes into the House. He consistently attacks Dr, Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. From time to time we have- heard him attacking this eminent gentleman. Yet in the latter part of his speech to-night he quoted Dr. Coombs to back up some point he wished to make.
The honorable member for Mitchell even finds fault with the Development Bank in its present form. As the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) said, by way of interjection, he seems to have a set on everybody. I do not doubt that this is so, after listening to his speech to-night. Clearly it was a speech written by outside interests, and it made no contribution in a general way to this debate.
I was interested to hear the honorable member say that we will now have fair com petition between the Commonwealth Bank and the private banking institutions. The fair competition- that- he has in mind is probably similar to the competition between Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett-A.N.A., and we all know how the Commonwealth restricted the Government enterprise while giving’ unlimited scope, to the private concern. These matters are well worth mentioning. I have made these remarks about the honorable member for Mitchell because undoubtedly he is the brightest product of the private banks’ efforts in 1949. I am not praising the other honorable members on his side.. They are all poor material, but he is the best of a bad lot. The honorable member for Mitchell is one of many who in 1949, by putting over one of the greatest confidence tricks in the history of this country, destroyed the Federal Labour government. These gentlemen had the assistance of many of our bank officers, who, to their discredit, packed meetings, became campaign organizers and deliberately sabotaged the Labour government. On this night these same gentlemen are taking a further step towards- defeating the efforts of the Labour government by supporting the destruction of the Commonwealth Bank.
Honorable members opposite are now becoming vocal, because they do not like to hear these things. I have spoken before in this House of the occasion in 1949 when I was speaking at an election meeting. A fellow was interjecting, and I said to him, “ Look, brother, you are here to-night at double-time rates, paid by the banks to interject at this meeting”. He replied, “ That is a deliberate lie. I am only on time and a half.” In other words, bank clerks were paid to attend meetings and disrupt them. Honorable members who gained their seats as a result of those tactics now find that they must continually attack legislation that does not suit the private banks, and that they must bring pressure to bear on the Government because the banks are demanding their reward for putting these people into Parliament. It has taken several years for the banks to get to this position. They have a right to be disappointed in their representatives, but they were not very good judges and did not select the right types.
One thing is clear: The honorable member for Mitchell and his colleagues are very persistent and determined to serve their financial masters, even if it means the destruction of the Commonwealth Bank, which was established in 1911 and built up by Labour governments. These matters are well worth mentioning, and I do not apologize for reminding honorable members of them, because I know that Government supporters are now merely showing their gratitude for the money that was spent to back them in defeating the Labour government in 1949. I will deal later with the policy of the Labour party with regard to banking. I am one of those who voted for bank nationalization, and I would do so to-morrow if called upon, because I realize that ultimately in this country we must have nationalization of banking in order to give justice to the people.
Attacks have been made to-night on the Commonwealth Bank. This bank was established in 1911. At that time it was said that we were going to have widespread inflation, the economy was going to be destroyed and industry would suffer. At that time, this bank was established in order to protect the people of this country against the monopoly control of private banks. The tory parties of the time opposed the establishment of that bank. Later, in 1924 they established a board to control the Commonwealth Bank. The people of this country have never forgotten the suffering that came to this nation when the members of that board put profits before the general welfare of the people and controlled the Commonwealth Bank, the people’s bank, in the interests of exploiters and profiteers. The same thing could happen under this legislation. The same type of individuals as were appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board in 1924 are to be appointed to the corporation which is to be set up under this legislation.
We well remember the doom that was predicted when Labour introduced its 1945 legislation - legislation which was not repealed by this Government although its supporters consistently opposed its introduction. Honorable members can well recollect the thousands of letters, sponsored by Liberal party organizers anc! others, such as the present honorable member for Mitchell, in an endeavour to build up opposition to the Labour government’s proposals.
In .1947., Labour, under the late Bien Chifley, Took one of the greatest steps ever taken in this country and introduced legislation to nationalize the private banking system. The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) interjects. He has plenty of scope to learn, and he can do a lot of learning to-night if he is interested. lt is interesting to note that despite the consistent attack that has been made on the Commonwealth Bank, which was established by Labour in the face of tremendous opposition from tory interests, the annual report of the bank for the year 1958 shows that it held depositors’ balances of £734,000,000; it had 5,000,000 accounts and 6,844 agencies; and the transactions for the year numbered 50,000,000. That is a magnificent tribute to the establishment by a Labour government of a bank which those who opposed it said would be destroyed. I do not doubt that the private banks have been bitterly opposed to the Commonwealth Bank for a very good reason. Despite continued Opposition, Labour governments were able to see that the bank prospered despite the fact that Liberals tied it hand and foot and in that way tried to destroy any possibility of its succeeding.
Much has been said about Labour’s policy on banking. I think it is time that many Government supporters were enlightened on this issue because they are continually asking members of the Labour party where they stand on banking. Labour’s objective as set out in the 1958-59 edition of the “ Rules and Constitution and the Policy and Platform “ of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party is as follows: -
The democratic socialization of industry, production, distribution and exchange - to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation and other antisocial features in those fields - in accordance with the principles of action, methods of progressive reform set out in this platform.
Then are set out principles of action, methods and progressive reforms. Under the heading of “ methods “ item number four states -
Nationalization of -
Banking, credit and insurance.
That is the policy of Labour to which 1 and other members on this side of the Parliament subscribe - a policy which the late Ben Chifley sought to apply in the 1947 legislation. I believe that nationalization of banking is fundamental to the implementation of Labour’s policy of democratic socialism and I unreservedly give support to that policy. The policy was not idly decided. Ben Chifley, who, while he lived, was recognized in this country as one of the greatest Prime Ministers and Treasurers of his time, was respected and revered among all people. He is among the immortal Australians of our time. Even the “Sydney Morning Herald” dated 9th March in an article entitled, “ A Gallery of Famous Australians”, written to mark the attainment of a population of 10,000,000, said -
It is, perhaps, too early to adjudge those of our own generation in terms of posterity’s final analysis, but of these one would single out as an obvious candidate for a permanent place in the national memory Ben Chifley, a man of the people if ever there was one.
That is the man who introduced to this Parliament the great banking measure that I have mentioned. I shall tell honorable members opposite the reason which prompted him to do that. In his speech on bank nationalization in 1947 he stated -
I feel that I hardly need to argue here the importance of money and credit in a modern economic system. As the means by which resources are brought together in production, goods are bought and sold, and prices, wages, contracts and debts are determined, it plays a part as vital to the economic body as the blood-stream to the human body. No single factor can do more to influence the welfare and progress of a community than the management of the volume and flow of money. Mismanagement of money, on the other hand, has contributed to the greatest economic disasters of modern times - booms and slumps, mass unemployment, waste of resources, industrial unrest, and social misery.
That is the basis of Labour’s policy of nationalization, and the reason why Labour introduced its 1947 legislation is exemplified in that speech. I say with great pride that the Chifley Government was one of the most socialist governments of our time. It introduced legislation to nationalize banking and it introduced legislation to nationalize the airlines. It established government airlines such as Trans-Australia Airlines and Qantas. It took shares in certain industries. The great social service programme of to-day, and the benefits that have been given to farmers in the form of flood relief, drought relief, bounties and stabilized prices, &c, are all products of the socialist regime which introduced legis lation to nationalize banking. These matters are worth remembering. They are not idle thoughts. They are the products of the thoughts of great men who built the Labour movement, and who realized that money should not be controlled by people who were not answerable to this Parliament, but to the people’s representatives who are elected by constitutional means from time to time. Mr. Chifley went on to say, in his 1947 speech, concerning the Labour view on banking -
The Labour party has maintained for many years that, since the influence of money is so great, the entire monetary and banking system should be controlled by public authorities, responsible through the Government and Parliament to the nation. On this principle the Labour party has held further that since private banks are conducted primarily for profit and therefore follow policies which in important respects run counter to the public interest, their business should be transferred to public ownership.
That is even more true of present conditions than it was of those in 1947, because to-day, as the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) mentioned in an excellent speech in this Parliament last night, exploitation of the people on a higher level than that of the 1930’s is being carried out by the private banking institutions which are fighting tooth and nail through their agents such as the honorable member for Mitchell and others in this Parliament, to destroy the only organization that can give justice to the people of this country in the way that Mr. Chifley laid down - through the Commonwealth Bank as established and effectively administered by Labour from 1945 onwards.
It is no good begging the question. The policy of the private banks is to contract and expand credit at will, when and where and on what terms they decide. I do not intend to clutter up my speech with figures. “ Hansard “ of this Parliament is full of figures which show how people were denied money when they wanted it and how they could get it when they did not want it. This is like giving a man an umbrella on a sunny day and taking it away when it rains. Yet that has been the policy of the private banks right through the years. They are all primarily actuated by a desire to make profit and to secure value for their assets. Their record has been one of lending in good times and contracting in bad times. They have lent where the profits were greatest and the rate of interest was highest. They did this in the 1930’s, in particular, when thousands were unemployed although great projects needed to be undertaken, and when a young nation was crying out for money. That is evidenced in speeches in our Parliament from days that have gone by, right up to the present. It is taking place in our midst under the present policies of the private banking institutions. The policies of the private banks generally run contrary to the national need. In the 1920’s, they fed the boom and financed unsound development. In the depression the banks called up advances. Between December, 1929, and March, 1932, advances fell by £45,000,000. I suppose that £45,000,000 in 1929 would be the equivalent of ten times that amount to-day because at that stage they could not possibly have had such a hapless ministry like this running the country. In the early 1930’s the banks helped very little. They took the safest course for their own interest and hoped that things would improve.
As a whole, the movement of the private banks in this country is towards monopoly control. At one stage there were 76 private banks in Australia. To-day as a result of amalgamation there are seven, and, as far as I know, a couple more amalgamations are to take place in the not far distant future. This is free competition, 76 banks to seven! If you cannot get an advance from one bank you do not get it from any other. They tell you the banks must have scope to expand because they want to go into competition with the Commonwealth Bank. It will be only a matter of time before this Liberal-Australian Country party Government will say, “ We will amalgamate the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks “ and give a preference to the shareholders of the private banks over the people of Australia. It is probably planning to do something like that with TransAustralia Airlines and Ansett-Australian National Airways later on.
The power of the trading banks in Australia has become concentrated in the hands of directors and a few other persons answerable only to vested interests, some of whom live not in Australia but abroad and who obtain their benefits from the profits. These are matters on which honorable members on the Government side should be enlightened. When they criticize the policy of the Labour party it is well for them to remember that under this Government, with irresponsible members speaking for the banks only, knowing little of what they say and caring less, there is a great danger of the people coming under the complete domination of the private banks in Australia and into complete financial subjection to them as time goes on.
Let us go a step further. In the 1930’s, the private banks did little to assist the people in their time of suffering. In 1947 the Labour Government, led by Chifley, showed it had the capacity, intelligence and courage to give effect to legislation which we knew would be challenged by those who represent monopoly interests but which we believed to be in the public interest because of the sufferings private banks had caused.
If we look back we find it is not so long ago that Sir Robert Gibson, whom my colleague from Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) knows so well, came to a Labour Prime Minister and told his government what to do. He was called before the bar of the Senate. I am one of those who think that in view of the charges made by the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) and the shady and despicable manner in which this legislation has been brought before the Parliament, as well as the disagreement which we know exists among the more responsible sections of the Government, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank should be called to the bar of this House and asked by members to give his views in answer to questions they ask in order that we can overcome the sham and hypocrisy of honorable members on the Government side.
In reply to the criticism made by the honorable member for Mitchell to-night I ask why was the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank re-appointed for a further seven years with the unanimous agreement of members of the Cabinet? The reason is that the Government has confidence in him. Members of the Cabinet know that his is a good appointment. They should not forget that a Labour government made that original appointment and that appointments made by a Labour government are about the best you will ever get. The point is that I think Dr. Coombs should be called to the bar of the House in order that every honorable member might have a chance to question him and hear his views on these matters. In that way we would be able to throw some light on the issues which the Government is now hiding from the people of Australia.
Let us go further. The Leader of the Opposition quoted, at some length, certain statements by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank which showed him to be very critical of certain aspects of the Government’s proposal now under discussion. In addition, in that speech it was pointed out that the private banks had disregarded the honour system they were put on in their trading activities. This shows that they cannot be trusted when the profit motive and their own welfare generally conflict with the public good.
What is happening to-day with the private banking institutions? It is quite apparent, as instanced in the speeches made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), the Leader of the Opposition and others in this debate, that the banking interests in this country to-day are more concerned with getting huge returns from hire-purchase transactions than with making money available. We, on this side of th? House, are not opposed to hire purchase, but it should not be allowed to create a secondary form of financial inflation. What has happened is exemplified by figures which have already been presented this evening. In 1953, the banks advanced £89,000,000 for hire purchase. By 1958, they had advanced £328,000,000. To-day, if a man wants an advance of a few hundred pounds or £1,000 to place a deposit on a house, the banks say, “ We cannot give it to you, but if you want to buy a Kelvinator, go to the other end of the counter and see us there and you can have an advance at 10 per cent, or 15 per en!.” They will help a man to buy a Kelvinator and a tent to put it in, but they will advance nothing for bricks and mortar. That is the policy of the private banks. Promts before the general welfare is the policy laid down and only a Labour government has had the courage to curb it. It is out of all proportion so far as other finances are concerned.
The State governments want money for housing, schools, education and hosiptals and the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) says it is not available. But unlimited funds are available for the exploitation of people by way of high interest rates on hirepurchase transactions and other deals of that nature. There is plenty of money for luxury items, but none for essential requirements - none for the family man, none for the man who wants to provide for his family. It is available for luxury goods only at high rates- of interest. As I said before, water boards, local government bodies and great public utilities are denied money that they need to enable them to carry out essential works.
The whole financial policy is out of focus under this Government. It is time that changes were made which would give effect to policies under which money would be advanced for essential purposes in preference to hire-purchase transactions with high rates of interest for the exclusive benefit of the profiteers in the private banks. Mr. Speaker, this is a continuation of the policy laid down by the government in the 1930’s onwards. We cannot reiterate too often that the policy of the private banks has always been to destroy completely the Commonwealth Bank and at the same time see that they get the greatest possible return from the people for the money they lend, irrespective of whether it is in the public interest or not.
People might say that these are old phrases and sayings, but many people who want homes to-day think there is a lot wrong with a system which makes money available for luxury items, while those who urgently need money for essential items cannot get it.
My time has almost expired, but I am delighted to have had the opportunity of addressing honorable members opposite on the private banks and particularly on this all-important aspect of Labour policy. It is undeniable that while they have been in this Parliament the vast majority of members on the Government side have had one intention, that is to carry out the purpose for which they have been sent here by their masters, the private banks - to destroy the Commonwealth Bank as we know it to-day.
The Government proposes to establish a Commonwealth Banking Corporation. I wonder who will be the first chairman of it? The former Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, has been mentioned, but I do not think he would be in the race, because he knows a little about banking. If this Government runs true to form it will probably appoint the leading bed-stead manufacturer in the Commonwealth to be in charge of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation. We will find representatives of vested interests appointed to this board to administer the Commonwealth Bank in the interests of their own firms and others, lt is no good saying it cannot happen. Time does not allow me to quote the long list of political dead-heads put there by this Government as a reward to stultify and control the financial structure of the country.
Labour is irrevocably opposed to the Commonwealth Bank Board for the reasons that we know, and for the things it did when it controlled the Commonwealth Bank. While we have any say in it as a party we will not put into control of the bank men who will serve vested interests of this country in preference to the people and who are answerable to nobody other than a few directors.
I want to conclude on this note: It is certain that these bills are a further step towards the complete destruction of the great Commonwealth Bank by this LiberalAustralian Country party Government and their masters, the private banking institutions. I am therefore more convinced than ever that the late J. B. Chifley expressed the real sentiments of all who believe in the welfare of our people and of our nation when he said -
Full public ownership of the banks will ensure control of banking in the public interest. It will enable effective steps to be taken against the dangers of secondary inflation. It will assist us to stave off depression and to avoid a repetition of the miseries of 1930. Beyond this, it will open a long-locked doorway to the development of a monetary and banking system truly adequate to our national requirements and wholly devoted to the service of Australia.
Mr. DRURY (Ryan) [8.501.- If the wisdom of the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) were equal in any way to his fluency, the pages of “ Hansard “ which he filled would indeed make valuable reading; but I am afraid that to-night we have heard from him the same kind of speech as we heard during the earlier part of this debate from the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt) and other honorable members on that side of the House. We have simply been treated to a further attack on the private banks, a further hate session against profits in general, a further throwing up of a smoke-screen to cover the basic issues that are involved in this legislation.
Before I attempt to answer some of the points put by the honorable member for Grayndler and other honorable gentlemen opposite may I take this opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to offer to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) my congratulations on his energy and enterprise in introducing these banking measures so early in the life of this new Parliament? May I also take this opportunity, Sir, to congratulate the Treasurer on the splendid second-reading speeches which he made when introducing these measures. The bills before us are involved and complex, and of a highly technical character, and I think that the Treasurer is to be complimented on the way in which he has handled them.
I think that it is a shameful thing for an honorable member to rise in this House and make a personal, snide attack of the kind that was made by the honorable member for Grayndler to-night on the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler). There is no member of this Parliament who has a greater sincerity of purpose than the honorable member for Mitchell, and there are very few who have knowledge equal to, or better than, the honorable member for Mitchell in the field of finance and banking. It ill behoved the honorable member for Grayndler to make such a personal attack as he made this evening on the honorable member for Mitchell, and I am sorry that the honorable member for Grayndler is not here to hear my rebuke.
For the honorable member for Grayndler to make a general attack against those of us on this side of the House, to accuse us generally of being irresponsible members of the Parliament speaking on behalf of the private banks, shows only how little the honorable gentleman knows and understands of the political set-up in this country and of the minds of the electors of Australia who sent us here.
– They make that kind of attack instead of telling us frankly what is the policy of the Labour party.
– I am coming to that. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the debate over the last hour has thrown up in very sharp contrast the Liberal philosophy, which stands for a policy of free enterprise, freedom of thought and freedom of action, as enunciated by the honorable member for Mitchell, and the iron-clad, rigid discipline imposed on the Labour party by an outside body which has no allegiance, and owes no responsibility, to the electors of Australia.
As I have been reminded by the Treasurer, this debate has, if it has served no other purpose, served the useful purpose of drawing forcibly to the attention not only of honorable members but of the people of Australia the fact that nationalization of banking is still a fundamental and integral part of the platform of the Australian Labour party.
– Hear, hear!
– I think that, quite apart from other considerations, that fact has been underlined strongly not only by the honorable member for Grayndler, but also by other outspoken members of the Opposition, such as the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) who, by interjection to-night, indicated clearly his support of a policy of nationalization of banking. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) was interjecting quite a lot earlier in the debate, and by his interjections indicated very clearly where his sympathies lie in this matter.
– For the socialization of banking.
– When my mind goes back to a certain speech made by the Leader of the Opposition I wonder how united the Opposition is on the question of the nationalization of banking, because in that speech the Leader of the Opposition said, quite categorically, and in a quite quiet way, as though the matter were absolutely disposed of once and for all, that nationalization was a dead issue.
I remember in my early days in this Parliament, during the debate on the 1950 banking legislation, Mr. Chifley saying that bank nationalization was like a dead horse in the track. I think that was the phrase that he used. The fact that so many honorable members opposite, have clearly and unequivocally in the course of this debate, pledged themselves to the policy of bank nationalization, will not be forgotten by the people of Australia, will not be forgotten by those of us who were here to hear for ourselves the words of these honorable members who either spoke in the debate and expressed this sentiment or did so by way of interjection. It will all be recorded in “Hansard”.
Let us hope that honorable members opposite will no longer engage in any sham hyprocrisy such as they have engaged in before on the subject of nationalization. If at election time they came out and supported their real platform, which they have demonstrated here that they still support - the nationalization of banking, credit and insurance - I think that the people of Australia would hardly send a single one of them back to this Parliament, because time after time and election after election during the last decade the people have spoken with no uncertain voice on this matter of nationalization.
The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) said this afternoon that during the course of the last election campaign very little was mentioned by the Government parties about banking. Indeed, he said that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) had made only one reference to the subject, and that in a rather indefinite way. If I remember aright, the honorable gentleman said that the Prime Minister had not given any details of the policy. Do I interpret the honorable member’s remark correctly?
– That is right.
– May I quote, Mr. Speaker, a section of the policy speech made on 29th October, 1958, in the Canterbury Memorial Hall by the Prime Minister. In relation to the subject of banking, the Prime Minister said this - and surely this is perfectly clear and distinct-
– That is the only reference he made to it.
– If the honorable member will follow his own advice and be patient and listen, he will hear what I have to say. The Prime Minister said -
We will once more introduce banking legislation designed to -
separate the central bank from competi tive trading bank activities:
ensure fair competition between the Com monwealth Trading Bank and the other trading banks; and
create a Development Bank.
You do not need to make a long statement in a policy speech to explain more clearly and succinctly the intentions of the Government in relation to banking.
– That proves absolutely that I was right.
– I cannot afford the time to engage in a duel with the honorable member for Bonython as to whether or not these words were a clear enunciation of the Government’s policy in relation to banking; but I believe, Sir, that it is worth our while to look back over the past, because, as Sir Winston Churchill said, “ If you want to look into the future, look back as far as you can into the past “. I want to dwell on this especially in the light of the admissions - I call them admissions because they were made not directly in debate but by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) by way of interjection - that the Labour party stands four-square behind the policy of bank nationalization. It is because of the fact that honorable members opposite are now standing so solidly for that policy that we should devote some little time to considering the political and economic implications of the policy. I am reminded, for instance, of the words used by the honorable member for East Sydney on one occasion. He was very irked by the promise of our side of Parliament to repeal the banking legislation. During a debate on banking he said, “ As far as the High Court is concerned, we can add to its membership. We can appoint judges who are more sympathetic to the will of the people “.
– That is what your Government did.
– The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is well known for his hate of the judiciary.
– What about Spicer?
– If the honorable member will be patient and hear me out, he will learn something to his advantage. Honorable members who attack the judiciary, such as the honorable member for KingsfordSmith and the honorable member for East Sydney, serve only to underline the danger that would confront the people of Australia in the event of a socialist government ever again being on the treasury-bench ia this
Parliament. Also, I am reminded that it is part of the Labour party policy that appeals to the Privy Council should be abolished. I think the honorable member for East Sydney is on record as having advocated that the right of appeal to the Privy Council should be abolished. I mention these matters because they are of basic importance. The High Court is one of our fundamental, most important democratic institutions, one of our bulwarks of democracy. I do not need to remind the House of the history of the Chifley Government’s attempts in 1947-48 to nationalize the whole of the banking system of this country. If it had not been for section 92 of the Constitution and the interpretation placed on it by the High Court, and subsequently by the Privy Council, no doubt those 30 or 40 words issued cryptically by Mr. Chifley one Saturday morning would have changed the whole destiny of this country and the whole lives of the people then living and of generations to come. Thank goodness that did not happen!
I mention this matter of the High Court and the Privy Council to emphasize the danger that there would be in a future socialist government, especially in view of the clear indication in this debate by honorable members opposite of their intention to repeal this legislation if ever they get the chance of implementing their policy of nationalizing the banking system, in other words, of setting up a monopoly bank to replace the present system. The Labour Government in 1947 made an attempt to nationalize the banks of Australia without having .been given any mandate whatever on that score by the Australian people. Indeed, on 27th November, 1946, Mr. Chifley said, “ The Government does not consider that it is necessary to impose any further control “. Having regard to those words, Mr. Speaker, would you not suppose that the people of Australia would be entitled to sit back and say, “ We have an assurance from the head of the Australian Government that no attempt will be made to exercise any further control over the banking system “? Yet, what happened? Within twelve months of that statement by Mr. Chifley - I think it was only nine months or so later - an attempt was made to do just that very thing, despite the fact that the 1945 legislation contained ample powers to enable the Commonwealth Government and the central bank section of the Commonwealth Bank to exercise control over the overall credit policy and the financial tone of the country.
Even if it were not possible for a Labour government to nationalize the banks by some direct means, undoubtedly the lawyers amongst its supporters, and others outside, would help to find some way in which it would be able to impose a slow process of strangulation on the private banks. Honorable members opposite seem to be obsessed with hate of the private banks. I make it clear that we on this side of the House hold no particular brief for the private banks as such. We do hold a brief for free enterprise, because we believe that it is on the system of free enterprise that this nation has grown to its present stature, and we believe that the future greatness of Australia is bound up with this system of free enterprise, which we on this side of the House are determined to protect at all costs. So the setting up of a monopoly bank to control the finances and the lives of the people of this country is shown clearly to be still a fundamental and central plank of the platform of the Australian Labour party. I rather hesitate to do so, but I feel I must mention that the establishment of a nationalized banking system is also a plank of the Communist party platform.
We believe in a policy of active, healthy and fair competition. We believe that on that basis the banking system will thrive and the interests of the people of this country will be best served. We believe that the people should have a free choice as to which bank they will deal with. The honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) and others refer from time to time to the people’s bank, as though the Commonwealth Bank were the only bank in this country which the people, or any of the people, of Australia deal with. That seems a bit absurd to me. Are not the hundreds of thousands of depositors who deal with the private banks of this country people of Australia? Are they not on exactly the same footing as the people who deal, for preference, with the Commonwealth Bank?
– They do not get any share of the profits.
– Honorable members opposite are obsessed with this matter of profits. The Commonwealth Trading
Bank, too, makes profits. Indeed, there is a clause in this legislation which makes it a duty of the Commonwealth Trading Bank to go out after business and to be as active as it can be in the .field of competition. We believe that when these bills become law, as I am sure they will in the near future, they will help to build up an atmosphere of confidence and mutual trust which, I believe, is a necessary keynote of .a good banking system. The policy enunciated by the Australian Labour party, on the other hand, as is shown by its past record on the subject of banking, would destroy confidence, not only at home, but also abroad.
I have not time to elaborate on this question of confidence, but confidence at home and abroad is basic to our development, and indeed to our survival as a nation. We must have the confidence, not only of cur own people, but also of other nations, and obviously other nations are not going to trust a socialistically-run country, or a country which has set up a monopoly bank, which would make one of its first acts the rationing of people’s money, because that is a part of the socialist pattern. The rationing of petrol, the rationing of butter, and the rationing of tea, were all in force when we took over in 1949, although the situation did not warrant such rationing. If a socialist government had a monopoly bank, of course, it would do the same as is done in Russia and other countries behind the iron curtain where there is a nationalized banking system, and the money of the people would be rationed. We on this side of the House believe that political control of banking is clearly against the principles of democratic government and clearly against the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the people of Australia.
To show how democratic honorable members of the Labour party are, one has only to cite one outstanding illustration to which I referred earlier, the Chifley Government’s attempt in 1947-48 to nationalize the banks. Despite the fact that there were protest meetings from one end of the country to the other and that petitions miles long were submitted to the government of the day, the Chifley Labour Government, Mr. Chifley and his Ministers, adamantly refused to hold a referendum to let the people themselves indicate, in a democratic way, whether or not they wanted the banking system nationalized. That is the socialist mind at work, Mr. Speaker. It is clearly shown by the speeches that we have heard in this debate from Opposition members, and not least of all by the address that we have just heard from the honorable member for Grayndler, who spoke about democratic socialism.
If ever there was a contradiction in terms, here it is - democratic socialism. I invite the honorable member for Grayndler, and any one else on the Opposition side of the Parliament who is interested enough, to look up the views on this matter of Mr. Chamberlain, the federal president of the Australian Labour party. In a preface to a booklet written by Dr. John Burton, one of the arch-priests of Labour party policy, Mr. Chamberlain stated that the addition of the word “ democratic “ does not in any way alter the basic objectives of the Labour party. Mr. Deputy Speaker, this amendment, this limited socialism, this watering down by putting in fair words and phrases such as “ designed to prevent exploitation “, is only a sham and humbug. It is part of a deliberate design on the part of the Australian Labour party, and in particular of its executive, which imposes its will on Labour members in this place, whether they like it or not, to deceive the electors and confuse them on these basic issues.
This afternoon, the honorable member for Bonython read some passages from the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems. I regret to say that there were some passages which he possibly found inconvenient to his party and which he did not quote. I do not charge him with deliberately refraining from reading them. All I say is that it would have been inconvenient for the Labour party to quote certain passages from the report. If Opposition members care to look up paragraphs 516 and 517 of the royal commission’s report, they will see a statement of objectives from which Mr. Chifley, incidentally, was the only one of the members of the royal commission to dissent. I should like to read two short passages. Paragraph 516 states -
The general objective of an economic system for Australia should be to achieve the best use of our productive resources, both present and future. This means the fullest possible employ ment of people and resources under conditions that will provide the highest standard of living.
In paragraph 517, the royal commission stated -
The next question is, what kind of monetary and banking system will best achieve this objective. In our opinion this result in the present circumstances of Australia will be most likely to follow from a system of central banking in which trading banks and other financial institutions are integral parts of the system, with a central bank which regulates the volume of credit and currency.
So it is clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that all the members of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, with the one exception of Mr. Chifley, had in their minds a concept of a central bank which was removed from the competitive field and yet had ample powers to control the note issue, the currency and the overall financial tone of the economy. It would pay Opposition members to study the whole thing before they begin glibly quoting extracts from reports of royal commissions, because it may be found that there are other passages in the reports which destroy the arguments that they have put forward.
When introducing these bills on 24th October, 1957, in a slightly different form, Sir Arthur Fadden referred to the separation of the central bank from the other components of the Commonwealth Bank and said -
Experience has shown that there cannot be full harmony within the Australian banking system, nor that close co-operation which ought to subsist between the central and the trading banks, unless and until this separation is effected.
Our policy on this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, unlike that of the Australian Labour party, is as firm now as it has been all along. We have nothing to hide in our policy. We are proud of it, and, unlike members of the Australian Labour party, we come out at election time with our real policy and not with just a sham policy designed to cover up a real platform which contains items such as the nationalization of banking, credit and insurance. We do not come out with some sham policy designed as a bait for the electors to swallow in order that we may find ourselves in a position to impose our real will and our real platform on the people of Australia. Those tactics, Mr. Deputy Speaker, savour of Hitlerism. I do not like that approach. I like an open, frank and honest approach to the electors, and my view is that the electors like that, too. They do not like to be fooled and they do not like listening to hypocrisy and humbug.
– They will not like listening to the honorable member, then.
– I wonder whether the honorable member who has just honoured us with a few words remembers what Hitler said in 1934. I remind the honorable member who, like his colleagues, supports the nationalization of banking - which is supported also, as I said earlier, by Communists throughout the world - that Hitler said -
Let me control the nation’s banking and I will control the nation.
That was the same attitude of mind as we see here. That was the Nazi socialist mind, and here we have the Australian Labour socialist mind working in much the same way. It savours, Mr. Deputy Speaker, of totalitarianism. The approach of the Australian Labour party is, to my mind, too nearly that of totalitarianism and communism to be in any way acceptable to this country. lt has been clearly pointed out by the Treasurer and others that there is a sharp distinction to be drawn between central bank activities and trading bank activities. Paragraph 156 of the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems makes the position very clear. It points out that the central bank, on the one hand, controls the nation’s volume of credit, and that the trading banks, on the other hand, distribute that credit to the community, and attend to the ordinary banking requirements of the people. The Bank of England, the Federal Reserve Bank in the United States of America, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand do not engage in direct trading bank activities. With that pattern of central banking in other parts of the world before us, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I feel confident that this set of four major and ten minor bills which has been introduced by the Treasurer is destined to play an important part, not only in building up the banking structure and the atmosphere of confidence that is necessary, but also. I am sure, in the future development and greatness of this nation.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, ever jealous of the: dignity of the Commonwealth Parliament, I wish to protest at the attempts made last evening by agents of the private banking institutions to degrade this House of the National Parliament. During the debate last night, we saw the most disgusting sight of all the log-rollers and urgers hustling along the corridors and button-holing Ministers, with the result that members of this place found it impossible to go about their ordinary business on behalf of their constituents. Myriads of professional urgers have come to Canberra for the occasion, and are ever ready to pick up the crumbs that will fall from the table as a result of the passage of these bills. Largesse! That will be the order of the day! Honorable members should have seen these people. It was a sight for sore eyes to see them trying to catch the eyes of the Ministers in order to push their case still further on behalf of their employers, the private bank operators.
– Who are you talking about?
– The urgers of the community, the private bank operators, the crooks.
– We did not see them.
– You did not look too far. I saw the honorable member for Wannon talking to one of them. The Treasurer was button-holed in the corridors by one of these people. What was said is best known to the Treasurer himself.
I think it is high time that all these people were cleaned out of the corridors of this National Parliament. I am sincere when I say I hope this does not happen again. People on legitimate business - not looking for graft morning, noon and night - are a different matter, but we do not want this Parliament disgraced by the grafters who were mixed up in the sale of the people’s assets in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and the Whaling Commission, and who were concerned in the deal made with Ansett-A.N.A. Those people were here again last night, degrading the lobbies of our great National Parliament. I make no apologies for any statement that I make in this House. My constituents will know who was present in this Parliament, and the reason for their presence. They were trying to corrupt the Ministers of the Government of Australia. These professional bar flies gather around the Liberal honey-pot when hand-outs are given. These people are in the pay of the private banks. There is always plenty of money for grafters and corrupters of our national life when hand-outs are made. I have seen this state of affairs in existence over the years and the public-
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wish to draw your attention to Standing Order 78, which provides that all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on members shall be considered highly disorderly. The honorable member is making allegations of improper conduct.
– There have been no allegations of improper motives against a Minister. I am listening very closely to the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for an excellent ruling. These people who are employed by the so-called private bankers are wooing the general public night after night on television and over the radio under a new name - free enterprise banks. The people are suspicious and contemptuous of the old name - private banking institutions. They know their record in the past.
Ever eager to learn, I listened with grave interest to-day to the speech made by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Joske). I was hoping to hear something of interest, something that I might store away for future use. But what did I hear? I was sadly disillusioned. All that the honorable member did was to rave about socialism and the great institution of socialism - the Commonwealth Bank. The honorable member made vile attacks on members of the Labour party. We will not break up over that. We are used to it. The honorable member’s speech, of course, answered a question that has been bothering me for some time: Why was he such an arrant failure and so flatly rejected by members of his own party in the recent election of the Cabinet?
– Order! The honorable member should relate his remarks to the legislation before the House.
– I am just answering what was said in debate this afternoon, and I am replying to the attacks that were made on me. I think that is in order.
– I think that the honorable member is not in order.
– Ever ready to hear what the honorable member for Balaclava knew about banking, I listened attentively to his speech this afternoon. He went to great lengths to tell honorable members about his field of learning. He went to great lengths to tell us of his degrees, and the knowledge that he has gained in the past. He told us about his degrees in the banking field and so forth. But when I analysed the honorable member’s remarks I found that his knowledge, his field of learning, and his degrees were on a par with those of another gentleman who allegedly won the same degrees. I am referring to the Leader of the Country party in New South Wales. The honorable member for Balaclava advanced arguments about banking, but I found that his arguments were like the degrees that the Leader of the Country party in New South Wales claims to hold: They were counterfeit.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, this legislation provides for an act relating to the Reserve Bank of Australia. I would prefer to say the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. In this legislation I see a further attempt by this Government to destroy the greatest banking institution in the world, the purpose being, of course, to remove from the banking field for all time all forms of competition with the private banks. This is glossed over by the Government with cringing references to fair competition. Look at the great institutions that were set up by Labour governments to try to give the workers of Australia the benefits of the sweat of their brows. Look at Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and other socialistic operations that proved more than a match for these so-called fair competitors - the private bankers. Everybody knows the history of the private banks. Was it so long ago that we cannot remember the bank crash? Was it so long ago that we cannot recall that the English, Scottish and Australian Bank Limited, one of the private banks that will benefit from this legislation, has not yet paid its debts to the people following the closing of its doors in the ‘90’s. That bank still owes money to the people following the crash in the ‘90’s. Do not honorable members remember? No, the banks are the darlings of this Government.
– Dan, could you speak up? We have difficulty in hearing you.
– My friend, when you grow big and strong and you are no longer a weed; when you have nature’s benefit of health and strength and a good pair of lungs; you will be a very happy man. We always look up to strong, healthy trees. Honorable members opposite are, of course, forced to support this legislation; if they do not, they will not be endorsed for the next election. Let me point out the criminal actions of the private banks over the past. Let us denounce their stooges, the honorable members opposite and the daily press which, by propaganda methods, induces the people-
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to order. Is an honorable member in order in alleging that a member of this House is supporting criminal action by suggesting that he is a stooge for those interested in this legislation?
-Order! I do not think the honorable member for Moreton is correct in suggesting that criminal action has been imputed against an honorable member. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith is not very selective-
– Be tolerant!
– Order! The honorable member must not interrupt the Chair. He is not very selective in his language, and I ask him to refrain from any further damaging reference to other honorable members of this House.
– The weed again, Sir! I made reference to the criminal actions ot the private banks, which are outside institutions. I do not have to answer to the Parliament for that. Their stooges - if the can fits, wear it - whether they are inside the Parliament or outside, are guilty of supporting the great steal of the Commonwealth Bank from the people of Australia.
What is the history of the Commonwealth Bank? It was set up by a Labour government, in 1910, under the leadership of Andy Fisher. Then came World War I., when Andy Fisher pledged the last man and the last shilling to England. He supplied the last shilling and still, through the great efforts of this socialistic institution,, we went through World War I. debt free. Of course, there was no private institution; to suck the life-blood out of our country. Then came a Liberal government. What happened? The Bruce-Page Government tried to destroy this institution, just as this Government is trying to destroy it now, but the Bruce-Page Government failed. Then came the great depression. The weakened Commonwealth Bank was powerless, due to a weak-kneed Liberal government.
Then we faced World War II. A miserly, measly, cringing Liberal government, under the present Prime Minister, walked out on its native land while the Japanese were knocking at the door of Port Moresby. Chifley was called in, Curtin was called in, and they called on the Commonwealth Bank. They financed World War II., and saw it through to a successful conclusion. They did not run away from the Japanese as the Prime Minister did; they stood their ground and asked the trade unions of Australia to assist them. The trade unions were loyal. They stood behind the Prime Minister at that time and defeated the Japanese hordes. When we finished the war, we found that Ben Chifley and John Curtin, plus the Commonwealth Bank, had brought us through again without borrowing from any outside institutions. But to-day, fifteen short years after the end of World War II., what do we find? In 1949, we were debt free. Another Liberal government took office, another tragedy descended on Australia, and now we owe America 400,000.000 dollars.
– What has this to do with banking?
– If the weed does not know, I tell him that all those loans of millions of dollars had to be administered and negotiated through the Commonwealth Bank. Honorable members in the Liberal party and in the Australian Country party between them gained 47 per cent, of the aggregate votes at the last election. If they had not had the cringing, crawling support of the D.L.P., they would have been out. The Labour party, as a single entity, gained 46 per cent, of the aggregate votes, but due to maladministration and to very tricky skulduggery in moving the electoral boundaries and so forth - just as Playford did in South Australia - we find they are back on the treasury bench.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member to come (back to banking.
– The private banks to-day are not following the ordinary practices of banking. I was only a plain boilermaker when I came into this House, and I listened to the great intelligentsia. I listened to-day with rapt attention, but what did I hear? Nothing at all was said about banking, simply because honorable members opposite do not understand it. The private banks to-day are not following the ordinary functions of banking. Homes, water conservation, forest conservation, irrigation and ether public works are needed, but what are the banks doing about it? They say that would be socialism. Of course, any works and services that are not of immediate profit must be handed over to socialists. However, when we come to the hirepurchase field, we find that, because there is an immediate profit, the vultures of private banking have entered the field. They want to be in this because there are large profits in it. What does the Government do? It clamps down on the powers of the Commonwealth Bank and will not allow it to operate in this lucrative field. In 1951, the Government said that the Commonwealth Bank had had enough, and since then we find that the private banks have had an open go in the hire-purchase field.
– How do you spell “ hire “?
– Let honorable members who denounce and make violent attacks on the Labour party listen to something that they may understand, especially the weed who wants to know how to spell “ hire “. He thinks it is “ ire “, but it is not.
The private banks are most interested in the hire-purchase field because it is very lucrative. Plenty of money has been made in it. As my colleague, the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) said, refrigerators, cars and all sorts of equip ment are being sold but the people have not the homes in which to put them. They may get a car, but they have no garage. They may get a refrigerator, but they have no home in which to put it. According to the Liberal party’s philosophy, that is fair competition.
A boy and girl want to get married. If they cannot go home to live with mum and dad, they cannot get married. If they go to their local bank manager and ask for a loan to enable them to build a house what does he say? He tells them that the board of the bank is clamping down on loans and restricting finance. He says he is sorry but he cannot lend them any money. But a hire-purchase racketeer can get it. The National Bank of Australasia, the Bank of New South Wales and the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney are all in the lurk, and it is a good lurk, too! It gives them 15 per cent., 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, profit while the ordinary man and woman, hankering after a home, have to put up with all sorts of inconveniences. They try to rear children in one room and do everything possible to keep out of the divorce court. The honorable member for Balaclava knows all about that.
There are no fancy frills about banking. There are no mysteries about the banking racket, although the newspapers weave great mysteries around the bankers. The only mystery about the bankers is where they come from and where they go to. Whose money do they handle? It is not commonly known that the operators of the private banks could close their doors tomorrow and confiscate the funds of their clients without any excuses whatever, but the Commonwealth Bank is safe. Tt is as safe as its name - the Commonwealth. The savings of every Australian are safe in the Commonwealth Bank, but the private banks could be gone with the wind to-morrow without any argument or any questions to be answered. Some honorable members might remember the great bank closure of the 1930’s when a bank was closed down and the people were robbed of their savings. The day after the bank closed, big advertisements were published in the newspapers stating, “Your bank book will be bought for 12s. 6d. in the £1 “. The shrewdies were in but the poor working man, and his daughter or son who were saving to be married, were robbed of all they had. History could repeat itself, and it will repeat itself while we have antiLabour governments on the treasurybench.
There has been cold-blooded robbery of the people’s savings through the trading banks over the years. They spend the people’s money without limit to get their ill-gotten gains. They advertise to induce the people to put more money in the banks, but they never tell the people that their money is unsafe while it is in the grip of the private banks. I advise all those who have money in the private banks to remove it as quickly as possible and place it in the Commonwealth Bank, where it is safe. The private trading banks are responsible for misery and poverty that have accrued over the years. In the 1930’s, farmers went on the dole and remained on the dole until Ben Chifley and John Curtin took them off it early in the war years. The farmers were getting ls. a bushel for their wheat and 3d. or 4d. per lb. for their wool. Surely members of the Australian Country party remember those days when the private banks were taking all they earned!
I appeal to the people of Australia not to permit this filching of a great institution. The Government even proposes to change the name of the Commonwealth Bank. We were proud of its name. It was the great bulwark of the Australian nation. Now that name is to be wiped out and the Commonwealth Bank is to be called the Reserve Bank which means nothing at all. Why do Government supporters want to change the name? What have they to hide? As the honorable member for Ryan (Mr. Drury) said: What have they to be afraid of? The people of Australia would think more of them if they were straightforward, came out into the open and told the people what they intended to do. Fair competition, in the eyes of the Government, is no competition at all. When it breaks up all the competition, up will go the interest rates. Everybody will come within the grasp of the private banks and that will mean a repetition of the 1930’s.
I walked the streets on the dole during the depression. There are 100,000 in Australia to-day on the dole already. If this Government remains in office much longer there will be 300,000 or 400,000 on the dole. In 1941, when the Second World War had been in progress for two years, there were 430,000 on the dole. The older members of the Liberal party cannot deny it. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) is new to his job. It has been passed over to him. Things were beginning to get tough and one Minister bundled that job to another. The Minister knows the situation even better than I do, and 1 go to the Commonwealth Employment Office every Monday morning to talk with these poor unfortunates who are lining up for £3 a week on which they have to keep their families. I got only 14s. a week. Unemployment is growing and the longer this Government and the private banks are in control, the more it will grow. I have no axe to grind. I tell the facts as I see them.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I do not intend to answer all the points that have been made by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) nor do I intend to try to match his voice in volume because I think that is a trait he has to himself. First, I should like to speak in defence of those “ parasites “ with whom he accuses us of associating in the lobbies. They are the men from the institutions that he calls the free enterprise banks. They have every right to come here to defend their rights. We have only to think back to 1947 when the Australian Labour party tried to nationalize the banks and to clamp down on everything they owned and had developed over the years. Have they not a right to defend themselves? If anybody becomes involved with the trade unions and members of the Opposition do not like it, do they not fight to maintain their rights? The private banks are doing just that. They have as much right to send their representatives here to defend them as any one else does.
I would also like to reply to the charge of the honorable member for KingsfordSmith that we are selling out the Commonwealth Bank just as we sold out Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, Amalgamated Wireless (A/asia) Limited, the Commonwealth whaling station and the Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool. It is not our policy to own enterprises that produce goods. It is the policy of this Government to own only those undertakings that supply services, such as the Government airline.
– Banking is a service.
– We own the Commonwealth Bank, and we do not intend to -sell it.
– Was not Commonwealth Oil Refineries providing a service?
– No, it was producing goods. The Post Office provides a service and we do not intend to sell that organization. The same applies to the provision of radio and television services. Did we introduce the Television Bill and set up a national television service in order to sell out that service again at some future time?
There is another matter that I think I should reply to. We hear some of these Labour boys really scratching the bottom of the barrel, making insinuations about the leader of the New South Wales Country party. I would like to remind some of these honorable members of what took place about fourteen months ago when the original banking legislation was being considered by this Parliament. What did the members of the Labour party do then? They dragged a sick man out of bed and took him into the Senate chamber in order to defeat the legislation. Yet they accused us of being merciless and of having no consideration for a sick man. Where are their humane dignities for a sick person?
– What about Hughes? Has he got a degree fair dinkum?
– Let him answer for himself when he recovers - but you will not give him a chance. I think, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that it is time I got back to the bill. I welcome this bill. It means, first, that we will have a true central bank in this country. The central bank will be separated from the trading and savings banks and from the mortgage and industrial finance sections of the banking structure. For years the board and Governor of the Commonwealth Bank have been in rather an ambiguous position. They have had to turn their minds to the lofty problems of credit control, and have also had to try to win custom for their trading and savings banks. I am glad to see that this anomaly will now be eliminated and the central bank will be able to perform its proper function.
We will also have a genuine Commonwealth Trading Bank operating in fair and honest competition with all comers. I know that some honorable members in this House abhor competition, especially in the banking world. Though they will not often admit it, they believe in monopoly banking, and they believe in monopoly banking in its worst form. They believe in a government monopoly in banking, with all the sloth, inefficiency and petty tyranny that can and would creep into a banking bureaucracy more surely and insidiously than into any other monopoly. Nothing could more surely strangle free enterprise than a noncompetitive government banking monopoly.
I say, therefore, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the bills now before the House constitute a momentous step forward in developing a sound system of truly competitive banking in Australia. They will serve to separate the Reserve Bank, with its central bank functions, clearly and definitely from the trading and savings banks.
I am aware, of course, that those who are adverse to competitive banking do not have the hardihood to advocate monopoly banking as such. They say, “ Let us nationalize the banks “, or, in more recent jargon, “ Let us apply the principles of democratic socialism to banking and all that goes with it “. Whatever phrase they use, it still means that there could be only one bank, run by the Government, run by a banking bureaucracy, run as a bureaucratic government monopoly in banking. I welcome these bills as a sure safeguard against this calamitous proposal. This legislation will ensure free enterprise in banking, providing a wide range of banking facilities, where initiative, service and efficiency alone will enable any bank to survive. Under this system a bank can survive only on its merits. No bank has the right to become a monopoly.
Honorable members on the Opposition side have said, “ Why should these functions be separated? Why cannot the bank remain as one organization? “ My personal view is that if an amount of £1,000,000,000 is tied up with the central bank, then surely that bank deserves its own management. We must have an expert body of men to deal with the very delicate problems of credit control and to decide whether our currency should be adjusted or not. When they are considering credit control, they must take into account, for instance, the employment position. They must give consideration to our overseas balances. Suppose it is decided to release more credit. This in turn will cause some inflation. When we have inflation, there is a greater demand for consumer goods and a heavier drain on overseas reserves, and, of course, these reserves must be safeguarded. But even after considering all these matters, it may still be considered wise to release credit in order to relieve unemployment. These are very lofty and weighty problems, and we must have experts to look into them. We cannot have a definite rule as to the correct principles of central banking. A central bank must formulate its policy from day to day, and it must be controlled by persons whose efforts are centred wholly and solely on ensuring that Australia’s economy is maintained in a sound condition.
Provision is to be made for a Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank. I am very pleased to see that the legislation provides for the funds of this department to be increased by £2,000,000. There is already an amount of £2,714,000 available to the department, and this will be increased by almost 50 per cent. The purpose of the Rural Credits Department is to advance money to agricultural organizations so that producers can be paid immediately for their products. They will not have to wait for six or eight months, after selling their products to a marketing organization, until they are sold overseas. Last year the existing Rural Credits Department advanced up to £35,000,000, while in the previous year, because there was a greater volume of products sent to overseas countries, the amount advanced was £42,000,000. It is also interesting to note that the Rural Credits Department advances this money to agricultural organizations, cooperative societies and the like at 4 per cent, interest, which is a very much more favorable rate than they could secure through the normal banking channels.
Last year the Rural Credits Department made a profit of £184,000. Some of this money went to the Commonwealth Sinking Fund, while the rest of it was given to agricultural research organizations. An amount of £103,000 was granted in this way to 35 organizations, which were engaged in research and extension work, connected with fruit canning, fruit fly,, myxomatosis, small dam construction,, pasture improvement and the like. In my own electorate we have a problem of declining soil fertility, and the Rural Credits. Department of the Commonwealth Bank gave us about £5,000 to help overcome the problem.
Last night I listened .with keen interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Dr. Evatt). I heard him again using blackguarding tactics to try to damage the prestige of the private savings banks. He quoted from a lecture given by Dr. Coombs, a few weeks ago. He stated, quoting Dr. Coombs, that in 1953 when liquidity was running excessively high, the central bank had asked the trading banks to reduce their overdrafts or to maintain them at the lowest possible level. He went on to say that, before inflation could be stopped, three years had passed and that Dr. Coombs accused certain tanks, during that time, of lending up to £100,000,000 in excess of the amount that they should have lent. However, a little further on in his speech, the Leader of the Opposition praised the great develpoment of the Commonwealth Bank and said that between 1953 and 1958 advances by the Trading Bank rose by 81 per cent., whereas those of the private banks rose by only 21 per cent. That clearly indicates that, although during a short period, the private banks may haveadvanced more money than the Commonwealth Trading Bank, the Commonwealth Trading Bank must have let its head go before or after that period. So, it was not helping very much to curb inflation.
The right honorable member for Hunter made out that the Government banks were the only responsible banks. The private banks and the Commonwealth Trading Bank all have a policy of not advancing more than 60 per cent, of their deposits. But what percentage of deposits is advanced by the Rural Bank of New South Wales? At present, it is advancing up to 150 per cent of its deposits. That is complete irresponsibility by a government bank. Worse still, it advances money at a dead loss.
– Where did you get those figures?
– 1 am speaking from memory. The deposits with the Rural Bank are about £43,000,000 and the advances are about £58,000,000.
– You have a bad memory. The figures are not accurate.
– You check them. The State Auditor-General criticized the Rural Bank very severely for having advanced money to the brick-works in Sydney. Yet it is said that these wonderful, responsible Government banks never do anything wrong!
The object of this bill is to try to prevent any Labour government from strangling or suffocating the private banks. This could be done by administrative means such as the manipulation of the special accounts. The Commonwealth Bank could apply higher rates to some banks than to others. Also, it could channel vast amounts of money from the Commonwealth Savings Bank into the Trading Bank. This would be quite unfair to the private banks because, under the present law, 70 per cent, of the deposits in the private savings banks have to be invested in Government bonds or local government loans and all but a small percentage of the other 30 per cent, has to go to such activities as housing.
This bill also aims to prevent a government, by executive action, from channelling funds from trust accounts into the Commonwealth Bank. Under this legislation the Government will try to ensure even competition between the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private trading banks. In order to do this, it will oblige the Commonwealth Bank to pay taxes. At present, the Commonwealth Bank pays no taxes and it is free to use its profit in. building up its business.
– What is wrong with that?
– If the private banks have to pay taxes, why should the Commonwealth Bank not pay tax?
– Because it is the people’s bank.
– Are the private banks not the people’s banks? Banks are made up only of the deposits that are put into them. That is the only strength of a bank. The Government also intends that the law relating to reserve accounts shall apply equally to every bank. If a future Labour government wants to alter that provision it will have to do so by introducing a bill into this Parliament.
The Government is seeking to make fairer provisions in relation to the savings banks. Under these measures, every savings bank, whether a private bank or the Commonwealth Savings Bank, will be allowed to keep £2,000,000 of its deposits plus 2i per cent, of any amount that it holds over £2,000,000. The Government will also try to bring about fair and even competition between the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the private banks by separating the central bank from the trading functions of the Commonwealth Bank. The central bank could have a lot of influence in helping the Trading Bank. It could warn the Trading Bank of impending credit restrictions so that it could push money out; or, with its vast resources, the central bank could channel money into the Commonwealth Trading Bank.
Government supporters have been told by the Opposition that their policy has always been to weaken the Commonwealth Bank. Statistics clearly show that we have not succeeded if that is so. Indeed, we have made it very much stronger. Under this bill, we shall add another £5,000,000 to the capital of the Commonwealth Bank. Surely that will make it very much stronger still. Whereas in 1950 there were 423 branches of the Commonwealth Bank, there are now 649 branches. Commonwealth Savings Bank branches and agencies in 1950 totalled 4,642; now, there are 6,844 - an increase of almost 33 per cent. Deposits have risen tremendously. In 1950, £84,000,000 was deposited in the Commonwealth Trading Bank. That figure has now risen to £273,000,000. Advances, too, have increased very considerably. In 1950, the Commonwealth Trading Bank’s advances totalled £62,500,000. The present figure is £118,000,000. These figures clearly indicate that the strength of the Commonwealth Trading Bank has grown considerably. We hope that it will continue to grow, but in fair competition with the private banks.
Deposits in the Commonwealth Savings Bank have increased to £200,000,000. This is an effective answer to the criticism by the Leader of the Opposition who said that the entry of the private banks into the savings field would take money away from the Commonwealth Savings Bank. So far as the Trading Bank is concerned, under this legislation, there will be very little change. Its powers and functions and services will remain the same. Its capital will be increased by 37 per cent. - that is by £5,000,000- and it will be given its own general manager to look after its affairs.
The Savings Bank will be changed slightly. The bill will give it an identity of its own. It will have its own manager. The loans mentioned in the legislation will apply to all savings banks whether Commonwealth or private. The Government proposes that more money will be directed towards housebuilding. Is anything wrong with that? Last year ‘the Opposition in another place twice rejected legislation similar to this - once without even debating it. Yet it was designed to provide more houses for those hundreds of thousands of people whom the Opposition claims are homeless. These measures will enable savings bank money to be devoted to the erection of new homes or to the purchase of new homes. They will also ensure that money that is lent for home-building will be lent at the lowest practicable interest rate. Furthermore, they will increase percentage advances against security. Previously, building societies which borrowed money from the Savings Bank could only advance up to 85 per cent, of the security. Under this bill, it will be possible to advance up to 90 per cent, of the security. Furthermore, the bill will enable this money to be repaid on Credit Foncier terms. That means they will have to pay it back in set allotments, either quarterly or half yearly, the interest and capital being paid back in the one instalment. We are making sure also that they get very reasonable terms. They can obtain an advance for between five and 35 years for the building of a house.
Then we come to this new bank, something completely fresh in the history of Australia, the Development Bank. It will consist of the Industrial Finance Department and the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank. The money which the Development Bank will take over from them will amount to about £11,000,000. With their reserve accounts this sum will be built up to abo.it £15,000,000. The Reserve Bank will provide another £5,000,000 so that the Development Bank will have in all about £20,000,000 with which to operate. I am not very happy about that sum. I think it is far too small for the job that this bank will have to do and I hope that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in his wisdom, will find ways and means of seeing that more money is quickly channelled into the Development Bank to be lent out for the various functions that it needs to perform.
Perhaps some slight alteration could be made in the allotment of Commonwealth Savings Bank deposits. At present 70 per cent, of these have to go into Government bonds. Perhaps that proportion could be lowered to 60 per cent, and 10 per cent, devoted to the purposes of the Development Bank.
Rumours have been flying about that Sir Arthur Fadden may take the job of chairman. I hope that he does, because somebody will be needed there with plenty of fight and go to see that sufficient money is channelled into this bank.
– Which position is this?
– Chairman of the Development Bank. He could use his influence and see that sufficient money is channelled into it.
– I thought he was too sick and had to retire.
– No, he has been gardening for months and has built up a great store of energy.
– He has already seen to it that money is channelled into the private banks for hire purchase and lent at high interest rates.
– Maybe he will be able to channel more money into the Development Bank.
– It is a pity he is not a bachelor of science.
– It is like the honorable member for East Sydney to grovel around in the bottom of the barrel but 1 will not answer pipsqueaks.
– I direct attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed].
– I thank the honorable member for East Sydney for gathering me an audience. Previously no one was listening to the few good points I was making. The Development Bank will be a specialized bank for the purpose of helping the struggling man who cannot get money through normal banking channels. He will be able to secure it from the Development Bank. A young man might want to start off on a farm but because his father has an overdraft on his own farm he would not have a ghost of a chance to help his son to get established. In such circumstances a young man with experience, knowledge and ability will be able to go to the Development Bank and obtain an advance. But unless the Development Bank has adequate funds it will be nothing more than a larger edition of the former mortgage bank.
– What is wrong with your free enterprise banks helping?
– When the Development Bank is well established and is operating successfully it is very possible that the free enterprise banks will engage in similar business. Some honorable members opposite have suggested that there should not be a Development Bank because the risk of lending money to people without any security is too great. Under the agricultural occupations provisions of the Reestablishment and Employment Act money was lent to ex-servicemen. A few years after the war a total of £10.163,670 was advanced to ex-servicemen sometimes on first mortgage, sometimes on second mortgage and sometimes without any equity at all. The responsible officers of the War Service Land Settlement Division made advances of that kind purely on their assessment of the character of the applicant. Since those loans were made a total of £8.438,970 principal has been repaid by the borrowers. Bad debts which have arisen through the lending of that total sum represent only £13,742. That is a very small proportion of £10,000,000. The total amount outstanding is £1,711,202. Much of that money was lent without security. The Development Bank will perform a similar function and if it is staffed by wise and capable officers they will be able to lend money with adequate discretion and be certain that not many bad debts are incurred. Possibly there will be some bad debts. Who can tell whether a plague of grasshoppers may come or whether disease may ruin a crop or drought or flood will devastate a farmer’s property?
I shall conclude by stating my opinion of the entire banking structure in this country. It has been said that finance is the sinews of war. Finance and banking are the sinews of industry but they can only serve industry and enterprise in a free economy if they are operated in free and open competition.
– I think the House should be grateful to the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) for two pieces of rather important information. The first is that it is definitely the policy of the Government parties to weaken the Commonwealth Bank.
– He did not say that.
– The honorable member did say that. He said it is the policy of the Government parties to weaken the Commonwealth Bank although they have not been very successful so far. He added that last part rather regretfully. It was interesting also to hear him say that Sir Arthur Fadden is to be chairman of the Development Bank. That is certainly interesting information and might reveal the reason why the Australian Country party is supporting this legislation. One would naturally have expected the Country party to oppose a proposition such as this, which can only strengthen those concerns that have battened on the people whom Country party members pretend to represent. And in any event I would-
– I desire to take a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is an honorable member permitted to twist another member’s speech so as to make it appear that the other member said things in this House that he did not say?
– There is no substance in the honorable gentleman’s point of order.
– Let me say that Sir Arthur Fadden, bad as he may be, by comparison with many that I could mention from this side of the House, would be very much better and certainly far more honest than some of the people who are likely to be appointed to the controlling board of both the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and of the Reserve Bank. Having looked .at the names of some of the people that this Government has appointed to the present Commonwealth Rank Board, I have no hesitation in saying that Sir Arthur Fadden would be a very great improvement upon those people, both in regard to ability and in regard to honesty and integrity.
I want to refer at once to the personnel of the existing Commonwealth Bank Board. I start off with Mr. G. H. Grimwade. I took the trouble a moment ago to find out who Mr. Grimwade was, and to discover what special qualifications he had to justify his appointment to the Commonwealth Bank Board, which puts him in a position to control the people’s bank, presumably in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth of Australia. So I picked up Jobson’s Investment Digest from the Library and looked up the name of Mr. Grimwade.
I found that, as well as being a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board - this will show how independent this gentleman is, and how much he is concerned with the welfare of the people of Australia and of the Commonwealth Bank - he is a member of the board of the Australian Mutual Provident Society. When he goes to a meeting of the A.M.P. board of directors he sits right next to Mr. V. C. Fairfax, who is a director of the Bank of New South Wales. Is it not certain that while Mr. Grimwade is sitting alongside Mr. Fairfax at meetings of the A.M.P. board he is whispering to Mr. Fairfax propositions concerning the Bank of New South Wales and decisions that will benefit the Bank of New South Wales? What do you think Fairfax and Grimwade talk about when they sit together on the A.M.P. board? Perhaps they talk about the Sydney Exchange Company, because Fairfax is also on the directorate of the Sydney Exchange Company. Perhaps they do not talk about that because perhaps, having satisfied their requirements with regard to the Bank of New South Wales and the Sydney Exchange Company, Mr. Fairfax then turns to the financial interests of John Fairfax Limited, of which he is also a director.
Having moved on from the A.M.P. Society, of which Mr. Grimwade is a director, let us look at one of the other companies which he directs - Commonwealth Industrial Gases Limited. When he attended a meeting of the directorate of Commonwealth Industrial Gases Limited, he used to sit alongside Sir Sydney Snow, who was a director of other big financial interests, the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Limited and General Industries Limited. Of course, it is obvious that every time Sir Sydney Snow and Grimwade met each other on the directorate of Commonwealth Industrial Gases Limited, Grimwade would be a willing tool in the hand? of the companies represented by Sir Sydney Snow. That is the reason why he is there. The Government cannot deny it. That is the reason the Government put him there. It put him there because it knows that so long as it puts men of the calibre of Grimwade, who is up to his back teeth in all the crooked business deals of this country, on the Commonwealth Bank Board, the big financial interests of Australia will be properly protected.
– I suggest, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that there are some canons of decency that should be observed in this place. I understand that Sir Sydney Snow is deceased, and I think it is quite improper to reflect on him in this fashion. As to Mr. Geoffrey Grimwade, I know him to be a most valuable and public-spirited member of the Commonwealth Bank Board.
– Order! The point of order cannot be upheld. However, I think it might be advisable for the honorable member for Hindmarsh to keep in mind when he is speaking certain points raised in the point of order.
– Now let us have another look at the membership of the Commonwealth Bank Board. The Government does not want to hear the story of Grimwade, the man that they appointed to control the people’s bank, and for a very good reason. I have not yet finished with Mr. Grimwade. I have dealt with only two of the companies that he directs.
He is also a director of Courtaulds (Australia) Limited. And here another very interesting association takes place, because he sits alongside Mr. R. J. Vicars as a director of Courtaulds (Australia) Limited. And who do you think Vicars is? Let us have a look at this associate of this independent gentleman, Grimwade. He is none other than a director of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney Limited. As well as being a director of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney, and to show that he is no piker in the financial world, we find that he is also a director of United Insurance Company Limited and also, in case the members of that board get thirsty, a director of Tooth and Company Limited.
– What a racket!
– “ Racket “ is putting it mildly. The Government knows it is a racket and the people should know it is a racket. This legislation is seeking an extension of a racket that already exists. But it goes further than that. We look more closely and we find that Mr. Grimwade is no mean character, because he is also a director of Cuming Smith and Company Limited. When he attends a meeting of the directorate of that company he sits shoulder to shoulder with Mr. M. A. Cuming, who is a director of Broken Hill Proprietary Limited, Imperial Chemical Industries, and Commonwealth Fertilisers.
What a wonderful appointment this is for the wealthy interests that control the people who sit opposite us in this House! But as well as being a director of those companies, this gentleman is also a director of Drug Houses of Australia Limited, which has a monopoly control over practically the whole of the patent drugs and medicines manufactured in Australia to-day. It is very interesting how this Government has given special consideration, through the Department of Health, to the patent medicines and drugs which are manufactured by Drug Houses of Australia Limited.
But. the story does not end there!* He is also, this same gentleman, a director of Perpetual General Insurance and Guarantee Company Limited, and on that body sits alongside Mr. L. F. Miller, who is a director of the Victorian Insurance Company Limited.
I will not deal so completely with all the members of the present Commonwealth Bank Board, but I shall mention the names of the rest of them in order to indicate that they are also linked with the big business interests of this country. Linked as they are with the big business interests of this country, they then go to the Commonwealth Bank Board meetings and there conspire - and I use the word advisedly - to destroy the Commonwealth Bank, they conspire to weaken the interests of the people, and they conspire to benefit the financial interests that they represent, or which their friends represent.
– But Bert Evatt said the bank was making real progress under vigorous and active leadership.
– I know why you are so terribly upset over this. I wish that the Standing Orders did not preclude me from telling the House why it is you are so vocal on behalf of the private trading banks. I only wish that I were free under the Standing Orders to tell the Parliament why you are so vocal on behalf of the private trading banks. It would be one of the most revealing revelations ever given in the Parliament of this Commonwealth. Then the Government would know why you were so busy-
– Order! I remind the House that it is getting slightly unruly, and I may be forced to take action. I would suggest that the House come to order.
– As I was pointing out, if I were free to tell the story the Government would know why you are so busy in the lobbies of this Parliament-
– On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is the honorable member for Hindmarsh in order in addressing an honorable member instead of addressing the Chair?
– I remind the honorable member for Hindmarsh that he should address the Chair in debate.
– I am pleased. “ Hansard “ may not have known, but I was referring to the honorable member for Macarthur (Mr. Jeff Bate). I turn now to another person who is a member of the board - Mr. W. A. Gunn. He is one of the wealthiest investors in the Commonwealth, and a director of Rothmans. Then, there is none other than the famous Professor Hytten who, at a meeting of the Liberal party not so very long ago, made the statement that he believed the ideal position for Australia was to have a permanent pool of unemployed equal to 10 per cent, of the work force. This gentleman, who publicly declared that the unemployed pool in Australia should never be less than 10 per cent, of the work force, is a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board charged with the responsibility, not of keeping the unemployed pool at 10 per cent., but of operating in the best interests and for the welfare of the Commonwealth of Australia. Mr. A. E. Symons is another gentleman with outside interests. Waters Holdings Limited is a concern in which he is interested.
Some people opposite have said that they have a mandate to introduce this legislation. That is not true. Only once in the Prime Minister’s policy speech ‘ did he refer to the banking legislation. It was not mentioned again on the hustings. It did not play a part in any of the Liberal party’s advertisements and, in any event, the very brief reference in the Prime Minister’s speech to the banking legislation did not mention that the bills which were to be presented would be drastically different from those which were brought into the House last year. They have been altered in a very important respect. Thanks to the lobbying of gentlemen like the honorable member for Macarthur and other backbenchers, including the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler) who is, as we know, a very important and influential member of the Sydney Stock Exchange, a new provision has crept into the bills that we are now discussing; a provision which will make it permissible - indeed, mandator)’ - for the Government to appoint the private banks as agents for the Development Bank.
– They always have been.
– They have not always been agents. Under this proposal it is mandatory. If they apply to be appointed as agents, the Government has no alternative but to appoint them. I know the reason why this is being done. The private trading banks, having seen the legislation first proposed, said to their people on the Government side, “ Look here! If you let the Development Bank be established on this basis, it will give to the Commonwealth Bank the right to take over accounts and business now in the hands of private trading banks before ordinary Development Bank business is transacted.” Is it not fair enough that if a farmer, who is unable to meet his obligations, and cannot get accommodation from private trading banks, and is compelled, therefore, to go to the new Development Bank and who has an account with the Bank of Adelaide, the Bank of New South Wales, or any other private trading bank, the Commonwealth Development Bank should have the right to say to him, “We will require you to transfer your account from the private trading bank to the Commonwealth Bank, if you expect the Commonwealth Bank to meet your other commitments “?
Can you imagine any private trading bank allowing a man an overdraft or a loan, if he did not have an account with it? Imagine going to a private trading bank and saying, “I have an account with the Commonwealth Bank, which I want to keep with the Commonwealth Bank. Will you allow me an overdraft, because the Commonwealth Bank will not give it to me “! Can you imagine any private bank saying, “Oh, yes. That is O.K. We will give you an overdraft, and you can go on banking with the Commonwealth Trading Bank, if you wish “? The first thing a private bank would do would be to demand that the account with the Commonwealth Trading Bank be transferred to the private bank. That is normal banking business, and I do not oppose it. I think it is only right that if a bank, whether it be privately or governmentowned, is able to provide financial accommodation for some one who cannot get accommodation elsewhere, that person ought not to continue to keep his account with one bank while he is borrowing from another.
There is no doubt that the purpose of this bill is to kill the Commonwealth Bank managerially. The legislation has not been asked for by the Treasury advisers. It has not been asked for by the people. It has not been requested by the staff of the Commonwealth Bank, nor by the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. To my knowledge, no one other than the private trading banks has requested the legislation that is now being considered.
– Now, you are wrong. What about the whole of the Liberal party? Were its members not united in asking for these changes? It was a 99 per cent. vote.
– Now we find that it was not the people who represent the Commonwealth Bank, or the customers, or the staff, but it was the Liberal party.
– And the Country party.
– Nobody but the Liberal party and the Country party, and it is important to remember that that means the parliamentary members of the Country party and of the Liberal party, because the farmers have not asked for the legislation, r.nd the people who vote for the Liberal party have not asked for it, other than that minute section of the voters consisting of directors of private banking institutions and hire-purchase companies.
What is the set-up of this strange proposal? The Government seeks to establish, first, something which it is pleased to call a Reserve Bank Board. It will consist of the governor, the deputy governor, Sir Roland Wilson, and seven other members to be appointed by the Government. I can imagine that those seven members will be men of the Grimwade type. If they are not directly connected with the private banking interests, they will be just as effectively connected by indirect links as if they themselves were sitting on the boards of the private banks with which the Commonwealth Bank is supposed to be in competition.
It should never be forgotten that the members of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems, on which the late Ben Chifley sat as a commissioner, unanimously agreed that it was a correct function of the Commonwealth Bank to act as a trading bank, a reserve bank, and a savings bank, under one directorate. The commission’s recommendation was that the bank should so act. It recommended that the reserve or central bank activities of the Commonwealth Bank be not separated from the savings and trading bank activities. It recommended that central banking activities, which will be principally those of the Reserve Bank, should be tied up with the activities of the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank under one organization.
– When was that?
– That was recommended by the commission in 1937 or 1933 - I cannot recall when.
– Your dates are wrong.
– The dates do not matter. There was only one royal commission on banking, and that is the one to which I am referring.
– It was 28 years ago.
– That does not matter. It is what it recommended that matters.
In addition to the Reserve Bank Board this Government proposes that there will be established what is to be called a Commonwealth Banking Corporation Board, consisting of a managing director - I thought for a while that he might be Sir Arthur Fadden, but our honorable friend (Mr. Anthony) tells us that he will have a post in the Development Bank - a deputy managing director, Sir Roland Wilson again, and eight other persons. Then, as though being fair to the Commonwealth Bank, it is proposed that none of the eight other persons will be directly - the word “ directly “ is important - associated with any of the private trading banks, or with the Commonwealth Bank. The last part of the exclusion is the only part that will be carried out, because though the eight men who are to be appointed may not be associated directly with the private banking system of Australia they will be just as effectively connected with the private trading banks as is Mr. Grimwade, through his associations with other people who are directly associated with them.
– The same position will arise as arose in England.
– As the honorable member for Bass says, the same position will arise as arose in England last year, where a member of the Bank of England, who was also a director of other financial institutions, said that when he decided, as a director of the Bank of England, to alter the exchange rate, he then went along and told the directors of a private company.
– That is a lie, and you know it. You should withdraw it.
– There is no doubt about it.
– You are now not prepared to be accurate. The royal commission completely absolved him.
– He said to the tribunal, “ I found myself torn between two loyalties - my loyalty to the Bank of England board and my loyalty to the shareholders of the private shows that I directed at the same time “. Is it not a strange thing that if he did not tell his private associates they made an amazingly clever guess? Before the decision was made, the company of which this gentleman was a director went to the stock exchange, unloaded its shares and holdings in various financial institutions, and reaped a handsome reward of more than £1,000,000. Would not the same thing happen here? Does anybody imagine that there are any ethics, any integrity or any honour in the business world in this country or any other country? Of course there is not! There is absolutely no honour in the business world in Australia or in any other country. Business interests know no honour. They know no other god but money, and they will do anything that will give them money, no matter who is impoverished as a result. That is why the Australian Labour party has always said that the Commonwealth Bank should be controlled by a governor; by one person who shall be at all times answerable to the Parliament - to the people’s representatives who are elected to this Parliament to look after their interests.
I want to deal now with another matter. This Government, far from following the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems to place the central bank, the trading bank and the savings bank under one organization, not only has separated the central bank from the trading bank, but has separated the savings bank from the trading bank as well.
– Rightly, too.
– “ Rightly,” says the Minister. But is the Government prepared to bring down legislation to separate the private savings banks from the private trading banks? Is it prepared to tell the Bank of New South Wales and the other private trading banks which conduct savings bank business also that they may not use the deposits from those savings banks for hire-purchase activities and for other banking facilities? Of course the Government is not prepared to do that, but that is what it should do. If the Government were fair and believed in fair competition, it would tell the private trading banks that the directors of those banks should have no say in the operations of the savings bank departments of the private trading banks. On the contrary, this Government is prepared to let the directors of the private trading banks control the activities of the savings bank branches of those banks, although it is not prepared to give the same facilities to the directors of the Commonwealth Bank.
I know what is going to happen. Mr. Armstrong - the greatest banking genius in this country and one of the greatest banking geniuses we have ever seen - he is going to be relegated to a relatively minor position. He will be dictated to by people who either know absolutely nothing about banking or - what is worse - are so corrupt and so completely tied up with the private trading banks that it will be utterly impossible for him to carry out his responsibilities conscientiously to the people of Australia. Under the banking legislation of 1945, there ought not to be other than a governor in complete control, and the managerial staff of the Commonwealth Bank should have complete control over the Savings Bank deposits of the Commonwealth Bank, in the same way that the managerial staffs of the private trading banks have control over the savings bank deposits of those banks.
– We all are corrupt, in the honorable member’s view.
– Thank you very much. I did not like to say it, because it would have been contrary to the Standing Orders for me to do so. But, so far as I am aware, there is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent you from describing yourself.
I want to turn now to one of the things that this Government has not attempted to do - that is, to deal with hire-purchase. The hire-purchase racket in Australia to-day is something which this Government should tackle. It may be true that the Commonwealth has not constitutional power directly to attack the menace of hire-purchase excess interest charges, but the Commonwealth Government, through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Bank, can attack the excess interest charges of the private hire-purchase companies by using the resources of the Commonwealth Bank to enter into active competition with the private trading banks in the hire-purchase field. The private trading banks are no longer bankers in the true sense of the word. They are nothing more or less than pawnbrokers, using the great bulk of their depositors’ reserves for hire-purchase transactions. The amount of private trading bank deposits being used for hire-purchase transactions has steadily increased until it has become almost as great as - and perhaps in a few years’ time it will be greater than - the sum used in normal banking transactions. The amount by which the people of Australia are now being robbed by means of excess charges on hire-purchase transactions is simply astronomical, and unless this Government does something about the matter before the three years of its term are up, the situation will have reached a stage at which it will be well nigh impossible to deal with it,
It is not generally known by people who enter into transactions of this kind that in a hire-purchase transaction at 10 per cent, interest, not 10 per cent., but really about 19 per cent, simple interest is paid.
This is what happens when a person borrows £120 to buy a refrigerator on monthly payments of £10: At the end of the first month, he pays off £10, and he then has only £110 of the original loan of £120. But he still pays interest at the rate of 10 per cent on the original £120. Let us skip the intervening months until we get to the eleventh month. At the end of that month, the borrower has left in his hand only £10 of the original loan of £120. Yet he is required still to pay interest at 10 per cent. - not on the £10 that he now has in his hands, but on the £120 that he had borrowed eleven months earlier. If that is not extortion of the worst kind, I do not know what is.
The people on the opposite side of the chamber are not so dumb as they look. They know that what I am saying is correct. They know it is correct, but they do absolutely nothing about it. Why? The simple reason is that they are not free. They are prisoners of the private banking system. They are prisoners of the financial institutions of this country.
– I rise to order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I should like to know whether the honorable member for Hindmarsh has been granted a dispensation from the force of Standing Order 78.
– There is no substance in the point of order taken by the honorable member.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have said enough to satisfy the Parliament that there is a deliberate attempt by this Government to destroy the people’s bank. The honorable member for Richmond said so. He said that it is the Government’s aim to weaken the Commonwealth Bank. He said, also, that it is the aim of the Government to appoint Sir Arthur Fadden to the bank. So that it will not be misunderstood, I repeat that I would rather see Sir Arthur Fadden in charge of the Commonwealth Bank than Grimwade and some of the other crooks that the Government has appointed to control the Commonwealth Bank.
– On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker: I take grave exception to the statement that Mr. Grimwade is a crook and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Order! The point of order is not upheld. The remark was directed at somebody outside the House. The honorable member’s time has » expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation on two points.
– Does the honorable member claim that he has been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been. The honorable member for Hindmarsh stated that I had said it was the policy of this Government to weaken the Commonwealth Bank. What I said was that the Opposition made out that that was our policy. I said that if it had been our policy we had made a very poor job of it, and I proved conclusively that we had.
Dealing with Sir Arthur Fadden, I said that it was rumoured that he was to be appointed chairman of the Commonwealth Development Bank.
– As a pay-off.
– I did not say “ as a pay-off “. I said that he would be a suitable man and that he had the sterling qualities needed by the chairman.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pearce) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. McMahon) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– After the fire-works to which the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Clyde Cameron) treated us, the subject that 1 want to raise may appear quiet and somewhat timid, but I believe that it is nonetheless important. For reasons that I will shortly explain, I feel sure that in the next few weeks, and at least before the end of the financial year, some action will be taken by the Government. I am directing my remarks to the composition of the Australian Wool Bureau. I do not think anybody would deny that up to six months or more ago, the Wool Bureau had not done a good job. It had come in for very severe criticism from all sections of the wool industry and from many other people in the community. Fortunately, in the last few months, there has been some very real evidence of a new energy and a new initiative being brought to the bureau. Under its present membership it appears that a good job will be done in the sphere of promotion and co-operation with all sections of the wool industry. It appears likely that there will be co-operation between the retailers, the manufacturers and the textile mills - something that has not existed in the past.
This change that has come about in the bureau is very largely due to criticism from many people in the community. The change has also been assisted by the new life that has been infused into the bureau by its present membership. There are reasons for the bureau’s past failures and we must be careful that the situations that caused those failures do not arise again in the future, thus causing the bureau to slip back into (he lethargy that characterized its existence for several years.
One of the matters affecting the bureau in the past was the general lethargy on the part of the wool trade. Up to a few years ago the wool-growers and the wool trade did not have to go out to sell their product. There were relatively few substitutes and what substitutes were available were not much good. To-day wool substitutes may not be much good, but they are actively promoted and the wool industry realizes fully that if it is to maintain or improve its position it must compete actively in the promotion field and must make a good job of it.
Another reason why the wool bureau did not in the past do a good job can be found in the composition of the bureau. There are seven members on the wool bureau. Six of them are people who grow wool and the other is a Government appointee. The six wool-growing members of the bureau are, I am sure, very good wool-growers, but that does not necessarily mean that they are experts in business practice or in the promotion of their product. 1 very strongly believe that new elements are needed on the bureau in addition to those that exist at the present time. Tha results of research will become increasingly important, and liaison between the research side of the industry and the promotional side will become more and more important as time goes on, so that the wool bureau may assist manufacturers to adopt the results of research more quickly than has been the case in the past. For that reason T should like to see on the bureau a representative of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Furthermore, I believe that commercial interests should be represented on the bureau. Those representatives should be men with business experience, and preferably men with personal knowledge of the wool trade itself. If that were done, I think that such men would probably need to be appointed, because it would be very difficult to achieve some system of election in that section of the trade that would be satisfactory. Those men could perhaps be appointed by the existing members of the wool bureau, in addition to a C.S.I. R.O. representative, subject to the approval of the Minister. Such an increase in the numbers on the bureau would not destroy the grower majority. The growers would still have their present quota of six members. In addition there would he the present government representative, and a representative from the C.S.I. R.O., plus three other representatives with commercial and business experience, preferably, as I have said, in the wool trade itself. There is some urgency about this matter, because the wool bureau is due for re-appointment at the end of this financial year. It would, therefore, be possible to make some moves in this direction before the wool bureau comes up for re-appointment. I believe that it is most important to act in this way in order to widen the interest and knowledge of the bureau itself. Only in this way will we make sure that present revival and interest in the work of the bureau is maintained for the future.
.- I desire to bring to the notice of the House the shabby treatment that has been meted out to aged persons and others, suffering from chronic and pre-existing ailments, who have joined a hospital benefits society in the belief that legislation passed by this Parliament late last year would give them some real benefit. I have waited some little time before raising this matter in the hope that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) would announce some rectification of the problems that have followed in the wake of the new legislation. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Sexton), soon after his election, led a deputation to the Minister in Adelaide. The deputation pointed out how the act was not providing the relief claimed for it when it was introduced. The legislation was introduced into this House in September, 1958. At that time the Government claimed that the legislation would extend medical and hospital benefits insurance to persons with chronic and pre-existing ailments. The legislation provided for the setting up of a special accounts fund benefit for the aged and those persons who suffered from those illnesses.
When introducing the legislation the Minister said that these members would become entitled to benefits from the special account regardless of the nature oi the illness, the length of the illness, or whether it was a condition from which they were suffering at the time they joined the fund. The daily press and registered hospital benefit organizations informed the public that additional hospital benefits would be paid to patients with chronic or preexisting illnesses. Early in November the Department of Health issued a leaflet which set out that these chronic and pre-existing illnesses would be recognized. The Department suggested that people who were not already members of hospital funds should join a fund. The literature had widespread distribution and people with chronic and pre-existing ailments, particularly aged people, hurriedly joined societies so that they would, as they thought, be protected.
But late in November, after the elections, copies of the National Health Act became available in Adelaide for the first time. The act listed hospitals that would be recognized for this particular purpose. It then became clear that most of the people who had joined hospital funds in the belief that they would receive some additional benefits would receive practically nothing at all, because the list of hospitals to which the funds did not apply included practically all the hospitals that were catering for these people. In fact, two glaring examples were the Northfield ward and the Magill ward of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Those wards deal almost exclusively with patients suffering from chronic ailments. They have paid money into the funds in the belief that they would receive a benefit. The Minister for Health declared when he introduced legislation that they would receive the benefit, and the Government has supported that contention in a pamphlet which has been widely distributed.
The big surgical hospitals will not take the chronic cases. The hospitals at present listed by the department look after urgent cases that flow in and out all the time, and people with chronic ailments and aged persons cannot be accommodated. I wrote to the Minister for Health a few weeks ago about a lady who broke her leg. Surely she was entitled to receive hospital attention, but she could not gain admission to any of the listed hospitals. However, she could be admitted to many hospitals that are not recognized by the fund. She was compelled to enter one of these hospitals and she received treatment. The result is that, although she is paying into a fund, she is not receiving any benefit. She can either withdraw from the fund or she can remain a member of it in the hope that this anomaly will be corrected. She is continuing to pay contributions, but the old people to-day cannot afford to pay these extra few shillings a week. It is up to the Minister for Health to make a statement on this matter at the earliest opportunity.
In February last, the “ Sunday Mirror “ published an article headed “ The trick about that 16s.”. It pointed out that the position I have mentioned was just a shabby trick put across the old people prior to an election and was very much on a par with the 10s. supplementary allowance that was introduced by the Government. I ask the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), who is now at the table, to bring under the notice of the Minister for Health the fact that chronically ill persons have been misled into joining an organization from which they cannot receive any benefit and to ask him either to state at the earliest opportunity that these people will not receive any benefit from the legislation, so that they may withdraw and save the contributions that they are paying, or give the necessary directions for the hospitals that I have mentioned to be listed.
.- I want briefly to support the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) concerning the Australian Wool Bureau. The honorable member for Wannon pointed out that we must act quickly if we are to do anything to reconstitute the bureau, because all the members retire on 30th June. If the act is to be altered, it must be altered during the current sessional period.
The honorable member mentioned that the bureau consisted of three wool-growers from the United Graziers’ Association, three wool-growers from the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation and one Government member. The nongovernment members are all wool-growers and are probably capable of doing a good job, but the job required of the wool bureau to-day is the promotion of the sale of wool. For that reason, I agree entirely with my colleague, the honorable member for Wannon, when he says that we must try to broaden the bureau by adding to its membership people who have a wider knowledge of the industry. The promotion of the sale of wool in itself requires much knowledge, and I am sure that the wool-growers would be the first to admit that they do not have that knowledge. Therefore, we should consider very seriously making some alteration to the act so that a person, perhaps from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, with technical knowledge, can be appointed to the bureau. The C.S.I.R.O. has done an excellent jo*” in the past few years in improving the standard of wool so that it is able to compete with man-made fibres, and has given us the advantages of moth-proofing, crease resistance, permanent pleating, and so on. A person with technical knowledge must be appointed to the bureau because it is the most important body in the wool industry in Australia. If we are to sell more wool, and so increase the return from wool sales, the bureau must take the initiative.
I agree with the honorable member for Wannon that a member of the C.S.I.R.O. should be appointed to the bureau and that the bureau should also include people who have knowledge in the retail or commercial side of selling wool. They can tell us which lines of wool are not being sold but are being beaten by the man-made fibres. The manufacturers can also tell us what is required and can confer with the research side of the C.S.I.R.O. and say what they want to learn from science. I am sure that nothing but good could come from an increase in the representation on the bureau. I ask the Government to look into this matter to see whether the board can be strengthened.
In the past, unfortunately, conflict has arisen between the members of the bureau. Some have felt that the chairmanship should rotate and that the head of one organization should occupy the position of chairman for one year and the head of the other organization should occupy the position for the following year. The result has been that we have not had the most able man in the position. I say that irrespective of who he is we should have the most able person at the head of the bureau. I do not feel that the present system has worked as it should. I am sorry that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) is absent in Queensland at present. This is such an important subject that we should get on to it straight away, and I am glad to see that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who was previously the Minister for Primary Industry, is in the chamber. I hope that the Government will consider broadening the scope of the Australian Wool Bureau. I am sure that the time has come when action along the lines that I have suggested should be taken. If anything is to be done, it must be done before 30th June next.
for his honest efforts over the last two years to make censorship more fluent, more humane, more streamlined and less secretive.
In December, 1957, the Minister announced an improved system of book censorship. The most revolutionary change was the publication of a list of banned books in the Government Gazette and in the press. One of the first evidences of a change of policy from sheer stuffiness to a more enlightened attitude by the board was the release of the banned book “ Camp Followers “, by Ugo Pirro, in December, 1957, within 48 hours of the matter being put before the Minister. On the generally changed attitude of the board, the “Daily Telegraph” on 23rd December, 1957, had this to say in an editorial -
Senator Henty, the Minister for Customs, deserves to be thanked for the forthright plans he is making to take the hush-hush away from the official list of banned books.
In response to his request for “ prompt action “ the Literary Censorship Board has made “substantial progress “ with its job of weeding out the absurdities and inconsistencies with which the official index bristles.
This monument to the idiocies and prejudices of the past is bad enough but even worse is the fact that, thanks to the old Star Chamber system of secret censorship, nobody except a few officials has ever been able to find out which books are the banned ones.
No doubt such a system enables petty bureaucrats to cover up their mistakes, but any form of censorship which refuses to let the public know what has been censored is completely indefensible.
That is an excellent commendation of the work that has been done by the Minister in that time. There are still 178 books on the banned list. An impartial glance through the titles is sufficient to show, even to a lay mind, why some of these books have been banned. Most of the authors are French, German, and nationals of other European countries. The chairman of the Literature Censorship Board is Mr. Kenneth Binns, who was formerly chief librarian of the Parliamentary Library. I have known him personally for many years. He is a fine and able man. His deputy is Professor E. R. Bryan, Professor of English Literature at the Royal Military College, Duntroon. The other members are Professor D. P. Scales, Professor of French at the Canberra University College: Mrs. R. A. Ellis, of Canberra, representing the Woman Graduates’ Association; and Dr. L. H. Allen, the appeals censor, and former lecturer in English at the University College. He was chairman of the board from 1939 until 1956.
Those who condemn this board outright must remember that we have a Film Censorship Board as well. I believe one is as necessary as the other. Recently there has been a storm over two banned books - “ Lolita “, by Vladimir Nabokov, and “ Borstal Boy “, by Brendan Behan. The first is a book about sex perversion. As to the second, I will quote the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). The report of his reply to criticism of the ban was published in the Sydney “ Daily Mirror”, of 26th February, in these words -
Censorship was absolutely necessary to protect the minds of Australian people against the contamination of much of the objectionable literature at present being published overseas, the Minister for Customs (Senator Henty) said in the Senate last night.
He was defending the banning of two controversial novels, Lolita and Borstal Boy, by the Literary Censorship Board.
Senator Henty described the language in Borstal Boy, written by Irish author Brendan Behan, at “raw, vulgar, harsh and downright repulsive, culminating in passages of sheer sexual blatancy.
So much for those two books. My main concern that these types of books should be kept out of Australia arises from the fact that I have three daughters. I am thinking also of thousands of other parents with children, especially teenagers, who are growing up in this dangerous and difficult age. I have some personal responsibility to my daughters and I am anxious that their minds shall not be polluted by this type of so-called literature. I am thinking to-night of chapter 7 of Saint Matthew’s Gospel, in which Christ was speaking in the Sermon on the Mount and said -
If any of you were asked by his son for bread, would you be likely to give him a stone, or if he asked for a fish would you give him a snake? If you then for all your evil could naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those that ask Him?
It is much the same as saying: Let your son ask for a good book and give him “Borstal Boy”. With books like these readily available, how much more difficult it is for parents to guide their children in their reading. Young folk surely have enough to face to-day in adjusting themselves to the threats and pitfalls of modern life without having this sort of book to add to their perils. Overseas writers of books who make sex the basis of their work, and sheer perversion and unadulterated evil for their theme, are definitely contributing to the massacre of everything that is decent in our civilization. These people are murderers of morality in its best and highest forms.
Incidentally, those writers can find publishers at any time whereas the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) who has written a book on his five years in the United States of America as High Commissioner for Australia could not get a publisher in England or America. I had the pleasure of reading the book in manuscript form. The honorable member for Bonython was told by one publisher, “ We would have considered it if you had attacked the Secretary of State “.
The Literature Censorship Board is to be commended for not regarding filth as literature. The world is full of disruptionists, sectionalists and cynics. There are diversionists, dividers and destroyers. The books which have been rightly banned by the board obviously belong to these categories. These writers see something lovely and set out to disfigure it. They see something good and set out to destroy it. They see something noble and set out to make it ignoble. They see something that unites families and they set out to smash the family system. They see something beautiful and set out to make it ugly and repulsive. They see something decent and make it indecent These writers are mass murderers of decency. They are perverters of men’s minds who masquerade as men of letters and creators of literature. Oh literature, what indecencies and evils are committed in thy name!
What humbug it is and what arrogance to defend these people! These overseas writers who call themselves novelists do nothing at all to advance the cause of civilization. They contribute nothing to a better and cleaner way of life which it is our responsiblity to maintain. The responsibility of members of this Parliament, in spite of our differing political beliefs, is to protect the weak and to uphold the highest moral and ethical standards possible within our nation. We are the representatives of millions of electors. We must have some sort of standards and a fair-minded censorship board can do much to protect our standards and make it easier and not harder for our young people to make a success of living.
We have too many writers to-day who add to the problems and confusion of our time and too few who are courageous enough to try to give us the answers. In conclusion, here are the titles of some of the books which have been banned -
Three Passionate Lovers.
Tale of Satisfied Desire.
The Sexual Life of Robinson Crusoe.
Pleasures and Follies of a Good-natured Libertine.
Helen and Desire.
Hindu Art of Love.
Lady - Don’t Turn Over.
Mariage en Pyjama.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay).Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I will take only a few minutes of the time of the House to reply to the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) who has complained about the payment of benefits to persons suffering from chronic and pre-existing ailments. I want to remind the honorable member that there are two types of benefits payable under the National Health Act - both medical benefits and hospital benefits. Each of these benefits, in turn, consists of two elements - Commonwealth benefits and fund benefits. The fund benefit is the amount added to the Commonwealth benefit which forms the basis of all national health insurance payments.
There is no question about medical benefits. I am not sure whether the honorable gentleman is clear about this, but in fact the only complaint he can make is about hospital benefits because fund medical benefits have now been extended to those classes of persons to whom they were previously refused. Fund hospital benefits have been extended out of what is known as the special account which is guaranteed by the Commonwealth Government to a great number of people to whom they were previously refused, but there have always been a number of hospitals in every State, and not only in South Australia, which were classified by the term “ hospital not recognized “. In those hospitals, the fund benefit has, in the main, never been payable. It is perfectly clear in the act, and I made it equally clear in my second-reading speech, that that condition will continue after the passage of the amendments, so there is no excuse for any honorable member to say that he did not know that benefits would be refused to patients in certain hospitals. In fact, the fund had previously refused such benefits to patients in those particular hospitals.
A list of hospitals has been published. When it was decided to make fund benefits available to those hospitals which previously were not entitled to them, it became necessary to draw up a list of the hospitals concerned, which comprise the vast majority of hospitals in every State of the Commonwealth. I remind honorable members that not only was the position made clear during my second-reading speech, but also it was debated extensively and agreed to by both sides of the House.
– What was agreed to, the exclusion of these other hospitals?
– The honorable member should not interrupt because he would not understand even if I were to give to him a written explanation.
– Order! The honorable member for East Sydney will remain silent.
– All honorable members agreed to the proposal and, in the main, the position is exactly the same as it was before the legislation was passed. The suggestion that a large number of people have been deprived of benefits is quite erroneous. The fact is that with very few exceptions the people never enjoyed the benefits. The honorable member will be glad to know that I recently gave instructions that in those very few cases in which fund benefits were being paid and were discontinued after the introduction of the special accounts, the benefits shall continue until the patient has exhausted the period of 12 months during which he receives the maximum benefit. That, of course, would have happened in any case because the fund has never paid beyond the maximum benefit period in any twelve months.
The suggestion put abroad by certain newspapers that people have been deprived of benefits is completely wrong. The fact is that a great number of people who previously did not enjoy these medical and hospital benefits now receive them although they are in hospitals which previously were not entitled to the benefits, except in the very few instances that I have mentioned. Special arrangements were made to cover those people. However, patients in those hospitals which were never entitled to the fund benefit still do not receive it.
The honorable member referred to a pamphlet which he said was issued by the department I administer. If he looks at the pamphlet carefully he will see that the word “ hospital “ is qualified by the adjective “ recognized “. The pamphlet does not state that the benefits will be payable to patients in all hospitals, but it indicates that only patients in recognized hospitals will be entitled to them. I should think that any person reading the pamphlet and seeing the words “ recognized hospital “ would ask himself immediately, “ What is a recognized hospital? “
– One would think that the Royal Adelaide Hospital would be a “ recognized hospital “. .
– That, is right.
– But the two wards that cater for the cases to which I have referred are not included.
– That is so. Those wards were never recognized previously so the position remains unaltered. As I have already explained, the special accounts benefit has now been extended to the class of hospitals and benefit organizations known as “ hospitals not recognized “. The payment of medical and hospital benefits has been greatly expanded and not Contracted as the honorable member has suggested.
.- I was interested to hear the remarks of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) and the honorable member for Farrer (Mr. Fairbairn) regarding the need to strengthen the organization which deals with wool promotion. I do not disagree with their suggestion that wool promotion should be intensified and made more thorough, but I suggest that wool promotion is not the problem confronting the Australian wool-growers and, indeed, the economy of this nation, which must be solved. We need a satisfactory formula for the marketing of our wool. Whilst wool promotion is essential and must be brought to its maximum efficiency, no honorable member will deny that for at least the last ten years every bale of wool that has been produced in Australia has been absorbed by the world market. Obviously, the world is prepared to absorb our wool on the basis of the existing promotion programme. That being so, the plain fact remains that something is sadly lacking in the marketing system. The sooner this Government, and the conservative wool-growers, awaken to that fact, the sooner this country will go places and the sooner the wool-growers will become substantially better off than they are to-day. That is as far as I shall go on that subject.
I proceed now to another matter which I first raised in this House about two years ago. On that occasion I was assured by the responsible Minister that he would make some investigations into the subject. My complaint concerns our bird and animal life, our native fauna, which is facing extinction rapidly as a result of this Government’s policy. Birds and animals are being trapped in Australia and exported in their thousands. I have been informed by the Bird Lovers Club and by members of the Ornithologists Union that in one year alone 100,000 wild birds were trapped in Australia but, between the point of trapping and the point of shipment, the number had dwindled to 28,000, surely a shocking and criminal waste of our bird life which every man, woman and child in this community should be putting forth their maximum effort to preserve and protect for the enjoyment of our future generations. I have been reliably informed also that fewer than 3,000 of the 28,000 birds that were exported from Australia survived the journey. In other words, only 3,000 of 100,000 birds that were trapped reached their destination. Surely, every right-thinking man and woman in this community who is a bird lover, and I believe that most Australians come into that category, should be alarmed at what is happening.
It is quite obvious that since I last raised this subject in the House this nefarious traffic has persisted. I now ask the responsible Minister, who controls the issue of permits for the export of any product, to take urgent action to see that this traffic will no longer be allowed to flourish. Because it has been necessary for a long period of years to lay poison baits to eradicate rabbits, dingoes, foxes and other forms of wild life that are threatening our means of subsistence, many forms of bird and animal life have perished besides those for which the baits have been laid.
I shall leave it at that. I hope that the Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron), who is now at the table - perhaps he is a bird lover; he looks like one - will take this matter up with the responsible Minister. I hope to hear some satisfactory reports of something being done in the near future. If I remember rightly, on the last occasion on which I raised this matter the then Minister passed the buck to the States. I do not want to do him an injustice, but he said, in effect, “ We look to the State departments to give us the o.k. on these matters. It is up to the game departments of the respective States to guide us “. Let me say here and now that if it is true, and I have every reason to believe that it is, that about 100,000 birds have perished so that 3,000 could reach some overseas destination, it is high time that we ignored the game departments of the respective States and placed a prohibition on this nefarious traffic. When I ask for a prohibition, let me make it clear that I do not ask for a prohibition on the export of a reasonable number of birds and animals to zoos and like institutions in other parts of the world.
.- Like my colleagues, the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Malcolm Fraser) and the honorable member for Farrar (Mr. Fairbairn), I wish to speak briefly to-night on wool. I do not want to talk on the important subject about which they made some very useful remarks - the reconstitution of the Wool Bureau - but let me say that I fully support them. I want to mention a much smaller but, nevertheless, a very practical and important way in which I believe the Australian Government can assist in the promotion of the sale of our wool. I believe that this can be done with a very small financial outlay, by training Korean technicians who desire to establish in that country a wool top-making industry.
Let me briefly outline the position with regard to the wool industry in Korea. There are very few sheep in that country. In fact, I believe that a few years ago the Koreans launched a special five-year plan to raise their sheep numbers from 1,074 to 3,174. They have to import practically all their requirements of wool. There has been a steep rise in the number of mills making textiles in Korea since the end of the war in that country. About twenty mills have grown up and are making woollen textiles. For these mills in 1957-58 wool tops were imported to the value of about 5,250,000 dollars, but there are in Korea no scouring, carbonizing or top-making facilities.
– The honorable member is referring to South Korea?
– That is so. In the early stages tops were imported from Bradford, but I understand that Bradford tried, as it were, to pull the wool over their eyes, and represented 58/60’s as 64’s. So little did the Koreans know about the matter that they fell for it for a while. But they eventually woke up, and there followed a substantial swing towards Australia in the matter of the purchase of wool tops. At the present moment the general feeling towards Australian wool in that country is excellent.
If the situation were to remain as it is at present, I would not be making these remarks to-night. But in October of last year the Koreans decided, naturally enough, to set up top-making facilities themselves, and six of the major woollen mills in Korea became shareholders in a company formed to manufacture tops. They are starting to construct a mill at the end of this year, and they hope to have it finished by next year. For this purpose they need technicians trained to a point beyond which it is possible to train them in their own country. It is a very favorable sign that they are looking only towards Australian in this regard. They desire to send to this country, I believe, about three technicians, for a training period of six to twelve months, and they particularly want to send them to the Gordon Institute in Geelong.
I want to make a plea to the Government to assist financially, by way of scholarships and by arranging for the training of these people. I believe that by doing so the Government can make a small but important contribution to the future of our wool sales to Korea. Of course it can be argued that at present we are selling tops to Korea, so why should we encourage them to make their own? One could even go on to say that there is no need to encourage them to buy Australian wool, because they would have to buy it anyway. I believe that argument to be shortsighted. Korea will go in for top-making, whether we like it or not, and although we are at present the natural source of supply, they can look to other sources. I think it would be extremely wise, from a long-term point of view, to obtain the immediate good will which would flow from assisting Korea in this top-making venture.
I understand that the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. Casey) is to make a trip to Korea, I think next month, and I believe that it would mean a great deal, not only to the Australian wool industry but also to our relations with this very important country in Asia, if the Minister could make an announcement, when he arrives in Korea, that the Australian Government has decided to offer these scholarships. Perhaps they could be granted in the same way as others are granted under the Colombo plan. Incidentally, South Korea is not eligible to receive assistance under the Colombo plan. 1 believe it would be good for the Australian industry and for our relations with Korea if the Minister were to make an announcement that the Australian Government will provide these scholarships and do everything in its power to assist these people to study at Geelong.
.- I wish to bring one or two matters to the notice of certain Ministers. In 1957 the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) informed me that the Government proposed to erect a repeater broadcasting radio station at Mount Isa, and that it would be completed before the end of 1958. Mount Isa is a fast-growing city, as most people know. Not far away from it is Mary Kathleen, and comparatively close to it in another direction is Cloncurry. In other words, it is in one of the most thickly populated centres in the north-west of Queensland. When he made his first visit to Mary Kathleen, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) raved about the potentialities of the area. Radio reception at Mount Isa has been so bad that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has been broadcasting through a short-wave station to that area. The Postal Department has been conscious of its responsibility to that area, and I should like to know now why the Government has not honoured the promise it made in 1957 that the repeater station would be built by the end of 1958. The year 1959 is well under way. and nothing has been done. 1 might point out here that the Premier of Queensland was also told that this station would be built. I hope that the promise made in connexion with the Mount Isa radio station is not honoured in the same way as that made to Mr. Nicklin, the Premier of Queensland, in connexion with the Bowen cyclone tragedy. The Commonwealth Government promised Mr. Nicklin that it would contribute on a £l-for-£l basis with the Queensland Government for cyclone relief, and the contribution actually paid by the Commonwealth Government amounted to only lid. in the £1. Why all this delay in building the promised radio station? When does the Government propose to start building it, and what is the approximate date that the promised repeater station will go on the air?
Another matter to which I wish to refer affects Cloncurry. The Cloncurry Development League got in touch with me last week and told me that it was proposed to remove the civil aviation facilities from Cloncurry to Mount Isa. The league asked me to protest emphatically against the proposed action. I took the matter up with the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge). J was given to understand that the proposal is only in the investigation stage. I point out that there are not only aerodrome facilities at Cloncurry but also the homes of the civil aviation staff in the town. They are among the best homes in Cloncurry. If the aerodrome facilities are removed to Mount Isa. enormous expenditure will be involved. Further, the department will have the problem of housing the staff, whereas the members of the staff are already housed comfortably al Cloncurry in homes owned by the department.
Another aspect is the substantial reduction in the spending power in Cloncurry which will result from the proposed transfer. This will be reflected in the employment field. Surely to goodness the Government’s policy is not to see towns, particularly towns in that part of Australia, retrogress and die? A further important aspect is the number of flights into and out of Cloncurry. With the exception of very infrequent direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Mount Isa. every aircraft going to Mount Isa calls at Cloncurry. Further. Cloncurry is the base for aircraft flying to Normanton °nd Burketown. Aircraft from those towns also call at Cloncurry. Again, nights to Boulia and the Channel country start at Cloncurry. T cannot for the life of me see why it should be suggested that these facilities should be shifted to some other site less than a quarter of an hour’s flying time from Cloncurry and a site from which there would not be as many flights as there are from Cloncurry. Further, the Royal Flying Doctor Service is based at Cloncurry. 1 hope that the result of the investigation now being conducted will be that the Minister will take no further action but will leave well alone.
I come now to another matter. It seems to me that the Cloncurry-Mount Isa area is getting a very raw deal at the hands o< this Government. I refer to the TownsvilleMount Isa railway. I remember Sir Arthur Fadden, when he was Treasurer, saying that it was a matter for the State Government. We are getting sick and tired of hearing the old claptrap about its being a matter for the Slate Government. The former Treasurer knew as well as I do where the responsibility lies. Queensland made a request for a loan of £29,000,000 to reconstruct this line. Two technical experts came out from the World Bank for Reconstruction and Development, made an investigation and went back. Then came two financial experts who reported back to the bank. There were many conferences between the Queensland Government, the Commonwealth Government, officials of the World Bank and of Mount Isa Mines Limited. The whole matter has become bogged down.
The people of Queensland want to know why it has become bogged down, particularly as this Government granted the Liberal Government of Victoria a loan of £12,000,000 to build a standard-gauge railway from Albury to Melbourne to enable the Victorian railways to compete with the tourist buses and aircraft for passenger traffic. This is a question of development, production and the building up of overseas funds. But what happens? The Queensland Government was prepared to find £7,000,000, but the whole matter became bogged down because the Commonwealth Government would not contribute £22,000,000. I understand that Mount Isa Mines Limited was asked to enter into a long-term contract guaranteeing a certain production for something like 40 years. In other words, the responsibility was put on to that company. The Commonwealth Government owes it to the people of Australia to assist in development, to assist any industry that will build up our overseas funds. The Queensland people want to know when the Government intends to make some announcement in connexion with what is going to happen with relation to the Mount Isa-Townsville railway.
.- I rise to support the honorable member for Kingston (Mr. Galvin) in protesting to the Minister for Health (Dr. Cameron) about the operation of the amendments made to the national health scheme late last year.
The Minister’s statement was completely inaccurate and misleading. It is perfectly true that he did say in his speech last year that the new provisions would not apply to people accommodated in a benevolent home, a convalescent home, a home for aged persons, a rest home or similar institution. Surely, there is not one honorable member in this chamber who does not recognize that if institutions of that kind are eliminated very few people can benefit from the amendments introduced by the Minister in September of last year. We all know that the chronically ill are almost invariably very old people, and that they cannot get into the type of hospital in which they can enjoy this additional benefit because such hospitals have not the beds available for them. Even in cases where they are admitted for an operation, as soon as they are well enough to be discharged from the hospital, they have to go into a convalescent home, into one of the rest homes referred to by the Minister; and the moment they leave what he calls the recognized hospital, no benefit is payable.
The Minister says that what the Government intended is quite clear. He spoke of a recognized hospital. I should say that there would not be one person in 100 in the community who would believe that any hospital registered under either Commonwealth or State law would not be a recognized hospital. There would not be one person in 100 who would believe that a properly registered hospital could be excluded from the operations of this particular legislation. It would be interesting to know why, when he talks about the extensive benefits that have been bestowed under this legislation, the Minister does not tell us how many people have benefited, and how much it has cost the Commonwealth to carry out the scheme. He said that the Labour party does not support this measure. That is not true. We very strongly criticized it. We believed that even if only a few people would benefit from legislation we should not vote against it. 3ut that does not mean that we were supporting it. We thought it completely inadequate to meet the situation and we strongly criticized it at the time. The Minister, to try to get away from the criticism levelled against him in various quarters, has used this argument that there was no opposition in the Parliament to the proposal. Of course, there was opposition in the form of criticism. He now says that the criticism is coming mainly from newspapers. But there is an organisation, the Private Hospitals’ Association of South Australia, which has had something to say about the’ Minister’s activities.It has said that he was evasive. When it charged him with having misled the community in his statement on the various funds, he absolved himself from any responsibility for what the registered funds might say. So, in the Minister’s own statements outside the Parliament, he has been compelled to admit to deputations that there has been a great deal of misunderstanding.
Here is a rather remarkable thing: I have in my hand two lists of hospitals which, I understand, have been issued by the department in South Australia. One is a list of hospitals recognized under the scheme and the other is a list of instances in which the special benefit is not payable. The Minister can correct me if these are not the lists of his own department; they deal with chronic cases. They deal with the old person who is more than 65 years of age, who can be transferred to what is called the “ special account “, and the person below 65 years of age who becomes chronically ill and who can be transferred if he wishes and if the fund is agreeable.
On the official list of hospitals to which the scheme applies are eight maternity hospitals. It is news to me that people who enter a maternity hospital would be classified as chronically ill. I have never heard of it previously. I understand that this is the Minister’s own list of hospials recognized, under the National Health Act 1953- 58, for the payment of special account fund benefits. Under the heading of “ Public Hospitals “ it includes -
McBride Maternity Hospital.
There are eight maternity hospitals altogether. On the list of hospitals that do not come under the scheme - the Minister says that people should know that these are not recognized hospitals - is included the
Northfield ward and the Magill ward of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Surely any ordinary member of the community could be pardoned if he believed that the Royal Adelaide Hospital was a recognized hospital under the scheme. But. according to the Minister and his department, it is not.
Who does benefit under the scheme? The Minister has said that it is necessary to divide the scheme into two parts: There is the medical scheme and then there is the hospital scheme. That is perfectly true. But how do people benefit under the hospital scheme and how many of them benefit? As I have said, an old person has great difficulty in getting into any hospital - certainly public hospitals. They are mostly pensioners and they are usually compelled to go into private convalescent hospitals and their pension is not sufficient to maintain them in that type of institution. Yet the Minister wipes his hands of this problem and says that he has done sufficient. He says that the Government is acting very generously in regard to the matter.
I know that the Minister has exhausted his speaking time this evening but I hope that, on another occasion, he will explain to us why the Royal Adelaide Hospital is not a recognized hospital for the payment of these special benefits out of the special account and why eight maternity hospitals are on the list of hospitals in which chronically ill persons are provided for.
I want to turn to one other matter in the time remaining at my disposal. I want to say something about an extraordinary case that has arisen in the administration of the Department of Immigration. This refers to a chap who was born in Poland and who came to Australia in 1950 under the displaced persons scheme. Official reports from the Commonwealth Employment Service represent this man as a completely undesirable type. The service says that he has appeared at the office on a number of occasions in a dirty condition. He has been sent to a number of places of employment and, for some reasons or other, has not retained the employment. The officials have reached the stage, they say, at which they do not regard him as a person suitable to be referred to any employer. So, as far as the Commonwealth Employment Service is concerned, he is finished. The chap protested. He admits that under the conditions in which he has been compelled to live, he becomes untidy. He has to sleep wherever he can get a place to sleep and similar conditions apply to his eating habits. He says that because of the manner in which he has been forced to live he has had to become untidy. But he wants work. He returned from thirteen employers to whom he had been sent by the Commonwealth Employment Service. He says that, as far as he could ascertain, his service had been satisfactory, but apparently the employers thought otherwise and dispensed with him. 1 am not here to assess his value as a worker. This chap is now in a destitute and desperate position in this country. He is refused work by the Commonwealth Employment Service. Likewise, he is refused’ the unemployment benefit on the ground that he is not complying with the conditions laid down in the act. So he gets no work and no social service benefit. He asked the Government to deport him. He said, “ Send me back if I am such an undesirable person “. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) says that because the man came to Australia as a displaced person, from Germany, the Federal German Republic will not take him back because he has been out of the country for 18 months. So the man said, “ Send me to Poland, the land of my birth “. But the department said that ho could not go to Poland because it is not the policy to repatriate displaced persons if they belong to a country behind the iron curtain. So he is without work, without any means and the Government refuses to deport him. If the Government reports about this chap were accurate - and they may be - is it not quite obvious that th; Government ought to be happy to get him out of the country?
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I did not intend to intervene in this debate to-night because the hour is nearly midnight and I should imagine that honorable members, rather than be kept up in arguing about matters which are on examination of a frivolous nature, would prefer to go to bed.
– One of your immigrants is starving and you call it a frivolous matter!
– I know the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) well enough to realize when he is serious and when he has his tongue in his cheek. In this case, I suspect that the honorable member for East Sydney knows perfectly well what the facts are. He has been informed by me and my department in the past of the circumstances. The honorable gentleman, himself, admitted a few moments ago that this man had had thirteen jobs. But the honorable member did not accept the logical consequence. Surely, if a fellow has been repeatedly put in the way of getting frequent jobs which he has been unable to hold, it must be obvious to honorable members that there is something lacking in the man himself. However sympathetic one may be for the man’s plight, surely it would be very poor public policy for the Government and the Parliament automatically to underwrite a man who, in ordinary parlance, can only be described as a “ no-hoper “. I am sure that the honorable member himself would’ concede that.
So, my first point is this: When the honorable member for East Sydney says that this man has been refused work, it is not a true statement of the circumstances of the case and he should retract it.
Now I come to the honorable member’s second plea - that this gentleman should be deported to his country of origin. One can be deported only if one infringes the provisions of the immigration laws. That is to say, one must commit offences specified by this Parliament and written into the legislation only last year.
– I will send him a copy of your speech.
– I hope that he enjoys reading it. This man has committed no offence against the Migration Act and therefore the Government - acting through me, as its spokesman and executive officer in this connexion - does not possess authority to order his deportation. What a monstrous thing it would be if the Minister of the day had such a power!
I should like to pose this question to the honorable member: Does he seriously question the Tightness, the fairness and the wisdom of the Government’s policy in refusing to deport people to iron curtain countries? Do honorable members opposite seriously come forward and say that it is a good thing to send people back to iron curtain countries and thereby expose them to possible oppression, tyranny, persecution, and all the things that we know go on there? If that is so, things in Australia have indeed come to a pretty pass. I suggest that the honorable member for East Sydney has not put the facts of the case clearly, and that however sympathetic we may be towards this man, he has, in fact, no legitimate cause for complaint. He has been given ample opportunity to work. He has failed to hold his position and he has no case of substance that should be heard.
– Does the honorable member claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. The Minister said that there was no evidence to show that this man was refused work.
– Order! The honorable member will come at once to the point in respect of which he claims to have been misrepresented.
– That is exactly what I am coming to.
– I think that the honorable member is endeavouring to revive the debate.
– 1 am not. The Minister contradicted me and said that I was wrong in stating that this man had been refused work. I have here the official communication from the Department of Social Services, and I will read the relevant portion of it to show-
– Order! The honorable member will confine his attention to the matter in respect of which he claims to have been misrepresented. It would not be in order for him to read the correspondence.
– I am reading the section which will prove that the Minister was not telling the truth.
– Order! The honorable member will confine himself to the matter in respect of which he claims to have been misrepresented. He will not address himself to the general statement that he made earlier.
– That is correct. I shall not refer to this chap’s name. The communication said that he was in receipt of unemployment benefit until recently, when his case was the subject of review. The review states -
He is considered to be a poor referral prospect by officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service who would, in no circumstances, be prepared to recommend him to a prospective employer.
If that does not confirm my statement that the Commonwealth has given this chap away, regards him as being undesirable, and refuses to recommend him to an employer I would like to know what does. In short, the communication confirms my statement that this man was being refused work by the Commonwealth Employment Service.
.During the federal election campaign it was announced that Mort’s Dock, Sydney, would close down. On the Monday of the week during which that announcement was made I addressed a midday meeting at the company’s plant. At that time, no one had an inkling that an announcement of this kind would be made. On the Wednesday, at midday, all employees received notice of dismissal. The notice also asked that the employee advise the company in writing of the amount of long service leave to which he was entitled.
The circumstances surrounding the closing of Mort’s Dock were dramatic, if nothing else. Mort’s Dock Engineering Company Limited was one of the oldest firms in the shipbuilding industry. From a very modest beginning in the middle of the nineteenth century, it grew into a company with assets of £1,000.000. Some weeks ago, the company went into voluntary liquidation, and its affairs are now in the process of being wound up. T should like to place before honorable members certain matters involved in the closing down of Mort’s Dock. At the time of the closure, 720 persons were employed by the company. Some of them had 40 years’ service, and it was quite common to find people in the 25 to 35 years’ service bracket. None of the employees have yet received their long service leave, and they will not know what they will receive until an announcement is made by the liquidators.
At the same time of the closure, Mort’s Dock owed the Bank of New South Wales £650,000 and the Australian Mutual Provident Society £150,000. I have been informed that the long service entitlements amount to approximately £75,000. The assets of the company amount to approximately £1,100,000 and its £1 shares are to-day valued on the Sydney Stock Exchange at 5s. 3d.
As the law stands, the Bank of New South Wales and the A.M.P. Society are classified as secured creditors. They will receive preference in the distribution of the amount realized from the assets, but employees are classified as unsecured creditors, and just what they will receive no one knows at the moment. Some weeks ago. the unions whose members were involved took the company to court on the question of members’ rights. The liquidator gave the court an assurance that the men would be paid in full and upon this assurance being given the case was stood over. It waa re-assuring to know that employees would receive full benefits in respect of long service leave, but that fact did not remove the existing anomaly.
I believe that in such circumstances employees’ rights should be the same as those of investors, and that capital should not receive preference over labour. People who are investors do not necessarily depend upon those investments for their livelihood, and are not obliged to invest capital. Employees, on the other hand, depend upon their labour for their livelihood and are obliged to sell their labour or starve. That distinction can be corrected by legislation.
In New South Wales, the trade unions have already made representations to the State government with a view to having the present position corrected. The existing law distinguishes between annual leave and long service leave, to the detriment of the latter. I have known cases in which, when a firm went into liquidation, employees’ claims for long service leave were paid on the basis of 6s. 8d. in the £1.
The closing of Mort’s Dock reduced by half the ship-building repair and maintenance potential of the Port of Sydney. The company was capable of building ships of up to 15,000 tons, but the biggest ships built by it were about 7,000 tons. They were ordered by the Shipbuilding Board. Those who know anything at all about the industry in the Port of Sydney agree that incompetent management on the part of the directors was the cause of the closure, lt is true that the plant did have some industrial trouble from time to time as do ail other large undertakings, but this in no way contributed to the closure.
– Who said that?
– The present Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) reported that on many occasions when he was Minister for Labour and National Service. The attitude of the directors was hard to understand. In its last year of operation, the company had its difficulties. They are well known. The trade union movement was keen to keep the company in existence. At this time no industrial disputes were occurring. On a given date, at the initiative of the trade unions, a conference with the management was arranged. This was an attempt by the unions to bring about a better understanding and improved relations between the management and themselves. On the arranged date, the representatives of the company failed to put in an appearance. This action on their part was typical of many in the last year of the company’s existence.
During the war years, the Mort’s Dock company gave employment to 2,000 persons and it was still capable of employing 2,500 at the time of closure. I am appealing to the Government, even at this advanced stage to interest itself in the matter.
No one can view with equanimity what the closure of Mort’s Dock means to the shipbuilding industry of this country. Its effect will be felt not only in the Port of Sydney but also, and equally as devastating, on a national level. I ask the Minister to arouse the interest of the Government in this matter, firstly, to protect in the future the position of employees as to their claims for long service leave in any similar happening, and secondly, to take action to protect our shipbuilding industry because of its importance to our peacetime economy and its inassessable value as a defence potential.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.12 a.m. (Thursday).
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– On Christmas Day, 1958, I had as guests for dinner the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom and Lady Carrington and their children. I do not propose to work out or publish the costs of entertainment of this kind offered by me as Prime Minister.
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Was the knighthood conferred upon Sir Robert Cosgrove, a former Premier of Tasmania, granted upon the recommendation of the Commonwealth Government?
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
(a) Short-term securities, £35,900,000. (b) Medium and long-term securities, £24,300.000. (c) In addition, subscriptions of £2,700,000 were made to special bonds while the cash loan was open for subscription.
s asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1, 2 and 3. The information requested by the honorable member, is set out in the following table relating to the major trading banks: -
e asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has furnished the following replies: -
t asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has replied as follows: -
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has furnished the following replies: -
a asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Last December, the Premier of New South Wales informed me that some of the local authorities in his State were meeting difficulties because of the limitations on their borrowing programmes and that a number of them would be in a position to borrow more if they had the requisite authority. In January, the president of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations conveyed to me a resolution of the association’s conference in November; and he also gave me some estimates of the needs of his associations in New South Wales for further loan moneys.
As decisions on the overall borrowing programme for local authorities are the responsibility of the Australian Loan Council, I told both the Premier and the president of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations that
I would have the matter submitted to the other members of the council for their comments, and undertook to give sympathetic consideration to their representations when determining the Commonwealth’s attitude.
The Treasurer, as chairman of the Loan Council, subsequently wrote to the other Premiers pointing out that, as a general rule, the Commonwealth does not wish to see the smaller local authorities severely restricted in their opportunities to borrow where they are in a position to do so. He asked each Premier for details of the borrowing situation for local authorities this year in his State. From the replies which were received, it appeared that an addition of £4,000,000 to the local authorities’ programmes would meet the borrowing difficulties which they were experiencing. The Commonwealth accordingly suggested that an increase of £4,000,000 should be made to the local authority borrowing programme of £16,500,000 previously approved by the Loan Council. Each of the Premiers agreed with this proposed addition to the programmes and with the suggested method of its allocation, and the new 1958-59 borrowing programme approved for local authorities is therefore £20,500,000.
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The principal countries of origin of Australian toy imports and the value in Australian currency of these imports from each country in the period 1953-58 are set out in the table below: -
The Bureau of Census and Statistics has furnished the following information in respect of question 3: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
What products of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are prohibited from entering Australia or are restricted in entering Australia?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Goods produced in any of Australia’s external territories (including of course Papua and New Guinea) are exempt from import licensing controls and may be imported freely subject, however, to such specific provisions as are laid down in the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations and quarantine legislation.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 March 1959, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1959/19590311_reps_23_hor22/>.