23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– 1 address my question to the Treasurer, ls it a fact that following the release of credit in two separate amounts of £17,000,000 there has been a disappointing response from business people, particularly industrialists, in taking up this money? Is it a fact that the reason for this reluctance is a loss of confidence because they have already heavily stockpiled their products and can see no point in borrowing money to make additional goods which, for the time being, are unsaleable? As a result, is there anything in the general contention that there is only one answer to the problem - a reduction in prices? Is a ramp operating against a reduction in prices, and is this the whole crux of the position?
– The honorable member has put a series of questions which it is not easy to answer within the confines of the Standing Orders, but as far as I am able I shall attempt to deal factually with the points that he has raised. First, he made a statement, which so far as I am aware is not supported by fact, relating to a reluctance to borrow from the banking system. It is true that the trading banks are rather more liquid than is usual at this time of the year. It is also true that there was an increase in advances last month, and when I met the bankers in discussion it was pointed out to rae that increases in authorizations to ‘borrow do not necessarily indicate rapidly any substantial increase in advances.
It is one thing to know that you have a right to borrow a certain amount of money and to put in hand commercial transactions which will eventually require you to draw on the line of credit so granted, but it is another thing to have the full amount of that line of credit absorbed in increased advances. I believe that to be at least a part of the current situation. More advances are being granted but as yet the figures do not reveal their full extent.
The question whether reductions in the prices of goods in over-supply would produce increased sales is, of course, a matter for the commercial judgment of the manufacturers concerned, lt is no part of the role of this Government either to instruct or advise them on how they should conduct their commercial affairs. I think, they can be relied upon-
– Does that not mean that there is restriction of trade by cartels?
– If the honorable member is opening up the whole area of restrictive trade practices, his question could be directed more properly to my colleague, the Attorney-General.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by reminding him that a week ago he announced in his Budget speech a reduction in the general rate of sales tax from 8i per cent, to 24 per cent. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that a number of manufacturers of electrical appliances have not reduced the prices of their products, and that some have advised retail stores to this effect? What action does the Government propose to take to ensure that the public receives the benefit of the sales tax concession which the Government clearly intended the public to have?
– Prior to receiving this information from the honorable member, the matter had not been brought to my notice. On the contrary, in connexion with those items which were th, subject of reductions in the rate of sale?, tax, it was encouraging to find an immediate response through many of the stores, which, by way of public advertisement and otherwise, announced reductions in the prices of all classes of goods affected by the reduction in the rate of sales tax, although tax would have been paid at the higher rate on those goods by the stores concerned. I appreciate that the honorable member is not referring to those stores; I mention them by way of illustration of the fact that the benefits which the Government hoped would come from the reduction in the rate of sales tax were passed on immediately in many instances even where the higher rate had previously been paid.
I shall be interested to have any information the honorable member can give me about the practice being followed by some manufacturers. It is again a matter for their own commercial decision, but certainly it was the hope and expectation of the Government that the reduction in the rate of sales tax would enable the manufacturers to market their products at a lower price, and in that way stimulate sales, reduce stocks where they might be held in excess, and generally give useful benefit to the public, particularly to young couples setting up homes for the first time.
– 1 ask the Minister for Immigration whether his attention has been directed to certain unsatisfactory conditions prevailing at the Gepps Cross Hostel for migrants in South Australia. I refer particularly to the hygienic defects and inadequacy of both toilet and laundry facilities. Will the Minister have an immediate inspection made by his most competent officer in South Australia with a view to ensuring the immediate correction of any condition that imposes unnecessary hardship on the occupants of this hostel, and with a view also to safeguarding the health of all concerned?
– I have read in one Adelaide newspaper - not a daily one - a rather inflammatory report of conditions at Gepps Cross Hostel. I think that that report, from my own knowledge of the matter, is not founded in substance. But I must say to my honorable friend that ever since 1953 the hostel at Gepps Cross has not been under the control of my own department or that of my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service. In that year - eight years ago - it was transferred to the South Australian Government, which, in turn, has since delegated it to the South Australian Housing Trust. In view of the excellent record of the South Australian Housing Trust, a record which I think other housing authorities could well emulate, I would be very surprised indeed if those reports were in fact true. However, in order to satisfy the honorable member, I shall refer his question to the appropriate Minister in the South Australian Government and ask that some inquiries be made.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral when he proposes to make public the report of the Frequency Allocation Review Committee, and when he will find himself in a position to advise what future allocations will be made for the use of the amateur service in Australia.
– The review committee appointed to investigate the use of the various frequencies throughout the spectrum made a report to me which I received a month or six weeks ago. I have had that report dissected by officers in the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and I am having a concise report prepared for presentation to Cabinet, and I expect to be able to present it within a fortnight. The Cabinet will then determine when the report will be published. I expect that it will not be very long.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister had an opportunity to study the judgment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on the basic wage inquiry of 1961? If so, is there any statement in the judgment which would give an indication of the size of the family which the commission believes could exist on the basic wage adopted? Has the commission again determined “ the highest basic wage in money which the economy can sustain “ without any regard to the size of the family to be maintained by a wage-earner? If the commission has failed to consider the size of the family to be maintained by a wage-earner, and in view of its statement that “ it was neither a social nor an economic legislature “-
– Order! The honorable member is now entering into debate. He should ask the question he is directing to the Minister.
– And the Government’s failure to increase child endowment in the recent Budget-
– Order! The honorable member may direct a question seeking information. I ask him not to give information, but to ask his question.
– Will the Minister appoint a committee of inquiry to investigate the urgent needs of the wage-earner with a larger-than-average family?
– The honorable gentleman has, in fact, both asked a question and answered it. He said that the commission did not make its decision on the basis of a family of average size, aor did it consider the size of the family that could be sustained by the basic wage; but I think everybody knows that originally, in the earliest awards, it was held that the wage would sustain a husband and wife and two or three children. It must be perfectly obvious to-day that the present basic wage would sustain more than that. As to the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question, I think he knows full well that this House itself does give consideration during the course of the Budget discussions to the needs of the family. I believe the Budget has catered for them and supplemented the wage in terms of health and medical services and child endowment. So again his question is, I think, answered not only by what he said, but also by the actions of this House.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has the Minister heard reports that the Australian Labour Party is sponsoring a candidate for the secretaryship of the Waterside Workers Federation? Can he say whether this is the first positive counter the A.L.P. has made to Communist control of this and other key unions since it destroyed the industrial group movement? Is there any evidence of sincerity in the A.L.P. action, or is it window-dressing for the elections?
– Order! Any reference to the management or control of the Australian Labour Party does not concern the Minister. I do not know whether there is anything in the question that the Minister believes he is concerned with. If he wishes to answer the question on that basis, he may do so.
– The Minister cannot manage his own department.
Opposition Members. - A Dorothy Dix.
– Order! If we are going to go through question-time satisfactorily, we shall need the co-operation of every honorable member. I hope it will not be necessary for me again to ask those honorable members who are interjecting to maintain silence.
– What about Harry Jensen?
– Order! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will come to order.
– I do not think the honorable gentleman is perfectly correct when he says that already the executive of the A.L.P. is sponsoring a candidate for the secretaryship of the Waterside Workers Federation, but one member of the A.L.P.-
– I rise to order, Mr. Speaker. Is it permissible for a question to be asked or answered when it has no relation whatever to the business of this House?
– Order! I suggested to the Minister that if there was anything in the question which he considered concerned him or his department and he could keep within the Standing Orders, he might have the right to answer the question. I do suggest also, however, that he should not enter into any comment on the question which was largely irregular.
– As to the last part of the question, the sincerity of the Australian Labour Party will be tested-
– I rise to order. Is the Minister in order in attempting to evade your ruling, Mr. Speaker, that the question was out of order? How can the Minister reply to a question that is out of order?
– The Minister has the right to reply as he thinks fit, but I did suggest that, under the circumstances, he should have in mind the irregularity of the question and not add to the problem that has already been created.
– I give one answer. The sincerity of the Australian Labour Party-
– I again rise to order, Mr. Speaker. The sincerity of the Australian Labour Party is not involved in the question or the answer. It has nothing to do with the Minister or anybody else in this House.
– Order! The portion of the question that referred to the management of the Labour Party was out of order. I have already indicated that. I ask the Minister to comply with the spirit of that ruling.
– There is provision under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act for court-controlled ballots. I hope that, in this election, the Labour Party will make use of those provisions.
– Last November, the Postmaster-General announced the names of thirteen successful applicants for commercial television licences in country areas. Will the honorable gentleman inform the House whether all of those thirteen licences have now been issued? If they have not all been issued, which licences have not been issued, when will they be issued, and what is the reason for the long delay?
– I can inform the honorable member for Bass that most of the licences have been issued. As he and other honorable members will realize, a considerable number of requirements had to be met by the successful applicants before licences could be issued. In other words, they had to conform to certain rules and regulations regarding shareholdings, articles of association and so on. Most of the licensees have conformed with these requirements and their licences have been issued. I think that eleven licences have been issued, but I will check on that. Because of the considerable difficulties of terrain, determination of site, and preparation of roads, the licensing of one or two Queensland stations has been delayed, but the work, even in those areas, is proceeding reasonably well.
– Will the Minister for Territories advise the House of the conditions of payment for the aboriginal actor, Robert Tudawali, for his recent television appearance in Melbourne? Did he have the use of the money that he earned?
– The aboriginal actor from Darwin, Robert Tudawali, recently had an engagement with a television company in Melbourne, the terms of which were negotiated with the television company on his behalf by the Director of Welfare. The terms secured provided that Mr. Tudawali was to be paid at the Actors’ Equity rates for that type of appearance, plus fares from and to Darwin, plus £3 a day living allowance. Arrangements were to be made for his accommodation and he was to be fitted out with clothing suitable for coming to the southern part of Australia. Those conditions were faithfully observed. Part of the arrangement was that Robert Tudawali was to be paid £5 a week spending money immediately and was also to be advanced whatever sums he required to buy presents to take home to his relatives. That condition also was faithfully complied with. After he returned to Darwin the balance of the amount owing to him was paid into a trust fund in Darwin on his behalf. He is fully at liberty and has full opportunity to operate on that trust fund, the moneys in which belong to him and are earning savings bank interest. He can draw on those moneys at any time he wishes. A completely false suggestion was made in certain quarters that some portion of his quite considerable earnings had been put into a trust fund which was no longer available to him. The money in the trust fund is his money, he has full right to draw on it and is, in fact, drawing on it as he needs it.
– I ask a question of the Prime Minister. Is it possible, and if not, why is it not possible, to table, before the Budget debate resumes, the annual reports of the Reserve Bank Board, the Tariff Board and the Commonwealth Grants Commission, which survey large sectors of the economy and do so in a more detached way than any Treasurer could do? The Prime Minister will note that I am not asking about the reports of individuals, departments and instrumentalities, which may not be essential until the debate on the Estimates commences. In particular, I ask: Why cannot the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission be tabled, since the Prime Minister himself has already announced that the recommendations of the commission have been accepted?
– All these reports will be tabled as soon as possible. The honorable member suggests that they be tabled before the Budget debate is resumed. I must admit that he rather has me there, because the debate will be resumed, I am happy to say, at 8 o’clock to-night. If the reports are available and can be tabled, they will be tabled quite quickly.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Has the honorable gentleman seen a report to the effect that Commonwealth security officers were present in Parliament House, Perth, when demonstrators marched on the Western Australian Parliament a week or two ago? If he has seen such a report, is it correct?
– I did see a report which contained a statement that the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in Western Australia had said that Commonwealth security officers were present in Parliament House in Perth during the sitting time of the Parliament on the occasion in question. I regret to say that the Speaker was in error. There were no Commonwealth security officers in Parliament House. I think the Speaker’s mistake was made because most people in this country do not differentiate between the Commonwealth security officers and the officers of the special branches of the State police forces, whose duty it is to look after security within the States, and to discover and deal with subversive organizations. Every State police force, including those of New South Wales and Tasmania, has such officers. It may be that there were officers of the Western Australian police force in Parliament House, Perth, at the time. I have made my own direct inquiries, and I can assure the House that no Commonwealth officers were present.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Is it a fact that Ansett-A.N.A., Cambridge Credit Corporation Limited and other investment organizations and fringe banking institutions are offering the public 8, 9 and 9i per cent, interest for money invested? Also is it a fact that the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works is offering 5i per cent., and cannot attract sufficient money to enable it to make loans within two years or more to householders desiring to borrow money to pay for sewerage connexions? Is it a fact thai citizens affected by this state of affairs are at a serious disadvantage as compared with fellow citizens who can raise cash to pay for their sewerage connexions? Will the Treasurer give an assurance that the Government will take steps to remedy this state of affairs and ensure that money will be available at a reasonable rate of interest for these urgent public works?
– A full answer to the honorable gentleman’s question would involve a lengthy statement. I believe it is a fact that organizations, no doubt embracing all those mentioned by the honorable gentleman, are seeking from time to time to secure funds from the public at rates of interest considerably higher than those being offered either by Commonwealth loans or by local government or semi-governmental loan raisings. That, of course, is not the end of the story. In the case of Commonwealth loans there is a tax rebate of 2s. in the £1, which gives a return greater than the coupon rate would suggest. In the case of loans which are raised by local authorities and semi-governmental bodies there is a degree of security of repayment which does not always obtain in the case of ordinary commercial organizations. As to the conditions and terms which should apply, 1 point out to the honorable gentleman that these are determined by the Australian Loan Council, on which the six State governments are represented with the Commonwealth. They have a direct relationship to the market which is available for borrowings of this kind and I am not aware that in the aggregate, over recent years, the States have failed to secure their total loan raisings for local government and semi-governmental purposes - even if there were difficulties in some particular cases - in accordance with the authorization of the Loan Council.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Is it a fact that there was recently in New Guinea a serious clash between two sections of the native population which resulted in a certain loss of life and affected also the white officers and their native assistants who endeavoured to separate the combatants?
Has consideration been given to issuing to the native police and the officers who control them sufficient tear gas bombs which, I understand, have no lasting ill effects but are disabling and would prevent the necessity arising for use of rifles or other lethal weapons upon an occasion such as that to which I have referred? Has consideration been given to the use of these means of controlling disturbances of the kind referred to?
– I assume that the honorable member is referring to some recent incidents in Rabaul and the vicinity of Rabaul in New Guinea. The Administrator of the Territory is at present considering reports directed towards the end which the honorable member has in mind. I cannot say for certain that the use of tear gas is one of the expedients which is under his notice, but he has under consideration and will be shortly making a report to me on measures of that kind which might be used if incidents involving riotous behaviour on the part of a crowd do occur.
Now that the honorable member has asked this question I think I should inform the House that the clash was one which took place between two groups of indigenous people and did not directly involve the European population. The Native Affairs officers, the District Commissioner and the constabulary became involved in it when they were trying to keep the two opposing factions apart and, being overwhelmed in the rush of the rioters, they did have recourse to arms and two persons were killed.
Yesterday I received from the Territory the report of the coroner who inquired into the death of the two people. His finding, if I can quote from memory, was to the effect that in the circumstances existing at the time the use of firearms to the extent to which they were used was not disproportionate to the danger that existed, and that no one was culpable. That, of course, is not the end of the matter as far as we are concerned administratively. We will be giving further attention to the general situation and to the particular matter that the honorable member raised.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the Russian cosmonaut, Titov recently circled the earth seventeen times? Did this remarkable feat shatter all previous records for round-the-world trips, or does the Prime Minister still hold this record for Australia?
– I have been informed, and I have no reason to disbelieve it, that this very brave man went around the world seventeen times.
– You would not be in that!
– I would not; you are quite right. I admire this performance very much, though, perhaps, for reasons not identical with those for which the honorable member admires it.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer, Following the tabling ot the report of the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation, will the Treasurer clarify the position of people who have completed arrangements in accordance with the taxation laws that now exist, and who entered into these arrangements prior to the date of the presentation of the report to the House?
– At the time ot tabling the report, I said that the Government would consider the recommendations embodied in it. I said also that legislation to be introduced later to deal with tax-evasion devices which were within the terms of the existing law, and to close loopholes which we believed should not continue, would date back to the time of the tabling of the report. I think the reason for this is apparent enough. Once we have made detailed public disclosure of the way in which advantage can be taken of the law to reduce tax liability in a way that may be unfair to the general body of taxpayers, clearly we should not allow time and opportunity for people to rush in and take advantage of these loopholes. However, the established practice of the Parliament is that even where measures of this kind are deemed necessary we do not normally seek to make legislation retrospective so as to interfere with arrangements that had been concluded before the intention to amend the law was made known. That, I believe, broadly will be the attitude of the Government in considering the recommendations of the committee, and that is why I have said that any such decision will date back to my tabling of the report. Of course, cases which clearly suggest fraud, as distinct from legal devices, under the existing law would be in another category and a different view would have to be taken of them. Those who have speculated that in some way we are going to be able to secure additional revenue before we have given any attention to recommendations for revenue concessions have made a quite erroneous interpretation of what has been said and of what is intended.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister. In view of the changes which are taking place in world alinements almost every day, will the Prime Minister inform the House whether there has been any change in the Government’s attitude towards establishing Australian representation in Ireland on the same basis as England, Canada and the United States of America have representation there at present, and in the same way as Australia was represented there under a Labour government? If not, will he undertake to give this matter his urgent and favorable consideration?
– Mr. Speaker, there has been no change in the position that has existed for some time.
– In view of the statement recently made in the House that one of the problems facing the Royal Australian Air Force was the replacement of the Canberra bomber, can the Minister for Defence tell me whether any move has been made to select or purchase a replacement for this aircraft?
– I am well aware of the honorable member’s distinguished service in the Royal Australian Air Force and of his continued interest in the reserve of officers over the years, and I can understand his interest in this problem - and it is a problem. There is a new philosophy now in regard to bomber aircraft. The effective ness of surface-to-air guided weapons has made the high-flying fast bomber a rather vulnerable target, and the new philosophy favours the building of aircraft to fly very fast and very low. This means that a good deal of electronic equipment has to go into these machines, and at the present time there is no aircraft of this type available which would fit in with the Royal Australian Air Force’s requirements. In the meantime, the Canberra has many years of useful life in it. However, the position is being watched very carefully.
– My question is directed to the Prime Minister. In view of the manner in which my distinguished leader assisted at a recent social celebration in Melbourne, will the right honorable gentleman endeavour to secure for him an invitation to the next private celebration of the Government, at which my leader may even improve upon his recent effort?
– I am sorry to be so slow. I have just remembered what it was that the honorable member was referring to. I must say that, whatever the consequences may be, I will at all times encourage my honorable friend, the Leader of the Opposition, to participate in such explosive events.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that in many instances telephone exchanges just over a State border from a telephone district have been omitted from the current telephone directories foi such districts, although they were included in previous issues? As this is causing inconvenience to subscribers resident in areas adjacent to State borders, and others further afield, will the Postmaster-General make investigations with a view to the inclusion of those exchanges in future issues of district telephone directories?
– The honorable member for Mallee and other honorable members have for some time been making various recommendations and suggestions to me about the way in which the new country telephone directories may be improved. Many of those suggestions have been taken into account, but the new directories are still, in some cases, not issued. I do not know of the particular case to which the honorable member refers, but if he will let me have the details I will certainly have it looked into in order to see whether it is one of those already adjusted or whether there is need for further adjustment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. By way of a brief explanation, 1 remind him that in reply to my request last week for his assistance in obtaining an early reference to the Tariff Board so that any close-down decision affecting the establishment of Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Limited at Burnie, in Tasmania, could be reviewed, he informed me that he had no doubt that the company would not allow dismissals to take place while negotiations were proceeding. I now ask the Minister whether he is aware that the total of employees dismissed at this establishment will reach 200 on Friday next and that the income lost by the remaining 1,400 employees will increase from £6,000 to £10,000 a week as a result of reduced working hours.
– Order! The honorable member is giving information.
– I now ask the Minister: Can he say whether a decision on the emergency reference to the Tariff Board will be available in time to enable the close-down decision - which is expected to-morrow - to be reviewed?
– I can only repeat what I told the honorable member before: I referred this matter without delay to a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board for consideration and report. The law requires him to make a report within 30 days. I assure the honorable member and those whose employment is at risk that there will be no avoidable delay in making a decision on the basis of the report so soon as it is in my hands.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Territories, ls it true that the Department of Territories is opposed to a proposal that natives enlisted in the Pacific Islands Regiment should have an opportunity to qualify for commissioned rank?
– I have seen a published report to this effect. It is a total falsehood, and could have been propagated only by some one who is totally ignorant of the attitudes of the Department of Territories. The responsibility in this matter is, of course, one for my colleague, the Minister for the Army. Over recent months, the Minister, the Department of the Army and the Department of Territories have been in consultation on this matter. That consultation has been of the most harmonious kind, with a quite close identity of interests. There is no doubt about the attitude of the Department of Territories on this question of natives proceeding to commissioned rank, because provision has been made recently to enable natives to rise to commissioned rank in the Royal Papua and New Guinea Constabulary, which is under the administration of the Department of Territories. I am sure that that would be our consistent attitude respecting the service which my colleague controls.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Is the Minister aware that, judging by the queues of unemployed at Sydney employment offices during the last week, the employment position is getting worse instead of better as we were assured by the Government? Is he aware of the disgust and dismay being expressed as a result of the Prime Minister’s refusal to meet the State Premiers at any time within the next five months to formulate a concerted national attack on the unemployment problem? Finally, will the Minister dissociate himself from the reported view of the Attorney-General, as expressed recently to members of the Young Liberal movement in Perth, that it is not the Government’s task to solve the unemployment problem and that, in fact, the less the Government has to do with it, the better?
– As to the first question asked by the honorable gentleman, he has not stated the facts correctly. It is true to say that the number of people in Sydney applying for registration as unemployed has fallen substantially over recent weeks. Therefore, the basis on which the honorable gentleman asked his first two questions was wrong. I hope - and expect - that the next unemployment figures will support what I have said and refute what the honorable member for Barton has said. The last question asked by him concerned an alleged comment by the AttorneyGeneral made to members of the Young Liberal movement in Western Australia. I am not aware of what my colleague said, but I doubt whether he would have used the phrases that were attributed to him by the honorable member for Barton. Nonetheless, I shall find out exactly what the Minister said, and I shall convey his exact words to the honorable member. 1 think that the Opposition should not be trying to make political capital out of this enormously important social question. I am sure the people of this country will agree that whatever action has been taken in recent months has been a stimulus to production and increased demand and, in the long term, will be for the benefit of the Australian working man.
– by leave - On 8th March, 1961, I informed the House of the circumstances under which the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth was advised to withhold assent from two ordinances passed by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory. One of these ordinances amended the Licensing Ordinance of the Territory to modify the penalties imposed on persons convicted for the first time of supplying liquor to wards. The other ordinance amended the Lottery and Gaming Ordinance of the Territory to provide for the establishment of licensed betting shops.
At a meeting later in March the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory again passed two ordinances which, except in minor drafting points, were identical with those which had been rejected. In the debate the non-official members of the Council made it clear that they regarded the main issue as being the power of the Governor-General in Executive Council to overrule legislation passed by the Legislative Council on certain subjects. At the same meeting the Legislative Council adopted, on the motion of an elected member, a resolution requesting the Minister for Territories to introduce progressively further amendments to the Northern Territory (Administration) Act designed to divest the Federal Government of the existing power to recommend withholding of assent from or the disallowance of ordinances passed by the Council on a number of specified subjects. These subjects were considered to relate only to the internal affairs of the Territory.
As the responsible Minister I submitted the ordinances, passed for the second time by the Council, and the resolution to Cabinet, together with the reasons put forward in the Legislative Council in support of the Council’s action. Cabinet gave full consideration to the Council’s views. It appeared to Cabinet that, in respect of the two ordinances previously disallowed, there had been no change in circumstances and no change in the arguments produced by the Legislative Council during the brief period between the disallowance of the ordinance and their reintroduction and passage by the Legislative Council. Nothing had transpired to provide reasons why the advice previously given to His Excellency in respect of the subject-matter of those ordinances should be varied. Consequently the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth, in the absence of the Governor-General, on the advice of the Executive Council, again withheld assent to the two ordinances.
The action of the Legislative Council in passing the ordinances for a second time and in agreement to a resolution requesting constitutional amendments appeared to make the sole issue on this occasion the relationship between the Legislative Council and the Executive and between the Legislative Council and this Parliament.
As honorable members know, the existing constitutional position is clear. This Parliament has given to the Executive both the power and the responsibility of disallowance or the withholding of assent to ordinances. In the exercise of that power the Executive is bound to take into consideration not only matters of local concern but those which come within its view as a national government. The Executive is answerable only to this Parliament.
I repeat what I said to the House on the first occasion of withholding assent. The powers of dissent and disallowance have never been used lightly or capriciously. Nearly 300 ordinances have been passed by the Legislative Council since 1951, and of that number, in over ten years, only two ordinances have been disallowed and only five failed to obtain assent by reason of the principles they contained.
The main question - whether there should be a constitutional change to distinguish between those matters on which the Executive can disallow or refuse assent to an ordinance and those matters of local concern in respect of which the Executive would have no powers - was considered by Cabinet in general and without reference to the two ordinances previously under notice. I think that to consider the Legislative Council’s request for constitutional reform was a fair treatment of its case. Cabinet reached the conclusion that such a constitutional change should not be made.
The Legislative Council was informed of the decision of Cabinet on its request for constitutional change and was also informed of the withholding of assent to the two ordinances. At a meeting in Darwin on the 3rd August, the Council again passed the two ordinances in identical form for the third time, postponed other business and agreed to a resolution calling on the Minister for Territories “ to arrange a conference, preferably in the Territory, between representatives of the Commonwealth Government and this Council in order to find a solution to the present impasse between the opinions and attitudes of the majority of this Council and those of the Commonwealth Government and its advisers “. The Council then adjourned to a time and date after the holding of the conference referred to in the resolution.
As on the previous occasion, the actions and the opinions of the Legislative Council were placed before Cabinet, and fully considered. I have been authorized by Cabinet to communicate with the Administrator of the Northern Territory, who is also President of the Legislative Council, indicating that if the Council would wish to choose and send to Canberra three representatives to put views on particular constitutional issues, the Minister for Territories will receive them and hear their views, and, having regard to the nature of the subject, will arrange for the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) to be present.
In conformity with the requirements of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1959, I lay on the table of the House a statement of the reasons for withholding assent to the Lottery and Gaming Ordinance 1961 pursuant to section 4z of the act, and a statement of reasons for withholding assent to the Licensing Ordinance 1961.
-by leave - In considering the Government’s statement as presented by the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) one must arrive at the conclusion that the Government, in a most contemptuous manner, has again dismissed the case made by the members of the Legislative Council of the Northern Territory, both elected and nominated, for approval of legislation passed by a majority of its members.
My remarks must be brief. I want to make it quite clear that I make no comment on the merit or otherwise of the disallowed ordinances. The Minister, when dealing with them, stated -
Cabinet gave full consideration lo the Council’s views. It appeared to Cabinet that, in respect of the two ordinances previously disallowed, there had been no change in circumstances and no change in the arguments produced by the Legislative Council during the brief period between the disallowance of the ordinances and their reintroduction and passage by the Legislative Council. Nothing had transpired to provide reasons why the advice previously given to His Excellency in respect of the subject-matter of those ordinances should be varied. Consequently the Administrator of the Government of the Commonwealth, in the absence of the Governor-General, on the advice of the Executive Council, again withheld assent to the two ordinances.
Is this paragraph intended to convey the suggestion that had there been some substantial amendment by the Legislative Council, Cabinet might have viewed these ordinances in a different light? If that is so - I cannot read any other meaning into that passage - why did the Minister or Cabinet not amend the ordinances along the lines that they considered desirable? Why did not they themselves suggest an alternative to the ordinances submitted? After all, the act gives power to do this and, knowing the councillors. I feel confident that they would have accepted a compromise solution. But no! The Government has laid a heavy hand on the Council’s shoulder and has, in effect, told it that Cabinet, over 2,000 miles away in Canberra, knows what is best for the people of the north, and that the elected and nominated councillors do not.
I remind the House that neither of the two ordinances deals in any shape or form with the spending of Commonwealth funds, and therefore the need to protect the interests of the Australian taxpayers does not arise. In those circumstances, is there any reason in the world why, when it comes to dealing with its own wants, the Council cannot have absolute autonomy? Is that unreasonable to ask? No wonder there is continued unrest in the north! Let me refer to the promise given at a conference held in Canberra some two years ago to consider the granting of some power over departmental budgeting. Despite that undertaking, no word has been received from the Government about it yet, and no mention of this most urgent and important reform is made in the Treasurer’s statement. Why has not this matter been considered? If it is thought unwise to grant the power sought, why refrain from advising the Council to that effect? Once again the Government is forced into having to agree to a conference to straighten out contentious issues. Why can it never take the initiative in matters of this nature? Why will it give ground only after having been forced to do so? My request now is that a conference take place in Darwin where the Council works. Let the Minister and his advisers debate the issues involved not in the artificial atmosphere of the capital, but in the stark surroundings of a people at work, a people who feel that the circumstances surrounding their problems cannot be appreciated by bureaucracy between 2,000 and 3,000 miles away.
The sooner a fully elected Legislative Council with certain defined powers is brought into being the better it will be for all concerned. There is no danger in a reform such as that. Let responsibility for development be vested in a North Australia development commission, which should consist of people with a concern for the interests of the Australian taxpayer and the implementation of a long-overdue developmental policy. T can assure this reluctant Government that the nation would approve wholeheartedly of such a commission.
Debate resumed from 17th August (vide page 289), on motion by Mr. Menzies -
That the following paper: -
Australia and the Common Market - Ministerial Statement - be printed.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ this House, while declaring that the United Kingdom’s move to join the Common Market requires the strongest action to protect Australia’s interests, expresses no confidence in this Government’s ability to provide it because of its lack of foresight and frankness in this matter, its dilatoriness now, and its continuing failure, as demonstrated by the Prime Minister’s speech, to appreciate the real issues which are involved “.
.- The House is about to continue the discussion of a motion submitted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for the printing of a paper relating to Great Britain’s application to join the European Common Market. The Leader of the Opposition (Mgc, Calwell) has moved an amendment to that motion. I support his amendment because it emphasizes the Labour Party’s lack of confidence in this Government’s ability to face up to and deal with the problems inherent in Great Britain’s application.
It is quite obvious that this Government has known for some time that Great Britain proposed to apply for membership of the European Common Market but, for some unknown reason it has remained silent on the matter. Early in July, Mr. Duncan Sandys, the British Minister for Commonwealth Relations, came to Australia. Before Mr. Sandys left Great Britain, Mr. Macmillan was asked to reveal to the House of Commons the contents of a White Paper which the Government had received, and in which the advantages and disadvantages of Britain’s joining the European Common Market were outlined. Mr. Macmillan refused to table that paper. Let me now give the reasons why he refused.
In view of the many trips which our Prime Minister has made to Great Britain, it is obvious that he must have had some knowledge of the contents of this White Paper. It is also obvious that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) had some knowledge of its contents. That being so, why cannot this House be given some indication of the real reasons behind Britain’s taking the action that she now proposes to take? Instead of giving that information, the Government seeks to create the impression that the proposal came as a surprise.
The Treaty of Rome, under which the European Common Market was established, was signed on 25th March, 1957. When that treaty was being negotiated, Great Britain decided not to become a signatory. Instead, she decided to form the European Free Trade Association. Now, approximately four years after the signing of the Treaty of Rome, and two years after the beginning of operations of the Common Market, Britain changes her views. We want to know what prompted Britain to take the stand she is taking. Why does she suddenly decide now to apply for admittance to the European Common Market?
The other night, the Prime Minister pointed out that about 14 per cent, of Britain’s total exports went to the European Common Market while 42 per cent, of her total exports went to British Commonwealth countries. By joining the European Common Market, Britain will inevitably place in jeopardy the markets she now has for 42 per cent, of her total exports in an effort to protect the interests of 14 per cent, of her total exports. Such a step does not make sense. We want to know the reasons for this move. Why should Britain take the risks inherent in joining the European Common Market? It is obvious that, to say the least, Britain’s joining this market will jeopardize 42 per cent, of her export trade.
Britain’s application is now b;fore the Executive Commission of the European Common Market, and is to be considered on 6th Sep:ember. It is expected that it will be set down for discussion by the Council of Ministers on the Common Market on 25th September. We also learn from, the press that negotiations for Britain’s admittance will take approximately twelve months. There seems to be no doubt that Britain will join the Common Market. It is true that, since its inception in January, 1959, the European Common Market has proved successful. Similar treaties have failed in the past mainly because of money difficulties, but this seems very unlikely to happen to the European Common Market, for the financial organization has already been set up. Already they have established the European Investment Bank, the European Development Fund and the European Social Fund. The dream of a Unified Europe goes back many years. It has been mentioned year in and year out. References to the United States of Europe even prompted Tennyson lo write a poem about the “Parliament of the World”; but all attempts at economic union in the past have failed.
At the end of World War II., the world saw the emergence of the monolithic Soviet bloc. The Organization of the European Economic Community, often called The Eighteen, was formed. Is that a reason for Great Britain wanting to join the European Common Market at this stage after it had failed to apply in 1957? Having regard to Great Britain’s markets outside the European Common Market and what might happen to the 42 per cent, of Britain’s markets within the Commonwealth of Nations, we look for the real reason for Britain’s application, but we are not told what it is. Is it reasonable to suggest that this matter is more political than economic? Does Great Britain want to join the European Economic Community to further strengthen the Common Market because that might prove a bulwark against communism and solidify the strength of the European Common Market in opposition to the Soviet bloc? Is the Common Market an organization which extends beyond economic limits? Does it penetrate into judicial and cultural areas? ls that the explanation for Britain’s failure to apply for membership in the first place? What is the reason for the change now? Is this application being forced on Great Britain as another step in the cold war? Why should Britain risk 42 per cent, of her exports to preserve 14 per cent.? It is all very well to talk of economic effects, but if there is a political background to this thing, why cannot we be informed what the background really is?
I assume that the reasons for the application are economic. We can almost be assured that the application will be granted although negotiations may take some time; but Britain’s application seems to be based on economic grounds, having regard to the economic development of the last two or three years in the countries of the European Common Market, and the fact that the Treaty of Rome provides for a common agricultural policy. All we know of this policy is that it will be highly protectionist. As a consequence, it must be detrimental to Australia’s primary industries. Any suggestion that Great Britain will secure protection for British Commonwealth markets if she joins the Common Market is a forlorn hope, because the basic principle which will underline a common agricultural policy will be a policy of protection. The only agricultural or primary products that will be admitted into the countries comprising the European Economic Community will be those products that they cannot grow themselves. Australia’s primary products will be excluded. There is no question about that. The products which will compete with those of the Common Market will include meat, dairy products, sugar, canned and dried fruits and others. Any protection that Great Britain gives to Australian products will go by the board obviously. France alone would strongly object to any continuation by Great Britain of her trading relations with countries of the British Commonwealth whilst, at the same time, taking all the benefits that would accrue from her membership of the Common Market.
Any possibility of finding new markets to replace those lost to Australia does not remove the threat. We have been chasing new markets for a long time because of the increase in our production, greater capital investment in Australia and the growth of our population by the immigration of people who engage in primary, secondary and tertiary industries. It has been suggested that the Common Market is a growing market. That is true, but the growth has been more rapid in the Common Market than it has been in Great Britain or the United States of America, particularly in the demand for foodstuffs. The commission of the European Common Market has extended its activities into the elimination of quantitative restrictions between members of the Common Market, and it hopes to abolish monopolies’ by 1970. But difficulties have arisen because of State monopolies in France, Germany and Italy. Next to the monopolies come State subsidies, particularly for primary products. This also presents a difficulty to the commission. It is true that it has established eight marketing boards which are based on Brussels. In 1956, before the Treaty of Rome was signed, the sue countries which comprise the European Common Market had 23 per cent, of world trade. It is forecast that when the 1960 figures are released, that 23 per cent, will have grown to at least 33 i per cent, or one-third of the world’s trade. That may be one of the reasons why Great Britain wants to join this very prosperous market.
The inference might be drawn that the Common Market might be most effective in the fight against the spread of communism; but the vital question for Australia is this: What will be the effect on the Australian economy? If it is true that the living standards of the countries in the Common Market will rise, their demand for meat and sugar and some other foodstuffs might also rise, but we can rest assured that production in the countries of the Common Market will keep step with the increased demand. The fact is that Great Britain’s entry into the Common Market will see the end of Commonwealth preferences; so we come to the relationship of the European Common Market and Australia as trade partners. It is obvious that Australian exports to the Continent have been hard hit through the creation of this economic bloc. Nobody knows just how extensive the effect of Great Britain’s entry into the Common Market will be on Australia and the other Commonwealth countries, but it is obvious that we will suffer pretty savagely. The uncertainty has created alarm in Canada and New Zealand, and the leaders of those countries have been outspoken; but after months of notice of Great Britain’s proposed entry into the European Common Market, this Government has only now come into the open to give us any real picture.
It is true that the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made a speech, but it was like the statement of the politician who said, “ No comment “. It is true that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) forcibly stated some of the difficulties inherent in the entrance of Britain into the Common Market, including the difficulties for Australia.
The Prime Minister of New Zealand fears disaster for the Dominion’s meat and dairy industries. The Canadian Prime Minister has called for a Prime Ministers’ conference. He fears internal political difficulties, loss of trade with Europe and stronger United States influence in Canada. In India, the five-year plan depends on aid from Britain. What about the spread of communism under Chinese influence if this aid lessens? Ghana favours Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community because it sees a big future for its aluminium project on the Volta River. Pakistan which has a free market in Britain, apart from voluntary textile restrictions, is extremely anxious.
All the British Commonwealth countries are concerned about this matter and so should we be in this country. No matter how much the market may grow there is no guarantee that our products will be admitted to the European Economic Community. The principle permeating the agricultural policy of the Common Market is protection of the highest order for its own producers. Countries such as Australia will be able to sell only those products which the Common Market countries cannot produce themselves. Britain, if she enters the Common Market, will have to give preference to agricultural products of Common Market countries. Not only will Australia lose its preferential position but, because of a tariff wall, it will be unable to sell its products in Britain. That loss of preference will mean a great expansion of European agricultural production. Thus, Australia’s meat, wheat, sugar, dried fruits and canned fruits face a pretty bleak future in Europe. The Government has not demonstrated, by its handling of Australia’s internal economy, any ability to handle an external economic problem. No wonder the Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion before the House.
As I have said, because the present arrangements between Commonwealth countries and Britain will go by the board, our best approach to this problem might be to suggest that Britain should at least endeavour to persuade the Common Market countries that products from the Commonwealth be admitted to Britain on the same basis as products from Common Market countries. In other words, preference to Commonwealth countries would cease but their market in the United Kingdom would be retained. Then again, we could negotiate on a commodity basis. A quota system would not be of much value. At the moment we do not know what the terms and conditions of Britain’s entry into the Common Market will be. We do not know the exact terms of the Common Market’s agricultural policy.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think it is unfortunate that, on a matter of such great importance as this, discussion in the House should be confused by what 1 can describe only as a footling political manoeuvre on the part of the Opposition. If ever there was a national issue confronting this country which called for constructive contributions, from all sections of the House, this is it and I, for one, do not propose to take up my limited time by indulging in provocative debate. My main purpose is to try to put forward, as part of the body of information available to this Parliament and to the public on this issue, some of the financial and economic implications of the Common Market and the United Kingdom’s entry into it should that subsequently occur.
It is quite evident that much of the criticism directed by honorable gentlemen opposite against the Government in this debate takes no account of either the complexity of the step or the serious and radical changes that have occurred in the situation that we have been called upon to consider. I wish to get the matter into better focus by briefly recalling a little of the history of the matter over the past few years. This will give point to the dilemma which the United Kingdom has faced.
The tremendous importance for the whole world of political and economic integration in Europe is obvious. It is just as obvious that the United Kingdom would recognize the desirability of having some part in it. But full participation in the system envisaged in the Treaty of Rome - the instrument under which the European Economic Community was established - could only mean an abridgement of the United Kingdom’s freedom of action. Moreover, it would involve the problem of reconciling obligations assumed under the treaty with the long-standing relations the United Kingdom has with its Commonwealth partners and the commitments it has recently entered into with the members of the European Free Trade Association. In addition, there is the problem of United Kingdom agriculture.
It is thus not surprising that the United Kingdom should first have proposed a European Free Trade Area which would include the Common Market countries as well as the other countries of Europe and which would be related only to trade in industrial goods. When that move did not succeed, the United Kingdom supported the idea of a European Free Trade Association and this came into being in 1959 under a convention approved at Stockholm. It was hoped that, by bringing the so-called Seven - the United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal - into a free trade area, freer trading relations between The Six and The Seven could be promoted.
But, being disappointed in that hope, the United Kingdom Government began to think of informal soundings with The Six to discover whether an acceptable basis of entry to the European Economic Community could be negotiated, having in mind the need to safeguard Commonwealth interests, meet her commitments to her European Free Trade Association partners and protect her own agriculture. That was the position when the matter was discussed at the Finance Ministers meeting which I attended in London in September last year. The United Kingdom then made it clear that, up to that time, no negotiations with The Six had begun and none would begin unless the course ahead could be clearly seen. As the communique issued at the conclusion of the meeting said -
It was accepted that in any negotiations that take place the essential interests of Commonwealth countries should be safeguarded and full account taken of the continuing importance of intraCommonwealth trade.
We were assured by the United Kingdom that we would be fully and continuously informed and consulted. It was to inform and consult us that Mr. Sandys made his visit to Australia. He revealed to us a further development in United Kingdom thought on this matter. For the United Kingdom Government which had formerly decided that it should not enter into negotiations until the course ahead became clear had become convinced that she could only discover by formal negotiations whether or not acceptable conditions for her entry into the Community could be evolved. That presented us with a new situation. Our reaction was expressed in the communique which the Prime Minister issued on our behalf in conjunction with Mr. Sandys at the time of our talks together.
It is thus entirely untrue to suggest that we have in any way failed to give the closest attention to this important matter as it has developed. But, until recently, the questions it raised were largely hypothetical. Now that negotiations are to begin, however, it is becoming a matter of vast and complex detail. We are moving from the general to the great difficulties of the particular.
Trade and commodity problems will bulk large in the negotiations, but there are, of course, other important aspects of the matter, and most of them have been referred to in this debate. I do not want to cover the same ground as the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). 1 concentrate my attention on some possible effects in the financial and economic field of acceptance by the United Kingdom of the provisions of the Treaty of Rome.
The term “ Common Market “ - so widely used in reference to the European Economic Community - is, of course, something of a misnomer. The community is based on a customs union; that is, there will ultimately be free trade between the countries within the community, but imports from the outside world will be subject to a common external tariff. But the provisions of the treaty establishing the community go far beyond internal and external trade. They constitute a far-reaching plan for economic integration, covering a very wide field. Accession to it by the United Kingdom could not fail to have wide financial and economic implications.
To illustrate the nature of some of the questions that arise in this regard, I invite honorable members to consider certain main features of our relations, in the financial field, with the United Kingdom. First, there is the fact that the major part of the overseas capital that has contributed to the economic development of this country since the earliest days of settlement has come from the United Kingdom. In recent years, the flow of capital to Australia from other sources has increased, but the United Kingdom still accounts for well over half the total. It was 58 per cent, in 1959-60, the last year for which we have full statistics. The capital we have obtained from the United Kingdom has, of course, largely taken the form of private investment, including direct and portfolio investment in companies in Australia.
In the thirteen years from 1947-48 to 1959-60, the cumulative total of private overseas investment, including direct and portfolio investment, in companies in Australia from all sources was £A.l, 136,000,000. Of this total, £A. 695,000,000, or 61 per cent., came from the United Kingdom.
In addition to this inflow of private capital, official loan raisings on the London market from 1945 on have totalled £A. 393,000,000, of which some £A. 358,000,000 represents conversion issues. The total of Australian government and semi-government sterling securities outstanding at the present time is over £A.500,000,000. We look to being able to refinance these loans as they fall due for repayment, as well as to raise new money loans on the London market as opportunity offers.
Under present United Kingdom arrangements, Australia enjoys a preferred position over all non-sterling countries in obtaining private capital from the United Kingdom. United Kingdom exchange control permits United Kingdom residents to move capital freely to any part of the sterling area, but approval has to be secured for exports of capital to any non-sterling country. So far as official borrowings are concerned, the London market is virtually reserved, apart from domestic United Kingdom and local authority loans, for Commonwealth countries.
Australia’s high credit rating has enabled us to borrow more freely and in larger amounts than other countries in the Commonwealth have done. Our total raisings over the past live years amounted to 58 per cent, of total Commonwealth borrowings on the London market.
One important question that arises, therefore, is: What would happen to the flow of United Kingdom capital to Australia if the United Kingdom were to join the European Economic Community. There is one view that, by joining the community, the United Kingdom, by growing in economic strength, would have more capital to export. This may prove to be so; but it cannot be taken for granted that, in such an event, the flow of United Kingdom capital would continue to favour us. Apart from changes in marketing and other circumstances that would confront United Kingdom investors, much would depend upon what happened to the official United Kingdom arrangements in this field. These, as I have pointed out, at present give Australia preferential access to United Kingdom capital.
The Rome Treaty - and details of this section of it are sei out in Articles 67 to 73 - calls for all restrictions on the movement of capital within the community to be removed during the transitional period. Were the United Kingdom to subscribe to these Articles of the Rome Treaty, Australia and other sterling area countries would lose their present preferred position and, conceivably, circumstances could arise in which the United Kingdom could be under pressure to discriminate against us and in favour of the other members of the community, by restricting exports of capital to non-members of the community. A wider set of questions, also of great importance, concerns the future of the sterling area arrangements as we know them and the future of sterling as an international currency.
The great bulk of Australia’s trade with and payments to the rest of the world is financed in sterling, and the major part of our international reserves is held in the form of sterling balances in London. Australia is, in fact, the largest single holder of sterling in the world. Of our present total external reserves of £570,000,000, all but about £100,000,000 is held in sterling. Australia has also been, in various ways, a major contributor to the strength of the sterling area system. We have sold gold to the United Kingdom and thus strengthened the central reserves of the sterling area. We have also converted into sterling most of the proceeds of our loans raised in New York. Switzerland and Canada, and practically all of our recent drawing of £78,000,000 from the International Monetary Fund was lodged in London. Obviously, the future of this sterling system is of real concern to us.
The European Economic Community, as I have said, represents a movement towards economic integration, not only in the field of trade but also in many other fields as well. Articles 103 and 105 of the Rome Treaty, I might mention, provide for the coordination of economic policies of member states, with collaboration between their administrative departments and their central banks. In order to promote the co-ordination of policies in monetary matters, Article 105 provides for a Monetary Committee to keep under review the monetary and financial situation of the member states and of the community and also the general payments system of member states. Article 107 provides that each member state shall treat its policy with regard to exchange rates as a matter of common interest. Articles 129 and 130 provide for a European Investment Bank. Another group of articles provides for the elimination of quantitative restrictions as between member states. I have already mentioned that the treaty calls for the removal of restrictions on the movement of capital within the community.
The arrangements apparently implied in these and other articles of the treaty seem far more formal and close-knit than present sterling area arrangements. If the United Kingdom were to be a party to them could the less formal sterling area arrangements remain unimpaired?
The sterling area system is, of course, no longer beset by the difficulties of the earlier post-war years when members, by agreement, pursued broadly similar policies to economize in the use of dollars and other hard currencies, which were scarce mainly because of the sacrifice of United Kingdom dollar-earning assets during the war and the damage done during the war to the United Kingdom and other European economies. Now all the major world currencies can be freely exchanged for other currencies and, at least for current as distinct from capital payments, restrictions on the use of these currencies have virtually disappeared. In the United Kingdom itself, and in a number of other sterling area countries, including Australia, exchange control is now used only for regulating capital transfers. Here, as I have already indicated, the discrimination remaining is in favour of members of the area.
If, however, we turn to the Rome Treaty, we are led to ask whether, if the United Kingdom became a signatory, we might not find, if the United Kingdom had to take action to protect its balance of payments or the balance of payments of other members of the community, that restrictions would have to be imposed against us while members of the community would be exempted from them. The sterling area is not identical with the British Commonwealth - Canada is not in it but Ireland, South Africa and some other non-Commonwealth countries are members. But it has provided in the matter of financial relations some of the cohesion and mutual interest which has given strength to the Commonwealth as a political organism. Regular interchange of information and regular consultation, a concerting of efforts to work towards common goals, a common front on many of the issues arising in international forums such as the International Monetary Fund and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, have been some of the features of sterling area relations. At the regular meetings of Commonwealth Finance Ministers at which, until South Africa’s departure from the Commonwealth, all the main sterling area countries as well as Canada have been represented, great matters of common concern have been freely and profitably discussed.
From such discussions arose, for example, the so-called “ collective approach “ to a freer system of trade and payments which culminated in the move to external convertibility of sterling and other major currencies at the end of 1958 and in the move made this year by the United Kingdom and the major European countries from Article XIV. of the I.M.F. Agreement, which permits members to maintain and adapt exchange restrictions on current payments during the post-war transitional period, to full acceptance of the obligations of Article VIII., the permanent provision which requires members to seek fund approval for any such restrictions. Formally, Australia still operates under Article XIV. These associations have undoubtedly been invaluable to us. As a major contributor to the strength of the sterling area system and a senior Commonwealth country we have, I venture to say, had a degree of influence on international financial and economic developments which we otherwise could not have exerted. More importantly, these associations have, I believe, pervasively influenced for the better the course of world affairs. They are, of course, part and parcel of the wider Commonwealth relationship in which we have placed great store.
As the Prime Minister has stated, while we do not doubt the strength of the considerations which lie behind the United Kingdom’s decision to negotiate for admission to the European Economic Community, we do not think that the Commonwealth as a political organism would be strengthened by her entry into the community. We would also expect - indeed, it is part of that view - that there would be considerable changes in the matter of our financial and economic relations. Here, as in the trade and other fields, we have been taking and will continue to take every care to safeguard our legitimate interests. We have, of course, already initiated discussions with the United Kingdom authorities on these questions and, since Mr. Sandys’ visit to Australia, I have written at length to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Selwyn Lloyd, about them.
– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.
Motion (by Mr. Roberton) negatived -
That the Minister be granted an extension of time.
– Apparently the Opposition is opposed to hearing the concluding passage of my statement on behalf of the Government.
– In the profound essay to which the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has just treated the House there is much to do credit to the thought which he has given to this subject and to the extent of the works of reference that are available to him. But there was not the slightest sign anywhere in his speech, so far as I could see, of the single-minded pugnacious determination to fight for the interests of Australia that is essential in the issue that is now facing this country. We have heard some very highflown sentiments expressed during the course of this debate. Some members of the Government have taken us on a tour of the globe and have demonstrated to their own satisfaction their capacity as world statesmen. Seemingly, in their minds the need for a united European bloc to preserve freedom overrides all other considerations. I most profoundly disagree with that. I congratulate them upon their erudition and upon the nobility of their attitude, but I have been amazed to note with what calm and objective detachment they are prepared to observe the likely destruction of valuable Australian export markets. They appear to be friends of every country but their own.
My view must seem parochial to some of these unselfish souls who have been regaling us with their highly spiritual thoughts on this subject. I believe we should leave these magnificent considerations of European unity, and its importance to the world, to people other than the Australian people. We have a fight on our hands to protect our own interests, and that should be our overwhelming consideration in this matter. We should concentrate on one consideration and one consideration only, and that is markets for Australia’s products. That is the only interest which the Australian Government should have in the present Common Market development. To preserve and extend these markets we should stop playing ladies and gentlemen and get in now and fight as roughly and as toughly as we are able. Except for one speech - that of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and that only to a certain extent - there has not been the slightest indication of that necessary attitude on the part of any member of the Government whom I have had the opportunity to hear in this debate.
– That is not true.
– The honorable member may indicate later, when he speaks, which member of the Government has shown in this debate any willingness to put Australia’s interests first, last and always in this fight and to divorce them from any other issues which might arise.
– Why lower our standard of debate and cease to be gentlemanly?
– The honorable member asks why we should lower our standards of debate and cease to be gentlemanly. It is because the very interests of Australia and of the people whom the honorable member represents are at stake, and because some one rough and tough is needed to put the issues on behalf of the Australian people. The task calls for some one like the late Billy Hughes, who would not be playing ladies and gentlemen on this issue but would be fighting for the interests of the Australian people.
– Order! 1 ask the honorable member to address the Chair.
– Yes, Mr. Deputy Speaker. We should realize that what is at stake is the very survival of Australia as a white continent. With this in view we should be telling the United Kingdom bluntly now that its immensely valuable preferential market in this country will disappear on the day that any of our preferences in the United Kingdom market are taken from us. Without compunction of any kind we should be prepared to negotiate reciprocal trade agreements with any countries that are prepared to take our exports. I think it is entirely beside the point to talk of loyalty to Britain on this issue or to talk of loyalty to the cause of a unified Europe in a free world. I do not believe that Britain will place loyalty to Commonwealth countries above the necessity of her own survival. She could not, she will not and we could not expect her to do so.
We should be exactly as self-minded in this matter and as concerned with our own preservation as is Britain. Britain will act according to her own national interests. So must we, and we must not be influenced against doing so by any other consideration whatever. We have too much in the balance. If Britain is told without qualification that she will lose all her Commonwealth markets by entering the Common Market unless she succeeds in preserving the trade position of Commonwealth countries, then she must determine whether that is too high a price for her to pay. If Britain then enters the market on the Treaty of Rome terms - that is, with no provision for Commonwealth trade - then she will do so because she will deliberately decide that European trade is more valuable to her than is Commonwealth trade and because she believes that political relations with Europe are more important than the maintenance of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Of course, we cannot say yet on what terms Britain will enter the Common. Market. Negotiations have not yet formally begun. But we are not safe in complacently assuming, as the PrimeMinister (Mr. Menzies) assumed in his speech in this House, that some reasonable compromise will be made. It seems to me to be a hopelessly weak position for thisGovernment to take in quite a desperate situation that Australia can play along on. the assumption that some reasonable compromise will toe made. Later in the debate, the Minister for Trade made it painfully clear that we could not look with any confidence to such a reasonable compromise. The only safe course for us to pursue at this stage, as the Minister for Trade pointed out, is to work on the assumption that Britain will enter the Common Market on the Treaty of Rome Terms.
There is more than ample evidence that The Six, spearheaded by France, will not agree to any substantial departure from the treaty in order to favour Commonwealth countries. We have had further evidence to-day from the United States that the Government of the United States, concerned for the export interests of Latin-American countries, will use its immense influence with European governments to prevent any such concessions to Commonwealth countries. If Britain enters the Common Market without protecting Commonwealth interests - and we must assume that she may - then we must also bring ourselves face to face with the fact that this is the end of the British Commonwealth of Nations for all practical purposes.
We have already seen the British Commonwealth undergo great and remarkable changes in the post-war years. With trading ties between Commonwealth nations broken, with United Kingdom policies increasingly identified with Europe, and with United Kingdom sovereignty progressively reduced as European unity increases, the British Commonwealth may steadily wither away. Even loyalty to the Throne would not continue to bind us together. Politically and economically alike, we in Australia face the position that we are not in Europe but in Asia, that we are on our own and that without compunction for the severance of past associations we must look for friends and allies and trading opportunities wherever we can find them.
– In a military sense, that is what we had to do during the war.
– Yes , I think we face a comparable situation now. It is because I detected in the speeches of so many Government members the tendency to put Europe first and Australia last that I have no confidence whatever in this Government fighting for Australia the battle that must be fought on this issue. It has appeared to me ever since the visit of Mr. Sandys that this Government has been shadow-sparring in front of the Australian people in an attempt to impress upon them how hard it will fight for them, while actually it lacks the essential will to fight to win for this country. Basically, this Government does not represent the interests of the Australian people and its leadership has always been more concerned to look to Britain than to look to Australia.
This seemed to me to be everywhere apparent throughout the Prime Minister’s speech in this House the other night. The language he used was beautiful, the tone mellifluous, the phrasing magnificently balanced, the capacity to see every side of the case most remarkable; but where in anything he said was the single-minded, crude and pugnacious determination to fight the battle for Australia at all costs. It seemed that we had a Prime Minister intoxicated by his own eloquence and carried away by his own passion for fine phrases at the very time, above all others, when we needed a John Curtin, a Ben Chifley, an Arthur Calwell or even a Billy Hughes to speak boldly and firmly for this country. We needed some one who would put Australia first and keep on punching, not some one who in appearances overseas in recent years has never done so and has usually gone down to defeat in the first round.
I agree that for a time it seemed on Thursday night that the Minister for Trade had a solid grasp of the realities of the situation and its desperate seriousness, had both feet: on the ground, and would be prepared to do battle to the death, if necessary. And that is exactly what is needed, His analysis of the situation cut away much of the sham with which earlier Government speakers had surrounded it. He showed us the desperate realities of this situation, as far as Australia’s economic future and national development are concerned. He demonstrated in stark terms the danger to Australia, the extent of the possible injury to our exports and the disaster on a national scale that this could mean to our economy and to the welfare of ordinary people in this country.
So far so good, I thought. Here we had some one on the Government side at last who was at grips- with reality. But then, after engaging in a pitifully weak alibi for the Government’s failure over the past few years to make sufficient efforts to obtain alternative markets for us and to recognize the situation that was developing, with Britain being inevitably driven towards the Common Market, the Minister for Trade went on to indulge in the most extraordinary pipe dream that any one has engaged in during the whole of this debate. He pointed to the problem by asking, “ To whom then do our friends of the Western world expect us to sell? “ He pointed out that United States policies of protection prevent us from making any worthwhile sales in that area. He pointed out that there would be, with the addition of other European countries, 300,000,000 people in the Common Market. He pointed out that without modification of the Treaty of Rome most of our products would be shut out almost completely from Europe and from the United Kingdom. He asked, “Are we to become predominantly dependent upon sales to Japan, to the Communist countries and, for what sales we can achieve, to the great array of under-developed countries, all of which have desperate balance of payments problems? “
Those are real and realistic questions. But then he went on to solve the whole problem in the last three minutes of his speech, to his own satisfaction, by engaging in this magnificent pipe dream, when, suddenly controverting everything he had said previously in the debate, he envisaged the Common Market countries granting to Australia a fair share of their markets at reasonable prices for our producers. Nowhere else in his speech was this apparent and no ground existed in his speech for this assumption. He then went on to the further magnificent assumption that all the great countries of the world would combine to buy up Australia’s surplus food at prices satisfactory to Australian producers and distribute it to the hungry people of the world. I give him great credit for his humanitarian ideals, but when it comes to the practicability of the thing 1 must say that I have never heard anything that departs farther from reality. Not one of us in this House has the slightest ground for saying that such a proposal will ever come into effect, and what on earth justified the Minister for Trade, after he had dared to set the situation starkly before the Parliament, in attempting a solution of it by simply engaging in this pipe dream, I cannot imagine. He destroyed the value of his speech after he had done a great deal of useful work, as I have said, in casting aside the sham with which so many other Government speakers have surrounded this subject.
In contrast to the unreal attitude of the Australian Government the attitude of the United Kingdom Government is starkly realistic. The United Kingdom Government is looking to its own interests and to the interests of the people whom it represents in the United Kingdom Parliament - not to the interests of the workers of the United Kingdom. It is starkly preparing to serve the interests of the people that it represents in the United Kingdom Parliament. The first of the considerations which are moving the United Kingdom Government in entering the Common Market is to jolt the entrepreneurs of the United Kingdom into a more active policy through the threat of economic annihilation otherwise from the existing Common Market countries - that jolt to include suitable international arrangements with Continental competitors. Secondly, the real motive that is inspiring the United Kingdom Government is that the inevitable concomitant devaluation which would follow Great Britain’s joining the Common Market -would result in a sharp and inevitable conflict with the trade unions of Great Britain and, in the thinking of the United Kingdom’s advisers, this would result in the defeat of the trade unions, and a cut in real wages following on increased accumulation would make the jolt to the entrepreneurs effective in increasing investment and accelerating technical progress in Great Britain.
That, of course, is very realistic thinking indeed, and it is in complete contrast with the attitude so far demonstrated by all Ministers and by all the Government supporters whom I have heard speak, except the Minister for Trade who, as I have said, unfortunately at the end of his speech flew away into this extraordinary pipe dream of a group of enlightened countries buying up Australian’s produce at beautiful prices for our producers and distributing them free to the hungry people of the world.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support strongly the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that it is necessary indeed that the utmost fight should be made on behalf of Australia in the Common Market negotiations. I see no possibility that the present Government has even laid the basis for such a fight. I can imagine a great team of Government members and advisers following the Prime Minister overseas and then wandering lost and homeless up and down the halls of negotiation because they will have no right of entry whatsoever into the rooms where these great matters are being decided. Unless this Government takes a stand now with the United Kingdom Government to ensure that the United Kingdom includes Australian representatives in its delegation we will in fact have no opportunity of putting our case on the highest levels of these discussions. For these reasons I support strongly the amendment.
– The speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) can be described as characteristic of all his speeches insofar as he kept to the party political line and failed to make any attempt to understand this particular vexed question, which should be entirely free from party politics in all its forms.
In that most logical and convincing speech in which the Prime Minister (Mr.
Menzies) originated this debate with a ministerial statement on “Australia and the European Common Market” the right honorable gentleman referred to a series of decisions reached by the Government of the United Kingdom - some of them contradictory - on the general question of the European Economic Community. Admiration prompts me to say that the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen), in the course of one of the finest speeches I have ever heard in defence of our traditional markets, also referred to the series of decisions forced on the United Kingdom by the changing pattern of world trade.
At the risk of wearying honorable members, and because the matter is of vital importance to the people of the Riverina, where all the major export industries, with the possible exception of the sugar industry, are strongly established, I want to refer to these decisions one by one in the order in which they were taken. The first decision was reached when the Treaty of Rome was being negotiated in 1957 between France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and, when it became obvious that, with agricultural production included in the treaty obligations, the participation of the United Kingdom could only serve to prejudice the Commonwealth countries with which she had both traditional and preferential trade arrangements, the Government of the United Kingdom decided not to apply for membership of the European Common Market. That first decision was entirely satisfactory to us.
The second decision was reached after it became clear that there were other European countries which were unwilling - or unready - to join the European Common Market in the full terms of the Treaty of Rome but which were both ready and willing to consider alternative and modified proposals. It was a decision to explore the possibilities of an industrial free trade area which would embrace the whole of Western Europe, including the six Treaty of Rome countries, but excluding agriculture. That second decision was entirely satisfactory to us. Unhappily, the Treaty of Rome countries rejected these overtures and hardened their attitude to the countries outside the European Common Market by interpreting these overtures as an attempt to water down the treaty obligations.
The third decision was reached after Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, Portugal and Switzerland indicated their willingness to consider the formation of a free trade area in Western Europe where countries not committed to the Treaty of Rome might eliminate customs duties and trade restrictions on selected industrial production, other than primary production as we know it in this country, lt was a decision by the Government of the United Kingdom to form the European Free Trade Association and, again, it was a decision that was entirely satisfactory to us.
But decisions of the kind are taken to meet situations as they arise from time to time, and they are rarely conclusive. It is now nearly four and a half years since the Treaty of Rome was signed, and during the whole of that time the Government of the United Kingdom has been called upon to reconsider these decisions in the interests of the people of the United Kingdom, the people of the Commonwealth and the people of Western Europe. On every occasion, the British Government has replied in unequivocal terms that the provisions of the Treaty of Rome, which provide for the ultimate unification of production, distribution and exchange among the signatory countries, made it virtually impossible for the United Kingdom to join the European Common Market unless the Commonwealth countries could be protected from the economic consequences of the treaty obligations, which, in their present form, are inimical to the traditional pattern of Commonwealth trade.
Time after time during the last four and one-half years, Mr. Deputy Speaker, every representative of the British Government, including the Prime Minister, who has visited our country, has had cause to emphasize the difficulties surrounding the United Kingdom in relation to the European Common Market. Until the recent visit by Mr. Duncan Sandys, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations in the United Kingdom Government, we had no reason to believe that a fourth decision was imminent. But the United Kingdom Government has reached a fourth decision to make formal application, not for the purpose of joining the Common Market, but for the purpose of negotiating for admission. That decision is full of foreboding for us and other Commonwealth countries unless the negotiations produce a formula which will permit us to give and take trade preferences to the mutual advantage of both the United Kingdom and ourselves or any other free country throughout the world.
On the current preferential basis, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the British market is worth, in round figures, some £200,000,000 sterling a year to us. On the same basis, and in round figures, the Australian market is worth about £260,000,000 sterling a year to the United Kingdom. It is probable that the European Common Market could, with advantage to the United Kingdom, absorb more than the 14.5 per cent, of British exports currently absorbed, but it is improbable that we could retain our share of the British market in the face of preferential competition from the Common Market, or increase our exports to the Common Market. Nor could the United Kingdom expect, if the present preferential arrangements are abandoned, to hold the substantial share of the Australian market which she now enjoys under those arrangements.
These are the fears which plague us, Mr. Speaker, and which will continue to plague us until the question of the application by the United Kingdom is finally resolved by the imposition of reservations unacceptable to the European Common Market, or by the modification of the terms of the Treaty of Rome in order to render them acceptable to the United Kingdom and without prejudice to her Commonwealth obligations. The latter appears to me to be a remote possibility which it will be most difficult to attain.
If this period can be described as a most fateful one in the history of the United Kingdom in relation to the Commonwealth, it is not the most fateful moment in the history of the United Kingdom in relation to Western Europe. I want to refer, briefly, to a a previous proposal for the unification of Europe - in part, at least - 21 years ago. when, on 16th June, 1940, the very man who conceived the idea of a European Common Market as we know it to-day submitted a proposal for the union of the United Kingdom and France at a time when France had plumbed the depths of despair. This was no Treaty of Rome, Mr. Speaker. This was a Declaration of Union, not between six European countries - or seven or thirteen - but between two, and it was considered during the darkest hours of European history. Let me quote from the document in its original form. It is called “ The Declaration of Union “, and it is important not so much for what it sets out as for what happened to it. This document reads -
At this most fateful moment in the history of the modem world the Governments of the United Kingdom and the French Republic make this declaration of indissoluble union and unyielding resolution in their common defence of justice and freedom against subjection to a system which reduces mankind to a life of robots and slaves.
The two Governments declare that France and Great Britain shall no longer be two nations, but one Franco-British Union.
The constitution of the Union will provide for joint organs of defence, foreign, financial and economic policies.
Every citizen of France will enjoy immediately citizenship of Great Britain; every British subject will become a citizen of France.
Both countries will share responsibility for the repair of the devastation of war, wherever it occurs in their territories, and the resources of both shall be equally, and as one, applied to that purpose.
During the war there shall be a single Wai Cabinet and all the forces of Britain and France, whether on land, sea, or in the air, will be placed under its direction. It will govern from wherever it best can. The two Parliaments will be formally associated. The nations of the British Empire are already forming new armies. France will keep her available forces in the field, on the sea, and in the air. The Union appeals to the United States to fortify the economic resources of the Allies, and to bring her powerful material aid to the common cause.
The Union will concentrate its whole energy against the power of the enemy, no matter where the battle may be.
And thus we shall conquer.
So ends the Declaration of Union.
The idea had its origin, not in the fertile mind of Winston Churchill or Charles de Gaulle, but in the fertile mind of Monsieur Monnet - who was later, strangely enough, to conceive the idea of pooling the coal and steel resources of France and Germany. But it was de Gaulle who passed the idea on to Churchill with a request that Churchill persuade the British Government to agree and to make a definite proposal to the French Council of Ministers under Monsieur Revnaud, then at Bordeaux, for the ratification of the Declaration of Union. The proposal was rejected. As Churchill was to remark immediately thereafter -
It is possible that no matter what most generous proposal may emerge from the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Common Market it could encounter a reception of equal or even greater hostility.
The Treaty of Rome, as I understand it, is designed to promote the economic, political and social unification of the signatory countries and to lead to a United States of Europe: in the full sense of the term. But both the President of the Fifth Republic of France, General de Gaulle, and the Chancellor of Germany, Dr. Adenauer, have shown no disposition to consider a federation of European states within the realms of possibility. Nor has the British Prime Minister. They have expressed themselves as being in favour of a confederation of the sovereign states of Europe as an ultimate objective, but they regard this as being so remote that, in spite of the political implications of the Treaty of Rome, it can be dismissed from immediate consideration.
The entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market in one form or another may be inevitable for a variety of historic reasons, and that appears to be the consensus of opinion, but permanence and stability, without which the European Common Market can be of no earthly value to any one, will surely demand a form that will not imperil the economic strength and resilience of Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries with which she is so closely linked.
Whatever happens, there will be no immediate and catastrophic changes in the pattern of trade and no immediate renunciation of the existing trade practices and arrangements, but rather a slow progression towards the ultimate objectives of the trade provisions of the Treaty of Rome which cannot begin, so far as the United Kingdom is concerned, much before January, 1963, and may take as long as fifteen or twenty years. But history rarely runs smoothly or on clearly defined lines. It is subject to the convulsions which seem to be inseparable from the normal processes of life and living on a man-to-man basis, a nation-to-nation basis or a world-to-world basis, if the universe as we know it can be divided into two political ideologies.
During the last 50 years we have been involved in a variety of convulsions which, among other things, have brought about the disintegration of the British Empire, the dispersal of the British Commonwealth and the establishment of a heterogeneous Commonwealth of Nations. Now we are confronted by a Treaty of Rome with all its political, social and economic implications and consequences.
The Government is prepared to meet this emergency. Already we have embarked on trade promotion policies which have led to substantial trade agreements of great international significance. Nor are we without experience. It must never be forgotten that for 60 years we have had our own Australian common market and, although it has been confined to the six sovereign States and the two Territories with a population of some 10,500,000 people, it could be extended to include other countries if circumstances demand extensions of the kind. The Government is dedicated to that great task.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) made one statement with which 1 agree. He said that this is probably the most momentous issue that this Parliament has had to discuss in peace-time. But at that point I part from him because, in my opinion, the Prime Minister is the least suited of any Commonwealth leader or is less suited than was any former Australian leader to handle such a delicate and difficult situation on behalf of Australia.
The Opposition has moved an amendment by which it charges the Government, and the Prime Minister in particular, with lack of foresight and frankness, with being dilatory in meeting its obligations and with continuing failure to appreciate the real issues. It is not very difficult to establish the justification of the Opposition’s amendment. In fact, it is phrased in rather moderate terms. Having regard to the great importance of this issue and the Government’s neglect, I think that one of the things with which the Government ought to be charged is criminal negligence in its handling of our national well-being.
The Government failed to foresee the danger to Australia. There is no doubt in the world about that. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) and other Ministers, including the Prime Minister, can attempt to alibi themselves, but the fact is that this matter has been regarded in this country as creating a crisis only of recent times, in fact only since the occasion of Mr. Sandys’s visit to Australia to put the British Government’s point of view. But Mr. Macmillan, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, when making his statement to the House of Commons, said that for the past nine months the United Kingdom had been having close and frank discussions with the Common Market nations. Does any one suggest that the relationship between the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the Prime Minister of Australia is of such a nature that close and frank discussions could go on for nine months without the Prime Minister of Australia being advised of them? What has he been doing at the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conferences? Has he ever endeavoured to raise this issue to find out what the United Kingdom Government was thinking about it? Instead of that, if one can judge from the results that have been obtained on this occasion, it appears to me that the money that has been spent on these very expensive delegations overseas has been largely wasted.
This particular issue has political as well as economic implications. I have a viewpoint on the political implications which 1 intend to express briefly because I want to deal more specifically with the economic repercussions upon Australia’s well-being. There is no doubt in the world that had it not been for fear of Russia there would have been no talk of a Common Market in Europe. The fear of Russia has forced the countries concerned to try to build up a counter to the growing strength of the Soviet. They had worked out a military arrangement, known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which provided for unity among these nations on the military plane, but it was well recognized that unless some effort was made to resolve their economic difficulties the military structure must of necessity be weakened. I am of opinion that the Common Market plan is designed for that purpose.
What is to be the position in regard to Europe? Will the plan help to preserve peace? Will it help to arrest the spread of communism throughout the world? In my opinion one of the important things from an Australian viewpoint is to recognize that a powerful political unit in Europe, dominated by a re-armed and nationally aggressive Germany, could be a threat to peace because Germany has proved in the past to be an aggressive nation. The Western powers, as they are termed, have been engaged not merely in re-arming the German nation but in supporting the plans and activities of those people in control in Germany, many of whom were Nazi officials during the Hitler regime. This new political group in Europe will be dominated by a re-militarized and Nazi-controlled West Germany. Does any one imagine for one moment that that will tend to resolve any of the difficulties which exist in Europe to-day? Nothing of the kind, because undoubtedly the growing strength of this great political and economic unit will create fear in the opposite direction. The Russians themselves, who suffered the heaviest casualties of any nation engaged in the last war, having lost 20,000,000 people, will begin to fear the great strength that will be given to this new political unit in Europe, and naturally will be fearful of any suggestion that there should be a re-unified and completely re-armed Germany, controlled by the people who controlled it formerly. In 1954, when Germany was admitted to the Nato organization, certain undertakings were given by the West German authorities. They agreed that they would arm only for the purpose of internal security. It was only in later times that they became integrated with the general organization in Europe, and it was not until later still that they were given permission not merely to re-arm for the purpose of maintaining internal security, but also to construct in their own shipyards vessels that were capable of carrying surface-to-surface and also surface-to-air nuclear missiles. All previous undertakings have been whittled away gradually, and the Krupps and other great militarists of former Germany are now directing policy in that country. A resurgent militaristic Germany dominating a powerful political and economic European unit will present a greater threat to world peace than ever before, lt is no wonder in those circumstances that difficulties are arising in connexion with the re-unification of the German nation.
Now let me turn to the effects on the Australian economy. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) traced the history of happenings through previous periods, but, like many Government speakers, he failed to put forward any practical proposition for enabling Australia to deal with this most urgent problem, lt is of no use for the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) to try to put up some sort of front by saying that Australia will not be brushed off. What does he mean by that? Australia is not in a position to demand that she be admitted directly to the negotiations being undertaken by the Common Market countries. Nor is she in a position to demand that Britain should consult her on the terms under which Britain is to participate in the Common Market.
I do not agree entirely with those who say that this move by Britain cannot have any serious immediate effects upon Australia. I do not say that we shall feel the full effects immediately, for it is obvious that they will not be felt until the Common Market plan is in full operation in from ten to fifteen years from now. But I do say that Britain’s action must have an almost immediate effect upon Australia’s markets in the United Kingdom for 18 per cent., or £170,000,000 worth, of her exports.
The Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade differ on one aspect of their argument. The Prime Minister said that the Common Market might create a greater demand for overseas products. The Minister for Trade, on the other hand, says that it is stupid to argue that we are likely to obtain increased trade in the Common Market area. He also said that many in this country had blithely accepted that plausible proposition, which could be exploded in a sentence. That sentence was, “ There is no market in a country that does not need your products.” That is perfectly true, and he mentioned the United States of America as an example. I believe thai in one respect the speech by the Minister for Trade did a great deal of good in that it impressed upon the Australian public the fact that the world is not so dependent upon Australia for food as we believed it was, although there are many hungry people in the world to-day. Of course, I am dealing now with those people who have a living standard which permits them to trade with us. It must have come as a great shock to many Australian people to learn that the six countries which now comprise the European Common Market produce seven times as much wheat, five times as much sugar, and seven times as much butter as we produce. They also produce 30 times the quantity of apples produced in Australia. Again, according to the Minister for Trade, the United Kingdom produces as much beef and veal and one and a half times as much milk as Australia produces. In those circumstances, it is obvious that Australia’s primary industries will beseriously affected because the production of the member countries of the European Common Market, instead of remaining stable, will increase. lt will increase because the Common Market has a common agricultural policy under which the home production of member countries will be protected by a high tariff wall, thus enabling them to carry high costs because they will have a market of 300,000,000 people to serve. As their production expands, not only will they require less and less of the production of other parts of the world such as Australia, but they will also have greater surpluses to export. Britain herself has been following a somewhat similar policy in that in one year alone she spent £325,000,000 in subsidies to her agricultural industries.
The Government is charged with neglecting to develop alternative markets from the moment it became aware that there was a possibility that Britain would take this step. 1 do not accept the statement by the Minister for Social Services that the Government knew nothing about it. Government speakers would have us believe that the whole responsibility for the Government’s failure to know where the British Government was going is due entirely to the fact that the British Government changed its attitude several times and failed to advise the Australian Government that it had done so.
Ministers have declared that this Government had set out to build up Australia’s exports. Certainly the Government has spent a great deal of money on publicity. It has also sent trade missions into various parts of the world but, instead of talking about the money that has been expended, the Government should be explaining why so much of it was wasted. For instance, an examination of the export figures discloses that whereas in 1950-51 Australia’s export income was £975,000,000, it was only £926,000,000 in 1959-60 after the expenditure of so much money. I repeat, although the Government has been spending considerable sums over the years, the fact is that our export income is less to-day than it was in 1950-51. The Government certainly has nothing of which to be proud.
The Minister for Trade some time ago quoted a statement made by the Export Development Council in 1959 when it declared that within five years from the time of the submission of the report it would be necessary for Australia to expand her export income by £250,000,000 each year in order to maintain existing living standards and the present rate of development. Instead of increasing, our export income has actually decreased since that time, and the Government is doing nothing about it.
Some seem to think that if Britain enters the European Common Market Australia will have a great opportunity to exploit markets in Asia. I am not so sure that this will be as easy as those people so fondly imagine, because a great deal of our primary produce is sold overseas now at a figure below the cost of production. In other words, the Australian consumer is asked to pay higher prices in order to subsidize the losses sustained from the marketing of our surplus production. Surely, with our present knowledge of living standards in the Asiatic countries, no one will suggest that we shall be able to dispose of our surplus production on Asian markets for the same return as we get from the United Kingdom. Even if we are able to get the Asian markets, we will be forced to sell at a greater loss than we suffer now, and this in turn must mean higher taxation upon the Australian people to recoup those losses. Why, this year our Wheat Prices Stabiliation Fund is in solvent. In order to keep the wheat industry going, the Government has had to subsidize the Wheat Prices! Stabilization Fund to the tune of something between £8,000,000 and £9,000,000 this year. Next year, it will have to do the same thing. This should bring home to the Australian people some appreciation of the precarious position we are in. The wool industry has always prided itself that it has never had to seek government aid and was able to stand alone. But Mr. G. Chislett, secretary of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council, recently declared that the industry was rapidly reaching a position where even it would have to depend on a government subsidy. This Government has failed the primary producers by doing nothing to arrest inflation. High internal costs have killed our export industries and every honorable member who is honest about it will know that. Every primary producer in Australia knows that if he could get the prices overseas that he is receiving now, and if costs were pegged where they were when the Labour Government left office in 1949, he would be on velvet.
In the few minutes remaining to me, let me turn to one or two other facts. The Minister for Trade ridiculed any idea that we might do more trade with the countries of the European Common Market. He said that 85 per cent, of our trade with the European Common Market consisted of sheep skins, wool and other raw materials, and he added -
We cannot accept the loss of our United Kingdom markets for butter, sugar, fruit, wheat, lamb and other products on a proposition that our money earnings can be sustained merely by earnings from wool sales.
That is exactly what this Government did with the Japanese Trade Agreement. No doubt this seems to be all right to the Leader of the Australian Country Party, but the Government bartered and sacrificed many of Australia’s important secondary industries and the employment of our people to sell Australian wool in Japan. The Prime Minister has said that we want a strong and prosperous Britain. What has put Great Britain into the adverse economic position it occupies to-day? When this Government began to admit Japanese goods into Australia in larger quantities than it did previously, it not only affected Australian industries but largely forced out of this market many goods that were previously bought from Great Britain. Undoubtedly, there are many arguments we could advance to show that this Government has misled the Australian community. On the question of whether Great Britain could secure modifications of the terms of entry into the European Common Market, the Prime Minister said -
The decision that will ultimately be taken by Great Britain, to enter on the negotiated terms or to stay out . . .
We can, I think, reasonably assume that Great Britain will not accede to the Treaty of Rome, unconditionally.
The Minister for Trade does not agree with that. He declares that Great Britain has already negotiated to exclude agriculture for four and a half years without success and that Great Britain will have to go in unconditionally. Let me say finally that there is only one safe course for the Australian electors to take. That will be open to them later this year when they get an opportunity to throw out this anti-Australian Governmen and give a progressive Labour government an opportunity to handle the situation.
.- We have listened to a typical speech from the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). I was interested in his reference to military promotion in Europe, as his entire sympathies seem to lie with his friends in the Soviet bloc rather than with the Western powers. I can assure him and everybody who thinks similarly in this House that international communism is the only aggressor in the world to-day. So far as the Soviet is concerned, he has nothing to fear that the Western powers will become aggressive in the European theatre. The honorable member also referred to the action, or lack of action, on the part of this Government in connexion with discussions with the United Kingdom Government preparatory to the recent announcement that Great Britain would seek admission to the European Economic Community. The honorable member does not know, but I can tell him, that two years ago we stationed senior officers of the Department of Trade in London for the specific purpose of maintaining close contact with the United Kingdom officers on this very matter. In fact, there have been full and close discussions at regular intervals throughout the past two years on matters affecting the possibility of the United Kingdom entering the European Economic Community at a later date.
The honorable member also referred to a number of comparative figures to show that our trade has declined in relation to our export earnings over a period of years. He cited 1951 which, as he knows, was the year of the wool boom. Our export earnings in that year reached an astronomical figure. The honorable member did not cite any other relevant figures for other years, but it might be of interest to him if I cited comparative statistics on our earnings over a period. Between 1950 and 1955, our average earnings were approximately £56,600,000, but the total had increased to £98,500,000 in 1959-60. Those are the figures excluding our main markets. Our total earnings averaged £826,100,000 between 1950 and 1955 compared with a total of £937,700,000 in 1959-60. Those figures completely refute the arguments advanced by the honorable member for East Sydney. The honorable member criticized the effect of the Japanese Trade Agreement on our economy. A mere reference to statistics might answer him again. Our average exports to Japan between 1950 and 1955 amounted to £61,700,000. In 1959-60 our exports to Japan were valued at £134,700,000. That indicates the great value of this agreement to our economy generally
As I may he the final speaker in this debate, it might be as well if I summarized some of the important points regarding the history of the events which led up to the present situation. The world of the 1930’s was one of stagnant or dwindling markets. It was also a world of discrimination, import restrictions and high tariffs, with individual countries trying to find a solution to their own trade problems in isolation. It is now generally accepted that these barriers greatly increased, if they did not actually cause, the contraction of trade; and when plans for post-war reconstruction were being laid, a much more far-sighted view was taken. A comprehensive system of international agreements was brought into being, beginning with the Bretton Woods conference of 1944, leading on to the foundation of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Monetary Fund and, in 1947, to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. From 1947 onwards, the global and the regional plans moved towards a common objective: The lowering of barriers to world trade. Concepts of political and economic unity in Western Europe were fostered in a number of organizations created in early post-war years.
Broadly speaking, these came into being in the period from 1945 to 1950. Those which probably had most influence on the establishment of the European Economic Community in chronological order were these: In 1948, we saw the foundation of the Benelux Union which consisted of Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and also the setting up of the Organization for. European Economic Co-operation. The
Council of Europe was formed in 1949, and the same year saw the establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to which the honorable member for East Sydney referred. In 1951, the European Coal and Steel Community was established. In 1957, the Treaty of’ Rome established the European Economic Community and Euratom. France, Germany, Italy and the Benelux countries were signatories. In 1959, the European Free Trade Association was established by the Stockholm Convention. The signatories were the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Austria and Portugal.
Another organization of significance to which I will refer in a moment was the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, known as the “ O.E.C.D.”. The convention establishing this organization was signed in Paris on 14th December, I960, by all former Organization for European Economic Cooperation members, including associate members, the United States of America and Canada, and also, of course, by the United Kingdom. On 31st July, 1961, the United Kingdom announced its intention to negotiate with the European Economic Community for entry to the community. The O.E.C.D. has replaced the O.E.E.C., but although it is Europe based, it is not a European organization in the sense that the O.E.E.C. was a European organization. In fact, the word “ European “ has now been dropped from the title to avoid giving this impression. Its theme is rather to emphasize the role that Europe should play in world trade and development by means of assistance to the less developed countries. This organization now has added significance as far as we are concerned in view of the United Kingdom negotiations to enter the European Economic Community.
Let us look quickly at the background of the Treaty of Rome which established the E.E.C. The Messina Conference had proposed a general common market. What actually emerged in the Rome treaty was a detailed set of rules for the establishment of a complete economic union between The Six, with supra-national institutions to administer policies and joint economic activities within the community. Special arrangements were made for the association of dependent overseas territories of The Six with the community. That had special significance for Australia. The formation of a customs union within the E.E.C. calls, in the first instance, for the removal of all internal customs duties between members. Second, it calls for the establishment of a common external tariff against third countries. The Rome treaty provides for both these steps to be taken. The timetable, however, has been accelerated by one year by a decision taken by the Council of Ministers in May, 1960. The Rome treaty also provides for the elimination of quantitative restrictions between member states. This is in accordance with the rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The circumstances in which the E.E.C. might validly, under Gatt, apply common quantitative restrictions against third countries has been considered in Gatt but no ruling has yet been obtained.
I want to refer very briefly also to the agricultural policy of the E.E.C. which is at present being considered. Perhaps I repeat words which have been used in this House already when I say that the establishment of the E.E.C. constitutes the most important single development in Europe, in the sphere both of economics and politics since the end of World War II. Its significance goes far beyond the six member countries and affects the interests of the whole world. The E.E.C. is a union of highly industrialized countries. Nevertheless, the importance pf agriculture in the community should not be under-estimated. The proportion of the population directly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood in the countries of The Six is over 20 per cent, compared with about 13 per cent, in Australia, 12 per cent, in the United States of America, and 5 per cent, in the United Kingdom. All present Common Market countries are important agricultural producers and this also applies to the United Kingdom and to other European Free Trade Association countries.
Looking at the marketing policy, we see that the commission of the E.E.C. recently announced specific programmes for six major commodity groups - wheat and secondary grains, sugar, dairy products, meats, eggs, fruit, vegetables and wine. It is in the process of preparing proposals for a common policy for rice, oils, fats, fish, tobacco and forestry products. While there are important differences between the commodity programmes, the proposals in general are characterized by these three principles: Firstly, the establishment of common marketing authorities. Secondly, the setting of common support prices which, with regional variations reflecting differences in marketing costs, will apply throughout the community. Thirdly, the maintenance of these prices by variable import levies which prevent imports at less than the support price, and by direct intervention in the domestic market by the marketing authorities.
The commission of the E.E.C. has declared a transitional period and in its proposals it has promulgated details of that preparatory stage which should be completed by 1967. This would shorten by three years the period provided for in the Rome treaty. On the subject of common price, the determination of a common level to which national prices will be adjusted is the most vital and contentious decision which has to be made in establishing the common agricultural policy. This, of course, could be vital to Australia.
I want to examine agricultural policy in relation to the inclusion of the United “Kingdom in the European Economic Community to show that there could be some major repercussions on the formulation of agricultural policy within the community. The concern of the United Kingdom to minimize food costs and her economic and political need to preserve existing trade links with Commonwealth and other countries could strengthen the outward-locking forces within the community. However, there can be little doubt that, despite whatever policy is finally adopted, the effects would be severe on a number of Australian primary industries.
On the question of bilateral agreements, there is a point which is of vital interest to Australia: Under the Rome treaty, the continued existence of trade agreements between individual member countries and non-member countries would clearly be in conflict with the achievement of common import policy. The commission of the European Economic Community, therefore, proposes that members should undertake, first, not to enter into any new agreements without prior consultation with the commission and other member states; and, -secondly, to give assurances that all agreements will expire at the end of the transi tional period or be adapted to the common agricultural policy. The implication of these proposals must be considered in relation to the existing Australia-United Kingdom trade agreement.
Let us look quickly at the pattern of trade. I advise the honorable member for East Sydney and, perhaps, the Leader ot the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) to look at the relevant statistics which show that the pattern of our trade has been changing in relation to the United Kingdom and Europe. The United Kingdom pattern of trade has also been changing in relation to Australia. These figures are quite significant, indicating that the policies which have been adopted are achieving a degree of success. Our exports to the United Kingdom between 1950 and 1955 represented 35.7 per cent, of our total exports. In 1959-60 they represented 26.4 per cent, of our total exports. In the period 1950 to 1955 our exports to other western European countries represented 24.4 per cent, of our total exports, but only 20 per cent, in 1959-60. The proportion of our trade with Japan increased from 7.5 per cent, of our total exports during the period 1950 to 1955 to 14.4 per cent, during 1959-60.
Our trade with Asian countries is at present 30 per cent, of our total trade although it was only 11 per cent, in the immediate post-war period. A similar pattern may be observed in relation to our imports. From 1950 to 1955 our imports from the United Kingdom represented 45.6 per cent, of our total imports, but in 1959- 60 they represented only 35.6 per cent. A similar pattern may be observed in relation to European countries, but a reverse pattern is observable in relation to Asian countries.
In 1955 the exports of the United Kingdom to Australia represented 9.5 per cent, of its total exports, but in 1960 they represented only 7.1 per cent. Total exports to the British Commonwealth from the United Kingdom fell from 51.2 per cent, of all its exports in 1955 to 41.2 per cent, in 1960. A similar pattern can be discerned if one studies the figures for imports.
In further substantiation of my contention that there is no substance in the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), let me refer to the export campaign undertaken by this Government during recent years. The Common Market issue is not a new one. For years the Government has been aware, not only of the problems posed directly by the existence of the European Economic Community and the European Free Trade Association, but also of the problems presented by the prospect of the United Kingdom joining the European Economic Community. The Government has not only made regular statements on the matter; it has also acted to protect Australia’s economic interests by the diversification of our export trade and stimulation of export industries. In fact, the Department of Trade was established in January, 1956, for this specific purpose.
Let me say a few words about the Trade Commissioner Service. In 1949, there were seventeen posts in twelve countries. By the end of the financial year 1961-62, there will be 37 posts in 28 countries. The amount of money spent on the Trade Commissioner Service has been increased from £200,000 in 1949 to more than £1,000,000 this year. A widespread trade publicity programme has been undertaken by the Government. In 1949, the vote for trade publicity was approximately £16,000. During this year, if investment and travel publicity are included, the amount spent will be £1,177,000.
The Export Payments Insurance Corporation was established, to give further impetus to the export drive, in July, 1956. The value of policies current at 30th June, 1961, was £26,000,000. The transactions covered by the corporation were spread over 120 countries, mainly in Asia and the Middle East. Let me refer also to our trade missions and trade mission ships that have been sent to other countries. The first trade mission went abroad in 1954. Since then, the Government has sent thirteen major trade or survey missions. It has also co-operated with industry organizations in the despatch of two trade ships. In fact, only last Friday, I farewelled officially another trade mission to the Pacific islands. A further trade mission is planned to go to the Persian Gulf early in the new year, and trade missions to the Middle East, South America and North America are now being organized. Significantly, all these missions and trade ships have operated in an area covered by an arc extending from Capetown through Hong Kong eastward to Ottawa and down through South America. This again shows the emphasis placed by this Government on diversification of markets.
Within Australia a campaign to develop export consciousness was initiated by the Government. This year, we are spending money on the campaign, in conjunction with important advisory bodies such as the Export Development Council and the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council, seeking a further awakening to the importance of trade expansion.
In the field of trade agreements and understandings, the Government has been particularly active, because it has realized that here there is an opportunity to obtain access to many markets which would otherwise be closed to us. Time will permit me merely to give the numbers of agreements in operation at the present time. There is one general multilateral agreement and there are two general multilateral commodity agreements, nine main bilateral trade agreements and seven minor bilateral trade agreements. There are also three trade understandings in respect of one commodity, flour. These figures demonstrate the way in which the Government is endeavouring to locate new markets and also gain access to those markets.
Order! The honorable member’s time hasexpired.
.- The speeches made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) have shown the grave concern of the Australian Government at the most momentous decision that any Australian government has ever been called upon to make, and also probably the most momentous decision that a British government has ever been called upon to make. On this subject, the Prime Minister has made probably the best speeches of hiscareer, at Maitland in New South Wales and also in this Parliament. He has shown in those speeches that the problem of Australian trade is always in the forefront of” his consciousness. He said that, even at the risk of being called small and unimaginative, he put the interests of Australian trade first and of paramount importance. It is clear that the Prime Minister believes that Australia must look at this matter with very great care indeed.
The present Australian Government has shown - if only by its continuity of office, which has given confidence to people watching Australia, as well as to those within the country - that it is in the best position to carry out the very important and intricate diplomatic negotiations thai are involved. Honorable members in this House, and the people of Australia generally, know that the Prime Minister has taken the correct stand on this mattei. The people also have confidence in the Minister for Trade. They know that from the beginning of his rural career, as a returned soldier settler, he has been interested in trade and in prices for rural commodities. Since then, during his parliamentary career, as a Minister of this Government and the previous Menzies Government, he has given Australia the benefit of his wide experience and his highly trained mind.
The people of Australia, of course, come out in great numbers to hear the Prime Minister and the Minister for Trade. The meeting in Maitland was a record one, 1,000 people being in attendance, while hundreds were turned away. It was a magnificent meeting, and obviously those who spoke were closely attuned to the problem. This is something that cannot be said for members of the Opposition, whose attitude I will deal with in a moment. The important point is that this Government is composed largely of people who represent rural interests. There are 40 or 50 members on this side of the Parliament representing rural constituencies. It is obvious, therefore, that this is the Government to handle the negotiations that will be involved. There is no doubt that this is a matter of tremendous consequence. We are, of course, keenly concerned about the negotiations that are taking place.
Let us now consider the attitude of the Australian Labour Party. The leader of that party heard about the proposed entry of the United Kingdom into the European Common Market while he was in Port Moresby. He uttered some words on the matter, saying that Australia might find its common market in association with America. Of course nobody in the Labour Party has since made such a suggestion. It has not been mentioned by members of that party, even by the leader of the party. It is, of course, nonsense to make such a suggestion, because you cannot import wool into the United States without paying an import duty of 25 cents per lb. But the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) would not know this. Very few people on the Opposition benches would know it. Some one must have told them about it, and told them that it was nonsense to talk about a common market with the United States. I suppose the Leader of the Opposition made the remark in the first place because a spokesman for the previous Labour Government had said, “ Notwithstanding our links with Great Britain we look to America for help “. This is the line that the Labour Party has taken. It has shown an ill-concealed resentment of Great Britain, and it has attempted to profit by Great Britain’s difficulties. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said this - and let him deny it if he can -
Even loyalty to the Throne would not continue to bind us together.
As far as this side of the House is con,cerned, that is a deliberate lie, because loyalty to the Throne is what binds us all together, and it is what will continue to bind us together. Furthermore, even if we get tough with Great Britain on this issue, as we are about to do, and if we are tougher than the New Zealand Government has been, we will still remember that Great Britain has been our best market, and that she has paid cash for what she has bought from us. That is something that the Labour Party might try to remember. Great Britain paid cash for our goods, and she has given us a very valuable preference. Great Britain was the nation that stood alone against the enemies of the free world, in the world’s darkest hour, when Hitler’s hordes were stopped at the Channel. The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin) is interjecting, because the Labour Party has shown resentment against Great Britain. It has not been able to conceal what it thinks of Great Britain. Throughout its history the Labour Party has called the British imperialists and has attacked Great Britain. And what has Great Britain done?
Great Britain has freed sixteen countries and has given freedom to 600,000,000 people, whilst the friends of the Labour Party, the Russians, have enslaved 600,000,000 people. If we want proof of the attitude of the Labour Party we have only to listen to the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward). We hear from the other side of the House that the honorable member made a magnificent speech this afternoon. He said that Russia is nervous about the strength pf Central Europe. Honorable members opposite say that Russia had all sorts of losses. Apparently Russia is the one country to be considered by members of the Labour Party. They claim that the honorable member for East Sydney made a magnificent speech. Of course, they think it was a magnificent speech, because the honorable member took the side of Russia. Atheistic dictatorship has its hands around the throat of the Labour Party, and that is why that party is split three ways. Fancy the Labour Party daring to suggest that it could handle so delicate a matter as the Common Market; it is undisciplined rabble, expounding the views of the Communist Party. Look at the record of Labour when dealing with trade agreements.
– 1 rise to order, Mr. Speaker. I have listened to a lot of balderdash in the speech of the honorable member, but I ask that he withdraw the word “ rabble “, which is offensive to me and other members of the Opposition.
– Order! The honorable member will withdraw the word objected to.
– I withdraw the word “ rabble “ and say that the Labour Party is undisciplined and has completely disintegrated. The hands of atheistic dictatorship are around its throat and it cannot shake them off. Let us look at the record of the Labour Party in the matter of making deals overseas and let us remember what the honorable member for East Sydney said about wheat. In June, 1949, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) as Minister for Commerce and Agriculture at that time, answered a question about Australia’s exports of wheat to New Zealand under the agreement of 1946.
The honorable member for East Sydney has just said something about the wheat fund being in deficit. Let us look at what happened in the deal with New Zealand. In 1946, 4,500,000 bushels of wheat were sold to New Zealand at 9s. 6d. per bushel and subsequently at 5s. 9d. f.o.b. per bushel for shipments to 19th January, 1948. In answer to the same question the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture said that world prices for wheat ranged from 9s. 6d. to 16s. per bushel and that the losses financed by the Labour Government of which the honorable member for East Sydney was a prominent member amounted to £6,938,212, as at 20th May, 1949. That was what the Labour Government had to pay on its deal with New Zealand. That deal was used by the Labour Government of New Zealand at that time for party political purposes. It said, “ We are buying wheat from Australia at 5s. 9d. per bushel “. On 23rd June, 1949, Mr. Archie Cameron asked the then Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what was the estimated final loss on the contract under the New Zealand Wheat Agreement and the Minister, the present honorable member for Lalor, replied, “£7,100^000”. Those are the people who, completely prodigal with the nation’s wealth, dare to get up and criticise this Government. Let us apologize to the people of Great Britain for the smears that have come from the Opposition side of the House in this debate. Let us be sensible and recognize that the people of Great Britain are in a very difficult situation. The people of Great Britain know better than the Opposition does the difficulties of their position. Of course they know the value of Commonwealth trade. Some one on the Opposition side of the House interjected about the moneybags pf Great Britain; but Great Britain knows she has wonderful markets throughout the Commonwealth which may be jeopardized because of the strength of the European Common Market.
The policy of this Government is stability and development. Its stability is shown by the fact that it has been in office for eleven years, and it will continue in office. This Government will gp down in history as the government that really developed Australia. Honorable members have seen the immense resources of this country; we have seen wells producing many barrels of oil per day of quality high enough to gp straight into tractors. That is the answer to those who say that we have no oil; and the Government is spending more and more money on the search for oil. Of course it behoves the Government in the Common Market situation to develop all our resources. We have tremendous resources. Our beef resources have only just been scratched. The Government has made it possible to double the turn-off in our sparsely settled areas by removing the sales tax from road trains. Our farming and agricultural possibilities are being tested in every respect. We have great mineral resources, and money to develop them is being invested here by people who know stability when they see it.
Is it thought for a moment that anybody with cash to risk would invest it here under a government of the calibre of the people on the other side of the House? Of course there would be no investment in Australian mineral resources because honorable members opposite, if they were the government, would socialize them. We have the work of the aluminium companies and the project at Rum Jungle. There are enormous possibilities for steel production in Queensland, and I remind honorable members of the iron ore deposits in the north and in Western Australia. Is it thought that any overseas investor would risk money here if people like the honorable members opposite were in control? It behoves us to push on with the development of all our resources at the greatest possible speed. The mother bird has protected its young over all these years, but when the fledglings stretch their wings they must face what comes. Having enjoyed the protection and preferences given to us by Great Britain, it is up to us to go forward under stable government, and do the job that the world expects us to do.
– I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Has the honorable member spoken in this debate?
– Yes. I have been misrepresented by the honorable member for Macarthur, who accused me of having said, “ Loyalty to the Throne alone will not bind us together “, adding that this was a deliberate lie. I was mildly surprised, Mr. Speaker, that you did not call on him to withdraw that term. I point out that the honorable member has taken a few words of what I said completely out of context in order to misrepresent my meaning. What I said was this: After pointing to changes that had already occurred in the British Commonwealth in recent years and emphasizing the danger to the British Commonwealth if trade arrangements between British Commonwealth nations were broken and if Britain drew away politically from the Commonwealth for closer political integration with Europe, I said that then and in that circumstance loyalty to the Throne alone would not bind us together.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Calwell’s amendment) stand part of the question
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.52 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) making his speech on the Budget without limitation of time.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 15th August (vide page 77), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division No. 101 - The Senate - namely, “Salaries and allowances £34,250”, be agreed to.
– As a mark of censure against the Government for this inadequate, unjust Budget, on behalf of the Opposition I move -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
In a speech delivered early this year the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) with becoming modesty said, “ We are more experienced in economic administration than any other government in the world “. Not many members of the general public, tax-ridden and pushed around as they have been over the years, think as highly of the Government as the Treasurer does of himself and his colleagues. If the present Budget, the twelfth in succession introduced by this Government, is any test of its administrative ability, the Government must be ranked a failure. This particular Budget fails because it does not do what it sets out to do.
Ignoring for the moment the fact that all the troubles in the economy have been Government-caused, and the hardships which they brought in their train were not necessary, but were due to miscalculations of various sorts, it can be said that the Treasurer gives a reasonable statement of some of the things that should be done, though he denies that the Government has any responsibility for doing them. He and his colleagues have also been hiding behind what they claim to be a lack of constitutional power on the part of the Commonwealth Parliament to deal effectively with the current situation. And like a well-known but unadmired figure in history they, too, wash their hands in turn of all responsibility for their actions and for their failure to act.
The things that should be achieved, according to the Treasurer are, first, a reduction of unemployment; secondly, an increase in production; thirdly, a restoration of the migrant flow; and, fourthly, a stimulation of consumer spending. But, having stated what ought to be done, the right honorable gentleman proceeded to do nothing about any of them. The one item which has some bearing on unemployment and production and consumer spending - the sales tax reduction of 6 per cent, on certain goods - is so small as to be irrelevant. The first part of the Budget speech contains a good analysis of what has happened and what is wrong, but then it stops. It almost seems as if some one else wrote the second half of the speech which, as I have said, offers nothing to solve the very problems emphasized in the first half.
The keynote of the Treasurer’s speech, and his justification for all the action he has taken in the past eighteen months, is the boom of 1960. The boom that had to be killed to avert terrible dangers - the boom that was destroying the economy. He says in his Budget speech this year, “ The boom which was running so strongly at the time of our last Budget “. But what did he say in his last Budget speech? He spoke of “ a year of fine achievement, one in which all sections of the community strove hard and well and effectively “. He spoke of an “ economy driving ahead, full of enterprise, eager to accomplish real things and big things “. Would that he could say those things now! But last year he merely said -
The pace of expansion has become rather too fast and we have to ease it off a little. But what the Government proposes to do should in no way be taken to mean that we believe some major interruption of growth to be necessary. On the contrary, we are trying to preserve conditions in which growth of the kind we want can move on unimpeded.
There is no need for me to point out his failure to achieve that objective. The facts of the disaster which he and his leader and his colleagues have inflicted on Australia are known to all. What I would rather do is point to what should be done for the future to remedy the present condition of the economy. But, first, I must clear away the myth of the 1960 boom which the Government has been trying to create in recent months. If there was a boom, why did the Government let it develop, and why did the Government take so long to discover it? At any rate, there is little trace of the Government’s awareness of a boom in last year’s Budget speech. The real test of the existence of a boom, Mr. Chairman, is in unemployment and price rises. Unemployment in 1960, after allowing for seasonal factors, reached a low of 40,000 around the time of the Budget. There was no dramatic improvement or evidence of a boom, but merely a steady fall over eighteen months with about 700 of the unemployed finding jobs each month - a drop from 63,000 to 40,000. But here is the startling fact: Since this Government came into office unemployment has risen above 40,000 on only two occasions, the first, for a year following the 1951 horror Budget, and the second following the March, 1956, Budget, which jerked unemployment up from 12,000 to nearly 65,000. In only one of this Government’s first six years in office was unemployment over 40,000, the level now called a boom. And the latter part of this period was the Only one of near-stable prices we have known in the last twelve years. The worst unemployment in the past was at the end of 1952- nearly 70,000. At present, we have 113,500. So unemployment shows no evidence of a 1960 boom, but rather the reverse.
Now let me turn to prices. We have become accustomed to value trickling out of the £1 under this Government, but what I wish to emphasize is that it happened no more rapidly in 1960 than before or since. From June, 1953, when the first burst of Menzies inflation had subsided, to June, 1959, prices rose on average 2.4 per cent, per annum. In the twelve months ended March, 1960, retail prices rose 2.3 per cent., and in the twelve months ended last June, that is, in the last financial year, 3.3 per cent. In each of the last three quarters’, the rate of increase has been higher than in the pre-1959 period, and higher than in the twelve months up to the time when the Government claimed it was worried about a boom. And let me have no interjections about my omitting the June quarter of 1960 from my figures. In a flagrantly dishonest sentence of the “ Economic Survey “, published last May, the Government bolstered its boom theory by claiming that “ the Consumer Price Index rose in the June quarter at the rate of 7 per cent, per annum “. That is true - but the reason had nothing to do with the boom. The reason was that the Victorian Government lifted rent controls and rents in Melbourne rose 35 per cent, in one quarter. That is how they got their 7 per cent, over the period.
So much for the boom theory. In 1960 unemployment had not yet fallen to a tolerable level when the Government took action to force men out of work. Prices were rising no faster than in previous years when the Government declared a state of inflation - and prices are still rising faster than they were then. There was no boom in 1960; but in 1961 there is certainly a depression - call it what you will - recession, re-adjustment, or a basic strengthening as the Treasurer calls it. One hundred and thirteen thousand five hundred people who should be working are not working; the equivalent of perhaps another 150,000 are on short time or less than normal overtime. The production loss is running at about £200,000,000 a year. This is the real cost of the Menzies Government to the people of Australia- £200,000,000 worth of things we could have but must do without because the members of this Government have not the wit to control the economy properly, with all their boasted world-wide administrative pre-eminence.
As I repeat, Australia is in the midst of a depression, a big slump about which the Treasurer proposes to do practically nothing - and for one of two reasons. Either he likes the present situation - and remember, he said recently that many men will probably not get their jobs back - or else he believes things will come right if he leaves them alone. After the Treasurer’s record of interfering with the economy, I for one would certainly be very anxious about the probable outcome of any of his actions.
But I have even less faith in his foresight. After all, he did not foresee the boom of 1960 until it was over and he did not foresee 113,500 unemployed until they were with us.
– That is Australia Unlimited.
– Yes. Now, taking the charitable view, the Treasurer foresees a recovery. And so does the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). Both have been far out in their unemployment forecasts. The Minister for Labour and National Service said that there would be fewer unemployed in June, 1961, than there were in June, 1960, and he was nearly 60,000 out.
I am reminded strongly of those politicians of the Liberal Party of Australia who, all through the weary years of the depression, could always see prosperity just around the corner, lt remained for a Labour government to establish full employment for the first time, and later on for the Menzies Government to abolish it. I was present in this House on an occasion when a White Paper was presented by a gentleman who was then Minister for War Organization of Industry. The present Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) then said that the only places that he knew where people could get three meals a day and a bed to sleep in at night were the gaols or the Soviet Union. That is about how much members of the present Government have ever believed in the principles of full employment.
Now, Mr. Chairman, let us see what view Sir Arthur Fadden expressed in his Budget speech for the financial year 1958-59. At that time there were 66,000 unemployed. He said -
There must … be an enlargement of activity sufficiently widespread to ensure employment opportunities for additional labour and absorption of the increased output of mills and factories. Th,s, in turn, requires some increase both in total expenditure and in each of the main sectors of the expenditure . . .
And so in his Budget he aimed at giving “ a broad stimulus to the economy “. His various measures added up to budgeting for a deficit of fi 10,000,000. That was Sir Arthur’s last Budget. The present Treasurer presented his first in 1959, when unemployment had fallen slightly to 63,000. He explained -
Generally, 1958-59 proved a better year than we expected this time twelve months ago.
But he still ‘budgeted for a deficit of £61,000,000 which he felt could be justified as a support to the economy. This year, with 113,500 unemployed, he feels that a nominal deficit of £16,000,000 is enough. He claims that this is a change from last year of £32,000,000 in the expansionary direction and says -
Whether it is called a depression or a recession, there is a widespread slump in Australian business and industry to-day. The loss of production involved, as I have already pointed out, amounts to more than £200,000,000 a year. Gross national production could be raised immediately by at least 3 per cent, without the slightest danger of precipitating a dangerous boom or inflation. There is more than 3 per cent, unemployment of labour in Australia to-day and there is very much more than 3 per cent, unemployment of capacity in our factories. Let any honorable member opposite deny that.
Let me examine each of the main sectors of expenditure and see what has been done and what should be done. Retail sales reached a peak about the middle of last year and then remained constant, apart from seasonal fluctuations, until the June quarter of this year, when a drop of about 2 per cent, occurred. This means that the quantity purchased per head of the population has fallen by 6 or 7 per cent, when we make allowance for price and population increases. There is now a deficiency of retail spending at the rate of about £200,000,000 a year. This is the direct result of unemployment, reduced overtime, short time and loss of profits, together with the Government-imposed cut on hire purchase. Since December £52,000,000 has been drawn out of the people’s pockets by the hire-purchase companies. Repayments have exceeded new loans by that amount. Since October withdrawals from savings banks nave exceeded deposits by nearly £50,000,000. This presumably reflects the desperate attempt to keep up normal spending which the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has asked for. Even at the height of the Government-imposed crisis of 1952 there was no fall in savings bank deposits. In just one month then was there a tiny fall; in each of the last eight months there has been a heavy fall.
To meet this situation the Treasurer offers some pension increases and a cut in sales tax on household goods. Of the pension increases it is sufficient merely to say that they restore the real value of the pension to where it was a year ago. Of the sales tax cut much could be said. But, first, it amounts to less than 6 per cent, of the wholesale price, not of the retail price; it may be, say, 4 per cent, of the retail price. How much stimulus will this provide at a time when dealers have been offering 10 per cent, and 20 per cent, discounts and are still facing declining sales?
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing at all wrong with it. But if the retailers cannot induce people to buy when they are offering discounts of 10 per cent, and 20 per cent., what additional sales will be obtained by offering another 4 per cent, reduction in the prices of the goods?
We believe that these commodities that the Treasurer has made the subject of a reduction should be altogether free of sales tax. We have fought for this year after year, and it is largely due to our efforts that the rate was gradually forced down, first, to 10 per cent, and then to Si per cent. The Government now puts the rate at a contemptuous 2i per cent. - not high enough to raise any significant revenue, but there purely as an irritation and to impose unnecessary burdens on traders.
– And possibly the Government will jack it up again later.
– The honorable member anticipates me. Is the Government being over-clever and trying to suggest that the reduction is only temporary - “ Buy now or it may be too late”? Who does the Treasurer think he fools with his proposals? It was really generous of the Prime Minister to tell his hand-picked audience in the Sydney Town Hall last week that his Government decided its economic policies without the advice of experts. We now know who to blame.
Sales tax revenue in this Budget should have been slashed by at least £50,000,000, not by a trifling £9,000,000.
The major tax affecting individuals and consumption is income tax. And here the Government has actually increased the effective rate of tax. The Budget papers show that it expects an extra £58,000,000 in income tax revenue from individuals, an increase of 11 per cent. Rates are not changed, but the slight rise in money incomes each year pushes more people into higher tax brackets. The basic wage increase, purely to compensate for price increases, will add about £70,000,000 to wages this year. But income tax will take about £20,000,000 of it, so that the real purchasing power of wage-earners will actually fall. Wage and salary earners are thus being robbed in income tax of their costofliving adjustment by the Government which was opposed to them getting any favorable decision from the Arbitration Commission at any time.
Here is what the Government has done to the man with average earnings. For the single man the tax was less than 10 per cent, of income in 1954-55. In the coming year it will be nearly 13 per cent. For the married man with two children tax will rise from 4i per cent, to over 7i per cent. And now the basic wage earner: The single man this year will pay 8i per cent, of his income to the Commissioner of Taxation, while the married man with two children will pay nearly 3 per cent. He will pay 8s. 4d. a week out of the minimum wage of £14 8s. These facts have been put before the Government before, but it has always preferred to reduce taxes on the very rich instead.
It will be four years since dependant’s allowances for income tax have been raised. In fact, they have been gradually whittled away ever since this Government came into office. In the last year of the Chifley Government the man on average earnings, with a wife and two children, paid onethird of the single man’s tax. This year he will pay two-thirds. The recent report of the Commonwealth Commission on Taxation recommended an increase in dependant’s allowances, but the Government has decided to ignore it. Individual income tax in this Budget should have been cut, not increased. Half the revenue forgone should have gone to people with families and the other half to people with incomes under £40 a. week. The married basic wage earner should have been completely exempted from tax. By these two means a worthwhile stimulus would have been given to consumption - a stimulus to basic demand which would have set the factories working again and restored retail sales and the standard of living to a proper level.
Private investment falls naturally into four groups - motor vehicles, houses, other buildings and plant, machinery and equipment, in none of these fields has the Government taken any action to restore demand and prevent a further decline. In two of them the position is extremely bad. The first is the motor vehicle industry which is desperately hard hit, its sales being no more now than two-thirds of a year ago. lt must be assumed, therefore, that this is the level of sales the Government desires. Many other industries are suffering because of what the Government has done to the motor industry. The plight of this industry was not even mentioned by the Treasurer.
Nothing has been done about housing, the other victim of Government hostility, and an industry on the success of which another 20 or 30 industries depend for their existence. Certain measures were taken some months ago to help housing. They received a great deal of publicity, and it is to be hoped that they have some effect. These appear, however, to amount to little more than restoring some of the finance cut off by other policy measures. The Treasurer’s sincerity in the matter of housing may best be judged by the fact that he has done nothing about war service homes and, in particular, about the maximum loan of £2,750. The original loan of £2,000 was sufficient to build a house which would now cost £5,000. By 1951 prices had risen so that the same amount would only buy a house which now costs £3,250. In 1951 new legislation lifted the advance to a level which would buy a house now worth £4,500. This amount has been steadily eroded and much of the advantage of the war service homes scheme has gone. A first mortgage is required for the £2,750 which was reasonable enough when that was most of the cost of the house. But now money-lenders’ rates have to be paid for the substantial balance. The least that should have been done in this Budget was to raise the maximum advance to £4,000. At the same time the net amount of new money being made available is steadily diminishing. Repayments of principal are now £10,000,000 a year which is a substantial offset to the apparent £35,000,000 provided.
Building other than housing probably poses the most serious problem for the future. Actual expenditure on housing has already fallen but the construction period for other building, and the period of preparation before commencing construction, is so long that it is completely uncertain when the low point will be reached and how deep that low point will be. In 1952 commencements of all building fell off by 30 per cent, over five quarters. Then the recovery was rapid because of the great shortage of housing and the even greater back-log of other buildings, little having been built since 1929 because of a depression and a war. If this pattern is repeated, commencements may have a long way to fall and the speed of recovery is by no means certain. Housing is said by the Government to be fairly adequate excep in Sydney and Melbourne, and the demand for other buildings - offices, factories and so on - must be very nearly satisfied.
What is more, new construction is handicapped by the very high ruling rates of interest. Money on first mortgage now costs nearly 8 per cent, as against 5 per cent, in 1952. This, in itself, must be a very serious deterrent to new building construction of all types. And there is no recognition in the Budget speech that high interest rates are in any way undesirable, or that the Government intends to do anything about reducing them or forcing them down.
These interest rates are also a potent factor in making any recovery in investment in plant and machinery uncertain. Certainly the Government has done nothing to encourage such investment and the present overcapacity in so many factories and in so many branches of industry must suggest that new investment is likely to be indefinitely deferred.
The Government has made some play on its increased allocation for public works, Commonwealth, State and local and semi-governmental. In fact, non-housing allocation for actual expenditure will rise from £404,000,000 to £419,000,000 in the current year - less than 5 per cent, or less than 6 per cent, if the extra £5,000,000 for semi-governmental ‘borrowing is included. This means that real expenditure per head of population will show no apparent increase and that there will be little stimulating effect from government public investment expenditure. All in all, therefore, it can only be said that the Budget will do nothing to stimulate the economy and that we, like this Micawber of a government, must wait for something to turn up.
I come now to those who are the direct victims of the Government’s economic policy - the unemployed. In the Budget it is proposed that the rates of unemployment benefit be increased by 17s. 6d. a week for families. The new benefit, plus child endowment for a family with three children, will amount to £8 5s. a week. There seems to me to have been some grave misunderstanding in fixing these rates. I ask the Treasurer and the Minister for Labour and National Service whether they have seriously considered it to be possible for a family of five to buy adequate food for a week foi £8 5s. let alone other household requirements and clothes and pay rent at the same time?
At the bottom of the depression in 1934-35 the rates of sustenance for a family of five were 30s. 9d. in New South Wales and 35s. 6d. in Victoria. These rates were not intended to do more than provide the base minimum to keep the family surviving. And yet they would buy as much as £6 10s. in New South Wales or £7 10s. in Victoria at the present time. The present rates of unemployment benefit are little, if any, higher than the depression rates. And the allowances for children are well below that. New South Wales in 1934-35 thought it necessary to provide the equivalent of 14s. 4d. for each additional child as compared with the present 10s. child endowment which is all the unemployed family receives.
Let me put it another way. The Victorian sustenance rate for a family of five was slightly above the age pension for a married couple. The new rates of unemployment benefit proposed by the Govern ment, together with child endowment, are £2 5s. a week less than the age pension for a married couple. Five people to live on 45s. a week less than the age pension for two! It may be argued that that would be satisfactory enough if the position were temporary, but unemployment is becoming chronic, and it will continue to be chronic for a considerable time. It will grow worse as the school-leavers this year join the army of work-seekers.
There were many instances of malnutrition and deficiency diseases amongst children in the depression. Let us trust that the Government will not again have this charge laid at its door, but will act now to provide realistic help for the people it has thrown out of work. Did the Government not see the statement signed by the leaders of all ten churches in Melbourne that they lacked the funds to give proper help to the unemployed and that the unemployment benefit was inadequate? Or does a clear, genuine and authoritative statement of that sort make no impression at all on Ministers who are wrapped up in their own personal, petty problems of securing prestige and publicity? An extra £1,000,000 a year in increased benefits won’t do much to help.
The broad features of the Menzies view of economic policy and government are now made clear. It is a policy of hope for the best and leave economic forces to work themselves out. It is the policy of laisserfaire - let well alone. The Government, as such, has taken practically no action in the past eighteen months. One small tax increase, in the 1960-61 Budget, one small tax decrease in the 1961-62 Budget; a panic impost on motor vehicles in November, 1960, hurriedly withdrawn in February, 1961; and some pension and other payments increased in accordance with prices. But there have been many threats and promises. Once the decision to abandon import licensing was taken, the economy was left to seek its own salvation. The credit squeeze was the direct result of the surplus of imports and the refusal of the Government to allow the Reserve Bank to relax credit sufficiently.
Unemployment and the closed-down factories are the direct result of excess imports and the credit squeeze. Now we are to wait for the next happening to restore full employment. The Budget will not do it. It may come when excess stocks are worked off; it may come as a result of easier credit; it may come because of the unbounded faith of Australians in Australia. So far, any expansion which has taken place since the Menzies Government decided to cause the slump has been expansion of government jobs, which, in the last six months, have risen by 25,000 against a fall of about 92,000 in the jobs available in private business. So, the shift of unemployment has been in only two directions - from employment to unemployment, or from private employment to government employment. This is what the Treasurer doubtless meant when he spoke about “ a valuable shift of labour to essential industries “.
The Budget speech need never have been made, for all the effect it will have on improving the desperate loss of employment and production in Australia to-day. For all practical purposes, it changed nothing. Things are just the same and just as bad as they were before the Treasurer got to his feet. Production, if it recovers, will recover by itself, unaided by any help from the Government. Unemployment, already much higher than the Government’s figures suggest, will remain high, and by the time the next big influx of school-leavers comes flooding onto the labour market at the end of the year, it may go to yet higher levels, perhaps as high as 150,000, by the seasonal peak early in the new year.
The Budget has done nothing to restore confidence. If the reactions of the stock exchange to the Budget can be taken as an indicator of confidence, that confidence is as lacking to-day as it was before the Treasurer spoke. What little there is is due to American and British portfolio investment in leading stocks. There has not been even one flutter of renewed hope in all Australian stock exchanges. But the Budget will not merely prolong the slump. The Government’s policies are causing a reduction in the whole desire for, and scope for, economic growth in this country. Businessmen will lose even more confidence in the expansion of their markets. The migration program has already been cut and as the word gets around overseas that the Australian Government is still working on the old stop and go lines, migrants will become increasingly difficult to find, particularly now that rising prosperity is becoming the order of the day in many of the countries of the Common Market area where we seek our migrants, and as the United Kingdom prepares to enter the Common Market on almost any terms.
The Budget, while pretending to help the Development Bank by increasing its capital by £5,000,000, is really insulting the rural section of our community. Not only is this sum too small to be of any real help, but the sickness that afflicts the countryside is extremely serious.
– I have not noticed iL
– Of course the honorable member has not noticed it! But hedoes not notice anything! And the Government, which includes five Country Party Ministers, some of them in key portfolios, does nothing about it!
The following figures illustrate the plight of primary producers much more graphically than any appeals could ever do, and I commend them to members of the Country Party and those Liberal Party members who hold country seats. In 1956-57, wages and salaries amounted to £2,827,000,000 while farm incomes totalled £520,000,000. Four years later, in 1960-61, wages and salaries were increased by £743,000,000 to £3,570,000,000, but farm incomes fell - yes, fell- by £53,000,000 to £467,000,000. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to understand how any one can stay on the land getting less and less and paying more and more for everything he needs. And while all this is happening the farmers’ so-called friends and representatives in the Country Party, and the Liberal Party, continue to leave them to their fate.
Not only does the Budget do nothing to help primary production by tax reductions or lower interest rates, or in any other way, but it also does nothing about child endowment, the payment for the second and subsequent children being still 10s. a week the same as it was in the days of the Chifley Government. If any one needs help these days it is the mothers of young families. There is no help for them and no hope for them in this Budget.
The Treasurer gives No. 1 priority to price stability. Yet the Government’s policy, involving huge losses of production, has done little or nothing to increase price stability. Faced with the problems which the Government has avoided, a Labour government would have been much more adventurous, more enterprising, and more courageous. We would have given first priority not to stability but to expansion; the expansion of jobs and production.
If we win the coming elections, we will introduce a supplementary budget in February in which we will seek to repair the damage the present Government has done. We will increase the deficit to £100,000,000 if necessary so as to help to re-employ the unemployed. We will restore full employment within twelve months. We will take immediate steps to revive, from the present depressed condition, the key industries of motors and of house-building on which so many other important industries in this country depend, by appropriate taxation reductions. We will make it easier for people to borrow on reasonable terms from various established businesses. We would give the States the whole of the proceeds of the petrol tax. We would remit pay-roll tax on municipal and local government activities, other than trading activities. In a word, we would correct the MenziesGovernmentcreated slump which is the worst this country has known since the depressed ‘thirties.
We would plan boldly for the development of the northern part of Australia. The few millions given in hand-outs to Western Australia and Queensland around election time for specific projects are but a fraction of what should be spent annually if Australia is to remain Australia. It is hard to convince the Sydney-Melbourne minded people who dominate this Government of the tragic possibilities of their continued neglect of our empty north. We would be prepared to examine the inflationary effect which pay-roll tax is said to have with a view to collecting the £61,000,000 involved in some other way and thus lower costs generally, particularly for the primary producers. We would ensure that all the children leaving school and migrants would have suitable employment with prospects of advancement. We want no “ dead end kids “ in a Labour-governed Australia.
We certainly would not adopt the chronic attitude of bored indifference of this Go vernment to the need for a fresh and ready acceptance of the responsibilities of the age in which we live; an age of challenge, of sweeping change, of enormous and phenomenal discovery; an age that will not tolerate the laggard and the indifferent, the self-satisfied and the complacent. The winds of change are blowing swiftly everywhere and we shall continue to ignore them at our peril. And these are but some of the matters we would attend to without delay. We would not ignore the vital problems of shipping and insurance. Australia is one of the nine or ten great trading nations of the world as the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) has often reminded us, and yet we have no Australian overseas shipping line, national owned or privately owned, and no Australian insurance companies, national or private, financing our overseas trade. We are completely at the mercy of foreign shipping and insurance companies and we pay them £200,000,000 a year or 25 per cent, of the value of our exports for services which we must some day provide for ourselves.
If the Parliament can pass valid laws limiting the percentage to as low as 15 per cent, which overseas interests can hold in television and broadcasting companies, then the Parliament can do the same in the matter of insurance. It can also start up an Australian shipping line, either government owned or owned by Commonwealth and State governments, primary producers, cooperative organizations and the general public, in one big company. In a word, we can have an Australian shipping line or lines if we want them, and owned and managed in whatever way we care to decide. Some of my colleagues will deal with education, social services and repatriation matters. Others will deal with trade and decentralization while others still will elaborate on some or other of the matters I have dealt with.
This is a time when Australia either goes forward or goes backward; it cannot remain stationary. Unfortunately, it possesses a stand-still government that relies on a stayput Budget - a government that is depressing in every sense of the term and with a leader who makes the fatal mistake of thinking it is immortal.
– Mr. Chairman–
– This will be good.
– I thank the honorable member for his interjection even before I started to speak. That is his usual courtesy. I do not claim to be good. This Government does not need a sledgehammer to crack a nut, and we have heard some really nutty theories to-night from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). His repentance was all the more magnificent for coming so late. First of all, we heard that he repents of all that members of the Labour Party said in criticism of Sir Arthur Fadden in 1958 on the Budget which Sir Arthur presented when the Treasurer of that day. Sir Arthur Fadden budgeted then for a handsome deficit. The Leader of the Opposition repents now of the whole of his attack last year on this Government on the ground of inflation because he now questions whether there ever was inflation. Then the Leader of the Opposition went forward to say, with scant regard for arithmetic, that his proposal for an alternative Budget would provide for a deficit of £100,000,000. If the honorable gentleman stopped to add together one-tenth of the promises he made, he would be far in excess of that £ 100,000,000.
Let us have a look at some of these magnificent words of repentance that the Leader of the Opposition has used to-night. In 1958, when the Treasurer of the day, Sir Arthur Fadden, budgeted for a deficit just before an election, this is what the present Leader of the Opposition said -
If we cannot reject the Budget here, we ask the people of Australia to reject the Government responsible for it. This is a tax-happy printingpress Government. This is a Government that does not concern itself with the great mass of the people. It wants power, it loves power, and it has abused power. Because it has abused its power, it ought to be rejected.
All that the Leader of the Opposition has said in his speech to-night is that Sir Arthur Fadden was right in that Budget. He should have budgeted for a bigger deficit. The Leader of the Opposition said that a Labour Party in office would budget for a far bigger deficit as I shall show later, and that this Government had not sought increased constitutional powers. Here was a complete recantation of all that he had said in 1958.
Let us bring the position a little more up to date. During the whole of last year the Leader of the Opposition and his party attacked this Government over inflation. They made all kinds of statements as to what they would do to check inflation, including the imposition of increased taxes. But we have not heard anything about taxation increases on this occasion. During the whole of last year Opposition members talked about a capital gains tax. They talked about increasing taxes on larger incomes. They talked about the speculation that was going on and about the large companies that were making huge profits. Here was the real reason for inflation, they said; it was not the little man who wanted to spend his money but the excessive profits being made by large companies which caused inflation.
On this occasion, the Leader of the Opposition finds it not quite so popular to talk about tax increases. At one stage, honorable members opposite were talking about abolishing sales tax entirely and loading the burden on to income tax, but the Leader of the Opposition contents himself on this occasion with a mere £50,000,000 slash in sales tax. His assessment of how he would arrive at a deficit of a mere £100,000,000 in his Budget amounted to a complete casting aside of any pretence at genuine arithmetic. Two and two, so far as the Leader of the Opposition is concerned, no longer make four. In the first instance, he proposed a slash of £50,000,000 in sales tax. That would account for half of his £100,000,000 deficit. He then wanted to cut out all the taxation on incomes of married couples on the basic wage. I do not know quite how much that would add to the cost of the Budget but it would certainly add considerably. Then, I imagine, he wanted at least to double the amount now being spent on war service homes - this mere £35,000,000 a year which is producing such a magnificent result and is enabling the Government, for the first time, to finance new homes without any waiting period for applicants.
– There is still a record number of applications outstanding.
– The argument of the Leader of the Opposition that we should increase the maximum loan above £2,750 is completely refuted by the interjection of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard). Here are people who are willing and anxious to take up the loan of £2,750. For the purposes of the arithmetic, let us put down the cost of the proposal of the Leader of the Opposition at a mere additional £35,000,000. The honorable gentleman drew attention to the increased finance for public works that is being made available in this Budget - on his own figures, an increase from £404,000,000 to £490,000,000. That is a mere £86,000,000. Let us suppose that he wishes to double ; that figure and add another £86,000,000. Already we see that his proposed deficit of £100,000,000 is greatly exceeded. But that is only the beginning of the kind of arithmetic that the Leader of the Opposition has been using.
He mentioned an expenditure of £60,000,000 in the north of Australia. Recently, when the honorable gentleman was asked to name the rivers in the northwest of Western Australia that he considered should be developed, he could not think of their names, so he said, “ We will dam them all “. And perhaps he will before the election campaign is over. This is the kind of adventurous Budget which the Leader of the Opposition is proposing. It is adventurous all right! His proposals represent the complete denial of everything that the Opposition has recommended over the last two years. This makes me wonder whether the Leader of the Opposition wrote his own speech or whether he had the advice of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ or some organization such as that. It seemed to me that he was following the line pursued by the “ Sydney Morning Herald “.
We heard nothing from the Leader of the Opposition on this occasion about his promise to restore import licensing, but he has been promising this for at least the last six months. That promise was made, I would imagine, not out of solicitude for the large business firms which would benefit by import licensing, but, as he himself said in this House, in the hope that they would contribute £100,000 to Labour’s election campaign. That was the price that he placed on Labour’s support for import controls. He promised in this Parliament, not long ago, when a protest by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures was being discussed, that Labour would restore import licensing. He then said that he hoped that the Chamber of Manufactures would contribute £100,000 to the Labour Party’s election campaign. In a most flagrant manner, the Labour Party was trying to buy votes. The Leader of the Opposition should have known that this country can only impose import licensing for the purpose of protecting its overseas balances. He should be familiar with the terms of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. He should know that, under Article 12 of that agreement, import licensing can be imposed only to protect overseas balances.
– Does the honorable member for Wills deny that that is the effect of Article 12 of Gatt? If he does, I suggest that he read the agreement. Admittedly, this is a matter for the judgment of the country concerned. Surely the honorable member for Wills does not suggest that the Leader of the Opposition would tell the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and any one else who was willing to listen that we were imposing import restrictions to help our industries, while overseas we let it be thought that the restrictions were aimed only at safeguarding our balances! If that would not be the height of dishonesty 1 would like to know what would be. Apparently, the honorable member for Wills overlooks the provisions of Gatt whereby any member country which was aggrieved over such dishonest action could protest to the contracting parties and have the case examined. Then, if the case were proved, the aggrieved country would be released from any obligations to Australia under Gatt. That is the risk to which the Leader of the Opposition, a few months ago, was willing to expose this country. Of course, he has said very little about it on this occasion because he is aware that our overseas balances have been restored.
The degree of the deficit for which we should provide in the Budget depends on an assessment of trends in the economy. I will be the first to admit that if we are in the middle of a big slump we should budget for a somewhat larger deficit. Of course, it is in the interests of the Leader of the Opposition to pretend that we are in the middle of a big slump.
– So we are!
– The honorable member for Shortland should talk to the Premier of New South Wales. After Sir Eric Woodward had delivered the Governor’s Speech at the opening of the New South Wales Parliament the following report appeared in the press: -
N.S.W. Boom, Says Sir Eric.
N.S.W. faced an era of great industrial expansion, the Governor, Sir Eric Woodward, said to-day, when he opened State Parliament.
The report continued -
He listed projects worth £79 million to be started in N.S.W. in the next two years.
Does this indicate that we are in the depths of a deep slump, from which we are unlikely to recover? Of course it does not. Then he itemized some of these projects, and they are listed in the newspaper report in this way -
A £6m. industrial chemical plant at Botany.
A £5.5m. cellulose film factory at Penrith.
A £7m. expansion scheme for paper production at Nowra.
A £2m. cotton mill at Kotara, near Newcastle.
A £1.5m. engineering works at Port Kembla.
These are projects listed for only one State of the Commonwealth. One could go from State to State and one would see the same kind of picture in all of them. In Western Australia a similar story can be told. There is a high level of optimism in the community with only the members of the Labour Party crying out that we are in the depths of a depression. They would be happy, of course, if the country were in such a state, because an election is shortly to be held, and they might stand a chance of success if the economy were in the dire straits that they would have us believe it is.
Perhaps the Governor and the Premier of New South Wales were speaking with their political tongues in their cheeks. Perhaps we should look outside Australia for some record of the standing of this country. In a report which appeared in the Sydney “Daily Telegraph” of 22nd April, 1961, we find the following statements -
Australians can expect “ moderate to good “ increases in income in the future, says a Stanford Research Institute report on Australia’s development. National production also will increase, the report says.
It says the Australian population at present enjoys one of the highest incomes of all countries.
According to the newspaper report, the research institute estimates that Australia’s population should reach 15,000,000 by 1975, that employment in secondary industry will need to be expanded by 50 per cent, by 1975, that Australia will need large amounts of foreign investment to supplement domestic earnings in financing capital investment, and that Australia cannot expect to become economically independent of world trade.
There was a sober assessment, by a research institute, of the prospects facing us in this country.
Let us analyse the Budget. If we do not want to return to the position we were in last November, when even the Leader of the Opposition agreed that we were in the middle of an inflationary boom - although he disagreed at the time with the methods we adopted to counter it - quite obviously we can adopt only moderate and gentle measures to stimulate the economy at this stage. That is exactly what the Government has done. From a surplus of £15,800,000 last year we come to a deficit of £16,500,000 this year in the total cash results. This alone means that an extra £30,000,000 will be injected into the economy.
If you look at the directions in which we have tried to give a stimulus, you will see that the Budget is aimed at stimulating basic industries on which we rely for our exports. No one will deny that it is sound policy to build up the basic industries, such as by the provision of roads for the beef and cattle industries in the north of Australia, and by developing our ports in order to encourage the export of coal and steel. It must also be agreed that it is a wise move to hand over quite considerable additional sums of money to State governments, amounting to £31,000,000 in respect of tax reimbursement and an extra £10,000,000 for the States’ works programmes.
These are the kinds of measures that will strengthen the basis of Australian industry. Yet here to-night we have the Leader of the Opposition shedding crocodile tears about the position of the motor industry. A few months ago he and his colleagues were condemning firmslike General Motors-Holden’s Limited, and, indeed, his party believes that such firms should be nationalized. A few months ago, as I say, he condemned the motor industry; to-night he weeps crocodile tears about it. He wants to restore it to the position it was in last November, when it was throwing tremendous strains on the economy. If this Government had allowed such a situation to develop, it would have well merited the accusation that it was a stop-and-go government. There is no stability to be achieved by that kind of economic approach.
If the Leader of the Opposition were allowed to carry out his plans and to budget for a deficit of more than £100,000,000- and that would be only the beginning of the deficit - there would be a tremendous increase in consumer spending all along the line. If he were allowed to implement his proposals to increase pension rates and social service payments of every kind, and to reduce sales tax and thus stimulate consumer spending, we would simply return to the milk bar economy that existed in 1949. We, on the other hand, have aimed at stability in the economy - which honorable members opposite would completely overlook - together with a sound rate of expansion and development.
The Labour Party and its Leader in this House have said quite a lot about the rate of unemployment. I call to mind that at one period in 1949, 118,000 persons were receiving the unemployment benefit. Admittedly this was only for a short time, and admittedly there was a coal strike in progress, but the fact remains that in June or July of 1949, 118,000 persons were receiving unemployment relief. In the following year 174,000 immigrants came to Australia, and they were all rapidly absorbed into employment.
– You have not employed half of them!
– I am talking about 1950, if the honorable member can cast his mind back a little way. I want to compare the conduct of the Labour Party in those days, when the present Leader of the Opposition was Minister for Immigration, with the conduct of the Labour Party to-day. This Government is aiming at continual expansion, but the Labour Party, in order to gain a political point, and being prepared to give Australia a bad name overseas simply because it dislikes the present
Government, has organized a publicity campaign in overseas countries aimed at preventing immigrants from coming to Australia. Could there be anything more shameful in the conduct of a genuine Australia than the kind of propaganda disseminated by Mr. Chamberlain, the federal secretary of the Labour Party, who has carried into effect his threats to stress in countries overseas, by means of publicity, the degree of unemployment in Australia, in order to discourage immigrants from coming here?
In 1949 the present Leader of the Opposition, who was then Minister for Immigration, did not write to authorities in countries overseas telling them that there were 118,000 persons receiving unemployment relief benefit in this country. However, his courage with regard to the immigration policy has oozed away, because he is no longer the spokesman for the Labour Party, either in this place or anywhere else. The Leader of the Opposition, to his credit, initiated a great immigration programme, but the courage that he displayed then has quite evaporated. He no longer speaks for the Labour Party, either here or elsewhere. His speech to-night did not present the consistency of view that he has previously shown. He did not make the pronouncements on Labour policy that emanated from Brisbane recently. Mr. Chamberlain was the spokesman. The Leader of the Opposition did not even go to Victoria for the State election there. He chose to spend the time in New Guinea.
– That is not true.
– Well, he spent most of the time.
– Now you are backing away from your statement.
– You tell me how much time he did spend there.
I have directed attention to the kinds of effects that the Labour Party’s policy would have on the Australian economy. We would return to galloping inflation in no time. That would be the adventure to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred tonight. We would be faced with increased consumer spending. If we were to implement Labour’s other proposals, such as those concerned with a capital gains tax and the competitive setting up by the Government of business enterprises, we would be faced with a complete loss of foreign investment in Australia. Investors would not appreciate a capital gains tax. They would not wish to come and compete against the Government in large enterprises. Loss of foreign investment in Australia at this time would completely throw out of perspective our balance of payments position. I think I would have had more common sense than had the Leader of the Opposition in working out the alternative Budget which he placed before the House to-night. It was the most irresponsible display of electioneering on a matter of pounds, shillings and pence that I have ever heard. In his usual manner, the Leader of the Opposition simply took up the time of the House in using a number of adjectives in describing this Government, which were not greatly to his credit, and in making rash promises as to what he would do during the election. We would be faced with a very interesting situation if some of the other members on the front bench opposite could have their way. Not so long ago, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) said in Perth that he would take the whole of any unearned increment from investment to pay for social services.
– What is wrong with that?
– I wonder where he is going to draw the line, because the implication from what he said is that nobody is entitled to make a sound investment.
– He said he would take the unearned increment.
– Let us face it. The greatest unearned increment I know of is what the New South Wales Government gets from the lotteries and from the onearmed bandits which fill the clubs in that State. Are you going to have a taxgatherer standing by every one-armed bandit waiting for some one to hit the jackpot? The whole of the policies that honorable members opposite have been propounding are designed to promote consumer spending at the expense of thrift and at the expense of sound investment in the future of this country - a future which, by all level-headed judgment, is great and sound and at the present time is expanding in a healthy and desirable way. Indeed, we are past the worst stage, and all people who have any judgment in the matter realize that fact. We are past the worst stage of the recession which we have been going through and matters are improving. I know that members opposite hope conditions will not improve.
We have the Leader of the Opposition telling this House, first of all, that this is an unimaginative Budget and an inadequate Budget, then telling us of all the things which Labour would do in an adventurous Budget and then coming along with financial proposals which would run us into a deficit of many hundreds of millions of pounds, and, finally, sitting down on the note that he would have introduced a Budget for a mere £100,000,000 deficit. The Leader of the Opposition took up the time of this House with a lot of electioneering jargon. If the people of Australia stop to count the cost of a Labour government or of a Labour alternative Budget at this stage, I have no doubt that when they look at the state of the country and the moderate and sound measures applied by this Government they will make a very clear and decisive choice as to whose hands they will entrust the future prosperity of this country.
.- The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) is the second member of the Government who has addressed himself to this Budget. He spent some time in answering points made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), but neither he nor the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has explained to us whether it was the object of the Government’s policy to produce 113,000 unemployed in Australia or, if it was not the object of government policy to produce 113,000 unemployed in Australia, what went wrong. Either 113,000 unemployed were deliberately brought into being by the Government’s policy of restrictions or, alternatively, some mistake has been made. In his speech the Treasurer implied that the existence of this body of unemployed is a mistake because he said -
Nevertheless the decline in particular industries has been enough to cause a fall in total employment and a rise in unemployment. The Government sees this as the most urgent feature of our present situation. la other words, the Treasurer says he does not desire that there should be in Australia 1 13,000 unemployed, but he did not explain what went wrong, and neither did the Minister for the Interior. Does the Government take responsibility for unemployment in this country, as it was ready to take responsibility for wool booms, for record agricultural prices and for many of the windfalls which have taken place in the last decade? The credit squeeze was designed, so it was claimed, to block development in certain directions - to block the over-development of the motor car industry, for instance. Summing up, the Treasurer now says -
There has been a valuable shift of labour and resources to essential branches of production.
It is very regrettable that this statement is left so vague. What are the statistics which reveal the essential switch of labour? The Treasurer should tell us the specific instances of the decline in employment in definite, named industries, which are not essential, and the rise in employment in other named industries, which are considered more essential. But that is totally absent from his speech, and therefore his statement stands totally unproven.
What really seems to be happening is that government and semi-government employment has risen and the rest has mostly fallen. Anyway, there are some 113,000 people who have not been transferred anywhere. Unemployment is marked in the building trades, which most of us would consider essential. Many men skilled in those trades are employed in other work. The Treasurer told us, last week -
Nevertheless, the decline in particular industries has been enough to cause a fall in total employment and a rise in unemployment.
What the Treasurer and his advisers have overlooked is a simple proposition; namely, that finance has quick-silver mobility, but labour has not. To withhold credit is a decision; to grant credit is a decision; to invest money in a concern is a decision; and decisions can be made with lightning rapidity. But when a business closes or curtails its work as the result of a credit squeeze, labour cannot move off to another occupation with the speed of that decision. The employee lives in a house in a definite district. His children are attending school there, or his grown-up children are working there. Them may be work in Queensland, or 50 miles from his home, for a man displaced in Melbourne, but he is not able to drop everything and acquire new skills instantaneously and make arrangements for his family and enter a new occupation with the speed of a cheque being written out. If the decision to invest money represents the movement of capital with quick-silver mobility, labour, comparatively speaking, moves with leaden feet. If 113,000 men and women were now on strike the ceiling of this chamber would be reverberating with ministerial denunciations. We would be told of the loss of production. We would be told of the loss of wages. We would be told of the loss of man-hours and we would be told of the economic waste. But 113,000 unemployed have all the same economic effects as 113,000 on strike, plus the drain of unemployment allowance on the Budget. If 1 1 3,000 persons were on strike, there would be the loss of production, but there would not be the additional obligation on the Treasury to provide unemployment benefit.
The Treasurer offered us two explanations of the unemployment situation, and both involve deliberate acts of policy by the Government, although he did not acknowledge this. The first explanation was given by the Treasurer in his Budget speech in these words -
In the meantime stocks accumulated - stocks both of finished goods and of materials and components for manufacture. Production is not likely to rise again in the slack industries until traders have disposed of excess stocks and more orders flow back to manufacturers.
The Treasurer seems to take no responsibility for these excess stocks, but, in fact, they arise from the lifting of import restrictions and the flood of imports which were deliberate strokes of Government policy. While goods we could not pay for with exports poured into the country, the Government also imported migrants whose chances of employment were reduced by the flood of imports. The second explanation the Treasurer offered was this -
Consumer spending tapered off for a number of reasons.
He then gave every reason except the basic one - the credit squeeze. He added - and these factors are the direct result of the credit squeeze -
There was some loss of spending power through unemployment and reduced overtime earnings.
Though the past credit squeeze was not admitted by the Treasurer as a cause of unemployment, he hurried to reassure us that the future liberation of credit would re-employ these persons. He said -
The easing of bank credit and a general improvement in liquidity should facilitate livelier public buying.
The Treasurer might have mentioned social service expenditure as one means of ensuring buying in non-luxury industries. The more stringent the means test eliminating recipients of pensions, the more certainly social service money is immediately spent. A man or woman with nothing but an age pension must be an immediate consumer - not a consumer of cars and television sets, but a consumer of groceries, meat and precious little clothing. If the Government wishes expenditure to translate itself into an investment in the country’s future, and to stimulate consumption of essentials, it should increase child endowment.
Family allowances translate themselves immediately into food, clothing and education of children. They represent, in fact, sound investment in every direction. They are the one social service that is constantly falling behind the change in prices. They represent, as a consequence, a diminishing investment in the nation’s future, when they should be an increasing one. We are trying to cut imports and control prices, not in responsible ways, but in the irresponsible and unjust way of destroying the purchasing power of 113,000 people in the economic waste of unemployment. For migrants known to me, not established in the community, this has led to real misery and even in some instances to mental collapse.
The Government has financed a flood of imports in the last analysis by borrowing in various forms. In twelve years, £585,500,000 has been invested in this country by United Kingdom investors and £260,900,000 by investors in the United States and Canada. Insofar as this may have led to the importation of new machinery and the establishment of new factories, it is sound. It is £846,400,000 over twelve years, lt should not be exaggerated, as it represents an average of some £70,000,000 a year, which, in relation to the gross national product, is not an overwhelming figure. But some of it has been merely the sale of existing assets and some of it has established industries forbidden by the parent company to export. This merely visits on the country aggravated trade problems.
The Government has borrowed over £440,000,000 from the United Kingdom in the same period and £123,000,000 from North America. Added to the figure I have already given, this represents £1,400,000,000 and is just about equal to our trade deficit over the period. That part of it which represents the importation of capital goods we can welcome, especially if the industries so enlarged or established are permitted to export. That which has gone on consumption goods represents a postponed, an aggravated, and an unsolved problem of paying our way.
We need a whole new investment in the skills of people in this country and in child endowment. We need a critical eye on the nature of capital investment coming into the country, and we need to face the chronic waste involved in sudden changes of import policy, credit policy and unemployment. The deficit on our current account in payments to the rest of the world and receipts from the rest of the world was £185,000,000 in 1958-59. In the following year, 1959-60, it rose to £219,000,000 and in the year just concluded, 1960-61, it rose to £369,000,000. It is well known that the industries which must solve this problem are the export industries, which are the farm industries. Farm incomes at best are not keeping pace with inflation and at worst are falling as a component in the national income. This must continue as long as the terms of world trade turn against primary products, and the terms of world trade, so the Treasurer has informed us on a number of occasions, have consistently turned against primary products over the last few years.
In the face of a growing deficit in our current account, which last year reached the staggering total of £369,000,000, and in the fa.ce of the turn of the terms of trade against us as an exporter of primary produce, import controls were lifted. It is not always easy to dissect how our secondary industries are dependent on the export earnings of primary industries, but with a State like Western Australia, which is almost exclusively an exporter of agricultural products and almost exclusively an importer of manufactured goods, the situation can be clearly seen.
Since federation, Western Australia has been incorporated compulsorily in a common market as a purchaser of manufactured goods from the other States, which, in turn, require very little from Western Australia. In 1959-60, for instance, Western Australia exported to other States £38,929,952 worth of goods- call it £39,000,000 - whereas it imported from the other States £123,347,757 worth. It had a trade deficit with the other States of more than £84,000,000. In 1958-59, its trade deficit was £66,000,000, in 1957-58 £57,000,000, in 1956-57 £53,000,000, and in 1955-56 £54,000,000.
How did it sustain those deficits in its trade inside Australia? It sustained them by a series of surpluses in its agricultural exports to the rest of the world. Last year, Western Australia imported from the rest of the world £55,000,000 worth of goods and exported to the rest of the world £159,000,000 worth. In its international trade, Western Australia had a surplus of £104,000,000. Almost every year, that international surplus, which is the sale of primary produce, enables the Western Australian community, whose income is based on agricultural production, to carry a very heavy deficit in its trade with the eastern States - a deficit which virtually means that laden ships go to Fremantle and that many ships return virtually in ballast.
I do not make this as a State-rightist’s point, because precisely the same thing is happening with the farmer in New South Wales and in other States. His export earnings enable him to purchase from the secondary industry structure, which is set up and protected by the tariff in Australia.
But the situation of Western Australia does show dramatically how much this country is dependent on farm earnings, which are not in a satisfactory state. As is usual, the Treasurer has furnished us with a very valuable document, a white paper on
National Income and Expenditure, which says, at page 7 -
In 1960-61 there were increases of 35 per cent, in the gross value of wheat production, 33 per cent, in the gross value of other grain crops, and 9 per cent, in the gross value of other crops. However, there were also decreases of 13 per cent, in the gross value of wool production, 12 per cent, in the gross value of cattle slaughtered and 4 per cent, in the gross value of milk production. The total gross value of farm production increased, but by a smaller amount than the estimated increase in farm costs. Farm income . . . is estimated to have fallen from £472,000,000 in 1959-60 to £467,000,000 . . .
Notwithstanding the increased earnings of agriculture, the general level of costs and the inflationary condition of the Australian economy more than took away the additional earnings, and the export industries - the farming industries - retreated in their position relative to the rest of the community.
The Budget speech is a speech of some confusion in economic philosophy. Apparently the surplus stocks consequent on the lifting of import restrictions are good, but the unemployment which is the by-product is bad. We are not told this year whether or not the car industry is still the villian We are told that all is much healthier than it was a year ago - but a year ago the Government was proud of the position. Meanwhile we have unemployment, which is costly in unused skills, costly in the bitterness it engenders and costly in the reduced opportunities of the hundreds of thousands of dependants of the 113,000 unemployed. We have not solved the growing deficit on our current account. We have a matter for concern in the position revealed in table I. of the white paper, “ National Income and Expenditure 1960-61 “. Funds available for future investment show an estimated decline of £60,000,000 over the year in “ other personal savings “ and of £73,000,000 in undistributed company profits. Investment is rising, but not as it should. We miss the word “ expansion “, which was a favorite word of the Treasurer in the past. He tells us that “ no major trading nation is without problems of these kinds “.
Somehow or other, the Treasurer believes we are on “ a much more firmly established base “. Is this an admission that the boom of the past, based in part on borrowing, was unsound? Or has it just no meaning at all?
.- Last week two very important matters were brought before this chamber. Last Tuesday night we had the 1961-62 Budget introduced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). The introduction of the Budget and the debate on it constitute a major parliamentary event, as do the bills consequent on the Budget and the debates on them.
The second important matter brought before this chamber was the ministerial statement by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) on Australia and the European Common Market. This, as honorable members know, dealt with Australia’s position in view of Great Britain’s possible entry into the European Common Market. The decision of the United Kingdom to seek entry to the European Common Market has a direct bearing on Australia’s exports and imports and so, naturally, has a bearing on the Budget.
It is not my habit, Mr. Chairman, to criticize the Opposition to any great degree. However, I cannot refrain from making some reference to various statements made by honorable members opposite, because the Opposition generally seems to be concentrating its attack on what it claims to be the failure of the Australian Government to take action to safeguard our overseas interests. First, I should like to point out that the decision on Great Britain’s entry into the European Common Market is a decision that has to be made by the United Kingdom Government, and is not a decision for the Australian Government. I believe that the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) answered satisfactorily the criticism of the Department of Trade voiced by honorable members opposite, when he told the House of the number of new trade posts that have been set in operation overseas.
One thing that we must keep foremost in our minds when we are considering this matter is the result to Australia of the trade agreement with Japan. Since the signing of that agreement Japan has become our biggest customer for wool. In addition, her purchases of our wheat and barley have increased, and she is now an importer of our coal, our beef and of large quantities of our sugar. This result was forecast by the Minister for Trade, who is the leader of the Australian Country Party in this
Parliament, and I should like to quote to honorable members what he had to say to the House on 27th August, 1957, as reported in Volume 16 of “ Hansard “ at page 15. He said -
The Japanese market is a great and natural market for Australia. It is an expanding market. A country of 90,000,000 people with a rising standard of living provides a great opportunity to this country. . . .
But what does the Opposition say about agreements such as the Japanese Trade Agreement? As my honorable friend from Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) reminds me, the Opposition opposed the conclusion of that agreement very strongly. I direct the attention of honorable members to page 151 of the same volume of “Hansard” from which I have just quoted, where is reported the resumption of the debate which had been initiated two days earlier by the following motion moved by the Minister for Trade -
That the following paper be printed: -
Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan, signed on 6th July, 1957.
The then Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Evatt, then spoke, and he began his speech by saying -
We propose to ask the House to amend the motion of the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) I move -
That the following words be added to the motion: - “ and this House expresses its disapproval of the Agreement on Commerce between the Commonwealth of Australia and Japan “.
My colleague, the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), will second the amendment.
Now let us see what the honorable member for Scullin had to say on the matter. At page 165 of the same volume of “ Hansard “ that honorable member is reported as saying -
The Minister for Trade knows the facts, but he has still not hesitated to sell our birthright. He has sold this country’s opportunities to develop and expand its population, in order to obtain a market for a mess of second-grade wheat produced by the cockies, and to bolster the free-trade Australian Country Party policy.
One could go on, Mr. Chairman, reciting the various statements made by members of the Opposition on that occasion. Is it any wonder that the rural people feel that the Labour Party to-day is out of step, and consequently have not the confidence in the Labour Party that they normally might have
A few minutes ago we heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) accuse the present Government of being dominated by leaders in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne. I should like to ask the Leader of the Opposition where the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition come from. I should also like to ask him how many members representing rural seats he has in this chamber.
– How many constituents has he in his own electorate who are concerned with rural matters?
– I suggest that he has very few.
Among the important issues facing Australia to-day is the question of the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Economic Community. I suggest, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that this is the most important issue that Australia has faced since the beginning of the Second World War. We all appreciate that international trade binds countries together, particularly under the preferential agreements that operate between members of the British Commonwealth of Nations. While that system of preferences has existed, our security and the future of the Commonwealth of Nations have been assured. I was not surprised when I heard the Prime Minister say that the Common Market would have a very loosening effect on the ties between the members of the British Commonweath. As a matter of fact, prior to his statement, I had used stronger terms myself. This possibility, in conjunction with future trade prospects for this country, is a great worry to the Government, which is very much concerned about it.
Britain, no doubt, is caught between two fires. On the one hand, she feels that she has a responsibility in the European political situation. On the other hand, she certainly has a responsibility for the security of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I suggest that the United Kingdom Prime Minister is the one who must make the decision on whether Britain shall enter the Common Market. Although the Australian Government can make certain recommendations and requests, it is not for us to decide whether or not the United Kingdom shall enter the Common Market.
I believe, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that we must have a very close look at the aims of the Treaty of Rome, which was signed in 1957 by Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. The four objects of that treaty that I have before me are, first, the removal of all barriers and restrictions on trade between member countries; secondly, the adoption of a common agricultural policy; thirdly, the establishment of a common tariff for the whole group against imports from the outside world; and, fourthly, the harmonization of policies in a number of other fields, such as social services, mobility of labour and transport. In looking to the second aim - the adoption of a common agricultural policy - the countries of the Common Market seek to raise productivity and rural living standards, stabilize markets and guarantee regular supplies to consumers at reasonable prices. This is a very high aim. It is based on a system of minimum prices, which means that imports would not be allowed into these countries unless they were to sell at or above a specified minimum price. General import duties would ensure this. Quantitative restrictions could apply if levying was inadequate to handle the situation. Levies could be used to bolster production.
A transitional period of up to seven years has been mentioned. This could apply, and it could be a form of safeguard for our overseas markets. This period could give us an opportunity to find further markets. The picture does not look so gloomy for the wool industry as does the picture for some of our other industries, because wool is not exported to any great extent by any of the countries within the European Common Market group. Butter, of course, has been mentioned feely in this chamber. Much has been said about the question of whether Britain’s entry into the Common Market could have a very severe impact on our exports of butter. We must remember that the United Kingdom is one of the greatest importers of butter, importing about 400,000 tons a year. If the United Kingdom decides to enter the Common Market, we may lose our British market for butter to a country like Denmark. Then there are other responsibilities which enter into the question because of our close relationship with our sister country, New Zealand.
I am very much concerned about the wheat industry, naturally, because my electorate is a fairly prominent wheat-growing area of Australia. I feel that 1 must disagree with the present Chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, who has said that the sale of Australia’s wheat will not be interfered with. If European countries such as France, Italy and Spain had the opportunities and the privileges that we have enjoyed in exporting wheat to the United Kingdom, they could far outbid any offers that we are likely to make. While we have had free entry for our wheat in the United Kingdom market, wheat from countries like France has been subject to heavy duty in that market. The imposition of a heavy duty virtually increases the cost of production in the producing country. However, if Britain were to enter the European Common Market, the situation would be reversed, and France, for example, would, at our expense, receive privileges and advantages similar to those that we now enjoy.
I come now to meat/ Australia’s exports of lamb are a small item compared with the lamb exports of countries like New Zealand, hut they are still quite prominent in maintaining the value of our meat exports. Beef, of course, plays a bigger role in our economy. With the north of Australia being developed as it is - thanks to this Government, I suggest - the beef industry will play an even bigger part in our economy in the future. It is interesting to note that Australia’s exports of lamb to the United Kingdom have not kept pace with Britain’s imports of lamb. In 1957, the United Kingdom imported 274,000 tons of lamb, of which Australia supplied 24,000 tons. In 1958, the United Kingdom’s lamb imports totalled 275,000 tons, of which Australia’s quota was 29,000 tons. In 1959, Britain imported 289,000 tons of lamb, the Australian quota being 25,000 tons. In 1960, imports of lamb by Britain totalled 318,000 tons, of which Australia supplied 23,000 tons. Honorable members will see from these figures that the United Kingdom’s imports of lamb have been steadily increasing and that our exports of that commodity to Britain have been decreasing. A check of sales of beef to the United Kingdom by
Australia will reveal a similar trend. Although Australia’s sales of lamb to Britain are small, sales by New Zealand are not so small, being about ten times the volume supplied by Australia. Bearing in mind that Australia and New Zealand are very close, both geographically and otherwise, I feel that we have a certain responsibility to that country because if we lose a market, such as the meat market, New Zealand will suffer in like manner.
Before concluding my remarks on the Common Market, I should like to say how indebted we are, first, to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and, secondly, to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) for their contributions on this issue. I believe that they will continue to ensure that Australia’s interests will not be lost sight of when any negotiations are proceeding.
The United Kingdom has two very great responsibilities. Its first responsibility is to keep the British Commonwealth of Nations the great force that it was intended to be, and its second responsibility is to accept its obligations in Europe in meeting the threat of the common enemy. I am sure that we all understand the present position in Europe. It is a case of hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
President de Gaulle, commenting on the United Kingdom’s proposed entry into the Common Market, stated -
Britain must come to the Common Market but without putting conditions.
The French Prime Minister, Monsieur Debre, said -
The European Common Market must be applied to agriculture. If not there will be neither Common Market nor Europe.
I believe that those last few words are very important.
I could cover many other subjects in this debate, but I have not sufficient time to do so. However, I should like to refer briefly to the Commonwealth Development Bank. While I appreciate the allocation of £5,000,000 that has been made to the Development Bank, I feel that it is not nearly enough. However, time will tell. We shall soon learn whether we shall need more than that £5,000,000 to enable us to carry on for the ensuing twelve months. We should urge the Treasurer, and the Government, to allocate additional money to the
Development Bank if additional money is required, because, after all, the ultimate aim of every true Australian is to develop this country, particularly the north, and to increase our population. By these means, we shall lift Australia’s rating to that of a country of world acclaim.
We must remember, however, that the development of Australia is not entirely limited to our northern areas. Ample opportunities for development exist even in Victoria. Although Victoria is the smallest State in the Commonwealth, it is the most highly developed. I remind honorable members of the success of the soldier settlement scheme in Victoria. There are settlements at Yanakie, in Gippsland, and at Heytesbury, in the western districts. The latter is well known to the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Mackinnon), who has taken a personal interest in it. The Australian Mutual Provident Society has developed areas in South Australia and Victoria. I am concerned mainly with the Kaniva district, which is on the South Australian border. Thousands of acres of scrub land there are being rolled, cleaned up, sown and brought into production. The land now is worth about £15 an acre and is carrying two sheep to the acre. Many cattle are also being carried. This proves the point that if only we can get money for development we shall advance tremendously.
Another matter to which I should like to refer briefly relates to the proposed increase in social service benefits including age and invalid pensions and repatriation payments. I cannot understand why the increase in war pensions was not accompanied by an increase of the allowance that is paid to the wife of a repatriation pensioner. For many years the amount has remained unaltered but I have yet to hear any Minister give a reason for this. The other point on which I differ from the Government relates to the difference between the 100 per cent, war pension and the pension paid to a totally and permanently incapicitated exserviceman. On nearly every occasion that there is a pension increase, the 100 per cent, rate goes up by 5s. and the T.P.I, rate by 10s.. No allowance is made for the ex-serviceman who is situated between the 100 per cent, rate and the T.P.I, rate. Possibly the Minister can explain the reason for this.
While on the subject of repatriation let me deal with the onus of proof provisions of the Repatriation Act which have created so much discussion both inside and outside this chamber. I support the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney) in this matter. The onus of proof provisions of the act refer to a doubt in the minds of members of the tribunal and not in the particular exserviceman’s mind. Many ex-servicemen say, “ My local doctor says that I am entitled to a pension but when I go to the Repatriation Department the tribunal says that I am not.”
– Why not make representations about this matter to the Government which you support?
– No doubt the honorable member for Reid will have an opportunity to state his views later in the debate. I believe that the doubts associated with the onus of proof provisions of the act should be cleared up. The ex-servicemen feel that they have the benefit of any doubt when in reality they have not.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King) has just made an astonishing admission. Last Thursday when the onus of proof provisions of the Repatriation Act were under discussion he had an opportunity to vote with the Opposition. Instead, he slavishly followed the Government, just as the satellites in the Country Party always do. Of course, their only concern is to be part of the rubber stamping system of this Government. I have listened to-night in pain to the honorable member for Wimmera, the barking member for Richmond (Mr. Anthony) and the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth), none of whom has realized that the document which we are debating is concerned with people. Its main concern is not overseas balances or stability; it is people, but I have looked and listened in vain for any indication that the Government of the members of the Country Party have any understanding of what is happening in this country to-day. Has the honorable member for Wimmera any understanding of what it means for 113,000 people to be unemployed? For half an hour we have heard him skirting around the boundaries of Rome while the people who are his best and most important customers - the ones who can ensure the prosperity of the Wimmera district - are out of work and suffering. But we heard not a sound from him. lt is a dangerous omen for the people of Australia that a government which has the degree of power that this Government has acquired in twelve years should be so ignorant of what its actions mean to the people. When the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) steps into the Parliament with his annual Budget he brings to this place a document which ought to carry with it the hopes and aspirations of a nation. But we look in vain for anything to indicate that it carries with it any such hopes and aspirations. I believe that this Budget is philosophically indefensible, nationally disastrous and politically and financially doctrinaire. We in this Parliament, and indeed the people of Australia, ought to throw it out immediately. This Budget expresses dangerous philosophical attitudes. Nothing indicates that better than the speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in a telecast and broadcast to the nation on 8th June, 1961. He stated -
Now you may say, “ Well all this business in Australia has created great trouble; there’s a little unemployment; there’s some loss of confidence “ - and I’ll say something about that in a moment - “ Isn’t this a great price to pay for controlling your overseas funds, and controlling the inflation? “ Well it isn’t a great price to pay.
The Prime Minister is reported in the Melbourne “Herald” of 3rd June, 1961, in this way -
The Prime Minister, Mr. Menzies, told graziers yesterday that nobody could get rid of an inflationary boom without treading on somebody’s corns. “You can’t do it without hurting somebody,” he said. “It is the duty of a practical statesman to select the corns and not to be afraid to tread on them to achieve the great objective for millions of people “.
What exactly does that mean? It means that the Prime Minister, supported by the Liberal Party and the Country Party, coldly, callously and calculatingly victimized a group of the Australian people in order to achieve what the members of those parties thought was a legitimate financial aim. The term they have used is “ stability “. They are concerned only with the overseas balance of payments. I say that the concern of this Parliament should be the people of Australia. They are our principal concern. This multitudinous, platitudinous series of abstractions which the Treasurer has called a Budget speech, and which I have read carefully three times, assaults, I believe, the very spirit of a democratic nation. If one cares to examine it less superficially than I have seen done so far by honorable members opposite, one realizes that it contains the very basic tenets of the power politics and the fascist tendencies which the people of the world have rejected. If you say that you have the right to sacrifice individual people or groups of people for the benefit of the nation, and exercise that right, you are sacrificing individuals for abstractions. You have no right to do that. It is indefensible. Therefore, I say that the Budget is philosophically indefensible. It is time the people of Australia realized that they are in the hands of a government which holds this view of human beings. Throughout the whole of the document the Government indicates that it is not concerned at all with the tragedy and hardship flowing from unemployment.
If you read the document you will see that the Treasurer does mention unemployment, but he regards it not terribly seriously. He does not propose to take any immediate action to alleviate unemployment. On the other hand, if we turn back to the speech delivered by him in November of last year-
– Where does he say that?
– You will have a chance in a moment to point out the kind of action that will produce results that will relieve unemployment. If we turn to what the Treasurer said in November last, we find that he regards over-employment as really serious. He said that over-employment was a serious matter, and that it created serious shortages of labour. I emphasize that that was as recently as November of last year. It would seem that, to him, a serious shortage of labour calls for immediate action, whereas unemployment calls for no action. These are serious matters for the consideration of the people of Australia.
We realize, by reading the document under discussion and examining the speeches made by Government members during the last six or eight months, that this Government has no idea what it is doing or where it is going. In his Budget speech the Treasurer says -
We share the view, lately expressed by many leading men in trade and industry, that the ebb in production and sales has in the main gone about as far as it is likely to go and that an upturn will occur soon.
More platitudes! On the other hand, on 9th August - only a week or so ago - the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures issued this statement -
The situation now is such that the business climate is not yet showing any appreciable signs of improvement.
The Chamber of Manufactures then goes on to give the causes and states -
The most disturbing fact is that the returns coming in reveal a still further deterioration of the employment situation which would make it sheer folly to predict when an upturn is likely.
That document comes from the people most closely and intimately concerned with the employment situation in Australia.
– Read on.
– It is quite an impressive document, with charts and scales. I am sure that the honorable member for Corangamite, with his high skill and education, ought to be able to follow it just as easily as I can. In my left hand I hold the Budget speech delivered by the Treasurer, the man to whose care and keeping are entrusted the hopes and aspirations of a nation. In the other hand I hold the document issued by the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures. One contradicts the other. Which are we to believe - the one which is documented with statistical appendices of a prodigious nature, or the one which is full of vagueness and platitudes? We on this side believe that the Treasurer’s Budget ought to be rejected.
This Budget is a continuation of the policies introduced last November, which I believe were disastrous to the nation. That they were disastrous can be most easily demonstrated by looking at the unemployment situation. I propose to show what has happened to the people of Australia. Imagine the Treasurer coming into this chamber and saying, “This evening a great calamity has occurred. A town as large as Toowoomba, in Queensland, or the City of Bendigo has been removed from the map or destroyed.” If you examine the statistics you will find that 8,000 more houses were built in the first six months of last year than were built in the first six months of this year. By its deliberate action, this Government has removed a potential city from the Australian scene. That effect flows through every department of industry! Therefore, 1 say that the Government’s actions, perpetuating, as they do, the doctrine of abstractions which was adopted last November, have been disastrous to the nation.
Now let us consider the unemployment situation, which seems to mean nothing whatsoever to honorable members on the Government side. I happen to represent in this Parliament one of Australia’s largest manufacturing areas. It is, strangely enough, the conceit of the Country Party that it represents the country areas of Australia, but many country areas in Australia are represented by Labour men. Labour is the only nationally representative party. We represent such areas as Leichhardt and Kennedy in Queensland, Eden-Monaro, Macquarie and Darling in New South Wales, Grey in South Australia, Braddon, Wilmot and Bass in Tasmania, and Bendigo in Victoria. They are all large country areas represented by Labour men.
Let us see what the Government has managed to do to the work force of Australia in the last six or ten months. In that time, it has removed from productive activity some 5 per cent, of the people. I would remind those people who heard, by mischance, the quotations made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) - who turned his thoughts back to July, 1949, to the period when the coal strike was at its height - that when this Government took office in December, 1949, there were only 703 people receiving the unemployment benefit in Australia. I think at the present moment more than 60,000 people are receiving the unemployment benefit. Some twelve years ago, this Government was handed the control of a country in which unemployment had become rare, but it has achieved a state of affairs in which there are now 113,000 people unemployed. I suppose that number would represent half the population of Newcastle, but there would not be 113,000 workers in the Newcastle area. By its policy, this Government has removed from productive activity one out of every twenty of the Australian work force. Imagine what that means to the nation. That, again, is the result of a financial doctrine which, in the end, is folly. It is the result of Government action carried out deliberately, callously and with a complete disregard for the human hardship created by it.
Let us examine the hosiery industry of Australia for a moment. We on this side believe that the present policy of unrestricted imports is folly in the extreme. In the cities of Brunswick and Coburg there are five of Australia’s seven largest hosiery manufacturing establishments. Hosiery manufacturing is an industry which is of tremendous importance to 50 per cent, of the Australian people. I do not quite know how the women of Australia do it, but every year they manage to use up some 2,700,000 dozen pairs of stockings. That is about 36,000,000 pairs of stockings. Australia’s total productive capacity is 2,800,000 dozen pairs of stockings. It will be seen, therefore, that even before the relaxation of import controls we were producing some 100,000 dozen pairs of stockings more than the women of Australia could reasonably use. When import controls were removed, buyers for the big stores of Australia were on Qantas, Pan-American and K.L.M. aeroplanes heading for Hong Kong, Western Germany and the United Kingdom in particular. Before many months had passed, the shops of Australia were starting to fill their shelves with the products of those countries. Every shelf that was filled was a potential cause of unemployment for Australians and unemployment did result. It is folly in the extreme to believe that any Australian industry can survive against competition from the products of the United Kingdom and Western Germany, to mention two countries which have high standards of living. In those countries their working conditions are not so good, for a start. In the second place, the manufacturers will not extend greater credits to the big stores of Australia. The result was that every consignment of stockings that the Government’s policy brought into Australia stilled another spindle in the factories of Brunswick and Coburg. One does not need to be very bright to see that. One factory was employing 500 people last Christmas and now it is employing only 300.
– Did the factory apply for emergency protection?
– Even the honorable member for Hume should know that women wear stockings. Australia was producing just about enough to supply the Australian demand. The trade was pretty finely balanced. Every pair of stockings the Government brought in resulted in ten minutes stillness in one of the spindles of Brunswick or Coburg because every stocking takes ten minutes to make and goes through fourteen processes. When you brought in 300,000 dozen pairs of stockings as you did in three months of this year, that is more than 3,000,000 pairs of stockings. Moreover that means that 2,000,000 cartons containing the stockings were imported with another 500,000 boxes in which the stockings were packed in halfdozens. With the stockings, there were imported wrappings and transfers. Printers, carters and carriers were put out of work because they would have delivered the stockings to the shops, but the imported supplies arrived and went to the big stores in bulk. The Government carried out this disastrous policy in the face of warnings from the Opposition. Anybody could see that this would happen. The moment you brought in goods in excess of capacity, you would be producing unemployment. The most disturbing feature is not so much that the Government has done this, although that is bad enough; but the Government ignored warnings. It went ahead and now it refuses to do anything to relieve the position. The Government will not improve the position in Melbourne or Sydney or elsewhere unless it introduces import controls.
I listened with interest to the statement - one might call it a confession - that was made by the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth). He said that Australia had surrendered its sovereignty under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade and its arrangements with the International Monetary Fund. The Minister is prepared to place more value on Article 12 of Gatt than on 100,000 unemployed. What does it mean when just one factory is affected? What happens when employment in one factory drops from 500 to 300? When you put off 200 workers in a single factory, it means a loss of £3,000 in wages each week.
Multiply that by hundreds of factories in Australia, follow through the chain of reaction that occurs in the complexity of modern industry and what do you produce? The result is disaster in many Australian homes. If the Government believes in production and expansion, are not these the things with which it should be concerned?
This is what has happened to Australian industry in the last eight or nine months: In the first half of last year, we started to build 47,524 houses. In the first half of this year, we started 39,187 houses or 8,337 fewer. As I said earlier, that means in effect that a large Australian provincial city has been removed from the scene by the Government which claims to believe in expansion. What are all the results that flow from that reduction of home construction? How many employees, contractors and subcontractors have lost their jobs? The output of washing machines has fallen from 92,512 to 57,506, and the factories are working at only 26 per cent, of their capacity. Production of refrigerators fell from 43,024 to 31,118 in the first six months of this year. Is any one going to say that every home in Australia which needs a refrigerator or a washing machine has one? Of course, it has not. Compared with last year’s figures, production of television receivers has fallen from 112,509 to 61,048, and the factories are working at only 52 per cent, of their capacity At the same time, this Government is arranging for contracts in Japan, I believe, for television equipment, and is planning to buy silk ties for the men of the Royal Australian Air Force.
The timber industry, which is fundamental to the nation, has been the victim of two separate acts of policy - the removal of import controls and the imposition of the credit squeeze. Last year we produced 582,700,000 super, feet of timber. Production has fallen by 80,000,000 super, feet to 419,800,000 super, feet. At the same time as we have forced a reduction in the output of Australian mills, the Government has endorsed the importation of 1 39,000,000 super, feet of timber. Employment in the timber milling industry is down by 4,000 or 12 per cent. These are figures from the Department of Trade’s own survey of manufacturing industries. A similar position applies throughout the whole struc ture of the manufacturing industries including the motor vehicle industry which the Treasurer chose to be the chopping block for his special measures, as well as the steel industry and others. Production of floor coverings is down by 46 per cent. Production of motor vehicles has been reduced by 28,033 and employment in that industry is down by 17 per cent. How can the country be better off in those circumstances? How can the Government claim to have achieved stability? The Treasurer said that the economy was far healthier for the reduction in these things. How can that be when industry is producing 20,000 or 30,000 fewer washing machines and 8,000 fewer motor vehicles and when we have 113,000 cases of hardship and insecurity produced by unemployment? That is the measure of the Government’s thinking.
One has only to look at the reduction in the number of building industry employees to see the effect of the Government’s policy. A big number of those who are unemployed are highly skilled workers. It cost £2 a week each to enable them to sit in the technical schools of Australia while they were being trained. They have spent a long time in apprenticeships. But in the first six months of this year, industry employed 1,343 fewer plumbers, 2,352 fewer builders’ labourers, 4,412 fewer carpenters, 1,658 fewer bricklayers and 1,749 fewer painters. Let us look behind those figures and fill in the details. When you put 1,794 painters out of work, you stop factories making paint, and when you stop making paint you stop making tins to hold the paint. This year, employment of electricians has fallen by 939. And here is the rub: This Government, which claims to represent private enterprise, has introduced policies which have resulted in 899 fewer contractors being in work and 3,081 sub-contractors have been affected. Surely a government which believes in private enterprise would have taken steps to ensure that those who were the entrepreneurs in industry were kept in employment? In the building industry alone, some 14,000 people have been removed from employment, but, according to the Treasurer, they have only gone to more productive fields of employment. What is more productive than homes when 17,000 or 18,000 people in Victoria are on the waiting list of the State Housing Commission and there are more waiting in New South Wales, and while there is a waiting time of fifteen months for some sections of war service homes? What folly, what idiocy, what a devotion to abstractions it is to believe that the stability of which the Prime Minister spoke and the balance of payments, as the Treasurer calls it, should be considered worth more than these things. On every count on which one choses to examine the result of the Government’s actions and its proposals for the future in the Budget speech, this Government is guilty of high disregard for the rights of the ordinary people of Australia.
– Where are the members of the Government?
– They are in their hollow logs, I suppose. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Osborne), who sits at the table, is here, no doubt, in duty bound. I hope that the Government will answer these charges before the Parliament closes. I understand that the Japanese name their years after animals, and so on. They have the Year of the Serpent and the Year of the Horse. If you examine the thoughts, utterances and policies of this Government, this is the Year of the Sacred Cow - the sacred cow of overseas payments and stability. The Government thinks of the people last. These are the problems that the people of Australia face, and they are looking for an answer.
What is the Government going to do about our north? It proposes to spend £650,000 on roads. When dealing with almost £2,000,000,000 worth of the people’s assets, the Treasurer concentrated at some length on £650,000 worth of roads. I believe that £100,000 is being spent in one municipality in my electorate on private street construction.
What is the Government going to do about Papua and New Guinea - with all the weeps and wails from the Country Party? What is wrong with trying to raise the standard of living of the people of Papua and New Guinea of whom there are about 2,000,000 which is equal to 20 per cent, of the population of Australia? Given a rising standard of living they would provide a readily accessible market for the products of Australia. What is wrong with some dynamic approach to trade with China and
Eastern Russia? Are these things so dreadful? Apparently not. I am informed that you can walk around the shops of Melbourne and find stockings manufactured in Eastern Germany being used as part of the political and financial weapon of this Government to produce what it thought was stability in the hosiery industry of Australia. The Government might deplore the Communist doctrine as, indeed, we do, but it is prepared to use Communist manufactures to bring the manufacturing industries of Australia to heel. We look in vain for some answers to these questions.
What does the Government propose to do about decentralization? What is it going to do to raise the consumption capacity of the people to match our productivity? Is this not the classic challenge of a capitalist society - to keep the consumption of the country matched to its productive capacity? You cannot do it by creating unemployment. You cannot do it by means of a credit squeeze. You cannot do it by bringing in imported goods which throw Australians out of work. I look in vain through the whole Budget speech for any sign that the Treasurer is conscious of his duty in these things. He thinks his duty lies elsewhere. The Treasurer and the Prime Minister are two of a kind. They think their troubles have been caused by calamity howlers.
The hardship induced by unemployment is a calamity of the first order to most Australians these days, lt would not be a bad idea if some honorable members opposite who speed back to their country electorates and their homesteads at the week-end came to Melbourne on the Friday instead, and examined the unemployment situation in some industrial areas. They should talk to the people in charge of the employment offices. Honorable members would find these officials quite human, even if the Minister in charge of them seems to disregard ordinary human values.
I look for some action by the Government to control overseas investment in this country. Is this not part of our problem? Is it not a fact that much of our investment is getting into the hands of overseas countries - that much of the profit that flows from our investments has to be repatriated to those counries? Is not this part of the pattern of the decrease in our overseas balances? Why do we hear no sound about that? Why do we have no sign from the Treasurer that he will do something about the shipping industry? Overseas freights and the invisibles that go with them are costing this country about £200,000,000 a year. Why is there no sign that this Government proposes to do something about these things? We believe that this Government is guilty of creating the position which it set out, so it said in November, to rectify.
What is the anatomy of costs? Is indirect taxation not a direct load on costs? Is not the sum of £7,500 paid by the Brunswick Municipality part of the cost of maintaining that municipality and therefore is passed onto manufacturing concerns there? Are pay-roll tax and sales tax not part of the costs of the country? Is the Government, therefore, not responsible by its own actions for this section of the inflationary spiral? Is the Government’s policy on postal charges and interest rates not part of the costs? Why is it that members of the Australian Country Party sit there dumb while the overdraft position of their constituents is made more untenable because the overdraft rate went up 1 per cent, last year? Why do they sit there idly while this is happening all over the community?
Apparently, they do not understand. What has happened to interest rates during the last eight or ten years under this Government? I know that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is interjecting, is greatly concerned for the welfare of his constituents. If he would only come down out of his ivory tower and do a little simple arithmetic, he would get somewhere. When you raise interest rates payable on overdrafts and business loans to manufacturing or other industries you put up prices and costs to people on farms as well. Farmers now getting new overdrafts are paying higher interest rates. This is a governmentinflicted wound. It is the Government’s responsibility.
On this side of the House, we believe that high interest rates are iniquitous. We have no kindly feeling towards the usurers of this country. We realize that the free flow of credit is vital to the expansion of industry and the free flow of trade but we think that the dear money policy inflicted upon this nation is disadvantageous to every person in it. I believe that, on the average, cooperative housing society borrowers have had their charges raised by 12s. 6d. per month as a result of last year’s interest rate increases. The same trend goes through every part of the community. These things are indefensible. What is achieved by higher interest rates, except, perhaps, greater dividends for the banking structure? And why have we not done something about the banking structure which controls 40 per cent, of the hire-purchase industry? Why has the Treasurer not said something about this? Why has action not been taken to acquire the constitutional power necessary for the Government to take action in these matters, about which it pleads at various times to the various powers who control credit facilities? Why do we get no action on these matters?
Why has the Government not given consideration to the question of cheaper power for the community? Is it not a fact that the cost of power from the Snowy Mountains scheme will be almost doubled as a result of the Government’s ridiculous decision to charge interest rates on the moneys invested in it even though they came from the revenue of this country?
The TEMPORRAY CHAIRMAN (Hon. N. J. O. Makin). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I do not propose to follow the honorable member for Wills (Mr. Bryant) through that forest of half-truths and illogical statements which he produced during a debate which I believe merits the most sincere study. But I want to complain to him about one thing: I would be more grateful to him if he had not emptied this place prior to my speech. [Quorum formed.]
The Budget debate each year provides an opportunity for a full and frank discussion of Australia’s past, present and future economic policies and its prospects. It would be no exaggeration to say that on this occasion the complexities of the world political and economic situation provide as difficult a background for the formation of Australia’s fiscal policy as may be seen at any time, excluding, of course, periods of war and immediate war threat.
We are to-day living in a world of rapid and far-reaching changes, from which Australia, like any other fast-expanding country, cannot hope to insulate its own economy while providing a steady and sufficient basis for developmental policies which require due consideration being given to so many factors beyond our immediate control. Our own internal expansion and the problems surrounding a rapidly growing population, the struggle for satisfactory export markets and the constant requirement to increase employment opportunities for our growing work force, coupled with the ever-present necessity to curb internal inflation, which is a problem everywhere in the world to-day, would in themselves be sufficiently difficult hurdles to surmount. In addition, we are faced with complications arising from changing political and economic influences throughout the world, which must have a bearing on our own prospects.
I could, perhaps, make clear what I mean in this connexion by directing attention to several events of outstanding importance which recently have helped to complicate, directly or indirectly, Australia’s general overseas political and economic relations. The first has been the falling price levels of many of the commodities on which we rely to provide our export income. As was mentioned in a previous debate in this chamber, if the value of our export items had remained at the level of 1953 - and that was not the boom year for wool - we would now be receiving an export income of about £1,300,000,000 instead of between £800,000,000 and £900,000,000. The second recent event of importance is the financial crisis through which the United Kingdom has been passing, and which has possibly spurred her to seek entry into the European Economic Community, of which I will say something more later.
While the United Kingdom remains om greatest market, it is obvious that any dislocation of her buying power must directly affect us and prejudice our overseas income. Moreover, when a considerable proportion of our overseas funds is held in sterling, any weakness in that currency must react against us. In passing, it is an interesting fact - and I believe it has not escaped the notice of thoughtful people in Australia - that the steps taken by the British Government to correct its immediate problems follow closely on those taken in Australia to deal with a somewhat similar set of circumstances, the flight of sterling and the rising tide of internal inflation.
It may assist the committee if I remind honorable members of the measures that were taken by the British Government, and, which were provided for in the last Budget prepared by that Government. First, the bank rate was raised from 5 per cent, to 7 per cent. We do not follow the same procedure here. That is the normal method adopted in the United Kingdom to control internal credit. It was hoped by this means not only to restrain internal credit but also to reduce the outflow of sterling capital and to restore confidence. Secondly, it was decided to draw from the International Monetary Fund, for immediate and stand-by purposes, 2,000,000,000 dollars. Thirdly, the Government placed a restraint on its overseas defence expenditure. Fourthly, it raised all purchase tax rates by 10 per cent., and it increased the prices of a number of what might be described as non-essential imports by increasing customs and excise duties by 10 per cent. Fifthly, it introduced a pay-roll tax of 4s. per employee per week. Sixthly, it adopted a policy similar to that which had been adopted in Australia, in connexion with what are called special deposits in the United Kingdom and are equivalent to our statutory reserve deposits. The Government increased the amount held on behalf of the trading banks by the Bank of England from 2 per cent, to 3 per cent, of the total deposits held by the banks. Finally, the trading banks were instructed to restrict the advance of finance for items of personal consumption, for hire purchase, and for speculative building. A similar instruction was given to the insurance companies.
It is interesting to note that the measures taken in the United Kingdom to deal with circumstances there were almost identical with those that were taken by the Australian Government to overcome our own difficulties. No matter what individual persons in the community thought of the measures that were adopted in Australia, the fact is that the United Kingdom Government followed the example that had been set by the Australian Government.
The other world event which has complicated our obligations has been the rising tide of world communism. While we may have gained some short-term advantage by the unexpected sale of sugar as a result of the bad relations that arose between the United States of America and Cuba, no one can view the incursion of communism into the Caribbean with any feeling of comfort. But, nearer to home, the spread of Russian and Chinese influence among the new countries of Africa, and the pressures being exerted in South-East Asia, and in particular Laos, have not only increased our defence responsibilities, but have also imposed further financial obligations on us to play our part in strengthening the finances and economies of various countries. The Government, as honorable members will remember, recently announced its intention to contribute towards a move for economic aid to Commonwealth countries in Africa. This is really an extension of the principles embodied in the Colombo Plan.
More recently, the Berlin crisis and the tension that has developed as a result of it, have become, possibly, the greatest danger and the greatest potential cause of a world explosion.
It is as well to consider all these factors in conjunction with our own growing pains before a case is made out against the Australian Government for adopting either cautious or varying economic policies. The Opposition has been very free with the phrase “ stop-and-go policies “. It has found imitators among certain sections of the press and certain elements in secondary industry. But I submit that all these changing circumstances make the fixing of details of policy more than difficult and, in fact, extremely dangerous. My thoughts go back to a period in the early ‘40’s, when some of the present members of the Opposition were Ministers of the Crown, and the government of the day decided that it would be advisable to reduce the quantity of wheat grown in Australia. Permits to grow wheat were restricted in Western Australia, and any one with a knowledge of the wheat industry will remember the circumstances. The restriction was first introduced, I think, to cover the 1942-43 crop, but within two years we had run into one of the worst droughts that had been experienced over a period of a decade or more. The result was that it was necessary to make largescale importations of grain from overseas, at considerable cost and with all the attendant risks.
In the immediate post-war years the Labour Government’s economic advisors were firmly of the opinion that the prospects for the sale of wool in the immediate future were far from bright, especially in view of the large stocks held by the Joint Organization. The inaccuracy of this forecast was soon demonstrated, when not only were current wool clips rapidly disposed of, but little difficulty was experienced in disposing also of the stocks on hand, which included large quantities of inferior types and types normally difficult to sell.
I do not object to long-term planning in ordinary projects. I believe it is a necessity when it is based on known constants and factors which vary little. But when the national economy of a country such as Australia is at stake, an economy which, over the years, has been faced with wide variants, it is fatuous to level criticism when a government is obliged to adopt short-term measures to deal with an immediate situation. Also, apart from purely economic considerations there is the human factor, which is usually carefully ignored by the disciples of socialist planning. Obviously there must be constant objectives, and with the present Government these are the expansion of our population and the expansion of our production and our potential combined with a high standard of living and with the aim of maximum employment - in other words, a growing population with as much political and economic security as it is possible to achieve in this troubled and changing world and, furthermore, a consciousness and willingness to help our less fortunate neighbours. With these objects in view, the demands of our own development, the requirements for increasing provision for such items as social services, repatriation benefits, education, health, defence, and a thousand and one considerations, including increases in departmental expenses following increased wage and salary levels, make it imperative that there must be prudence in apportioning the national revenue to meet these various demands.
The Government, by its fiscal measures of last year, has incurred a high degree of criticism and indeed open hostility from certain sections of the community, and I would be very pleased if I could stand here and say a stage had been achieved which would make a continuation of the severity of these measures no longer necessary. In fact, a number of them has already been relaxed, but with a sense of responsibility for our primary industries, for which the restraint of inflation is so vital, much as it might be attractive politically to compromise, and to return to the boom conditions to deal with which these measures were introduced, I believe it would be disastrous to allow such conditions to return and pose to this or any other government the problem of again intervening with unpopular measures to keep the boom within such bounds as would not prejudice our export industries and ruin those people whose incomes are subject to the full impact of inflation.
The Opposition has gone to great lengths to propound a case for a reintroduction of import licensing and a much freer flow of credit. In fact the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) injected themselves into the recent Victorian State election in no uncertain terms with the object of attracting to the Labour Party in Victoria the support they hoped would result from the unpopularity of the Federal Government’s economic measures. It must nave been quite a shock to these eminent gentlemen to receive the result of that election but, as I understand that the failure of Labour on this occasion is a matter for internal inquiry, I will treat the matter as being sub judice and will say no more about it. However, it might be appropriate to mention a little story in view of the great exploits of Richie Benaud and his fine team of cricketers overseas. It applies to the old game of cricket and also to the nonsuccess of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the sortie they made into Victoria. A celebrated English amateur batsman was on one occasion given out leg before wicket by an equally well-known umpire. As he wandered back on his long journey to the pavilion the batsman expressed to the umpire his disagreement with the decision, and the latter retorted, “You weren’t out, weren’t you? Look in the paper to-morrow morning and see whether you were out or not.” I think that applies particularly to the efforts of the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition when they read the newspapers the following morning and saw the election results.
The success of the Bolte Government in Victoria in an election which was supposed by honorable gentlemen opposite to have been fought on Federal issues brought out two points which helped to reinforce my confidence, if it needed reinforcing, in the overall commonsense of the voting public of Australia. First, they realized that the present Victorian Government has given better leadership, greater development and more constructive practical legislation than any previous government in that State in the experience of this generation; and secondly, the clumsy attempt of Federal Opposition leaders and members to intervene in what was a private Victorian struggle was not acceptable, and, moreover, reacted to the detriment of the unfortunate Victorian Labour candidates.
The House recently had an opportunity to discuss the implications of the announcement of the Prime Minister of Great Britain that an approach was to be made with a view to Great Britain becoming a member of the European Economic Community. In a rather hysterical and not constructive approach the Leader of the Opposition accused the Government of being dilatory in this matter and of not giving sufficient thought to the effect on Australia’s export industries which would follow from the tariff barriers which might be raised after Britain’s entry. We have had this shadow hanging over our heads for four years, and in the meantime the Government has given the matter every consideration, as has been explained by the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Swartz). I suggest to honorable members opposite that if they want to get a little more background information about this subject they should turn to “ Hansard “ of 9th March, 1960, and study the speech of the member for Darling Downs during the debate on the Address-in-Reply. They would then be better informed and perhaps would not be shooting in the dark. All I can say on this subject is that for years the Government, through the Department of Trade, has been very actively pursuing the policy of developing and exploring alternative markets with a degree of vigour and imagination which is a credit to it.
I believe that the difficulties which face the European Economic Community in arriving at a mutually acceptable formula for the integration of agriculture within the tariff framework of the Rome agreement will give us some breathing time to develop the groundwork already laid. However, as mentioned earlier in my remarks, this is an era of change through which we are passing and it is not possible to provide for all the contingencies which might arise out of the blue. The rather disturbing feature of the Treaty of Rome is the possibility which exists for an amendment to the schedule of items which may be subject to outside tariff conditions. For instance, wool is not included at the moment, and there seems to be some relief that this is so. But from my reading of the treaty it could easily follow that pressures from the huge synthetic interests within European Economic Community countries could, by political pressure based on employment figures, bring about exactly the same result as has faced Australia in the United States of America, much to our disadvantage. After all, economic self-sufficiency seems to be the pattern of modern development, and what would be more subject to some form of restriction than imports of a commodity such as wool which, apart from the United Kingdom, is hardly produced in any other European Economic Community country? However, the sections of the Treaty of Rome dealing with agricultural tariffs will not be readily or easily worked out. There are too many conflicting interests, particularly if the United Kingdom joins. Despite the rapid progress which has already been made in equalizing tariffs and in other directions my guess, for what it is worth, is that a lot of time could be wasted on speculating, here and in other places, on the timing and the nature of the final agreements, particularly for those items with which Australia is directly concerned.
There is not much comment that I wish to make on the details of the Budget, as I feel this is more a general debate and I have always tried to approach it on that basis, because opportunities exist to discuss the details of the Budget when dealing with the various bills directly arising from it. However, we believe that increases in social service and repatriation pensions are justified; and it was obvious that some substantial increase was demanded for unemployment relief.
In relation to primary industry various suggestions have been thrown out to the effect that there was a need to give some encouragement to those responsible for producing the main items on which we depend for our export income. The Budget does contain some minor taxation relief which will to a degree benefit primary producers. But short of introducing additional farm aid subsidies, which our economic position could hardly justify, I believe the greatest benefit that could accrue to our primary industries rests in the Government’s ability to restrain internal inflation and keep the cost level down so that our exporting industries can continue to play their major role in supporting the expansion of this great country. I should mention also that provision has been made for additional capital for the Development Bank. I believe that will be of value, but how far it will go is difficult to forecast at this moment.
In conclusion, 1 should like to say that in an election year there is always the desire, and the opportunity, for a government to be big-hearted, with its eye on the ballot boxes, but on this occasion a record of steady progress, coupled with due restraint, will win more public approval than an attempt to delude the people with uneconomic measures. We have many vast projects in view during the next decade. The Minister for the Interior referred to the speech made by the Governor of New South Wales in opening the Parliament in that State. We know of the huge expansion of the aluminium industry and of various other developments of that type within Australia. I think that in a debate of this sort honorable members opposite should be really constructive and should inform our oil prospectors where they can find oil in commercial quantities in Australia. Were they to do that, they would make a contribution.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1961
Without requests -
Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1961
Wool Tax Bill (No. 2) 1961
House adjourned at 10.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
2. (c) The imposition of a temporary duty was recommended in the reports on -
Furnishing Fabrics (20.12.60).
Industrial Nitrocellulose (13.1.61).
Edible Gelatine (13.4.61).
Nitrogenous Fertilisers (17.5.61).
Woollen Piecegoods (19.5.61).
Fine Papers, Coated Papers and Paperboards (23.5.61). (Recommendation applied only to paperboards and certain coated papers.)
Electric Clocks including Movements (8.6.61).
Copper and Brass Strip (27.7.61). (Recommendations did not cover copper and brass strip for radiators for engines, &c.)
Heavy Papers and Paperboards (27.7.61). (Recommendations applied only to certain types of these papers and boards.)
Additionally, in his report on Acrylic Yarns (22.3.61), the Deputy Chairman recommended that consideration be given to taking up with the Japanese Government the question of that Government restricting the export of acrylic yarns to Australia.
k asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The Export Development Council and the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council were established in July, 19S8, to advise the Government on matters relating to the development of exports and secondary industry respectively. Recommendations of these councils, both on matters referred to them by the Government and those made on their own initiative, are considered as confidential between the councils and the Government. If this were not so, council members might not be able to express their opinions so freely, particularly on contentious issues, and much of the present value of the councils to the Government would be lost.
Transport of Cattle by Sea.
n asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
The Commonwealth Government has received certain representations from the Queensland Government with regard to assistance towards the cost of transporting cattle from the Gulf of Carpentaria region to meat works on the east coast. These representations are under consideration. The question of the economics of sea transport of cattle in the north is at present being investigated by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics whose report is expected within the next two months. This survey will study such questions as the comparison between the costs of water, droving and rail transport.
son asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
e asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Wheat Board carries the whole of the responsibility. The Australian Government is therefore not implicated in the deal in any way. In addition to the firm contract for 750,000 tons quoted above, the delegation has agreed to provide 250,000 tons for shipment on 15th November to 31st December if mutually agreed at the time between the Chinese buyers and the board.” 2. No.
y asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer: -
All Australian Electra airliners have been modified at the Lockheed factory and all have been operating at normal speeds since 10th June. Ansett-A.N.A., T.A.A. and Qantas made the:r own arrangements with the manufacturer for dates for the modification work.
Swearing-in of Governor-General.
d asked the Prime Minister, npon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What amounts were received by himself and each of the other Ministers in travelling allowances during each of the last three years?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Expenditure on travelling allowances for all Ministers and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition is shown in the Estimates for the Prime Minister’s Department under the item “Travelling Allowances - Ministers and Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition “. Expenditure under this item during each of the last three years was- 1958-59, £27,783; 1959-60, £36,992; 1960-61, £34,465. The rates of travelling allowances payable to the Prime Minister, Ministers and the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition are as recommended in 1959 by the Committee of Inquiry into the Salaries and Allowances of Members of the Commonwealth Parliament.
e asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
How many migrants of all nationalities were accommodated in hostels or camps at 30th June, 1961?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The number of migrants of all nationalities accommodated in migrant hostels and centres at 30th June, 1961, was 30,130. This figure includes 10,271 workers and 19,859 dependants. The great majority are living in hostels located in areas where the breadwinners are employed.
d asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The Government’s views on the desirability of maintaining a free-enterprise economy are well known, and Government policy has been directed to this end in the television and other fields. 3 and 4. When I announced the Government’s decision on the grant of licences for commercial television stations in country areas, I made it clear that, whilst for the time being one station only, operated by a local independent company, would be licensed in each area, this did not involve a decision that only one licence will be granted in any of these areas, or that there was any understanding with any of the successful applicants for an exclusive licence. I explained that, on the contrary, as the service develops we may consider the grant of further licences.
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
z asked the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
Is any further information available regarding the biological control or eradication of lantana?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
In my reply to a question on lantana given on 30th September, 1960, it was pointed out that the practical prosecution of research into the control of lantana by insects introduced into Queensland from tropical America is in the hands of the Queensland Department of Public Lands. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has contributed financially to the early exploratory work associated with the introduction and has been concerned in the scientific discussions that have taken place on the matter from time to time and shares with the Queensland department the responsibility for recommendations concerning the introduction and liberation of planteating insects for the control of this weed. The following additional information is now available: -
Syngamia haemorrhoidalis -
Southern Queensland: Although many liberations have been made in various districts, the position is unsatisfactory and is much less favorable than twelve months ago, when the insect appeared to be firmly established in several places. In recent inspections evidence of survival has been obtained in one area only. Very dry conditions for the greater part of 1960 were most unfavorable.
Central Queensland: Liberations made in the Mackay and Rockhampton districts in 1959-60 show no evidence of survival. Very dry conditions were experienced during 1960.
North Queensland: Most releases which were made in late 1959 in the CairnsMossmanAtherton Tableland district have survived. There is no evidence that the insect is dispersing, in that in various cases it has been found from one to five miles from release points. Further releases were made in April, 1961. 1959-60 releases in the Innisfail and Ingham districts are at present being inspected and further information concerning their establishment is expected to be available shortly. Further liberations were made in the Innisfail district early in 1961.
Catabena esula - In two of the f our localities where it is known to be established, the insect has continued to disperse and in both cases can now be found over an area of 50 to 100 square miles; furthermore, it has definitely increased in these localities, although its population is not sufficiently heavy to show appreciable damage to Lantana.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers: - 1. (a) 2,303 R.A.A.F. personnel applied for married quarters in the 1960-61 financial year. (b) 1,122 married quarters were allotted in the same period (this figure includes 598 units supplied under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement).
The R.A.A.F. does not aim to house all its married personnel in married quarters as many of those employed on bases near to cities or large towns live in their own homes or in private rental accommodation. However, in relation to the total number of personnel who have applied for quarters, it should be noted that the overall married strength of the total force has been increased from 51 per cent. to 58 per cent since 12th October, 1960.
d asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Services of State Judges and Officials in Commonwealth Jurisdictions.
m asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1. (a) Although in New South Wales and Victoria jurisdiction in matrimonial causes is usually exercised by certain judges who sit regularly, but not exclusively, in this jurisdiction, every judge of the Supreme Court in any State may - and in some States does - exercise jurisdiction in matrimonial causes, (b) Various officers of the Supreme Court in each State; the numbers are not known to the Commonwealth.
y asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Has a full-time executive officer been appointed for the National Health and Medical Research Council in accordance with the council’s resolution last October?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is - No.
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Customs and Excise, upon notice -
– The Minister for Customs and Excise has furnished the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Australian Fertilizers Limited, Sydney, New
Commonwealth Fertilizers and Chemicals
Limited, Melbourne, Victoria.
Cresco Fertilizers (Western Australia) Limited,
Adelaide, South Australia.
Cumming Smith & Mount Lyell Farmers
Fertilizers Limited, Perth, Western Australia. Sulphide Corporation Proprietary Limited,
Boolaroo, New South Wales.
Sulphuric Acid Limited, Port Adelaide, South
Bounty on sulphuric acid produced from lead sinter gas ceased to be payable on 31st December, 1960. Broken Hill Associated Smelters Proprietary Limited, Adelaide, South Australia, received bounty for acid produced from lead sinter gas up to 31st December, 1960.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 August 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610822_reps_23_hor32/>.