23rd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the
Minister for Trade seen the urgent telegram that I sent to him on Friday last, in which I referred to the concern that is being felt in the textile trade at the alteration that has been made to tariff item 392 (g)? Under this item, textiles such as nylon and the like have been protected, but those connected with the trade are concerned at the prospect that, because of the alteration of tariff item 392 (g) to 392 (i) (3), all textiles except nylon, terylene and rayon will be open to the keenest of Japanese competition, with no import licensing system operating. Has the Minister given attention to this matter, with a view to affording to manufacturers of materials other than nylon, terylene and rayon some protection apart from the 7i per cent, tariff, which is regarded in the trade as being totally inadequate? In addition, I ask the Minister, on behalf of the trade, whether he can explain why, although the tariff item was altered on 9th October last, until last Thursday the Sydney branch of the Department of Trade was not aware of the change, and manufacturers could not obtain any information from the departmental officers in Sydney about what happened on 9th October, 1959, in respect of this matter.
– I have received a number of communications, including that from the honorable member for Blaxland, concerning interests touched, or thought to be touched, by certain alterations in import licensing administration. The nature of the honorable member’s question, in which he identifies certain tariff items, indicates that there are involved technical aspects of identification which, frankly, I do not carry in my mind. But I have, with the assistance of departmental officers, studied the issues that have been raised on each occasion with relation to the matter mentioned by the honorable member. I will, either in the Parliament or by letter, give him my answer promptly.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: What action can be taken to speed up the early completion of an all-weather east-west highway?
– At present the Eyre Highway is not a particularly important link between this side of Australia and Western Australia as it carries only some twenty vehicles a day. The Commonwealth contributes about £25,000 annually to Western Australia and South Australia to maintain the highway between Penong and Norseman. An all-weather road would cost about £700,000. In view of the contribution that is now being made, and the demands for finance for road construction elsewhere, I do not think that any additional contribution can be made for the purpose to which the honorable member has referred. However, I have a proprietary interest in the east-west highway, and I can assure the honorable member that I shall keep it in mind, and if anything can be done in the future along the lines which he has suggested I shall let him know.
– I ask the Prime Minister, as head of the Government of Australia, to take immediate action to prevent further closures of coal mines throughout Australia, and in New South Wales in particular. I point out to the right honorable gentleman that the closure of mines will result in hardship to those who lose their employment, and place owners of small mines in financial difficulties because they will lose their investments. To meet this urgent problem I ask the Prime Minister to use the machinery of the Joint Coal Board and to work in the closest co-operation with the Government of New South Wales. My question is dictated particularly by the historic pledge made by the Prime Minister to provide full employment to those people engaged in the mining industry.
– I appreciate the honorable member’s very deep interest in this matter. He has raised a question relating to the Joint Coal Board and, therefore, I will take the opportunity to discuss it with my colleague in another place.
– Is the Minister for Air aware that the jubilee of the first powered flight by any aircraft in Australia will occur this month? Notably and oddly enough, that famous magician Houdini was the first person to fly an aircraft in Australia. In view of this quite memorable occasion, will the Minister consider marking the actual date on which the flight was made by arranging for fly-pasts in the various States by aero clubs and, if possible, by the Air Force?
– I am aware that this year marks the jubilee of powered flight in Australia, but I am indebted to the honorable member for the information that Houdini made the first powered flight. I shall certainly examine his suggestion carefully but I am sure that the honorable member, first among members of this House, will appreciate the need to ensure that the flying effort of the Air Force is used in ways which have training and operational value. It is against the background of that policy that his suggestion must be examined.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it a fact that when important celebrities arrive at Essendon airport the whole of the airport fire service staff is sometimes immobilized and directed to crowd control and traffic control duties? Did this happen during the arrival of the American singer Fabian and the artist Tommy Steele? Was safety placed in jeopardy on both of these occasions in the interests of economy?
– I will be pleased to convey the honorable member’s question to my colleague in another place and obtain an adequate answer for him.
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. I notice that on the notice-paper there is no mention of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and the only reference to it in the Governor-General’s Speech yesterday was that the Government would be examining the lengthy report already tabled. Is it proposed to reconstitute the committee to consider matters that were placed by that committee under what it called “ category B “ and so complete a review of the constitution?
– I think the honorable member will recognize that his question really relates to a matter of policy and I do not feel myself at liberty to answer it.
– I ask the Minister for Supply: Is it true that non-unionism is prevalent in the Commonwealth Government establishments at Maribyrnong? Is it a fact that union officials are being prevented from entering these establishments in the conduct of their business? If the information I place before the Minister is not true, will the Minister take action on this matter and see that all employees join unions and thus show that this Government does not encourage non-unionism in its establishments?
– I am not aware pf the matters presented by the honorable member but I will have them examined and let him have a reply. As to whether the Government will force its employees to become unionists, I have grave doubts.
– I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Has the committee which is surveying the position of the dairying industry in Australia completed the taking of evidence? If it has, when is it anticipated that the committee’s report will be submitted to the Government?
– The committee will conclude the taking of evidence this afternoon but will be receiving evidence in writing for about another week. After that the committee no doubt will go into the matter of presenting its report. As there are more than 3,000 pages of transcript, I cannot say at this juncture when the report is likely to be presented. No doubt it will not be presented for some time.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Transport: What progress has been made in talks with the South Australian authorities relative to the conversion to the standard gauge of the railway line from Port Pirie to Broken Hill? If the talks have reached a stalemate, what are the conditions and general reasons causing it?
– The honorable member knows that I have taken over the portfolio of Shipping and Transport quite recently, but the matter of the conversion to standard gauge of the railway line of which he has spoken has come to my attention. A stalemate has not been reached. As I have said, the matter is closely under my notice and as early as possible I will be contacting the South Australian Premier, Sir Thomas Playford, on the subject. After that, I will have further knowledge of what can be done.
– My question to the Minister for Primary Industry refers to the occasion some months ago when the Minister, with the Premier of Queensland, had discussions with the pineapple growers of southern Queensland. The suggestion was made by some of the growers that assistance to the industry might result from the introduction of a stabilization scheme for pineapples. I ask the Minister: What result has been achieved in this direction? Has a stabilization scheme been prepared? If so, has it been submitted to the growers? What, generally, is the position concerning it?
– Cabinet has considered the proposed stabilization scheme as presented to me through the Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, but as a reply has been sent by me only to-day to the Queensland Minister, I am not prepared to say for another 24 hours what the answer is.
– My question is to the Minister for Territories. Some days ago the announcement was made of the names of three Government-nominated non- official members of the newly constituted Legislative Council for the Northern Territory which is, of course, in conformity wim the legislation passed by this Parliament last year. Will the Minister inform the House whether any instructions are to be given these gentlemen by the Administrator as to the wishes of the Government in respect of legislation that will come before the council from time to time, or is it intended that these members will consider, and vote on, all legislation entirely on its merits and irrespective of the Government’s attitude towards it?
– The nominated, nonofficial members of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory will be the judges of their own conduct, and will not be subject to any instructions from the Government.
Broadcast Statement by Member.
– Has the Prime Minister’s attention been directed to the script of a recent broadcast made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, making an unwarranted attack on the Government over the question of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories? Was there any justification for the strictures of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, or was it just a case of making political propaganda?
– There was a press report of a statement about the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in which it was said that they were to be sold, or that the Government was contemplating selling them. That was, of course, without foundation. My colleague, the Minister for Health, made a quite explicit statement to the effect that there had been, not an offer, but some feelers put out by certain drug manufacturers in order to discover whether the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories might be for sale. He very properly indicated that this was a matter that involved Government policy, and he therefore brought it before Cabinet. On the first occasion on which it came before Cabinet we rejected out of hand any proposal to sell the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.
– Under public pressure.
– The honorable member says, “ Under public pressure “. This was the first time it had been considered. There was an entirely whipped-up agitation. At no time did it have any foundation. As a matter of fact, it is very interesting, I may inform the honorable member, that, having had some discussion with the distinguished director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories about matters which had nothing to do with any sale, but had to do with the internal organization of the establishment and the state of recruitment and payment of scientific staffs, I visited the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, and this was instantly regarded as an adventure by myself, presumably to value the establishment for sale. Nothing could be sillier. There never was any foundation for it, and it is a pity that, not for the first time, a member of the Opposition has found that he has jumped off the wrong end.
– I ask the Minister for Social Services: What steps is the honorable gentleman contemplating to relieve the plight of pensioners who are at present suffering acutely from the reduction in the value of their meagre pensions because of the Government’s failure to halt the rise in prices? Does the fact that the Government intends to balance its budget this year mean that pensioners can expect no relief from this quarter?
– To the honorable member for West Sydney I say that no one knows better than he that every aspect of social services is constantly under consideration. At the appropriate time, policy decisions will be reached. It would be wrong for me, and it would be equally wrong for the honorable member for West Sydney, to anticipate what the Government is likely to do.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the fact that the Australian Wool Bureau has decided that it requires more money for wool promotion and in view of the fact that the wool industry, which is
Australia’s most vital industry, is facing great difficulties in the current cost-price squeeze, can the Minister say whether the Government has considered making a contribution to the funds available for wool promotion, thus bringing this commodity into line with a number of other products? If the Government has not considered this, will it do so?
– The question does not arise. I am acquainted with the minutes of meetings of the Wool Bureau, and to my knowledge there is no immediate shortage of funds. Nor has the bureau as yet made any decision to ask the Government for more funds.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question concerning the voluntary savings schemes conducted by the various savings banks, by which employees bank their savings at their place of employment. It also concerns the action of Commonwealth officers who conduct campaigns at the various business places in conjunction with such schemes. Why is it that the Treasurer’s officers in South Australia, when arranging for employees to make deposits in the various banks, point out that there are three savings banks, the Savings Bank of South Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and a private savings bank, but then proceed with arguments to show that it would be better to bank with the private bank? Is this the result of a Government directive? Finally, does the Treasurer agree that it would be better for such savings to be deposited with the two banks that are providing most of the lending money for home building in South Australia, namely the Savings Bank of South Australia and the Commonwealth Savings Bank?
– I can assure the honorable gentleman thai this matter comes to my knowledge for the first time. Therefore, there is no question of any directive having come from me. I would be very surprised to learn that there has been any official directive of that sort from any part of the Commonwealth administration. However, I shall make inquiries into the statement which the honorable member has now made and give him a considered reply.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is a fact that Australian Loan Council proceedings are conducted in camera. If it is a fact, can the right honorable gentleman offer any explanation to a simple-minded soul as to why it is that the Premiers, immediately following the last Loan Council meeting, showed a bewildering anxiety to present to their respective States detailed accounts of their particular points of view? If this practice continues, must it not surely jeopardize the possibility of Loan Council meetings reaching a sensible and satisfactory conclusion?
– So far as I am aware, the practice, without exception, has been to conduct discussions in camera. On the last occasion, the council authorized me to issue a very short statement indicating that the views put forward by members of the Loan Council to myself, as its chairman, and also to the Prime Minister in the course of discussions which they held with him privately, would be considered by Cabinet and that the outcome of Cabinet’s consideration would be conveyed to the Premiers. That course was followed. The only official statement authorized by the Australian Loan Council, therefore, was the short one to which I have referred.
It would appear that some Premiers - perhaps a majority of them - or their officials made available a substantial part of the text of what the Premiers had presented by way of discussion inside the Loan Council, and I agree with the honorable member that this is not a satisfactory development. In the first place, quite clearly, this procedure cannot present a balanced or necessarily accurate account of what has occurred. In any event, the character of the proceedings is such that the atmosphere in which they should be conducted is not promoted if it is believed by those taking part that there will be general publication of what is said at these meetings. I deplore what has occurred, and I agree with the honorable member for Moreton that a continuance of the practice will materially detract from the value of the work of these most important meetings of representatives of the Commonwealth and the States.
– I desire to direct my question to the Minister for Social Services. Has the Minister any information concerning the amount of money spent by Australians travelling overseas for air or sea transport with a view to divesting themselves of sufficient money to enable them to claim the age pension in full or in part? If not, will the Minister institute inquiries for the purpose of discovering the extent to which this practice is resorted to, in order that we may ascertain what financial benefits accrue to the overseas shipping and airline companies from the continued existence of the means test?
– I have no information relating to the question raised by the honorable member. I regret that I have too much to do to engage in the exercise of trying to get for him the information that he requires.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Immigration. As I know that the Minister is fully conscious of the need to encourage migrants to speak the English language, and as a former Minister for Immigration who is now the Leader of the Opposition in this House has expressed a similar awareness, I ask the Minister whether he will confer with the Leader of the Opposition in an endeavour to have discontinued that portion of Victoria’s “ Labour Hour “ broadcast which is spoken in a foreign language.
– From time to time, especially over the last few years, the Leader of the Opposition and I have had discussions ranging over a great variety of matters. If my honorable friend wishes me to take this matter up with him, I shall happily do so.
– My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Trade. Does the Government contemplate taking action to cancel the trade contract under which Peko (Tennant Creek) Gold Mines (N.L.), at Tennant Creek, supplies its entire output of concentrates to Japan, whereas, formerly, the output was treated in Australia? Can the Minister say whether it is a fact that Mr. A. F. Evans, manager of the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company of Australia Proprietary Limited, at Port Kembla, has protested publicly against this trade arrangement, claiming that if it is permitted to continue the £1,000,000 sinter plant recently completed at Port Kembla will remain inoperative? Finally, I ask the Minister to take action as a matter of urgency to protect Australian industry in this important matter.
– I am sure that the honorable member did not wish to imply that what he described as a trade arrangement is a government trade arrangement. I make it clear that any arrangement by the mine referred to for the sale of its product either in Australia or overseas has been made quite apart from any government intervention or arrangement. I do not know the particulars of the circumstances, although recently a matter which is importantly within the jurisdiction of my friend, the Minister for “National Development, has been mentioned to me. It seems to me to be a situation in which a mine is selling where it can sell best. That is a fairly oldfashioned system whether one is selling labour, wool or the product of a mine.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral, representing the Minister for National Development, a question without notice. Has the Department of National Development any information or plans that have Deen passed on to the Leader of the Opposition which would justify his recent statement in Perth that a future Labour government under his leadership would spend at least £60,000,000 a year on development of the north? If not, could any relevant information on the needs of the north of Australia be supplied to the Leader of the Opposition so that lack of knowledge will not cause him to make such rash statements, which do much harm to the cause of northern development?
– I think it is a little too much to ask my colleague in another place to guarantee that no rash, unfounded statements will be made. As for the rest of the question, I shall acquaint my colleague with it and obtain such information as I can.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Air. I wish to refer to the two fatal crashes that have occurred at Williamtown air base, one on 10th February last and one on Monday of this week, and the dropping of a test bomb a short distance from a school. I also wish to refer generally to the frequently recurring crashes that have taken place at this air base over a period of time. In the interests of the personnel at the base and the general public I should like the Minister to conduct a full investigation into the airworthiness of the aircraft in use at the base. Further, will the Minister submit the findings of such investigation to this House so that they will become public knowledge and the property of the House? The recent crashes to which I have referred occurred shortly after takeoff, particularly the last one. Pending the holding of such an investigation, will the Minister order the grounding of all the aircraft of the type that have crashed?
– I am sure the House will join with me in very deeply regretting the unhappy accident at Williamtown on Monday, which followed an earlier fatal accident about a month ago. Both accidents are being investigated with the full meticulous detail required by Air Force procedures. I have received a preliminary report only on the first accident. Up to the present I have had no more than a verbal report as to the second. I can tell the honorable member that the indications are that both accidents were caused by engine failure, and that the engine failure in each case was from a different cause.
Contrary to what the honorable member has said, there has not been a large and undue number of accidents at the Williamtown base or to our Sabre aircraft. The safety record of the Sabre is high. Unhappily, service flying, from its very nature and the tasks for which the pilots must train, can never be as safe as civil flying. But the safety record of the Royal Australian Air Force is high and the service is justifiably proud of it.
The honorable member asks me to order the aircraft to be grounded. My answer to that is: “ Certainly not “. He also asks whether I will hold a public inquiry into the safety of these aircraft. Such an inquiry into the airworthiness of the aircraft generally is not called for because every individual accident is examined meticulously under procedures well established and carefully followed in the Air Force.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Primary Industry a question. Has he studied the report of Mr. Justice Cook on the Goulburn wool inquiry in which he stated that pies of wool-buyers were depressing the price of wool and enabling wool-buyers to purchase their requirements more cheaply than they would if the pies did not exist? What action has been taken by the Australian Agricultural Council on this report?
– I have read the report presented by Mr. Justice Cook to the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales on behalf of the Government of that State. The Minister for Agriculture of New South Wales at the Agricultural Council meeting recently held in Hobart presented a copy of the report, but because several of the State Ministers had not even seen it up to that time, no resolution was taken. However, the Ministers did indicate that they would take it home and have a good look at it.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that about 900 more recruits are available for the teaching service in New South Wales than can be accepted for training by State education authorities? Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the various States, despite their record expenditure on education, both in total and as a proportion of their budgets, are unable to provide adequate teacher training colleges and facilities to absorb all available recruits because of the shortage of finance? Will the Government request that the Universities Commission investigate the possibility of all State teacher training services being included in financial provisions being made by the Commonwealth for universities in Australia?
Finally and additionally, will the Government consider substantially increasing the number of Commonwealth scholarships as a matter of urgency, so that there will not be a very regrettable Joss of potential students in tertiary education?
– These questions refer to matters of policy which have been debated more than once in this House. The function of the Universities Commission has been established by statute passed by this House, and the commission is at present heavily engaged in dealing with the tasks assigned to it. In relation to that matter and to Commonwealth scholarships I have nothing more to add to what 1 have said. Each of these matters has been the subject of quite careful statement in the past.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to reports that certain interests in the United States of America are pressing for restrictions on the importation of Australian third-grade beef? If there is any truth in such reports, what action is being taken to combat these American attempts to restrict our trade?
– I have no official information, but I have read statements and have had some reports given to me to the effect that there is growing agitation among certain live-stock interests in the United States to restrict the import of Australian beef, which is proceeding now only at the manufacturing grade, and of Australian lambs. The policy of the Government would be to argue strongly and at every useful point that we should have preserved for us adequate and reasonable opportunity to sell our products in the United States. Meat products, particularly manufacturing beef, are about the only items of primary production that we sell without restriction at present in the United States, and I certainly hope that the United States will not take any action to restrict our opportunities for the sale of these products.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National
Service. I take it that the honorable gentleman recollects having said that my allegation that pies operated in the wool-buying trade was a figment of my imagination. In view of Mr. Justice Cook’s finding that wool-buying pies do exist, I now ask the Minister whether he will retract the statement that he made then.
– I suppose, too, that the honorable gentleman will recall that I drew a clear distinction between pies and international cartels. The honorable gentleman, I know, recognizee this distinction. I want to explain that Mr. Justice Cook stated that there was no evidence of an international cartel working in Australia, and that has been confirmed. As to pies, which are local combinations, it was stated clearly that they had operated for many years, but it was a matter for Mr. Justice Cook himself to determine just what damage they caused to the producer. So there is no retraction to be made. Nonetheless, as I have a personal liking for the honorable gentleman, I think if he so wishes, that some balm can be given to his feelings. If his feelings have been hurt, I am only too happy to say that I am terribly sorry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Health, and relates to the medicine charge of 5s., which is now operative. By way of preface, I wish to direct the attention of the Minister to the fact that the tranquillizing drug, chlorpromazine, known as Largactil, is not included in the list of drugs covered by the 5s. charge. This means that if the patients cannot afford to pay for it, their condition may slip back, resulting in their having to go to hospital, and thereby placing a greater strain than is necessary on the hospital accommodation. Will the Minister consider directing the attention of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee to the necessity for having this drug made available on the prescription of a government psychiatrist?
– This drug has already been considered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, but it has not been recommended that the drug should be included in the list.
– I thank the PostmasterGeneral for his statement yesterday, which indicated that the Government had now come to the same conclusion as the Labour Party with regard to Australian television programmes. I should like to ask him now whether he has thought about the programmes themselves and, since the Australian viewer appears to like westerns, whether there is any possibility that we could make westerns ourselves, thus saving dollars and providing a background of Australian entertainment suitable to the Australian viewer. We might even get a sheriff of Canberra to appear in such a programme. I see a very worthy subject here. However, can the Minister tell me whether any approaches have been made relative to the making of our own television programmes, and particularly westerns?
– Mr. Speaker, it so happens that in the correspondence which I have had with the television licensees since the last sittings of the House, one of the matters which I suggested to them was a production of programmes along the lines which the honorable member has mentioned. That thought arose from the fact that there can be no doubt whatever, if we judge from audience surveys, that the western type of programme, which is provided mainly from America, has a great appeal to Australian viewers. We may say that we do not like such programmes; but the fact emerges that they have considerable appeal. It therefore occurred to me that the producers of programmes in Australia could well inquire as to whether it is possible to incorporate our Australian way of life in Australian films for television, on lines similar to the American programmes. I have pointed out that there are many aspects of our Australian way of life which are eminently suitable as subjects for some form of serial. A story could be built, perhaps, around some outstanding character, and the life of the outback, or our primary industries, or sporting activities could be dealt with in a programme completely Australian in character, with just as much appeal as the western.
– I address a question to the Minister for Health. Because a large number of doctors are refusing, under direction from the British Medical Association, to supply itemized accounts until after patients have paid such accounts, it is impossible for many patients to secure the information required to enable their registered organizations to help them under section 23 (2) (b) of the relevant act by paying benefits direct to doctors on behalf of contributors. Will the Minister discuss this matter with the British Medical Association and seek some greater degree of cooperation from doctors?
– If the honorable gentleman will examine his mail, he will find in it a detailed answer from me to this question.
– I lay on the table the report of the Tariff Board on the following subject: -
Motor vehicle body panels.
The Tariff Board’s recommendations in favour of granting concessional tariff treatment for certain motor vehicle body panels have been accepted by the Minister for Customs and Excise.
– I move -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Clarey) on the ground of ill health.
I may add that the honorable member’s condition is improving.
– We are pleased to hear that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received from Mr. Opperman a letter resigning his seat on the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings.
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Pearce be appointed a member of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, in the place of Mr. Opperman, resigned.
Debate resumed from 8th March (vide page 25), on motion by Mr. Murray -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to-
May rr Please Your Excellency:
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Mr. Harold Holt) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) from speaking for a period not exceeding 30 minutes.
– This second session of the Twenty-third Parliament is notable for two reasons. The session was opened by the new Governor-General, Lord Dunrossil. Had there been a Labour government in power when the question of a successor to Sir William Slim was under consideration, an Australian would have been nominated as the vice-regal representative, instead of the present distinguished occupant of the position.
– But you have made him a Chief Justice!
– If the right honorable gentleman had mentioned the Ministry of Trade, he might have found me with my defences down. The present Government decided to continue its policy of denying to any Australian the right to be the Queen’s representative in his own country. The appointment of Lord Dunrossil having been made, I wish to assure His Excellency that the Opposition wishes him and his wife a happy stay among us. We wish them good health and every success in the discharge of their duties. We feel sure that when they return to their homeland they will, like Sir William and Lady Slim, whom we so recently thanked and farewelled, be effective ambassadors for the Commonwealth of Australia, with a keen appreciation of our problems and a desire to help wherever they can.
The second reason why this session is notable is to be found in the announcement by Mr. Speaker that two distinguished Australians terminated their membership of this
Parliament on the same day, 10th February, 1960. I refer, of course, to my predecessor, the Right Honorable H. V. Evatt, Q.C., who has just left the political scene to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New South Wales, and also to the Right Honorable R. G. Casey, who has leftus to become a member of the House of Lords. Both these gentlemen served Australia forlong periods as Minister for External Affairs, and both laboured long and earnestly in carrying out their onerous duties. They represented different views and fought vigorously for what they believed to be right. Now that they are no longer involved in the hustle and bustle of politics, we can wish them in their new spheres of activities all success and hope that fhey will enjoy health and happiness for many years to come.
Now I turn to the major problems that concern this nation to-day. The Opposition believes the Government has failed, after ten years in office, to do anything real or effective about the problem of inflation, which is sometimes chronic and sometimes acute, but which is always with us to the detriment of the well-being of all the people of Australia. There are some who benefit from what is called creeping inflation, but these are the only persons who have no complaints about what is happening to our economy. On behalf of the Opposition I desire to move an amendment to the Address-in-Reply.
– The same one as last year?
– I may inform the honorable member for Gippsland that there has not been a motion of no confidence moved in the Address-in-Reply debate for many years. I move -
That the following words be added to the Address: - “but desire to advise Your Excellency that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the Parliament and of the nation because of-
its failure to halt inflation with its adverse effects on wage and salary earners, on pensioners, on persons on fixed incomes, on primary producers and on home builders, particularly those with young families:
its action in lifting import restrictions with its accompanying threat to the employment of thousands of Australians and the security of Australian enterprises; and
its decision to askthe Arbitration Commission to reject the current application of the trade union movement for an increase in the basic wage “.
The amendment is seconded by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam).
The Opposition is prompted to move its no confidence proposals by its deep-rooted conviction that the only way the Government intends to solve the problems facing Australia to-day is by attacking the living standards of the vast mass of ordinary Australians. Throughout the various statements of policy that have been made from time to time by various Ministers there has been not one single word about the plight of the people of this country, upon whom our existence as a nation, and our future development, ultimately depend.
The Government is apparently blind to the struggle of the wage-earner to provide for his family. It has no knowledge of the housewife and her never-ending fight to feed and clothe her children. It has consistently ignored the pleas of the pensioners, the sick and the invalid, and it intends to continue to do so. It cares not for the young married couples in their heartrending search for a reasonably priced house, and for financial accommodation at reasonable interest rates. Nor does it believe in the difficulties of those who are forced to live on fixed incomes. But for the big business man, the exploiter, the financier, the profiteer and the racketeer the Government at least does something positive - if it can be said to be something positive - by doing absolutely nothing to restrain their rapacity. The Government does nothing to prevent the continued exploitation of the Australian people by these individuals; in fact, it provides the very conditions in which they can persist with their plunder without fear of hindrance or interference.
A few nights ago I had the privilege of sitting at the feet of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in the Melbourne Town Hall, and of listening to him deliver an address on the problems of management. I came away with the conviction that he was one of the best diagnosticians Australia has ever known, but that he is not a good physician. At one stage in a very interesting and erudite address, he said that the Government has limited powers. He knew the problem, he knew the limitation of the Commonwealth’s powers, but never at any stage during that address - nor was it mentioned at any time during the GovernorGeneral’s Speech - did he say that the Government intended to obtain the power to enable it to control the evil of inflation which, as I have already said, has persisted in this country for the last ten years.
– In 1948 he said that the States could control it.
– I know the various arguments that have been advanced about the States doing something, about the people doing something, and about the Government being unable to solve all the problems inherent in inflation. There is a certain amount of truth behind that specious reasoning, but if the Government knows that it does not have the power to do the things that are required to be done, then we believe that it has a duty to ask the people to give it that power. If the Government does that, the Opposition will support it.
We have reached a stage in our development so far removed from the horseandbuggy age that the Commonwealth Constitution must be brought up to date to deal with the problems of 1960. We believe that if the founding fathers had been able to foresee the development of this country that was to take place in the six decades after the establishment of federation, they would have provided the powers that we suggest should be incorporated in the Constitution. A little later I hope to refer to the report of the Constitutional Review Committee which, in dealing with, the problems confronting Australia to-day, suggests certain remedies. We do not say that at this particular stage the Commonwealth Government should bring down a. whole series of amendments to carry into effect all that the committee has recommended and, incidentally, recommended unanimously, with the exception of one honorable senator who dissented in respect of one group of powers. We do suggest, however, that the problems facing Australia to-day are so grave and that the situation is so critical that the Government ought to do something quickly in respect of its economic powers.
Over the past few weeks the people of Australia have been subjected to a spate of pronouncements by various members of the Cabinet about the evils with which we are confronted and the possibility of creeping inflation becoming galloping inflation. We have been told that the Government proposes to do certain things. But all the Ministers do not speak in the same way. Some go further than others do. Some say that the problem is not as grave as a number of people believe, but the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has said that he believes that our economy is balanced on a razor’s edge. When the plans which are advanced by Ministers to deal with inflation are analysed, they amount to the same thing. Summed up, they consist of exhortations to the wage and salary earners to work harder and to take less in their pay envelopes. There is, of course, a story that if productivity is increased the country will be better off. Dr. Coombs has dealt with that matter several times recently in a very learned way, and I shall refer briefly to what he has said. It is our opinion, as the Opposition, that the inflationary pressures inherent in the economy are the direct result of the activities of big business. Those activities should be restrained because they will continue to lead Australia into inflation by allowing big business to make new profits out of every increase in production costs, including wage increases. Prices are raised systematically to enable big business to accumulate vast capital resources for further expansion. It relies upon high prices to maintain its rate of expansion. By unrestrained and savage sales pressure large companies increase consumer debt to themselves and to the hirepurchase companies and this, in tura, reduces real savings.
Let no one think that this is simply the view of a Labour Party basing its approach to modern situations on outmoded thinking, as some would have the public believe. On the contrary, our charges are supported by such men as the leading American economist, Oscar Schnabel, who analysed inflation in the United States in those terms. Our view is that of the London “ Economist “ - by no means a radical or Labour journal - which nearly nine years ago described inflation as a condition in which - the strong, the ruthless, the fast moving, the well organized, the selfish protect themselves, and the weak, the modest, the public spirited, the pensioner, the widow, the orphan and the war of charity go to the wall.
This is precisely the condition obtaining in this country to-day. We have the spectacle of the Government intervening directly in proceedings before the Arbitration Court to argue against the just demands of trade unions while, at the same time, refusing to prevent profit and price exploitation. That is the important third point which I have made in the amendment which I have the honour to propose.
Never before in the history of the Commonwealth has a federal government taken such action. Never before has a federal government appeared before the Arbitration Court and argued that the worker should not be paid any more no matter how much productivity has increased. This is a calculated and a blatant attempt to influence the decision of the arbitration commissioners even before they have heard the evidence to be presented by the representatives of the workers. The Government has alined itself with the employers against the employees. In effect, the Government has become the standard-bearer of big business. Why is this so? What is the reason for the Government’s intervention? According to the Prime Minister, the economy needs time to absorb the increases in wages and margins which were awarded last year. How much time does a buoyant and flourishing economy, such as we are told Australia enjoys to-day, need to absorb fair and just wage increases? Does it need six months, two years, or three years? Neither the Government nor any of its advisers has indicated any views on this question. In our view the Prime Minister really means that we must allow business and commerce sufficient time to push up prices and so wipe out the benefit of the wage increases before the workers receive any further increases. This is an encouragement of profit inflation, and the more that profit inflation increases the greater will be the reckoning that some future government will have to face.
The Government is not asking business interests to absorb some of these costs. If big business is so prosperous, then it should be able to debit some of the wage increases against its profits. But big business will not do that. The truth is that under the Constitution the Government has no real power to make it do so. Therefore, I stress again our point that the Government should ask the people for the power to enable it to govern efficiently, effectively and justly in the interests of the Australian people. The arbitration commission is under no illusions as to what the position of the economy is because in their judgment last year its members said -
If marginal increases cannot be granted in times of economic prosperity, such as the present, it is difficult to imagine when they can be granted.
Why does not the Government leave the arbitration commission to its unfettered judgment as to whether or not it ought to grant further wage increases, if the commission, in its view, believes that the increasing productivity of the country will sustain them! The country is prosperous; there can be no doubt about that. Mr. R. J. Hawke, the leading advocate of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said recently in his submission to the court -
The total profits of Australian companies, other than mining companies, last year was £130,263,600, 12.3 per cent, higher than the previous year. Manufacturing companies’ profits have risen by 13.4 per cent, from about £74,000,000 to £84,000,000.
All within one year! Mr. Hawke went on -
Undistributed profits and money allowed for depreciation in one year have risen by £36,000,000.
It cannot be argued, therefore, that the economy cannot support an increase. The judges of the commission were of the opinion that these wage and marginal increases could be met by industry without any difficulty. But the Government, in effect, rejects this view to-day and instructs its counsel to argue before the commissioners that they should refuse any further increases, in order to give the business community a breathing space. That means the big business interests in the community, because in that breathing space the big business interests will boost their profits still further.
We have had the experience of General Motors-Holden’s Limited declaring a profit of 800 per cent, gross on paid up capital and paying a dividend rate of 475 per cent, on paid up capital. There are other companies in the community such as the Vacuum oil company, the Shell company and other interests which do not have to publish balance sheets, so the people do not know what profits are being made and how much money is being unfairly taken from the Australian community.
Nor do the public know how much money is being exploited for the benefit of the private sector of the community. Every State Premier who comes here to the Premiers’ Conference each year complains that he cannot get enough money to enable his government to provide the schools, hospitals, roads and the other public services essential to the public sector of the community, essential for the good of the nation and even essential, too, for the private sector of the community to continue to function satisfactorily.
Let me say to those who charge us with wanting to socialize everything, including the corner store and the lolly shop, that we have always said that in every society there is room for a private sector in the economy and also for a public sector. The difference between the Opposition and the Government is largely how wide is the private sector and how wide is the public sector. We believe that if the States are to fulfil their function and the public sector is to be properly serviced, then some radical changes in the constitution will have to be made. If this is not done, the States will get into such a condition of instability and insolvency that they will not be able to function at all and discharge their responsibilities which are guaranteed to them under the Constitution as it exists. The Prime Minister knows all this, very well.
– I have heard it many times before.
– I know. Let me remind the Prime Minister of something he said about this in the past.
– He knows full well that wages are not the cause of price increases.
– Oh, nonsense!
– If honorable members will just listen, let me put the Prime
Minister on the witness stand and ask him did he say, in this House, in 1942 -
There never has been a period in the world’s history when upward prices have been overtaken by upward wages.
– Who said that?
– The Prime Minister, here, when he was a member of the Opposition, in 1942. He went on to say -
The prices rise first, the wages plod laboriously after them.
That is our view to-day. We ask him to go back to his earlier beliefs and do something about the position to-day. What the Prime Minister and his Government are doing at this moment is deliberately preventing the unions from securing a just and equitable increase, which would assist their members in overcoming price increases if the arbitration commission, in its judgment, says that their claims are justified. The workers do not get increases merely by demanding them; they have to prove their case and the Government tries to load the position against them.
Prices in this country have increased and are still increasing. They have increased, ever since this Government came to power, at the rate of 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, per annum. Between 1948 and 1957, retail prices rose in the United Kingdom by 50 per cent., in Canada by 26 per cent., in New Zealand by 52 per cent, and by only 18 per cent, in the United States. But in Australia in that period they have risen by 98 per cent. This is the Government’s miserable record in that regard. It represents a chain of broken promises and a violation of solemn pledges made to the people of Australia.
I do not want to raise again, for the purpose of exacerbating the Government’s difficulties, the memory of its famous promise, made in 1949, to put value back into the £1. There is no value, comparatively, in the Australian £1 to-day. But although the people have suffered the loss of value from all their earnings and all their savings, prices have risen rapidly and are being kept deliberately high by agreements among businessmen, by restrictive practices and by monopolization.
– Even the Government acknowledges it.
– The Government acknowledges it but it has done nothing about it. Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, in a remarkably outspoken indictment of current business practices, emphasized this point in his Adelaide lecture last month. He stated that it was clear that for a wide range of goods throughout the economy, prices were determined by management rather than by market forces. We hear about free enterprise. There has never been such a thing as free enterprise since this Government came to office because monopolies will not allow enterprise to function freely. Monopolies see that their controllers will be the people who determine prices in the long run. Dr. Coombs, in his statement, said further that these were gentlemen’s agreements on price policies. We say that there is nothing gentlemanly about any of these agreements. We say that the people are being fleeced and that the people are being robbed.
What is happening is that a few powerful and wealthy men controlling certain concerns exploit the weak and the poor and the great mass of the people. There is a tendency to believe that price agreements, selling arrangements and the like are confined to only a small section of business or industry. This is a fallacy. They have permeated right through trade, commerce and industry. No section is now simply at the mercy of thelaws of supply and demand. Restrictive practices of all kinds are now the accepted rule and will become more and more a part of our way of life as the drift towards monopolization gathers force.
At page five of the printed copy of the Governor-General’s Speech, the question of increased powers for the Commonwealth Parliament is dealt with, and at the top of page six, at the very end of the document, there is a promise that something might be done about monopolization, that something might be done about restrictive trade practices - in effect, that what the Macmillan Government has done in England will be studied to see if we cannot do something about it here.
The phrases used in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech in regard to the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional
Review are most interesting, because they are completely evasive.
My Government is engaged - said the Governor-General, speaking for the Government or putting forward the Government’s view - in the substantial task of considering the lengthy and carefully prepared report presented to this Parliament by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review.
Sir, we suggest that the Government should give effect to the recommendations of the committee in relation to capital issues. On this subject the committee recommended that-
The Commonwealth Parliament should have power to make laws with respect to -
The power proposed to be vested in the Parliament under sub-paragraph (1) is not to apply to-
That, surely, gives protection to private enterprise to function effectively without interference by any government bent on misusing that power - or using it, either - for the purpose of nationalizing any industry.
In respect of consumer credit the committee recommended that -
The Constitution should be amended by vesting the Commonwealth Parliament with a power to make laws with respect to hire-purchase and other agreements or transactions entered into in connexion with the sale, purchase, hire or encumbrance of goods which involve the making of perodical payments or deferment of payment of the full amount payable.
There is also the recommendation of the committee regarding interest rates. We believe that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power to pass laws in respect of interest rates other than those covered by the banking power. We believe that the Government has failed for the past ten years to govern this country as it should have been governed, and so we have moved our amendment to the Address-in-Reply.
Let me summarize, Sir. We believe that the country is prosperous. We believe that this prosperity is primarily due to the actions of the Chifley Government in establishing full employment, in developing and extending the welfare state, in inaugurating the immigration scheme and the Snowy Mountains scheme, and in respect of the other great works it launched. We believe that the prosperity that the country is enjoying is not being equally shared by all the country’s citizens, but is being largely exploited by the avaricious, the greedy and the wealthy few.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has made his maiden speech in that capacity, and I listened to it, as I imagine the public would have done, with interest and enjoyment. But the opening round of his longpromised attack on the Government had some very peculiar features. Not the least of these, Sir, was the wording of the Opposition’s amendment. If this was an attack, it was a three-stage missile with a powerful first stage and two subsequent stages added which were designed to make sure that the missile never hit the target, because they exerted their explosive effect in a direction opposite from that of the target. The amendment contained three reasons which are completely contradictory.
One would have thought, from some of the things that the honorable gentleman said, that he did not want inflation to happen. I think he tried to give that impression. All through the years he has tried to give the public that impression, but in his policy and in his speeches he has in fact encouraged inflation. He referred to the early days of this Government and the last days of the Chifley Government. Sir, it was in 1951 that the honorable gentleman said, when addressing a meeting at Brighton, Victoria -
Buy all you can. . . . Don’t save your money . . . because the position is going to be desperate.
This was in 1951. He went on -
There’ll be a lot of people in Melbourne who won’t have any Christmas dinner in 1951. Money is no good in the bank while prices are rising so fast. Many people have wakened up–
Honorable members opposite, who are interjecting, do not like to hear this, Mr. Deputy Speaker. This was the prophet in 1951. He said-
Many people have wakened up to this, for bank deposits are not rising. Put your money into goods before prices rise further.
There, Sir, was an open invitation to the public to engage in the most inflationary action that he could suggest. And this is the honorable gentleman who now proposes to save the country from inflation. At that time he tried to scare the public into inflation, because inflation offers the only hope for the people on the Opposition benches to become the government of this country. At that time he tried to scare the public by using those tactics, and he is doing the same thing to-day. The position has not changed in the very least so far as the honorable member is concerned, with the exception that since 1951 so many of his prophecies have proved demonstrably false.
Now, inflation can come from a variety of causes. I think it is usually agreed that wage rises not related to productivity can contribute to inflation. But this honorable gentleman would have us believe that we can have unrestricted wage rises and still defeat inflation.
– He did not say anything of the sort.
– I am very glad to hear it. He tried to suggest that cost of living adjustments to the basic wage did not contribute to inflation. Well, Sir, I wish the Labour Party would straighten out its thinking on this matter, because there is one Labour supporter - a quite distinguished one in Canberra, by the name of Professor Arndt - who has very different ideas on this subject. In the “ Canberra Times “ of 13th February this year Professor Arndt wrote -
We know from experience that, applied to all employees, the technique of cost of living adjustment becomes ineffective. Such adjustment can never compensate employees for an initial rise in the cost of living, because the adjustment itself causes a very nearly equal further rise.
That is a very effective paraphrase, honorable members will note, of the words attributed by the Leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister in 1942. Professor Arndt continued -
Now that the Australian economy is somewhat less exposed than it used to be to changes in domestic retail prices caused by fluctuations in prices overseas, it is safe to say that wage increases have become the chief cause of increases in the cost of living. If the principle of cost of living adjustment were entirely abandoned, the need for it would very largely disappear.
Now, Sir, we have the spectacle of this distinguished gentleman in Canberra, who secured endorsement and election as a Labour candidate to the local Advisory Council, denying emphatically that cost of living adjustment can be of any benefit to the workers and any assistance in combating inflation. In fact, it has exactly the opposite effect. On the other hand, we have the declared policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the trade union movement that they will insist on cost-of-living adjustments. I understand that they stand by that. At least, that has been their policy in every election campaign since 1953 when the Arbitration Court suspended automatic cost-of-living adjustments.
The honorable gentleman raised his hands in pious horror at the thought of this Government going to the Arbitration Commission and suggesting that, at this time, the Australian economy was not in a position to absorb further wage increases.
– What about the independence of the court?
– What about Labour’s declared policy in the last election campaign? The then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, said, “ We shall intervene before the Arbitration Commission “. Which way does the Leader of the Opposition want it? Can there be intervention only on one side? Or can both sides of the story be stated? That was just so much pious humbug. This Government has a plain duty to give its view to the Arbitration Commission and our view is that at this particular time it is not in the interests of the workers themselves to have an immediate wage increase. But, of course, the honorable gentleman is not interested in defeating inflation. He wants inflation, just as he did in 1951, when he went, out and told people to buy all that they could. Now he is saying, “ Force up wages as high as you can “.
Another very potent factor in inflation is productivity - the quantity of goods available in the community. The second missile in this three-stage weapon that is exploding in all directions around the Leader of the Opposition is import restrictions. One would imagine that we should have more goods to defeat inflation so that the people could buy the goods with the money that they have. One would imagine that the Leader of the Opposition and members of the Labour Party would be interested in the worker having the widest possible range of goods available, and so being able to buy as much as possible with his weekly wage. One would imagine that honorable members opposite would not want to interpose a barrier of artificial protection to raise the price of goods in Australia. But no, Sir! The Leader of the Opposition accuses big business in Australia of the most unmentionable crimes and of profiteering at every possible opportunity. He wants to add a further protection to enable them to profiteer still more. He wants more import controls although this would prevent goods from coming freely into this country, competing with Australian products, and so reducing the very kind of profiteering that he attacks.
That was not the only oddity in the honorable gentleman’s speech. On every occasion since 1949 on which this Government has taken action to try to defeat inflation, honorable members opposite, particularly the Leader of the Opposition, have preached a policy which would only contribute to inflation. I refer particularly to the election campaigns which have taken place since then and to three factors which contribute to inflation. First, there is government expenditure. In every election campaign it has been quite patent that honorable members opposite have come out with a policy aimed not at defeating inflation but at buying votes. Government expenditure on a large and lavish scale, whether it arises from the use of bank credit or from increased taxation, if it results in no increase in productivity, is entirely inflationary. I forget all the campaign promises made by the Labour Party of increased handouts - non-productive handouts - but in the last election campaign the relevant figure reached about £250,000,000 and it was quite clear that this, in itself, would have been a very great inflationary influence.
The Leader of the Opposition seemed to think that the end of all our troubles could be reached by amending the Constitution. He was not very clear exactly how he proposed to amend the Constitution. He did not say, for example, whether the Labour Party, if in office, would propose to amend the Constitution to give this Parliament power to fix wages or whether, if the Parliament had that power, a Labour government would stop wages from rising. It would be very interesting to hear the honorable gentleman on that point. He did suggest that capital issues should be controlled. But at this stage, Australia is hungry for capital. We are getting capital for expansion as fast as we can. We need to produce more.
The honorable gentleman suggests that we should have a referendum to give the Commonwealth power to control capital issues. It is rather odd that his only suggestion to combat inflation is the simple one of holding a referendum. The Labour Party has tried that before and failed. It is not very easy to secure a constitutional amendment. There are very good reasons why the Australian people are somewhat cautious about giving great power to the central government when they think of the possible use to which that power might be put by a socialist government. The Leader of the Opposition is a socialist. He makes no bones about that. He has said so on many occasions in the past few years. In 1957, commenting on the Labour Party’s Queensland conference he said -
The Labor Party in this country as in England, owes its philosophy to many thinkers of the nineteenth century, but to none more than the authors of the Fabian Essays of 1888, whose work is the basis of all Labor socialist movements in the British Commonwealth. . . .
The year 1888! That is about the stage that the present Labour Party on the benches opposite has reached in its thinking on this matter of inflation. The various statements that the Leader of the Opposition has made from time to time on this subject of inflation have always been designed to scare the Australian people into further inflation. Today, his speech was couched in somewhat less extravagant terms than usual. But we must always remember that there is a psychological effect on the public from any suggestion either of inflation or depression. The Labour Party has always been at great pains, since it has been in opposition, to try to scare the Australian people into believing that we are in for either galloping inflation or a very great recession. The plain truth is that the economy is healthy to-day; that bank deposits are rising; that the community is enjoying a state of prosperity; that a wider range of goods is available; that sales are healthy; and that there is a healthy demand for goods. Foreign capital is regarding Australia as a sound place for investment.
Everything that the Leader of the Opposition has said is designed to frighten capital away from this country. He attacked private enterprise. He wants to place a premium on inefficiency because, quite clearly, a company that makes profits is operating relatively efficiently. First of all, the Leader of the Opposition would scare away capital investment with threats of attacking private enterprise. Then he would place a premium on inefficiency, resulting in lower productivity and fewer goods. This is one of his remedies for inflation. There was never such a lot of nonsensical doctrinaire socialist talk as we heard from him to-day. I believe that if only this Government can carry on with its present programme we can continue with the progress of our economy. Everything that we have tried to do to attack inflation has been strenuously opposed by Labour, which now comes forward with all sorts of weird remedies, fantasies and queer doctrines. These are based, as I have said, on Labour’s old-fashioned philosophies, which date back to 1888 and even earlier. I ask you, Sir: Can we be turned from our steady progress by such great flights of fancy?
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I very warmly support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), and I very much regret that the Government’s reply to his arguments was not presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), whose administration embraces the aspects of economic and public policy with which the Leader of the Opposition dealt. The reply that we have heard given on behalf of the Government, has been far from satisfying, and very far from convincing.
One would like to discuss many subjects in this debate on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, but the one that is paramount at present is inflation and its effect upon the living conditions of the Australian people. From what has been said already by the Leader of the Opposition, it is apparent that many circumstances give cause for a degree of disquiet. Unfortunately, certain trends in our economy can be a source of great difficulty and may even cause economic disaster in Australia.
In its approach to the problem of inflation, the present Government seems to delight in dancing around the thorns and the thistles, but it does very little to curb their growth or, better still, to destroy the threats to the Australian economy. Inflation has the nation in its grip, and it is of no use to fool ourselves by thinking otherwise. The Government already is approaching the more dangerous consequences arising from this creeping paralysis which afflicts our economy. But it has only one solution: Cut the standard of living in the Australian community. Is not that the logical conclusion to be drawn from the Government’s action in opposing workers’ claims for an increased basic wage?
The claim for an increase in the basic wage now before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has not been made because of a likely increase in living costs in the future. It has been made as a consequence of cost increases that have affected every home over the months since the basic wage was last adjusted. Over that long period, the workers have been denied wage increases to compensate for the added costs in the Australian economy. This means that, generally - and particularly among the workers - the standard of living has been less and less maintained. One has only to share in the task of making essential purchases for the home to realize that, each week, one gets less and less for every £1. This indicates a definite lowering of the standards of families and of home conditions generally throughout the community. This circumstance is very disturbing.
The present Government, of course, takes no action to deal with the problem effectively. It has done nothing to curb the rise in prices or to halt the process of increasing charges adopted by the hire-purchase corporations and other companies. It is content to allow interest charges and profits to soar ever higher, free of all restraint. It will exercise no influence or power over them. What we see is a one-way traffic all the time. Those who already have in abundance receive even greater advantage, and the wage-earners who are responsible for creating the prosperity of this country, whose fortunes they share, are denied the opportunity to share as fully as they should do in the prosperity that they have created.
Overseas corporations are allowed to adopt cover-up measures in order to conceal the high profits that their industrial activities in this country earn. The Australian nation is not to be told how much is being extracted from the people by these operations which result in large profits finding their way into the pockets of overseas financiers and wealthy industrial magnates. This Government does nothing whatever to protect the Australian people against the gold-digger kind of investor whose principal concern is ever-soaring profits and prices.
The Government seeks to allay public apprehension by declaring that there is no economic crisis. Although the Cabinet had been closely closeted in the consideration of this very matter for two days, having found it essential to set aside all other business in order to deliberate on inflation as a matter of first importance, the Treasurer thought fit to announce to the public that there was no inflation crisis in Australia. However, I find that another man of very high standing, whose views, I think, will be at least equally respected, does not agree with the Treasurer. Dr. Coombs, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, in a speech delivered in Adelaide on, I think, 16th February last, warned of the danger of the present situation. From the evidence that comes to him in his special and privileged position he would know the effect of these circumstances on the Australian economy. He indicates that there is every likelihood that the present condition of creeping inflation will develop into galloping inflation. It is not pleasant to think that this will be allowed to occur without any attempt being made to prevent it. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) to-day should have answered the statements made by the Leader of the Opposition, and assured, the nation that the Government was guarding against such an eventuality. If the Prime Minister was not able to do so, the Treasurer should have done so.
In Adelaide Dr. Coombs told a crowded gathering of South. Australian businessmen that an advanced stage of inflation would intensify the problems already being faced and would lead to severe restrictions and disruption of business activity. That estimate of what is involved in the present crisis is a little different from that which honorable members opposite are prepared to make. If one thing more than any other proves that the Government realizes that it is faced with a serious problem it is the action that it has taken against the workers of this country. I do not think it is fair to single out one section of the economy for remedial treatment.
– The important section
– The most important section. This section comprises the people who work in business, industry, the mines and. elsewhere and who really make this nation.. They are the people who defend it in time of crisis. It is unfair to ask the Australian worker meekly to accept the fact that, the purchasing power of his wage is continually diminishing.
For some time I have endeavoured to point out that the value of the workers’ savings is declining. A sum of money deposited with a savings bank ten years ago would have nowhere near the same purchasing power to-day. The people of this country have been denied the full value of hundreds of millions of pounds deposited by- them in savings accounts. 1 cannot help wondering when more people will wake up to the fact that they are so much poorer than they should be because this Government has remained in office. It is time that the people considered this matter.
In his address in Adelaide Dr. Coombs also said -
As more and more people become aware of the fall in the value of their money holdings, as they lose the money illusion, they will seek to protect themselves by buying assets which will not lose their value as the decline in the value of money continues.
So Dr. Coombs does not believe that there will be any immediate increase in the value of money and he points to the effect that this must have on the mind of the average member of the community who will seek to counter the loss that he would otherwise sustain. We cannot ignore the serious effect of this situation on every man, woman and child in this country.
Now let me say a little about prices. It is remarkable that the Government, before deciding to intervene in the basic wage case, did not call the Premiers together with a view to taking some action to curb rising prices. The Government has done nothing to stop the rise in profits and prices. One has only to read the daily newspapers to see how business interests are making higher profits, declaring larger dividends and expanding their activities. We applaud the progress of many of these firms but we feel that the community at large should benefit from their increased efficiency and productivity. In his address Dr. Coombs said that it was clear that for a wide range of goods throughout the economy prices were determined by management rather than by market forces. He said that this had developed with the emergence of strong monopolistic elements in our economy. Apparently this development had been assisted by the passive attitude of the Australian public towards price rises. Dr. Coombs also said that there appeared to be a general reluctance to pass on to consumers the advantage of lower costs achieved, although higher production activity has been possible and despite the fact that in the manufacturing industry especially there have been very significant reductions in unit costs of production.
Automation and the. ever-increasing use of mechanical aids,.in industry s,urey present the opportunity far ali people to share the prosperity that to-day is being enjoyed by only a few people^ some pf whom are overseas and make little or no, contribution to the improvement of conditions here. Very often, the advantages that should flow from these industries that are owned bv overseas interests are denied to the Australian people. We should all realize the dangers that arise from, such a situation as this. Honorable members opposite may sneer about the achievements in Ben Chifley’s time, but there was, never a time in our history when we had a prouder record to present to our people and to the world. We had stability, and full value was given to the people, both in the wages they received and the prices they paid. We sought to deal fairly with all sections of the community so that all people would receive a just reward for their efforts. Therefore, we are justified in asking the Government to face its responsibilities and to offer some explanation for the action it has recently taken and for not taking other action to ensure a more satisfactory situation than we now have. Possibly, the only way to ensure that effective action will be taken is to have a change of government, and I earnestly hope that by the next election the people will have learned the wisdom of giving another government the opportunity to pass on to them the advantages of living in a great country such as this.
.- The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) made the fantastic statement that the Government has not taken one single action to deal with the mildly inflationary situation which exists at present, and which affects prices and profits. He asserted that the only action that the Government has taken is to intervene before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But, of course, that is nonsense. I need refer only to the removal of import restrictions, which directly affects the level of prices and profits. But what is the position of Opposition members? While caterwauling about inflation, they oppose the one immediate action that the Government can take, and use it as one of the grounds on which they seek to amend the AddressinReply to the Governor-General’s Speech. The honorable member for Bonython did not refer to the Government’s proposals, outlined in the Governor-General’s Speech, with reference to restrictive practices in commerce and industry. This is positive action which will be possible in the fairly near future.
All the solutions of Opposition members to the problems of inflation devolve on amendments of the Constitution. What fantasy that is! Only four amendments of the Constitution have been accepted in the history of this country. In addition, a gallup pole has shown that many of the amendments proposed by the Constitutional
Review Committee would probably have the same fate. Yet, in this uncertain, precarious situation, the remedies for the current inflationary situation advanced by honorable members opposite all evolve on amendments of the Constitution. I am amazed at the current panic and concern of the Australian Labour Party with this problem of inflation. Since I have been in this House, 90 per cent, of the remedies to these situations suggested by the Labour Party have involved highly inflationary proposals. It does not matter whether Opposition members have been proposing increases in social services or opposing the Japanese Trade Agreement; almost every remedy that they have to the problems of this country, made both in this House and in election speeches, have been highly inflationary.
Whilst regretting the attitude of the Opposition, I want to make a few comments on the problem of inflation. I make no apology for doing so. The problem is obviously with us. Although I do not believe it has reached the critical state that honorable gentlemen opposite, for political purposes, pretend that it has, it is still a very real problem and we must face it. Unless we can contain it, it will bring us to destruction just as surely as will the opposite situation of deflation or depression. The problem of depression has, in the past, gained our attention much more closely than has the problem of inflation. This concentration of attention on the problems of depression by economists, politicians and others has led to many important discoveries which have enormously strengthened our capacity to deal with the signs of incipient depression when they occur. This is good, but it should be recognized that past concentration on the causes of depression and the remedial measures to be taken has had two consequences. First, the exercise of remedial measures and what I may call the depression-minded mentality which is very evident on the other side of this House, have been the cause of much of the inflation in recent years. And secondly, concentration on the anatomy of depressions has meant that not nearly enough attention has been given by the people concerned to the anatomy of inflation. What we need now is another Keynes to give us the complete answer to the problems of inflation, as Keynes himself gave us the answer to the problems of inflation before. It is not difficult to enumerate the consequences of inflation. We have heard them repeated ad nauseam in recent weeks and months from many sources.
It is worth repeating what those effects are, because I do not think we should be allowed to forget them. Inflation destroys the value of savings and the purchasing power of those on fixed incomes and, by doing so, it demoralizes a small but very important part of the Australian community - a section moreover, which because it is small has little political power and, therefore, is likely to be ignored. The case for retaining or restoring the value of savings in this instance rests perhaps more on humanitarian grounds than on its effect on the overall economic picture.
If it is true that the case for the restoration and maintenance of the value of savings and the purchasing power of those on fixed incomes rests largely on humanitarian grounds, the same is certainly not true of the other section of the community which suffers severely from inflation, and here I refer to the primary producer. Again, this is a comparatively small section of the Australian community in terms of numbers, but it would be difficult for any one to contend that the case for the restoration of the primary producer’s margin over costs rests purely on humanitarian grounds. Indeed, in his case, it rests on economic arguments which are of vital importance to the whole Australian community.
The case for the primary producer, in a time of inflation, rests on the simple fact that while the prices he receives for his products - this is so in most of the major primary industries - are determined by competition, often on a world market, the prices which enter into his costs are managed on the inflated Australian market. This would not matter very much if the inflationary process was uniform throughout the world, but it is not. Thus the primary producer faces a situation in which his costs creep up and up in response to our internal cost increases, while the prices he receives for his products remain the same or increase much less in proportion to the rising costs. This imposes an additional burden, made almost intolerable by the fact that in any case the prices he receives for his product fluctuate widely from season to season and from year to year.
It is often said that inflation is pricing us out of world markets. This I believe to be a misleading and ambiguous statement, which hides the effect that this process is having on the income of the primary producer himself. This is because he has to sell his product on the world market, whether he likes it or not. If his costs are greater than the prices he receives he makes a loss on his year’s operations, but the overseas income earned by Australia remains the same. It is important to remember that this process can go on for some time before either the farmer reacts to it or the Government and the Australian community recognize the dangers of it.
Sooner or later, however, a farmer, in response to these circumstances, will cut down on his production or leave the land altogether. When this happens, on a large scale, as it certainly will if the present trend goes on, then Australia’s export income will decline and it can validly be said that Australia is pricing herself out of world markets. Looking at this question of the effect of inflation on the primary industries from the narrow short-term view ignoring the consequences to Australia’s economy and development, and concentrating purely on the welfare of the primary producer himself, I believe it is possible to devise a solution to his problems which protects him against recurring inflation.
This is the method which has been widely introduced in the United States of America and some other countries by ensuring the farmer a guaranteed income through price supports or some other method to give him a margin above the cost of efficient production. By this means the community guarantees the farmer a reasonable and adequate standard of living by payments to him out of the general revenue when the prices he receives for his products do not return him a sufficient margin above his costs.
The theory behind this practice is that the farmer is just as much entitled to a reasonable standard of living as is any one else; that the community benefits from the lower prices for the farmer’s products; and, lastly, that it is the community, through the government, which is partly responsible for the fact that the farmer’s costs are as high as they are. This last point is of fundamental importance, because to me it represents the main reason why no farmer should be ashamed of accepting government supplements for the price he receives for his products.
The farmer lives in a world in which, in relation to his costs, he is subject to managed prices from all directions. I say “ managed prices “ because they are prices determined by many factors other than the free play of the market. Many of them are determined, for instance, by the level of tariff protection afforded to local manufacturers, an action which is a direct responsibility of the government and which inevitably increases the prices he has to pay. The prices which he has to pay for the labour he employs, and also for the goods he uses insofar as they have a labour content, are managed also through the arbitration system. Last, but not least, the prices he has to pay for the goods he uses - and this is the only one they refer to - are managed through trade agreements, price agreements and many other practices which generally come under the heading of restrictive practices. On the other hand, the farmer himself has no power whatsoever to manage the prices he receives.
The problem of an adequate return to the individual farmer can thus be solved by recompensing him for communitycaused rises in his costs and, indeed, if no satisfactory means of stabilizing costs is found such action will have to be taken and taken quickly. But if such action will solve the individual problem of the farmer, what of Australia’s overall economic problem? We are a great trading nation - the eighth in the world - and are vitally dependent for our future on maintaining and expanding our share of world trade. The diversification of the Australian economy and expansion into manufacturing industry have not lessened but increased our necessity to sell goods overseas. In this we are following the pattern of other countries whose economy has passed through the stage of development that ours is now following.
Not only is our demand for imports increasing with the growing maturity of our economy, but also, and more important, the proportion of total imports represented by goods which are absolutely vital to our continuing economic growth has increased, so that now more than 70 per cent. of the goods we import are producer goods or raw materials. In such circumstances it is obvious, as has been said many times before, that an adequate export income is & condition precedent to our continued growth and development. Herein lies the vital importance of the primary industries to Australia’s economic development and prosperity. Herein lies the reason why an adequate net farm income is of concern not only to the farmers themselves, but also to every other man, woman and child in Australia. The primary industries still produce more than 80 per cent. of our export income. What is more, despite the fact that the total share of primary products in our export income has declined somewhat in the last twenty years, the proportion contributed by one vital product - wool - to our total export income has increased in that period.
The reason why the primary industries contribute the greater share of our export income - and this is not always fully understood - is that most of the primary industries in Australia have natural and manmade advantages which put them in a position infinitely superior to that of similar industries in other parts of the world. In other words, we have the natural advantages in respect of primary production that some other countries have in the field of manufacturing. We can, or should be able to, outsell other countries in respect of many of our primary products, in the same way as they, because of their greater efficiency and natural advantages, can outsell us with manufactured goods.
These advantages that we possess derive, or have derived in the past, from our capacity to produce at such a low cost level that our farmers can make a profit by selling their products at prices below those of their overseas competitors. It is precisely this capacity which is being destroyed by the insidious rise of internal costs in Australia. Costs have, in some industries, offset completely the advantages we derive from natural causes and from technical efficiency, and in others they are beginning to do so.
Until now our Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has been able to go to countries where governments are attempting to irter- feTe with the natural cost-price relationship of their primary products and say with perfect justification that such practices are hindering the flow of Australian primary products to those countries, and reducing our capacity to buy goods from them. It is to our advantage to take such a moral stand because, other things being equal, we have a natural advantage over our competitors. But such an argument is worth making only if we continue to enjoy such a natural advantage, and it will carry weight with the governments of the countries concerned only so long as we refrain ourselves from indulging in the practices complained of. Yet, as I said earlier, if the present trend continues it will be necessary for us to adopt similar policies in order to protect the incomes of our own primary producers.
I conclude from all this, Mr. Speaker, that the only situation in which a country in Australia’s condition will be able to grow and develop, with ever-improving standards of living for everybody, is one of relative cost stability. Perhaps it is possible for a country less dependent on the outside world, by making adjustments and provision for those elements in the community that suffer from inflation, to ignore the effects of inflation. But Australia certainly is not such a country. It is, to my mind, absolutely vital for our whole future that we should stabilize costs and keep them stable. But how do we achieve this objective?
Many voices have been heard counselling wage restraint, and suggesting that in times of inflation it is the duty of the Arbitration Court or Commission to reject applications for wage increases. Let me say at this point that I am not referring here to the Government’s action in appearing before the Arbitration Commission during its current hearing of an application for a basic wage increase. I consider it the duty of the Government to place the court or the commission in possession of such information as it is able to provide, which only the Government can provide, and which the court or commission needs in order to arrive at a satisfactory decision.
As I have said, there are many who say that it is the duty of the Arbitration Court or Commission to reject all applications for wage increases. They say that this is the answer to inflation. If only, so the argument runs, the commission would refuse applications for a higher basic wage or increased margins, costs would be stabilized and there would be no further need to worry. I am not impressed by the majority of such arguments as they are presented. They generally rest on the so-called capacity, or lack of capacity, of the economy to pay increased wages. But what is the capacity of the economy in this sense? Is it the capacity of the economy to pay with its present price structure, managed and not subject to the healthy influence of competition at least as regards price, or is it the capacity of an economy in which manufacturers and business firms have consistently failed to pass on to consumers or to wageearners, except when ordered to do so by the Arbitration Commission, the benefits of increased productivity, labour efficiency and technical advance? I suggest, Sir, that in an economic situation in which manufacturing interests and business firms have evidenced no sense of responsibility in this regard, the whole concept of the capacity to pay is meaningless. It is, therefore, very difficult for the Arbitration Commission or any one else to take it as a criterion.
Let us face it, Mr. Speaker: It is the wage-earner in Australia or any other country who, apart from such people as pensioners and those living on small fixed incomes, is in the weakest position to withstand a decline in the purchasing power of his wages, and still less the loss of his income altogether. In these circumstances the Arbitration Commission, in my view, having in mind the undoubted increase in productivity which has occurred, has no other course open to it than to make awards having the effect of retaining the purchasing power of wages.
This brings me to the point that if we are to achieve cost stability in this country - and it is vitally important that we do so - a start must be made not by those who manage wages but by those who manage prices. When prices reflect improvements in technological skill and productivity, then the level of wages will take care of itself. I have no doubt that the Arbitration Commission, faced with evidence that there has been a wholesale reduction in prices, reflecting improvement in productivity, would be delighted to refuse applications for wage increases. Until such a point is reached, I cannot see that the commission has any alternative but to continue its present policy.
How do we go about ensuring that prices reflect improvements in productivity? In my view the cause of the present state of affairs, or part of the cause-
– Order! the honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I commend the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) for the sentiments expressed in the last five minutes of his speech. It took him a long time to arrive at his conclusions, but those conclusions were most interesting. I agree with him that the failure of industry to pass on to the consumer the benefits of technological and other improvements is one of the real causes of the trouble we are in to-day. The cause is not to be found solely in any specific wage increase covering even a wide range of wage-earners. We may get him into our party eventually.
To-day we heard the maiden speech of the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell) in his capacity as our new leader. We have heard him many times in this House but never before as our leader, and I congratulate him on a splendid speech, a fighting speech, and a constructive speech which gave us great heart. I assure the Parliament that Labour is now on the march; Labour is now on the warpath. From now on we are looking forward to a new sense of team work in our approach to national problems. There will be vigorous campaigning throughout Australia during the next twenty months and we will announce a positive policy for the next elections. The only people who are really worried about the new team which has been elected to leadership of our party are the supporters of the Government.
In proposing an amendment to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, we have done something that is quite unusual, but it is about time that the problems facing the country were pinpointed. As we move around our electorates many matters are raised, even by supporters of the Government, some of whom say that they have “ had “ the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). I hope that enough of them feel that way by the end of next year to enable us to change places with the Government. Some honorable members on the Government side think that they will be there for ever. How wrong they are! Retribution will come to them just as it came to us in 1949. Australian politics are like that. I still have enough faith in the electors to believe that when they have had enough of one government they will replace it. I assure honorable members on the Government side, who are so cocksure, that one day we will be sitting where they are now. We are fighting now to replace them at the end of next year or, if not then, three years later. The Government will not destroy the Australian Labour Party. We have been through tough and worrying times, but the Government will go through similar troubles later when its leader steps down as he finally will have to do, even if he has to totter out on a stick. Let me assure the Government now that with our new team in action we will be on the warpath until we occupy the treasury bench, if it takes twenty months or four years.
– What guernseys are you wearing?
– We are wearing various colours, but we are all in the one team.
– Australian Rules or Rugby League?
– Australian Rules generally.
– Then you have no chance.
– Let me refer now to the basic wage issue which has been discussed at length during this debate, but I shall not devote all of my time to it. Of course, we condemn the Government’s opposition in the court to the application for an increase in the basic wage. The Government’s action is almost unprecedented, and it proves to my mind the Government’s very hypocritical outlook. It did not oppose the application for increased margins, and it did not oppose the increase of £18 a week for heads of departments. But in this instance the Government is seeking to influence the court, not stating a view after the court has reached a decision. That is why it is serious that the Government should intervene in an attempt to prevent the basic wage earners from receiving wage justice to enable them to cope with to-day’s high prices. That brings me to this point: Mr. Justice Wright, a member of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration
Commission in 1957, said that he disagreed with the amount of the increase which was awarded in that year. He held that the increases assessed by the commission on the two previous occasions, should have been greater. Quite early during the hearing of the basic wage case last year Mr. Justice Foster said that the discontinuance of the automatic quarterly adjustments was based on a fallacy. Both judges then maintained that the national economy was able to stand even greater increases than they awarded. That is still the position to-day.
During the last four years the basic wage has risen by 5s., 10s. 5s. and 15s., a total of 35s. a week. If big business and the Government think that that small increase in wages has contributed materially to the inflationary trends which are in evidence to-day, they are like ostriches with their heads in the sand. They are looking at only one set of facts. I criticize the Government for its one-sided handling of the problem of inflation. It seems to be obsessed with one idea - to prevent the basic wage earners from receiving wage justice, as if that would correct the present inflationary trend. It expects the basic wage earner to sacrifice himself and to lower his standard of living in order to stabilize the economy and to check rising prices. The basic wage earner is the principal consumer in Australia and, as we know, all costs eventually are passed on to the consumer. The Government expects him to bear the full brunt of correcting the excesses in our economy. That is completely unjust and unfair. If a denial of wage justice is the method to be used in an attempt to stabilize the economy, let all sections of the community bear the burden equally. But we received our increases last year. Margins have been lifted in almost every field of Australian industrial life. Heads of departments have received increases of £18 a week yet, to the great section of the community - the bulk of the consumers - the Government has said, “ No rise for you, brother. You have to stabilize the economy.” This method of controlling inflation allows the principal supporters of the Government to go scot-free. They have already received their rises. The Government’s remedy has failed. When a doctor fails to cure an illness you change either the doctor or the remedy. In this case I hope that the people will change their political doctor in twenty months’ time.
Towards the end of his speech the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) touched on another interesting feature of the effect of the basic wage on inflation. Quarterly adjustments were abandoned six years and four months ago. The Government believed then that prices suddenly would be stabilized. I love that word “ stabilized “. It is used all over the place and one wonders whether it has lost its true meaning! The cessation of quarterly adjustments of the basic wage was to be the panacea of all our ills. But what has been going on during the six years which have followed? There has been a persistent gradual rise in the price of every commodity which is used in the home. I do not know of one item which has gone down in price during the last seven years. It is obvious that the Government’s method of stabilizing prices has failed completely. But to-day we have the spectacle of the Government intervening in court and urging that the method be continued.
The next point on which I should like to concentrate relates to the growth of monopolies, a matter which was handled expertly by the Leader of the Opposition. The growth of monopolies in Australia has been accentuated by the influence of American capital. It is a strange thing that everything the Americans touch seems to go to cartelization, combination or monopolization. The whole American set-up seems to be built upon those three foundations. Since American investors have been pouring capital into Australia we have seen the growth of monopolies and cartels and we have received a blood transfusion. It is serious, and the people in the country are noting its seriousness. On behalf of the Opposition I again condemn the Government’s abject failure to control the growth of monopolies and restrictive trade practices which are gradually stifling free enterprise. I wonder how serious the Prime Minister was in regard to the statement, in the Speech of the GovernorGeneral, that the Government would have a look at this situation. I wonder. The Prime Minister will be hurting some of his own supporters if he tackles this matter with any sincerity. I feel that in the long run it will be shelved. It is too close to election time for him to meddle with his supporters, and naturally, that matter will be shelved.
Another process which has been going on under this Government’s rule, and which I condemn, is government by regulation - in other words, making major decisions behind the back of Parliament. When honorable members have returned to their electorates this Government has made major decisions. Honorable members have not been in Canberra and therefore have had no chance of debating in Parliament the matters involved. We read in the press, subsequently, that this and that have been decided - basic things, major things, involving big changes in the national picture. That, too, is a dangerous trend. It means that the Parliament is being treated more and more as a rubber stamp - a costly one, too.
There is also the growth of government by bureaucrats as a result of this method of doing things behind the Parliament’s back. I have not time, in this speech, to develop that subject, but I say that it is a dangerous trend and the Opposition, when it becomes the Government, will have to take note of it. Government by the bureaucracy can be a form of dictatorship that has everything which is bad about it. The bureaucrats involved are not responsible to the people in the electorates. But we are. The true government of a country should be by the people who are elected to the parliament.
The next point I want to mention, hurriedly, is the take-over mania of this Government which has been developing during the last ten years at an alarming rate. The most recent example was mentioned during question time to-day and I was most interested in the Prime Minister’s suave reply. It concerned a news broadcast and an item freely reported in the press some time ago that four overseas drug houses were having a look at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories with a view to a possible take-over, significantly, all at the same time. The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) made a reply in the press next day. Discussion followed for about a week and the matter came to Cabinet. Cabinet quickly tossed the idea out and I still wonder why. I interjected when the Prime
Minister was speaking to-day and said that Cabinet’s decision was due to public pressure.
– You do not usually interject.
– No, I do not, because I find that when a member interjects on the Prime Minister, he is liable to come off second best. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I spoke to several people in my electorate on this matter after the report of the possibility of this take-over appeared in the press. I was visiting a town and two strong Liberal Party supporters, men who will never vote for me, congratulated me on my attack on the proposal after the announcement appeared in the press. These gentlemen said to me, in effect, “ We were shocked to see that there is a possibility of the Federal Government selling out our serum laboratories. This sort of thing has been going on too long. Too much American and overseas capital has been allowed to come into the country. Do all you can to see that this thing does not take place.” When Liberal supporters are afraid of what is happening in Government circles with the persistent take-over of community assets - the peoples’ assets - it is time to sit up and take notice. I feel that the public reaction to this proposal was so quick and so smart that it helped to affect the decision of Cabinet. The Prime Minister’s reply to-day in the House was completely unconvincing.
I now wish to refer to the Bell Bay aluminium project which is in the electorate of my colleague, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). I do not wish to deal with it in detail, because it is in his electorate. Tasmania is represented extensively in this House by members of the Labour Party. I refer to my colleague, the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), who will be here for the next 30 years, and also my colleague, the honorable member for Bass, who also will be here for the next 30 years. Their electorates, together with mine stretch across the northern part of Tasmania from east to west, and also down towards the southern coast. The only electorates in Tasmania which are not represented by Labour are Denison and Franklin.
The Australian Aluminium Production Commission was established by a Labour government and built up under the present Government’s regime. An amount of £11,200,000 of public money was invested in this great project, of which the Cornwealth put in £9,700,000, and the Tasmanian Government £1,500,000. The Tasmanian Government proposes to add a further £3,000,000. This project is again in the news. It is interesting to recall that when the present Australian Ambassador to Washington, Mr. Howard Beale, was Minister for Supply, I said that eventually this Government would sell out the Bell Bay project. The only thing that has prevented that from happening so far is the Tasmanian Government’s interest in the establishment, lt has been a sore point with this Government that Tasmania has an interest in this commission, because this Government likes to have a big government utility in its own hands so that it can sell the whole lot, lock, stock and barrel, to some private enterprise. What is the latest plan?
According to reports, we believe that the Government is working behind the scenes to sell its interest to the British Aluminium Company, which owns one-half of Comalco, a concern which is exploiting bauxite deposits at Weipa on Cape York Peninsula. Its products could naturally and normally and rightly be treated at Bell Bay. The British Aluminium Company is consultant to the Australian Aluminium Production Commission, and we understand that it was to be given the first offer if Bell Bay was ever to be sold to a private enterprise.
According to Government circles this is the normal trend, but I see a danger in such a sell out. If aluminium consumption throughout the world declines in the next few years, as it is likely to do, what is to prevent these works from being closed down by the British Aluminium Company, which has its hands on so much of the aluminium production throughout the world? It is not likely to let a small show like this compete -with its markets overseas. That is the great danger in this.
The only thing that can check such a happening is the Tasmanian Government’s interest in Bell Bay. I am’ not sure how a private firm, working alongside the Tasmanian Government in this big project, could close the establishment. I am not sure of the actual set-up, but at least there is a great danger of this happening in the future if the Government sells this project. It is about time we had a change in the Government’s policy of selling our public utilities to private enterprise.
Another development during the recess, behind Parliament’s back, was the changeover of aircraft agreement between AnsettA.N.A. and Trans-Australia Airlines. This shocked the country. I want to tell all the Government that it is more vulnerable on the Ansett-T.A.A. deal than on many other matters at present. I have just completed a tour of a big portion of my electorate and wherever J have spoken to people I have found that they cannot get over the fact that this Government has not used its power to prevent such an agreement. Assuming that the Government did not exert pressure behind the scenes to make the agreement possible, it could at least have used its power to prevent the making of the agreement had it wished. The agreement is wrong in every language. There is not a feature of it of which we can approve. This rapacious company - Ansett-A.N.A. - has one aim, and that is to become the one and only airline in Australia, and it is using this Government in order to achieve that end, and as its mouthpiece and assistant.
Briefly, the agreement provides for the handing over of three T.A.A. Viscounts, which are being used mainly on the Melbourne-Tasmania run, to AnsettA.N.A., and the handing over of two Ansett-A.N.A. D.C.6’s, which are being used on the MelbournePerthAdelaideTasmania run, to T.A.A. Ansett pilots are still handling the D.C.6’s until T.A.A. trains its own pilots to handle them. Did anybody ever hear of such a thing? T.A.A. had an all-jet fleet, and was proud of it. We were proud of it. The people were proud of it. Its workshops and its maintenance and spare parts organization and its crews were all geared and trained to handle turbo-prop aircraft. T.A.A. had ceased to use piston-engined planes and, accordingly, had changed its whole servicing organization. Now T.A.A. is being forced, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to establish a parallel organization to handle pistonengined planes of a kind that it ceased to use two years ago.
Who gets the best out of this deal? Obviously, the Ansett interests get the best out of it. They get three Viscounts from T.A.A. - and the Viscount is, in my opinion, the best plane in the air to-day, bar none. You can have your Electra. What does T.A.A. get in exchange for these three Viscounts. It gets two D.C.6’s - out-of-date piston-engined craft which are much more costly to run than are Viscounts.
– Those are the things that broke Holyman.
– Yes, as the honorable member for Wills says, they broke Holyman and, before long, with this direct government assistance to a private airline - something unheard of in this country before - we have the prospect of virtually two government airlines competing with each other.
This deal is a further example of the gradual weakening of T.A.A. in order to boost its rival. The agreement cannot be approved in any language, and I feel that although the Minister attempted to smooth it over by saying that T.A.A. had agreed to it, pressure must have been applied behind the scenes for T.A.A. to accept such an outrageous deal, which will go down in aviation history as the worst deal ever perpetrated in a democratic country.
Finally, I want to condemn migrant trade unions in principle, and I want to commend the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) for his two courageous statements recently in which he condemned the aggregation of immigrants into trade unions of their own in this young country. The trade union in Sydney for immigrants, now led by Mr. Bielski, has stated through the press that it intends to form a political party.
– It has.
– According to the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith it has. Its members have said that they are going to contest the next federal election. This is one of the worst features, so far, of immigration that we have come up against. It has been stated that they have 5,000 members-
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- It is obvious, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that this debate on the Address-in-Reply will centre on the subject of inflation - and quite rightly so. It has also become obvious in the early part of this debate - and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has shown it very clearly - that Labour has no new remedy for this situation but has only the old remedy - prices control - which is part of its platform objective of the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. We have heard that before. It is unfortunate that there is no innovation in Labour’s approach.
I think that the most dramatic statement on inflation was made by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) when he said that the economy of Australia was poised on a razor’s edge. That dramatic statement is a challenge to us - a challenge which I know the Government will meet. I also know that, as a result, our economy will finish up on the right side.
Over the ten years in which this Government has been in office we have had tremendous expansion in Australia. Our population has increased by 2,000,000, our work force by 600,000. It is our duty to see that that expansion continues and, indeed, as a result of wise administration, it will continue. Every new country in history has had to pass through crises in its early days. The spectre of inflation could produce a crisis if allowed to do so. For instance, in its early days America needed tremendous credits from overseas to develop its thousands of miles of railroads and its vast coal seams. It relied on overseas capital, particularly from Great Britain, to develop its embryo manufacturing industries. But to-day America has become the industrial colossus in the world. We must not forget that that great change was brought about by the export of American primary produce to Europe - which incidentally, as honorable members will recall, brought disaster to European primary industry in the middle of the last century. Cheap primary products from America spelt disaster to British agriculture. Fortunately we do not have that problem, but we must not forget that we have to keep our export income not only buoyant, but expanding.
The danger to Australia’s position is the fact that primary production still accounts for 85 per cent, of our income from exports. Over the last ten years primary production has increased by about 40 per cent, and production from our manufacturing industries has increased by about 50 per cent. Unfortunately, however, our manufactured products account for a very small share of our income from exports. While that condition lasts Australia is in a very dangerous position. Every month we are finding it more difficult to sell our primary products overseas. Cheap-labour countries, particularly the backward countries, are developing their primary industries in order to earn export income. Malaya is putting our pineapples out of the market. South American fresh and canned fruits are taking our markets in Europe for those commodities. We can also observe the inroads made by synthetics into our wool markets. Those conditions will gradually get worse. We will not be safe until our manufacturers are in a position to take a greater share of the burden of earning our export income.
Wage increases granted by the Arbitration Court have been a great factor in pricing our manufacturers out of the world’s markets. No one wants to deny the worker a fair wage - a fair reward for his work. But, in the end, if we lose our export income the worker will be one of the greatest sufferers. In this costs spiral, real wages are not gaining very much at all. At the same time, they are making the economic position of Australia worse because our expansion will gradually slow down.
Our friends in the Opposition have suggested prices control- We know what a disastrous move that would be. Previously under prices control our manufacturers produced those items which were not controlled and neglected the production of vital commodities, particularly those vital to our primary industries such as cement, fencing requirements, fertilizers and the like. We had a grey and a black market. Petrol rationing restricted driving to a few miles. More than that, we were told by the Labour Government in 1949 that it was impossible to lift those controls. We do not want to go back to that sort of thing.
However, the point I want to make is that even at that time, Australia had developed her manufactures to a very great degree. She had been isolated during the war, not only because of transport difficulties, but also because overseas manufacturers had geared their industries to the production of war materials. When the war finished we had a very fine embyro manufacturing industry in Australia. We had wonderful opportunities to expand our export of manufactured goods. The industries of Japan and West Germany were in ruin. The industries of the United Kingdom and the United States of America had not been re-equipped for peace-time manufacture. We had the world at our feet, but then one of the greatest tragedies to Australia’s economy occurred. This was the imposition of the prosperity loading of £1 in 1950. I have here the minority judgment of Mr. Justice Kelly on that occasion and I would like to read a portion of it because I believe that his remarks were most prophetic. He said -
In the present circumstances, the Court can, I think, do much harm to the economy, and therefore to the community as a whole, the greater part of which is comprised of the wage earners, by adding to the costs of production by way of establishing even higher wage levels, both nominal and real, than those which already exist.
The rapid deterioration in the value of money must, perhaps even with some serious sacrifice on the part of all, be arrested. Failure to arrest it will surely endanger this unbalanced economy to the material detriment of our established industries and to the general unhappiness, perhaps the early poverty, of large numbers of our people.
I think you will agree that the learned judge foresaw just what that wage rise would mean. The tragic part is that we had the ball at our feet. We had the opportunity to develop export trade with South-East Asia, Arabia, South Africa and possibly South America. We missed that opportunity. Since then, Japan and West Germany have become most efficient competitors.
That is not the only danger to Australia. It is obvious that Russia and China will take an expanding proportion of our overseas trade. They are rapidly developing their industries - not so much China, but at least Russia. My own view is that our great concern should not be a military war with Russia and the Communist countries but an economic one. They have more to gain by an economic war. They have better weapons with which to wage that war than we have. They have masses of servile labour to develop their industries. They have not to consider a profit and loss account or a balance-sheet. All that they have to do is export. Recently, their leader, Mr. Khrushchev, visited Indonesia.
– And gave them a loan at 2i per cent.
– Yes. That points to the danger. I believe that Russia regards Indonesia as a vast potential supplier of raw materials such as rubber and tin. That is a factor that requires our attention. We must make a start with our manufacturing industries. As I have said, the time is running out. It is much more difficult now to get in and make a start. But I believe that, at least, something can be done to arrest wage rises. Very wisely, the Government has decided to put its case at the basic wage hearing because further cost rises will be disastrous.
I should also like to see a selection made of industries in Australia most likely to be able to develop an overseas market with a view to those industries being given greater assistance by way of plant depreciation allowances for taxation purposes so that they can modernize their factories and make them equal to the best in the world. By such action I believe that we could make the path of our manufacturing industries very much easier.
– The Government is taking away their raw materials. It is selling copper to Japan.
– It is a fact that we have developed some industries to such a degree that they can export raw materials, but there are many others that require more development. We have to develop every industry that we can. The previous speaker spoke of Bell Bay. There is an opportunity, too! We can produce aluminium and export it.
– What has the Government done?
– The Government is doing a considerable amount by letting private industry, in the most efficient manner, develop our bauxite deposits in the north. We cannot permit the situation that I have mentioned to arise. As I have already stated, the Commonwealth Statistician has shown that there has been no real rise in the purchasing power of our wages. The wage-earner has not benefited to a very great degree by increased wages. But all the time our economy worsens.
Many sections of our community profit from inflation. But we have to be concerned also with those who suffer from inflation, particularly our primary producers and the pensioners. Pensioners especially will be hit by wage increases more than by anything else, because the Government is not, I believe, in a position to raise taxes in order to increase expenditure on social services. The increasing of income tax or any other tax hits those people who are endeavouring to raise families, and this we cannot permit. The only way in which we can aid the pensioner is to make our £1 buy more. We must consider, also, people on fixed incomes and those who have retired. We must save them from the bitterness of seeing the wasting of the reward from their life savings. Furthermore, the halting of inflation would make our government loans far more attractive. These loans are necessary for the development of our roads, the generation of electric power, the provision of the means for further investment, and the attraction of overseas capital to Australia.
Our arbitration machinery is among the finest in the world, but it has some weaknesses. One weakness in particular is that some sections of the community are not represented before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, perhaps because they do not realize that they are entitled to be represented, because they are careless of their responsibilities, or because they have not the means to send a representative to put their case. The court determines issues on the evidence put before it, and I do not see how it can arrive at a satisfactory determination if the various sections of the community are not represented in order to put their case. I was amazed to see that the Graziers Federal Council was the only primary producers* organization which appeared before the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission at the basic wage hearing in July last. Not one other organization of primary producers put a case. At the margins hearing, not even the graziers’ organization was listed as appearing. Yet the primary producers are the people who most feel these increased costs caused by wage increases. They have to absorb them and are unable to pass them on. We primary producers are not protected by tariffs. We have to accept whatever the world likes to pay for our produce.
I believe that this Government has done the right thing in appearing before the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission in order to put a case for the Australian economy at the current basic wage hearing. The pensioners are not represented at that hearing. I do not know whether they want to be represented. But they will be affected by increased wages and consequent increases in costs. I cannot help calling to mind the system under which, in Queensland - I suppose it applies all over Australia - a Public Defender is appointed to defend in the criminal courts accused persons who would otherwise go unrepresented, perhaps because they lacked the means to provide representation or because they were careless of their rights. That system should be adapted for use in the arbitration jurisdiction in order to appoint an advocate to appear before the Arbitration Commission for organizations which have not the means to be represented.
I was interested to hear that the Government has set out a programme for an attack on inflation, and I am particularly interested in the proposal to attack price-fixing arrangements among industrialists. Many of us - and particularly the primary producers^ - realize that there is great scope for an attack on gentlemen’s agreements entered into for the purpose of fixing prices. I shall name just two industries - the farm implement manufacturing industry and the meat industry. There is great need for an attack on voluntary price-fixing arrangements in those industries. I believe it is absolutely essential that this problem be faced. We shall not succeed in halting inflation unless we do something about this matter. After all, competition is the most important factor in reducing our prices. There must be restraint on wages at least to the point at which they are held in step with productivity. If they increase at a greater rate than does productivity, the effect is similar to that of a man spending more than he earns. Eventually, he comes to grief. There must be restraint particularly on government spending and, to a degree, restraint on private spending.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that this Government has an opportunity to carry a pro- gramme in respect of the three factors thai I have mentioned to the full limit, and thai it will have the people of Australia behind it if it does so.
.- Mr. Speaker, the Speech read by the Governor-General yesterday was similar to many that have preceded it. It clearly indicated to me a continuation of the status quo that has existed under the administration of this Government - that is, instability, galloping inflation and profiteering. The present Government has merely been playing hopscotch with a very important aspect of our economy. It has just been jump-ng from one temporary expedient to another without getting any nearer a real solution to the problem confronting the people of Australia. The Speech gave no clear indication of anything that could give us confidence for the future under this Government’s administration.
I believe that the real issues are contained within the national economy, which is of vital concern to all Australians because it belongs to all of us. It is not just something for the few. There is nothing wrong with the size of our national economy. It is a quite sizeable economy. I believe that the trouble with it lies in the control exercised over it, and the way in which distribution and exchange are directed. This Government is not concerning itself with the important matters that I have mentioned. It leaves the important matter of control to private monopolies, which are allowed to make whatever charges they see fit. This is in sharp contrast to the control that is exercised over wages and salaries. I shall illustrate this by mentioning a few instances of proved price increases which were reported in the Sydney newspapers only last week. The report in one newspaper stated -
Prices of a wide range of smallgoods jumped to-day.
Some lines went up by as much as 1/2 lb. Most others rose by 6d. lb.
Some brands of tinned meats were included in the price rise, and others are expected to go up.
Cooked corned beef, used extensively for school and workers’ lunches, will be 1/2 lb. dearer in many shops.
Increases followed a rise of 3d. lb. in the wholesale price of such items as saveloys, sausages, frankfurts, corned beef, garlic, devon, fritz and other sausage meats.
The Government is not concerned with price rises of that kind. His Excellency’s Speech indicates clearly that the Government is only concerned with rises in wages and salaries. The Government leaves the distribution and pricing of important consumer items to monopolies. Those monopolies are never questioned about their activities. If the Government did take an interest in these matters it would guard against the making of excessive profits. It would ensure that those who depend on salaries and wages get their fair and just share of the national income. Last but not least, the Government would look after the interests of those people who depend for their sustenance on an income from a small investment. A person who was thrifty in years gone by and who invested his savings against the day when he would retire, is to-day, because this Government has allowed inflation to continue, worse off than a pensioner. That person may own a little property which he has saved to acquire and because of the means test he cannot receive a pension, although the income from his property may be less than the pension. Superannuated persons are suffering in a similar way, together with age pensioners, widow pensioners, invalid pensioners and repatriation pensioners, all of whom are dependent on fixed incomes and social services.
Of course, the Government will claim that pension rates have been increased. We on this side of the House do not deny that they have been increased, but we say that they have not increased at the same rate as prices and costs. Wages, salaries and pensions have been chasing prices all the time. They have never caught up, and their value is still declining. The scourge of inflation, for which this Government is responsible, is destroying the standards and morale of the people and is a serious threat to the economy. It is pricing Australia out of world markets. That aspect was referred to by the honorable member for Mcpherson (Mr. Barnes). The only people who benefit from inflation are the money racketeers, who have no responsibility to the nation at all. The profiteers have prospered under this Government while the rest of the community has suffered by the decline of their standards. The purchasing value of the £1 is continually decreasing.
The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures verify that. They show that costs and prices have risen in greater proportion than wages and pensions. Honorable members opposite, from time to time, attempt to deny that by using silly, fictitious reasoning. Monopolists in the higher strata in this country, such as bankers, money lenders, investment brokers, estate agents and middle men of all categories are copping the lot. A few minutes ago I referred to the increase in the cost of certain primary products. The farmers will not get any of the ls. 2d. increase in the cost of the smallgoods to which I referred. The only man who will benefit will be the middle man. It is the middle man and people like him who are responsible for our present situation, and this Government is allowing those people to do what they like. I disagree with the honorable member for McPherson. The only remedy for the present situation is prices control. The Government should have the same control over prices as the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has over wages and salaries. When prices were controlled, the increase in the cost of living in Australia was less than anywhere else in the world.
I should like to refer to some suggestions that have been made by other people in respect of this problem of inflation. Lord Bruce, a former Prime Minister of Australia, who has been living in London for the last 30 years, recently returned to Australia. He warned the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) of the evils of inflation. He said that the Commonwealth Government should show that it was determined to prevent a further rise in the cost of living and should preserve the value of the £1. It is a coincidence that Lord Bruce should have said that because the present Prime Minister said much the same thing prior to the general election in 1949. On that occasion he said -
The Chifley Government has paid a good deal of attention to increasing the volume and circulation of money. It has largely neglected the problem of what and how much that money will buy. The greatest task, therefore, is to get prices down.
We all know how the Prime Minister has failed in his attempt to keep prices down. At the risk of using an unparliamentary expression I say that the Prime Minister was guilty of false pretences or even of offering a bribe at that time in order to secure votes. He completely fooled the people, and they are now living in a fool’s paradise. Every wage-earner, housewife and pensioner knows that prices have not been kept down and the Prime Minister and his Government stand condemned. They should be censured in the way that is sought by the amendment that has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell).
I have been saying this sort of thing in this House almost every year for the last ten years, because there has been no change since this Government took office. The evil is still here, but it is worse now than it was ten years ago. I believe that the crucial problem that faces us is inflation. I do not mind being charged by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Bowden), who has interjected, with telling the same monotonous story. I believe that promises made should be honoured. The Government has failed in this important issue and as a result our social security is in danger. I believe that the threat to our national security is more dangerous now than it has been for some time and it should be attended to immediately. There is nothing in the Speech of His Excellency to indicate that that will be done.
I return now to a few other suggestions made by Lord Bruce. He suggested that taxes be increased. Well, I think we all know that this Government has not failed to increase taxes in the past ten years. Lord Bruce suggested that hire-purchase activities should be restricted. The record, which I have before me, shows that in 1949 the hire-purchase debt in Australia was about £50,000,000; to-day it is about £450,000,000. The Government has not concerned itself with this rise in the hirepurchase debt. Lord Bruce also suggested the introduction of a scheme of compulsory savings. He suggested that the law covering the fixing of wages by the Arbitration Court should be altered. That will be the only remedy that this Government will find. Lord Bruce also said that we should look to co-operation and not compulsion. In my opinion he has ignored the real remedy - prices control. If Lord Bruce meant that taxes should be increased on a direct and individual basis, particularly upon those people earning excessive profits, I would agree with him, but I cannot agree that indirect taxes, such as sales tax, should be increased. The people who would be affected by such an increase would be the housewives and the pensioners, who are already paying too much in taxes of that kind.
Sirring suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I referred to the remedies to halt or prevent increases in the cost of living suggested by Lord Bruce when he was here recently. Of course, he made the same old suggestion that is made by all the tories, and that is that we should alter the law for the fixing of wages by the Arbitration Court. The Prime Minister also says this, and all the big shots that he represents say it. All his Ministers say it; all the leaders of the various sections of the Liberal and Australian Country Parties all over Australia say it; their friends, the investment brokers and the monopolists, say it; and the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) always says it. They all say that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should close its doors against further increases in the basic wage and in margins. Recently, the Prime Minister said that the £130,000,000 which had been added to the pay-roll by the last 15s. increase in the basic wage and the 28 per cent, increase in margins should be allowed to settle down before further increases were granted. This assertion is repeated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and it has appeared in the newspapers. Why does the Prime Minister not make the same comment about costs and prices? Why should there not be a closing down to prevent costs and prices rising?
– And sales tax.
– Yes. I mentioned earlier in my speech that sales tax was increasing. The Prime Minister wants to be one-sided on these matters. He wants to adjust the national economy at the expense of the workers, the wage-earners and the pensioners. There should be no further increase in prices until the wages of the workers are properly adjusted and they are able to pay their debts. The hirepurchase debt at present is £450,000,000, and there might be serious consequences if the Arbitration Court shut its doors against further increases in the workers’ wages. We all remember what happened to Lord Bruce in 1929 when, as Prime Minister, he suggested that the Arbitration Court should close down. After he made that statement, he was defeated at the polls and it is on record that he is the only sitting Prime Minister ever to be defeated at an election. If the present Prime Minister carries out the policy suggested in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, he will meet the same fate. The people will not stand for this one-way policy.
I believe that those to whom I have referred are trying to intimidate the court. They are, in my opinion, acting contemptuously, and 1 hope that the commission will be big enough to ignore them. At the moment the Australian Council of Trade Unions is before the commission claiming that the basic wage should be increased. At the same time, people outside the commission are trying to influence it and prevent it from giving proper consideration to the claims before it. When counsel for the unions was presenting the case to the commission, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) said that the commission had made a grave mistake in granting marginal increases. His statement was repeated in every newspaper, over television and over radio. That was audacious intimidation, and I believe that such action when a case is sub judice is improper and is a disgrace. The Church of England Bishop of Armidale spoke about the same time, but he did not agree with the honorable member for Wentworth. The Bishop of Armidale is well known. Unlike the honorable member for Wentworth, who represents monopolists, the Bishop is always on the side of social justice. A newspaper report of his speech reads -
Bishop Moyes asked where was the Christian principle in industry which allowed businesses to rest in the hands of those who possessed money and power and yet allowed the workmen only enough to keep the wolf from the door.
So he is in complete disagreement with the Government and with the honorable member for Wentworth. If the honorable member reads the judgment of the commission, he will find that the increases of the basic wage and of the margins were founded on sound economic grounds and on social justice.
The commission laid great stress on the increase in productivity since 1950. It pointed out that production had increased by 13 per cent, and, quite rightly, it was only passing a proper share of this prosperity to those to whom it rightly belonged - the workers who produced the wealth. The commission made it very clear that by more scientific means, by mechanization and by automation, production had increased by this amount and the increased production was obtained at the old wage, not at the new wage which the court found that the economy could bear. The commission said then that the economy at that time could carry the increases without increasing prices. The economy should have absorbed the increases without adding to prices. Increased prosperity is always taken wholly by the greedy monopolists. The Government will claim that it has not the constitutional power to deal with this matter, but, if it has not the power, it should make an attempt to obtain it by referendum. I believe that, if the people were asked whether they wanted their national government to have power to halt the inflation that is spread by greedy monopolists, they would overwhelmingly give the Government the power it sought.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is well founded and puts the case in its proper perspective. I hope that, when a vote is taken, those who want to do justice to the people of Australia will vote for the amendment.
– Mr. Speaker, this Address-in-Reply debate affords members of this Parliament an opportunity to join in the welcome extended to our new and distinguished GovernorGeneral and to Lady Dunrossil. We also, on this occasion, remember with gratitude and affection the splendid service given to Australia by Sir William and Lady Slim.
In his Speech, His Excellency referred to the rejoicing in Australia at the birth of a second son to Her Majesty the Queen and we all earnestly pray for the young Prince’s health and happiness. Perhaps one day we shall see him, as our GovernorGeneral, performing the opening ceremony in this Parliament.
The Governor-General, in the course of his Speech, covered matters of Government policy which have been criticized by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and by other speakers on that side of the chamber; but the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is contradictory and confusing. He refers, on the one hand, to the effects which inflation may have on certain sections of the Australian community and, in his amendment, he criticizes the remedial actions being taken by the Government at the present time. The whole of his speech, while admitting the existence ot a condition of prosperity in Australia to-day, was, indeed, a prophecy of gloom for the future. However, that has always been his attitude in the past and he has always been proved wrong.
Let me quote now one or two references from speeches and remarks by him along those lines. It was on 5th February, 1950, that the present Leader of the Opposition said -
The Menzies Government probably will not last a year and a crisis will certainly come within eighteen months.
On 11th May, 1952, he said that Australia was heading straight into a depression, and several of his references through the years since then have been on similar lines. Just as he was proved wrong on those occasions, so will he in future again be proven wrong.
The Governor-General referred to a number of important aspects of international trade. At pages 2 and .3 of his Speech he made these references and I want to deal in more specific detail with the matters to which he referred. In order to do that I will refer to certain aspects of international trade. Economic nationalism and regional integration is my first point. It is a fact that the structural framework within which world trade is conducted has undergone many changes since it began on a large scale several centuries ago. Indeed, within our own generation, we witnessed in the 1930’s what might be termed a period of economic nationalism, and recently we have witnessed a period of what we could term post-war recovery and unprecedented expansion among the nations of the world, through agencies such as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Labour Organization, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and many other international bodies, which has been on a scale never before achieved.
What the 1960’s, the period in which we are now living, will ultimately record is a matter for speculation. However, certain significant developments which have already begun and which have gained impetus during the early part of this year, may subsequently lead to the next ten years of our history being termed a period of regional integration. Looking at those aspects, I think that the first one with which we must deal is the European Economic Community or the Common Market, which is now an established fact. It will be during the period of the 1960’s, however, that its trade impact will be felt as transitional arrangements leading to external tariffs and free trade between the countries concerned gradually come into force, as a common agricultural policy is developed and put into effect m the European region. In addition to this, it is anticipated that there will be heavy investment in the French and Belgian African territories, which will bear fruit during this period.
This is significant from our point of view, because the products of these territories will receive better treatment in the Common Market of Europe, and this could affect the traditional exporters of certain tropical products, and lead, zinc and aluminium. Apart from the effect on world prices and the threat to our own export trade with the European community in a number of these items, we could also suffer indirectly through some of our good customers, and particularly those in the South East Asian sphere, suffering from a reduction in their capacity to import.
Parallel to the developments in the European Economic Community, and endeavouring to form some ties with it, there is the proposed European Free Trade Association, which is expected to come into force on 1st July this year. In this association the member countries will retain their individual tariffs on imports from the rest of the world, but many tariffs on items passing in trade between themselves will be eliminated during this period. Although the European Free Trade Associa tion will extend only to industrial goods,, there are provisions in the agreement whichis being signed by these countries for the- negotiation of agreements on agricultural products, and that is very significant from our point of view.
Let us therefore examine briefly the effects of this trade association in the European sphere on the Australian trade policy. Of the total Australian exports at the present time and, indeed, on the average over the last four years, 21 per cent, went to the European Economic Community countries and 31 per cent, to the European Free Trade Association countries. But of course, most of the latter export figure covers the United Kingdom, so I think it is obvious from those figures alone that there is a significant implication of the policies being introduced by these countries in the European area.
Although the bulk of our export trade to these areas is in wool, which is perhaps unlikely to be directly affected, nevertheless our interests could be vitally affected if, during the 1960’s period, the agricultural policies of those national groups were to be directed towards self-sufficiency or higher protection. There is, perhaps, an opportunity for Australia to obtain better access for her products to the European community countries and to some of the European Free Trade Association countries in the 1960-61 tariff negotiations which will be conducted under the auspices of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which we think may be held before the end of this year, and possibly continued early in the new year.
The opportunity will also be present in these negotiations to see some readjustment in the level of the European community country tariffs and to claim compensation where duties have been increased above their former level. In addition to the European Economic Community, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and some other major trading countries in the world will, during this period, seek to negotiate with each other for further reductions in tariffs. Often, however, as kas been our experience in the past, tariff concessions which we have negotiated for the export of our primary products have subsequently been vitiated by the countries concerned, through measures such as the introduction of an increase in subsidies on their domestic production. The extent of any Australian participation in these negotia tions, which will be held under the auspices of Gatt, will depend on the extent to which it is felt that Australia can obtain worthwhile and lasting benefits from the negotiations.
During this year also, consultations on agricultural policies will be held between all countries that are parties to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. This will be a continuation of negotiations which commenced about a year ago, and we hope that the negotiations will be concluded within the next twelve months. The Australian Government hopes, of course, that the outcome of these negotiations and discussions in Gatt itself will highlight the adverse trade effects for countries like Australia and New Zealand, and many of the under-developed countries, resulting from excessive protection given to agricultural products in the highly industrialized countries. Australia hopes that action through Gatt will lead to policies restraining and reducing the incidence of agricultural protectionism during this particular period of our history.
I wish to refer only briefly to another important conference that took place on 12th and 13th January this year, and which has become known as the European Economic Conference. This was initiated by the United States of America, and thirteen countries participated in the conference. Those thirteen countries comprised the original member countries of the O.E.E.C., which was the Organization for European Economic Co-operation. It also was attended by representatives of the steering board of trade for the O.E.E.C., and also representatives of the commission of the European Economic Community. The proposals laid down for that conference were these - and they have particular significance for us, although we were not invited to attend the conference: First, to further the development of the less-developed countries; secondly, to pursue trade policies directed to the sound use of economic resources and the maintenance of harmonious international relations, with special reference to commercial problems arising from the existence of European economic regional arrangements.
That conference was initiated by the United States of America and attended by representatives of the Government of
Canada and of the thirteen countries I mentioned as members of the O.E.E.C. Certain conclusions were reached by that conference which are international in concept, and whilst Australia, on the one hand, is, of course, quite happy about negotiations of a bilateral nature, or multilateral nature, which concern any particular region, we feel that if they extend beyond, into the sphere of international trade, we in Australia should have the opportunity to participate, or at least to make our views known to the conferences. We have made this quite clear to the participating nations. We feel that in our own case Gatt is the forum for international trade negotiations. We have also expressed this quite clearly to the nations concerned. It is possible that from this conference, and following our strong reaction to it as made known to the countries concerned, some ultimate good will result, which will have a better effect in the future on our relations with the O.E.E.C. and the European Free Trade Association in the European sphere.
Let me refer now to the matter of trade in the under-developed countries. Much attention is being given in international discussions to obstacles to the expansion of trade in the under-developed countries. This, of course, is especially significant from our point of view, because the failure of the trade of these countries, and of their economic development, to progress as fast as those of the more highly developed countries is of vital concern to us, because those countries represent important existing and potential markets for our products. One has in mind particularly, of course, the under-developed countries in the SouthEast Asian area. But perhaps of more concern to us is that it is politically imperative that during this period of our history some solution, of a real and lasting nature, should be forthcoming to these problems of the under-developed countries.
What I have said already indicates, perhaps, something of the complexities of international trade. But there is another problem associated with it which I feel should be mentioned at this stage. I refer to world price fluctuations. This problem was dealt with at the Commonwealth Trade and Economic Conference in Montreal in September, 1958, and the participating nations at that conference pledged themselves to work towards moderating violent world price fluctuations. In a wider context, other countries, including the United States of America, are also addressing themselves to a solution of this question of price fluctuations, principally of primary commodities, which are having such a detrimental effect on the under-developed countries of the world which rely so heavily on earnings from the sale of their products to provide funds for their expansion and development.
In referring to Gatt, the Montreal conference, international trade conferences and agreements generally, I am not overlooking the fact that trading actually is carried on by private enterprise, as far as Australia is concerned. I have been illustrating the point that governments have played, and do play, an important role in international trade, in setting the stage for private importers and exporters to carry on their business. Obstacles to trade arise from time to time, and they represent problems which must, basically, be dealt with by the governments of the countries concerned.
This brings us, of course, to another paradox of our time. Some of Australia’s greatest export difficulties are due to the action of great and friendly nations in giving away foodstuffs to needy, underdeveloped countries which have been traditionally Australian markets. Through consultative machinery established by the Food and Agricultural Organization and by Gatt, and also by the Wheat Utilization Committee which was only recently established, the Australian Government seeks to ensure that disposals of surpluses are carried out in an orderly manner and do not unduly disrupt Australian commercial sales. The first evidence of successful achievements in that direction is to be seen in the fact that as a result of negotiations in the Wheat Utilization Committee, and initiated by consultations in the United States in the first case, there has been an allocation in the first instance to India of a commercial quota of wheat, which will be observed by the countries represented on the committee.
Perhaps of more immediate concern has been the predatory action of some European countries in the recent past - and, indeed, to some degree extending into the present - in selling heavily subsidized flour in our traditional markets in the Asian area. In one instance Australia submitted a formal protest to Gatt with regard to France. We also instituted bilateral negotiations with Western Germany and Italy, to endeavour to overcome the particular problem without having to raise it in Gatt. In the cases of Western Germany and Italy the problem has, to a very substantial degree, been overcome, and we are hopeful that in the near future the problem concerning France will also be overcome.
It is part of the Australian Government’s policy to overcome any checks which may interfere with trade, and we are continually seeking, in the Department of Trade, greater international co-operation, to put an end to excessive price fluctuations in international markets, and to restore that stability which enables countries to plan ahead on fairly certain estimates of export incomes. It is very encouraging, therefore, to see that there is a continuous and continual expansion of international trade with growing co-operation between nations. Of course, Australia has a very vital interest in the expansion of international trade for the obvious reason that we are a young and developing nation with a growing population and with a high migration intake. We have a very high rate of industrialization and, associated with all those things, there is a high import need which in turn means that we have a high export need.
During this financial year we shall be importing good’s of the value of about £900,000,000 but, because of invisibles such as freight, insurance and other outgoings, we must either export goods worth much more than that if we are to remain solvent, or count upon a heavy capital inflow to prevent a drain on our reserves of gold and foreign exchange. The way to overcome the problem in relation to increasing exports is to take the positive action of going out and selling. The Government, in endeavouring to do this, has the full co-operation of industry and commerce. We have an intensive promotion and publicity campaign in the United Kingdom, for example, in which the Government, Australian exporters, the various marketing boards and United Kingdom importers will spend up to approximately £1,500,000 this year on displays, exhibitions, demonstrations and direct advertising:
In addition, we take part in trade fairs where hundreds of thousands of people can see the products that Australia has to offer. We participate in the publication of many newspaper supplements in the countries where our principal markets lie, and they tell potential customers in those countries what Australia has to offer. The Government, in co-operation with private industry, has sent abroad seven trade missions to date, and will be sending shortly a survey mission to South America and a further trade mission to Canada and part of the United States. At the same time we have a vast trade intelligence network throughout the world which is known as the Australian Government Trade Commissioner Service, and the number of trained trade commissioners and assistant trade commissioners now exceeds 50. They are located in over 31 posts, and their responsibilities extend also to countries adjacent to those in which they reside. The Australian business community has on many occasions expressed its appreciation of the service which it receives from our trade commissioners overseas who, in the main, are engaged in surveying markets for Australian products. At the same time, they arrange introductions for importers or agents and keep abreast of, and report upon, economic conditions in the countries concerned. They also keep abreast of import licensing regulations and other instruments of government in overseas countries.
Another part of their functions is to endeavour to entice desirable investment to Australia. They also, through the instrumentality of local governments in the countries concerned, negotiate favorable entry of Australian goods into those countries. In addition, they associate themselves with the various trade fairs, trade missions and other matters of that nature which arise from time to time. Further, the Government has recently set up a very important advisory body of a consultative nature which is known as the Export Development Council. This body has been established to examine all aspects of the development of Australia’s export trade. It sits under the chairmanship of Sir John Allison, and is comprised of very prominent businessmen from primary and secondary industry, commerce and banking. It has held regular meetings and has submitted to the Government a number of very useful reports of an advisory nature.
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, a few hours ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) launched a motion of censure against the Government. To date, there has been no effective reply to that motion or, what is much worse, there has been no attempted effective reply. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz), who is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), read us a list of handouts which the press will not publish and which people will not read. For that reason, he brought them into the House and has read them to us as an exercise in how to answer a censure motion. We will not stand for that. We shall bring the Government into line to answer the questions that have been raised because we are deadly serious even if the Government is laisser-faire and does not care a tinker’s curse. The problem of inflation has to be dealt with and, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, the matters that he has raised must be answered. They cannot be evaded any longer.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has talked of bridling inflation, but we tell you that he has put the bridle on the wrong horse. I stated in the House to-day that we ought to have some westerns on television. I did not think that we would have a script written for us so quickly. All of us on this side of the House feel that the Government is barking up the wrong stump when it lays the blame for inflation at the door of the worker. Every fact is against that proposition. Every piece of commonsense, every argument and every legislative act in this country indicates that a control is always placed upon the worker, upon his wages, upon his hours of work and upon his purchasing power. But the other side of the economy flaps free in the breeze. You must be either blind or wicked if you do not see that responsibility for the problem of inflation does not belong to the worker in any circumstances. To talk about inflation as a wage inflation is utter nonsense. The Prime Minister does not believe it, but he loves to get in front and play the clown. He put every spangle of words, every little bit of cleverness in dialogue and sophistication that he could on this question, but it comes back to a nonsensical farrago which does not impress anybody because the cold and sober fact is that this condition of inflation has not been caused by increased wages. We can prove that statement in a second. In fact, we have been proving it during the afternoon but none is so deaf or blind as he who will not hear or pay attention. We have proved that to-day’s inflation is a profit inflation, but because the Government is so dumb I shall reiterate what has been stated already.
I remind those who aver that this inflation has been created by the worker, that the Government always has intervened with a great rush whenever an inquiry into wages has commenced. The Government saddles up and comes galloping into the arena saying, “ We are intervening in the basic wage case”. The records show that since 1953 the Government has intervened in every hearing on wages and margins, and that it assisted very materially in the abolition of the quarterly adjustments in the basic wage. But the cold and sober fact is that this careering inflation about which it is worried, this galloping inflation which it is trying to harness, has not been brought about by increased wages. The Government is looking in the wrong spot for the cause because the figures show that since 1953 the basic wage has increased by only 35s. a week. Where is the inflation in that? It is a normal increase, well managed and manageable because the court, which by no means favours the worker, sifts every bit of evidence and has the serried rows of the Government’s legal luminaries assisting it all the time. If the worker receives an increase, it is only as a result of much thought and discussion.
The Government has said that increases in the basic wage have been ruining the country since 1953. Every other country in the world has improved its standards of living and has done miraculous things for its workers, but we who have put 35s. on the basic wage, are beating our breasts and saying, “ This is killing us “. But look at the other side of the picture. Look at the new buccaneer of commerce, the bushranger in a silk hat, the six-telephone man, who is tearing the guts out of the Australian economy. The Government has not the nerve to stand up and stop him or even to say to him, “ You must stop this “. Let us look at the figures and consider th. miserable 35s. which has been wrung from a reluctant government and from a court which has to look at every angle. We read in the daily press of profits amounting to £130,000,000 being made by big business, and of a general 12.3 per cent, increase in all kinds of investment from dolls’ eyes to divers’ helmets. The sky is the limit on any commodity which is offered for sale in this country, but concern as to whether the Australian people can pay the prices that are asked just does not exist any longer. The old law of supply and demand has gone. It is old-fashioned and corny. They do not use it any more; it is what the traffic will stand. The Government should arrange for a goodly section of the Australian businessmen to assemble and ask them when they are going to stop inflation. And what I want to know is when is their government going to stop blaming the workers for something which is not their fault in any way.
If you want to look further to find where inflation is, you must see that it is in profits, dividends and take-overs and all these new gimmicks involved in business. Once upon a time the trading bank was the respectable, so-called, front to business but to-day there are so many interlocking companies, timepayment companies and hire-purchase organizations now open to people. There are the arrangements for the sale of watered shares, breaking down stocks, creating new names. It is so devious the eye can hardly follow it. And the line-up against that is the paltry 35s. which the worker has received since 1953.
The profits of the Bank of New South Wales have gone up 17 per cent, in the last dividend. The National Bank reports a 16 per cent, increase. What of the Myer Emporium! The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Wight) was interjecting just now. Probably he loves to wander through the delectable aisles of Myer’s basement.
– I live in Queensland.
– I am sorry, of course he comes from Queensland; probably he walks through the premises of Myer’s ancillaries or subsidiaries in the northern capital. They have made millions of profit amounting to 32 per cent, for the year. Coles’s profit last year was 23 per cent.
Never forget in this country there is the greatest skin game ever - the golden Holden. Some 10,000,000 people, highly intelligent and well able to look after themselves in most things have been bamboozled into letting a company take not just a dividend back but the whole of the establishment costs and give them to the Yanks. Every year the company says, “There is your dividend “, and the investors get their investment back. Fancy investing in something which gives you back your investment every year! No wonder some people say, “ Go home, Yankee “. No wonder the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) lashed out in a sensible and sober way at the things which were happening in big business in America. There was no inference and no attempt to say anything against the great American people. The reference was to the business morality which is as bad in the States, apparently, as it is in this country.
The point we have been trying to make in our efforts to stir the Government into answering us is: What are you going to do? The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) represents a most salubrious suburb. He lives on the heights and looks at “ Our arbour “ from his comfortable eyrie and feels that it is a glorious world. But he says, “ The workers are killing us. They have received a 35s. increase in a few years, and if we do not look out we will get into trouble. “
He is echoed in every newspaper. Every editor goes, white-faced, to his desk and writes an editorial about it, and every lad in the press gallery here follows it up. They ask, “What are we to do if this terrible problem arises and the wages of the average Australian are increased by 15s. a week? “ On the other hand, we are able to show that excessive profits are the trouble. Not only the Labour Party has drawn attention to that. The Government has been chided on this also by no less an authority than the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. In effect, the nigger in the woodpile is the predatory businessman. He wants everything he can get, and he wants it for nothing, and he still wants to moan. At the same time, if he cannot go to his golf club at 3 o’clock there is something rotten in the State of Denmark and the worker is an anarchist.
We intend to pull such a businessman into line, and we ask the Government to do something reasonable and honest about the inflation developing in this country. There has to be proper recognition of costs and services and men’s wages.
– What are you going to do about it?
– We are going to do something and explain to the Government something that it does not seem to know. If the Government does not do something it will be going out backwards. I was talking about a statement by an authority on this matter. Take the matter of supply and demand. The Government should know that the old politico-economic law is as dead as the dodo. It does not belong. What happens is that the greengrocer, the popcorn merchant, the textile manufacturer and the machinery merchant get together and fix their prices. They do not fix them on what you should pay as a fair thing, but on what the traffic can stand, and no pressures are put upon them by the Government to do anything else.
When you talk about the Arbitration Court, you have to realize that this is only a segment of an organization to deal with the problem of inflation. If it can clamp down on the worker and make declarations as to hours, standards and wages, what do you think about the other side of the economy - the profit-making, investment side of the economy? There is no machinery to control that. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out that it might be necessary to have another court which can be controlled by the people to see that this thing does not get out of hand. If I might use a simile, perhaps I could say that we have a bird in flight with one wing wired sharply to the side and the other free to fly. If the Government suggests the economy to be balanced in these circumstances, it must realize how completely ridiculous it is.
One cannot cover all these aspects when limited to 25 minutes. One could go on talking for hours and I hope that by talking for hours we may achieve something with the Government. I know it will be a very hard job, but constant dripping wears away the stone and we might get a little closer to our heart’s desire by talking and talking and talking. But since I have a time limit to observe, let me reply to some of the inanities of the Government itself.
The honorable member for Wentworth, whom I quote again, burst into print in the newspapers with this reference to the nation being in trouble because of the wage increase. He said that we have tried everything and the Government ought to do something about what has happened in the courts. A little while ago the same man was waxing enthusiastic because the courts were controlling union ballots and this was the best of all possible worlds.
But since then, he found he had not much of an audience in the House so he wrote to the “ Sydney Morning Herald “. He talked all the usual stuff the economists use about real wages and money until everybody’s head rang. Then some little chap in the suburbs wrote a letter under the name of Mr. Stewart from Blacktown and completely cut the lengthy and devious honourable member for Wentworth into strips and, to use a colloquialism, left him for dead.
The writer promptly asked the honorable member to consider the fact that during the last years we have brought 1,000,000 people into this country. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer), who is now at the table, has done a magnificent job by carrying on something that had already been started - bringing migrants into this country. But if there are 1.000,000 new men and women it is necessary to increase not products but productivity.
The point this correspondent made, without getting too technical about it, was that there had been, by new technologies, by the removal of the rabbit curse and by the coming of these new men and women into the community, more production in this country which he measured to be about a 2i per cent, increase in our natural wealth each year. The American increase is nearer 4 per cent. We have not gone as far as that but we might achieve a higher figure later.
This writer pointed out, by analysis, that when the honorable member was talking about this money, this new productivity, this new natural wealth that has been won in this country, he should consider what is the worker’s share. It is .5 per cent, or onehalf of one per cent. The other 2 per cent, has gone to business, to the rapacious and hungry business concerns waiting for another feed, the Moloch that cannot be satisfied. He pointed out also with clarity, and decimating the predictions of the honorable member for Wentworth, that the worker had not been given his fair share of the wealth in this country. Then we ask the Government, if that is true, what sort of a world is it looking at - a world of hard work and sweat and tears and agony or is it looking at a world of automation and a world of new technologies? And interested and vitally concerned people such as Professor Clark Kerr, who came to this country from the United States and gave a series of lectures to which I listened - economics being one of my dilettante interests - have their ideas on this subject too. Professor Clark Kerr said something that rang a bell to me as a Labour man. He said that the new world is one of a fourday week, more leisure for the worker and more automation and technology to make life easier. It is no good talking the old bowyang stuff about “ Me and my mate, we did this together “. That has all gone. What you do to-day is get every ounce of productivity out of the country and you pay it back to the people who produce whether they are the workers, the entrepreneurs or the boss. All we are asking for is fair shares. We say that the Government is looking at the wrong sort of world. The world that it should be looking at is the world of the four-day week, with better conditions generally.
To finalize this matter - my time is limited - this young fellow again got on to the honorable member for Wentworth, who was talking generally about how much money the worker had, and what he was doing with his money, and he began to show him by something how the worker is not getting real value for his money today. A brief consideration of the major items of expenditure for a worker - his house, his car - will illustrate the thesis that I am making, that there is not real money value, and if there is new money value by inflation it belongs to the boss and the tycoon and definitely not to the worker. He gives the illustration this way: The basic wage was £4 in 1939. It is now something over £14 approximately, or three and a half times its 1939 figure. In terms of these rates a brick house costing £1,000 in 1939 would require five years of a basic wage of £200 per annum to purchase to-day. The same brick house costing some £4,000- £5,000 in 1959-60 - would require five to six years of a basic wage of £700-£800 per annum to purchase. In other words, over the twenty-year period 1939-59, there was no increase to the wageearner in his real purchasing power, despitea productivity which almost doubled in the same period.
In simpler, down-to-earth terms the charge we lay against the Government isthat its policies consistently inflict injustice on the workers. Having brought 1,000,000 immigrants into this country, who moved over to make housing room for them? The workers. When you found a job for themigrant it was alongside the Australian worker at the bench. Who has borne the brunt of it while your do-gooder councils and your amateurs have talked about immigration? The difficulties were borne by the workers of this country. And if the unwanted from Europe and those who could not get jobs overseas come to this country and get a good world and a good life, and productivity rises by 21 per cent., why do you give i per cent, to the worker and snaffle 2 per cent, for the tycoon and the boss? Those are the things you have to answer in regard to inflation.
In looking through the mass of material that one must gather in considering this matter I find myself bewildered and shocked at the philosophy of the Government. I point out that even the “Sydney Morning Herald “ experts on finance - that journal’s economists - talk about trying to do something about inflation. They say, “ We tried freezing the basic wage and we found this impossible, but we have to do something about inflation because of the outcry “. They say, “ We have tried attacks on employment “. Listen to this as a cold-blooded attack on the standard of the Australian worker when for all to see there is a better and easier way! One correspondent who, like the Prime Minister himself, adopts the royal “We” - apparently he had been thinking of current events - wrote, over and over, “We did this”, and “We did that “. He had this to say -
We tried that in 1957 and 1958 to keep the increase in employment in the two years down to one-half the increase of 1955-56.
I ask honorable members to listen to this -
We got the level of unemployment up from 31,000 in June, 1956, to nearly 70,000 two years later.
So it was a fix, an idea, a desire - a gimmick! It was something that the economists thought up. If you cannot stop inflation put men out of work and let them starve! We want you to answer that one because this is put in your own newspaper by one of your own economists. The article continued -
But even so the index of average earnings in manufactures rose by over 6 per cent, between June, 1956, and June, 1958.
Then, said the writer very naively -
It apparently takes a quite large, and perhaps socially unacceptable, level of unemployment to break down a standard of inflation.
What sort of a statement is that? Will the Government honestly stand up and say that that is what it thinks of the Australian worker, that the way to discipline him is to moan about the Arbitration Court? The Government says, “Look at the money it has got him. Look at the inflation.” At least we should not be worrying about the paltry increase hard won by the workers from the Arbitration Court. The Government says that the way to stop inflation is to stop wages from rising. Nobody will contest that there is a certain amount of wage element in costs, but wages are not the main element of costs to-day because the boss is an amateur bushranger but he is verging on the professional class very swiftly indeed. What does stun us and make us feel perturbed on this side of the House is the bland statement of the Government, “ We tried to get unemployment up to 70,000 to see if it would have some effect on inflation “. That is something for us to remember! That is something for us to use in the La Trobe by-election. When people talk about the gimmicks of inflation, as the Prime Minister does, you can see the cold-blooded machinations of those who work for him.
The correspondent from whose contribution I have been quoting makes another point. Again he uses the royal “ We “ and says -
We tried to raise unemployment to 70,000 to meet inflation. Then we adopted another possible line of attack which we have tried in Australia - to freeze the basic wage. Yet in the earlier two year period we found the basic wage did not stay frozen.
What was being done to the basic wage and to margins was so obviously wicked that public opinion - not the workers, but public opinion of decent Australians - saw the picture, without being economists, without being parliamentarians, and realized that at least one section of the community was being knelt on savagely because the Government has no imagination and apparently no experts to help it in these things.
There are many other aspects of this attack on the Government. We want to thrust it home and wake up the Government to the fact that, as the people outside well know, inflation is ravening - creeping one day and galloping the next. It is no joke. It is not to be dismissed. Honorable members opposite had better answer what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition. If they do not answer now they will be compelled to do so in the near future. We all know from what other speakers have said that we are being repetitious, because the story is simple enough. The story I reiterate before I sit down is the story that arbitration has nothing to do with inflation. It is that completely uncontrolled and murderously high rates of profits and dividends are destroying this country. . Is there to be a privileged few - the super-capitalists? Is the Government intimidated by their activities? Is it so recreant to its responsibilities that it will moan every day in this House and outside, and in the newspapers that support it, about the terrible thing the worker is doing by trying to get enough money to keep his wife and children, while at the same time the Government is letting the bandit in business go free? Honorable members opposite have to answer that question. We say, “ Give us no more of this nonsense about wage inflation.” It does not exist. We have proved that. The productivity is there, the opportunity is there and you are not taking advantage of it. You are underpaying the worker. We have made the charge, and we say that we will do something dynamic about it when the opportunity comes our way. We charge the Government with having created in this country a ravening profit inflation, an inflation which could be controlled by two or three measures brought down by the Prime Minister or the Treasurer. But honorable members opposite are afraid. They run away from that because somebody might tell them that such measures would represent socialism and yet really socialism is the only thing that keeps this Liberal Government alive.
.- I had sincerely hoped that the reinvigorated Opposition would take this matter seriously, because inflation is a serious matter. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen), as is his habit, has simply used this subject as a pretext for parading his rather flashy journalistic feathers and I shall pluck these feathers from him in the course of my speech. I propose to answer him, Sir, at the appropriate part of my speech and not at the outset. I have some things to say for myself first. Then I shall come to the Opposition’s attitude and I shall have a few words to say about the honorable member for Parkes.
I refer, first of all, to the fact that on 25th August, 1959, during the Budget debate, I addressed myself to this very subject. I take some credit for myself that I was one of perhaps two or three members who did realize that this matter was important. To-day, of course, many people have realized it. There is some alarm in some quarters at the inflationary pressure that may well be built up by a wages bill which has been increased by about £165,000,000 as a result of the last basic wage decision of the Arbitration Commission and the margins decision of last December. Nevertheless, although there is some alarm in some quarters, I myself am greatly concerned at the general complacency of people in high places, and of people in low places, with regard to creeping inflation. This is not a matter only of a critical increase in the pace of inflation. I am concerned also with the slow and inevitable creep of inflation year after year. The following is a paragraph from an article printed in the June, 1959, number of the monthly review published by the Federal
Reserve Bank of New York, which is, in effect, the reserve bank of the United States of America: -
This appraisal shows that creeping inflation is not merely an innocent vice, a relatively costless or harmless way of relieving tensions. It will lead to much higher rates of interest and a confusing network of “ price escalator “ arrangements, a distortion and eventual impairment of saving and investment, wider cyclical fluctuations, and a stunting of growth. Moreover, there would be no gains to offset these grave consequences. Over time, creeping inflation would not lessen but would aggravate any threat of unemployment; it would not cushion but would stimulate any abuses that may be associated with “ administered “ prices of labor’s “ cost push “; and it would not relieve the kinds of political pressures that may at times interfere with the functioning of a market economy.
Those are authoritative words, and I begin with them to consider the consequences of creeping inflation. Next I shall deal with those measures which the Government has outlined to deal with the immediate crisis of inflation. Then I shall make some comments on the means whereby I think that those measures could be strengthened. I believe, fundamentally, that unless a man can, by his ability and character, acquire some property and hold it by indefeasable right against the world, he will ultimately become a puppet of the State. He will be regarded, if I may change the metaphor, simply as a vessel to be filled or emptied villi the required amount of money by the managers of our financial affairs, not as a person who is entitled to some property without which he can have no independence and no liberty. I am reminded of words which I think were written by the poet Burns -
To catch Dame Fortune’s golden smile, Assiduous wait upon her; And gather gear by ev’ry wa That’s justified by honor: Not for to hide it in a hedge, Nor for a train-attendant; But for the glorious privilege Of being independent.
Tn other words, the objective is not to lord it over other people, but to have the glorious privilege of independence. I believe that if creeping inflation continues unimpeded for the next ten to twenty years, it will utterly destroy the middle class and all that the middle class has stood for in our civilization and way of life, and there will be nobody who enjoys the glorious privilege of being independent, for people cannot be independent unless they have some means. Here we have a clash between the ideology which I hope resides on this side of the House, and the ideology on the other side. On the other side, the socialist hates to see anybody who is independent. He would like to have everybody beholden to him. He believes in power for himself as the central government. He believes that everybody should grovel and crawl to him and that he should be the sole repository of power.
Let me deal with what Lord Keynes called the money illusion. The money illusion is that a £1 yesterday is the same as a £1 to-day and a £1 to-morrow. This is the basis of all the transactions in our economy. All contracts for the borrowing and repayment of money are passed on this supposition. When a man lends his savings to the government on government securities that is the supposition If he lends his money on mortgage to someone to build a house, that is the supposition. If he lends his money on debentures to a company, it is presumed that he will get back a £1 which will be as good as the £1 that he lent. When he pays higher rates of income tax because his money income has gone up the same supposition applies. When an industrialist is allowed depreciation for taxation purposes on machinery of a given value at a given time, he is allowed that depreciation on the supposition that, after a number of years, he will be able to replace that machinery at the price that he originally paid for it. But the supposition is no longer true. The value of the £1 is vanishing. Sophisticated people have realized this for some time, more people realize it to-day, and far more people will realize it to-morrow. To maintain the pretence is foolish.
I am reminded of a story which I read when I was a child. The story concerns an emperor’s new clothes. Once upon a time there was an emperor who was very proud of his raiment. Some rascally weavers came to him and said, “ We will weave you a magnificent garment and it will have this magical quality that those who are not fitted to fill their office will not bs able to see it.” They pretended to weave the garment. The emperor was of course, the first who could not see it, but he would not admit this. Neither could his ministers or courtiers see the garment, but they all pretended to admire it. At last the emperor appeared in public and it remained for a child to cry out, “The emperor is naked.” The day is coming when a child will see that a £1 yesterday, to-day and to-morrow is not the same thing. It is naked of any stability. We must face this fact.
What flows from this? For some time after the war some people thought that the demand inflation that had been built up - the damming back of spending power that could not be used until goods were available in the post-war period - would not continue and that we should ultimately get back some stability in our currency. But demand inflation has been succeeded by what the economist calls “ cost-push “ inflation. Wages and prices have continued to go up. Political forces are at work far more intractable than the demand inflation immediately after the war. Few people suppose that this new kind of inflation can be easily contained. The political elements make it almost uncontrollable. Let us look at the effect of this situation. To begin with, let us take government securities. Over the past ten years the value of money has been declining, on the average, at about 3 per cent, per annum. This means, by very simple arithmetic, that if you invest £100 to-day in government securities, in 33 J years it will not be worth one bronze half-penny. The consequence has been that the Government has depended for the financing of public works more and more upon taxation. Professor Arndt, in the December, 1958, number of the “ Economic Record “, calculated that in 1949-50 taxes provided 63 per cent, of the money required for public investment. In 1956-57, the latest year to which his figures went, this proportion had grown to 89.4 per cent. By a simple process of extrapolation, to use a word popular to-day - by producing the line of the graph - the time may well come when, nobody being prepared to lend money to governments for the reason I have mentioned, the whole of the money required for public investment will come from taxation. What does that mean to the ordinary citizen? First, it means that an important avenue of investment by the thrifty citizen is completely closed. Secondly, it means that he has less money to invest, because it has been taken from him by taxation.
Now let us have a look at the situation in respect of mortgages. Suppose that a person lends money to somebody for the building of a house and that the money is repayable by instalments over a period of 20 years. If the value of money declines at 3 per cent, per annum, the last £1 of repayment will be worth 8s. in terms of real purchasing power. So that real avenue of investment for a thrifty citizen has been closed. Let us consider life insurance. It is true that a person who borrows money on life insurance policies in order to build a home gains on the swings. As money declines in value and the repayments become less of a burden on him year by year, the borrower gains on the swings, as I have already mentioned. But he loses on the roundabouts, because, when his widow comes to collect the proceeds of his life insurance policies, their value in real terms also has declined.
Saving by depositing money in savings banks is a poor prospect. The interest of 3 or 3i per cent, per annum that the depositer receives is entirely consumed by the decline in the real value of his money. So it is not surprising that he gets nothing whatever from such savings.
Every investor, including companies, life insurance offices and the like, has turned to investment in company shares. I can quote the figures, but they do not matter. This is a fact. Investors have turned to company shares, with the result that increasing pressure on the stock exchanges has reduced the yield of good industrial shares to something like 2 per cent. It is a fact that companies have turned for their capital requirements more and more to the ploughing back of their large profits - the large profits that the honorable member for Parkes was speaking about a little while ago. If honorable members examine the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure 1958-59, they will find that, in the financial year 1951-52, 23 per cent, of the capital requirements of the companies was derived from the ploughing back of profits. In 1958-59, the proportion had grown to 56 per cent. Again, by a process of extrapolation, we can see that the stage could come when companies would not bother to invite the public to subscribe for shares, but would derive the whole of their capital requirements from ploughed-back profits - in other words, by means of a kind of private pricing tax. And so that avenue - the best avenue for investment by thrifty citizens - is closing as well,, because it is becoming less and less profitable to the investor.
Why have unit trusts been formed? They have been formed simply to enable the little man to do what the big man has been doing and go into this form of investment. Why have land trusts been formed? They have been formed because it is thought that, in an inflationary period, the value of land continues to rise. When you pour millions of pounds into land speculation - for that is what it is - you invite a crash in the long run. But people are forced to do this because other avenues of investment are being closed against them by inflation.
Why are responsible trustee companies more generally advising people who constitute trusts or make wills to give to the trustee the widest possible powers of investment? It is so that he may escape from the necessity of investing in the old trustee securities, which, of course, are the very worst to safeguard the interests of the beneficiaries. Why has the United Kingdom Government, in the last few months, widened the powers of investment of trustees who are operating under existing trusts? It is because that Government is just. Here, of course, we prefer to do nothing like that. Let those who are tied down in this way remain tied down by outofdate investment clauses in trusts!
Why were the powers of investment of the Church of England trust in the Homeland extended thereby permitting the Church now to hold shares in steel companies and to be no longer compelled to put its money into government securities, mortgages and the like? Why has the bourgeois revolt begun, as you see it in the margins case? Why has the white-collar worker tried to get more? It is because he has vainly tried to save for his retirement, being a thrifty person. I emphasize the word “vainly”. What is the attraction of hire-purchase notes? Again, they are looked to in an attempt to get a big enough return to enable people to save despite the pressure of inflation year after year. Why is there pressure on the social services? Why are greater numbers of people trying to have the age pension increased? It is because, more and more, they find that their small savings are losing value and being eroded by inflation.
What is the climax to this process? The climax is that, in the end, every one will either have the age pension doled out by the state according to what it may think fit at any given time, or will receive superannuation from the government or the organization by which he has been employed, all other avenues of providing himself with an income having been closed. That means that the organization paying superannuation will determine what the beneficiary receives. What he has paid in by way of contributions will entitle him to certain payments in due course in nominal terms, and only if the organization is prepared to put in more so that his pension may keep pace with the decline in the value of money will he get a fair deal.
Those who have shares in companies may sit back placidly and think that they will be at ease, as may those who have invested in land. But death duties, of course, will catch up with them. I have no doubt that if the party which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) supports were able to form a government it would come along with capital gains taxes and confiscate what were not capital gains in a large measure but merely an increase in nominal terms to keep pace with the real decline in the value of money.
But this is the end of the road, Sir. 1 have been looking at the path in front of me, and I have now lifted my eyes to where the road goes over the hill. That is the end of the road. It is a desirable thing to socialists to have everybody depending on what the state doles out or on what organizations may think fit to dole out. The right of previous generations to provide for their old age by being thrifty over their earlier years in order that they may have comfort then - that great and precious right upon which independence depends - is gradually being taken away from the people.
What does the Government propose to do about inflation, Sir? I shall now pluck the feathers out of the honorable member for Parkes. To begin, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia can take monetary measures to reduce the supply of money in the community. The credit squeeze is one of the instruments that can be used. Secondly, Sir, the Government has proposed fiscal measures. It will balance its Budget. It may, indeed, increase taxation. It may cut expenditure on public works. This is the fiscal weapon. It is one of the weapons available to the Government, and one that it proposes to use. Thirdly, with regard to wages, the Government has put a case to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission - as, indeed, it should. Fourthly, with respect to prices, this Government has removed import restrictions so that imports may flow in and give some real competition to our local industries, thereby keeping down local prices. These are the measures that the Government has proposed, Sir.
Now I look at the miserable amendment proposed by the Opposition, which is trying, if I may use a colloquial expression, to have two bob each way. It attacks the Government for its alleged failure to deal with inflation, and, at the same time, it puts up proposals which can only lead to inflationary pressure. The Opposition is looking for popularity on both hands by proposing irreconcilable opposites in its amendment. I had hoped that the Opposition - the re-invigorated Opposition - as I said at the outset, would treat the matter of inflation seriously. Instead it is prepared to play politics and talk the kind of nonsense that we heard from the honorable member for Parkes. The honorable member made some comments on the measures proposed by the Government with a view to strengthening the economy. So far as monetary control is concerned, I believe there is a great need for strengthening this and I believe that sooner or later the Government will have to go to the people and seek some amendments to the Constitution, including an amendment to give the Government power to deal with hire purchase. Hire purchase has become a very important development in the monetary sphere and at present it is outside the control of the Reserve Bank. I think the people would give the Government that power if it were put to them at a referendum. The people would want to be able to purchase goods on terms at reasonable rates of interest and if the Government also had power to prescribe the deposit that must be paid it would at one and the same time control the volume of hire-purchase finance and enable the people to buy goods at reasonable rates of interest. Those are two worthy objectives and I think the people would give the necessary power to this Parliament if it were sought.
I come now to the fiscal measures proposed by the Government. To begin with, if you are to give the people opportunities to save voluntarily you must hold out some inducement to them and have some machinery whereby you can ensure that the required proportion of money needed for investment is forthcoming. I suggest first and foremost - and this follows along the lines of an address given by Dr. Coombs at a conference in Perth - that we should give further consideration to a national insurance scheme that would at one and the same time be of tremendous benefit to individuals and provide a fund from which investment moneys would be available for government works. Secondly, I suggest that the Government should study - and this again follows the address given by Dr. Coombs - the possibility of holding out incentives in the form of tax remissions to induce people to save a larger proportion of their income. Thirdly, I suggest that the taxation system should cease to give an advantage to companies that choose to raise their capital requirements by debentures. Those companies should be forced to issue shares so that thrifty people may have an opportunity to invest their savings where they will not readily be eroded by inflation.
Fourthly, if you raise a great deal of money for public investment and you rely in a large measure on taxation for that money, you must give more thought to how you spend it. I believe there is a great need for some organization, such as a coordinator of public works, to be appointed jointly by the Commonwealth and the States with a staff also appointed jointly by the Commonwealth and the States. That body would have to report on all public works, whether Federal or State, that are put forward. It would have to report on the degree of essentiality of those public works, whether they be schools for growing populations or some other public works.
It would have to report on the priority of those public works and determine between works that were of an essential character and works that were of a purely political character. The Government and the Parliament should be able to study a factual report on those works and arrive at some proper system of priorities.
I want to say something about wages, but I must be brief because the time available to me is limited. I believe there is a need for the Government to do what it has done - put its cards on the table as to the policies it proposes to pursue to counter inflation so that the Arbitration Commission will know what the Government is aiming at and the measures that it proposes to achieve those aims. Secondly, and most important, I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Bury) who said-
-Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, first I wish to join with my esteemed leader in wishing His Excellency, the Governor-General and Lady Dunrossil a happy term of office in this country. On the conclusion of their stay here, if they wish to return to their homeland, I hope that they will become ambassadors for this fine country of ours. Like my leader, I feel that many Australians, who have served1 this country in peace and in war, in industry and in professional capacities, could fill the high office of GovernorGeneral without loss of dignity to that office.
I want to commend my neighbour and friend, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Murray) on the manner in which he delivered his speech in this House yesterday. I am sorry that his speech was wasted because the only people who heard it were his colleagues in this place, and they cannot vote for him. While he was speaking his remarks were being broadcast, but his constituents could not hear him, just as mine would1 not be able to hear me if my remarks were being broadcast now. I have taken up this matter on many occasions in the House at question-time with the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Davidson). I have also written to the honorable gentleman on the subject. It is a shame that the people in the north of this continent should be deprived of the privilege that their sisters and brothers in the south enjoy, being able to listen to an alternative programme from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. After all, the people in the north pay the same broadcast listeners’ licence fee and they feel that they should only pay half the fee because they are only hearing half a programme. According to the answers that I have received1 so far, the PostmasterGeneral has said that he proposes to increase the power output of three stations - one in Brisbane, one in Townsville and one in Atherton. But that will not solve the problem at all. What it will do is bring in more listeners who will still be dissatisfied because they can hear only one programme.
Recently the Australian Tennis Championships were held at the Milton courts in Brisbane. People in the north are just as sport-minded as people in the south and they like to listen to descriptions of important tournaments, whether the game be tennis, football or cricket. During the final match two young players were fighting for the honour of being Australian champion. The last set was in progress and the challenger had the champion down 40 - love. Sharp at 5 o’clock the broadcast was terminated and1 in its place came “The Argonauts “ or some other children’s session. The people interested in the tennis had to wait until the next news session before they could ascertain how the match had finished. That sort of thing goes on every Saturday afternoon when sporting events are being broadcast. The broadcast of the sporting event is regularly interrupted by the children’s session.
I hope that the Postmaster-General will read with interest the letter that he should by now have received from Mr. Harvey, who is a a young electrical engineer and a man very interested in broadcasting. Mr. Harvey in his letter states that the problems mentioned by the Postmaster-General are not insurmountable. Mr. Harvey’s suggestions should be given serious consideration in order to give justice to those people in the far north who listen to the A.B.C. programmes.
The Postmaster-General and his department are not held in very high esteem by the people in the north. Telephonic communication is another thing that is causing a lot of discontent. There is a little area in the north called Little Mulgrave. There are about eighteen subscribers on the exchange and for a few years past it has been housed in a private dwelling. Unfortunately, that private dwelling has passed into other hands - either a receiver’s hands or the public curator’s - and nobody can lease the dwelling and occupy it. Consequently those subscribers have been without a telephone service for a few months. I suppose the Postmaster-General will have the temerity to charge those people for the telephones that they cannot use. That kind of thing is going on throughout that area and it is not very pleasant. I invite the Postmaster-General to go into the area and1 see these things for himself. If his own officers cannot solve these problems perhaps he will be able to make some decision about them.
The honorable member for Herbert referred also to the cattle industry. I bow to his knowledge of that industry. He spoke of the progress that was being made in the cattle industry with the help of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and of the Department of Primary Industry. The problems of the dairy industry should be dealt with in the same way. The dairy farmers are the hardest workers in the country; they work the longest hours and reap the smallest rewards. The dairy farmers in the south may be quite happy with their position, but I assure the House that the dairy farmers in the north are not at all satisfied. They should have the same assistance as is given to the cattle industry. I understand that officers of the department and of the C.S.I.R.O. visited the area recently. . But the dairy farmers there told me that the advice given to ‘them was to get out of the industry and to let the southern herds cater for the north.
The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) should examine this position carefully. If the policy of the Government is to close down industries in these farflung areas, it is paying little regard to its election promises about decentralization. Once the dairy industry in the north ceases to exist, it will be too late to do anything. Some action should be taken now. Those engaged in the dairy industry in the north want some research undertaken into soil conditions there. The department should give them the assistance that was given to the dairy industry in the south. Some research was done in the south and the department has some knowledge of what can be done. There is no reason why the assistance given to the cattle industry should not be given also to the dairy industry. They are two big industries in the north. They are primary industries and in the future could be the salvation of Australia.
I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Holten), who seconded the motion. He spoke of a factory in his electorate that may close down. If the Government sincerely believes in the decentralization of industry, as it says it does, it should assist this factory to continue its operation. I venture to say that if it were in Melbourne or Sydney, it would receive assistance so that people would be kept in employment and the industry would remain in production. If the Government is sincere, it should support the industry referred to by the honorable member and so keep people in employment in country areas. This would be a step towards the decentralization of industry. If this company ceases to operate, other organizations will be deterred from branching out into country areas. We do not want that; we want the country areas to develop. Migrants are being brought here for this purpose, and we want these industries to spread out into the country areas. The Government should keep this factory going, at least for a while.
Much has been said about inflation. Apparently the Government has realized at last that inflation is growing in Australia. I remind it of the election promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). He said that his Government would put value back into the £1. I need not say any more about that, because honorable members know as well as I do that the £1 has no value to-day. Its purchasing power is disappearing so fast that before long it will not be worth the paper used to make it. The view seems to be growing in the community that if an increase in wages affects only a few hundred or a few thousand people, the economy will not be disturbed and inflation will not follow. But when the workers want an increase of £1 or £2, we hear the cry immediately that inflation will result and the economy of the country will be ruined. People in the higher income groups who are already receiving sufficient can be given an increase of £6, £8 or £10, but the worker is deprived of the right to wage justice. I venture to say that the £1 in 1940 was worth six times as much as the £1 to-day. If that is true, the basic wage of £6 in 1940 should now be £36. But although the workers have suffered, inflation hits those on a fixed income harder than any one else in the community.
The Government has never done anything to stop inflation. At times, it has suggested that the States should do something about it; but there can be no justice when the income of one group is pegged while the income of another group increases rapidly. It is difficult for pensioners and others on fixed incomes to understand why the technical people should be given large increases. I am not decrying their marginal increases; all I am saying is that, if they are entitled to the increases that they have received during the past few years, then the small wage-earners and those on fixed incomes should receive some consideration from the Government.
The Government has decided to remove the restrictions on imports in an effort to prevent prices from increasing. Time alone will tell whether that will be so, but I am sure that it will not be long before the Government will have to review its policy on imports. I do not believe that any manufacturer would reduce his prices and lose his profits because goods were freely entering the country from abroad. He would probably close his factory and still more people would be out of work. Import restrictions give a certain amount of security to manufacturers, but if imports are not controlled, I am sure that the number of unemployed will grow daily.
Honorable members opposite frequently speak about the need to help undeveloped countries. I wish they would give the same consideration to the undeveloped areas of Australia. We have a big task to develop vast areas of Australia. They can be made productive, and if we are to prosper and to grow into a bigger nation than we are, we must develop them. Most migrants now drift into the large cities. They are accustomed to crowded places and to the kind of life they find there. They can make a Jiving where possibly an Australian from an outback area would perish. We are not getting the right type of migrant, although we have tried on many occasions to do so. We want migrants who will work in the fields and develop our country as we wish it to be developed. Many years ago, migrants came here without any assistance from the Government. I refer to Italians and Germans who came of their own free will, who farmed the lands in the north and who worked in the sugar industry. They worked very hard indeed and have reaped the benefit of that hard work to-day, because most of them now own their own farms and their sons have farms alongside them. There are great opportunities in Australia to-day, and the greatest of all are in north Queensland, or the northern parts of Australia. I may sound parochial, but I know that area and I know what it can produce. To give an example, I mention that the tobacco industry in the Mareeba and Dimboolah areas this year will finish with a 3,000,000-lb. crop. The sales have been held.
A moment ago, I mentioned the great opportunities that are offering in Australia. The other day, while I was in Mareeba, I attended a naturalization ceremony. Three young Italians, whose ages ranged from nineteen to 23 years, were naturalized. They have been in this country only six years, but each of those three boys owns his own farm. They got one farm between them to begin with and worked it for two years. Then they bought the next farm and worked it for two years, following which they bought the next one. Those three lads on those farms turned over 70,000 lb. of tobacco this year.
The opportunities are there for any one to take, but people must be prepared to work. These men did work hard and still work hard, and many Australians are working hard alongside them.
– Tell the unions.
– I do not need to tell the unions; they know all about it. The people work hard, but they do not work an excessive spread of hours. What I am trying to tell the House is that the northern portions of Australia have many things to offer, and the sooner Australia wakes up to that fact and to the opportunities that exist, the better for Australia. Why leave it for the foreigners, or imports, to prove to us what great opportunities there are and what development can go on and is going on there now? Others are showing us the way, when we should be showing them.
– The honorable member should join the Country Party.
– Some members of the Country Party who have spoken recently should be in our party, because they speak our policy.
– You should come over to us!
– I will never come over. I believe in our party’s policy, and if you were a true and Christian man you would believe in it too. If the Government is to take a serious attitude towards inflation, it must act now and must act fast. If the profits of companies - I refer particularly to the hire-purchase companies - are not checked and if the profiteering that is going on in this country is not stopped, we will never stop inflation. We see in the papers offers of from 15 to 20 per cent, for money. How can the country keep up with that kind of business? If money is to be poured into more or less unproductive avenues such as hire-purchase, we shall not have money available for loan purposes to do the work that is necessary. Here, I am referring mainly to the local authorities, who have to struggle every year to get their allocations from the Government and then seek money on the loan market. If they cannot get the money, the work cannot go on. The local authorities employ many of our citizens. It is not only the employment of the people which concerns me. I am concerned, too, about the development of those areas. The result of what is taking place has been that the local authorities have been forced to place on landowners conditions which were not placed on them in the past.
Not having the necessary money, the local authorities now have to place on the people conditions which never applied before in order to build roads, tar roa T:. and provide kerbing. They are slowly being strangled financially by the Government and the money lenders to whom they must go when they have got from the Government an assurance that they can borrow a sum of £350,000 or whatever it is. If the Government does not place a firm check on the inflation which is taking place to-day, the local authorities will be strangled.
If the Government is to be responsible to the people it should first live up to its promise to put value back into the £1. The Government should be sincere in tackling the problem of inflation by giving the people something concrete and not just hit-or-miss remedies such as import restrictions, because that is all that such measures are. They may be good or bad, but no-one except the importers or those who already have the money will benefit by such a policy. A while ago an honorable member said that if we had to increase taxation the workers and the small income groups would be hit first. That will not occur if the tax is placed where it belongs, that is, on the people who are profiting from the work and productivity of others.
I feel certain that it will not be long before the people of Australia will wake up very smartly indeed. The conduct of the Government reminds me of the statement of the American who said that you can fool some of the people all the time and all the people some of the time. The Government has been fooling the people for ten years, but I think they will wake up and think lor themselves; and when they forget all the red herrings that have been put across the trail at election time - such as communism and like smears - they will get down to fundamental thinking and realise that they have been fooled. When that time comes Labour will be in office in Australia for 100 years.
– A socialist government?
– There is the smear again! That is all you can say. We are Australians and stand for Australia. Many of the honorable members opposite will be walking the streets looking for jobs when we come into power, but we will give you jobs and will not let you starve, as you leave the workers to starve to-day.
– Mr, Speaker, I would like, first, to join with other members of this House in the congratulations which have been extended to our new Governor-General and the expression of loyalty to Her Majesty the Queen. We hope that His Excellency, the GovernorGeneral, will have as enjoyable and fruitful a stay in Australia as that of Sir William and Lady Slim. Lord Dunrossil brings to us experience in a different sphere from that of the last Governor-General, but I am sure that his contribution will be equal to that of Sir William Slim when the time comes for us to say farewell to him and Lady Dunrossil. I am sure that all Australia is happy in the news that we have had about the Royal family, first of all with regard to her Majesty, the Duke of Edinburgh and the infant Prince, and secondly, the engagement of Princess Margaret. Australia, as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, rejoices in these happy events.
Inflation has been mentioned by most speakers in the House to-day, but before dealing with certain aspects of that subject I should like to say something about what has happened in relation to the rifle clubs of Australia. I will quote portion of a speech made by the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) on 27th November of last year, when he said -
I urge the Government and the Minister for the Army to do nothing that will restrict the activities of the rifle clubs. They include some of the finest men in our community. They are fine sportsmen and their sport is essential to this country. In spite of nuclear and atomic bombs, the infantryman - the man who can use a rifle - is still necessary. High military authorities all over the world admit this claim to-day.
Those of us who are associated with and appreciate the work of rifle clubs, such as my friend and colleague, the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), the honorable member for Mallee, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) and the honorable member for Canning (Mr. Hamilton), realize that the situation is one of difficulty. We know, of course, that there is a problem, confronting both the Army and the rifle clubs, arising from the changeover from the .303 rifle to the FN30 rifle. I believe that further discussions should be held with the executive leaders of the Australian rifle clubs, so that a decision could be made as to what is to happen in in the future. I believe that such discussions could lead to a solution of the problem, and I ask the Government to consider instituting such negotiations.
That leads me to another point. I refer to the position of the Citizen Military Forces. In the words of my colleague, the honorable member for Mallee: -
In spite of nuclear and atomic bombs, the infantryman - the man who can use a rifle - is still necessary. High military authorities all over the world admit this claim to-day.
It almost seems as though Australia is excluded from the “ high military authorities all over the world “, and this, when considered in association with what is happening to the Citizen Military Forces, appears to indicate that the professional soldier is not happy about the civilian soldier. Any one who considered the history of this country would surely be conscious of the part that the civilian soldier has played in the defence of Australia in two world wars.
In my position as the member for Lyne I find myself in some difficulty because of the action taken in regard to the Citizen Military Forces. In Taree, for example, a fairly substantial amount of money was spent only a short time ago in the building of barracks for the head-quarters of the 13th Battalion. The whole organization of the Citizen Military Forces in the electorate that I represent, and in other country areas, appears to be about to be destroyed. I believe this demonstrates wrong thinking in what I might call certain military quarters. In this situation there will be young men desirous of volunteering for training, and for whom no assistance in this direction will be available.
This matter has exercised the minds of those representing returned soldiers’ organizations in my area and, I am sure, in other areas. Certain suggestions will be put forward regarding the matter and also concerning the training of some of these young lads in country areas. It should be remembered that some of the best members of our armed forces have come from country areas in the past, and there is no reason to believe that this will not continue to occur in the future. I ask the Government, therefore, to give further consideration to the matter of Citizen Military Forces training.
Another matter to which I shall refer concerns the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. Perhaps the new arrangements have not been in operation long enough for us to make a definite comment regarding their success or otherwise. But I do believe there are a number of anomalies, and I hope the Government will consider initiating further discussions with the pharmaceutical guilds. I believe that in this way many anomalies could be corrected, to the satisfaction of both the Government and the guilds.
Inflation has been mentioned by a number of speakers in- this chamber to-day. Let me say, to begin with, that I was most disappointed at the statements contained in the Speech that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral read when opening the Parliament yesterday. Much of the Speech was a recital of what has been done in the past. While I realize that the benefits arising from the Government’s past efforts are still being enjoyed, I feel that the Governor-General’s Speech contained no positive presentation of what the Government intends to do to halt the inflationary spiral that we speak about. I appreciate the problems that confront a federal government. I realize that in the present set-up, in which certain powers’ are enjoyed by the Commonwealth and others by the States, it is not easy to overcome the constitutional difficulties. 1 realize the problems that beset a federal government in trying to control the economic and financial affairs of the country in such a way as to halt inflation’. As we know, this Federal Government has, in the past, taken certain action which would have contributed greatly towards halting inflation, but its efforts have been nullified almost overnight by action taken by a State government. I repeat, therefore, that I have a full realization of the difficulties that confront us.
I believe, also, that one of the causes of the inflation that exists is to be found in the valuable work that the Government has done in furthering the development of Australia. It is rather ironical that we find these economic difficulties confronting us partly because of action we have taken to hasten our progress. The time has come when very serious consideration must be given to this problem, not only by the Federal Government, but also by State governments, by industry and by the trade unions. One of the problems confronting us arises from the size of the country and our small population. These two factors make the cost of development of railways, roads, telephonic communication services, hospital and other services greater, per head of population, than in most other countries. It is obvious, therefore, that we must do our best to keep down costs as much as is humanly possible. If the inflationary pressures in our economy continue to make themselves felt, the cost of development of Australia, per head of population, must increase even further, placing a substantial burden on every member of the community. Those most affected in this situation are the pensioners and people who have retired, having contributed to a superannuation scheme, and who now find that their incomes are not worth as much as they had previously expected. Surely we should try to keep costs down, so that there will be no need to increase pension rates because of increases in the cost of living.
Another matter that deserves consideration is the question of local government finances. Any one with any knowledge of this subject has a full appreciation of the difficulties confronting local government authorities. Their costs are increasing constantly as developmental work within municipalities and shires increases. These factors are making the further development and progress of these areas much more difficult.
A great deal has been said about decentralization which is a matter of urgent necessity for our country’s development. However, one of the greatest difficulties which militate against decentralization and defeat many people who desire to establish industries in country areas is the initial cost of establishment including the freight and other charges linked with it.
We have spoken on many occasions about the difficulties that people experience in establishing markets overseas because of continually rising costs which must be added to the cost of production although this, in many instances, has already almost reached saturation point. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and the department which he administers have done a magnificent job in establishing overseas markets and we can thank him and his officers for the present healthy state of our overseas trade balances.
The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes) has referred to increases in wages. Honorable members may recall that I have referred to this matter on several occasions. Let us never forget - and if we are honest we must admit it - that wages follow prices. In other words, an increase in the cost of living results in an increase in the basic wage. I repeat the criticism which I have levelled on other occasions at union leaders and Labour men for not making their contribution towards halting this inflationary spiral but, if we are to be honest, we must agree also that certain sections of big business and industry have not played their part in this respect. If we say that one section of the community must play its part in trying to halt the inflationary spiral, we must say also that other sections of the community must play their part.
In the eight years during which it has been my privilege to be a member of this House I have heard many references to the promise which was made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) at one stage to put value back into the £1. That is not quite a correct rendition of what the Prime Minister said. He said that the Commonwealth Government would take all steps possible to stabilize the economy and to put value back in the £1. That brings me back to what I said at the beginning of my speech when referring to the fact that the Commonwealth Government is limited in certain spheres in its ability to halt the inflationary spiral. I suggested recently that if the pay-roll tax were abolished it would be one way of assisting tremendously to do this. If my suggestion were adopted it would have a double-barrelled effect because it would relieve business people of a considerable burden. Pay-roll tax is an unfortunate impost because there is no discrimination in its application. The employer pays at the same rate whether he earns a profit of £1, £10 or £100. The abolition of the payroll tax would be one step in the right direction.
Another step which I believe the Government should take is to call a conference of representatives of the State parliaments - not necessarily the Premiers - representatives of industry and representatives of trade unions. It may be said that such a conference would have no value because every one would be putting forward his pet theories and trying to get the other fellow to give something while he gave nothing himself. But we have reached the situation in Australia at which every winking person must be aware of the danger that confronts us. This does not mean that I am a pessimist, but if we are to make a contribution to the development and progress of this country each and every person and each and every section of the community must play their part. For that reason a conference along the lines which I have suggested would, I feel, be of some value.
Another factor is that if the Commonwealth Government took the initiative in calling this conference and in putting forward all the information at its disposal, surely every person worthy to be called a true Australian would be prepared to play his part in getting the section of the community which he represents to do its utmost to assist in overcoming the difficulties which now confront us. If the Commonwealth adopted some of the positive measures which have been suggested to-day, it would at least have done its utmost to solve our economic problems.
We are facing times of difficulty in relation to our overseas trade. His Excellency the Governor-General in his Speech stated -
The emergence of two rival trading areas in Europe and the developments flowing from the recent Paris Economic Conference are being closely watched by my Government which is alert to Australia’s trading interests in these matters. My Government has continued to promote the sale of Australian products overseas through its enlarged Trade Commissioner Service, through trade missions, and in co-operation with the Export Development Council and industry and commerce organizations. The increase in many manufacturing exports has been gratifying. A National Export Convention will be held in Canberra in May of this year.
Those proposals will be of assistance. Surely if the Government adopts the suggestion which I have advanced it will be making a further contribution towards overcoming the difficulties which confront us. His Excellency also stated -
The development of tendencies to monopoly and restrictive practices in commerce and industry has engaged the attention of the Government which will give consideration to legislation to protect and strengthen free enterprise against such a development.
That is a noble phrase, and I should feel a little more optimistic if I had not heard it on a number of occasions. But no steps have been taken to implement what has been stated. I hope that on this occasion the Government will take some action in this regard.
We can be proud of this Government’s achievements in the past year in relation to our development and progress, but we must face up to the problems that confront us if we are to maintain our past record. I say in all sincerity that this Government has made a magnificent contribution to the development of our country, but I feel that in recent months we have tended to rest upon our laurels and have not given sufficient attention to the problems which continually arise. I hope that under this Government the Commonwealth will continue to develop and progress in the next ten years as it has in the past ten years.
.- At first glance it is refreshing to hear members of the Government parties being so forthrightly critical of the Government. We heard the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Forbes), this afternoon, and now we have heard the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock). Unfortunately, from past experience we know that the criticisms that have been made were only to amplify the definition of this institution of Parliament as a talking place because the critics have never taken any steps to support the Opposition when we have reached the stage of actions and not words. If the honorable members on the Government side are sincere in what they have said, and if they wish to demonstrate their integrity, they should vote with us on this censure motion. It is no good coming here and mouthing pious platitudes.
– What is your proposition?
– My proposition is that this Government should resign. Honorable members opposite have often referred to the dangers which are menacing the future of this country, but in ten years there has not been a single constructive undertaking on the books. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has been asked on television shows and such like, about the things for which he would like to be remembered, and the important legislation he has introduced, he has only dithered about and has offered nothing positive. We have a roller-coaster government. Once upon a time its leader was nick-named “ pig iron “. These days his Government ought to be called the rollercoaster administration. The Prime Minister said that we are faced with inflationary pressures, but what does he do? He throws open the gates to imports. I suppose we could define the situation by saying that he is exporting our inflation but is importing Japanese unemployment.
I represent a Melbourne industrial constituency and I believe that there is something to be said for the claim that it is a good thing to bring to this country the good things of the world’s factories. But I also believe that if, by so doing we do not take complementary steps to ensure that we protect the livelihood of our own workers, it is a fatal remedy.
– There is the immigration programme as well.
– I agree with these great developmental programmes; the country can do with more people. Unfortunately we have a government which has been inflicted upon the people of Australia for ten years, led by a Prime Minister who has established a course record for dithering and not coming to decisions. What is the principal feature which should be bothering the Government and every democratic Australian? It is the fact that we have a completely authoritarian brand of leadership and control of the Government. The Prime Minister can choose his Cabinet and apparently can direct it or discharge people from it. He can elevate people to the House of Lords and do anything he wishes, and apparently be answerable to nobody. We have seen evidence of it here. We have seen rebels come in here and make all sorts of fiery speeches. We saw it last year on social services. A magnificant revolution was brewing. One never knew what crisis might develop. But when the Prime Minister came in here, put his foot on the chair and cracked the whip, the revolutionary ardour dissolved like the morning mist. This is a fact that Australia has to face.
During the four years I have been here, Governor-General’s Speeches have raised the question of constitutional reform. The subject was contained in the very first Speech I heard here. A few months after I was elected we were going to reform the procedure between the two Houses. Four years later - goodness knows how many hours of committee meetings later and how many platitudes and cliches later - we are still giving the matter earnest consideration. This, of course, is a serious infliction upon the people of this country.
In great matters of constitutional reform or in the smaller matters, such as a decision about the future of the Canberra University College in relation to the Australian National University, we wait for years for a decision. The man who was a real statesman, the predecessor to the present occupant of the Prime Ministership, would have arrived at a decision in a quarter of an hour of discussion with his advisers. The same thing applies to decisions regarding the future of the Parliamentary Library in relation to the National Library.
As I traverse this country, I find that what is happening to people in all walks of life, particularly those engaged in government enterprise, is that their future activities are strangled by the failure of this Government to make decisions on any subject. So we have come to the position where we have a government of largesse. This Prime Minister and his Government scatter their blessings around. They put money out to the universities commission but it is no concern to the Prime Minister that hundreds of young people cannot get into the teachers’ training colleges in New South Wales or that Melbourne University has quotas in practically every faculty.
These are matters of urgent moment - things which concern greatly every individual in the community. Yet we are referring matters to committees! We are calling up taxation committees and we create statutory organizations which are not directly answerable to this Parliament and by means of which the Prime Minister is able to avoid direct action.
The Prime Minister has many great qualities but the power of decision is not one of them. That is the thing with which Government authorities are at present inflicted. I believe that every one of them should see that some action is taken by it. The speech of the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) was accurate; there is nothing positive in the Speech delivered yesterday. I agree with that statement. It is one of the conditions of the last ten years - little positive action. We have been able to coast along on the private sector of the community - the people with capital at their disposal who have carried out various development works. They are erecting huge buildings and enormous factories but the roads and railways and all the rest of the things which are the responsibility of the Government remain strangled for want of decision and want of direction.
Constitutional reform is a prime necessity. I hope that immediate action will be taken by the Government to implement the reforms that have been recommended by the Constitutional Review Committee. This was a high-powered committee. I think that the political parties here paid the constitution of it the greatest compliment by electing to it the people whom they considered to be their best men. In my view they represented the best men of this Parliament. Therefore this committee had the benefit of the collective thoughts of the representatives of the Australian people but failure to implement its recommendations in a vote of non-confidence in its members. They themselves ought to demand immediate action, particularly the members on the Government side. It is little, use members on this side doing so. We submit motions, raise matters on the adjournment and put questions to the House, but if the people on the Government side continue to allow these authoritarian procedures Of their own parties to be imposed upon them so that they make speeches here and take no action, there is no help for us except to wait tor December of next year.
This afternoon our Leader made a fine speech in his best form.
– Obviously no good speech from this side of the House could possibly appeal to the honorable member for Hume. In the first instance he would be unable to follow its logic and in the second instance it could only harm the reactionary viewpoint which he has adopted.
On this side of the House we have, in our leader (Mr. Calwell) and deputy leader (Mr. Whitlam), worthy successors to the great leaders of the past. I should like, briefly, to pay a tribute to the recent Leader of the Opposition who has just left us. I believe that Dr. Evatt has made a contribution to Australian political history by his very status and by the almost magnificent nature of the way in which he accepted some of the political challenges of his time which have never been exceeded.
We have placed into this position and its next in rank men of equal capacity and this afternoon our leader has given us a lead to the way we shall continue for the next eighteen months or so until we have removed the present occupants of the Government benches. He has outlined the points we shall develop on the question of inflation - a subject about which everybody is talking. There is also the subject of import restrictions and the way in which this Government is handling them. There is, further, the basic wage and the way this Government is opposing any alteration. These are important points. It is not our job to suggest remedies for inflation. It is our job to press the Government until such time as it takes requisite action.
The Government will be able to do that only if it uses all the resources at its disposal. I have no sympathy whatsoever with the sort of statement which the Prime Minister makes. He said that hire purchase seems to be substantially beyond our control. That statement occurred in his speech at the International Congress on Scientific Management. Fancy going to the Congress on Scientific Management and admitting that matters which were your special duty to control were beyond your control and beyond management!
The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson) has been unable to apply his mind to these questions in a progressive way. The Commonwealth Bank is an instrument at our disposal, but the Government has ignored it completely with regard to the costs of hire purchase. Has there been any conference with the State authorities for the purpose of arriving at a reduction of interest rates? According to the Government’s philosophy, the essence of the contract is competition. What could be better to reduce interest rates than a bit of competition from some body which had the resources of the Australian nation at its disposal, such as the Commonwealth
Bank? The Commonwealth Bank, with its 600 branches scattered throughout the nation, with its 600 branch managers, and with all the faith and the trust that the people repose in it, has been completely ignored. That is indicative of the negative approach of this Government to the requirements of the nation. It seems to me to be simple and elementary to use the Commonwealth Bank. The instrument is here. If the Government will not use it, the Government is to blame. The bank would not provide a complete solution to the problem of hire-purchase and other interest rates. However, it could provide a part of the solution, but there has been no attempt to use it. Therefore, I believe the Government is worthy of censure.
Then there is the relaxation of import controls. This is a significant action. The Government, faced with a great problem, said, “There is too much money in this country for the goods available. We have overseas credits. Therefore, it is to our advantage to bring in as many goods as possible.” The aim, I suppose, is, to use the words of a former Treasurer, “ to soak up our surplus spending power “. With this in view, the Government has thrown open the gates which it kept closed for years. Of course, this has caused a great deal of concern on the administrative side, because it was necessary to set up large administrative organizations to control imports. Immediately after the announcement, we read that some hundreds of public servants would be retrenched. We know that when there is a change of policy in any government instrumentality, it threatens the livelihoods of human beings, but even in a matter such as this, apparently no planning could be undertaken by the Government to protect the livelihoods of 400 or 500 people.
What is involved? The Prime Minister says that he cannot control the Tariff Board and the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission. He makes the plea that, constitutionally, the Government has great difficulty in handling these matters, because the Tariff Board and the Arbitration Commission - two instrumentalities which are the creation of this Parliament - are outside his control. He could call a meeting of the Parliament any day and make substantial alterations to the functions and structure of these bodies, but he does not do any of those things. He simply pleads to the powers-that-be for co-operation. He moans about things, and does nothing about them. It is up to the people on the Government side to demand action on these matters.
Import controls, supplementing the work of the Tariff Board, have now been built into our manufacturing structure. Unless we take effective action, unemployment will occur. As I mentioned earlier, in my electorate there is one of Australia’s greatest spinning mills. There is also a huge factory making television sets, and another turning out motor tyres. Plane load after plane load of importers has headed overseas to bring back things which can only menace employment in my electorate. This is a matter of great concern to all the people involved, because there is nowhere for them to turn. Nobody can say that this Government has made any effort to turn the Commonwealth Employment Service into an instrumentality that will see that everybody’s livelihood is protected. Those are the problems that face the nation, and they are causing great concern.
The third point of our amendment relates to the basic wage. For 50 years or more we have piled alteration after alteration on to the old Harvester Award. The time has come for a proper scientific approach to ascertain what the Australian standard of living ought to be. It is absolute nonsense to suggest that anybody can live in this community on what is called the standard basic wage of £13 or £14 a week, in a condition which ought to be the right of anybody born in what is, I understand, the fourth or fifth richest nation in the world. The television set, the home, the motor car and the annual holiday are the birthright of every Australian, and it is time the economy of the nation was adjusted to bring these things into the recognized standard of living. I see no evidence of that. I see no approach by the Government even to the question of the wages of its own employees, and no attempt to give people in the lower wage groups anything like a satisfactory standard of living. On the contrary, we find that there is inflicted on those people the whole burden of inflation.
We look at past remedies. I look at the policies followed in the four years I have been here, and at the policies followed by the Government in the six years before I became a member, I mentioned earlier the former Treasurer’s famous words about soaking up surplus spending power. We have cliches mounted on jargon. I rather liked the nice turn of yesterday’s effort - “The growth of excessive monetary liquidity “. What does that mean? Does it mean that all of us are rolling in money, or that money is rolling faster past us? That kind of jargon and nonsense adds nothing to a solution of the problem, and is only clouding the atmosphere so that the Government can get away with doing nothing. The Government has tried sales tax, adjustments of interest rates, and credit squeezes, and has achieved nothing in those fields. Its present remedies are not going to be any better, because all of them are based on Government inaction.
There are several immediate criticisms which nearly every Australian is prepared to make against this Government. I should like to hear something from the people opposite about whether these criticisms are valid. In the present situation, we do a little door-knocking around the electorate of La Trobe. It is a good time to get into political discussions with people. What do we find? The average Australian is really bothered about the position in the airlines field.
– I am not.
– I am not claiming that you are an average Australian. If the honorable member from a Queensland electorate, who is so well named, is prepared to support the theory which is being espoused by the Government in regard to airlines, let him stand up and explain it. I will be only too happy to listen.
The people are bothered about the basic wage and the defence position. The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) pointed out what has been done with Citizen Military Forces. I hope that in the not too distant future we will have a chance to debate the defence statement which the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) managed to run in at the tail end of the last session. The people are worried about the delays in carrying out national projects.
We have the fantastic position that every instrumentality in the Commonwealth, whether State, Federal or municipal, seems to be strangled for want of money. We have the position that municipalities go to the State governments for money, and the State governments come to the Commonwealth for money. We have the great Australian Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs, a Companion of Honour, going around the world to borrow £22,000,000. If the World Bank knocks us back, we can only hope to make contact with outer space. This fantastic position is bothering the Australian people. They are troubled by the fact that one of the wealthiest nations in the world is bothered about obtaining £22,000,000 for the Mount Isa rail project. We have made ourselves a laughing stock around the world over this.
A sum of £20,000,000 is the cost of eight Boeings. The system of priorities in the community is bothering us. The people of Melbourne are troubled when they see a Boeing flying overhead - a Boeing worth 25 high schools. Probably the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Anderson), who is interjecting, could find the same feeling in his own electorate if he took the trouble to look for it. Priorities are bothering the Australian people. We have the strangling of State and municipal governments, which I have just mentioned. We have profit and exploitation in the community. We have the great boom in land, and the great boom in capital gains by our industrial, commercial and financial institutions. These are bothering the Australian people. They are concerned about them, and we want to hear the answers. The people are also concerned, of course, about the Government’s failure to act in these matters.
This evening I have not had the chance to debate the defence position, but there are a few questions I should like Government members to consider. We have strategy by salesmanship. We have the man who can come round and sell us something at any particular time. So we have Centurion tanks which we cannot move, and Lockheed Hercules aircraft by the dozen. We have a national service scheme which the back-benchers of the Liberal Party brought with them in 1949, and which now, after £150,000,000 has been spent on it, is apparently of no consideration. “Hobart” is anchored in Sydney Harbour without even a watchman aboard. It does not even get a place in the mothball fleet. The sum of £26,000,000 has been invested at St. Mary’s and, as far as I can ascertain, by questioning the Minister for the Army (Mr. Cramer), it has not turned out even a boomerang. We have had the shifting to Jervis Bay of the naval college. Throughout the whole defence system there has been a failure to integrate, to prepare, and to plan. As a result, much of our equipment is obsolete. I know that the Minister will say that the army ducks are just ducky for the job and that we could not get better equipment anywhere. But does the Minister ride around in a 1942 car? Does he fly in a 1942 aeroplane? Of course not. This is symbolic of the whole defence system.
I hope that in the near future, we will have the chance to challenge the Government effectively in this place on the defence system. I support all that has been said on both sides of the House about the Citizen Military Force. It is gradually being strangled. Yet this is the cheapest form of defence! We can have eleven divisions of the Citizen Military Force for the price of one division of the Regular Army.
These are things that no Australian can ignore. Throughout the whole defence system, despite the platitudes of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Morshead report, there has been no attempt to integrate even the simplest things. Look in the telephone book and you will find that two of the services have printing units of their own. At every level down to the combat level, the services should be integrated, but I see no evidence of this.
I believe that we are expressing the feelings, emotions and sentiments of the ordinary Australian citizen when we point out the deficiencies of this Government and demand action on these points. When we look for evidence of action we have the same feeling of despair which I am sure will be expressed in a few weeks in the La Trobe electorate when the Government will see that these things that the Opposition is saying here are an expression of the viewpoint of the Australian people.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Jeff Bate) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Adermann) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I should like to refer, once again, to a matter of great importance in my electorate. This is the resumption of 58 properties to make way for a mail sorting branch in Redfern. First, I should like to emphasize that the people involved in this resumption are in no way opposed to the erection of a mail sorting exchange. They realize that progress is essential in the interests of the nation but they are justifiably concerned at what is going to become of them. Are they going to be evicted on to the streets with their furniture and with no prospects of finding alternative accommodation? We have listened to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) on this subject. He has stated, quite rightly in some respects, that this project was first approved by the Chifley Government. We do not dispute this statement. But the point is that the Chifley Government did make arrangements with the McGirr Government to house these people by providing a special allocation of money. The authenticity of that statement can be checked with the head of the Department of the Interior.
This Government which took control of the treasury bench in 1949, acquired the property in Redfern in 1951 for the purpose of erecting the exchange. Then the Department of the Interior became the landlord of these people. But I hasten to say that very few of the people who live in this area owned these premises. They were mostly owned by landlords one of the biggest of whom is the uncle of the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon).
It has been claimed that the tenants have had almost nine years’ notice and that, therefore, they have had plenty of opportunity to find alternative accommodation. That is not altogether true. These people were not notified in writing of their position. That was quite rightly so because we know of the speed with which some Government departments operate after they have acquired certain properties. For instance, the Commonwealth acquired three properties in George-street, Redfern for the purpose of extending the Redfern post office. Quite recently the Postal Department built a new telephone exchange at Redfern. It acquired this property in the year 1907 and it finally decided to use it in 1954 - 47 years after the property had been acquired!
It is correct, in some respects, for the Postmaster-General to say that the people with whom I am concerned have had an opportunity to look for other accommodation, but where could they find accommodation? It is true that some of them were fortunate enough to find other accommodation and it is true also the rest of these people could apply to the New South Wales Housing Commission for accommodation. But due to the acute housing shortage in New South Wales, and due to the niggardly amount that the Commonwealth Government grants the New South Wales Government for housing purposes, the commission has 30,000 people on its waiting list at the present time. How could any sensible person expect the New South Wales Government to provide emergency accommodation for these people at the expense of the 30,000 people who are at present waiting for accommodation?
A Redfern tenants’ committee has been formed for the purpose of trying to do something about this situation. It has sent a letter to the Postmaster-General, pleading with him to have another consultation with the State Government, with representatives of the Opposition of the New South Wales Parliament, with Opposition members of this Parliament, with religious organizaions and with representatives of the New South Wales Trades and Labour Council. The Minister has refused. He said, “ It is a matter for the New South Wales housing authority to find alternative accommodation for these people.”
Mr. Speaker, this problem has been mentioned in this House before, and the Government has tried to escape its responsibility It proposes to evict 300 people” and it is saying to the State Government, “ There you are boys. They are all yours.
Do what you like with them.” We know on this side of the House, that, by law, the Commonwealth is not obliged to provide alternative accommodation, but we believe that it has a moral obligation to supply alternative accommodation upon a resumption of this magnitude. It is very interesting to know that we have the backing of some Sydney newspapers on this matter of the obligation to supply alternative accommodation. We have the backing of the trade union movement in New South Wales and of every church organization in that State. All sensible minded citizens in New South Wales agree that the Commonwealth should supply the money to house these people. Yet what do we find? The Commonwealth Government says to the State, “ No. It is your responsibility to house them and you must find the money.”
I venture to say that the Government is making a political fight of this. If a resumption were to take place at this stage in a swinging electorate such as Phillip do you not think that the Government would make the necessary money available? Of course it would do that rather than lose the seat or lose prestige. But in a safe Labour electorate such as Watson, although women, children and pensioners are affected, the Government has no intention of providing alternative accommodation because it knows that it could never win the seat.
What will happen to the pensioners, Mr. Speaker? In 1956, this Government abolished the rental rebate system. Even if the New South Wales Government could provide alternative accommodation for these people, how could it ask the pensioners to pay rents of £4 a week? That is what they would have to pay owing to the inhuman treatment by this Government of the people for whom it is responsible - the age and invalid pensioners. The present Government and its supporters just wash their hands of these people and say to the New South Wales Government, “ You should provide alternative accommodation, no matter who they are. You should accommodate them whether they are workers, women and children or pensioners.” I believe that this Government stands condemned for not negotiating with the New South Wales Government in order to provide the accommodation that is needed.
Let us now see what a leading politician in New South Wales said about this matter. He stated -
It now seems that there is a stalemate between the Commonwealth and State Governments as to who is responsible for re-housing there. Housing is primarily a State Government matter, but where such a large number of houses and people are affected I think the Commonwealth Government might reasonably be expected to co-operate with the State Government in finding a satisfactory solution.
– Who said that?
– That was said by Mr. Askin, the leader of the Liberal Party of Australia in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly and one of this Government’s supporters. He said that it is this Government’s duty to negotiate with the New South Wales Government and do something for the people who are being displaced. That statement expresses the feelings of all sensible people in Sydney and throughout New South Wales. They feel that this Government has a moral obligation to assist in finding alternative accommodation for the people concerned. Even at this late stage, Mr. Speaker, I say once again-
– Order! The Honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, while the Parliament was in recess, I attended one of Australia’s most remarkable shows - the television inquiry. It is running at the South Melbourne Town Hall, and, although it has hardly got into its stride, it is now in its fifteenth week. It threatens to rival, for length of run before it finishes, Melbourne’s other perennial entertainment, “ My Fair Lady “, but I am afraid that it will never be such a good box office attraction, for I was the only spectator on the occasion when I attended. Yet this inquiry is costing more to stage than is “ My Fair Lady “. I expect that the final curtain will be rung down only as a result of a process of physical exhaustion - or when the sponsors’ money has run out.
The Government instituted this inquiry for the very commendable purpose of getting a report as a basis for the allocation of licences for country television stations. However, these intentions have got out of hand, with several serious consequences. The television inquiry has drifted from its original purpose into an exercise of futility, to the accompaniment of an unbelievable sequence of legal drivel. Obviously, the time has come for the Government to review the whole proceedings.
Firstly, there is the time factor. The granting of any fresh licences must await the conclusion of the inquiry. Then will follow a technical inquiry and the writing, of the report. All this will take a long time, and I believe that, at a conservative estimate, it will be another year at least, before any new licences are issued. Allowing for the time required for the construction of a station, I think it is doubtful whether any of the populous centres concerned, including Newcastle, Canberra, Ballarat and Bendigo, have any hope of getting television much before the middle of 1962. Other country areas, including some quite large centres like Albury and Tamworth, have to wait in the queue, as it were, until the present investigation is concluded and they can present their applications. There seems to be no hope of television for these centres within the next three years.
The cost to applicants is astronomical, and the smaller man may be squeezed out by this fact. I estimate, Mr. Speaker, that at least two applicants have already spent £30,000 or more on legal fees, transport, accommodation and general expenses. Several, I imagine, have spent more than £10,000. The costs are accentuated by the holding of all the inquiries in Melbourne. Instead of doing this, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board should move to the State in respect of which applications are being considered. The present arrangements, no doubt, are very convenient for the board and its officers, but they are appallingly costly to the applicants. I think, also, that the presentation of some local viewpoints is probably being prevented by the time and expense involved.
I suggest, further, that a judge be appointed to head the inquiry. I know that there is a school of thought which holds that it would be better if applicants were obliged to present their own case without their legal representatives being present. Although I do not altogether agree with the conduct of some of the legal representatives in the present proceedings, I see no reason why an applicant should not have his legal advisers with him if he wishes. What has to be guarded against is the process by which the present inquiry has developed the atmosphere of a criminal court in which the personal character and reputation of witnesses are on trial. As a result, technical experts are beginning to be reluctant to appear before the inquiry. A judge, however, might be able to keep legal representatives somewhat within bounds and shorten the hearings. He would at least be able to curb the tendency to irrelevant and tedious cross-examination.
I suggest that, in the interests of country people, and with the object of letting them enjoy television as soon as possible, a technical inquiry be appointed to consider the allocation of channels and the location of transmitters, and to make the very important decision as to whether country television should go on the ultra-high frequency band or whether it should be confined to the extremely crowded very high frequency band, which is commonly known as the V.H.F. band. If the technical inquiry were conducted as soon as the consideration of the applications for New South Wales licences had been completed, the technicalities could be decided and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board could immediately afterwards consider the evidence it had taken about country stations in New South Wales, make the allocation and allow the successful applicants to place orders for equipment. The board could then proceed with the hearings in Victoria, and, at the close of the inquiry there, could allocate the Victorian licences in the same manner. It could then do likewise in the remaining States. This would mean that television in country areas would be introduced progressively and much sooner than will be the case under the present proposals.
This procedure would also have another important advantage. The present plans mean that the licences for the third stage, which is the subject of the present inquiry, would be granted all at once, and 25 or 26 stations could be building at the same time. This would exclude any work contemplated by the Australian Broadcasting Commission or by existing commercial stations, and would surely cause costly and troublesome bottlenecks in the supply of equipment and technical requirements, because all the orders would be placed at the one time in a market of restricted supply. It is quite possible that, in these circumstances, some purchasers will have to pay a premium on the price of equipment in order to ensure early delivery. All this could be avoided if the licences were issued as the inquiry is concluded in each State. The main duty of the Government should be to make television available to country people as quickly as possible. The present procedure, I regret to say, does not do that.
As a general conclusion I say that the present form of inquiry is cumbersome. It is expensive and time-consuming. It surely calls for a revision by the Government, and since the Postmaster-General is in the House I trust that he will closely consider the matters I have raised.
– First, may I address myself to the matter raised by the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), namely, the position existing in the Redfern area of Sydney following on the proposal to build there a mail exchange which will handle most of the mail for New South Wales and other areas. Let me say at the outset that I very greatly regret the situation that has developed in that area, but I state emphatically that that situation has developed solely as a result of the New South Wales Government’s refusal to face up to its responsibilities. It is no good honorable members opposite saying “ Oh! “ I am giving plain facts. This situation has developed because of the refusal of the New South Wales Government to face up to its responsibilities and also because of its eminent desire to use this situation politically and to extract some political advantage from it if possible. Further, the New South Wales Government hopes to extract from the Commonwealth Government housing moneys in addition to the moneys that it has already received in common with other States under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement.
– Keep politics out of it.
– I should like to do so but I am forced to bring politics in to reply to the challenges from honorable members opposite. I state categorically and emphatically that the Commonwealth Government has not evaded any of its responsibilties. The responsibilities of the Commonwealth Government do not include the provision of houses for State residents. That has never been so and I make bold to say that if the Opposition happened to be in government at present it would adopt the same attitude and would tell the New South Wales Government to face up to its own responsibilities for which the Commonwealth supplies adequate funds.
Let us turn to a brief outline of this position, because I want to reply also to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Wheeler). Already in this House on several occasions I have outlined the situation. I shall give the salient facts so that people may know what they are. As the honorable member for Watson said, a great controversy has developed in the press, particularly in the Sydney area. Representations have been made by various estimable gentlemen, including church leaders, but all those representations stem from a lack of knowledge of the real facts. I have stated before - I am glad of the opportunity to say this again in this chamber - this matter developed in 1949 when the then Labour Government under Mr. Chifley was in control of the affairs of the nation. Realizing that the State would need to make provision for adequate housing for the people who would be dispossessed, Mr. Chifley conferred with the Chairman of the New South Wales Housing Commission. The records show that the Chairman assured Mr. Chifley that the commission, in developing plans for housing, would take cognizance of the proposal for the new mail exchange. That was back in 1949. In the years since then, actions have been taken on a number of occasions which warned not only the New South Wales Government but also the people concerned that ultimately those people would be required to find other accommodation. The site was actually acquired in 1952 after it had been zoned by the New South Wales Government as an industrial area. The State Government’s action in zoning the area as an industrial area meant that the people living there in residential quarters ultimately would have to get out. As soon as the existing tenancies expired the tenants were placed on a weekly basis and were advised that their places would be required. I made an inspection of the area in company with the honorable member for Watson nearly two years ago, and I ascertained that all the people living there were well aware that they would be required’ to vacate their premises. Their main question was “ When will we have to get out? “ They were told that it would be twelve or eighteen months before they would be required to get out.
– That was not eight years ago.
– No, I am coming up through the years to show how long the State authorities and the people concerned have been aware of the present situation. I pointed out before that already this project has been delayed for too long and that it is not possible to wait any longer for the State to meet its responsibilities.
To ensure that the Commonwealth could be certain that it had done all in its power to see that these people received proper housing, last year a number of letters passed between myself as Minister and the responsible authorities in New South Wales. Letters even passed between the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Premier of New South Wales, pointing out that the Commonwealth proposed going ahead with this project some time during this year and that therefore the State should move to carry out its responsibilities in providing housing. That correspondence culminated in a conference between the Commonwealth Minister responsible for housing, Senator Spooner, myself and Mr. Landa, the Minister for Housing in the New South Wales Government. Also present were officials of the New South Wales Housing Commission. The conference took place, I think, in October. The New South Wales authorities were presented with a time-table of our proposals and were asked to take such action as was required to ensure that housing was made available for the people concerned. I state quite definitely that since then we have learnt that the people who were considering getting out were warned by certain State authorities not to get out, and that a letter advising at least one person to that effect has been seen by officers of my department. Those people were warned not to get out and were told that unless they defied or contested their eviction notices they would be ineligible for re-housing. Do not forget that that letter has been seen and I rejoice at the opportunity to make it public. It was perfectly obvious to those of us who have been associated with these discussions that the attitude of the State authorities is this: “ We know it is our responsibility to provide alternative housing but because we have a waiting list for houses we want to have these people evicted so that we have an excuse to lift their priority above some of the other applicants for housing commission homes “.
I have found from investigation that that attitude of the State applies to at least 35 per cent, of the people who applied for temporary accommodation, because the State would then be in a position, if there is an eviction, to tell other people that those persons had a priority.
I think I have summed up the situation. It is being used from a political and financial angle by the State in order to achieve its own purpose. The Commonwealth has carried out its obligations and it sincerely hopes - and I believe it will be so - that when the various stages have been completed the State Government will shoulder its responsibility and provide accommodation for these people. By then the State will be in the position that I have outlined and will be able to go ahead with the proposal.
The time left at my disposal is limited, but I hope to be able to give the honorable member for Mitchell a little information on the matter to which he referred. The matter that he raised is one that has caused me considerable concern and one to which I have been paying considerable attention of late. The position arises from the fact that section 22 of the act provides that any applicant for a television broadcasting licence has the right to be represented by counsel at the hearing and that such counsel may cross-examine witnesses and address the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on all other applications for that particular licence. That privilege in my opinion has been abused and I have done various things to try to speed up the inquiry. I agree that it is taking over-long and counsel has been appointed to assist the board to overcome the delay, but as this has not proved satisfactory I can inform the honorable member for Mitchell and other interested honorable members that certain amending legislation is at present under consideration.
.- These unfortunate men, women and children at Redfern - some of them are pensioners - will take little comfort from the callous and inhuman speech of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson). What does he really say? He makes this an argument between the Commonwealth and the State Governments as to whose responsibility it is. How will that help the unfortunate people who are to be evicted from their homes? I hope to show that the Commonwealth, with very little effort, could meet this situation in a satisfactory way.
In actual fact, the Commonwealth, unlike other property-owners, does not have to find alternative accommodation. Under the legislation of this country, particularly the legislation in New South Wales, alternative accommodation must be provided before a tenant can be evicted for any purpose. But that is not so with the Commonwealth Government. It says, “ We warned these people eight or nine years ago that they would have to get out “.
Despite the repeated statements of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) that the solution of the housing problem is in sight, those who have any practical experience know that the housing problem is far from being solved. What is the use of giving these people eight or nine years’ notice to get out if there is nowhere for them to go? Because of the inflation that now exists, they would have to be very wealthy people to be able to build a home. The high rentals they would be obliged to pay in newly built areas, and their meagre incomes, would prevent them from going there.
The Postmaster-General defends himself by saying that the Commonwealth is under no legal obligation to provide alternative accommodation. That is a most inhuman attitude to adopt. The Minister for Housing in New South Wales, who is anxious to help these people, says that if he cao get £200,000, the problem is solved; these people can be accommodated. This Government, which apparently is not prepared to provide the £200,000 to help people in dire necessity, could, in my opinion, have made a good start last night by cutting out the festivities associated with the opening of the Parliament. That cannot be regarded as an urgent necessity.
The Postmaster-General spoke about certain conferences and assurances given by the late Mr. Chifley. He said that Mr. Chifley had a conference with the housing commissioners and that they decided they would meet this situation when it arose. But what the Postmaster-General failed to point out is that the amount of money available to State governments for housing to-day is limited by what the Commonwealth Government is prepared to provide. The
Labour Government led by the late Mr. Chifley undertook to provide the State governments with all the money that they required to build as many homes as they had the physical capacity to build.
The situation has completely changed now. It would be rather peculiar if the States did not have the capacity to-day to build more homes than they could when Labour was in office. We were dealing with post-war problems, but we were building all the homes we could and providing all the money that was needed to use all the available resources to build homes.
The Postmaster-General then said that this area has been zoned as an industrial area. But, as every Government supporter does, he misleads. What he has not told the House is that this area has been rezoned as a residential area. It is not true to say now that this area is zoned as an industrial area; it is a residential area.
Let me deal with two other matters. The Postmaster-General, to prove that there was a political move behind this, said that his officers had seen a letter in which one lady was told not to vacate her home voluntarily. Under the conditions which operate in New South Wales, where there is an extremely acute housing shortage, the housing commission has been obliged to warn people not to vacate accommodation voluntarily until the State is able to provide for them. If this woman had voluntarily vacated her dwelling, under the practice in New South Wales, she would become ineligible for consideration either for a home or for emergency accommodation. There is nothing political about that; it is merely an admission of the serious housing shortage in New South Wales to-day.
The Postmaster-General complained that the State Government would not co-operate with the Commonwealth. What does he want the State Government to do? Any one who has any experience in New South Wales will know that evictions are taking place there every week, and the State Government, because this Government has starved it financially, is not able to provide even emergency accommodation for all the cases of eviction that come under notice.
What does the Commonwealth want the State Government to do? If it provides accommodation for these people out of its meagre funds, it must deny accommodation to some one else; so it does not help the housing situation at all. If this Government is not satisfied with the way that the New South Wales Labour Government is spending money on housing, it has the power in its own hands when it makes money available to stipulate how it will be spent. Under the existing agreement, it has declared that a certain percentage of the money must be set aside for personnel serving in the armed forces. If the Commonwealth can do it in those cases, why cannot it make money available and ensure that the State will spend it only for this purpose by making a similar provision in the agreement?
When the Postmaster-General said that the State Government is not co-operating, he meant that it is not co-operating in securing the eviction of these people. I understand that the eviction date has been passed, and the Postmaster-General said dramatically that there will be no further time given, that the Government had come to the end of the road. If it is to be a case of evicting these unfortunate people, I hope that the New South Wales Government will refuse to co-operate with this Government and I hope that it will carry its refusal to co-operate to the extent that, if Commonwealth officers attempt to remove these people from the dwellings, it will refuse to provide the New South Wales police to protect those carrying out the evictions. But then the Commonwealth will probably use its security service to get these unfortunate people out of their homes. We have always believed that this is a political force and not a security force in any sense.
Not only do I hope that the New South Wales Government will refuse to provide police to protect those who are evicting these unfortunate people, but I hope further that trade unionists, every Labour supporter and every citizen who regards this as an outrage will rally to the New South Wales Government and protect these unfortunate people from the attacks being made upon them by this callous and inhuman Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 March 1960, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1960/19600309_reps_23_hor26/>.