23rd Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior a question regarding the recruitment of staff to perform the work necessary at the Commonwealth general election to be held on 9th December next. Will the Minister advise divisional returning officers to engage, as far as possible, qualified persons who are fully unemployed? In view of the temporary nature of such work will he also arrange that the income received therefrom will be disregarded in assessing eligibility for unemployment benefit?
– I am grateful to the honorable member for informing me of the date of the general election. I had not known it myself. As to the other aspects of his question, the Chief Electoral Officer endeavours to engage for electoral work on polling day people whom he thinks will be most suitable for the task. However, I certainly undertake to ask him to bear in mind the means of people whom he employs, but, as I said, the prime consideration is suitability to do the necessary job efficiently.
– My question to the Minister for Health concerns the alleged shortage of dentists in Australia. I ask: ls there a distinct shortage of dentists in Australia? If so, is it due to either of the reasons given by the New South Wales Minister of Health and the British Dental Association, both of whom suggest that the reason is financial, while the British Dental Association gives as an additional reason that more adequate experience is desired by Australian dentists? Or, finally, is it the most popularly believed reason - the attraction of the United Kingdom national health service?
– There is a very considerable shortage of dentists in Australia. I hesitate, personally, to think that the prime cause of it is financial. I do not really believe that people who take up a scientific profession do so, in the main, merely for the financial gain they can get out of it. I cannot, of course, tell the honorable gentleman all the causes of this shortage. It is quite true that a great deal of experience can be gained abroad. Members of both the medical and the dental professions in this country frequently go abroad to gain experience, and 1 understand that quite a number of Australian dentists remain in England. Whether this is due to the attractions of the national health service in the United Kingdom, I do not know. If it is, I suggest that the alleged statement, if it has been made, is probably an overstatement, because I cannot fail to think that there are many excellent opportunities for dental practice in this country..
– I address my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. What is the present position in regard to the proposed standardization of the railway between Port Pirie and Broken Hill? Does the absence of any provision even for survey work in the Budget presented last week mean that both the Menzies Government and the Playford Government in South Australia have lost interest in this important development and defence project? Lastly, will the Minister explain what was meant by the reference in the Treasurer’s Budget speech to legal action initiated by South Australia on this question of railway standardization?
– I know the honorable member’s interest in this work, and I should like to answer all his questions. However, the last question that he asked really explains why I cannot answer the others. A writ has been taken out in the High Court of Australia by the South Australian Government concerning contractual obligations. Therefore, the matter is sub judice and I cannot say more in reply to the honorable member’s questions.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question without notice. I ask whether he will consider the possibility of raising a special public unemployment loan to supplement the payments of unemployment benefit for the purpose of commencing certain suitable public works so that those unemployed persons who are willing to take temporary work can be paid the basic wage. By this means, the public would obtain some return, as opposed to the present system of unemployment relief, which brings bo return at all, and the unemployed migrants and others could be given an opportunity to work temporarily until they obtained permanent employment. I am sure that such a loan would be strongly supported.
– The loan programme for the financial year is determined at a meeting of the Australian Loan Council at which the Premiers of the six States and representatives of the Commonwealth are in attendance. This year, an agreed programme of £240,000,000 for State works was adopted, £111,000,000 being agreed on as the ceiling for borrowings for local government and semi-governmental purposes. This was an increase of £10,000,000 over the programme for State works for last year and £5,000,000 over last year’s programme for semi-governmental and local government borrowings. Since this programme was agreed on, the Commonwealth has intimated its willingness to agree to an additional £5,000,000 over the authorizations under the local government and semigovernmental programmes. Arrangements are being made accordingly in conjunction with the State governments.
We shall be trying to raise as much as the market will supply in loan money for these purposes, but, if the experience of earlier years is any indication, we are not likely to be able to raise the total amount, and we shall have to supply the balance from Commonwealth resources. A public unemployment loan would not, I believe, add to the loan subscriptions by the public. I assure the honorable member for La Trobe that we shall do our best to raise what we can for these other purposes. We are confident that expenditure by the Commonwealth and the State governments under this programme - the Commonwealth programme being separate from it - will provide a valuable stimulus to activity and also additional employment opportunities through the financial year.
– I, also, direct a question to the Treasurer. In answer to a question which I asked him during the last sessional period, he stated that it was undesirable and impracticable for the development of manufacturing industry to continue around Melbourne and Sydney in the next ten years in the way in which it has proceeded up to the present time. I now ask the right honorable gentleman: Is there anything in his Budget for 1961-62 to encourage the establishment of manufacturing industries in country areas? If, as it appears, there is not, when will the Government act to give effect to the Minister’s words in his answer to my previous question? Further, will he give an assurance that the debate on a motion dealing with the decentralization of industry and proposing a national decentralization committee - a debate which was partly conducted during the last sessional period - will be concluded during this session of the Parliament?
– The honorable gentleman purported to give a rather short account of my views on the growth of manufacturing in the major capital cities. 1 have thought, as I think most honorable members and certainly the Leader of the Opposition have thought, that although we had great industrial development in the fifties, there was an unbalanced concentration of this development around the two major capital cities of the Commonwealth. While, of course, industrial development will certainly continue in Melbourne and Sydney during the ‘sixties, we all, 1 hope, look for a greater spread of industrial activity and national development generally throughout Australia.
The honorable gentleman asked how the Budget will assist to achieve this aim. I believe it provides valuable assistance in a variety of ways. It would take rather too much time to detail them here, but some of the projects that are already under discussion with the State governments, and others on which discussion has concluded, will, when brought to fruition, give a very valuable stimulus to development in the more remote parts of the Commonwealth. I will examine the final point as to when debate can proceed on the item of business to which the honorable member has referred. I am not able to give an answer offhand.
– My question is addressed to the Treasurer. As it is generally recognized that restraint of inflationary pressures is of vital importance to our primary industries if they are to continue as our greatest asset and provide at least 80 per cent, of our exports, what effect would the £100,000,000 Budget deficit advocated by the Leader of the Opposition last night have on our economy?
– I think we all agree with the honorable gentleman thai it is vital to Australia’s prosperity and expansion that our great export industries should be able to continue within a cost structure that will enable us to compete on the world’s markets. This tremendously important aspect of our economic life has been in the forefront of the Government’s mind throughout its economic planning over recent years. The forthcoming developments in relation to the Common Market have given increased emphasis to this need. If ever there was a time when it was necessary for us, nationally, to keep a tight hold on costs and prices so that our export industries could be sustained and made more competitive, certainly that time is with us now. Relating all that to the programme outlined by the Leader of the Opposition last night, I can say only that, if ever this country were to experience the misfortune of a Labour administration giving effect to his programme, not only would our export industries be threatened but there would also be grave discouragement of overseas investment in this country, and more of the kind of inflation that we had to check when we took over from Labour in 1949 would be with us again.
– I ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that, in line with negotiations now being carried out with Vickers-Armstrongs (Australia) Proprietary Limited for the sale of Cockatoo Island dockyard, the Government is now negotiating for the sale of Williamstown dockyard to the same firm. When does the Minister propose to make a statement on this matter?
– I would be pleased to make a statement in connexion with both matters if there were any truth in the honorable member’s suggestions. The important thing, of course, is that there is no truth whatever in what the honorable member says.
– Some time ago, the Minister for the Army announced plans for the re-equipment of the Australian Army with new artillery and infantry weapons and other items such as landing craft and light aircraft of both fixed and rotary wing types. I now ask the Minister whether he will indicate the stage that has been reached in this re-equipment process, both for the Australian Regular Army and the Citizen Military Forces.
– I should like to say, first, that I appreciate very much indeed the honorable member’s continuing interest in matters relating to the Army. It is difficult, in the short time at my disposal during question-time, to deal with the whole range of equipment, but I can assure the honorable member that great progress is being made in re-equipping the Army. Dealing with just a few items, it might be of interest if I mention that the FN rifle has now been distributed to the whole of the Regular Army. The majority of the C.M.F. units have been supplied with their quotas, and indeed some FN rifles have already been supplied to the cadets. Quantities of the M.60 machine-gun and the 106 millimetre anti-tank recoilless rifle have been received already and more will be received towards the end of this year. We have received our supply of 105 millimetre howitzers, and the 105 millimetre pack howitzers will be received very shortly. The heavy barrel FN rifle-
– I rise to order. The statement which the Minister is making to the House is obviously one which should be made by leave as a Ministerial statement. He will be given leave at the end of question-time if he asks for it.
– Order! This is a very difficult position to handle. A question has been directed to the Minister who has a full right, indeed a responsibility, to answer it as he thinks fit. How he answers the question is a matter for his discretion.
– I am merely trying to give some information that should be of interest to honorable members. I shall not take long to complete it. The honorable member for Darling Downs mentioned light aircraft. This has now been supplied and the Light Aircraft Squadron has been equipped with Bell helicopters and Cessna fixed-wing aircraft. We have also received four LSM’s and they are operating satisfactorily. It is impossible to cover the whole field in the time available to me. I shall supply details of other matters to the honorable member so that he may be informed of the progress being made.
– To restore a bit of sanity to the scene, I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. In view of the statements made yesterday by the Minister, first that it was originally intended that the basic wage would sustain a husband, wife and two or three children, and second that in his opinion the basic wage to-day would sustain more people than that, I ask the Minister whether he will study the result of a gallup poll held in March and May of this year which indicates that the living costs for a family of four is now £18. 14s. a week, and whether he will then be prepared to meet deputations of women’s organizations in each State and discuss his opinion with them so that he can learn something about the facts of life.
– I was asked this question by a member of the press gallery this morning, so I am not taken unawares when the Leader of the Opposition now puts his question to me. The simple answer that I gave was this: Yesterday I expressed no opinions because I do not regard question time as an occasion on which opinions should be expressed. I tried to state the decisions of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and the implications of the recent decisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
– You said “ in my opinion “.
– I expressed no opinions during question time, but simply drew certain conclusions from what the Government and the commission had decided. As to whether I will meet deputations, I have already given an answer to the gentleman of the press who spoke to me, and I am sure he would have conveyed that answer to the Leader of the Opposition.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Will the Minister explain the difference between disallowing an ordinance of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and withholding assent from such an ordinance?
– By acts of this Parliament legislatures were established, one in the Northern Territory and the other in Papua and New Guinea. As to some of the ordinances that are passed by those legislatures, assent can be given by the Administrator of the Territory, and, after such assent has been given, it is possible for the Governor-General to disallow them. In respect of ordinances dealing with a small number of other matters, particularly matters relating to native affairs and land transactions, the Administrator cannot give assent, and they must be reserved for the assent of the Governor-General. In respect of the first class of ordinances the function of the Governor-General is to decide, on the advice of the Executive Council, whether he will disallow them. In respect of the other group of ordinances the function of the Governor-General is to decide whether he will give his assent or withhold it.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. The honorable gentleman has informed me that the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s wireless station in Brisbane has increased its power or is to increase it, and that the power of the station on the Atherton Tableland will also be increased, although the Minister does not know when this will take place. These changes, however, will not give us what we desire, which is an alternative Australian Broadcasting Commission programme in the north. Have all negotiations now ceased in connexion with an alternative programme for north Queensland? If this is so, will the Minister consider reducing by half the licence-fees to be paid by listeners in the north, as they are receiving only half a service?
– As previously announced, we have been planning to improve the broadcasting services in various areas throughout Australia. In Queensland our plans for improvement have included increasing the power of the alternate station, 4QR, in Brisbane, up to the level of Station 4QG, and also increasing the power of the Atherton Tableland station. The honorable member for Leichhardt said that this would not necessarily give to the people of north Queensland the alternative service which they were seeking. In a way, it will give them that service because the increase in power of Station 4QR is designed to throw that signal very much farther than is possible at the present time. He asked, also, whether anything further was being done. This work on the tableland station is proceeding now and I think it should be pretty well complete shortly - during this financial year, at any rate. Until we see the result there will be no further planning in that area. Certainly, I think that the reception which will be obtained as a result of this improvement will justify a continuation of the present licence-fee.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade by saying that, according to a recent report, France increased her export of butter to the United Kingdom from 221 tons for the January-June period of 1960 to 11,234 tons for the same period of this year. I ask the Minister to state how much the Australian butter producer receives per lb. for the butter which he produces. How much in Australian money does the French butter producer receive per lb.? How much does the French producers’ surplus butter bring per lb., in Australian money, on the United Kingdom market? In view of the threat to Australian producers caused by the huge increase in French dumping, will the Minister consider making an approach to the United Kingdom Government with a view to halting French imports to the United Kingdom?
– Since the cessation of bulk buying of Australian butter by the United Kingdom Government our producers have been paid an advance with a final disbursement on realizations after the end of the year. The last year for which complete figures can be cited is 1959-60, when the Australian dairy farmers received 46.4d. per lb. In the same year, according to the United Nations Food and Agricul ture Organization, French farmers received 79d. per lb. in Australian currency. The French system is rather complex and difficult to follow. But during the last few weeks French butter has been sold on the London market at the equivalent of 3 Id. per lb.
Many countries, for reasons that are judged by them to be justifiable, give some price support to primary industries, as we do in this country. A doctrine has been developed in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade that the provision of a subsidy by a government is wrong if it is designed to secure, or has the effect of securing, for the country concerned more than an equitable share of the world market. Our experience of French exports to the United Kingdom has been that high price support at home has tended to give to the French an increasing share of the United Kingdom market. Citing the Gatt doctrine, we, in conjunction with New Zealand, have made representations to the United Kingdom asking that whatever steps are proper should be taken to prevent countries from gaining an increased share of the United Kingdom market at the expense of traditional suppliers such as Australia and New Zealand. The United Kingdom has not yet taken positive action on these representations although on previous occasions it has, with effect, made representations to other governments.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Health a question concerning the unavailability of supplies of Salk vaccine in New South Wales. Will the Minister investigate, as a matter of urgency, the claim that there is a shortage of Salk vaccine and the extent to which immunization activities conducted by the health departments of civic authorities are being seriously impeded and, in some cases, halted because of the lack of supplies? In particular, will the Minister inquire into the reason why a claim has been made that there is only sufficient vaccine at Wollongong for 1,450 injections while about 5,000 applicants are awaiting treatment? Finally, in respect of this issue, will the Minister take every action in his power to ensure that adequate supplies are made available throughout the State and to the health department of the Wollongong City Council?
– The honorable gentleman will no doubt remember that I stated, in reply to a question in the House the other day, that it was expected that within the very near future there would be very large supplies of Australian Salk vaccine available and that in fact - I speak from memory - about 160,000 doses would be available probably within a few days from now. The arrangements that are made for the distribution of Salk vaccine are that the Commonwealth Government distributes it to the State health departments. The vaccine goes straight from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories to the State health departments, which arrange, within their own States, the order of priority of distribution, either to local government authorities or to private practitioners, whichever they decide, in their own judgment, is best. Every one regrets that there has been a shortage of Salk vaccine for some time, but it is expected that the shortage will be completely overcome in the near future.
– My question is addressed to the Prime Minister and it relates to a point I raised in the House earlier this year. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether there has been any success in offsetting the Communist anti-Western influence attained by the widespread distribution, in Indonesia and other South-east Asian countries, of text-books and other literature printed in English by the Foreign Language Publishing House, Moscow, by encouraging the sale in those countries of reliable text-books and other literature published in Australia.
– I would like to have a look into the most recent facts of this matter so that I can give an adequate reply. I will do so and inform the honorable member accordingly.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Labour and National Service. When the honorable gentleman yesterday said to my colleague, the member for Lang, that it must be per fectly obvious to-day that the present basic wage would sustain more than a husband and wife and two or three children, was he expressing his own view or interpreting the judgment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission? If he was interpreting the judgment of the commission, will he provide honorable members with passages in the commission’s latest judgment which would be susceptible of that interpretation?
– First of all, the honorable gentleman has not quoted my exact words. It is perfectly true that I did say that the earlier decisions of the court were based on or related to the fact that the basic wage would sustain a man and wife and two or three children. I then went on to say that it was obvious - I had in mind those decisions, the prosperity loadings which had been given in subsequent years and the increase due to productivity - that you could deduce from what the commission had said that at a minimum - I put this as my own view - the wage would support that same number of people at the same or a better standard of living. I drew a logical conclusion from what the court had said; I did not want to express my personal opinion. That, I think, is a logical interpretation of the series of awards and of what the court and commission have done in recent years. However, if the honorable gentleman wants further details of the argument in support of my contention I will be only too happy to supply them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Services. Can the Minister inform the House of the total expenditure approved by way of subsidies since the inception of the Aged Persons Homes Act? Are there any signs of a decline in the building activities of eligible organizations and is there any truth in the allegation of the New South Wales Minister for Housing that the sum of £3,000,000, surplus to requirements under the Aged Persons Homes Act, has been paid into Consolidated Revenue?
– Taking the latter part of the honorable member’s question first, I can say that there is no truth in the allegation made by the New South Wales
Minister for Housing that a sum of £3,000,000, surplus to the requirements of the Aged Persons Homes Act, has been paid into Consolidated Revenue. These senseless allegations are made only for mischievous political purposes.
As to the other part of the question,I say with some pride that the total expenditure on grants approved under the Aged Persons Homes Act now exceeds £10,600,000. There is no sign of any reduction in the number of applications being received. Indeed, the evidence is to the contrary. In this financial year, which has run but eight weeks, grants totalling not less than £500,000 have been approved under the Aged Persons Homes Act.
– I address my question to the Treasurer. Is it a fact that owing to the Government’s economic policy many people are losing their homes due to their inability to keep up the payments? Is the Treasurer aware of the large-scale repossessions of furniture and other household goods that are taking place in this country as a result of the economic adversity that has been forced upon the people by the Government? Will the Treasurer take immediate action to protect the people by stopping this form of legal robbery?
– No information has come to my notice which would support the statement’s that the honorable member has made. Honorable gentlemen opposite who seek to liken our present circumstances to those of the early ‘thirties should recall the disastrous situation that developed in those years for so many people and note the remarkable contrast. I gather that this matter of repossessions has received some examination by State Premiers, who have it in their own jurisdiction to provide some relief if that is called for. My impression is that, having examined the situation, the Premiers have shown no disposition to move in the manner suggested by the honorable member.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the House when the details of the fourth phase of television development will be announced so that those people in the less-populated country areas who have waited so long for this amenity will know what is happening? In particular, when will the long-suffering people in the south-eastern part of South Australia receive television programmes?
– It will be remembered that some time ago I informed the House that, immediately the Australian Broadcasting Control Board had completed arrangements for the third phase of television, it would proceed with an investigation into the best method of extending television further into the country areas in a fourth phase. The board has been engaged on that task for some time. It is investigating the problems associated with the further extension of television into country areas, including the area to which the honorable member has referred and concerning which he has made so many representations. The board has informed me that it will have the report on this matter in my hands by the end of this month. The report then will be presented immediately to Cabinet for consideration.
– I direct a question to the Treasurer. In view of the right honorable gentleman’s oft-repeated statement that the Menzies Government inherited a highly inflationary situation from the Chifley Government, is it not a fact that whereas in the four years of the Chifley Government’s term inflation increased by 10 per cent. over the whole period, or an average of 2½ per cent. annually–
– Labour was in for longer than four years.
– I am referring to the Chifley Government’s period of office between 1945 and 1949. I am asking about the increase in inflation of 10 per cent. over the whole of that period, or an annual average of2½ per cent. That is the question, and that is the fact.
– Order! The Leader of the Opposition should continue with his question.
– I have to try to make my position clear for the dull intellects on the other side.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not now asking a question.
– They are challenging my question.
-Order! I think that the Leader of the Opposition should ignore the interjections.
– As he is ignoring the Standing Orders.
– I am not ignoring the Standing Orders.
– You have been ignoring them ever since you started.
– Well, I will not do so any more. I again ask: Is it not a fact that in the four years of the Chifley Government’s term inflation increased by 10 per cent, over the whole period, or at an average annual rate of 2i per cent.? Is it not also a fact that inflation increased by 1 00 per cent, in the first ten years of office of the Menzies Government, or at an average annual rate of 10 per cent.? If the Treasurer agrees with this statement of the facts about inflation over the past fourteen years will he now apologize for his unwarranted attacks on the Chifley Government?
– My own recollection of the facts is very much more precise than that of the honorable gentleman. 1 have studied the details, not once but several times, over the last few years, and I can refreshen the honorable gentleman’s memory by reminding him that inflation, which had gravely troubled the then Treasurer, Mr. Chifley, and on which he addressed the House several times within the recollection of all of us who were here at the time, reached 9 per cent, in the final year of Labour’s term of office and was running at the rate of 10 per cent, when the general election was held in December, 1949. The present Government first had the task of checking the inflation then in existence. It also had to contend with another inflationary crisis that was the direct product of the Korean war and the doubling of the price of wool, and to undertake the task of maintaining the very large immigration programme of that period. Admittedly, Sir, we have found it a diffi cult task to reconcile the national growth, population growth and industrial growth wilh the maintenance of price and cost stability. Dealing with the position over recent years, Sir, the last table I saw on the matter showed that we have had rather more success in this direction than have the United Kingdom and certain other comparable economies. But it does remain essentially true that if we are to sustain progress, and export within the requirements of our growing manufacturing industries, inflation must be held in check; and the contrast in attitude between this Government and its policies and the Labour Party and its policies, under the leadership of the honorable gentleman opposite, has been, I think, clearly demonstrated in the course of the present Budget debate.
– I address a question to the over-worked Treasurer. My question, Sir, is relative of the work force surveys conducted by the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics. In order to clear misunderstandings in the minds of some people who protest at the detailed questions to be answered on the work force survey forms, will the right honorable gentleman answer the following points: Is it a fact that provision for penalties exists under the act? Is it a fact that few, if any, prosecutions have been instituted against residents refusing to supply the information required? Is it a fact that the co-operation of all residents should be extended to ensure that these sample surveys are 100 per cent, true and are a helpful guide as to our national development?
– I thank the honorable gentleman for his question and for the way he has put it, because I think that by implication he has supplied the answers to it. It is a feature of our current situation that we are able to use, for economic planning purposes, valuable information of this sort, and one of the features of the post-war period in Australia has been the way in which the resources of the Department of Labour and National Service, using valuable information of this kind, have been able to assist the Government in its economic programming and in ensuring that we make the most effective use of the labour resources of the Commonwealth. I would welcome the co-operation of those who are required to fill in those forms. Whilst power does exist for the imposition of penalties my recollection is that this has been sparingly exercised, if exercised at all. It is by the co-operation of those who are in a position to help in this way that our planning can be made most effective, and we welcome their help.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
Wool Tax Bill (No. 1) 1961.
Wool Tax Bill (No. 2) 1961.
Wool Tax Assessment Bill 1961.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
– I present the following report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Fifty-third Report - The Reports of the AuditorGeneral Financial Year 1959-60.
This fifty-third report is only the second report of your committee to be based exclusively on the annual reports of the Auditor-General, but this inquiry, and the previous one, have confirmed the necessity for a close scrutiny of the matters commented on by the Auditor-General.
There are two matters arising from our inquiries and to which your committee would like to make particular reference. One is the apparent lack of attention which has been shown by some departments to the comments made each year by the Auditor-General. Examples include the delay by Service departments in completing legislation - a matter to which reference was made at some length in your committee’s fiftieth report. Our investigations have again disclosed instances of these delays, and in one case the comments had been made annually by successive AuditorsGeneral since 1943. The second relates to the action taken by a statutory authority in connexion with pay and conditions for staff.
Your committee understands that it is usually the practice to require these authorities to seek the approval of the Public Service Board for the action proposed in these matters, and this would appear to be both a reasonable and desirable requirement. Your committee is concerned that any departure from this practice might occur. The particular instance investigated is still under consideration by the Department of the Treasury which, on becoming aware of the circumstances, sought certain legal advice which was still awaited at the time of our inquiry.
The House will be familiar with the form of the Auditor-General’s reports, which comprise a series of paragraphs each dealing with a particular matter. As these deal with a number of unrelated subjects your committee’s report necessarily is in the form of separate chapters. Each chapter deals with a particular topic, and our comments appear in this report at the conclusion of each chapter.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 22nd August (vide page 360), 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.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, last evening, on behalf of the Opposition, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) moved -
That the first item be reduced by £1.
As honorable members know, that is the traditional way of expressing dissent from the policies of the government of the day and lack of confidence in it. The Leader of the Opposition outlined the reasons why this committee should no longer give its confidence to the Government. He pointed to the ills that beset the nation and to the inadequacy of the remedies provided in the Budget, which he described, as others have described it, as a stay-put budget. This stay-put Budget has been presented at a time when the economy needs a considerable push along. The only difference between this Budget and the previous one is that, twelve months ago, there was apparently some virtue in describing the overall result of the Budget as a surplus. The Budget for 1960-61 showed a final surplus of £15,791,000. Although a surplus of that amount was virtuous twelve months ago, there is apparently virtue now in budgeting for what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) describes as a deficit. The figures that have been provided envisage ‘a deficit of £16,500,000.
The only thing that I want to note about that is that at least there is an admission by the Government that budgets ought to be flexible - thu whether you have a surplus or deficit overall is conditioned largely by the circumstances of the day. In fact, the Treasurer himself noted this, for, as appears at page 36 of “ Hansard “, he said -
The days are long gone by when governments could lay down policies in rigid terms and stick to them indefinitely, come what may.
I want to note one further point in the right honorable gentleman’s speech. As reported at page 35 of “ Hansard “, he stated -
The main impetus to expansion must, of course, come from the buying public on the one hand and from business firms on the other.
Presumably, “ the buying public “ means the consumers. The criticism that must be levelled at this Budget is, in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, that is does not stimulate either the buying public or business firms. A Budget ought to conform with the state of the nation as at the time when the Budget is presented.
Each year, for the last ten years, there has been customarily presented at the same time as the Budget a White Paper on National Income and Expenditure. The White Paper on National Income and Expenditure 1960-61 gives the latest available picture of the Australian economy as it stood at 30th June, 1961. I want to illustrate by reference to that official publication what I have to say in this speech and to demonstrate that the Government is not grappling with the fundamental problems that beset the Australian people. For that reason, this Administration is no longer worthy of the confidence of the people.
The first thing that I think ought to be emphasized before I refer to the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure is that the population in this country is at present rising by something like 200,000 persons a year by natural increase and migration, and estimates suggest that something like 130,000 new jobs ought to be found every year. But, instead, we have a decline in total employment as measured by the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures. I refer the committee to the “ Monthly Bulletin of Employment Statistics “ for June, 1961, which deals with the employment situation at 30th June, 1961, and which is consonant with the period which I am now reviewing. This document shows that at 30th June, 1961, civilian employees in Australia totalled 3,068,400 persons - about 27,000 less than at 30th June, 1960. There has been a decline in total employment in a period of twelve months during which the population has risen by 200,000. I shall give the committee in a moment the estimate of the new jobs that ought to be provided during this period when employment should have increased, although, as I have just stated, there were at 30th June last about 27,000 fewer persons in civilian employment than at 30th June, 1960.
At this point, I remind the Government of a publication produced under its own auspices several years ago by the Manufacturing Industries Advisory Council. This document, which is entitled “Australian Manufacturing Industry in the Next Decade “, contains, at page 11, a forecast of the future at 1970. I suggest that we in Australia have to begin making forecasts for periods of ten or twelve years and not in terms of ten or twelve months or even less, as this Government is disposed to do. This publication states -
By June, 1970 . . . Australia is expected to have available for employment an additional 1,300,000 people.
There is a footnote to the effect that 400,000 of those should expect to find employment in the field of manufacturing. This means that more than 130,000 new jobs have to be provided every year from now until 1970 and that more than 30,000 jobs a year have to be provided in manufacturing industry.
What is the position in the field of manufacturing? I have already demonstrated that there has been a decline in civilian employment of some 27,000 over the last twelve months. The Statistician’s figures show that at 30th June, 1961 - about two months ago - employment in manufacturing industry totalled 1,136,400, compared with 1,188,700 twelve months previously. In other words, in twelve months manufacturing employment has declined by about 52,000 persons. This has happened in a field in which, if we are to have the expansion and development that were contemplated in the publication which I have just quoted, employment should have increased by at least 30,000 in the last twelve months. I suggest that that shows how much is wrong with the Australian economy at the moment. A field that should have provided 30,000 more jobs has 50,000 fewer jobs - a deterioration of 80,000 in a field that traditionally has provided almost 30 per cent, of total employment over the last few years. If that reduction of 80,000 is multiplied by three we have the extent of unemployment and under-employment in the Australian economy at the moment.
If honorable members think that is a wild guess, I ask them to note the figures I shall now give and to consider them at their leisure. I shall quote from the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure 1960-61. At page 3 of the document can be found the figures relating to what is called the gross national product, which is the total sum of all the goods and services in the Australian community in the period of twelve months. The document contains this statement -
Gross national product increased by £340,000,000 or 5 per cent.–
But this is the significant part - compared with 10 per cent, in the previous year.
In other words, if the same rate of growth in the gross national product as persisted between 1958-59 and 1959-60 had continued from 1959-60 to 1960-61, the gross national product would have been £340,000,000 greater than it actually was. That, again, gives some idea of the magnitude of the deterioration in our economy. Several honorable members last night asked where the Opposition would find £100,000,000. In their minds, it may be difficult to find £100,000,000, but apparently it is not very difficult to lose £340,000,000. Surely, if that amount is lost at a time when the population is increasing and when the Government bestows its benevolence on economic growth as it pleases, Government supporters should be asking what has happened to the £340,000,000. Is that a fair price to pay for what the Government calls the stabilizing of the economy? In a moment, I hope to show that there is not the stability that Government supporters mistakenly believe there is.
In the same period as our gross national product failed to rise as it should have, with a loss of £340,000,000, imports were £167,000,000 greater. I suggest that honorable members opposite should give considerable thought to the fact that in the same period as imports increased by £167,000,000, there was an accumulation of what the document I have referred to calls “ non-farm stocks “. “ Non-farm stocks “ are the goods on the shelves unsold at the end of the period. At the end of June, 1961, as compared with June, 1960, the goods unsold on the shelves and in the factories increased by £165,000,000. At the same time as the policy of the Government, in February, 1960, allowed a flood of imports into the country, with an increase of £167,000,000 in the value of imports in this twelve-months’ period of controlled boom, the products of our own Australian industries remaining unsold were valued at £165,000,000. I suggest that any ordinary person would find some relation between the increased value of imports - some of which may be wanted, but many of which, I suggest, are not wanted - and the fact that goods made in Australia could not be sold. Is it not the responsibility of the Government, which says that a stimulus should be given to local manufacture, to correct this situation?
Another significant factor can be found in what people are disposed to describe airily as the problems of growth as they face the Australian economy. In a community such as ours, where the population is rising for reasons I have given and where we suggest that, by properly harnessing our resources and technical skills, we can not only maintain but increase the standard of living, some attention must be paid to the growth of investment in the country. Again the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure shows that the gross private investment in total increased by £68,000,000 in 1960-61 as compared with an increase of £187,000,000 in the previous twelve months. That again is not a healthy sign for Australia.
Expenditure on personal consumption, excluding motor vehicles, which we are told is a matter that should receive attention in a Budget, increased by £259,000,000 in 1960-61. This looks impressive until it is compared with the results of the previous twelve months. In the previous twelve months, the increase was not £259,000,000 but £415,000,000. With 2 per cent, more mouths to feed, we had a decline in the rate of growth. Expenditure on food increased by about 7 per cent., but food prices were about 7 per cent, higher - 7 per cent, increase in total expenditure, 7 per cent, increase in prices and 2 per cent, more mouths to feed. Are the people better off at the end of 1961 than they were at the end of 1960? Expenditure on clothing, footwear and drapery, &c, as with food, was little greater than the increase in prices, and the position with durable goods - wireless sets, electrical goods, television and so on - was much the same.
That is the picture of our internal position. I suggest that these are the costs that the Government should have counted if it believed that the boom in the Australian economy needed pricking. What is the price that has been paid? We have had a potential decline of £340,000,000 in the consumption of ephemeral as well as durable goods and a decline in new investment in fields where we should have been looking for an increase. What are the instruments of growth, as it were, which I suggest are significant again in this context, for they are the things that enable us to increase our rate of productivity, to use a blessed word which is resorted to so freely when convenient? They are such public works as education and health, on the one hand, and capital equipment on the other. The total expenditure on public works in 1958-59 was £533,000,000. Last year, two years later, the figure was £585,000,000. I suggest again that in this field there has not been a big enough increase over this period to promote the kind of growth that is regarded as being necessary in the Australian economy.
But what I want to deal with in the remaining few minutes at my disposal is the item “ other capital equipment “ contained in Table D which appears on page 5 of the document to which I have referred. Table D covers gross private investment in fixed capital equipment and lists such items as dwelling construction, other new buildings and construction, trucks, utilities, &c, station wagons, motor cars and cycles, and other capital equipment. “ Other capital equipment “ refers to the equipment which goes into the factories as distinct from the factory buildings themselves. The amount expended on other capital equipment in 1960-61 was £460,000,000. The first question we should ask with relation to that is whether £460,000,000 is adequate. The second matter that should be examined is how this £460,000,000 is being spent. Unfortunately, the Treasurer’s review of national income and expenditure does not show that. On page 6 of this document we find the following statement: -
Expenditure on “ other capital equipment “ is estimated to have increased by about 10 per cent, in 1960-61. Sales of tractors were lower than in 1959-60-
I suggest that ought to be of some interest to members of the Australian Country Party- but sales of other agricultural machinery were higher. In non-rural industries the increased expenditure was incurred mainly by manufacturing industries - particularly engineering and metal working, chemicals and oil refining.
It is on that point that this Parliament should dwell at times, especially in the light of a document entitled “ Australian Manufacturing Industry in the Next Decade”, which was published under the aegis of the Government some years ago, and on page 14 of which appears a table relating to employment in manufacturing industry. The most significant group referred to in that table is group 4 which relates to industrial metals, machines and vehicles. The total number employed in those fields at the end of June, 1957 - just three years ago - was 447,800. It was estimated then that by 1964-65 - three years from now - total employment would increase to 612,900, an increase of 165,100 in the eight years, or about 20,000 a year. It was further expected that by 1969-70 the total number employed in these industries would be 746,000.
What I have stated earlier indicates that manufacturing industry is not absorbing the population as rapidly as was expected and I suggest that, apart from the effects of the present credit squeeze - and it has only operated in its present form for the last twelve months - there is another trend running through this group of industries and perhaps other manufacturing industries. I refer to the greater use of machinery which makes it possible to increase output with less man-power. This again presents a social problem of some magnitude which has to be faced. The Labour Party and the trade union movement have no objection to the mechanization of industry provided something is done on the social side for those whom the machines displace. I think all will agree that, in the long run, the only way by which we can hope to increase the standards of our people is to put more machines behind each head of man-power. This, of course, means that there must be a complete reorientation of the Government’s attitude towards employment.
The important point is that there is a social problem which implies social responsibility and perhaps the need for Government intervention at some level, although at this stage I do not propose to suggest at what level that intervention should take place. I am merely emphasizing that we have a problem and so far all the credit squeeze has done has been to highlight and fuse two things together. It has dampened down our activity generally, but even before the credit squeeze was imposed it was evident from the published figures that industry was either producing more with the same man-power or increasing its capacity at a greater rate than that at which it was absorbing labour. In an economy such as ours where so much needs to be done and where we have comparatively few people to do it, it should be looked upon as a crime - credit squeeze or otherwise - that a single person should be out of work at all. That is not the situation in Australia at the moment, and, without arguing as to whether the published figures relating to unemployment give a true reflection of the position, I do emphasize that there is no doubt that, instead of there being 130,000 more people in employment this year, as was projected in 1959, there are actually 26,000 fewer employees to-day. Again, instead of absorbing 30,000 more in twelve months, manufacturing has employed 56,000 fewer.
Does any honorable member on the Government side seriously suggest that this Budget does anything to deal with that problem? It is because it does not that I submit the Government ought to retire and allow others who understand what the pro blem is and are capable of grappling with it to take over.
.- The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) talked about the need for a plan for the development of this country for the next ten years. He then proceeded to compare figures at very short intervals - of course, they are advantageous to the Opposition at this time - as though there were some immutable law that progress must be uniform. For my part, I would rather take the word of Professor Karmel, of the University of Adelaide, who recently said this -
Over the past decade, Australia has produced a remarkable record of growth. Since 1948-49, population has risen by 30 per cent, and the volume of production by 60 per cent. Thus we have provided for a rapidly growing population at a steadily rising standard of living. Factory output has almost doubled, rural output increased by over one-third. And those, who are accustomed to denigrate the Australian economic effort, should note that we have done this almost entirely from our own resources.
There is hardly a man in the street to-day who, looking at this Budget, perhaps without great enthusiasm but with understanding, does not appreciate the need for something to be done to dampen the boom, to get rid of some of the profit-taking and the speculation, and to deal with the problem posed by people who have pledged their earnings for years ahead in a vast hire-purchase splurge. These needs are all the more urgent at a time when we are troubled about the effects on this country that may follow Great Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community.
What we need is a down-turn in our costs. What we have to do, in plain terms, is to take some of the fat out of Australian industry, because, after all, we have had it fairly easy during the last ten years.
We are concerned about the possible reversal of our competitive position in the United Kingdom market vis-a-vis other countries which sell their products in that market. Although we hope to enjoy concessions, they may be diminishing concessions, and we will have to acknowledge a situation in which our internal cost structure will be a pretty heavy load to bear. This country has nourished in times past under the protection of British power and because of our protected place in the United Kingdom market.
But, just as in war the United Kingdom considered us militarily expendable, so in peace we may be commercially expendable, and for precisely the same reason, namely, that the United Kingdom will find herself fully occupied in protecting her own position in Europe. If we in Australia are going to be pushed out of the nest, as it appears we will be. we had better learn to fly!
There is a great need for us to strengthen our internal economy. We must attack the problem of the need to increase productivity. It is in this way that we can render the greatest service to the balance-of-payments position, because in this way we will be able to increase exports, and particularly, I hope, exports of products of secondary industries.
The Government is to be congratulated on its splendid efforts in expanding our Trade Commissioner Service. It can reasonably be said that we are at present scouring the markets of the world, trying to find new markets for our future surplus products. The Government is also to be congratulated on its timely offer of assistance to the Government of New South Wales in improving facilities at ports from which coal is exported. Here, on our very doorstep, is a ready-made opportunity to replace markets which have been lost, perhaps through industrial inactivity and lack of industrial discipline in the past. We have a magnificent opportunity to develop overseas markets for our ample coal reserves, and we ought to grasp time by the forelock.
There is one point that I thought might have found expression in the Budget. We seem to be rather obsessed these days with the necessity for a developmental public works programme. We see such a programme as a source of increased employment opportunities, and we look on it as having many other advantages. But there is also a great need to develop the private sector of the economy, because it is to this sector that we must look for increased exports. Once again increased productivity, probably through the increased use of mechanization, will be the answer. There are many factors militating against increasing our productivity. Rising costs on all sides are making it tremendously difficult to replace productive machinery, and this state of affairs exists in a period when the greatest technological advances are being made in mechanization, leading ultimately to automation.
I believe that we should extract some millions of pounds from the public works votes - and I do not suggest any specific figure - and use the money to grant generous depreciation and replacement allowances in respect of industrial machinery. This will encourage the kind of modernization that makes jobs, increases productivity and decreases costs. With some restraint on the urge to cash in through higher profits, on the one side, and through improved industrial conditions - which are already better than those of most of our competitor countries - on the other, such a move would go some distance towards improving the non-competitive position into which Australia has been allowed and/or encouraged to drift during recent years.
There I want to leave the Budget. I shall leave the easy task of defending it to my colleagues, and I shall move on to a problem which the forms of the House permit me to discuss at this stage, and which is urgent enough to demand attention. I refer to the recent suspension by the Government, through the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, of frequency modulation broadcasting in the capitals of the four eastern States. The committee will realize that I have long been a critic of the administration of telecommunications in Australia. I have warned the Government, and the people, from time to time, of the dangers we run of incurring irreparable losses if we allow the sort of thinking to continue which has characterized this Administration in recent years. Although there is not time to conduct a detailed survey on the matter during my speech, sufficient evidence can be given, and sufficient conclusions can be drawn, to indicate that we have once again made a bad decision. I would like to present some of the evidence in support of this contention.
Let us have a brief look at the history of the matter. In 1942 the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting, at a time when there were about 700 unsatisfied applications for broadcasting station licences on hand, and when there were no wave lengths available on the medium frequency broadcasting band, saw in frequency modulation an opportunity to solve the great problem that confronted us, of how to bring good broadcasting services to the people of Australia. In 1946, when the standing committee was specifically investigating frequency modulation, television and facsimile, an Australian Broadcasting Commission’s recommendation was presented to the effect that experimental frequency modulation broadcasts should be commenced. Later they were commenced, through stations established quietly in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. These stations continued to operate until a few weeks ago, when they were suspended for reasons which have not, I think, been adequately explained.
A band of frequencies from 92 to 108 megacycles - and this does not mean much to the layman, except that those frequencies are at the lower limits of the television band - was set aside for very high frequency frequency-modulated broadcasts. This was an agreed practice throughout the world, and most other countries, particularly the United States of America and continental European countries-, were making great use of these frequency channels. Later the value of these reservations was demonstrated. The technical report of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board said that from a technical point of view the very high frequency band was the most satisfactory available for frequency modulation and that is was superior to the ultra high frequency band, I will refer to that again later.
In 1953, when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board presented its fifth report, it said this -
The shortage of medium frequency channels presented a serious limiting factor in the board’s plans for developing Australian broadcasting. The board feels that the stage has been reached when there ought to be developed a definite plan for producing frequency modulation on very high frequencies. There is great scope for veryhighfrequency frequency modulation in parts of the Commonwealth in which television is not likely to be provided for years. it is also worth recording that in its sixth report, in 1954, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board said that it had paid some attention to the substantial areas in which broadcasting service was unsatisfactory. At that time the board - and this should be noted carefully - after consultation with the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Postmaster-General’s Department, recommended to the Minister that there should be an extension of the experimental frequency modulation stations, with new stations in Perth and Tasmania, which could be installed at very low cost. It also suggested that these stations in the various States together should form the basis of the third network for the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
At about this time some 600 frequency modulation broadcasting stations were operating in the United States, and some 50 in the United Kingdom. But that, of course, was in 1954, and there has been a vast multiplication of those numbers since then. In its seventh report in 1955 the Australian Broadcasting Control Board said that there was little doubt that, in the longrange view, frequency modulation broadcasting would provide a much better solution to the broadcasting problem.
With the passage of time and the need for country television there was a need to find additional channels over and above those which had been provided when the Australian Broadcasting Control Board first made its reservations. I do not think that the activities of the board at that time did very much to encourage public confidence in its administration because after these greatly protracted hearings, the board had to suspend its sittings until this technical problem had been solved. It should have been solved before the hearings of applications for licences had been conducted. What happened here serves to show the very great difficulties involved.
I think the Broadcasting Control Board was rather glad to have a set of circumstances which called, or appeared to call, for the setting up of another committee - this time an ad hoc committee called the Frequency Allocation Review Committee. I have no wish to criticize the members of this committee. Indeed, I know many of them and I know that their technical qualifications are extremely high. Further, the public has not seen the report of this committee on which to make any judgment. 1 merely want to say that the years have shown clearly that the expanding usefulness and use of radio frequencies make this no fit subject to be dealt with by an ad hoc authority. This sort of committee can only solve the problems of to-day by creating problems for to-morrow. I suggest that, in this way, we are going to lose the opportunity to make the full use of our resources in time to come. However, the committee found that we ought to have thirteen channels for television which meant, in effect, that the reservations for frequency modulation broadcasting had to be curtailed or had to be removed.
On the evidence, there is no reason why frequency modulation should have been moved out of the very high frequency portion of the spectrum to make way for television. In fact, it could still be provided for in the 92 to 94 megacycle section of that channel. But because we have fumbled - and I use the word advisedly - the distribution of our radio frequencies in the past, and because we are singularly reluctant to demand that those who are using radio frequencies should use the most uptodate technical equipment, we find that we have to take this particular band for the use of fixed and mobile services which could reasonably have been accommodated elsewhere. So, frequency modulation broadcasting which existed in an experimental phase and which it was hoped was a forerunner of such broadcasts throughout Australia, has had to make way for these commercial services.
The main complaint that I have about this is that before the report of the Frequency Allocation Review Committee was made public decisions had been taken on the basis of that report. In other words, it seems to me that here we have a bureaucratic administration which proceeds to wipe off frequency modulation, and gives completely inadequate explanations for doing so. It has done all this at a time when the Parliament, in particular, and the public, in general, have been denied a clear understanding of the grounds upon which this decision has been made. In one fell swoop frequency modulation has been suspended, the stations have been closed and perhaps 50,000, 70,000 or 100,000 receivers have been rendered inoperable and, perhaps, completely valueless. I have broadened the estimate to 100,000 because there is really no way of estimating the number of people who have provided themselves with frequency modulation receivers in order to hear this superior type of broadcast. But certainly these are among the keenest listeners in Australia and their rights should be protected to say nothing of the future benefit to Australia in the preservation of channels for frequency modulation broadcasts.
The real question that arises, however, is whether the Broadcasting Control Board has not been obliged to change its policy and to leave unanswered the question whether we in Australia are going to have frequency modulation in the ultra-high frequency portion of the spectrum where, according to the board itself, there will be less efficiency or, indeed, whether we are going to have frequency modulation broadcasting at all. Also unanswered seems to be the great question as to how the Australian Broadcasting Control Board now proposes to remedy the very great deficiencies in the coverage of Australia by our broadcasting system. Let me reiterate some of these points in brief. The board says that there is a shortage of medium frequencies available. Therefore, it cannot extend an admittedly deficient broadcasting system in that area. It also says that very high frequency is technically superior to ultra-high frequency and frequency modulation.
There is very little doubt that, in the long run, frequency modulation on very high frequencies offers the best solution for this problem. Then, further, we have the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Postmaster-General’s Department, in concert, recommending to the Minister that frequency modulation should be proceeded with, all of this fortifying the board’s own view that it is time that we developed a plan for frequency modulation broadcasting in Australia. These are the most knowledgeable people, having authority and control over Australia’s telecommunications. If they do not know what they are talking about it is time that we found out and did something about it.
The apparent acceptance by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board of the review committee’s report seems to offer a challenge to the long-held view stated by the board. If the board’s views which have been held - and repeatedly stated - from the year 1953 onwards are wrong, it raises a very great question about the competence of the board to administer the functions delegated to it or - and I state this as a charitable alternative - it raises the question of whether the board is not now becoming a victim of the divided control which plagues Australian administration in telecommunications. Some of these channels are the responsibility of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and others are the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. So, even if one is inclined to take the most charitable view of this situation, it seems that Australia may face very great loss, and certainly inconvenience, from the sort of divided control which characterizes our telecommunications to-day.
The other point about which I want to protest is the unseemly haste with which the decision to suspend frequency modulation broadcasts was taken. To-day, a steady flow of protests is coming in to most federal members in the capital cities from those who invested in frequency modulation receivers and who are now unable to understand why they should be deprived of that service. I am on their side.
Out of all this, some conclusions arise. First, I point out that there are still very high frequency channels available for frequency modulation in that spectrum. I suggest to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), and to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, that it would be infinitely preferable to find somewhere else for the operation of our fixed and mobile services so that frequency modulation could continue to operate in that band which is almost universally set aside for its use. So, we would preserve for the future the possibility of developing a frequency modulation system of broadcasting, which is the only possible means of our filling up those gaps where our broadcasting services are completely unsatisfactory.
In my own electorate in the Upper Hunter, in the areas of Muswellbrook and Scone, a populous and developing district, there is to-day a great deficiency in the broadcasting service. We have been talking about this for years with the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and with the Broadcasting Control Board. Their officers have been good enough to come into our district and take their readings and give their opinions. They have modified and upgraded the facilities which are supposed to give service to that area. But on the written statement of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) the service is still completely unsatisfactory. I have asked the board what it proposes to do about the position, but I cannot get an answer; and the reason is that the board frankly does not know what it is going to do to solve this problem. In the board’s own words, frequency modulation could do it, but we have just given away that possibility, and I want to make the strongest possible protest against the closing up of this one channel through which this obvious deficiency might otherwise have been repaired.
Once again it seems to me that, as with television, medium frequency broadcasting and the amateurs and other services, we have made grave mistakes, probably because of this divided control in administration in Australia. I do not think anything illustrates more clearly than the situation here why we ought to remove control of telecommunications in this country from the two bodies that are responsible - the PostmasterGeneral’s Department and the Broadcasting Control Board - and vest them in a permanent authority, so that all of these resources may be developed in the public interest. Anybody who looks at the statistics will readily see that the United States of America, a country which is comparable with ours as far as its size is concerned, but which is anything but comparable in terms of population or the demands for radio services, makes far better use of its spectrum than we are doing here. Where our broadcasting band supports 150 or so radio stations 3,000 or 3,500 can be used in the United States. It is useless to point out that the Americans can do that, but that they need to have shared channels and reduced power at night and directed aerials and things of that kind.
Our problem is not one of finding space for 3,000 radio stations. It may well be that if we can find space for 300 we will have served adequately the Australian demand for the public service of broadcasting. When one looks at the fixed and mobile service demands in the United States as opposed to our own, our problem ought to be chicken feed in the hands of a responsible and competent administration. It is interesting to note that Americans have been able to find space for what they call a citizens’ band. This is a band of radio frequencies set aside and anybody, a technician or otherwise, can go into the corner store and buy himself a transmitter and receiver and keep in touch with his home when he goes fishing or on holiday. It looks like a bit of luxury but surely it is a bad thing if all this vast field covered by the useful radio-frequency spectrum is to be alienated for purely commercial use.
We in Australia are making the case that we cannot find provision in all of that space for wanted commercial services, yet another administration, which has vastly greater demand on its space than we have, is able not only to satisfy that vastly increased demand but also to set aside these areas for civilian use. Surely this ought to be an example and lesson to us in how these things ought to be done. The operations of the Federal Communications Commission in America have been extraordinarily successful over the years. Its hearings are conducted in public. It has a control which it exercises benevolently and it has people who are permanently concerned with the economics, with the public interest and with the technical side of the operation of this service in the United States. The one clause which characterizes the operation of the Federal Communications Commission in America is that clause in its constitution which binds it to respect the public interest.
I do not want to make any wild or exaggerated charges, but I merely say that for one reason or another, for which there has been put forward no adequate explanation in Australia, we are failing to serve the public interest in this field. I know, of course, that with a long-range change of this kind we might go on battling for years. But T believe there are beginning to awaken in this country people who understand what we are getting at and the need for some change in control. The radio industry itself, the manufacturers, the users of these frequencies and the scientific bodies have been singularly silent on this very important issue. T think that with the position of frequency modulation and the discontinuance of the service there is coming an awakening to what is happening here because there is not an administration completely pledged to the public interest. T believe we will hear a great deal more of it.
T say that the radio trade, the manufac turer* and the technical bodies will need to pay some attention tv this matter if they are to fulfil what is a plain duty to the general public. They should bring their great experience and great detailed knowledge to bear on the problem and demand that the matter be administered in the public interest and not merely handled by a group of people who, for a variety of reasons - perhaps because they live in a sheltered atmosphere - feel that they can make the most far-reaching decisions on a problem of this kind without concern for the general public.
I urge the Government to give detailed consideration to the suggestion that we make these far-reaching amendments in the control of telecommunications in Australia for the public interest.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, after having listened to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) make his Budget speech last week and having listened to the arguments in opposition to the Budget put forward within the last hour by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean), I think that we, on this side of the chamber, have drawn enough inferences and sustained enough arguments to charge the Government with a deliberate plan to create a pool of unemployment. You do not just say, “ This is a savage plan to create a pool of unemployment,” unless you have some evidence to offer. I believe, and the Australian Labour Party believes, that we have very definite evidence to offer and I shall put it simply to the committee that this has been a piece of economic sadism which has got outrageously out of hand. If it is not as bad as that, the second count is almost as bad. It is a piece of political and economic by-play which got out of hand and had the same effect, whether it was intended or not, of creating a pool of unemployment in this country.
I believe in the Old Testament vengeance in certain degrees and also in a little black goddess, whom the Greeks called Nemesis, who descends upon evil-doers at last. In 1944 I, a Labour man, was alleged to have made a statement - it has been complete anathema to me - that I believed in a pool of 5 per cent, unemployment. Many times since then I have read the report and shown it to be good propaganda. But nobody on the other side of the chamber dares to-day to get up and mention the matter, because his greatest fear is that the fantasy which my political opponents created in an attempt to discredit me is now a complete and frightening reality. We do not hear honorable members opposite piping up now about what I said in 1944.
I deny that I made the statement, but I ask honorable members to recall the position in 1944. The war was in progress and the White Paper on unemployment which bound the Labour Party to a policy of full employment, in association with the United Nations, had not been issued. No matter what the political or economic climate has been we have never deviated from that idea. So in the time at my disposal I shall develop the charge that I make against the Government.
It is by forethought, or maladministration, or the weakness of its policies that it has in effect created a plan which is working to create a pool of unemployment. I bring forward, first, evidence provided by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). Recently, he was talking to a well-fed crowd of Liberals in Sydney Town Hall, in which the smell of mink, moth-balls and mediocrity were happily blended, and because he had the team on his side and the umpire was with him, he said -
I take responsibility for the credit squeeze.
What a responsibility to take! What a statement in vacuo to make to the people of Sydney and New South Wales generally where unemployment is at its worst! If the Prime Minister is a truthful man, albeit he is a foolish man on many occasions, he has now descended from the pinnacle of his grandeur to say, “ It has happened; I have created it; there it is, whatever it is, and we will go along with it”. Apparently that is the number one plan, and the Government is prepared to stand pat on it, even if it means unemployment and the classical formula of having unemployed workers on the fringe ready to be drawn upon to break down inflation and the other ills that afflict a capitalist economy.
Always anxious to outdo his master though not doing so in his presence, the Treasurer, when addressing an equally well fed, equally self-sufficient and equally selfsatisfied group of manufacturers in Sydney on 27th July, stated, apropos of the pool of unemployed and the case that I am making -
I believe we are going to get a greater output in the future with fewer employees.
He did not qualify that statement, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports did, by referring to the problems of automation and the social re-adjustments that will be required when a machine can do a man’s work, if the man is not to be put on the scrap heap. He dangled that lovely, gaudy lollypop in front of the manufacturers. In effect, he said, “ If you stick with us for a while and support what we are doing, I believe that we will get greater output in the future with fewer employees “. 1 ask for the unbiased judgment of the House: Is the Treasurer’s statement not connected in every way with a pool of unemployed? Of course it is!
Then the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) went to Brisbane to take part in a television programme. He thought he was going for a holiday but in fact he walked the plank. During the programme some very clever interrogators of journalistic persuasion asked him a series of questions, and his answers were in the same tempo and along the same lines as the statements that I have quoted, again indicating what senior Liberals are thinking about the unemployment position. In a most unguarded statement for a lawyer of renown, or, if not of renown, of repute, he said that unemployment due to the credit squeeze was greater than “ we wished for “. If the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson), who is now at the table, had used the words “ we wished for “, or if some one else who uses ordinary unprecise language had used those words, we might have excused him, but the Attorney-General is a lawyer who once won a High Court case on the question whether a comma was actually a comma or the extra-mural activity of a common house fly. One would expect him to be sure that every word was accurate to the greatest degree. To assist me on this question of what he said and what he meant, although, because of his precision, surely what he said is what he meant, I turned up the “ Shorter Oxford English Dictionary “ and found on page 2437 the simple, delightful English word “ wish “. It is defined in this way - a feeling in the mind directed towards something which one believes would give satisfaction if attained, possessed, or realized.
So when dealing with unemployment, the Attorney-General said, in effect, “ This unemployment went further than we desired, believed, entertained or realized “.
Those are the points of view that have been put by three senior Ministers in the Government, all of them thinking along the same lines and all their statements trending in the same direction, namely, to make members in this place and the general public feel that at least there is a definite and sadistic plan to create a pool of unemployment.
If that were not enough, yesterday we had another illustration of the still single-minded and perpendicular thinking of the Government. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) was asked a question by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) apropos this anxiety about unemployment and the ability to feed children in these dire circumstances. The honorable member asked -
The Minister, in reply, stated -
Then, deviating from the matter of the basic wage, the Minister, in a pontifical way by which we knew that he was expressing his own view and not the views of the Arbitration Commission, went on to say -
It must be perfectly obvious to-day that the present basic wage would sustain more than that.
If the Minister disputes what I have said, he will find his words in the “ Hansard “ report of Tuesday, 22nd August, 1961.
I have quoted four statements which prove beyond doubt that behind the credit squeeze, the deflationary process and the unemployment there is a plan. I now want to take the matter a step further by stating that I know this plan must exist because of these further facts which I shall mention. Yesterday I asked the Treasurer the following question which appears on page 297 of the “ Hansard “ report: -
Is 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 stock-piled their products and can see no point in borrowing money to make additional goods which, for the time being, are unsaleable?
In effect, I asked the Treasurer whether the manufacturers and industrialists have been very cagey about taking up this money on overdraft because they have no faith in the Government’s present situation and because they can see the utter futility of manufacturing more goods when there are already large stock-piles of everything from shoes and ships to sealing wax. In a purely whimsical aside let me state that in one room in a building in my electorate there are 30,000 electric razors. These luxury or semiluxury items cannot be sold. All through the financial structure the credit squeeze has been eased and out of a magnificent reservoir of liquidity accumulated under a system instituted by none other than the former Prime Minister of Australia, the late Ben Chifley, the manufacturers have been offered this additional £34,000,000 credit, but it has not been absorbed one-half as quickly as was expected. The Treasurer was unable to tell me the percentage of absorption because, he said, these figures filter through very slowly. I can tell the House that they filter through extremely slowly when we have the wood on the Government.
People were crying out, “ Let us have more money; let the banks have more money and we shall start to make things and so keep every one in work “. But here is the snag in the situation which was pointed out by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports: While things are stock-piled and while 150,000 people are out of work there is no sense in adding to the stock-piles. How can you sell these goods? You cannot sell them by keeping unemployment at a figure of 150,000. Something else must be done. As the Treasurer has said, we must stimulate purchasing power. We cannot stimulate purchasing power through credit that is being taken up willy-nilly in a laggardly way, and we cannot stimulate purchasing power by stock-piling goods that cannot be absorbed. But we can stimulate purchasing power by putting money into the hands of the people to enable them to buy the goods. If in the interregnum we cannot get the money into the people’s hands, what can we do to accelerate spending by people who have money? It is axiomatic and almost childish. Even I who am merely a dilletante on the economic front can understand that if you have money in your purse and want to buy things, and your neighbour next door has goods to offer but no money, you can be of great social use to him if you buy the things you need. But there is a consideration. If goods are over-stocked and unsaleable you reduce the price. I shall prove by further statistics that in no instance has there been a reduction of prices.
There has been, without doubt - and the Government condones it - a complete car.telization of prices. You could break down this economic stalemate to-day. You could do something by the end of the week which would have great momentum in getting the swing back the other way. If there was a free and open market, if the law of supply and demand - that laughable old politico-economic law that went out with elastic-sided boots - were allowed to operate in accordance with our tragic circumstances, what would be the result? The prices of goods with which we are overstocked, which are practically tumbling out of the factories, could come down. Those goods could be sold at some price reduction. But it is the old business of the worker being utterly vulnerable, either having no money at all or being limited in his funds, while the cartelized and monopolized industries say to each other: “ Don’t move! Ride this out. Scud under bare poles for a while and in due course they will start to buy. There must be money somewhere. Let us get it.” They do that instead of saying, in the charitable and humane way, “ Let us break this down in the national interest and let us make prices lower “.
Have a look at profits, as has been done by the economists on this side of the chamber, and you will see that industry, despite its breakdown and its sackings and everything else, is in a completely satisfactory position in relation to the rest of the community. But it will not let go. The classic instance of that is in the motor car trade. Second-hand cars have been a drug on the market, but nobody has been able to force their prices down, so they are still sold at fictitious, prosperity-level prices simply because the cartelized monopolies with their price-rigging decide that that is how it is to be.
The people who are in work to-day are the people who can help. The workers on the streets, those in a job, could help the unemployed back into work if there was some intention on the part of the Government to do something about high prices so that people would buy. And what about those high prices? What are you going to do about them? If you cannot do anything by putting more money into the liquidity pools, and if the manufacturers say, “We are not going to make any more goods just to stock-pile them “, then it is obvious that the centre of this problem must become the point of reaction towards the solution. The thing to do is to get the surplus goods into the hands of the people and, as I said, you cannot get them into the hands of the people if the people have no money; but you can tickle the money that is in the hands of many millions of Australians who are prepared to buy if prices are reasonable. However, again you run into this high, rigid price cartelization which will destroy this country as surely as will cartelization and monopolization destroy the European Common Market unless those concerned wake up. The prices of goods should be fixed by the natural flow of supply and demand, and not by a group.
There is the problem. The Government runs away from price-fixing. The Government runs away from interfering with prices. And what happens? I brought out these figures that I have in order to try to make this purely a case on statistics. There are 150,000 unemployed in this country. At an average of £14 a week we are losing £2,100,000 in purchasing power every week. And the Treasurer flutters up and down the table on the other side and says, “ We must stimulate purchasing power “. Well, try stimulating 150,000 men and women into employment. That is the quickest stimulus that I know that he could use in order to get himself back on an even keel. And remember, if you accept the present position - and the credit squeeze has existed for about eight months - at the end of the year we will have lost £110,000,000 in the utterly futile, stupid and sadistic creation of unemployment which is totally unnecessary. So there you have the reason for your lost purchasing power.
Now I want to show what has happened on the other side. Motor car sales are down to the tune of £3,000,000 a month. Television and radio sales are down £1,000,000 a month. Washing machines, &c, are alleged - and the figure is hard to discover - to be down by about £2,000,000 a month. So all the circumstances are there for the classic way of dealing with this, which is to make the goods cheaper in order to stimulate consumption. The third ingredient is production, and the fourth ingredient is greater profit. Industrialists will get their greater profit in the long run if only they have a little bit of sanity, but they are so greedy and so insensate about those things that they are going to let a lot of decent people suffer for too long. Yet they will finally have to come round to it.
Now I turn to the question of prices, and I deal with the problem on the lower level, the level where people live and worry. They do not worry about the balance of payments. They think that that is something like the capsule carrying an astronaut. It is a most attractive and extraordinary gimmick. It goes round the earth and in due course it comes back to the level of common understanding. The people cannot get deeply moved on that and other esoteric problems, but they can get deeply moved about Willie’s boots for school - and last week in Sydney the cost of repairing an ordinary pair of boots went up by 5s. These figures are gained at a most unusual place - my desk in my office in my electorate, where people come to see me and talk about bread-and-butter issues, and I translate them, so far as I can, into statistics.
So the mother of a big boy going to high school, trying to keep him in a decent pair of boots in order to keep up appearances, and trying to get him educated so that he will lift the family standard, finds this additional impost of 5s. on the repair of a pair of boots. Most of such people are on the basic wage. I remind you that 150,000 people are out of work, and that there is a run-down in the purchase of goods, that goods are being stock-piled - all at a time when we have the ridiculous and scandalous anomaly that prices are going up because the cartels have decided that that is how it must be and therefore it will be!
Another 5s. on the repair of a pair of boots is a simple, homely and graphic illus tration of what the people are up against. The Minister has talked about the basic wage taking flight, and about the recent increase in the basic wage. Consider the plight of a mother with seven kids; she has to pay 35s. extra for cobbling shoes alone. How dare we, comfortably off as we are, sitting here going on with the techniques of debates on this problem, fail to look at the strenuous problems involved in unemployment, near unemployment, and fear of unemployment, when it is so simple for the Government to deal with the gangsters who hold up prices? A little while ago in Sydney I saw the same kind of thing happen. The price of butter went up a halfpenny per lb. Doubtless the Country Party cheered, and so did I. I like to see primary products get a go. But when I walked along to the little sandwich factory close to my office I found that the price of sandwiches had been put up 3d. each because the price of butter had gone up. That seems a trifling anomaly to bring before this august Parliament, but it is big stuff for the kids who have to buy sandwiches out of the wages they get. Those are the things that make people burn on the level of ordinary living - not on the level of debate.
I have been looking through household accounts with the guidance of my wife, and I have discovered that vegetables and meat were dearer last week. Fish was dearer and almost unprocurable because of bad weather. Bread has gone up in price recently and the whole trend in many cases is higher prices - small increases in some cases, but big in others. People like wholesale grocers fix prices. They sit down and decide that cornflakes and other items are going to be increased in price. Five or six wholesale grocers decide what the Government should be deciding. If anybody asks me on the hustings or anywhere else what I think about price-fixing I will reply in this way: I would rather the Government - any government - fixed prices for commodities reasonably than let the butcher, baker, the candlestick-maker, each with his own special interest, or a group of corner grocers, decide what my electors are to pay for their food.
– Have you the consumer price index for the quarter ending in June?
– The prices I am quoting are correct, and they are based on information from the people in my electorate. 1 am sure that their very simplicity will enable them to be grasped slowly, but at least firmly, by the honorable member who is interjecting.
I refer now to the position of the Country Party in this matter. Members and supporters of the Country Party have some enormous problems facing them in regard to the Common Market and other world markets. Let me put this question to them: ls it not intelligent not to have a pool of unemployed? Is it not intelligent to do something about unemployment? If my contentions are right - and I want them to be challenged - the Government stands arraigned for a piece of sadistic planning, either intentional or otherwise, that would gain the horror of the electorate generally.
If the Government is sincere in saying that this position just crept up on it, if its members do not know what happened, let it start to do something now. This kind of thing has not happened in Britain so far, and it has not happened in West Germany and in many other countries where there are no signs of the recession which was apparent some years ago. The Government should have learned from the mistakes of those democracies and economic units similar to our own, and have been able to avoid them. Here is the final and complete answer on the matter. If the Government says that liquidity has no effect, that over-production is still over-production, and that you cannot get people to buy if they have not the money, and that you cannot inveigle people into buying - because the Government agreed to let the prices ramp continue - then why did the Government continue with its policy? The reason is its alleged love of free enterprise, its alleged love of the big dividend, and its fear that its party funds would be considerably reduced if it started going a little democratic and even a little socialistic, as it has done on many occasions, in order to survive. If the Government were aware of this problem, it should, in common duty, have prepared a budget which would alleviate the situation.
How do you get purchasing power back into the economy? Is it done by lending money to the States? In any event, the funds that this Government has lent to the States are so meagre that the States say they do not count. The Premier of New South Wales spoke to me about this only the other day, and said: “ This is not as much, by a long chalk, as we have put in. Because Canberra sups with the long spoon - because the Federal Government takes its whack before we get anything - there is not much money for the relief of unemployment.” Therefore, I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the Government really wants to do something about unemployment instead of uttering a lot of economic chatter about the present situation and splitting it into ISO different components, each with its own definition.
If the Government does want to do something about unemployment, where are the vast sums for public works? In an emergency, public works are the only immediate answer. Whether or not they are an effective answer can be argued. We ought to be putting money into works projects if this country is in need of development. Look at the position in the various municipalities about Sydney. I know the situation in the Sydney area better than I know the situation in the other capital cities. These remarks may apply - and I am sure they do - to Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart. In the municipalities about Sydney, gutters are worn down, streets want re-sealing and many services are required. Money spent on all these things would be money spent on development. And all money spent on that kind of development would be money spent on public relief.
We do not want to get back to the days of the dray and the shovel and allow our unemployed wearily to chase a barrowload or a dray-load of sand to its futile destination. If we lack purchasing power and we need to provide it, the simple fact seems to me, as an observer, to be that we have, first, to be sincere and to pump money into the economic vacuum which this Government has created. By doing that, we would increase purchasing power. In these days of automation, we know that £1,000,000 here or there for public works is not what it used to be. A bulldozer and a drag-line can do an immense amount of work on which, in earlier days, a lot of men would have been employed. But we must start somewhere. And surely we start to alleviate unemployment by undertaking public works. That is the way to alleviate this unemployment which has become drastic and cruel. It is not eased by economic arguments in this chamber which do not get to the causes of the present situation.
I charge the Government with having brought about, either by implication or by design, a situation for which it can be rightly arraigned before the bar of public opinion, because it has created a pool of unemployed. There is no way out of that pool for those who are unfortunate enough to be in it. The Government has closed the only outlet - availability of jobs. This Administration is prepared to talk about the banking structure. It is prepared to talk about overseas problems of exchange, invisibles and all those things which are like ghosts frightening kids to-day. It is prepared to talk about anything but the basic question to which we should direct our attention, whether we are members of the Liberal Party of Australia, the Australian Labour Party or the Australian Country Party: When do the people of this country- some 150,000 or 200,000 of them - get back to work? I suggest that the only way to put them back at work is the way that has been suggested by honorable members on this side of the chamber.
We have pointed out that more money will not produce any more goods when commodities are already in over-supply. This means that we have to establish contact between the supplier and the person who demands the goods. In the present situation, some one is standing between these two parties. In the middle is the exploiter, the cartel, the company which will not reduce its prices because of these stayput plans of the Menzies Government as enunciated in its Budget These interests are trying to squeeze money out of the community. But the community is not getting the money that it should get. By these actions, these interests which I have mentioned are creating a lack of confidence in the economy.
Our economy could recover, I believe, within six months, with a Labour administration at the helm. But, as things are to-day, we are faced with a problem which can be solved only by removing its causes. We must seek out the nigger in the woodpile. The people want work. There are goods. As a start, their prices ought to be made reasonable. The second requirement - what the economists call the pre-requisite - and the temporary expedient that should be adopted immediately, is the undertaking of real public works. The Government should do something instead of merely discussing the situation. It completely lacks an appreciation of the unemployment problem, as is shown by its miserableness in being content merely to put a few million pounds into States grants and to allocate small amounts for other purposes through the agency of the Australian Loan Council. The whole situation has to be dealt with from the top to the bottom, and I suggest that in the simple formulas that I have given the Government has much food for thought.
With sincerity, and not as a political gimmick, I charge the Government with failing to deal with the problems of the unemployed. 1 submit that it has a case to answer before the people for having induced an artificial situation which has caused the loss of much employment. The Government’s lack of planning and its inability to deal with its own profiteers have created out of this artificial situation a pool of unemployed. This is to its eternal disgrace in this year of grace, 1961.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, 1 want to make only one or two comments about some of the things that were said by the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen). He charged the Government with deliberately causing unemployment. The record of this Government over the last twelve years proves that that charge is completely unfounded. I fully appreciate, from the humane stand-point, that if there is even one person unemployed, the solution of the problem is not to be found in saying that we have the lowest percentage of unemployment in the prominently industrialized countries. As I have said, I think that the Government’s record establishes that any charge that it has deliberately worked to cause unemployment is unfounded.
The honorable member also said that he expected that, under a Labour administration, recovery would take about six months. There is, of course, no possibility of a Labour administration. But, even if there were, it would not take office for another four or five months. Therefore, even if the honorable member were correct, recovery could not come about for twelve months. I point out, however, that prominent business executives in this country are saying that steps towards recovery are now being taken.
The honorable member for Parkes also chided the Government on devoting a great deal of time and attention to problems such as the balance of payments and overseas reserves. He said that the Government should concern itself with the problems of the little people instead of directing its attention to these other matters. As I hope to show later, because of our economic situation in international affairs to-day these problems related to the balance of payments and other factors are linked with the domestic economic situation of this country and, therefore, with the problems of those whom the honorable member described as the little people of Australia.
I turn now to the Budget itself, Sir. I want to say, first, that I am disappointed that only £5,000,000 more is to be provided through the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia. I think that the provision of funds through this agency offers great potential for the future development of this country by individuals and by groups. I consider that, particularly at this time, more finance should be made available through that bank if it is to fulfil its ultimate potential and contribute to the development and progress of this country as it should.
I wish to voice one other disappointment concerning the Budget. I was disappointed that it did not contain any provision for reduced sales tax on foodstuffs. One of the great problems that confront this counttry is that of spiralling prices. Wages chase prices and prices chase wages like a dog chasing its own tail. Increased wages result in increased prices. Wages are then raised again, and increased prices follow once more. I think that if we had attacked this problem we would have made a valuable contribution to the attainment of the vital objective of holding prices at stable levels.
With respect to social services, I have suggested in this chamber on previous occasions that we need to sectionalize pensions. Merely to increase the general base pension rate each year is not to solve the social services problem that confronts us at present - the terrific problem of assisting people in need with the limited amount of finance that is available. I use the word “ limited “ in the sense that the finance is limited insofar as it is contributed by the wage-earners. As I have said, I think that an annual increase in the general base pension rate does not solve the problem, because there are circumstances - perhaps not many - in which people do not need a general increase of this kind. We ought to direct the available finance to alleviating the situation of those who are in need, and thereby ultimately achieve more for many people. While this may create some problems, I believe that pensions should be graded so that in certain circumstances those pensioners whose needs are greater will receive more than others. Consideration should also be given to the amount of the wife’s allowance, widows’ pensions and the allowances for children before the general rate is increased.
I want now to express what I may call a general thought on a matter that has perturbed me during the time it has been my privilege to be a member of this Commonwealth Parliament. I refer to the deterioration of the prestige of the Parliament. One factor contributing to this may be found within ourselves. Another factor is our relations with the press. No one would deny that the press has a tremendous responsibility to offer constructive criticism and in a way the press. could be said to act as the protectors of the people. We speak of the freedom of the press, and I am sure that no one would tolerate interference with this freedom. But with the freedom of the press comes the responsibility of the press. Those who are in charge of the great newspapers of our land should not think only of the freedom of the press, which has been won for them by the sacrifices of many people, but should think also of the responsibility of the press. On a number of occasions, newspapers have published comments that have been unfair and unjust. This is very bad, because at times honorable members, with justification, may feel a resentment towards these newspapers. Because of this, we could lose something that is of vital importance to the nation, and that is co-operation between the Commonwealth Parliament and the press.
In these days when we say to countries that are achieving their independence that our democratic form of government is the best form of government for them to adopt, those of us who are in positions of responsibility should ensure that we do not act in a way that will undermine this great institution upon which the safety and security of the country depends. We as individuals in this chamber may be expendable. Sir, the institution of which we have the privilege to be a part is not expendable. If we act in a way that will damage the prestige and standing of this institution, I believe that we will also endanger the security of our country. How can we sustain our assertion that a democratic form of government is the best and finest form of government if we damage the prestige of this institution, and unfortunately in recent times some actions have caused damage to the prestige of the Parliament.
I do not believe that the Commonwealth Parliament and its members are used to the best advantage. As I have said before, the term of the Commonwealth Parliament should be five years. This period would enable a government formed by any political party to put its programme into effect; the present period of three years is really not sufficient for this purpose. Since my election to the Parliament in 1952, I will have had five elections, including the coming election, in a little more than nine years. Other members of this chamber would have faced the electors on the same number of occasions, or perhaps an even greater number. I do not think that this adds to the sound administration and development of the country.
I believe, further, that we should make greater use of select committees than we have in the past. Many problems confront the people of the Commonwealth, and select committees consisting of members of all parties in both Houses should be appointed to consider them. This may apply more particularly to the Senate than to the House of Representatives so that the greatest representation could be given to the States. One matter that could be considered by a committee is automation. This is causing concern to those who are in touch with the problems it creates. Automation will provide tremendous advantages for our country but it will also create many problems. A select committee could consider these problems and furnish a report that would be to the advantage of the Parliament and the community. The appointment of select committees for special purposes would enable us to make the fullest use of the abilities of honorable members.
I support the suggestion made in this chamber some time ago that we should appoint a Minister for Commonwealth Relations, or whatever expression may be chosen to describe such a portfolio. This appointment would be of even more importance now than it was a few years ago. We have the problem of the Common Market and many other problems confronting the Commonwealth. We are many peoples of varied degrees and of varied races, and I believe that the Commonwealth would derive considerable benefit if Australia were to give the lead to other nations in the appointment of such a Minister.
Sir, we have spoken many times in this chamber of our balance of payments problem and of other problems of our economy. It has been said on many occasions, and rightly so, that in this day and age the problems of government in a country consisting of six States and a Commonwealth cannot be solved easily and considerable thought must be given to these problems at all times. I believe that there are three major factors in our economy. The first is that we have a vast area, the second that we have a small population and the third that we have a great need for development. No other country has this peculiar problem created by the factors I have mentioned to the degree that Australia has. No other country has the vast area and small population that we have. Because of these factors, we in Australia must keep our costs to an absolute minimum. We must keep our costs of production as low as possible so that we can provide for our domestic requirements and also enable our exports to compete on overseas markets.
Because of our small population and large area, the proportion of public servants to civil population and the private sector generally must be greater in Australa than it is in other countries. The costs of administration, of course, must come out of the pockets of the taxpayers, and that means all of us.
I mentioned very briefly the effect of the cost of our primary production on our ability to sell in overseas markets. Our overseas markets are declining at the same dme as our domestic costs are rising. This creates a tremendous problem for us. It is a problem that can be solved only by the combined efforts of all of us - the efforts of not only one section but of every section of the community. That leads me to the thought that we do have the problem of balance of payments arising from our international trade. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) stressed the importance of this problem the other evening, and we in Australia will have to emphasize it continually until the highly industrialized countries of the world are seised of its vital importance not only to us but also to them. I think it appropriate to quote a statement by the Minister in which he dealt with not only the effect Britain’s entry into the European Common Market might have on Australia but also the problems connected with international trade generally. Amongst other things, he said -
Where is the evidence of these flaws in the structure of international trade of the nonCommunist, non-committed world?
There are many ways in which humanity is divided into different groups, such as by creed, colour, race and history, but nothing divides humanity into groups more clearly than differing economic circumstances. In the situation where one group of humans depends for economic survival on the sale of bulk commodities, while another depends on industrial strength and experience, we are more aligned with the underdeveloped countries than with the mature, highlyindustrialized countries.
Take the position of the under-developed areas which, pre-war, relied for their growth and stability, in large part, upon the fact that they had a favourable balance of trade. This is the stark position: In the ten years from 1950 to 1959, these countries had large trade deficits in every year except 1950 and 1951. The total deficit in this period was over £7,000,000,000 with no suggestion of any improvement.
In one year alone- 1958 - the total adverse balance of payments of the under-developed countries was as great as £1,600,000,000, and in that year they were given an immense amount of aid, to the extent of £1,500,000,000. This represented approximately as much as the amount of the discrepancy in their balance of trade.
This position has not come about from any decline in production or export of goods. On the contrary, excluding petroleum products, exports of the primary producing countries climbed, in terms of volume, some 20 per cent, over this period. However, while volume increased, the price, which the system of importing used by industrial countries had brought about, has declined continuously, seriously and unpredictably. At the same time, exports of industrial countries to under-developed countries have increased significantly in price.
I stress these last words -
No country wants aid in the form of charity.
That is something which we in this Western world must face up to. At the moment, we are engaged in what we call a cold war, and that cold war is being fought on the economic front just as any hot war of the past has been fought on the battlefield. Unless some of our highly industrialized Western countries fully appreciate this, I believe the dangers to our free and uncommitted Western world will become greater in future than they have been in the past. The United States of America will have, and must have, a tremendous responsibility in this direction. I think we all appreciate the tremendous contribution which the United States has made towards assisting other countries since the ending of World War II., but this problem of the major industrial countries and the major primary producing countries must be solved if we are to have stable economies in our Western or free world. I do not say thai there are some countries which are completely industrial and others which are totally primary producing, but there are some countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom where the emphasis is on secondary industry, whereas in Australia it is on primary production, and there must be an appreciation that we will need assistance not in the form of aid as such but of the type needed to stabilize the economy of a primary producing nation.
What value is there in pouring out millions of pounds in aid to countries in Asia if, because of a small drop in the price for their products on the world market, their economy is shot completely to pieces? As the Minister for Trade pointed out, in 1958, even though aid to the extent of £1,500,000,000 was given to certain under-developed countries, the total adverse balance of payments of those countries was £1,600,000,000, so that in actual fact there was a loss of £100,000,000. It is obvious that in many instances the money poured into the countries concerned was of no benefit to them because of failure to appreciate the vital need to stabilize their production. In the same way, there must be an appreciation of the member countries of the European Common Market, or the European Economic Community - call it what you will - that we in our Western world, or uncommitted or free world, cannot allow our economies to be destroyed or even to become unstable. Therefore, from those major countries, there must come a move to stabilize the economies of the primary producing countries, and the United States of America will have to play a tremendous part in this. As I have said, we are facing a cold war. Day after day we read in the newspapers of the problems confronting the Western world as a result of endeavours by the Soviet Union and other Communist-dominated countries to impose their will upon the world. We are working, planning and hoping that this cold war about which we speak will never develop into a hot war, and the statesmen of the Western world must develop an appreciation of the fact that the stability or otherwise of many of the Western countries will play a vital part in determining whether the cold war does develop ultimately into a hot war.
In this twentieth century we have seen on two occasions the destruction of much of our civilization, and we have experienced the horrors and shadows of war. because some statesmen have lacked that vision and foresight necessary to give them some appreciation of the problems confronting them. I hope that this time the statesmen of the countries concerned will have such vision and foresight and such appreciation of our hopes, aims and interests that they will be able to prevent a third catastrophe. The price of lack of vision and foresight, the price of failure to appreciate the importance of the problem, is the peace and security of the world, and the responsibility for ensuring the peace and security of the world is on those countries which are in a position to make some contribution. I believe that those undeveloped nations which are trying to make their place in the world will ask us to put our words into action and do those things which are necessary for their economic survival and the promotion of a high standard of living.
.- The honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock) has stated that the assistance given by countries such as Australia to certain under-developed countries could be or might have been the means of undermining the economy of those countries. The best answer to that suggestion is that if the economy of any of the countries concerned! was likely to be threatened or undermined by aid they would have either refused or not sought the assistance which they did seek on so many occasions. I suggest that: the honorable member’s fears about the aid’ that this country and others have been prepared to give the less fortunate people in adjacent areas are without foundation. I suggest that the honorable gentleman haveanother look at the matter. I am sure that: if he studies it closely he will arrive at triesame conclusions as I have reached.
I would like to congratulate warmly theLeader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on. the splendid speech he made in this committee last evening. He gave a constructiveplan, which is all the more valuable coming, from a man with great insight into theneeds of this country. He has adopted a most constructive and positive approach,, and he has shown the way to a brighter and’ better Australia for all of our citizens. Thecommittee would be well advised to appreciate the wisdom of his remarks.
I have heard a great number of budgets, presented in this Parliament in my time,, and I believe it would be no exaggeration, to say that the Budget presented by theTreasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) last week is a. disappointing and discouraging document. Few budgets have evoked such adversecomment as this one, which demonstratescomplete failure to comprehend the magnitude of the tasks confronting this country. The sit-down-and-wait attitude of theGovernment is quite unrealistic, and: demonstrates a complete lack of appreciation of the needs of this continent, particularly in the field of national development. It was Ralph Waldo Emerson whosaid, “ Our anniversary is one of hope and. perhaps not enough of labour “. I believe those words could very properly be used in. referring to the Budget - the annual financial statement now before us. You cannot develop a continent by words. Initiative, enterprise and resolution are indispensablerequirements. This Government has completely failed to give any indication that it even commences to comprehend the situation. Throughout the whole twelve yearsof the period during which it has controlled! public finance it has fumbled, and now, when some determined and courageous action is required to restore the national economy to a prosperous and progressive position, the Government displays a pathetic and palsied attitude. In Australia to-day 113,000 persons are registered as unemployed. This is a scandalous state of affairs, for which this Government is solely and directly responsible. This is the highest level of unemployment that has been reached in Australia since World War II. It has, of course, a cumulative effect. It is axiomatic that these vast numbers of persons who are unable to earn are also unable to spend.
The Government’s public relations officers have been working overtime, giving handouts to the press in an effort to stem the avalanche of public criticism. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) went to Queensland and made fanciful claims about Australia’s prosperity. Then the Minister for the Navy (Senator Gorton) spoke of a glorious prospect, “ not in the sweet by and by, but as soon as next month “, which would have been in June or July. He said, “ Australia will be on the sunny side of the slope from the end of next month “, but we find that the number of unemployed continues to rise. The Minister indulged in some rather remarkable prophesying when he predicted that we would be on the sunny side of the slope. It was left to the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick), however, to deliver possibly the most remarkable of these statements. In a report in the Adelaide “ Advertiser “, under the date-line “ Brisbane, July 30 “, the following remarks appeared: -
The Federal Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick) said to-night that unemployment because of the credit squeeze was larger than the Federal Government would have wished or could truly have foreseen.
Surely one of two conclusions must be drawn from that statement. Either the Government is shockingly indifferent to the plight of the unemployed, or it is absolutely incompetent. The Attorney-General’s statement that unemployment was larger than the Federal Government would have wished is surely an indication that the Government has had in mind the desirability of establishing a reservoir of unemployed. The further statement, that unemployment was larger than the Government could truly have foreseen, is an admission of complete incompetence. The Government is composed of men experienced in public administration. They are men who have had an opportunity of surveying the position of the country. They should have fully realized that the measures they adopted would have certain results, one of which would be an increase of unemployment.
At this stage let me cite a few comments appearing in an article headed “ Unemployment - Moral Issue? “, in the August, 1961, issue of a publication entitled “Trans Mission “, the official organ of the Central Methodist Mission of Adelaide: -
To-day’s unemployment in Australia means the wrong people are paying for nation’s credit squeeze says Mission Superintendent.
The Rev. Erwin Vogt, addressing a recent meeting of the S.A. Council of Charitable Relief Organisations, said “ Unemployment is a moral issue which should be placed squarely upon the conscience of the whole nation. When a credisqueeze becomes necessary for the sake of the nation’s total economy the cost should be equitably distributed across the whole nation. Today our unemployed carry the major burden - the people who are least able to do so. All employable unemployed should receive from the nation at leasa living allowance, but especially WORK.”
Commenting on this statement, Mr. Vogt said he was convinced that some major employers could have avoided the retrenchment of men by proper adjustments within their own economy. Unhappily, a pool of unemployed in the country can become a useful political pressure upon the Government to ease restraints in the economy. Making reference to the Commonwealth Unemployment Relief benefits, Mr. Vogt said they were inadequate and the lag of almost two weeks before the benefits became available after registration was unrealistic. Many men upon retrenchment were reluctant to register, believing that they would find alternative work or at least sufficient days in the week to keep them going. Disillusioned and their slender resources exhausted with cost of living expenses they register and must then wait. In days of economic emergency there should be more flexibility in the distribution of benefits.
The Public Relief Department within South Australia is able to make some immediate assistance available, but the “ means test “ imposed involves undue discrimination and hardship.
That was said by a man who is daily dealing with distress in the community. He is able to assess correctly the circumstances of our people. Here, in a message to the community, he has indicated how the burden of depression in our economy is being borne almost entirely by those who are least able to bear it, namely, the unemployed.
The cost of the unemployment of our people is staggering, not only because of the amount necessary for unemployment relief but also because of the loss of valuable creative works to a country urgently requiring all manner of works and public services, including homes, roads, harbours and waterfront equipment, schools, hospitals, water and power. The number of persons unemployed in July of this year was 113,439. I am sure it would be informative if I gave the unemployment figures month by month, comparing the first six months of the financial year with the second half of the year which was the actual period of the credit squeeze. Here are the figures: -
The average number of unemployed per month for the first six months of 1960 was 41,855. The figures for the second half of the financial year 1960-61 are as follows:-
The average number of unemployed per month for those six months of the credit squeeze was 88,276. We started the financial year with 44,280 unemployed and finished with 111,684 at the end of June. Surely this is a startling revelation.
In the last year of the Chifley Labour Government, the average number of unemployed was 16,158. As I have said, the average number of unemployed for the last six months of the financial year 1960-61 was 88,276. This gives a clear indication of the drift which has taken place in the economy and which is denying to so many people the opportunity to earn a livelihood in a country which is capable of providing adequately for every man, woman and child.
Let us see what this has meant in terms of wage and production loss to this nation. The latest figures that I have been able to secure from the Commonwealth Statistician’s office reveal that the average annual wage for employed male and female persons was £996. So, the total wages lost to the average number of unemployed during the past financial year was £69,839,520- truly a startling figure. In the same period, the average contribution of an employed person to the wealth of the community, according to the Statistician’s figures, was £1,833. That is the value of what each unemployed person could have produced. Thus, the total loss for the financial year in goods and services to industry and to the community was the tremendous amount of £102,629,500. If there was added the number of persons unemployed who have not registered and those working part time, the amount would be nearer £200,000,000. People must surely realize that by failing to eliminate unemployment the Government is denying to this country the means whereby its ultimate greatness and full prosperity can be attained.
But that is not all: The unemployed have had to be maintained, even if inadequately. The amount paid out in unemployment benefits over the twelve months to which I have referred was £4,468,532. In the last five years of this Government’s administration a total of £21,948,095 has been paid out in unemployment relief. Do not forget that this nation has not a single thing to represent any advantage from that payment except the fact that we have been able to sustain the people who have been unemployed during that time. If there had been provision made for the unemployed to be given suitable work, essential to the needs of the country, it would have been more satisfying to the people concerned. If they had been given security and if adequate provision had been made for them surely that would have been a suitable reward and a satisfactory conclusion to the efforts of the Government. But no, the Government is unwilling to recognize the danger of the situation which presents itself to so many of our people and denies them the means whereby they could add to the greatness and promote the advancement of this country and make adequate provision for those who are dependent upon them.
The Leader of the Opposition has presented the country with a positive alternative to the present Administration and has demonstrated the faith and the determination of the Australian Labour Party to provide the means of rehabilitation in the shortest time possible. His speech was like a torch lighting the way to a new and better era for the people of this great Australian Commonwealth. Housing is the first requirement in order of priority, and then come new harbours, roads, and water supply and irrigation schemes, and greater provision for electric power and for rail and air facilities. But even beyond all this in the overall programme of development is the need to make an immediate start with the development of the great north and the north-western part of this continent.
– Change the Government.
– The only way it will be accomplished is by changing the Government. Unfortunately, those who constitute the Government in this Commonwealth do not seem to comprehend the unique opportunity that is given to those who govern. Here is a whole continent, rich in resources and with wide variations in climate and seasonal conditions. Yet little is done to garner its riches for the well-being of the people. There are two requirements that surely direct our attention to this problem of the north and the north-western part of our continent; development to provide for a better future for hundreds of thousands of people who are here or who are coming to this country, and defence for this most vulnerable and unprotected part of the Commonwealth. I suggest that a commission be set up, as a practical step towards the essential planning of Australia’s development. Yet while all this is so urgent and essential, we have the appalling fact that 113,000 people are unemployed.
In the matter of development the Government, through the statement of the Treasurer, seeks to allay the fears of the people and to give encouragement, in words. In his speech the Treasurer gave some idea of the development and of the resources of this country, but I feel that the greater part of that development is confined to this side of a line drawn from Adelaide to Brisbane. When we look at the rest of the continent we see that little is being provided for. The time has come for a mighty move by this country and the first requisite is to dismiss this pathetically unimaginative Government and let a government of courage and determination lead this nation from its present discouraging condition to one of prosperity and well-being for its people.
.- We have listened to a lot of nonsense from the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). I refer particularly to his tortuous statement on the unemployment situation. Let us look at the position in Queensland. For 40 years there were Labour governments in Queensland and for 40 years they allowed the situation in the north of thai State to produce a condition of seasonal unemployment. For 40 years Labour governments in Queensland have been content to have all the meat and sugar workers unemployed for at least half of the year. Any man who has worked in Queensland for 40 years has had twenty years of unemployment under so-called torch-bearing Labour governments in that State. What the honorable member for Bonython said is arrant nonsense, and he knows it. He is talking nonsense when he says that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and the Government have no idea of the facts of life in the problem of national development.
– Neither they have.
– The honorable member for Bonython says he has listened to the delivery of many budget speeches in this House, and no doubt he has listened to more of them than many of us have. But there is one thing to which he should pay attention. One clear truth which emerges from every budget brought down in this chamber year after year is that a government cannot, from its own resources, earn’ out all the works of national development that even the most cautious or unimaginative person would require to ‘be done in this country. When we hear courageous or imaginative people in this place talk about this scheme or that scheme which should be put into operation throughout the Commonwealth we realize what a frustrating task a government has. Even if we were to find adequate supplies of oil and reduce our imports by £100,000,000, or if we were able to step up our exports by even a larger figure than that by some spectacular means we would still find ourselves short of money to deal with the problems of national development. It also seems certain, for these reasons, that we are committed, for the time being, in our thinking on this problem of development to a policy of spreading our butter across the bread as evenly as we oan, thin as that spreading may be. It is all we can do, for the reasons I have stated, even though it may seem like a policy of appeasement and compromise.
But what does the Labour Party suggest? I will come to that in a moment. We start off with little enough and we try to spread it over all the requirements of the various States, social welfare and so on, and we find it is difficult to give the States even half of what they ask for. We try to give them sufficient to tide them over for a while, but it is never enough. Yet in spite of that we have seen this country develop and expand over the last ten years - the honorable member for Bonython should admit this freely - in practically every field to a degree greater than ever before in its history.
Honorable members opposite have an extraordinary flair for manufacturing vast sums of money, particularly when we are approaching an election. They do so regularly in their speeches, but they are somewhat inconsistent. This time they will probably offer double the amount for social services that they offered on the last occasion. When we look at the figures they have offered over the years we find they are inconsistent. Election year after election year they have held out the same sort of bait. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) gave a good sample of that last night. In Queensland in the last few months honorable members opposite have promised the people the Burdekin Dam, a government steel works in central Queensland and many thousands of miles of sealed road, including the Bourke to Camooweal road. They have, in fact, promised practically anything for which one of their candidates there might ask. If a request is made they say, “ We will do it “.
– What a lot of rubbish.
– That is exactly what is going on. As I say, they have even agreed to build the Bourke to Camooweal road. In fact, anything a Labour candidate asks for which he feels might give him an election favour is granted. The Labour Party has committed itself to several hundred millions of pounds worth of new works for the development of Queensland. I am not sure what has been offered in other States, but you can almost bet that it will be along the same lines. Some of this proposed additional expenditure could be met by reducing the defence allocation, which is what a lot of Opposition members want to do. The Opposition would not have to stop the great inflow of investment from the capitalist countries overseas which it claims to loathe. That stream of investment would dry up very quickly if the Labour Party were in office. We can dismiss out of hand that approach to financing national development because I believe that it is a thoroughly dishonest approach.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) would find that he was budgeting for a pretty embarrassing deficit if he did all that he has committed himself to do, both inside and outside this place. A more sensible and honest approach to this question surely is contained in the statement which was made recently in north Queensland by the president of the Australian Institution of Engineers, who said that the development of northern Australia, not only Queensland, would have to take place on an organized basis and that it was necessary for co-ordinated planning and investigation to be carried out before development was attempted. He added that northern schemes could be carried out, not only by governments but also by private enterprise so long as the projects were sound. How right he is! Without a drastic change in national policy and national thinking we cannot finance development out of revenue, as we would like to do. An alternative is the very slender hope that by some means or other we can convince the people and the State parliaments that we must have definite priorities in one or more areas so that we can concentrate our efforts and resources with sufficient emphasis to make sure that a solid foundation is laid on which to build and progress. Thereafter, reinforcing success of that nature would be a less costly and reasonably simple process. But I think that is a pretty slender hope, people and State politics being what they are. It might be even more difficult to reach agreement in this House on certain matters of national development.
A simple illustration of this difficulty was the recent advocacy by the honorable member for Cunningham (Mr. Kearney) to the effect that the level of production at the copper refinery at Townsville should be slowed down so as not to jeopardize the production of the Electrolytic Refining and Smelting Company’s refinery at Port Kembla. I know that the people of Townsville and north Queensland, who clearly recognize the value of the copper refinery and the important part it will play in the future industrial development of the north, do not agree with the honorable member’s suggestion.
I suppose another alternative is to set up one or more bodies to plan our development in the co-ordinated manner referred to by the president of the Australian Institution of Engineers. But I do not think we have in Australia a group of men charged with planning and co-ordinating national development. Certainly we have the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority which was mentioned earlier, but that organization is confined to the development of a single project in a relatively small area. We are constantly setting up investigating committees to report on certain matters. The Snowy Mountains Authority has shown how we can put together a group of top men and let them loose on a great national project. The investigating committees produce reports for the Parliament which are sometimes acted upon but more often are merely read with mixed interest and sympathy and added to the files or put wherever such reports finally rest.
The Forster committee recently produced a report on the prospects of agriculture in the Northern Territory. Taking, as I do. a particular interest in the development of north Queensland and the north of Australia, I have been looking very closely at this report. We have awaited its publication quite anxiously, and I feel that every honorable member is obliged to study it. If, after reading the plea of Maurice Holtze, curator of the government garden at Darwin in 1887 which prefaces this report, and then the finale on page 209, any honorable member who does not feel sufficiently stirred to make a close study of the report as a whole, I think it would be impossible to interest him in anything worth while.
This report is a document of very great national importance. It should shatter a good deal of our apathy and shame us into decisions which should have been taken many years ago. It should be freely avail able to all who ask for it. Properly handled by the press and given other forms of publicity, it could be one of the weapons that we have been seeking for a long time to prod the nation into a realization of our neglect of northern Australia and of our responsibility towards it.
The Forster committee had quite limited terms of reference and was confined within the borders of the Northern Territory. But as we study the report the boundaries on the map tend to disappear. Most of the report can be applied to the whole northern area of Australia. Through indifference and even ignorance of the southern administration, much of north Quensland has been allowed to suffer the same failures and frustrations as the Northern Territory and the: north of Western Australia have suffered. It is necessary to quote from the finale of this report which recommends certain, measures in these terms -
The measures are designed to break the vicious circle of there being no industry because there are no facilities, and there being no facilities because there are no industries. If the north is to develop, this circle must be broken by some one, and, if the Government considers the north should be developed, it seems to us to be a proper function of government at this stage, to break it. If the Government will not accept this responsibility, it must accept the other responsibility - of doing nothing.
That statement strikes straight at the heart of the matter. For far too long we have done nothing and have refused to accept the responsibility for it.
I repeat that this report is of tremendous importance to us. I commend the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) for the considerable effort that he put into its production during the last two years. We are fortunate to have a member of his calibre and courage in this House. I know that the effects of this report will not be confined to the Northern Territory. We now have the opportunity to make a concerted effort to get something done - to break the vicious circle. We should not hesitate to agree that decisions are required. In the Northern Territory we are not restricted by State sovereignty, and many of the problems associated with Commonwealth and State relations. If we cannot reach agreement with the governments of Queensland and Western Australia perhaps we can make the Northern
Territory the trial plot, the precedent which for so long has been required for various forms of development in a tropical environment. The Queensland Government has not the resources, even if it had the intention, to concentrate its efforts in the far north. It also is trying to spread its efforts as evenly as it can, just as the Commonwealth is endeavouring to do. It is concerned at present more with the development of central Queensland, where very rich opportunities exist for developing the brigalow country. The north of Queensland has far more natural resources than the Northern Territory. Future mineral developments or discoveries may upset or change the position, but the indications are that north Queensland will be far more valuable. This area is clearly favoured in relation to comparative soil types and their possibilities of producing agricultural or pastoral wealth.
The Forster report should stifle once and for all many of the uninformed claims which are made about the Northern Territory being a vast rich area. It is not. At least two-thirds of the whole area is rugged, inaccessible or very poor country and, for all practical purposes, almost useless in the foreseeable future. Of course, there are large areas of rich possibility in the Northern Territory, and the committee has directed attention sufficiently to them and the problems associated with them to clear the way for the development which should take place. On purely economic grounds it is very natural that the Commonwealth has tended to concentrate investment of public money in places where that investment will give the greatest and quickest return to the nation as a whole. I think it is quite logical that that should be done. We find the concentration of basic industries and many rural industries close to large centres of population and, logically, to centres of consumption. That, of course, reduces the distribution costs to a minimum. But development of north Queensland from an expansion point of view is very largely lagging behind other areas because of this question of economics.
In practical terms it is not profitable at present for firms to establish steel, chemical and textile industries in north Queensland. Certain products of industry in north Queensland which could be exported to markets to the north of Australia over distances only half as far as the distances to those markets from Sydney and Melbourne are priced out of competition by the extraordinary scale of shipping freights. For instance, an engineering firm at Townsville cannot possibly compete in tendering for a steel fabrication contract at Port Moresby with a similar firm in Brisbane or Sydney because, to start with, the steel comes from the same source, possibly Newcastle. The southern firms receive preferential treatment as a result of being in a capital city. That might not be so bad, although it is bad enough, but when we find that the shipping companies charge the same freight from Townsville to Port Moresby as they do from Sydney to Port Moresby it is clear that under ordinary circumstances the Townsville firm cannot compete with the Sydney firm. Industry in north Queensland just cannot compete with southern industry on our export markets while it suffers such impositions, which should not be allowed to continue.
This is part of the vicious circle which must be broken. Up to recently the Mount Isa mining interests have been charged a penalty rate by the shipping companies on copper sent to Japan. Not only is the freight from southern ports to Japan exactly the same as the freight from Townsville to Japan, but that mining company was also being charged a penalty rate of 12s. a ton purely because the ship had to come into Townsville. In the past there may have been some valid argument for that on the ground that wharf handling costs were higher at Townsville than at other ports, but that is not the position to-day and has not been the position for some time. In fact, wharf handling at Townsville has been considerably improved, and efficiency there is comparable with that at any other port in Australia.
The principal concern in the matters to which I have referred is that north Queensland is not being allowed to expand its industries on a fair and equitable basis as compared with southern centres. The question of sales tax on freights on consumer goods is another injustice. This is suffered no doubt by all centres remote from the principal centres of supply and distribution, but it is still surely a grave injustice to make sales tax on freight payable by people who are prepared to go out and live in areas and climates which are in some ways less favorable than those in the south. This is a serious injustice, and it should be removed immediately so as to give more encouragement to people in remote areas.
Those are just a few of the anomalies suffered by people living in remote areas in the north. There is no doubt that the north would develop if we allowed it to do so. There are many natural obstacles, of which the people in the north are well aware, which they have either overcome or are prepared to face. We should at least give those people an equitable share of the many favours we bestow on the southern States and southern centres of population. It is surely our responsibility to step in and break the vicious circle that I have mentioned. Seasonal unemployment is a clear example of something within our ability to remedy. Indeed, it is a disgraceful example, because we can supply the remedy and so break the vicious circle. If governments cannot supply adequate money - and that would appear to be the case - then they should at least clear away the obstacles that are preventing private enterprise from moving in and playing the role it has played so effectively up to date, and will continue to play, in the development of our nation.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
.- This Budget is a futile document. It is supposed to deal with the challenging problems of the nation, but there are no new plans in it to restore employment, increase production and advance a vigorously developing Australia. The proposals for housing are hopelessly inadequate. So also are the provisions for finance for community services that are essential to our growing population, while our people cry out for further help and assistance. The meagre increases in social service payments are given grudgingly in this election-year Budget. The urgent need of people with young families has been ignored and in the provisions for service pensions, there is no sign of a new deal for ex-service men and women.
The Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr, Harold Holt) was a masterpiece of doubletalk, evasion and rhetorical camouflage. It has done little or nothing to restore the confidence of the people which was destroyed last November by this Government. This Budget, which has no design other than political expediency, is inadequate to deal with the economic ills that have been caused deliberately by the Government itself. The Government has killed confidence in Australia. It has killed the confidence of the business people and the working people. It has killed the confidence of farmers and investors and everybody associated with the economic life of the country.
Undoubtedly, there is need for that vigorous type of policy that was enunciated last night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He brought to the attention of this Parliament and the nation the urgent and pressing problems that face Australia and the sort of measures that should be employed to deal with those problems. What faith can any businessman, industrialist, farmer or working man have in this Budget? There is no guarantee that this document is to apply for a year or six months or for any given period at all. The promises that are contained in the Treasurer’s speech imply that it is a short-term statement. The people might well expect another horror budget or little horror budget or a November squeeze to be introduced by this Government.
I doubt very much whether this Government can win the election that is to be held soon because I feel that the people have lost confidence, not only in the Government’s fiscal measures but also in the Government itself. If, unfortunately, the Government is returned to office, I fear that the people might well expect early next year another horror budget or further economic measures which will not only deal with the pressing problems that have been neglected by the Administration, but will also bring the nation’s affairs into line with developments in Europe with the extension of the European Common Market.
The pledge made last night by the Leader of the Opposition on behalf of the Australian Labour Party will give heart and encouragement to the people. It is the sort of statement that the people have been waiting for. It will encourage the people to have confidence and will encourage expansion. The proposals of the Leader of the Opposition dealing with the pay-roll tax, the decision to remit the pay-roll tax to local government authorities other than for their business undertakings, the plans for easier borrowing and better terms for home buying and increased production have great appeal. The Labour Party’s plans for the return of the petrol tax to the States for road construction and reconstruction are statesmanlike and deserve the support of the whole nation.
The Labour Party also has a proposal for the development of the north of Australia. That vast area has been by-passed by this Government with a mere political bribe here and there. Instead of dealing with this project in the grand manner that it deserves, this Government has merely set out to make £1,000,000 available here or there without looking at an overall plan for national development. The need to develop the north is known to us all. We need a master plan for the north of Australia, as any person who has given any consideration to this matter at all well knows. There is a need for a north Australian authority which would direct the development of our empty north. That is an urgent and outstanding project that should be proceeded with without delay.
We all know what has occurred in the Snowy Mountains as a result of the imaginative plan that was put into operation by the previous Labour administration. That sort of grand planning is needed in the north for the purpose of water conservation, transport, a new land policy, shipping, roads, and all those things that are essential to the development of the country. But in this Budget, the Government only skirmishes with the problem. It does not deal effectively with it in any way. “ Australia Unlimited “ was the cry of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and the members of the Liberal Party at the last general election but this Government, with its horror Budgets, its little horror Budgets, its November credit squeeze and all the other policies it has adopted has only restricted development, halted production and caused mass unemployment. That is a scandal and a blot on the record of this Administration.
Imagine the futility of idleness in a country demanding such development as ours does! The prospect must shock any person who appreciates the great problems facing Australia. How absurd it is that people should be idle in Australia when so much requires to be done. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Beazley) said very truly last night that there would be a great outcry if from 114,000 to 120,000 people were on strike in Australia and withdrew their labour from industry so that national production was dislocated. There would be a great hue and cry. But while there is a need for development, expansion and housing, this Government has no positive proposals to advance. All we get in the Treasurer’s Budget speech is a lot of double talk.
Throughout the speech, we find words of doubt and uncertainty. We read words and phrases such as “ soon “, “ not for a little time yet “, “ restraints removed “ and “some unemployment”. All these are nebulous, uncertain, doubting statements which add up to negative proposals for Australia. All we get are plans that will deepen the depression complex that was brought about by the credit squeeze which the Treasurer announced in the Parliament on 15th November last. The right honorable gentleman said then that there had to be a dampening down of community demands. The people had to buy less and the business people had to sell less; and consequently, mass unemployment had to become the general order of the day in Australia.
Every supporter of the Government has guilt in relation to the situation we find ourselves in to-day. All of them supported the Government’s measure of 15th November. They followed the lead of the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) because they were told, as we were told, that those measures were necessary in the interests of the economy. They were told that unemployment was necessary to relieve the pressing demands on the economy. The Treasurer said this -
There has been a valuable shift of labour and resources to essential branches of production.
The valuable shift of labour has been to the National Service Office where men seek work. This is the type of shift of labour sought by the Government as a desirable feature of our national life. To have 120,000 people unemployed, with great numbers of them receiving the unemployment benefit for doing nothing - a mere pittance that does not keep body and soul together - is the type of economy that this Government wants. This is the type of economy that the Government believes in now, believed in during November of last year and has always believed in. One could go through the Budget speech and find many howlers. For instance, the Treasurer said -
The main impetus to expansion must, of course, come from the buying public on the one hand and from business firms on the other.
Magnanimously, the Treasurer also said -
Nevertheless, the Government is disposed to assist by whatever means are available to it.
The Government wants the business people to engage in expansion whilst it creates unemployment. In another example of this extraordinary double talk, the Treasurer said -
Thus we all want to see strong and continuous growth, founded upon increasing population, rising productivity and diversity of occupations, skill and culture.
These are the words of the Treasurer, but what does he do to put the unemployed back to work? How has he transferred the unemployed from the guilty motor industry to essential jobs? One would have thought that if, as the Government has suggested, the motor industry, the textile industry, the timber industry and the building industry are guilty occupations, there would have been other occupations to which the unemployed could have been transferred.
Housing surely should not be retarded. Those engaged in the building industry are not engaged in a guilty occupation. The timber getter and the textile worker are essential to our economic strength. The Government has not only thrown these people out of work but it has also struck a blow at the decentralization of industry, whether it be the textile industry in Orange, Bathurst, Lithgow or St. Mary’s or the timber industry in the electorate of the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies). The honorable member for Braddon took me through his electorate to show me the timber yards stacked with the most beautiful timber in this country. Acres and acres of sawn timber are unwanted because of the masterpiece of destruction and sabotage perpetrated by the MenziesMcEwen Government last year when it introduced the credit squeeze. To the everlasting credit of the honorable member for Braddon and others like him, these matters have not been neglected and attention has been directed to them. This is not only a matter for those who work with their hands. The captains of industry have also protested most vigorously about the Government’s actions. The leader of the timber industry union in New South Wales, Mr. Weir, told me of some 80 mills closing in that State. I saw with my own eyes the position in Tasmania, and we know that this is the position throughout the length and breadth of Australia.
The fact that this Budget is not intended to have a duration of twelve months is strongly suggested by the Treasurer, who said in his Budget speech -
Because conditions change rapidly and unpredictably, there must be an adaptation of measures, a varying of their content and emphasis, to suit them to the circumstances that arise. Even could we foresee, exactly and reliably, the conditions that will rule twelve months or two years hence, what we would do now would have to be related primarily to the needs of the present situation. Later, of course, we would adjust our scheme of action progressively to meet new situations as they occurred.
So the Budget is not for twelve months! Surely the people in the community, whether engaged in farming, business or the average wage-earning occupation, should be told what will happen during the next twelve months. They should be told how the country will develop. But all we can see in this Budget is doubt and pessimism. It is little wonder that the financial pages of the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ to-day should carry the headline “ Downward pace quickens “. The Government has failed to inspire confidence not only amongst those who have lost their jobs but also amongst those who engage in activities in the share market. The paltry Budget proposals, without tax concessions to stimulate industry and without grants to encourage development, but . with vague generalities submitted merely for party political expediency, will do little to advance Australia. The outstanding needs to-day are development and confidence, but there can be no confidence or development under this Administration. It never has the heart to face Australia’s problems or to adopt the major proposals that require the broad vision of a government worthy of the name. I have mentioned the Snowy Mountains scheme. This was a Labour proposal, boycotted at its opening by supporters of this Government who were not interested in it. Unfortunately, the Government adopts the same attitude with other proposals that would enhance Australia’s development.
The building industry and the timber industry should undoubtedly be given every encouragement. In the building industry, there is the melancholy story of a retreat from the standards of other days. Housing commencements for the June quarter totalled 19,051, compared with 24,957 for the June quarter of last year. This was a fall of 23.7 per cent. Is this the way the Government stimulates the industry, as it said it would? It has done little in that way, and it should adopt a more vigorous and imaginative programme if this country is to advance as it should. The dead hand of this Government is holding back the building industry and other industries associated with it. This is not only the view of employees; it is also the view of management. The chairman of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, Mr. J. W. Dunlop, said that the credit squeeze was seriously effecting the timber industry. A decentralized industry in my own electorate, Pyneboard Proprietary Limited, which is 60 per cent, owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, is also feeling the effects of the credit squeeze. The chairman said -
The new Pyneboard factory at Oberon operated at full capacity for some months after it started. Unfortunately, markets, and hence factory output, have been reduced by the combined effects of the credit restrictions and imports.
Those are the words of the head of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited. Again, on 20th July last, the “Sydney Morning Herald “, under the heading “ Need to Clarify Tariff Policy “, reported Mr. Dunlop as having said -
Many C.S.R. building materials experienced strong competition, but sales were generally well maintained up to the end of 1960.
Then, of course, came the credit squeeze. The statement continues -
The November credit restrictions then intervened to depress the whole building industry, and sales of most products fell sharply.
Those are the words of the head of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited, and what he had to say about the decentralized industry at Oberon applies with equal force to every country sawmill from which men, having lost their employment, have been forced to go to Sydney to swell the ranks of the unemployed. Development in this country has been retarded and progress halted because of the conscious, deliberate actions of this Administration. If ever there was a time when the people of this country should rise and do something about these matters, if ever there was a time when they should rally to a party which has given a lead on this question, that time is now. I believe that the imaginative proposals put forward by the Leader of the Opposition last night will earn the support of the Australian people.
The tragic state of affairs to which 1 have referred exists in every section of the building industry. I ask ex-servicemen sitting on the Government side, who are supposed to be the spokesmen in this Parliament for the ex-servicemen, why they do not do something for those ex-servicemen who have been waiting for homes since the end of the last war and still have at least eighteen months longer to wait. Despite all the promises made by the Government, the waiting period for advances has not been reduced substantially. If the Government side has any conscience at all, it would put an end, too, to the scandal of temporary finance and the blackmarketing of money to ex-servicemen who are waiting for advances from the War Service Homes Division for the purchase or building of homes.
All these things seriously affect the men and women of this country. It is impossible to deal with the whole of their grievances in the time allowed to an honorable member to speak on the Budget. I emphasize that there is urgent need for the Government to take positive action to remedy the housing position. Australia cannot advance, nor can it develop unless we have homes. We need them, and we need them now. With our present annual intake of some 120,000 migrants, and our natural increase in population, it should be obvious to those who have any humanitarian feelings at all that they should stir themselves and see to it that houses are built at least at a rate commensurate with the intake of migrants and the natural increase in population. Of course, thoughts and actions such as those are beyond this Administration. Such matters do not enter the minds of members of the Government.
Another matter to which I wish to refer briefly relates to the problems of the family unit, which has been neglected, forgotten, and indeed abandoned by this Government. In other days when child endowment was an election issue and it suited the Government to increase the rate, it made much of its generosity. In other days the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) quoted authorities to emphasize the need for substantial family endowment and for lifting the standards of the people. But during the whole of the period in which this anti-Labour Government has been in office - from 1949 to the present time - except on one occasion when child endowment was awarded to the first child, no action has been taken by this Government to give justice to the families of this country. Of all those who have suffered because of the inflation which was created and stimulated by this Administration’s conduct, the family man has suffered most. When I think of the extraordinary statement made in the House yesterday by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in reply to a question about the size of the family unit covered by the basic wage, I am reminded that in 1941 the then Chief Justice had this to say about the basic wage -
I was impressed by the new evidence and arguments as to the inadequacy of the earnings of the lower wage earners with families. On our accepted standards of living, looking at it from the needs point of view only I regard the present basic wage as adequate for a family unit of three persons-
Three persons only - but think it offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four . . . when the unit gets beyond four, hardship is often experienced.
That is the position to-day. Since then, inflation has grown rapidly, the needs of the family have expanded and mothers are now making great sacrifices in order to keep their children on even terms with those of the Smiths and the Joneses. The mothers of families are struggling to ensure that their children have clothes to wear to school, to ensure that they have school blazers and that they are able to take their part in school sports. The burden of all this falls upon the family, but, above all, upon the mother who has the responsibility of balancing her outgoings with the pay envelope or the unemployment pittance paid by the Government if dad becomes unemployed. Only quite recently I had brought to my notice by a representative of the Good Neighbour Council, the plight of a migrant family in which there were eight children. The only friends these migrants had were the members of the Good Neighbour Council. The family, consisting of the mother, the father and eight children had to live upon a miserable pittance of £6 5s. a week. That is the kind of justice that is being meted out to migrants by a government whose miserable, paltry policy has led to a huge increase in unemployment. I should like to believe that the unemployment benefit payments could be banished for all time and that full and adequate incomes could be guaranteed to all persons in the country. The opportunity should be provided for every person to be gainfully employed in the development and advancement of Australia. If this Government sees no need to take action designed to expand and develop the Australian economy then surely it should see the dire need to develop our northern areas in the interests of the security and defence of Australia. Something should be done about developing the north.
Again I offer praise to the Leader of the Opposition for what he had to say last night about the committee which was appointed in Western Australia to consider the question of family endowment. I remind the committee of this statement by the Child Endowment Campaign Committee of Western Australia -
The Child Endowment Campaign Committee believes that the standard of living of parents should not be governed by the number of children in the family, nor should the child’s standard oi living be governed by the number of sisters and brothers he happens to have.
That is a very important statement. Time does not permit of my dealing with it in full this evening, but I put it to the Government that action ought to be taken along the lines suggested by the campaign committee. Those comfortable members on the
Government side who are beyond the need of these things, who have no feeling for the aged, the infirm, the mothers and children of their electorates, and who are interjecting now, ought to remain quiet while a plea is being made for those unfortunate people and while a request is being made that justice be done to these Australian citizens.
This Budget falls short of all requirements. I have before me a statement relating to local government needs in Australia. I remind the committee that the Prime Minister had promised to hold a conference on local government finance if the States would agree to such a conference being held. The States did agree, but the Prime Minister refuses to do anything about calling one. As I said in this chamber some days ago, the local authorities have stated that they could employ every unemployed person in this country on such essential services as water, sewerage, houses, roads, the reticulation of electricity and so on if finance could be made available to them. The Government has failed to provide the requisite money and it has refused to allow local governing authorities to raise it. Local government bodies have less power to raise money now than they had in 1952. That ls the way in which this Administration has sought to establish an Australia unlimited!
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Temporary Chairman, we have just heard from the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) a most extravagant and irresponsible speech. He has followed the pattern of members of the Australian Labour Party by trying to create panic and induce depression. So long as members of that party cannot think past the depression of the 1930’s, they will lack the confidence of the Australian people. The extravagance of the honorable member’s statements is indicated by his assertion that this Government has done nothing to improve social services. 1 point out that an expenditure of £92,000,000 on social services was budgeted for in 1 948- 49 - the last full year of Labour’s administration. The present Government proposes to spend £358,230.000 this financial yearalmost four times as much as Labour was able to spend, in its last year in office, on those most in need.
The Budget Speech made by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) was in my opinion a masterly exposition of Australia’s economic position. He pointed out that the boom which was threatening to engulf us when special economic measures were taken last November had subsided, speculation had ceased, the increase in prices had been checked, and imports, which, in November last, were coming in at a rate that Australia could not possibly afford, had been reduced. Over the last two or three months, our exports have exceeded our imports and, once again, we see our London funds - which represent Australia’s bank balance - in a quite healthy condition.
The Treasurer does not disguise the fact that the stability that has been achieved could not have been brought about without hurt to somebody. The fact is that certain unemployment and shifts of employment have occurred and that certain industries which were over-producing in November of last year have had to reduce their output. However, Sir, every person in Australia is directly concerned with Australia’s stability, which is vital to every Australian. From time to time, economic measures may be needed to prevent a boom and a burst, and those measures must be taken, however unpopular they may be. Australia is indeed fortunate that it has in office a government with the courage to do the unpopular thing when the welfare of the people of Australia requires it.
I mentioned earlier that the Government is indeed concerned about the present level of unemployment. However, there is no need for panic. Prior to World War II., Australia was accustomed to unemployment at the rate of about 8 per cent, of the workforce. At the present time, a rate of about 6 per cent, is regarded as normal in the United States of America, and something like 8 per cent, in Canada. Since the present Government has been in office, we in Australia have embarked on a policy of full employment, and the present Administration has been more successful than has any other government in the world in achieving that great objective.
First of all, when we are talking about employment and unemployment, we ought lo make up our own minds about what we mean by a condition of full employment. I think that one of the best authorities in Australia on this subject is probably a man whom I admire as a great Australian, although I do not agree with his political views. I refer to Mr. Monk, the president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Dealing with this matter, he said -
But the ordinary person in Australia now gets awfully frightened if we get up to 2 per cent, unemployment, whereas in actual fact, because of our seasonal occupations in Australia, it is necessary to have about l.S per cent, floating work force to deal with seasonal and major construction works.
Let us accept Mr. Monk’s statement that at all times we require a floating body of workers representing about H per cent, of the total work force for seasonal jobs such as wool-classing, shearing and canning, for which wages higher than those normally paid in other occupations are offered because these are seasonal jobs. If we accept that, we find that we have exceeded what may be described as full employment by about 1 per cent, of our work force.
I believe that in a country such as Australia, which is undoubtedly a land of opportunity and a land in which a great deal of development has to be undertaken, we cannot afford to have able-bodied men out of work. I think that the Government has realized this, Sir. In the Budget which is now before the committee, the Government has taken a number of measures to remedy the position. In the first place, a cash deficit of £16,471,000 has been budgeted for this financial year, compared with the actual cash surplus of £15,791,000 last financial year. This means that about £32,000,000 of additional purchasing power will be injected into the community. That, of course, will provide additional employment and additional demand for the output of industries, and it will, I believe, help to solve this problem during the current financial year.
In addition, the Government has agreed to provide the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia with an additional £5,000,000 of capital which will be len: by the bank and spent by the borrowers on commodities and labour. All of this will help to reduce unemployment. Furthermore, £1,000.000 is to be spent on roads for the transport of beef cattle in northern Australia. Road works, as is well known, provide a great deal of work, particularly for unskilled persons. An additional £1,800,000 is to be spent on the search for oil this financial year. This, also, will provide employment because there will be a direct demand for additional labour for oil search projects and because labour will be needed to produce the additional materials that will be bought for the oil search programme.
In the field of social services, the Government will, this financial year, spend about £27,600,000 more than was spent last financial year, £7,850,000 of the increase being for entirely new .benefits. This additional expenditure of some £27,600,000 on social services will be for the benefit of people on the lowest scale of income. The money will be paid to people who are unable to save, and all of it will be spent, mostly on clothing and foodstuffs. This expenditure, in turn, will provide additional employment in the textile industry and in the industries which produce foodstuffs.
The Government proposes to spend an additional £4,300,000 on repatriation benefits, £2,500,000 of which will be spent on new benefits in addition to those provided last year. The Government has provided £31,900,000 of additional money for the States. All honorable members know that the States will immediately use that money for works such as schools and hospitals all of which will assist in providing additional employment. Further, the sum of £6,100,000 is to be provided for capital works in addition to the amount spent last year. That, again will provide employment either directly or through the materials that will be required.
If we add those figures up we find that the Government, under this Budget is to spend £107,000,000 more in this financial year than it spent in the last financial year. Does any one in this chamber say that the expenditure of an additional £107,000,000 will not provide employment for people who are now out of work? I think we can say without doubt that this Budget has been designed to improve the present situation in which the inflationary pressures have been checked and a certain amount of unemployment has developed. The Government is now taking steps to remove this unemployment in accordance with its policy of full employment.
Personally, I have no doubt about our long-term ability to absorb those who are unemployed at the present time. My concern at the present time is for what I might describe as the short-term outlook. We have an immediate problem that must be faced immediately and cannot wait while the various reforms work themselves into the economy as they will during the next twelve months. As the extra £107,000,000 circulates into the community it will, in my opinion, absorb those people who are now out of work, but I believe that some immediate action should be taken by the Government to deal with the employable people - between 40,000 and 60,000 of them - who are now anxious to secure work.
I ask the Government to consider this proposition: I suggest that the Government should offer to municipal authorities and local government councils a £1 for £1 subsidy on the wages of every additional man whom they put on during the next three months. There are no administrative difficulties in this plan. The number of employees that each council had, at say, the 1st September, 1961, could be ascertained. The councils could then be offered this subsidy of £1 for £1, which would be of tremendous benefit to them. They would be able to get urgent work such as kerbing and guttering done, at half the normal labour cost.
This would cost the Commonwealth very little. The present basic wage is about £14 4s. a week. If the Commonwealth subsidy were half that, it would be £7 2s. a week. At the present time, the Commonwealth is paying an average of £5 a week in unemployment benefits. So the net cost to the Commonwealth would be only £2 2s. a week for each additional employee engaged and this, over three months, would amount to about £1,200,000. This would tremendously improve the morale of the unemployed, many of whom have been out of work for two or three months. Many of them are committed to the purchase of homes. Some of them have agreed to pay up to £5 a week. They can afford to pay this when they are in employment but they are now unable to keep up the instalments while they are on unemployment relief.
The plan that I suggest would stimulate industry throughout the community because the unemployed, instead of getting only the unemployment benefit which does no more than provide their food, would have money to spend. They would have the basic wage with which to purchase commodities, and this increased purchasing power, in turn, would provide additional employment. I believe that if this step were taken unemployment would vanish within the three months I have mentioned. The Government could set a limit to the amount of this expenditure and make it perfectly clear that this was just a temporary measure to meet a temporary problem.
I believe that unemployment is demoralizing and degrading. In a country much as Australia we cannot afford to have unemployed people. There are too many jobs to be done; too much development is required. I believe it is completely unsound to have people idle when they are willing and able to work. As I mentioned before, I am perfectly confident, taking the longterm view, that the steps that have been taken by the Government, as announced by the Treasurer, will solve the unemployment problem over the period of the current financial year, but I believe that we have an immediate problem on our plate. This problem could be solved with a small expenditure of money by the process of subsidizing councils for the next three months on a £1 for £1 basis for all additional persons placed on their pay-roll.
I entirely agree with the Treasurer that the economy is much sounder to-day than it was last November. Our long-term prospects are exceedingly bright. If we can cure this temporary unemployment, 1 believe that we will be able to refer undoubtedly to “ Australia Unlimited “. However, this question of unemployment is not a problem for governments alone. Ordinary citizens are far too much inclined to pass the buck to governments. Unemployment is something that is distressing. It is something that should concern every individual.
At the present time, there are 4,500,000 people in good jobs at good pay. If onetenth of those people gave one day’s work a week to an unemployed person, the whole of the unemployed would be absorbed. Every citizen has some work that is required to be done in the garden or in the house. If people would only turn their minds to this problem and not simply leave it all the time to the other fellow, it would soon be solved. It must be solved. Whilst longterm measures can provide an ultimate solution, every now and then, when we are faced with this short-term unemployment, we have to adopt measures which will provide immediate relief. The suggestion that I have made that this be done through local government bodies is, I believe, a solution to that problem.
.- The Budget that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) brought down last week clearly has the hand of the Treasury upon it. It reveals what I would call the dictatorship of the Treasury, which, as we know, is traditionally conservative and traditionally reactionary, is quite nervous and is incapable of producing something revolutionary when something revolutionary is needed to rescue our economy.
The Treasurer’s Budget speech made it quite clear that this Government is utterly incapable, after twelve years in office, of any independent thinking. So we are presented with a Treasury document, a Tiggy Touchwood type of document, when what we needed was something that would really attack the problems facing us and really show promise of solving them. These Budget proposals are quite inadequate to accomplish the colossal task facing the Government, a task which has become necessary because of the Government’s own deliberate action in choking off the economy by means of an indiscriminate credit squeeze. The Budget reminds me of a person trying to build a dam with a trowel when a bulldozer is needed. This document, as I have said, has the touch of the Treasury upon it. One may well say, in much the same way as Isaac said in the Old Testament, it was the voice of Holt but the hand of Wilson.
On the political aspect, to which no speaker has yet referred, I want to make one or two pertinent comments. I firmly believe that this is the Budget of a government sure in its own mind of winning the next election. Why is it sure of this? It is sure because it has already been assured of the second preferences of Democratic
Labour Party candidates. We know that the one ambition of that party is to keep the Australian Labour Party out of office here in Canberra. This Government has to be bolstered by a Country Party, by a Democratic Labour Party and by a Communist Party to keep Labour out of office.
It is about time the people of Australia woke up to this Government, instead of being mesmerized by the great white father every time he opens his mouth. It is about time the people became independent in their thinking and looked behind the facade of this Government, which has to have Communist Party support, Democratic Labour Party support and Country Party support to get into office and stay there. Ours is the only Australian party. We have never changed the name of our party. We have never asked for or needed the support of any other party to gain office. We will come to power in our own right in the end, when the people in Australia have really had this Government. Unfortunately we may have a repetition of the credit squeeze before the people will be induced to show that they have had this Government.
That is the first point I want to make from the political point of view. The Budget, as I say, is that of a government sure of coming back after the next election, after having enjoyed the support of the satellites that I have referred to.
The second comment I want to make is this: It would have been a far different document had the Labour Party won the recent State election in Victoria. It is my opinion that much of this Budget was rewritten after the result of the Victorian election became known and Mr. Bolte was returned to office as Premier. Who put him back to office? It was the same Democratic Labour Party, which assured the Victorian Government of twenty seats by giving its candidates the second preferences of the Democratic Labour Party candidates. This D.L.P. is the party that negotiates unity ticket arrangements with the Liberals and with any other group that it can use for its own purposes.
My third comment is this: Who put the Menzies Government back to office in 1958? It was the same party that I have just referred to, by giving the Liberal Party and Country Party candidates the second preferences of its own candidates. Who are we really to blame, therefore, for the credit squeeze, and for the unemployment and consequently tragedy that exist in the country to-day? Those who are to blame are the members of the Democratic Labour Party, who put the Menzies Government, back into office with their second preferences. They are the guilty ones, and it is about time the people woke up to the fact.
This uninspiring, anaemic, standstill Budget is now before us as a result of the D.L.P. giving this Government its support in the last two elections and the promise of its support in the next.
– What are you going to do about it?
– I am merely stating the facts. Some day the individual rank and file members of the D.L.P. will see how they have been led up the garden path by their leaders, and they will return to the party of their faith and the party of their birth - the Australian Labour Party.
– On whose terms?
– We will not talk about terms. You are the ones who talk of terms; you live on them. You had a secret meeting, I understand, with the parliamentary leaders of the D.L.P. last week in Canberra to discuss, no doubt, the attitude they would adopt regarding preferences at the next election.
Let me stress my point. This Government is so sure of winning the next election, and it is so out of touch with the realities of the situation in which unemployment is rife and there is a widespread business slowdown that it has become cynical. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) is so sure of himself that he believes he can afford to be cynical. This Budget is a cynical Budget. The Treasurer has snapped his fingers at the people. He believes that he will come back here after the election, and so he feels he does not have to give concessions or provide a solution of the problems of the day.
– He could make a mistake.
– Yes, he could make a mistake, as the honorable member for Bonython says. Smugness could be their undoing. There is an undercurrent of real resentment in the community to-day as a result of the actions of this Government. In my six weeks’ tour of my electorate recently, when I travelled 3,500 miles through eleven municipalities out of fifteen in the electorate, when I contacted 2,800 people in 73 towns and districts and addressed 33 schools, I heard many farmers and businessmen saying that although they had never voted for Labour in their lives they will surely vote for Labour at the coming election, come what may, because they have lost faith in the Prime Minister. This trend is apparent throughout the country, and if it were not for these satellite parties we would walk in at the next election.
We have seen the favorable comments on the speech made last night by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), which was one of the finest speeches I have heard in this Parliament. We have seen the editorials in the Sydney evening newspapers to-day. The Sydney “ Sun “ had this to say -
Mr. Calwell’s Budget speech last night deserves the careful study of everyone . . .
The proposals Mr. Calwell put forward face boldly and frankly the problems lying at the heart of the present recession . . .
The most deplorable aspect of Mr. Holt’s Budget speech was the impression it made of a lack of awareness of the gravity of Australia’s present economic crisis.
The Sydney “ Daily Mirror “ had something similar to say, and other newspapers throughout the country have praised the speech of the Leader of the Opposition because it was constructive and moderate and got down to bedrock. If this Government thought it was going to be defeated at the next election, we would have had a very different Budget, Mr. Chairman. The Budget now before us deserves severe criticism. It is a cynical, unrealistic document. If there is one thing above all others that we should avoid in this country to-day it is cynicism, because cynicism is a cancer that eats into people, into parties, into parliaments and into business. Cynicism is a wicked thing. I repeat, however, that this is a cynical Budget, and it is for this reason that I attack it. It will not stimulate the economy in the massive fashion necessary if men are to be put back to work in their thousands. It will not inspire confidence in business and investment circles. It will not re-open more than a small proportion of the 120 sawmills that have been shut down. It will not stimulate primary industries that are so afraid of the future, and it will not stimulate appreciably the mighty housing industry that has slowed to a walk. Interestingly enough, “The Advocate”, which is one of Tasmania’s three daily papers, and is printed at Burnie, had this to say on the Budget next morning under the heading, “No Election Budget”-
Had there been no dissension in the ranks of Australian Labour, and had the recent State election in Victoria shown a result other than a vote of confidence in the ruling Liberal Party, the Budget brought down by the Federal Treasurer, Mr. Holt, in the House of Representatives last evening, would have been a far different document.
I read those remarks after I had prepared this part of my speech. It is interesting to think that “The Advocate” agreed with my comments, made a while ago, about the reason why this sort of a budget has been introduced on the eve of an election. In “ The Taxpayers’ Bulletin “ of 19th August, 1961, we read -
We are staggered at the buyonacy of revenue available to the Treasury and at the miserably small tax concessions granted; we are disappointed that greater efforts are not being made to provide incentives to the private sector to lift the economy out of the doldrums apparent in the second half of the financial year and to cope with the tragic problem of unemployment. Take the revenue situation; in 1959-60 taxation revenue was £1,244,000,000; in 1960-61 tax revenue rose by £175,000,000 to £1,418,000,000, and after allowing for the very modest tax concessions now proposed the Treasurer budgets to collect £1,466,000,000 in the coming year- a further £47,600,000. It is expected that personal income tax payers will pay a further £57,800,000 and companies a further £8,400,000.
It says, further -
If you want a job look to the Government rather than to private enterprise.
That is because the only places where people are being taken on to-day are government departments. Private enterprise is unloading employees day after day. Some firms have put eight out of 25 employees off and are finding that they are getting just as much production from the reduced staff as they got before, so they will not put any more men on again. That is happening all over the country to-day. I know of two cases in Melbourne where this sort of thing has happened. In one instance a firm is saving itself £100 a week in wages and is getting the same production as it got before. It looks. as my colleague the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) remarks, that somebody is sweating somebody else if that is what happens, and it is what happens. These people use the credit squeeze as an excuse to put men off, but have their prices come down? No! They save £100 per week but their prices do not come down. The firm I am talking about is a handbag manufacturing firm and the prices of women’s handbags are still the same, even though this firm is saving £100 per week on the cost of production of those handbags.
Only massive financial cures will restore employment, revive confidence, rejuvenate business, including housing and resurrect primary production, including the timber industry. It needs great circulation of spending power at the base roots of the economy, that is, among the ordinary people. It means, and this is a vital requirement, men in work and this means men and women spending and investing again. A figure of 113,000 registered unemployed means that about 400,000 people are affected. I will quote some figures on unemployment. In 1949, when Labour left office, there were only 9,000 people registered as being out of work, and in 1961 there are 113,400. Tn 1 949, when we left office, only 1 ,500 people were receiving the unemployment benefit, but in 1961 about 58,000 are receiving the unemployment benefit, yet this is the Government which made all the airy promises in 1949!
This Government has made the wageearner the innocent victim of its vicious economic stabilization policy. When 1 00,000 men were out of work do you know what the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) said? He said, “We have now stabilized our economy “. That is exactly what it means. On this occasion, however, the position is far more serious. It means that with an unemployment figure around the 100,000 mark the Government is satisfied that its policy has been successful at the expense of those men who are out of work. The guilty can weather the credit squeeze and have mostly done so, but the innocent, the wage-earner, has not been able to do so. That is where the cynicism of it all comes in.
At the present time wages in circulation are £2,000,000 per week less than before the credit squeeze. Spending power is £8,000,000 per month less, so no wonder businesses are being forced to close or to reduce staffs. This also means the sacrifice of homes through cessation of repayments. It means the sacrifice of household goods, insurance policies and children’s education. It also means an increase in delinquency. In every State in the Commonwealth to-day, tragically enough, stealing, or theft, is increasing at an alarming rate. Any member of the police force in any State will tell you that this is because of unemployment. Delinquency is increasing at an alarming rate. Ask any church leader or social worker to-day and he will tell you that that is true.
There are also more bankruptcies. The bankruptcy list in Australia to-day is higher than at any time since the depression of the middle 1930’s. The credit squeeze also means the breakdown of family life, which is vital to our country’s health and the breakdown of future plans and family hopes and security. In my mind it is a criminal thing for any government to produce unemployment deliberately by an act of policy as this Government did. No wonder it is being talked about in the pulpits of Australia as a moral issue, because it was a most immoral thing for this Government to create unemployment on its present massive level.
What have the primary producers to thank the Government for in this Budget? I am speaking from that point of view because mine is a primary-producing electorate. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti), the honorable member for Braddon (Mr. Davies), the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) and, indeed, many of my colleagues here have primary-producing electorates. It really staggers one. This Government talks about being the friend of the primary producer and is supposed to be backed by the corner party, the Country Party, which has agreed with this Budget and has already said so. Listen to what the Budget has done for the primary producer, who is to-day suffering greatly! This appears in the Treasurer’s speech -
A deduction for expenditure on purchasing and laying underground pipes conveying water for use in primary production will be allowed against income in the year in which the expenditure takes place, and will commence to apply to the 1961-62 income year. Depreciation allowances in respect of other piping will not be disturbed. The estimated cost per revenue is £300,000 for a full year and £30,000 in 1961-62.
A second proposal relates to the taxation of income including that derived from compensation, on account of livestock compulsorily destroyed in order to control or eradicate disease . . . The cost to revenue in 1961-62 is estimated at £125,000.
That is what the primary producers can look to! What a barren page in the Budget speech, what a wilderness it is for them!
I hope that the primary producers will wake up to this Government and realize how it pulled the wool over their eyes in the last twelve years. If it were not for good seasons - and the Government even takes credit for them - and particularly good prices overseas - they had nothing to do with this Government - where would the primary producers be to-day? Primary production has been very little benefited by the legislation of this Government, which is prepared to go along hoping for the best. The best thing for the primary producers would be a Labour government to give them some hope of security after the next election.
– How are things around Lorquon?
– They are going fairly well. I want now to turn to Tasmania. It would be unusual if I did not. This Budget allocates not one shilling to help Tasmania carry out any project. There was a slight increase in the States grants and tax reimbursements, but nothing in the Budget to provide for any special project of national importance which would help us with our grave unemployment problem.
The Government helped Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland to a small extent. In days past the Government has also helped Western Australia with its irrigation projects, but Tasmania has not received one additional penny from the Government for any project. Do honorable members know what the Government has done? Instead of giving Tasmania something, it has taken money away from that State. In the electorate of the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) are Bell Bay aluminium works. This year that great undertaking was sold lock, stock and barrel to the Kaiser-Consolidated Zinc cartel for about £9,000,000, the amount to be paid in five annual instalments of a little less than £2,000,000 each. Where is the money from that sale going? It is going into Consolidated Revenue. It has been lost to Tasmania. If the Government wants to help Tasmania in its present crisis, why does it not give Tasmania the £9,000,000 that it will receive for the sale of the Bell Bay works. That would be only fair, just and right. It is scandalous to take £9,000,000 from Tasmania and not return one penny for any project of national importance. We want a thermal power station in the Fingal Valley and we want an irrigation scheme from the latest hydroelectric works at Poatina. Those are projects which the Commonwealth Government could help to finance.
The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, made this profound statement -
Again, amongst our annual revenue grants to the States, there are several, such as the Commonwealth aid roads grants, which go largely if not wholly towards developmental work. Besides these forms of assistance, we have from time to time, and in various ways, joined with individual States in financing projects which have a particular value not only for the State concerned but for the whole economy.
In the light of those words I ask the Commonwealth Government to give Tasmania additional financial assistance, having regard to the fact that it has taken £9,000,000 from that State by the sale of the Bell Bay works.
If we become the government after the next election, we intend to introduce a fiveyear road plan. Something along those lines is necessary to help our road system which is a running sore in Australia to-day. The Commonwealth Government should take over the financing of our main highways and then declare the provision of adequate roads a national emergency and, at the same time, formulate a Commonwealth roads plan. The interstate highway system could then be linked with defence and given an annual grant of £10,000,000 from the defence vote. Unless there is a revolutionary change in the thinking of both Commonwealth and State Governments, Australian roads generally will continue to be sub-standard. Apart from the Commonwealth aid roads grants, there has been nothing new or different in the thinking of governments in relation to roads for more than 50 years. Once the Commonwealth had power to control highways it could formulate a five-year plan for highway reconstruction with State road departments authorized to do the work to Com monwealth specifications and using Commonwealth finance. The annual grant from the defence vote would be additional to all current road expenditure by Commonwealth and States. With highway construction removed from State responsibility all money spent in this field at present could be diverted to municipalities and to State arterial roads as additional finance.
In the United States of America a national roads plan is now in its fourth year of operation. We must be the only country in the world where the central government is restrained by constitutional powers from active and direct participation in a modern roads programme. Roads are vital to both defence and primary production, and therefore the highways, at least, should become a direct financial responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. Piecemeal handling of the problem is disastrous to our internal land lifeline. I put that forward as a constructive proposition. When we come to office we shall return all the petrol tax revenue to the States for use on road works. At present only about 75 per cent, of the petrol tax goes to roads. The remainder goes to Consolidated Revenue.
Let me deal now with local government, which is not receiving much out of this Budget. Local government is the grass roots of government. It is vital, basic and foundational to progress and the national economy. Its commitments have increased greatly in recent years. Finance is needed for water and sewerage projects, road works, the making of streets and the provision of power, but local government’s share of the national income has fallen considerably in the last eight years. In 1952 local government received 4.6 per cent, of the national income, but in 1960 it received only 3.9 per cent. There are 905 councils in Australia, approximately 735 of them rural.
I want to make a suggestion regarding local government and the loan borrowing programme. Why could we not set up, as an instrument of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, a central loan agency to lend money to municipalities, this agency being financed like the Commonwealth Development Bank? Then, instead of municipalities going to the banks, cap in hand, begging for £20,000 here and £30,000 there to make up the State approved allocation, the application would be made direct by the municipality to the central lending agency at the fountain head in Canberra. A low rate of interest would be charged and the municipalities would receive each year exactly what they were allocated. Supposing the Longford municipality in Tasmania was given permission by the State Government to borrow £50,000 in the coming year, instead of going to several banks seeking this money, or part of it - in some cases getting nothing at all - it could make an immediate application to the central lending agency and receive the money direct.
– Where would the money come from?
– This scheme could be financed in exactly the same way as the Development Bank is being financed. If we can finance one we can finance the other. My suggestion is a businesslike sensible way of helping local government and lifting it- out of the role of the beggar going cap in hand to the banks or to other leading agencies which charge 6 per cent., 7 per cent, and 8 per cent, interest, thus keeping municipal rates well up. If my suggestion were adopted we could probably reduce the burden of rates which now weighs very heavily on the people of the municipalities, aggravated by heavy interest charges. I advance my proposal as being something constructive. If this Government does not adopt it, we shall consider it when we come to office. For the sake of local government which, as I have said, is the grass roots of government, help must be forthcoming. Local government is providing all the basic amenities to every person in the Commonwealth because every person in the Commonwealth belongs to a city council or to a municipality. My suggestion, if adopted, would put local government on a proper footing so far as its borrowing programme is concerned. I put forward the proposal in all sincerity for the Government’s consideration.
Finally, we believe that charges made by dental mechanics should be an income tax deduction. We have received representations from the dental mechanics association in Tasmania along these lines, and so has the Government, but the Government has refused the request. Dental mechanics have been registered in Tasmania only in the last twelve months.
– One of the planks in our platform for the next election campaign is the institution of a dental health plan.
– That is so. That will be one of our proposals. At the moment the real dentists, as one might call them - the professional dentists - are telling their clients that if they have their teeth dealt with by them the cost will be deductible for income tax purposes, but that will not be the case for people who deal with dental mechanics. I hope that the Government will further consider the removal of this vicious anomaly in Tasmania.
– Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
– Before I develop certain ideas that I wish to express in relation to the Budget, let me refer to the charge continually made by the Opposition that the Government is responsible for the present rate of unemployment in this country, especially insofar as it has developed since the beginning of what is called the credit squeeze. I should say that the action of the Government in introducing a curtailment of the financial resources available for a particularly dangerous, speculative and gambling boom in land and other properties was one of the most opportune things that could have been done. Almost immediately we saw the folding up of certain companies which had pyramided their alleged resources and had built, as it were, a house of cards of paper money. When the pressure was put on they folded up, leaving a lot of people lamenting. Had not the Government acted when it did I venture to say that the savings of many more people would have gone west and there would have been a calamitous break in many more fortunes.
It has been continually contended, almost ad nauseam, that the tremendous setback of the motor industry was due to the fact that the Government had imposed the credit squeeze. Well, Sir, in the words of Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s play, “ If it were so. it was a grevious fault”. But the fact of the matter is that the Government, perhaps over-generously, saved the motor industry from the result of its own overexpansion. Let me quote here from a very authoritative journal published in August, 1961, which states -
The record of employment so far this year has been impressive even though-
And I ask you to mark those words - the official count of jobless persons has hovered round the 5,000,000 mark, and the unemployment rate between 6i and 7 per cent.
Now let me move to another quotation, but before I do so let me point out that these quotations are not wrested from their context. They are plain facts. This one reads -
The best gains from the first quarter to the second were scored in the steel, building materials and automobile industries, where declines of 30 to 40 per cent, had occurred during the last quarter of 1960.
Sir, anybody who has taken the trouble to study what happened in the United States and Canada will know perfectly well what happened there as a result of overproduction in the motor industries of those countries. If the Government was responsible for any fault it was that of putting pressure on certain interests and thereby taking away from them the odium which would have resulted from their having had themselves to curtail their activities.
I have here the latest authoritative publication from the Department of Labour and National Service dealing with unemployment. This shows that the unemployment rate, as at the time of preparation of this document, was 2.7 per cent, in New South Wales, and that the highest State unemployment rate was 2.8 per cent, in Queensland and Tasmania. Compare that with the dislocation of employment in the United States and Canada, both of which have vastly greater resources than ours but have an unemployment rate of from 6i per cent, to 7 per cent., and you get some measure of the effect of the policy for which my right honorable friend the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has been so scathingly condemned by people who cloud judgments with counsel that is lacking in wisdom. But I shall not labour that matter any further. I propose to move on to the question of the European Common Market.
No consideration of this present Budget would, in my opinion, be complete unless it took into account the probable impact of Great Britain’s entry into the European Common Market. Not to take that matter into account when discussing the Budget would be to act unrealistically. It would be, in effect, an attempt to consider the Budget in a vacuum. In other words, it would be saying that Australia is living in a world by itself and can ignore what may be the factors which will affect our economy most.
To criticize the Government because the Budget is conservative is, I believe, to pay it the highest possible tribute at a time when the whole economy of the British Commonwealth, and a good part of the Western world, looks like being in the melting pot. The tangible - that is, the political and constitutional - aspects of Great Britain’s adherence to the Common Market have been set out with extreme ability by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself, and the trade and commerce aspects of it have been handled in a masterly way by the Leader of the Australian Country Party and Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen). I would say that the Prime Minister’s firm and balanced presentation of the political and Commonwealth implications of Britain’s proposed action - because that is all it is at present - and the Minister for Trade’s down-to-earth and vigorous exposition of the trade and commerce implications, have been of extreme value to the Parliament and to the nation. The Minister for Trade is also to be commended for the vigorous and tireless way in which, over the past two or three years, he has prosecuted the search for new markets and has opened up new trade commissioner posts and commercial offices in many parts of the world, ranging from South America to Asia.
If we have to face the unpleasant possibility that Great Britain will enter the Common Market, this policy will enable us to cushion, as it were, the effects of the cessation of the present long-standing trading arrangements that we have with Great Britain. The latest figures that T can find show Great Britain has been taking 24 per cent, or 25 per cent, of our total exports, whilst about 26 per cent, of our total imports have come from Great Britain. So the way that our trade has been integrating makes the possibility of Great Britain entering the European Common Market loom largely in the minds of our leaders. In my opinion, the picture of Australia as a mendicant wholly and solely dependent on the goodwill of Great Britain is completely untrue and unreal. I would say firmly that this is our country and, come what may, we hope to make a great country of it.
Two things are quite unacceptable to me. The first is a statement that has been repeated ad nauseam to the effect that if Great Britain does not enter the Common Market, she will simply be another off-shore island. That is a great injustice to Great Britain herself. Looking at the other side of the world, I see a country with which we have close relations. I refer to Japan. There we have a group of off-shore islands which have not a fraction of the natural resources of Great Britain; yet Japan, faced by 700,000,000 people across the water, is not hunting for cover but is searching for new customers and going out to develop her economy. The picture of Great Britain as a poor nation left on the shelf if she does not join up with The Six of Europe is something I cannot possibly accept.
On the other hand, I cannot accept the picture of Australia as a hopeless mendicant of Great Britain if Britain withdraws from the present trade arrangement. Certainly we are a small nation of fewer than 11,000,000 people, but we come from the stock of Great Britain - a nation that fought the Battle of Britain under Winston Churchill. When everything else had gone, including almost an army overnight, it was the leader who said, “We will never surrender “, and who carried Great Britain through that crisis. As long as that spirit is in our country, we cannot fail, no matter what Great Britain does.
Of course, Great Britain has a perfect right to enter the European Common Market if she thinks fit. She is a sovereign nation and can make her own choice. But the question arises: Has Great Britain a moral right to abandon the leadership of the Commonwealth of Nations of which she has been the head for so long? Should she break with her integrated Commonwealth without a long period of disengagement? In other words, Great Britain has a perfect right to enter the Common Market if that is the decision of her Parliament and people. On the other hand, I emphasize that our whole economy has centred almost entirely in recent years on the head of the sterling area. Our arrangements for the sale of our products, particularly from the land, have been closely bound up with Great Britain. Therefore, I believe that it would be a grave breach of faith if Britain took this step without a long period of disengagement so that we might have the opportunity of building up our resources and finding new ways of overcoming the difficulties that might arise.
My mind goes back to the period 25 years ago when I discussed with quite a leading figure in Great Britain what would happen if war developed. I was discussing this very question of trade with Great Britain which, at that period, was lagging, particularly in primary products. I was told, “ Of course, we have to have regard to our customers such as Denmark and the Little Entente over here “. My reply, which is quite fresh in my mind, was, “ If the balloon goes up to-morrow, who can you depend on - Canada, Australia and New Zealand or the Little Entente?”. The Second World War gave the answer, and without attempting to dictate to people overseas, I suggest that that is something that Great Britain might well bear in mm. before she is irrevocably committed to close concert with nations which do not march step by step with the British conception of parliamentary and other institutions.
If I am not trespassing beyond my limits. Sir, I would say that there is an historical sequence of events over the years which seems to show the ebb and flow of opinion in the Old Country, as we call it. I can recall that, in the early days of the colonies, as they were, there was a party in Great Britain quite prepared to give away the colonies and abandon them. There was another period - I think it was about the time of the emergence of Joseph Chamberlain - when there was rather a resurgence of that idea. But the next sequence was the fateful speech made by Neville Chamberlain in 1938 when he said in the Imperial Parliament, plainly, that while Great Britain would go to the aid of her Dominions at a later stage in the event of war and would recover them from invaders, she could not guarantee their protection during the early stages of the war.
I remember the almost anguished response from the Australian Prime Minister of the day. I can almost compare it with the impact that has been made by Great Britain’s statement that she can no longer guarantee a continuance of the previous relations with Australia and other countries as the head of the Commonwealth. When it came to the testing point, Australia under the leadership of John Curtin, took its own steps to protect itself. I believe that history might repeat itself and if Britain withdraws from the leadership of the Commonwealth of Nations, some Prime Minister will lead us into a favorable association which will enable us to build our strength, retain our independence and continue to be a country with a real future.
I want now to refer to the question which inevitably arises in the consideration of this subject - the implications of the European Common Market and its effect on the great primary industries with which my own career has been fairly closely associated in the past half-century. I would say, Sir, that the unfortunate thing is that at this period, when the future of our markets is in doubt, the records show that for a considerable time the primary producer has been steadily going downhill in relation to the remainder of the community. T have here an authoritative publication which shows the index figure of prices received to prices paid fell from 109 in 1948-49 to 74 in 1958-59. I do not think there has been any variation since then. The whole trend has been downwards. The ratio of prices received to prices paid shows a decline of 35 since 1948-49. From 1952, the decline has been 26. The index of quantities of farm production per head of total population shows a fall from 100 in 1936-39 to 87 in 1958, with a more or less steady decline over the period.
When we consider the position of the primary producer, we should keep two factors in mind. I would be the last to deny that this Government has given considerable thought to these matters. The primary producer, speaking from memory, is given complete taxation exemption on some 60 items, which are really items of capital expenditure but which tend to add to the productivity of his land. Speaking from memory again, special depreciation over five years, or 20 per cent, per annum, is allowed on some 50 items. The big saving in the first year is very important. The primary producer has also been helped by wheat, butter and sugar schemes. As I say, I would be the last one to deny the splendid assistance that has been given. But, inexorably, the primary producer, relatively to the rest of the community, is going downwards. This is because he is naturally at the receiving end. He is the one section of the community that cannot pass on any increases, and in the final analysis he must take what he gets - and he is certainly getting what is coming to him, in a rather vulgar sense.
If we seek for an explanation of the paradox of the position of the primary producer, we find it in the fact that, despite falling prices, the farmer - I use that as a simple term to include primary producers generally - has been able to increase, through better techniques, assistance from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, but mainly by his native ability, the volume of production as against the value of production. Production of wool rose from 1,142,000,000 lb. in 1949-50 to 1,577,000,000 lb. in 1957-58. Meat production rose from 1,055,000 tons to 1,480,000 tons in the same period. Sugar production rose from 943,000 tons to 1,410,000 tons, and butter from 165,800 to 193,900 tons in the same period. The position of butter is very serious. The price has fallen from 409s. a cwt. in 1960 to 249s. in 1961.
I want to pose a few questions before 1 conclude. The countries of The Six, to which I have referred, and Great Britain have a policy which was starkly brought out by the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) when he said, for instance, that French butter, for which 7s. per lb. was paid, was sold on the English market at 3s. Is it any wonder that our butter has declined in price from 409s. to 249s. a cwt. All of these countries are not in the position of Great Britain, so I shall take Great Britain as being distinct in that generally speaking she cannot export; the other countries can. Over the years, Great Britain has paid her farmers a very heavy subsidy, and this has made them extremely prosperous. When I visited Great Britain, in 1936, I was shocked at the condition of the farm land. I went back in 1952, and the transformation I found was nothing short of a miracle. What Great Britain was doing was extremely clever.
If Great Britain enters the Common Market, the Australian Government may have to consider a radical alteration of policy. Its policy would be to pay the farmers along the lines of the home production prices for the products that are consumed in Australia, plus the surplus necessary to safeguard against drought. Having done that, the Government would sell to the consumer at a price that would keep the basic wage from continually rising, and we must not forget that basic foodstuffs are a material factor in determining the basic wage. By that means, the rise of the cost of living could be controlled and the farmer could be placed on a good basis.
What is the reply to this suggestion? It is that the scheme would cost too much. I wonder whether any of the experts of the Government have ever gone into the question of the actual cost of the food subsidies in Great Britain. Great Britain paid hundreds of millions of pounds in subsidies, and rightly so. This made a prosperous countryside. It also made taxpayers from whom the Government could skim off a substantial amount of tax. Great Britain then purchased a flood of raw materials at an extremely low price compared with the price paid to British farmers, and this balanced against the payments that were being made there. We cannot continue in this country to allow our primary producers to go down and down, as the figures I have given show, without having an unfavorable reaction in the great secondary industries, and possibly some of our unemployment is easily traceable to the adverse balance shifting against the primary producer.
I commend to the Government the suggestion that it conduct considerable research into the scheme I have outlined, so that it could be adopted if we are faced with the calamity that could occur if Great Britain suddenly broke away from her preferences and there was not sufficient saving from the preferences we give her to balance our economy. Certainly the most urgent need to-day is to determine how the returns from primary production can ‘be brought into more effective balance with the returns from secondary and tertiary production. If we look at the balance-sheets of the one and at the balance-sheets of the other, we do not have very much difficulty in arriving at the conclusions I have put to-night and the suggestions I have made to the Government.
.- The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and his echoes in Australia, including the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), have stated over and over again that the last ten years were the most prosperous years in the history of this country. In his recent Budget speech, the Treasurer said -
To-day the Australian economy is, I believe, basically stronger than it has ever been.
During those ten years of prosperity, the Government has sold such assets of the Australian people as a whaling station and shares in Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited and Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and has reduced the effectiveness of the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, Trans-Australia Airlines and the Australian National Line of steamers. In “ Hansard “ of 12th April last, the Treasurer is reported as having said that when this Government came to office our overseas loans totalled £552,000,000, and by December, 1960, they had increased to £699,000,000. At 30th June, 1949, overseas investment in Australia totalled £321,000,000 and in June, 1959, it was £950,000,000. Since December, 1960, overseas loans, including drawings from the International Monetary Fund, have increased by over £100,000,000, and overseas investment funds have increased by about £500,000,000 since 1959. During those ten years, this Government, and Australia generally, have had immense sums, in addition to the returns from the sale of both primary and secondary products, to contribute to this country’s prosperity. This Government has had the proceeds of vast loans, it has had the money received from the sale of the people’s assets and it has had the investment money that has flowed in from overseas. The value of rural production rose from £1,028,000,000 in 1950-51 to £1,214,000,000 in 1959-60. The net value of manufacturing, excluding the value of materials, fuels, &c, used in production, rose from £884,000,000 to £2,075,000,000 in the same period. At 30th June, 1951, our overseas balances stood at £803,000,000. They now stand at a little over £500,000,000.
What is the result of all this? At the moment there are well over 120,000 unemployed people in Australia. I know that honorable members on the Government side will say that this represents only a small percentage of the total work force, and that as neither I nor they are included we should tolerate an unemployment figure of 120,000. Quarterly adjustments of the basic wage have been abolished. There are insufficient houses to meet the needs of our people. To-day, hundreds of families are living in one room. There are no good access roads to thousands of homes in Melbourne. The present access roads are called heartbreak streets and have no footpaths. In the metropolitan area of Melbourne alone there are almost 120,000 homes unsewered. Educational and hospital facilities are inadequate. Literally thousands of people are turned away from our hospital doors to die every week.
– Why did you not tell them that in Victoria during the State elections?
– I did tell them that in Victoria during the State elections. The honorable member was told by the Premier of Victoria to keep out of the Victorian State elections, so he would not know what took place. The cost of the necessaries of life, in Australia, has increased immensely, and the purchasing power of social service payments has diminished considerably. In 1947, the number of farms in Australia was 247,000. Since then, 17,000 farms have been established for soldier settlers, so the total number of farms should be at least 264,000, but, last session, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) told me that there were only 215,000 farms in Australia. The number of farms has diminished by thousands. I am horrified to think what conditions in Australia would have been like if this Government had been in office during a period which was not, as Government members have claimed, the most prosperous in our history.
What can we expect for the future of this country? Will things improve, or will things deteriorate? Certainly there is no reason to expect an improvement, despite the fact that, when addressing a meeting in New South Wales recently, the Prime
Minister said that we can look forward to a more glorious ten years than the ten years that have just passed.
– Don’t be so gloomy.
– The honorable member says, “ Don’t be so gloomy “. Let me tell him that during last year our commitments in respect of overseas loans and overseas capital invested in Australia have increased by £396,000,000, because the goods that we were able to sell overseas did not return enough to pay for the goods that we bought from overseas. The Treasurer, addressing a meeting of the representatives of exporting industries in Canberra some eighteen months or so ago, said that within five years we had to increase the annual value of our exports by £250,000,000. That meant that we would have to be exporting goods to the value of about £1,100,000,000 annually. We have nowhere near achieved that figure. In order to balance our Budget next year, we will have to resort to the same measures as were resorted to this year. We will have to borrow overseas or we will have to receive an inflow of foreign capital. The members of the Government say that that is most desirable. They say it is also desirable that our Premiers and our leading Ministers should go to other countries, seeking to induce people in those countries to, as they say, invest their money in Australia. It is time somebody showed clearly what this investment in Australia of money from overseas really means.
The Premier of Victoria, on his return from a journey overseas, was asked in a radio interview: “ What occurred on your trip overseas, Mr. Bolte? Did you obtain any investments for Australia? “ The Premier looked very wise and said, “ Of course, I cannot tell you everything about these delicate operations that take place when we induce capital to come to this country from overseas, but I can tell you that I did obtain investments for Australia “. The interviewer asked: “ What kind of capital did you get? What was it to be invested in? “ Mr. Bolte said, “ I can tell you that it was obtained in Chicago and that it is to be invested in Ballarat in a clothing factory “.
What happened? Was a fully equipped clothing factory sent from Chicago to Ballarat? No! Were dollars sent from
Chicago to Ballarat? No! What happened was that an investor in Chicago went into a branch of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia or a private Australian bank - or, perhaps, an office of a bank which acted as agent for one of the Australian banks - and said: “Here is 200,000 dollars. I want £100,000 or thereabouts in Ballarat.” The representative of the bank whom he saw said, “ Very well “. As a consequence of that transaction, the investor had available in Ballarat about £100,000 and the bank had the 200,000 dollars. The investor established his clothing factory in Ballarat in competition with existing clothing factories in Australia.
The Australian bank concerned in this transaction, whether a private bank or the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, in effect said to its clients in Australia: “We have 200,000 dollars in Chicago. Who wants them?” The bank did not ask any applicant for the dollars what he wanted them for. It merely said, “Who wants them?” The successful applicant for the dollars then bought in Chicago 200,000 dollars worth of canned chicken and put it on the market in Australia. As a result of that investment of overseas capital in this country, 200,000 dollars worth of canned chicken was imported into Australia - naturally, to the disadvantage of the poultry farmers of Australia. Another consequence is that the American-owned clothing factory in Ballarat, which is putting Australians out of work, pays dividends for an indefinite period to the investor overseas.
This is only one example of what happens. I could give other examples of purchases of textiles overseas for sale in this country, the purchases being financed by the investment of foreign capital. As a result of such transactions, Australian textile factories have closed down or half closed down. That is the sort of thing that happens when foreign capital is invested in this country. I challenge the Government supporter who is to follow me in this debate to establish that my statements are incorrect. They are not incorrect. When we permit ownership of Australian industries and land to pass into the hands of overseas investors, we permit something that is not to the advantage of this country but is to its detriment. Tens of thousands of Australian men have lost their lives on foreign battlefields in the defence of Australian institutions, land and industries. They fought for the right of Australians to elect governments of their own choice to protect their rights.
As I have pointed out, the present Government has bit by bit sold Australian land and industries to overseas investors. This process has accelerated over the years. At 30th June, 1949, foreign investment in Australia totalled £321,000,000 and at 30th June, 1959, £950,000,000. Since 1959, £500,000,000 of overseas capital has come to Australia, and there are prospects of an additional £1,000,000,000 in the next couple of years. Is the encouraging of foreign investment on this scale a desirable way in which to govern this country? Is this how Australia’s prosperity is to be assured? I warn the Government and its supporters of what has happened in other countries. As a result of United States investments in Mexico, Mexican governments were unable to give the people of Mexico the things that they wanted, and, at the same time, pay increasing sums every year in dividends and interest to American capitalists. The difficulties that arose were settled by bloodshed and war.
Similar events have occurred in Indonesia and Egypt. They have occurred, and are still occurring, in Cuba. The Canadian Government has said, “ It is absolutely essential that we prevent United States capital from entering Canada on an unselective basis, because American investors are dominating the whole of Canada’s industries”. Events in Japan have followed a similar pattern. Everybody has been saying that Japan is under the thumb of the United States of America, and during the period of Japan’s rehabilitation a large volume of American money continually flowed in. The Japanese Government has now been forced to tell American investors that only selected investments can be made in Japan by Americans and that investments that will destroy Japanese industries and militate against the welfare of the Japanese people will not be allowed.
The responsibility for the evils of foreign investment in Australia on the scale which I have outlined to the committee rests with this Government. It cannot see its way out of the wood. It has made no proposal that will alleviate the difficulties that face this country. These difficulties must increase if the Government continues the policy that it has adopted in recent years.
In the few minutes that remain to me, I should like to point out that since 1950 the value of the annual output of our manufacturing industries, exclusive of raw materials that go into production, has increased from £884,000,000 to £2,075,000,000. The manufacturing industries in which so many of our people are employed depend on primary products such as timber, wool and cotton, and on steel and iron or other mineral products. We have either to buy abroad the minerals and the primary products that we need or we have to produce them ourselves. If we do not increase our output of primary products, we cannot buy abroad what we need. In order to expand our primary production, we have to make better use of our land and employ more people on it. We have to employ on the land some of the 3,000,000 people that we have gained in this country since 1939, none of whom have gone into rural production. Unless we put some of them on the land to produce commodities that will buy goods for us overseas and aid in the expansion or maintenance of our secondary industries disaster lies ahead. Disaster lies ahead if we follow the path that this Government has been following in the interests of predatory capitalism during the last ten years.
.- I believe that the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), during the course of his speech, asked me to say whether something that he had said was correct or incorrect. I am quite sure that the fault lies with the acoustics of the chamber, but, from my place here, the honorable member’s whole speech sounded quite incoherent, so I regret that I cannot answer him. However, I am sure that I would agree with some of the things that he said. Earlier in the evening, the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Luchetti) delighted us with some excerpts from Sydney newspapers. Since the Victorian State elections, the Victorian newspapers are now possibly banned to honorable members opposite and it may be worth while if I read to them something which indicates the feeling in Victoria about the speech which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) made on Tuesday night. I apologize for detaining the committee to read this article fairly fully. It states -
There was little in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on the Budget which could be taken as a searching analysis of the Government’s economic policy; but there was a lot which could be accepted as pre-election promises not likely to need keeping. In 45 minutes, Mr. Calwell set out to create a serious depression where none exists, to label as a myth last year’s boom and to do no service at all to a built-up of confidence, which is the one thing now needed to iron out the side effects of the economic excesses of last year.
Nowhere did Mr. Calwell mention our balance of payments and the critical situation they posed when they were falling rapidly last year. The recovery in this area has been substantial and could not have taken place unless drastic measures had been applied. In applying these measures the Government also dealt with an outburst of share and land speculation, import excesses and exposed fundamental weaknesses in major industries like building. No one wants a return to those conditions which now Mr. Calwell conveniently makes part of a myth.
He has toned down his earlier assessments of what the unemployment level would be and accepts the departmental figure of 113,000. He did not admit that this was no more than 2.7 per cent, of the national work force and that the tapering-off process has already begun. Over a wide field now opportunities are being progressively created for absorbing the unemployment pool, which was a short-term liability from the urgent and necessary November measures. If this re-employment was artificially stimulated by heavy deficit financing, then the ground swell of another boom would begin to move.
There are no facts to support Mr. Calwell’s claim that prices are rising faster now than before and, while it is true that the need is for a return to normal spending, the public reluctance to do so is not due to continued credit restraint.
I will leave it at that. If honorable members opposite care to read the rest in this morning’s Melbourne “ Age “ it will do them a lot of good although perhaps it will take away a lot of their confidence.
I am not an economist as, obviously, the Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Scullin are not. When the Leader of the Opposition spoke in this debate on Tuesday night he quoted from the 1958-59 Budget debate. I made a point of consulting “ Hansard “ to see what was said at that time and I noticed that my predecessor as member for La Trobe followed Dr. Evatt, the then Leader of the Opposition. The then honorable member for La Trobe said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission announcer, during the broadcast of Dr. Evatt’s speech, would no doubt have been stressing that it was the Leader of the Opposition who was speaking, because the listening public who had been persistent enough to keep their radios turned on might well have thought that they were listening to “ They’re a Wierd Mob “, “Journey Into Space”, or something similar.
We must hope that last Tuesday night the Australian Broadcasting Commission announcer was similarly stressing to the people that they were listening to the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the alternative government of this country. The -speech of the Leader of the Opposition was full of inaccuracies and wild, ill-considered statements. One wonders whether he had even read his speech before delivering it. As the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) said, the Leader of the Opposition seemed to deny every speech that he and his party had made on the economy over the past twelve months. The boom was referred to as the myth of the twentieth century; there was no inflation and everything was of the Government’s imagination. Yet, on a television broadcast throughout Australia recently, when asked about the credit squeeze, the Leader of the Opposition admitted that something had to be done and that he would have taken very similar action to that taken by the Government. The honorable gentleman stressed in his speech on the Budget that import licensing was one of the causes of the present situation. Yet, during the 1958-59 Budget debate, which he claims took place in a similar situation. Dr. Evatt stated -
In consequence of this Government’s administration, the Australian community has been harassed by severe import restrictions.
That is in “ Hansard “, volume 20, at page 259. Whilst on this question of import licensing, and forgetting for the moment the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, could the Leader of the Opposition have given any real thought to this question? Has Senator Hendrickson yet told him about the Common Market? Is it not reasonable to suppose that when Commonwealth concessions are discussed with the European Economic Community and the subject of concessions to Australia is raised, it will be claimed that Australia, having had restrictions against The Six, and having not bought from The Six. should not be granted any concessions?
What of other countries with whom we will seek trade outlets? Does the Leader of the Opposition think that they are likely to be impressed by our troubles if we have refused to buy from them? Surely it is time that the Opposition gave more thought to the problems of Australia instead of getting on any passing bandwagon just to get votes.
I may be wronging the Leader of the Opposition when I say this, because I could not check his speech on the present Budget word for word with his speech on the 195S-59 Budget, but when I read his 1958-59 speech, it seemed to me that the title and music were the same as they are to-day, although certain lyrics of expediency have been altered to conform to the modern approach. What is his reasoning? Is it that having said certain things in 1958-59, and lost dismally, he should now “ try the other way and hope that we are right this time “.
One of the criticisms of the Opposition centred on the effect of the credit squeeze on the motor car industry and the manufacturing industries generally. Honorable members opposite would have us believe that they are amazed that no provision for relief is made in this Budget. For years, we have heard from the Opposition of the great profits and abuses of these capitalistcontrolled industries, but now we are told that they should be given government assistance! Although 1 hardly dare to say it, I hope that the hope of receiving £100,000 from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures has not changed the political colour and loyalty of the Opposition and the Labour Party as a whole.
There has not been a word from the Leader of the Opposition about the dismissals or the high profits or the announced expansions in the motor car industry. 1 feel that the motor car industry, and some associated industries, have endeavoured to put political pressure on the Government ever since the economic measures were introduced. I do not think, on the figures available, that any one can deny that motor vehicle sales were inflationary and were the largest single factor contributing to galloping inflation. Hire-purchase arrangements for the purchase of cars were quite ridiculous. Cars could be purchased for low deposits and on payments that created great inflationary demand. Tires and accessories could be purchased almost by leaving your watch as deposit.
I can see no reason why motor car stocks, at present claimed to be so high, cannot be sold at reduced prices, as they have been sold by one firm at least. Surely, if these stocks were sold the companies would obtain money, the manufacturing of new cars would proceed, men would be reemployed, and more money would be placed in circulation as these employees bought more from the shops. Then, as trade looked up, the shopkeepers would buy cars from the car firms. The motor car industry throughout the world in recent years has suffered a set-back of over-production. That circumstance has not been limited to this country. I feel that a number of companies have taken the opportunity presented by Government policies to effect a reorganization of staff on a more efficient basis. I believe that if firms are not prepared to reduce their prices they must accept the consequence of having unsold stocks on their hands. 1 cannot accept the suggestion that the sackings by two of the largest firms were morally right or were genuinely caused by the Government’s economic action. Both these firms, within months of the sackings, released details of expansion programmes costing millions of pounds. Those programmes were not dreamed up in weeks.
I have no quarrel with industries that establish themselves in Australia and make profits, but I think that if they enjoy the benefits of these high profits they have a moral duty to the country to give their assistance in times like these. They should not play the game of pressure politics and impede progress. I am sure that if Australian industries were allowed to establish themselves in the United States of America the government of that country would, if it thought it was necessary, take action as harsh as, or even harsher than, that which has been taken by the Australian Government.
Let me make one other comment about certain manufacturers - not all of them, to be sure, but a small number of them. If they can reduce prices by giving fantastic trade-ins on valueless articles, why can they not simply announce straight-out price reductions? Why is it that we hear on the wireless ridiculously simple questions being asked of housewives and others, with the offer of goods at greatly reduced prices when the questions are answered correctly? We might hear Mrs. Jones, for instance, asked, “What is the capital of France?” If she says, “ Paris “, she is allowed £70 off any article sold in the sponsor’s store. Why can such firms not simply pass the benefits on to the people by straight-out reductions in prices, thus reducing their stocks, assisting manufacturers to achieve full production again and getting money into circulation?
Some industries want an assured home market. They are not interested in export efficiency or in reducing the prices of their products. They want no competition. They are confident that the Government can be forced to re-introduce import licensing and that they will be able to keep their prices up. They are confident that a recovery will be made and that there is no need to bring prices down. I believe the Opposition in this Parliament is strengthening them in those beliefs.
The Leader of the Opposition, in making his speech about the economic depression and the feelings of gloom in the community, was right up to standard. His remarks were typical of his utterances in this Parliament. His speech seemed to be quite out of step with the speech made at the opening of the New South Wales Parliament last week, in which there were expressions of confidence in the economy. Let me stress that the Government responsible for preparing that speech was a Labour government. Most business people are confident that business is recovering and will continue to recover. It has been said in some quarters that certain industries are depressed, and frequently the figures for those industries show a slight reduction compared with the figures for last year, but that year in most cases was a record year for trading. Can we in this country continue to have record years, year after year, without doing something to halt inflation?
It is easy to say yes to every pressure group that approaches a government in an election year. That is what the Opposition has been doing for years. It takes courage, however, to act wisely, knowing that rash promises can commit the country to ruin. Promises are easily made, but frequently it is very difficult to carry them out.
The unemployment situation is the concern of every person in Australia at the present time. I understand that at the moment the number of unemployed persons represents 2.7 per cent, of the work force. I asked the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) a question this morning, in the course of which I suggested that a loan be raised so that those willing to work could be given temporary employment and be paid the basic wage. The Treasurer gave me a very satisfactory answer, and from what he said I believe that satisfactory results will be achieved. However, I feel, with respect, that more immediate action should be taken. I would like to see money raised now for the specific purpose I mentioned, so that it could be given to the States and local government authorities to be used straightaway for the relief of unemployment. I accept the Treasurer’s statement that loan moneys must be raised in a certain way, but I do think that it is a rather cumbersome way to deal with the matter when immediate action is necessary.
The employment situation will improve. The Government has removed most restrictions, except the restrictions on the speculative sector of the economy. It has increased the amounts of money available for the various States and for the State housing authorities. It has asked that Commonwealth and State works programmes be speeded up so that the extra money being made available can be quickly put into circulation. The Opposition, however, with its predictions of gloom, is doing everything it possibly can to prevent a recovery in the private sector of the economy before December. In my opinion, the Opposition has sold out the workers, at least until after Christmas.
I received a deputation last Friday of a group calling itself “The United Right to Work “. When I looked at those who comprised the delegation I found that, with one exception, they were the same ones who had come here to protest when the Crimes Bill was before the House. They were the same ones who were active in the “Ban the Atom Bomb “ movement, and in the Hiroshima march, if I have the name right. They all came in to my office, and I found that only one of those gentlemen was unemployed. They put many matters before me, such as a contention that we should not buy efficient warships or Mirage fighters for our defence, but they did not say very much about unemployment, or what they were doing about the unemployment position. When they had finished I said to the one unemployed man present, who was quite a sound individual: “ Can you tell me what the Leader of the Opposition and the Labour Party are doing for you? Can you tell me how they are engendering confidence in the people, so that persons will again buy manufactured goods and manufacturers will require more employees? “ By the time they left my office the one unemployed gentleman was close to brawling with the Hiroshima marchers and the anti-Crimes Bill delegates.
I would put another question to members of the Opposition. One of the major building projects being carried on in Melbourne at the present time has been subject to considerable delays, for various reasons. The builders approached the unions concerned and asked whether their members would work a 24-hour roster of shifts at penalty rates. To my mind, this would have increased by 200 per cent, the number of building workers on the project, at penalty rates. The union told the company that it could jump in the lake, and it implied that the company could stay in the lake until December.
Let me refer to another matter in Melbourne that is receiving some notoriety at the moment. A senator in this Parliament has a certain knowledge of it, and I am only sorry he is not here to discuss it with his compatriots on the other side of this chamber. Unionists have refused to work on the project in question, although an inquiry is being held by a commissioner into the matter at the moment, which could result in a direction that the building in question, or the portion of it already completed, be pulled down. Why the devil does not the Labour Party encourage these workers to accept the work that is available there? Frankly, I do not think the members of the Labour Party can give any reasonable answer to that question. It is simply a matter of politics.
We hear a good deal about mateship in the Labour Party, but we have read that unionists in certain industries have said that they will not work short time. They have said, “ You can put off our mates instead “. If that is the Labour outlook, then thank goodness Labour voters are starting to come our way.
Now let me make a few remarks about the pension increases that have been proposed in this Budget. I think they are reasonable increases. Naturally we would all like to see very much greater increases, but I must agree with the honorable member for Lyne (Mr. Lucock), who said that with the population we have in Australia and the money that is available to us, we should consider giving increases only to those pensioners who have a specific and urgent need of more money. I do not mean that we should not give general increases when we can, but I believe that the giving of base pension increases all round on every occasion does not solve the problem of those who are having a particularly hard time at a given period.
I now want to refer to national development. Firstly, let me refer, without being unduly critical, to various newspaper articles, which have given adverse publicity to visits made by members of this Parliament to the northern areas of Australia. I was a member of the Food and Agriculture Committee that travelled throughout the northern part of Australia, and I found that some of the local newspapers in the northern centres spoke of parliamentarians, from both sides of the Parliament, going and sunning themselves in the north. Frankly, I do not know what is expected of us. For many years I have heard the statement that the southerners sit down in their wealthy States and do not bother to take an interest in the north and that it is about time they came up there and looked at the problems. When you do pay them a visit they say: “ What are you doing up here? Why do you not go back south? “ Those people do a disservice to their areas. I believe the north has a great value to Victoria and I know that my vote, as a Victorian member, counts as much as that of any member from Queensland. If I am going to discuss the north, I like to see it and I have a right to see it. I will not go into detail now, because the subject will come up for discussion during the debate on the Estimates, but the main requirement now in the north is money. At this stage the need is to encourage settlers in some areas.
Some parts of the north are obviously closer settlement areas while others are obviously areas to be developed by companies. The greatest need is for money to put in roads where necessary and to supply water and power to help people settling there to get a start. I feel that there is need for a national planning authority, so that the matter will be above party politics and parochial approaches which could lead to a heavy waste of money. I think that most members have found that, when you get to the north, people in one area talk about one city as an outlet port, and 100 miles away other people will tell you that such a statement is rubbish and that the outlet port should be elsewhere. If we reach the stage where individual members of Parliament, municipal councils or State governments put pressure on this Government to do things in the north it will be a great pity, and it will not be for the benefit of the north. I feel that the planning authority should cover water storage, water supply, roads and ports, and should advise the Government on those matters.
This Government should make arrangements with the States affected, Western Australia, South Australia and Queensland, to borrow money on a scale which will allow financial assistance to be given through land settlement schemes to the settlers. I believe that the money should be made available, even if we have to borrow it overseas. This need is not one that is to be met many years in the future, but something that we should face up to smartly. At the present time this Government is doing quite a lot in this regard. It is assisting the Ord River scheme, and I feel that it should do something in the Fitzroy River basin area and many other areas at this stage. Some system must be devised to aid more substantially the underpopulated States such as Western Australia, Queensland and South Australia. The money must be found. There will be no improvement if the allocation of the money by the Loan Council is worked out on a per capita basis. The money must be expended to get the people there. Equally important to me, as a southern member, and to all Australia is development up in the northern part of the Commonwealth.
Migrants should be encouraged to go to the north and should be given the same financial assistance as Australians are given when they settle there. Anybody who has been to Italy or other countries on the Continent knows how the people can farm on the side of a cliff, and I feel that they would meet with success were the Government to give them an incentive to go to the north. I have no doubt that the Department of National Development has a plan, but so far I do not agree with the statement that the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) has made, to the effect that control of the north should stay with this department. The Treasurer has stated that a certain amount of money is to be allocated to the north, but I would like to know what the overall and far-seeing plan is to be. I am sure that this Parliament and the people of Australia are interested in it and I consider that some greater detail of the plan should be given immediately.
I believe there is need, in respect of housing, for a long-term mortgage plan at lowinterest rates. I do not think that at the moment the best use is being made of the money that is available for housing, but this matter, too, can be discussed during the debate on the Estimates. That applies also to the question of war service homes. I believe there has been some disagreement as to whether the loan for war service homes should stand at £2,750 or be increased. If the figure is increased, fewer people will benefit than is the case at present.
I will not deal with immigration now. I would like to speak on that subject during the debate on the Estimates. However, I hope we will return to our full immigration quota as soon as we possibly can, as I think we could make use of a lot of immigrants in the work that is necessary in the north and could probably encourage them to settle there. I will discuss repatriation, also, during the consideration of the Estimates and I hope that I will get opportunity then to speak also on superannuation. I am interested to hear that some improvement for certain superannuated persons will be made in regard to the defence forces retirement benefits. Some amendments have been intimated, but I consider a committee should be constituted to go into this question in its entirety. There are some anomalies and I feel that is the only way to deal with them.
I am pleased that the Government hasincreased the vote for international development and relief, because that is most necessary. In view of the size of our population, and the need to develop Australia herself, this is an outstanding contribution. The Government has also done something, in the matter of taxation concessions and we are endeavouring to get manufacturers, concerned to pass them on to the public immediately.
The Government has not lightly entered into this Budget. It knows that much pressure has been exerted from varioussectors, but the Government of Australia to-day must have regard to the people as a whole and not just to any one section. The Opposition, now that the Leader of the Opposition has promised to reduce in so many ways the revenue of the Commonweal.h, and to increase in so many ways the things the Commonwealth will do and give away, must answer clearly how and with what this is to be done, or he must stand condemned, as was his former Leader, of making any promise, however impossible it may be of fulfilment, in order to obtain office.
I am confident that the people of Australia will see the long nose of the big bad wolf under the little poke bonnet of Red Riding Hood’s grandmother and will remember the statements made in recent months on the nationalization of banking. &c, and the lack of statements over many years on co-operation with the Communist party, &c. I think the Treasurer has introduced a reasonable and fair Budget for this period and I am confident of a more liberal Budget next year, when our recovery isfurther improved. In conclusion I would like to quote this statement -
All individuals and all societies have problems. But this does not necessarily mean sickness. Problems are of the essence of life, which is struggle and change. The solution of one problem is the creation of at least one more. Problems are of the nature of digestion, not of the nature of ulcers. If we are to achieve a victorious standard of living to-day, we must look for the opportunity in every difficulty instead of being paralysed at the thought of the difficulty in every opportunity.
The statement is not mine, but I quote it as being relevant to the difficulties that Australia has experienced. I support the Budget wholeheartedly.
Basic Wage - Language Tuition in New Guinea - Brisbane Hotel Accommodation.
Motion (by Mr. Cramer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In reply to a question that I asked of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) yesterday, the honorable gentleman made certain statements about the number of people that the basic wage is supposed to sustain. I want to challenge two of his statements. So that he will not be able to say that I misquote or misinterpret his remarks, I shall read from the “Hansard” report of Tuesday, 22nd August, 1961. He stated -
The honorable gentleman, 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, nor 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.
His first statement might be regarded, in the very broadest sense, as being correct, but the second statement is obviously incorrect, as any number of housewives and parents of families can readily and truthfully tell the Minister. As to his first statement the position is this: The 1907 Harvester award, which followed an application to the court for an interpretation of the words “ fair and reasonable “, contained certain provisions. The Chief Justice is reported in Volumes 1 and 2 of the Commonwealth Arbitration Reports, 1905-1908, in this way -
I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilized community.
Later in his judgment the Chief Justice draws this conclusion -
If A lets B have the use of his horses, on the terms that he give them fair and reasonable treat ment, I have no doubt that it is B’s duty to give them proper food and water, and such shelter and rest as they need.
Then he goes on to say that wages should provide those things for a human being living in a civilized community. Finally, the Chief Justice decided that he would grant a basic wage, which he claimed to be fair and reasonable, of 7s. a day for a six-day week, making £2 2s. in all. He gave his reason for making this award in these terms -
The usual rent paid by a labourer, as distinguished from an artisan, appears to be 7s. 0d.; and, taking the rent at 7s. 0d., the necessary average weekly expenditure for a labourer’s home of about five persons would seem to be about £1 12s. 5d. The lists of expenditure submitted to me vary not only in amounts, but in bases of computation. But I have confined the figures to rent, groceries, bread, meat, milk, fuel, vegetables, and fruit; and the average of the list of nine housekeeping women is £1 12s. Sd. This expenditure does not cover light (some of the lists omitted light), clothes, boots, furniture, utensils (being casual, not weekly expenditure), rates, life insurance, savings, accident or benefit societies, loss of employment, union pay, books and newspapers, tram and train fares, sewing machine, mangle, school requisites, amusements and holidays, intoxicating liquors, tobacco, sickness and death, domestic help, or any expenditure for unusual contingencies, religion, or charity. If the wages are 36s. Od. per week, the amount left to pay for all these things is only 3s. 7d.; and the area is rather large for 3s. 7d. to cover - even in the case of total abstainers and non-smokers - the case of most of the men in question.
The Harvester award allowed 7s. for rent, £1 5s. 5d. for food and 9s. 7d. for extras, which are those items that I have just read. If any one can say that by to-day’s standards the standards set by that award were fair and reasonable, I am a very bad judge. I think that the judge was right when he drew the analogy that if a horse was to be given fair and reasonable treatment, that is all that the horse would receive, and that is all he gave to the people in this Harvester award.
That was the basis for the Minister’s statement that the earliest awards granted a basic wage for a husband, wife and three children. That standard was generally maintained until 1919, when the Piddington royal commission was set up. The first term of reference of the commission was to inquire into, and report upon -
The actual cost of living at that time, according to reasonable standards of comfort, including all matters comprised in the ordinary expenditure of a household, for a man with a wife and three children under fourteen years of age, and the several items and amounts which made up that cost
The Piddington royal commission sat on 184 occasions in the various capital cities of the Commonwealth, interviewed 769 witnesses and studied 580 exhibits. It worked on a model budget for each State, and its final decision was to grant a basic wage of £5 16s. for a husband, wife and three children under fourteen years of age. The report of the commission indicated that a basic wage varying from £5 17s. in Sydney to £5 6s. 2d. in Brisbane was necessary, so it set the figure at £5 16s. It decided that £4 would go to the male worker - in order words, to cover the male worker and his wife - and each of the children would be granted 12s. child endowment. Even to-day, we have not reached the figure of 12s. for child endowment. For the Minister to say that the basic wage has been set for a husband, wife and three children is completely laughable.
To show that the Piddington royal commission had been taken seriously by the Commonwealth Government, the Prime Minister of the day immediately introduced a minimum wage of £4 for every male worker in the Commonwealth Public Service, and 5s. endowment for each child of a Commonwealth public servant. But, at that time, it was admitted that the standard was not the one that had been laid down by the Piddington royal commission. Consequently, it is easy to see that although it may have been accepted generally that the basic wage was sufficient to maintain a family of five, this is not true in fact. By the statement that he made in the House yesterday, the Minister has proved himself to be entirely unreliable. If he voiced the opinion of Cabinet, it is no wonder that child endowment has not been increased since 1950.
If we take the matter a step further, we shall come to the 1940 basic wage agreement. Chief Justice Beeby is reported in the 1952 Labour Report in this way -
I was impressed with new evidence and argument as to the inadequacy of the earnings of the lower grade wage-earners with families. On our accepted standards of living, looking at it from the needs point of view only, I regard the present basic wage as adequate for a family unit of three. but think it offers only a meagre existence for a family unit of four. When the unit gets beyond four hardship is often experienced.
That is the last categorical statement on the matter. I defy any one to find any other statement on the standard laid down in basic wage judgments.
Going now a little further we come to the 1953 judgment of the Arbitration Court in the basic wage and standard hours inquiry. Dealing with the standards set for the basic wage, the judgment states -
In this respect the Court declares itself to be in agreement with the attitude taken by 0’Mara J. in his 1941 judgment. If it is at any time asked to fix a basic wage on a true needs basis, the question of whether such a method is correct in principle and all questions as to the size of the family remain open.
The judgment went on in this way -
Even if, by virtue of the inclusion of the socalled “ needs “ adjustment portion in the wage of the 1937 finding, the needs concept could be said to have survived, it is clear that, as the result of the 1946 interim addition and the decision of 1950, the concept has had no part in the assessment of the current basic wage.
If we come right up to the 1961 basic wage case we find that the court said -
We consider Dr. Coppers argument about a return to needs as being unfounded. It seems to us clear that the Commission and the Court before it have never ceased to recognise that although the criterion by which the basic wage is assessed is the greatest which the economy can afford, the purchasing power of the basic wage has always been a matter of importance.
There is no basis at all for the Minister to say at this stage that - and I quote him again -
It must be perfectly obvious to-day that the present basic wage would sustain more than that.
A Gallup poll taken in February this year put to the people interviewed the question - In your opinion what is the smallest amount a family of four - parents and two children - need each week to keep in health and live on decently-
Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) asked me a question which was a mixture of law and legal interpretation. Had it been any one else but the honorable gentleman who asked me that question I think that, in conformity with the Standing Orders, I would have refused to answer it, because I realized that it was the kind of question to which an answer could not be given in this House without the question’s being on notice. However, because perhaps of a special liking or a special respect for him, I did make an attempt to clarify what was his interpretation of the law. The interpretation of the law which he gave in his own question was perfectly right. I told him, Sir, that he had both asked and answered the question, and that was perfectly true. I then went on to try to give a very brief and quick explanation of the Harvester decision. Quite frankly, I took it from Nolan and Cohen’s “ Industrial Laws “, at page 120. 1 am not expressing here a personal opinion at all. I am merely saying what was the interpretation of the court. I make no expression of opinion, Sir, as to whether it was adequate. I merely make the statement that the learned President, in the absence of any legislative provision to guide him, decided that “ fair and reasonable “ in relation to the living standard meant the normal needs of the average employee regarded as a human being living in a civilized community.
In my answer yesterday I made the perfectly correct statement that the earliest awards - it is true that I used the words “ earliest awards “ - were based upon that fact. I do not depart from that as an accurate statement of fact. ,
In the second part of his question the honorable member asked - and again he knew what the position was - whether the commission took into consideration the size of the family. Here again I do not express my opinion, but only state what the law is. To-day the commission bases its decision on the basic wage on the maximum amount that industry can afford to pay. I went to draw what I thought was the logical conclusion that as there had been loadings in the meantime and provision made for prosperity allowances and productivity loadings, there was a greater amount in the award to-day, in terms of these loadings and allowances, than there was in the days when the Harvester award was made. I say nothing about the adequacy of the wage - nothing whatsoever - and T express no personal opinion on it. To be perfectly frank, I do not think that this House at question time is the place where personal opinions should be expressed on important matters of that nature.
I have really nothing more to say to the honorable member for Lang. Unfortunately, the honorable gentleman’s time expired. He went far too much into the law to be able to get to the questions that he wanted to ask. As he did not get that far, 1 will make no attempt to supplement what I have already said or to answer something which he wanted to say but which lack of time prevented him from saying. I complete my part to-night by referring again to what I said in the House yesterday. I did say that this Parliament itself does supplement the wage, and it does so by making provision for such payments as child endowment, payments to widows with children, and Commonwealth benefits to husbands and wives and other people who belong to hospital and medical funds, and so on. Those are supplements to the basic wage that are approved of by this Parliament. Again, Sir, I merely make the comment, and state the facts. I make no other comment relating to it and I express no personal opinion about it.
.- I do not propose to recapitulate the whole of the history of this decision of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, which is now, I take it, being disputed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) in certain respects, but it is quite obvious that the Minister is terrifically uncomfortable as a result of the criticism which is now being levelled at his head because of the gaffe which he committed when the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Stewart) asked him a question regarding the adequacy of the present basic wage. Now the Minister says that he expressed no opinion at all. Well, he did express an opinion, and he cannot run away from it.
– Read it in context.
– This is what the Minister said - and I am quoting from his own reply -
This is the Minister, not a judge of the court speaking. The Minister went on -
It must be perfectly obvious that the present basic wage would sustain more than that.
Is that not an opinion of the Minister? Is that not an expression of opinion? Or does the Minister still contend that he expressed no opinion at all about it? In actual fact, this shows the futility of having in charge of the Department of Labour and National Service a Minister who probably, until he got the portfolio, thought that labour was some kind of disease. He had been so unacquainted with it all his life.
This is the attitude of this Government and the attitude of this Minister towards the unfortunate worker who has to struggle along in an effort to exist on the basic wage. Judging by the opinion he has now expressed, if the Minister had his way he would be going for a reduction of the basic wage. He thinks that the basic wage earners are getting too much. He said that the basis on which the basic wage was fixed initially was the amount needed to sustain a man and a wife with two children and now he talks about the basic wage being supplemented by these various payments, so, in effect, he is- arguing that, because of later developments, people getting the basic wage are now getting more than is necessary to sustain the average worker’s family. In effect, without frankly admitting it, he is advocating a reduction of the basic wage. That is exactly what it means.
To show honorable members that the Minister is greatly disturbed by this blunder on his part, I mention that I am reliably informed - and this seems to refute his statements that he believed that he had expressed no opinion of his own - that the Minister discussed with some of his colleagues this morning, and probably with other people, the possibility of having the “ Hansard “ record altered, because he knew how damaging his statement could be in the electorates. He discussed with some of his colleagues how he might get their support and co-operation in getting the “ Hansard “ record varied so as to put an entirely different construction on the reply that he had given in this House.
– I deny that.
– That is not merely known to me; it is known to other members round the corridors since this incident occurred. 1 say that this undoubtedly reveals the inhuman approach of this Government and this Minister to the general question of unemployment. On one occasion, Lord Casey, who previously sat in this House, was addressing an electoral meeting. I think that unemployment at that time had reached about 50,000. He waved his hands when this figure was mentioned to him and said, “ Mere chicken feed.” That is how honorable gentlemen opposite regard unemployment. They regard the present employment conditions in this country as being normal. 1 would imagine that this Minister, when he gets into an academic discussion with some of his colleagues, would argue that increased unemployment was one of the methods by which they could reduce costs in Australia.
Ministers and their supporters are always talking about costs being too high. They say we are out-priced on the world’s markets. We know that when they talk about costs being too high, they are not talking of bringing about a reduction of profits. That is the last thing that enters their minds. They have even talked about having an excess profits tax. We heard that from the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) some elections ago, but it has never appeared and profits since then have been at an exorbitant height.
The Government has never intended to bring about a reduction of profits earned by the great monopolies with a consequent reduction in costs so that our export industries might be given an opportunity. When the supporters of this Government talk about costs, they are worrying about what the worker receives in his pay envelope and the industrial conditions that he enjoys. This Minister, who believes that the basic wage is too high and that it is beyond what is necessary to maintain a family would say, I imagine, if he spoke frankly on this matter, that he believes that the workers are not working hard enough or long enough. His colleague the Premier of Victoria, Mr. Bolte, has said that what Australia needs is more production with fewer workers. That is their policy right through. How are they going to have a policy of full employment in Australia if they talk about more production with fewer workers?
I compliment the honorable member for Lang. The Minister tried to excuse his answer to the honorable member’s question by saying that it was not a question that normally would be answered. The Minister said that if it had been asked by anybody else, he would not have given a reply. Evidently he admits that he made a mistake in the reply he gave to the honorable member for Lang and is trying to correct the damage. He tried to do it by attempting to get a change in the “ Hansard “ report of his reply. Having failed in that direction, he hopes to extricate himself and the Government from a difficult position by making a further explanation on the motion for the adjournment of the House.
The Minister has not succeeded and I am certain that there are few people, not only in this House but also among those throughout the Commonwealth, who will not realize, on reading the record in “ Hansard “, where this Government stands to-day on the question of maintaining wage rates and industrial standards.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the Minister claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, Sir. I only wish to clarify one point. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) said that after I had seen what had been written, 1 discussed it with some of my colleagues in an attempt to have portion of my answer deleted. I did not discuss it with any of my colleagues. I had no wish to make a change in the record. The statement was there and I was perfectly prepared to let it remain. So I make two points: I did not discuss it with a colleague and I took no action other than when I heard the question raised, I read what was in “ Hansard “ so that I could give a reply to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam).
– Honorable members may have noticed in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ yesterday a leading article directing attention to the action of the Government of India in approving the use of English in that country. The editorial stated perfectly correctly that this was a valuable means of communica tion which had great merit and that, in every respect, it constituted a good decision on the part of that Government. With those opinions I agree. I am wondering whether in New Guinea, in particular, we ourselves are taking sufficient regard of the principles enunciated in that editorial.
Honorable members know that New Guinea itself has many languages; some say 600 or 700 separate languages. The native languages are mutually incomprehensible. One would have hoped that in this position, English would have become the common language, but it has not turned out like that. Rather than English, Pidgin English is rapidly becoming the common language of New Guinea, and those of us who have been in New Guinea know that over the past twenty years Pidgin has been making far greater strides than EnglishThis is a very regrettable position.
There are many defenders of Pidgin. I am not among them. I believe it has three great defects. First, it is a clumsy and in’ exact language and must mar the thought processes of those people who are dependent upon it. Secondly, it is a language without literature, without technical literature and without contacts outside a very limited area so that those who learn it are not advantaged in having the wide contacts that English would give. The third and, I think, the most important point is that the use of Pidgin English as a language separates the New Guinea indigenous people away from the white people in New Guinea and creates a psychology which might mar, to some extent, our very sincere efforts to bring about the advancement of the New Guinea people. For all these reasons, 1 think it is deplorable that Pidgin English has made these advances, not at the expense of English but in place of it.
There are some who say that the New Guinea native cannot be taught English. I do not agree with this. I have had a look at the structure of the language, but more particularly 1 have noticed the success in teaching English to New Guinea natives by the adoption of certain methods which have been worked out recently by our own Department of Immigration in Australia as a means of teaching English to European immigrants coming to Australia. I have seen these methods applied in New Guinea, and I have seen them applied with a great measure of success. I simply do not believe the story that the New Guinea native cannot be taught English.
I do know, however, that in the context of the situation as it exists in New Guinea, the native learns Pidgin English in preference to English. This, I think, is wholly regrettable. I know that what has happened is not in accordance with the Government’s desires. I know the official policy, and I know that the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) has endeavoured to do a great deal on those lines. The official policy is to teach English in place of Pidgin English. There is no lack of sincerity, I am sure, on the part of the Government or the Minister, but I make an appeal for a crash programme on our part to teach English instead of Pidgin English in New Guinea. There are some practical suggestions in regard to this - it is not necessarily a complete list - of some things that are not being done but which I think could be done.
First, I believe that a new method of teaching English should be introduced in the schools. I have been to the schools and have seen what goes on there. English is taught in those schools as Latin is being taught in Australian schools. It is not being taught as a living language. You see unfortunate children repeating phrases as the children in Australian schools would repeat tenses of a Latin verb.
English is not a language of use in the schools. Outside the school hours, the children talk Pidgin and not English among themselves. I believe that if we applied in the schools the methods which our own Department of Immigration has worked out, we might have more success.
Secondly, 1 think that in the Government service itself we should be making much greater efforts. We should make a knowledge of English a condition precedent for promotion in the government service and should make certain that a subsidy, an increased wage, is paid to those members of the government service who qualify in English as against Pidgin English. We must make the acquisition of a knowledge of English desirable. The incentive does not exist at the present time. That is one of the reasons why, with all our good inten tions, we are failing. I suggest also that even in the villages a small subsidy, perhaps in kind, should be paid to the parents of children who are able to attain a certain proficiency in English as opposed to Pidgin English.
Perhaps we could take a leaf out of President Kennedy’s book and do something similar to what he has proposed in the United States of America. Perhaps we could send some kind of task force, consisting of retired people, to live in New Guinea and to teach English. Perhaps we could get them to live in the villages and conduct classes in English. The average Australian is capable of doing that with very little training.
I believe, Sir, that this is a matter of some importance to New Guinea. I believe that Pidgin is the rock upon which all our well-meant efforts may founder. It is very important that in place of it we should try to establish proper but perhaps simplified English. I am of the opinion that a crash programme should be instituted. I know that the Minister is sincere in his intentions, but let us not kid ourselves that we are succeeding. We are failing in New Guinea in this respect. Pidgin simply is eating proper English; it is making hay of the situation. Only a couple of decades ago Pidgin was confined to the coastal strip and New Guinea as distinct from the Australian Territory of Papua. The Pidgin infection has moved into the virgin country and the highlands; it has also come down into the Port Moresby area and into Papua. As a living language opposed to a scholastic language, Pidgin is making advances; but English is getting nowhere. I know that is not what the Government intends. I repeat that a crash programme is overdue. This matter has been brought to my mind by the editorial in the “ Sydney Morning Herald “.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) has spoken with some emphasis. Whilst I agree completely with his statement of objectives - those which he has set out are the objectives which the Government has before it - I must say with all respect to him that he has a very considerable degree of ignorance of conditions in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. He made many misstatements with the same emphasis with which he set out his objectives.
To begin with, if I may correct him on a matter of minor detail, Pidgin is not Pidgin English but is Melanesian Pidgin, which was derived from sources other than the English language as well as from English itself. Melanesian Pidgin has been known in the Territory for at least 70 or 80 years - that is, from the days of the first traders and missionaries. Before our Australian administration was set up in the Territory, Melanesian Pidgin was common currency among a large number of the people, particularly on the northern side of the island. In that period it became a common means of communication between people engaged in planting and trading, and in missionary enterprise. Among a multitude of languages which were mutually incomprehensible it was the sole means of communication.
The use of Pidgin has grown very considerably throughout the Territory because of the ease with which it can be learned. In a short space of time it can be mastered sufficiently to enable people to communicate on simple matters. Whereas an indigenous person from a newly opened area would, in the same way as an Australian infant, take some years to master the English language before he could speak it with confidence, it is possible for a person in a matter of months to get a sufficient smattering of Pidgin to enable him to make himself understood on simple matters. It is that facility of learning and of communication on simple matters that has given Pidgin its popularity.
Then, too, for many years much of the education in the Territory was conducted by missions, and rightly or wrongly many of the missions adopted Pidgin as a means of communication. They turned Pidgin into a written language, established printing presses and produced religious and general instruction books in Pidgin. The persistence of the missions in perpetuating the use of Pidgin is another considerable factor in the retention of the language. In the postwar period the policy of the Government has been to conduct education in English.
In Administration schools, teaching is done in English from the commencement. In spite of what the honorable member for Mackellar says, we have had in the Territory the advantage of an investigation and report by the very officer who established for the Department of Immigration in the early days of post-war immigration the principles of teaching English as a foreign language. What the honorable member has said about the desirability of following the methods of the Department of Immigration in teaching English has already been put into operation, and I am astonished to learn that he is not familiar with that fact.
Teaching in the Pidgin language is still conducted in the mission schools. As is known to honorable members, we support the mission schools financially on the condition that teaching shall be conducted in English. In deference to the educational theories that are advanced by some of the missions, we permit elementary instruction in the early years to be conducted in Pidgin if that is the lingua franca of the area. However, the subsidy for mission schools ceases if in the third year they do not pass to total instruction in English. One of the big factors which, I think, runs counter to what the honorable member for Mackellar has said is that among the native people themselves there is definitely a desire to learn English. I have known large groups of natives to leave a mission school where teaching was conducted in Pidgin and to transfer overnight to another mission school where the teaching was conducted in English. Whenever I have had talks with native villagers about the future of themselves and their children, it has been quite plain to me that their ambition has been to learn English and to gain the benefit of the advantages that go with it.
The desire of the native people themselves to learn English, the fact that it is the policy of the Government to promote the use of English, the fact that we are putting compulsion on the mission schools to teach in English, and the fact that we are adopting that practice in Administration schools mean that the younger generation is learning English and is speaking it with confidence and fluency. Although the older people certainly still have Pidgin as a means of communication, I believe that the honorable member for Mackellar very much exaggerated the picture when he suggested that English was making no headway but that Pidgin was making great headway.
There is one final point I want to make, and this is the point on which the honorable member for Mackellar and I are in total agreement - even in enthusiastic agreement. The English language can undoubtedly become not only the prime civilizing agent but also one of the great unifying factors in the Territory. I have said on many previous occasions in the past ten years that two of the strongest unifying forces in this very difficult Territory, where people are of many tribal affiliations, speaking many different languages, can be the English language, giving them a common language, and the Christian religion, giving them a “common faith. I would put those two forces - - the English language and the Christian religion - as presenting two of the great hopes for forming an homogenous and united people coming together to work out their own destiny. What might be termed without too much optimism the hope of nationhood for the people of Papua and New Guinea is a hope that must be founded on the English language and the Christian religion.
.-! wish to draw the attention of the House to a happening in Brisbane some weeks ago, just before the commencement of our annual show. Two natives from the Northern Territory and two from New Guinea were brought to Brisbane officially and were refused accommodation at Atcherley Private Hotel. I think it is extremely regrettable that some hotels still have such a policy, but I raise this matter to-night mainly because I know that this hotel is used considerably by the Commonwealth Government for Commonwealth public servants, members of the armed services and, in some instances, distressed British seamen who remain in Brisbane for a period. From time to time, quite a large number of people stay at this hotel.
I do not believe that the Commonwealth Government should continue to send people to a hotel which has a policy of not accepting native peoples, particularly when those peoples are recommended, and indeed are brought to Brisbane, by a Commonwealth department to do a job for the Commonwealth. It would be indeed wrong for the
Commonwealth to continue to use and support a hotel that has such a policy as this.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.23 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
z asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: - 1 and 2. No such requests have been received from the Queensland Government. However, the Commonwealth has informed the State Governments that it would be willing to agree to an increase of £5,000,000 in the borrowing programmes of local authorities and the smaller semigovernmental bodies so that their rates of expenditure on employment-giving works may be stepped up. Further, apart from other financial assistance which, the Commonwealth makes available to Queensland, the Commonwealth has offered to assist financially, to the extent of £650,000 in 1961-62, in respect of the construction of the Normanton-Julia Creek road, with a view to increasing the turnoff of beef cattle from that area. I have also announced in my Budget Speech that subject to agreement being reached with the Governments of Queensland and Western Australia the Commonwealth is wilting and indeed intends’ to provide additional funds for roads in these two States.
e asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
State Railway Systems: Payment of Pay-roll Tax.
m asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
How much pay-roll tax was paid by each State railway system in the last financial year for which reports have been published?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The amounts of pay-roll tax paid by the State railways system during the financial year 1959-60 were as follows: -
The Transport Commission, Tasmania, has not yet published its report for the year 1959-60. In the year 1958-59 Tasmanian railways paid £57,717 in pay-roll tax.
m asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
What payments were made to the National Debt Sinking Fund in 1960-61 in respect of liabilities discharged on war service homes before the end of the repayment period?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
The amount paid during 1960-61 to the National Debt Sinking Fund in respect of liabilities discharged on war service homes before the end of the repayment period was £4,870,408.
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
How many age and invalid pensioners are debarred from receiving medical and pharmaceutical benefit’s due to the means test on income?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
There were 88,205 persons in receipt of age, invalid, widow and service pensions and tuber culosis allowances at 30th June, 1961, who had not been issued with pensioner medical service entitlement cards. Separate figures for age and invalid pensioners are not available.
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What would be the estimated cost to Consolidated Revenue if the age and invalid pension medical and pharmaceutical benefits means test was abolished?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
It is estimated that the additional cost to the National Welfare Fund for a full year would be £1,410,000 if the pensioner medical service was extended to cover those persons in receipt of age, invalid, widow and service pensions and tuberculosis allowances who have not been issued with pensioner medical service entitlement cards.
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What are the existing killing and freezing charges for cattle, pigs and sheep at the Canberra abattoirs?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
All facilities for slaughter are provided by the Department of Health, but operators employ their own slaughtermen and labourers.
e asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What requests or suggestions were made at the May meeting of the National Health and Medical Research Council for legislative and administrative action by the (a) Commonwealth, (b) Territories and (c) States?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
The following are the resolutions of the fiftyfirst session of the National Health and Medical Research Council, held in Melbourne on 25th May, 1961: -
Resolution 1 - Desiccated Coconut: That the Commonwealth Department of Health write to the Ceylon Coconut Board requesting an assurance that all shipments to Australia of desiccated coconut will be certified as having been produced under hygienic conditions, bacteriologically checked and found to be free from pathogenic organisms, and that consignments will be branded to identify the mill of origin.
Resolution 2 - Traffic Injury Research: That a sub-committee should be formed expeditiously to investigate traffic accidents. The following were appointed: - Dr. C. E. Cook or other officer of the Department of Health, Professor J. S. Robertson, Dr. J. Birrell, Dr. J. W. Lane, Dr. J. I. Tonge, and Dr. R. A. Money (surgeon).
Resolution 3 - Thyroid Tablets: That thyroxine be used in lieu of thyroid extract in thyroid tablets.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
How many new beds were provided in each State during the last financial year under the States Grants (Mental Institutions) Act 19SS7
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
New South Wales, 299 beds; Queensland, 165 beds; South Australia, 224 beds; Western Australia, nil; Tasmania, nil; Victoria, nil.
m asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 August 1961, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1961/19610823_reps_23_hor32/>.