24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. KELLY presented a petition from certain citizens of Watervale and district in the State of South Australia praying that pensioners be given relief from increasing costs by enabling them to have earnings that would bring their income to half of the basic wage.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Has the honorable gentleman investigated the circumstances surrounding recent dismissals, particularly of members of the lines staff, from the Postmaster-General’s Department in Tasmania? Can he say whether these retrenchments are justified, particularly in view of the large number of outstanding applications for telephone services and the unnecessarily long waiting period for such services?
– The honorable member refers to something that I have explained to several other honorable members who have inquired about it. He refers to the alleged dismissal of employees in Tasmania. The explanation is this: When a particular job is required to be done in the department, men are frequently employed on a temporary basis, being advised at the time of employment that they are required only for the particular job, and that their employment will be terminated when that job has been completed. This was the position in Tasmania with regard to the alleged retrenchments to which the honorable member refers. I was given particulars some time ago of the numbers involved. They were not very large. However, because of the circumstances existing at the time, I took action, through my central office and the Tasmanian administration, to ensure that the men concerned would be kept in employment for a considerable period. There has been no change, I understand, in the posi- tion, although there were a few men whose services were no longer required because the jobs for which they were particularly employed had been completed. This was in accordance with the information given to them at the time of their employment.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Immigration. The honorable gentleman will recall that the young lady who was the successful candidate in the Miss Australia competition last year originally came to this country as an immigrant. The Minister said, during the last session of the previous Parliament, that he might be willing to mark this fact by some kind of ceremony or by extending an invitation to the young lady in question to visit the Parliament. Can the Minister tell me whether there is any such plan in train at the moment?
– I know that my honorable friend from Mackellar is interested in Miss Australia, Miss Tania Verstak. I think I would probably be interpreting his thoughts aright if I said that he would regard it as not the least of his privileges as a member of this chamber if he were Miss Tania Verstak’s representative in Canberra.
We are grateful for what Miss Verstak has done in the cause of immigration during her tour abroad. She has been an ambassadress as charming as she has been valuable. What Miss Verstak has done with such success and distinction, must be regarded’ as an example of what a young person coming here as a migrant can achieve in a relatively short space of time.
In response to the suggestions of the honorable member for Mackellar, I have invited Miss Verstak to be in Canberra next Tuesday and Wednesday, 6th and 7th March. I very much hope that with your indulgence, Sir, it will be possible for her to be given a seat in your gallery so that she can witness the proceedings of the House. I also hope that it will be possible for honorable members on both sides of the House to meet her. I have no doubt that this charming young lady, on having a look at honorable gentlemen on both sides of the ‘House, will then decide on which side the nicest looking men sit.
– I address my question to the Attorney-General. Is he aware that since the. merging of the financial control of two Wollongong newspapers, the “ Illawarra Daily Mercury “ and the “ South Coast Times “, eight employees - four on the editorial staff and four on the production staff - have recently received dismissal notices? As these dismissals result from the development of a monopoly, will the Attorney-General state whether the Government proposes to proceed at an early date with its projected anti-monopoly legislation, and, if so, whether effective provision will be included to protect workers from the loss of their employment by the merging of interests into a monopoly?
– I have no knowledge of the facts detailed1 by the honorable member. He will have noticed in the Governor-General’s Speech that it is hoped that at a very early stage I shall be able to make a statement to the House on the proposals that have been formulated, and which by that time will have been accepted by the States concerned and by the Commonwealth. In dealing with these proposals, I shall have in mind what the honorable gentleman has put to me.
– I desire to ask a question of the Treasurer concerning the abolition of income tax clearance certificates for overseas travellers. He will recall that the committee on taxation recommended in its report last year that income tax clearance certificates be abolished on the basis that the savings in the cost of administration would more than offset any loss of revenue. As this is an administrative matter, would it be possible for a decision to be reached soon instead of waiting for the time of the Budget, particularly as the season of the year is approaching when many Australians leave on visits overseas?
– A good deal of work has been going on at the departmental level on the recommendations received from the committee which inquired into taxation matters. We have, I confess,- been approaching this matter as one in which all the re commendations should be considered together, and I have not previously given thought to the possibility of the one particular matter mentioned by the honorable member being detached from the general body of recommendations and dealt with separately at this time. However, as he has now specifically raised this matter, I will look into the practicability of the suggestion and see whether 1 can give him an early answer.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. Has the Australian Government discussed with the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States of America the proposal to re-commence the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere at Christmas Island? Has this Government voiced its opposition to such a proposal, as did the Prime Minister of New Zealand on behalf of the Government of that country?
– Perhaps it is desirable for me to point out that there are two Christmas Islands and that the one concerned in this matter is the one which is farthest away. The position is that before the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom made his statement on this matter, he communicated with me and with the Australian Government, and we told him, as the fact is, that we had no objection to the course he proposed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Trade, who will recall that, on 5th September last, I asked him in this House a question about the establishment of a wool-selling centre at Portland in Victoria. I suggested on that occasion that he confer with appropriate Ministers in the Commonwealth Government with a view to the Commonwealth assisting in the establishment of wool sales at that centre. I now ask: Can the right honorable gentleman say whether the Commonwealth Government is able to assist in the way suggested?
– I have interested myself in this matter, but I have not been able to discover any way in which the Commonwealth Government can contribute to the bringing about of the wool sales at Portland. The honorable member for Wannon, also, has interested himself in this matter. I received a deputation of representatives of interested parties, who asked me whether I would consult with Mr. Gale, the chairman of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers of Australia with a view to getting the council to set aside a date for auction sales of wool at Portland. My answer was that I did not know whether I or the Minister for Primary Industry was the appropriate Minister to consult with Mr. Gale, but that one or the other of us would do so. In the event, I did so. Mr. Gale made it clear to me that the considered opinion of the National Council of Woolselling Brokers was that if it set aside a date for wool sales at Portland, the conduct of sales there, in the circumstances as the council assessed them to be, would be more likely to bring about a depreciation in the value of wool, not only at that centre but, consequentially, at other selling centres. Mr. Gale said that therefore the council would not set aside a date for sales at Portland. This, I make clear, is not my judgment. I am stating Mr. Gale’s judgment on the matter.
In consequence, the position, as I understand it, is that those who have procured a building at Portland and who wish to establish a selling centre there are quite free to set a date themselves and attempt to conduct a sale. The Premier of Victoria, whose Government participated in the construction of a harbour at Portland, the local people who contributed to the procurement of premises in which to conduct sales, and London interests which put out money for the purpose, now find that they all have made these arrangements without making the basic provision of getting the people who own the wool, the people who sell the wool and the people who buy the wool to agree in the first place to the conduct of sales. The parties who participated in the moves to establish a selling centre at Portland all nominate me, apparently, as the bunny in the piece. I will not nominate myself for that role.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. The Government having said that it is concerned about the unemployed in Australia, and Queensland having a high percentage of unemployed timber workers who cannot be absorbed in other industries, will the Minister seriously consider re-imposing restrictions on the import of timber and plywoods so that the timber mills in northern Queensland will be able to go into full production and thus absorb some of the unemployed? I ask the Minister also to bear in mind the likelihood that some of the new timber pests appearing in this country have been introduced in imported timber.
– I am aware that in north Queensland and other parts of Australia the timber industry has been faced with a quite serious reduction in the demand for local timber, and representations have been made for an emergency tariff. I spoke in the Parliament on that matter some months ago, before the election, but I remind the honorable member that there are still in existence two authorities to whom the timber industry may seek access and to whom the industry may make its own representations for temporary protection which may be granted to it in one of two forms - either by way of temporary duties or, if the circumstances are .adjudged to warrant it, by way of quantitative restriction of imports. The only condition laid down is that not one section of the industry, or one area, but the whole of the Australian timber industry shall establish a prima facie case with the Department of Trade for a hearing. If a prima facie case is made out, then representations to one of the authorities dealing with temporary protection would be made and the whole machinery of examination set in motion.
– I ask the Minister for Labour, and National Service whether the election for the council of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, which was held prior to last week-end, was court-controlled and whether the secret ballot was used. Are more unions that have been dominated by Communists in the past exercising their right to use the secret ballot? Would it be this factor rather than pressure by any political party which is clearing many unions of Communist leaders?
– The answer to the first question asked by the honorable member is, “ Yes “. The answer to the second question - whether an increasing number of unions use the secret ballot legislation to get rid of Communists - is also in the affirmative. As to the honorable member’s third question, I think that most, if not all honorable members, and indeed the great majority of Australians, will welcome the fact that the central executive of the Amalgamated Engineering Union has been wrested from the control of the Communist Party.
I think there are two good reasons for this. The first is undoubtedly the use of the secret ballot legislation by the rank and file members of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. I believe that the result of the election is a victory for the rank and file members, who increasingly want their ballots to be conducted in a way that will not subject them to political interference. I understand that both the second and third division councillors are rank and file members, and as such represent the rank and file and not political parties or other interests.
– By way of explanation of a question addressed to the Minister for Immigration, I point out that some months ago, as honorable members are aware, I experienced certain difficulty with regard to a visit to the Soviet and was able to make only a restricted visit to Czechoslovakia. I now ask the Minister whether it is a fact that he has decided to limit the stay of three Russian women visitors to Australia to a period of fourteen days. If this is a fact, will the Minister state the reasons for his action and say whether it is to be accepted as the general policy of the Government in connexion with Visitors from iron curtain countries? Will the Minister also state whether his action is in retaliation for similar action against Australians by the Soviet and other iron curtain countries, and whether he subscribes to the Government’s point of view on this subject? Is the Minister aware that the imposition of restrictions by the Government only serves to justify the restrictions on travellers imposed by the Soviet bloc? Such restrictions appear to me to be the very negation of democracy and freedom as we interpret those principles in Australia.
– Order! The honorable member’s question is far too long.
– Furthermore, will the Minister consider the lifting of this ban immediately on the basis that if the Russian visitors are deemed worthy of admittance to Australia they should at least be entitled to freedom of action and opportunity to study and observe in our country?
– The honorable member, in his very long and argumentative question, gives me the impression that he is attacking my decision. Let me say at once that I am somewhat surprised that he should adopt that attitude. He seems to be under some misapprehension about this matter.
Applications from citizens of the Soviet for permission to visit Australia are, as a rule, considered upon their merits. In this case these three women applied as recently as 1 5th February last to come here for one month for the purpose, so it was stated, primarily of attending an international women’s day celebration. Their application was sponsored by an organization known as A National Committee to Invite a Delegation of Soviet Women. As I understand it, this committee functions under the auspices of the Australia-Soviet Friendship Society which, as most honorable members will realize - there is not any speculation about this - is a Communist front organization.
The essence of this matter is that this is not simply a case of ordinary international travel; it is not simply a case of three ordinary women travellers wishing to visit Australa merely to have a look-see, as no doubt my honorable friend, the honorable member for Grayndler did, ifI may say so in a not unfriendly way, when he went to Soviet Russia and other places, during some of his protracted trips abroad in the life of previous parliaments. Instead, this is a case in which at least one of these visitors is, so we understand, a prominent member of an international Communist front organization. Therefore, when this application was made and came before me last week, it seemed to me that a fortnight was a perfectly reasonable time for the stated object of the visit.
When you consider the spate of visitors who come to Australia from other countries - from what might be described as really friendly allied countries - who are perfectly content to come here for a week, ten days or a fortnight to do their business, then I would think that the honorable gentleman is surprisingly out of order in substance in criticizing the Government for giving vises of a fortnight for visits to Australia for the purpose stated. As a final word, Mr. Speaker, I might add that I have no intention of changing my decision.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade. Has the Government determined any specific industries which it intends shall be protected by quantitative import restrictions? In view of the fact that so many industries such as the timber, paper and carpet industries, to mention only a few, have submitted already the fullest details of their disabilities, is it necessary for them now to prepare new cases for submission to the department to secure a hearing by the newly appointed authority?
– I make this clear: It is not the Government’s intention, and to the best of my knowledge it has never been the intention of any recent government of Australia, to itself identify any item which in its judgment ought to have higher tariff protection, and then proceed to initiate a discussion. The order of events is that the industry itself perceives its own need for protection, in its own opinion, and makes request for a hearing by the Tariff Board, itself or, as in the last eighteen months or so, by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board with a view to obtaining temporary protection, or, as in the last couple of weeks, to Sir Frank Meere, the newly appointed special authority, with a view to obtaining temporary protection by the quantitative restriction of imports.
Therefore the position is still basically the same. An industry has to apply. It is true that some of the industries named by the honorable member have previously applied and some have been accorded temporary protection while some have applied and have been heard and temporary protection has not been afforded them as, I think, in the case of the carpet industry. One or two others have applied and have been judged not to have made out a prima facie case. I would like to make clear to Australian industry that the position to-day is that industry makes application for an ordinary hearing by the Tariff Board or for temporary protection, and it can be taken from that point on.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the fact that Tasmania’s wheat harvest this season will be the highest since 1900, when wheat-growing was a major Tasmanian industry, and in view of the distinct possibility that next season Tasmania could have wheat for export, will he examine the possibility of Tasmania having a member on the Australian Wheat Board within the next eighteen months?
– I will look at that and all other questions in connexion with the new wheat stabilization scheme.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Trade and is supplementary to that asked by the honorable member for Mallee about wool sales at Portland. I ask the Minister: Was it not understood that when such consultation as he mentioned took place representatives of the Portland interests should be present? Is it correct that the Premier of Victoria has more than once offered to support any move made by the Minister in this matter and is seeking to know the Minister’s intention in regard to it? Is it correct that the Premier left the initiative in the hands of the Minister for Trade because he made an offer to consult with the brokers before the Premier did? When he did consult with Mr. Gale did the Minister tell the chairman of the National Council of Wool Selling Brokers, as he told the deputation, that he wanted to see wool sales at Portland?
– The honorable member for Wannon was present at the deputation to which he has referred. If his memory is adequate he will know that I told the deputation that I would like to see wool sales at Portland. That is the position. He will know that I did not undertake that cither 1 or the Minister for Primary Industry would consult wilh Mr. Gale in the presence of the growers. I said I would react to the request that I or alternatively my colleague might consult with Mr. Gale. That is what I said and that is what I have done; and I have stated the results of the consultation. It is true that the Premier of Victoria has several times - sometimes directly to me and on other occasions in statements to the press - expressed his willingness to cooperate with me in obtaining sales at Portland. I thank the Premier, lt is very nice of him; but I would remind him that the Commonwealth has not any particular status in discussions about where wool is sold. The Commonwealth’s responsibility is in respect of the export of wool. It was the Premier of Victoria - his Government or some preceding government - which constructed the harbour at Portland. If that was done in the expectation that sales would occur at Portland it is his business and he cannot off-load it on to me or the Commonwealth Government.
– I ask the Prime Minister: Is the Government aware of, the severe and generally increasing burdens being placed upon ratepayers by the continuance of the outmoded system of substantially financing local government through levies on property owners? Has the Government given any further consideration to the requests of the New South Wales Government and the Local Government Association, that the Commonwealth should convene a three tier conference of Federal, State and local government authorities for the purpose of discussing proposals for a more effective and equitable means of financing local government? Finally, if so, does the Commonwealth propose to convene such a conference, or in what circumstances would it consider convening such a conference?
– I would be glad if the honorable member would put that question on the notice-paper. I am clear about one or two aspects of it in my own mind, but there are some others that I should like to have checked. If he would put the question on notice I could tell him at a later stage what is the current position.
– Has the Minister for Trade received any reports indicating increased employment and increased sales in the Australian textile industry? If he has, can he say whether this is a result of the adoption, by the Government of recent recommendations by a deputy chairman of the Tariff Board under the emergency tariff legislation recently introduced by our Government?
– I have received reports that there has been a very considerable revival in some sectors of the textile industry. I think that this is attributable to a variety of circumstances, not the least important of which are the recent policy decisions, announcements and actions of the Government, all designed to stimulate a revival of activity in business and industry and to engender in business and industry a renewal of the confidence which had been shaken by the attitudes of some people in the country. In particular, some sectors of the textile industry, notably the sector manufacturing furnishing fabrics, the sector manufacturing woollen piece-goods and the sector manufacturing man-made fibres have all been accorded protection under the legislation introduced by the Government, and in every instance the result has been renewed activity and confidence and increased employment. I am glad that this vindicates the Government’s policy and the representations of the honorable member for Indi.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry, arises from a statement made by that honorable gentleman dealing with the report and recommendations of the sugar industry inquiry committee to the effect that the Commonwealth Government has taken a definite position on certain recommendations in the report relating to the domestic price of sugar in Australia - this definite position being in relation to a recommended amended formula proposed by a majority of the committee for determining the home consumption sugar price. The recommendation, if adopted, would have the effect of reducing the current retail price of sugar in Australia. Will the Minister inform the House what is the recommended formula for determining the home consumption price of sugar which has been rejected by the Commonwealth Government?
– The formula recommended by the committee and, in fact, all matters pertaining to its report, will be dealt with when the Government brings down the legislation for the new sugar agreement with the Queensland Government. Most of those matters are under consideration by the Commonwealth and State governments at present but, in effect, the formula is as I have set it out in my statements to the public. The majority of the committee recommended that instead of accepting mill peaks, which are determined by the Central Cane Prices Board in Queensland, as the basis of determining the domestic price we should instead adopt a formula which would include only one ton of export sugar for every ton consumed locally. The Government has rejected that recommendation, and has said that we will adhere to the formula that has been adopted over a period of years and accept the mill peaks as the basis of determination.
– Has the Minister for Trade any information to give the House in relation to the proposal of the United Kingdom Government that Britain join the European Economic Community?
– This is a question which I do not think can be adequately disposed of in reply to a question. The United Kingdom is in negotiation at various levels with the Common Market countries - at the ministerial level with the Ministers of the Common Market countries, and at the official level with officials of the Common Market countries. Indeed, one aspect of the discussion has been side-tracked into a discussion on the disposal of grains under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. That is the state of play at the present time.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr. Askin, has promised that if his party is elected to government-
– Order! The honorable member’s question is out of order.
– Mr. Speaker, I rise to order. How can you know that the honorable member’s question is out of order when you have not heard it?
– I have heard sufficient of the question to know that it is out of order. The Prime Minister is not answerable to this House for anything that Mr. Askin does.
– I rise to order.
– Order! No point of order can be raised, lt is a matter of interpretation of the question.
– Mr. Speaker-
– Order! The honorable member will resume his seat. He can ask a question of a Minister only on a subject for which that Minister is answerable to the House. The Prime Minister is not answerable to the House for what Mr. Askin does.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer a question which, in some ways, is supplementary to the question which was asked by the honorable member for Fawkner. Can the Treasurer inform me when the Government intends to bring in legislation to prevent people from reducing their tax liability by forming private companies and trusts? As many people wish to form genuine companies but are not able to do so until they know the form of intended Government legislation, can the Treasurer say whether action will be taken to introduce this legislation in this session of Parliament?
– As I indicated earlier to the honorable member for Fawkner, a great deal of work has been proceeding on a quite complicated set of recommendations which have come to us from the Commonwealth Committee on Taxation. Only to-day, I have received a very lengthy submission from the Commissioner of Taxation to which I shall be giving attention as soon as I can. Whether, arising from that consideration and the necessary Cabinet discussions and action which would normally follow from departmental scrutiny, it will be practicable to introduce legislation this session, remains to be seen. 1 would very much doubt it.
– Is the Minister for Labour and National Service aware of the present unemployment position on the northern New South Wales coat-fields? If so, has he any plans for the immediate relief of the situation?
– I think the honorable gentleman from Hunter, who keeps a very watchful eye on the employment position in the northern coal-fields-
– Don’t you?
– Yes, I do, and I am glad that he does. I wish you would do the same.
– I am watching you.
– I know you are. But you had better keep watching some of your members, too, because they will go in the near future. Last year, as I think the honorable member for Hunter knows, there was a substantial increase in the production of coal in New South Wales to about 19,000,000 tons. Unfortunately, associated with that increase was a reduction in the number of miners by about 900. Despite that fact, 1 think it can be recorded that there were fewer than 300 miners registered for employment in the whole of the northern area as at the end of last week. That is too many, I agree. But I think that the honorable gentleman will know that, already, action has been taken on a local and shire level to promote works, and that there has been a substantial increase in orders from Japan for export coal from the northern fields.
There is one other fact to which I direct the honorable member’s attention: The quantity of stocks at grass in the northern coalfields has been considerably reduced. J hope that this, in conjunction with the recent economic and financial measures of the Government, will make an impact on employment in the northern fields. The honorable gentleman will be glad to know that already some people are being reemployed in the mines. I hope, in the interests of the employees themselves, that the process will be continued.
– I direct a question to the Postmaster-General. Will he inform the House whether the proposed national television channel to operate in Gippsland will have a stronger signal than the present signal of 100 kilowatts used by the commercial channel, as the signal received in Omeo and Orbost and places east is considered unsatisfactory?
– From memory, I believe that the signal from the national service referred to by the honorable member will not be of greater power than the other service he mentioned; but I shall get the information and advise him definitely.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Territories. Is it correct that natives on Buka Island who refused to pay the head tax were arrested by a massive police force which was sent to the island last week? Is it correct that a number of the persons who were arrested were marched, manacled and bandaged, over a distance of 23 miles by their guards? If this happened, does the Minister consider that the action taken was justified, or is the episode one likely to damage the prestige of the Australian Administration in the eye of its critics? Is the Minister satisfied that the massing of 400 armed police-
– Order! The honorable gentleman is now giving information. He should direct his question to the Minister.
– I am proceeding to direct my question.
– Order! The honorable member is giving information and he cannot proceed along that line.
– Now that an income tax based on the principle of ability to pay is operating in New Guinea, does, the Minister think that the continuance of the personal tax is justified, or in view of the several damaging episodes it has created, continues to be worthwhile? Will the Minister arrange for an independent inquiry into the Buka episode on terms similar to an inquiry into an earlier clash between the
Administration and Papuans on issues arising from the personal tax?
– I have already made some attempt to inform the House about the part that taxation plays in this incident. In addition, I have prepared and have circulated to all honorable members to-day a statement setting out the position regarding taxation in Papua and New Guinea. I sincerely hope that every honorable member will read, mark and inwardly digest if. There has been a great deal of public misrepresentation on this subject. It would take up too much of the time of the House to deal with this matter now, but I have circulated a statement of two or three pages and I hope the honorable member who asked the question, and other honorable members also, will read it.
So far as the incident at Buka Island is concerned, my view - and I think it will be the view of the big majority of thoughtful Australians - is that the Administration of Papua and New Guinea came through the incident with a great deal of credit to itself and to Australia. The way in which that very dangerous and touchy incident was handled is something of which we should be proud, instead of making it the subject of sniping. I invite the honorable member to examine every detail of it and try to imagine a situation where over 1,000 persons armed with axes, clubs, stones, bows and arrows and other lethal weapons, were massed in a state of fanaticism. In the face of that position, our officers were able to dissolve the situation, bring peace and restore order without loss of life. That is not something to be ashamed of. lt is something of which every Australian should be proud.
– I direct a question to the Prime Minister, and out of respect to your ruling. Mr. Speaker, I would make it quite clear that my question relates to proceedings of the Australian Loan Council. Is the right honorable gentleman aware that the present Premier of New South Wales stated, according to my understanding-
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I direct your attention to the fact that the honorable member is quoting a statement made by the Premier of New
South Wales. T submit that, in accordance with your earlier ruling, the honorable member is not in order in doing so during the course of a question addressed to the Prime Minister.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Franklin to repeat bis question.
– In a preamble, Mr. Speaker, I said that my question related to proceedings of the Australian Loan Council, which is within the jurisdiction of the Prime Minister. The Premier of New South Wales said, according to my understanding, that he got a rotten deal from the Loan Council, and particularly in respect of the amount allotted to New South Wales from the special nonrepayable grant of £10,000,000. Can the Prime Minister say what was the previous allotment to New South Wales by the Loan Council, as a normal allotment, and further - again for purposes of comparison - what was the amount received by New South Wales from the non-repayable grant of £10,000,000?
– If it will assist my friend, ) will get the precise figures. I do not need to tell him, of course, that whatever the Premier of New South Wales received came from a clear blue sky. lt was not pursuant to any obligation on the part of the Commonwealth. As an old hand at this Loan Council business, 1 may say that I am familiar with the phenomenon of a Premier leaving here as happy as Larry and becoming unhappy before he gets home.
– At a meeting of the Standing Orders Committee towards the end of I960, it was agreed that there was some misunderstanding by honorable members of the scope of questions without notice, and I was requested to explain the principal rules to the House. This explanation was given in a statement which 1 made to the House on 27th September, 1960. In view of the time which has elapsed and the change in membership since that statement was made, it appears advisable to bring the rules again to the notice of honorable members. May I say that many of the questions asked to-day, and also some of the answers given, were outside the rules and the practice governing questions without notice.
I have, accordingly, arranged for the statement to be revised and for a copy to be sent to every member. I ask honorable members to study the statement and assist the Chair by ensuring that questions and answers are concise and in conformity with the rules. The more these principles are observed, the greater will be the number of questions that can be asked.
– Pursuant to section 11 of the Public Works Committee Act, I lay on the table the following paper: -
Public Works Committee Act - Twenty-seventh General Report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, the following members be appointed members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works, viz: - Mr. Brimblecombe, Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Dean, Mr. Griffiths, Mr. McIvor and Mr. O’Connor.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the Committee has duly reported to this House: - Erection of Permanent Barracks and Administrative Accommodation at H.M.A.S. “Kuttabul”, Sydney.
The proposal provides for the erection at H.M.A.S. “Kuttabul”, Sydney, at an estimated cost of £985,000, of urgently required permanent barracks accommodation with associated recreation facilities for naval personnel, mainly from ships undergoing refit, and essential administrative and signal communication accommodation associated with the naval head-quarters for the East Australia Area. The building will be constructed in reinforced concrete with concrete floors and brick external walls.
The committee has reported favorably on the proposal and, upon the concurrence of this House in this resolution, detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the recommendations of the committee.
– I would like to ask your advice, Mr. Speaker. This motion deals with certain naval establishments. Would I be in order in discussing land and establishments occupied by the Army in my electorate?
– No. Such matters would be irrelevant.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Consideration resumed from 22nd February (vide page 205).
Clause 1 (Short Title and Citation).
– I move -
That the clause be postponed.
The purpose of this motion is to bring to the attention of the committee a number of matters that the Labour Party believes ought to be included by amendment in this bill. The carrying of this amendment this afternoon would show that the committee desires the Government to take the bill back, make the amendments that I am now going to state, and re-submit the bill to the committee later to-day in a much improved form.
The first amendment to the act that we feel should be included in this bill involves an adjustment of the rates of child endowment so as to accord with present living costs. The rate of 10s. a week for the second and subsequent children in each family has remained unaltered since 1948, and although child endowment for the first child at the rate of 5s. a week was introduced by the present Government in 1950, no alteration has been made to that rate in the intervening years, during which cost of living has doubled. Until this amendment is made, the position is that the value of child endowment payments to the mothers of Australia has been halved. We sincerely hope that the Government will agree to include this amendment.
The second amendment we would like the Government to include is an increase in the basic rate of age and invalid pensions. The present payment does not accord with to-day’s living costs and an increase of even a few shillings a week would be very welcome and helpful to the great body of age and invalid pensioners. We therefore ask the Government to’ look sympathetically at this provision and agree to include the simple amendment in the bill and (o bring the measure back this afternoon. If this suggestion were adopted, the Government would as a matter of course make a number of corresponding increases in various other social service payments which have lagged behind living costs.
Third and very important is the provision of a domestic allowance for civilian widows with dependent children. A domestic allowance has already been provided for war widows, but the most unfortunate position to-day is that a civilian widow with children under the age of sixteen years cannot stay home and look after them as every one would wish her to do. Instead she is compelled to go out to work and, to that extent, to leave her children neglected in order to obtain the basic means of subsistence for herself and her family. We ask the Government to include in this bill an amendment to provide that a widow with dependent children, who chooses to stay home and look after them shall be paid a domestic allowance of at least £3 10s. a week to enable her to do so, with accompanying suitable payments for each child.
The fourth matter that I bring to the attention of the Government is the need to establish a system of national assistance for people receiving social service benefits who have special needs that are not met by the basic payment. The germ of this idea is included in the system of supplementary payments which the Government has adopted in the last few years. Under this system, a maximum of 10s. a week can be paid under very rigid conditions to a pensioner who pays rent. Distress and hard ship are now being suffered by a great many people who have special needs of various kinds but who have no property and no income and who depend entirely on the pension. We believe that a system of national assistance should be established so that each such case could be judged and met on its merits. To some extent, assistance of this kind is provided by State governments on a varying basis, according to the State in which the pensioner happens to live, but we think it important that there should be an adequate and uniform system of national assistance to meet special needs.
Fifthly, we believe that the rate of unemployment and sickness benefits should be increased so that the adult rate shall not be Jess than the age and invalid pension. This matter was dealt with during the second-reading debate, and I do not think there is any need for me to add to what I said then.
The sixth point - this is very important - is the need to set up an independent appeals tribunal. No matter what the law says, the position to-day is that an applicant for a social service payment depends on the decision of an official - a decision that may be mistaken. The official completely controls the situation, and that is wrong. Parliament has provided by statute both what the benefit shall be and in what circumstances it shall be paid. A man either has a right to that benefit or he has no right to it. The final decision should not rest in the hands of one official. We propose, therefore, that an independent appeals tribunal be established. This becomes specially important in a time of unemployment when men complain that they are removed from the roll for unemployment benefit on the ground that they have not made sufficient endeavour to obtain employment, although they contend that they have made every endeavour within their power. This is one matter that ought to go before an appeals tribunal. A similar issue arises when ari invalid person applies for the invalid pension and the appointed doctor declines to give a certificate that the person is totally and permanently incapacitated for work, which, under the act, means 85 per cent, incapacity. The applicant anr) other doctors may contend that he is so incapacitated. We believe that here again an independent appeals tribunal could be of much value. Then there is the case of the applicant for an age pension who finds his application rejected because the department values his property at a sum far greater than he believes is just in the circumstances. This is also a matter that might be dealt with by an appeals tribunal.
I mention two other matters - small matters but of very great importance to those concerned. The first is the adjustment of the rate of funeral benefit to today’s costs. This benefit was fixed at £10 in 1943. There can be no justification for maintaining the benefit at this figure; –.it should be at least £30. Acceptance of the Opposition’s amendment will demonstrate to the Government that the bill should be amended to include this increase. The second of these matters is the need to double the rate of maternity allowance. If we believe in the maternity allowance, and I have not heard any one in this. Parliament say he does not believe in it, the rate should be increased. If the rate fixed in 1948 was fair and just, it is beyond argument that the rate should be doubled, because costs have more than doubled in the intervening period.
Those are the few matters that I have the opportunity to mention in the limited time available to me this afternoon. There is one other matter I will mention before I sit down. There has been some argument about the provision in this bill to reduce the residence qualification.
– Order’. The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) has moved an amendment which will give the Government an opportunity to consider further the legislation that is now before us. At least 350,000 people are concerned in the payment of unemployment and sickness benefits. The figure may be nearer to 450,000 if we recognize that the whole family unit of husband, wife and children is affected. Unfortunately, the rate of unemployment benefit falls far short of the amount that should be provided for the mere sustenance of people. The proof of this is that the rate is far below the rate of age and invalid pensions. If a man and his wife each receive the age pension, their total income from this source is £10 10s. a week. We believe that this amount should be increased, because it barely supplies the essential needs of aged persons.
However, an unemployed person and his wife receive only two-thirds of the amount paid to a couple in receipt of the age pension. An unemployed man and his wife receive £7 2s. 6d. a week. The disparity between that and the sum that we judge to be needed by those who depend on these social service payments is very great. Persons who are either sick or unemployed are discriminated against unfairly. As I have said, we do not regard the age pension, which amounts to £10 10s. a week for a man and his wife, as being by any means adequate, and the Government proposes to give substantially less than that to people who, through no fault of their own, and regardless of their responsibilities in life, have had visited upon them the consequences of the policies adopted by this Government in its administration of Australia’s economic affairs. The inadequacy of the provision for those who are unemployed or sick is illustrated by the fact that the total amount to be paid to an unemployed man with a wife and three children, taking into account child endowment also, is only 2s. 6d. a week more than the total age pension payable to a man and his wife. The treatment accorded to an unemployed worker with a wife and three children is in sharp contrast with that accorded to age pensioners, and this fact emphasizes the inadequacy of the provision made for those who are unemployed and ill.
Surely the Government cannot justify this attitude. It ought to review its proposals in the light of the existing circumstances. I welcome the amendment proposed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) for it reemphasizes to the Government the inadequacy of the provision that it intends to make for people who are the victims of the tragedy that it has visited on this country This tragedy is due not to natural calamities of flood or fire, or to war, but solely to deliberate acts of this Government in furthering its economic policies. Those policies have resulted in 131,000 of our people walking the streets workless. They and their dependants are suffering greatly in these tragic circumstances.
– If the Government wanted to rectify the situation, it could do so immediately.
– If the Government and particularly the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) had any conscience in this matter, the Minister would immediately accept the amendment that has been proposed by the honorable member for EdenMonaro in the hope of having this grievous anomaly rectified.
When we consider what is likely to happen in the future, we realize just how serious the situation has become. In order to provide work for the 131,000 unemployed, we shall have to increase the work force by something more than 2± per cent. However, we have to absorb, as well as those who are at present unemployed, the natural increase of our population and the increase by migration, which further accentuate the situation and increase (he severity of the effect on the community of our present circumstances, which are due to the Government’s dependence on the forces of private enterprise to provide employment. Private enterprise, however, has been subject to business and trade fluctuations and, naturally, has been unable to expand operations sufficiently to increase employment opportunities and progressively employ all those who offer for employment. The problem will get worse unless the Government itself supplements the field for employment by undertaking public works required for the development and progress of our great continent.
This Government, by its dependence on private enterprise and its neglect of policies designed to promote national development, is denying the people of Australia essential national development as well as adequate employment. Surely the Government is not so little seised of the importance of these matters as to ignore completely the need to ensure for Australian workers an honest livelihood. If the Government is so deficient in its outlook, the time has arrived when it ought to pay for its neglect. I challenge the views that this Government represents the views of the Australian people. An analysis of the aggregate vote cast at the recent general election proves conclusively where the Government stands in public estimation. However, if it claims to represent the people, it must ensure that every citizen of this country is afforded an opportunity to engage in useful employment not only in order to provide himself with the means of sustenance but also for the sake of Australia’s future.
For the reasons that I have given, I ask the committee to accept the amendment.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Chairman, in this discussion which has arisen from the move by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) to postpone consideration of the clause in order to provide an opportunity to increase social service benefits adequately, a number of significant questions have been raised by Opposition members, but, so far, no one on the Government side of the chamber has chosen to try to answer the submissions from this side. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro based his move on changes in the cost of living. He showed that over the years so many of the social service benefits provided under this Government’s legislation had seriously depreciated in purchasing power. He pointed out that the funeral benefit of £10 was totally inadequate in a situation in which the costs involved had increased so much. He looked at a number of other social service benefits and demonstrated that they all were in a similar position. The honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin), on the other hand, chose to adopt an approach which was equally effective. He argued that a number of social service benefits were inadequate, altogether apart from the question of inflation or increases in the cost of living. In the absence of any contradiction, or any attempt at contradiction, by the Government, it can be argued that the Government agrees with the honorable member’s propositions. So for two substantial sets of reasons, the Opposition has argued - I think successfully - that the Government has not defended the position that it has taken up in this matter. Indeed, that position appears to bc indefensible.
In. the past, when these matters have been raised either in this Parliament or outside it, the Government ‘. is always taken the attitude that it is impossible to do more to improve social service benefits, because higher benefits would mean increased purchasing power at a time of inflation, prices would rise even more, and those who received the increased benefits would therefore suffer. In other words, it has been said that, because of inflation, it is not possible to increase the spending of the Government any more than was proposed at that particular time. Time and time again, we have heard the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) say that a proposal to increase this or that social service has been or was being considered by the Government. But nothing was done. Clearly, the basic reason why nothing was done was that the Government could not afford to do it; that, because of the inflationary situation, money was not obtainable. Every time the Labour Party has put up a proposal, it has been met with the question, “ Where is the money coming from? “ I suppose, in the circumstances, a great many Australian people were led to believe that what the Government said could very well have been the case up to 1961, for I well remember the arguments put forward by the Government during the last election campaign.
But what is the position to-day? The one defence upon which the Government has relied for denying justice to the recipients of social services has now completely disappeared. It is no longer possible to raise the argument of inflation to justify the Government’s refusal to increase social services because to-day there is not an excess of purchasing power in the community. During the last election campaign, it was the Opposition’s task to make this clear to the people of Australia, and I think the majority of the Australian people accepted our argument that there was not an excess of purchasing power in the community. It is obvious that there is not an excess of purchasing power. Various authorities have estimated that our national income was something between £250,000,000 and £4.00,000,000 less than would have been the case if the Government had not put its deflationary policy into effect.
There was an alternative open to the Government. The honorable member for Bonython taas said that the Govern ment’s deliberate action has produced the present degrading position. That deliberate action was not necessary, but, having reduced the level of activity and expenditure in Australia, the Government has now created for itself an opportunity to do justice to the recipients of social services, and to do something to help restore activity in the Australian community as a whole. And no one can argue that that restoration of activity is not essential to our well-being. Not only are there 135,000 people registered as fully unemployed, but there are many more in only part-time employment. In addition, during the coming year, something between 115,000 and 120,000 more people will have to be put into work. In all, in 1962, the Australian economy has to provide jobs for something like 250,000 people, or about twice the number of people it has had to provide work for in any one year previously. It is not just a matter of having to provide for an increased work force; it is a matter of having to provide for both the increased work force and the unemployed, and it is only too obvious that the measures now proposed by the Government - a reduction of taxation, increased depreciation allowances, reduced sales tax on motor cars and so on - will not provide the stimulus that is necessary to lift the Australian economy to the point where it can absorb the unemployed and provide jobs for those who will be joining the work force.
Because this is obvious, the great newspapers, which are apprehensive about the fate of the Government if something is not done, have embarked upon a policy of publishing costly, full-page advertisements asking, “What have you done for prosperity to-day?” They want the people to make up for the deficiencies of the Government. They see that if it is left to the Government we cannot hope to succeed. Because they see this, they are endeavouring to tell the Australian people that they must spend, that they must do something to restore activity in Australia because the Government has not done enough. By its own policy, the Government has created an excellent opportunity to do justice to age and invalid pensioners, to the unemployed, to the recipients of child endowment - and child endowment was virtually abandoned for eight or nine years - and to increase the present miserly funeral benefit of £10, as well as to increase all other social service payments, but it refuses to take advantage of that opportunity. For years the Government has refused to embark upon a policy of priorities that would raise social service payments to adequate levels, and now that it has an opportunity to do so without reducing anybody’s income, the Government is not prepared to act.
In all the circumstances, I submit that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has established a case for the Government to answer. The honorable member has proved that the Government has permitted social service benefits to be denuded of their value by the effects of inflation. The honorable member for Bonython has also established a case for the Government to answer. He has proved that, judged by all civilized, humane and decent standards, many of our social service payments are grossly inadequate. I submit that, judged on its- general economic policy, the Government has a case to answer. For years it has refused to take the politically unpopular step that was necessary to establish in Australia equitable social priorities because to do so might have involved certain other people in expense.
– I am not surprised at the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) proposing this amendment, because it gives him an opportunity to discuss the general question of social services. That opportunity would not be open to him in any other way in discussing this bill. I am not surprised at the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) supporting him, but I am astonished at the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin). No one knows better than he that these are just empty, political techniques. At no stage of the proceedings could any serious consideration be given to any of the points raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. No one knows that better than the honorable member for Bonython.
I concede that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is just having fun and games at the expense of people who are in dire need of assistance - the assistance provided in this particular bill. To me, that is a reprehensible action on his part. No one knows better than honorable members of the Opposition that the general question of social services comes up for consideration once a year when the fiscal policy of the Government is discussed and determined. It is at that stage of the proceedings that financial arrangements are made to change, extend or expand the social services in a wide variety of ways. I made that perfectly clear in my second-reading speech, to which I now refer for the third time. I made the position abundantly clear to honorable members in my concluding paragraph in which I said -
By way. of conclusion I should like to assure all honorable members that the provisions of this bill are additional to the normal and annual review of (fie ‘Government’s social services programme. We will pursue the policy which had its origin some thirteen years ago when the Government was elected in 1949 and which, year by year, has transformed the general scheme of social services from an exclusive and restricted programme, confined within the limits of an expenditure never in excess of £81,000,000 to a vast category of services affecting the lives of more than 4,500,000 people - men, women and children - and involving an expenditure that approximates £365,000,000 a year, or £1,000,000’ per day.
I said all that in my second-reading speech. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro knows that I said it; the honorable member for Yarra knows that I said it; the honorable member for Bonython may have forgotten that I said it; but the three of them know that there are people outside this place who do not know that I said it and who may believe that this is a social services bill in the general sense of the term, during the debate on which all kinds of social service benefits can be canvassed and schemes of expansion and extension can be suggested. But that is not the position.
This bill has two exclusive purposes. One is to reduce the residence qualifications which have obtained for more than 50 years. This is the first government which has ever attempted to do so. The reduction has been made deliberately to assist those who for a variety of reasons could not qualify for social service benefits under the residence qualifications as they have existed for more than 50 years. This is the first opportunity that the Government has had in this Twenty-fourth Parliament to take appropriate action to reduce the relevant period. That is one of the two purposes of this bill, and its urgency must be apparent. The other purpose is to increase the rates of unemployment and sickness benefits, not only for those who qualify for them in the strict sense of the term, but also for the spouse and children of the beneficiary. That is entirely due to the current industrial situation which has visited on innocent people degrees of unemployment which are exceptional when compared with conditions during the last thirteen years. So there is an element of urgency in this matter. This bill does nothing but fulfil the two purposes which I have mentioned, lt was never intended to do anything else. It was designed for those two purposes only.
I must confess that I grow weary of this constant complaint that the Government has never done anything to improve social services. Every year the Government brings down a comprehensive social services bill. Every year that bill meets with the approval of the Parliament, and every year that bill extends social services in a great variety of ways, bringing within the scheme countless thousands of people who previously had been excluded. No departure from that practice has been suggested by myself, by the Government or by any one else.
I have only to remind the House that a few short years ago, in 1949, when the Labour Party had to deal with this question the best that it could do for those who were unemployed and those who were sick was to pay them £1 5s. a week. There the payment remained and there it would have remained but for a change of government in 1949, since which time the entire scheme of social services has been transformed.
– I am dealing with the realities of the situation and nothing else. I ask the House to appreciate the value of the two measures incorporated in this bill - a reduction in the residence qualification and an increase in the benefits paid to the wives and children of those who are unemployed and those who are sick.
Nothing is to be gained from these spurious requests for a general review of social service benefits, for an increase in funeral benefits, for an increase in any of the other benefits or for an increase in the pension rates. These matters will come under discussion in the normal procedures of the Parliament which were followed by the socialists, in a restricted and exclusive way, when they were in office and which will be followed by this Government as they have been followed during the last thirteen years. So I must confess disappointment when a man with the long and creditable parliamentary record of the honorable member for Bonython lends himself to shabby political tactics which can serve no useful purpose except to confuse and confound the credulous in the community.
.- It is with mixed feelings that I rise to support the amendment which has been proposed by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), lt is a pitiful thing for Australia that the need has arisen for us to discuss the unemployment benefit. Social service benefits generally are, of course, reviewed at regular intervals but this is a special measure and it is hard to explain to the 150,000 unemployed that the Government of the country can help them only to the extent provided by the bill. The Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) told us about the wonderful things that he is doing for those unfortunate people. In his second-reading speech he said -
As already announced, the rate of unemployment or sickness benefit payable to an adult person or married minor will be increased from £3 15s. to £4 2s. 6d. a week - an increase of 7s. 6d. a week.
What will 7s. 6d. a week buy for a married man? The Minister continued -
The additional benefit for a dependent spouse or unpaid housekeeper will be increased from £2 12s. 6d. to £3 a week - an increase of 7s. 6d. a week; the additional benefit for the first child will be increased from 12s. 6d. to 15s. a week - an increase of 2s. 6d. a week.
Coles used to advertise that nothing in their shops cost more than 2s. 6d. That now has gone by the board but this Government, which has been in office for twelve years and has enjoyed the best times of any government that ever directed this country, with no war intervening or anything else calling for excessive expenditure, can do nothing more than grant an increase of 2s. 6d. a week to those people who are unfortunate enough to need it.
The Minister referred to the time when Labour was in office and the pension was 25s. a week. At that time a pensioner could rent a room for 5s. a week but to-day the rent is one-half of the pension. Why has the Government introduced this measure? If it does not want to help the unfortunate people but, instead, wants to starve them into submission, why does it not keep silent about its record? The recent election cost this country between £200,000 and £300,000 at a time when many people were starving. Yet this Government, which has been returned to office, can only talk of the things that it proposes to do. Possibly no electorate in the Commonwealth has a number of pensioners greater than the 7,000 or 8,000 who live in the area I represent. They exist not on the £5 a week that the Government gives them but on the charity of the people in that area. They are assisted by the Sydney City Council, which has built amenities blocks for them in many parts of the city, where they can obtain a meal for 2s., or for nothing if they have no money at all. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul and all church organizations in Sydney give these unfortunate people thousands of meals daily. It is very sad for a member representing pensioners to have to raise his voice in this House about the treatment which the Government is according them.
During the recent election I told these people we would put the Menzies Government out, but unfortunately it has been returned, although not for long. On the next occasion we go to the people all these things will have to be looked into. Admittedly unemployment benefits have risen from £1 or £2 to £9 or £10 a week for a married beneficiary with three children. The Government is merely handing out this benefit without getting anything for it. I recall the days when, under a Liberal government, men were employed shovelling sand at Maroubra for 7s. or 8s. a week. To-day the Labour Government in New South Wales helps the pensioners with their rent and gives them the right to free medical attention. Yet the Commonwealth Government sits tight on this benefit and says to the pensioners, “You are lucky to get it.” That is all they get from the Minister for Social Services. Then there is the £10 funeral benefit which the member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) mentioned. What can one bury for £10? Yet the Government of this civilized country in which we live says that £10 is enough to cover the cost of a funeral. If the deceased pensioner has left no money the relatives have to pay the balance of the cost of the funeral. Did any one ever hear of such a hotch-potch arrangement in one’s life? It would not be tolerated in any other country. Yet we are supposed to be doing something on behalf of these people.
This Government is bringing 120,000 migrants into Australia every year, although we have so many unemployed. It puts them into holding camps or else gives them £10 a week, if they have families, when they are on the dole. How can a government continue like that? Yet we are told that these people are lucky because they are going to get an extra 2s. 6d. or 7s. 6d. a week. Unemployment will always be with us under this Government. Last Saturday I travelled to Port Macquarie to attend a by-election and heard talk about the young people leaving school and having no jobs to go to. There were about 150 of them in the street listening to me. Those children who have left school cannot get work, and in many instances their fathers are out of work. Timber mills in the district have been closed and there is no hope of their being opened again. It is a pity that such conditions are allowed to exist in this country at the present time. I recently received three letters in the one envelope from aged persons on Lord Howe Island who applied for the age pension about six weeks ago. In my electorate such applicants are lucky to receive attention ten weeks after they lodge their applications.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Seldom in the history of this Parliament have we heard so much humbug from members of the Opposition. The purpose of the Labour Party is perfectly obvious. It knows that the intention of the Government is that the benefits under this measure should commence as from 1st March next, and the Labour Party’s tactics are obviously designed to delay the passage of the bill. Honorable members opposite want to deny to the European migrants who are now Australian citizens, and who have been hero for ten years, the benefit of the age pension. The Labour Party wants to deny to our
British migrants the benefit of about ti, 000,000 a year which will accrue to them as the result of the passage of this bill. Honorable members opposite are not talking to the bill but are simply using delaying tactics and introducing irrelevant matter in order to deprive these worthy aged people of part of the tremendous benefits that will bc given to them under this proposal. Apparently the Labour Party also wants to deny to the unemployed, of whom it has made so much mention in .this House, the right to increased benefits which are to be given under this bill as from 1st March.
Members of the Labour Party say that we of the Liberal and Country parties cannot use the argument of inflation as a pretext to deny these benefits. Who, over the last ten years, has talked about inflation? The Labour Party.
Honorable members opposite ask, “ When are you going to put value back into the £1? “ That question has been asked ad nauseam in this House by honorable members opposite, and now that we have put value back into the £1 and the cost of living has been reduced for two consecutive quarters, members of the Opposition know that they cannot go on asking it. Value has been put back into the £1, and now the Labour Party has lost the last feather it had to fly with. What utter humbug for the Labour Party to criticize this Government on its social services programme.
It was the Labour Party which in 1949 continued to pay a miserable pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week, although the cost of living had risen by 10 per cent, and although back-bench members of the Labour Party, as well as members of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party, had asked the Chifley Government to increase the pension by 2s. 6d. a week. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro Was a supporter of that Government. Mr. Chifley said that he would not give the pensioners one penny increase in 1949, notwithstanding the fact that living costs had risen by 10 per cent.
Let us look at what Labour did while it was in power. The Labour Government had no free medical scheme for pensioners. lt was the Menzies Government that for the first time gave the pensioners free medical treatment. Aborigines were not eligible for pensions under the Chifley Labour Government. It was the Menzies Government which gave them that benefit. Under the Chifley Government a person with £750- or more could not get a pension but now, under the Menzies Government, aged persons can have up to almost £5,000 - a married couple can have up to nearly £10,000 - and be entitled to a part pension unless they have other incomes. It was the present Government that brought British and European immigrants into the social services field, and has given British immigrants increased benefits.
In the whole field of social services we can see that, whereas the benefits were miserable under Labour, they have been improved out of all sight under this Government. Australia can hold its head high and claim that it has the finest social services system in the world. That does not mean that there is not still room for improvement. In every year since 1949 this Government has improved the field of social services either by increasing the benefits or by widening the field of those entitled to such benefits. When we want to get this bill through urgently so that the increases can be paid, and new people brought into the pensions field as soon as possible, it is despicable for the Labour Party to use delaying tactics so that the provisions of the bill will not be able to operate by 1st March. It is mean to those who will benefit from the legislation. I am sure (hat members of the Government parties are determined to ensure the passing of this bill, and to complete it in time to enable the beneficiaries to receive their benefits as from 1st March.
.- The honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) says that it is despicable and mean to do anything that may delay the operation of the increase of unemployment benefit and age and invalid pensions and the extension of social services to people who become naturalized after ten years’ residence in Australia. How despicable and contemptible is it, then, to deny child endowment on a decent scale to the recipients of child endowment? How despicable and contemptible is it to deny adequate pensions to age and invalid pensioners and to deny adequate maternity allowances to those who receive them? After all, the same reason that necessitates the increase of unemployment benefit also necessitates an increase in other social services.
Neither the honorable member for Sturt nor the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), who is now at the table, attempted to defend the Government against the statements made on this side of the chamber about the present rates of child endowment, maternity allowance and age and invalid pensions. The Minister said that it was a terrible thing that the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) should suggest that these should be reviewed at this particular time. He said that the honorable member should know that those social service benefits were only reviewed annually. He indicated that, no matter what the growing need to review them was, the Government would not review them before twelve months had elapsed since the last review. Yet the Government has reviewed taxation, which is usually reviewed annually, and has done so before a full year has expired, in order to give relief of 6d. a week in tax to the average married taxpayer with two children earning £1,500 a year, and £10 a week to the recipient of a huge income. Apparently taxation can be reviewed within nine months of the previous review - or, for that matter, six months, or three months - but a review of social services must wait, according to the Minister, for the full twelve months from the previous review to elapse. Then, speaking over the air, in his usual manner, he seeks to create the inference that when that review takes place the recipients of child endowment, maternity allowance or age or invalid pensions will receive something magnificent from the Government, when he knows that the Government will not give them anything of the kind.
What is the inspiration that is alleged to be behind the proposed increase of unemployment benefits, the reduction of tax and the increase of amounts being paid to the States? The whole economic policy of the Government is designed, so we are told, to increase purchasing power in the hands of the masses of the people so as to stimulate the industries of this country and increase employment. What better way to do that than to increase child endowment, maternity allowance and age and invalid pensions? That is the way to stimulate purchasing power. The person with a big family who received an increase of child endowment would spend the increase immediately. The same would apply to an age or invalid pensioner who had his pension increased. In most cases a person receiving maternity allowance would spend any increase immediately. By increasing social service payments unemployment could be relieved to a greater extent than by any of the measures that the Government has proposed. But no! The Government will not increase benefits. The Minister for Social Services and other members of the Government, while not defending in any way the present social service rates, do not point out how the increases in unemployment benefit will have a more beneficial effect on community spending and upon this country’s economy than would the methods suggested by the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). They have not made any attempt to show that the Government’s methods will provide a greater stimulus to industry and employment than the methods suggested by that honorable member. All they do is claim that we are a lot of humbugs because we say that, simultaneously with the present measures, the Government should increase child endowment, maternity allowance and age and invalid pensions. The economic condition of this country can be improved by the method suggested by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. A shot in the arm can be given to employment. The conditions of those who are already in Australia and those who are coming here can be improved, and additional opportunities can be created for immigrants. There can be no doubt about that. The abuse delivered by the Minister for Social Services does not constitute an answer to the logical case put by the honorable member for Bonython.
The honorable member for Sturt accused members on the Labour side of the chamber of being humbugs and of adopting mean and despicable tactics. That is no answer to the statements of Opposition members who are trying to ensure that the most deserving section of the community shall receive adequate means of sustenance as early as possible from this new Governnent. We of the Labour Party will use every man, every vote and every opportunity that is available to us in this chamber to try to have justice done. We want the purchasing power of the vast masses of the people to be increased so as to provide new avenues of employment for those who are unemployed. Is that humbug or is that Statesmanship? ] prefer to look upon my friend, the honorable member for EdenMonaro as a statesman, and the honorable member for Sturt and the Minister for Social Services as the political humbugs.
.- A number of members of the Opposition have criticized the Government for not paying to an unemployed man and his wife an amount equal to the lowest figure that we deem fit to pay to a married pensioner couple. We propose to pay £7 2s. 6d. to an unemployed man and bis wife while a pensioner couple receive £10 10s. a week. Let me deal with some of the statements that honorable members opposite have made. The honorable member for Bonython said that the Government could not possibly justify its proposal. He said that it should be reviewed. He used such terms as “ if the Government has any Conscience . . .” When I have cited certain figures which I have before me honorable members will wonder whether Labour has any conscience.
The honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters), borrowing a phrase from the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson), said that it was despicable to deny adequate rates of benefit to people. Almost his concluding remarks were to the effect that Labour used every opportunity to provide justice for the working classes. When the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) pointed out that, in 1949, the Labour Government had paid an unemployment benefit of £1 Ss. a week there were cries of “ humbug “ from opposite. Honorable members on both sides of the House would like to see the highest possible rates of unemployment benefit paid. But let us keep things in perspective, and tee what Labour did when it had the opportunity. I have always believed that actions speak louder than words. Anybody in Opposition can promise anything.
In 1944 Labour paid £1 5s. a week unemployment benefit to a single man and £2 5s. ii week for a man and his wife.
– There were no unemployed then.
– I am surprised to hear you say that. Whether 2 per cent, or only .2 per cent, of the work-force is unemployed, it is a serious matter for each man who is out of work, and we should pay him whatever benefit we believe to be right. Labour did not do that.
As I have said, in 1944 the Labour Government paid an unemployment benefit of £1 5s. a week to a single man and of £2 5s. a week to a man and his wife. It paid £2 10s. a week for a man, his wife and children, regardless of the number of children. During the Labour Government’s term of office which expired in 1949, rates of unemployment benefit were not changed. They were not changed until the Menzies Government changed them in 1952. Honorable members opposite who are interjecting do not like these facts. In 1949, when Labour went out of office, the age pension was £2 2s. 6d. for a single pensioner and £4 5s. a week for a pensioner couple.
The present Government is criticized for paying an unemployed man and his wife £7 2s. 6d. a week while paying £10 10s. a week to a pensioner couple. The Labour Government paid £2 5s. a week to an unemployed man and his wife and £4 5s. a week to a pensioner couple. In other words, it paid 53 per cent, of the age pension to an unemployed man and his wife. We are paying 68 per cent, of the age pension to an unemployed man and his wife, yet Opposition members criticize us for doing that.
Money values change and figures can bc twisted, but percentages remain a true means of comparison. As I have said, when Labour went out of office an unemployed man and his wife received 53 per cent, of the amount paid to a pensioner couple, whereas this Government is paying 68 per cent. To a man and his wife and four children Labour paid £2 10s. a week, which was less than 40 per cent, of the then basic wage of £6 9s. a week. This Government is paying a man with a wife and four children £10 12s. 6d., which is over 66 per cent, of the present basic wage. In other words, we have increased the rate of unemployment benefit paid to a man with a wife and four children by over 400 per cent, during a period in which the basic wage has risen by less than 140 per cent. Apparently, the consciences of Opposition members allow them to criticize us for paying rates of benefit one and a half times greater than their Government ever paid. I would like to think that they have had a change of heart, but I do not believe that they have. All that they want to do is to embarrass the Government and mislead the public.
.- The complete insincerity of the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), the honorable member for Sturt (Mr. Wilson) and the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) is obvious when one realizes that in September last year this Government had the opportunity to make the very same alterations to the Social Services Act that it proposes to make at this stage. The Minister for Social Services, in replying to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), spoke of the dire need of the unemployed people. The dire need of the unemployed was brought about by this Government which released the tempest of unemployment by introducing a disastrous policy. The dire need of these people was obvious to the Opposition during the last Budget session when we endeavoured to increase social service benefits, but this was opposed by the Government and its supporters. That this bill has now been introduced is wholly and solely due to the ever-increasing number of unemployed throughout Australia.
That the honorable member for Sturt, the honorable member for Henty and the Minister for Social Services should criticize the Opposition for endeavouring to improve any item of legislation points to their insincerity in this matter. They were not at all perturbed about unemployment in September last. They had the opportunity then to make this increase but they did nothing at all about it. The Government is now endeavouring to escape from the rain and wind that the tempest of unemployment has brought with it. To suggest that any member of the Opposition is insincere or is indulging in hypocrisy in discussing this legislation is completely incorrect. The Opposition’s amendment to the second reading was for a postponement of the bill, but it wanted the bill to be brought back to the House the same day. The effect of this amendment is exactly the same. If the Minister for Social Services is willing to agree to our amendment to postpone the bill and if he will have another look at it, that will meet the wishes of the Opposition. We want the Government to consider the suggestions that have been made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro on funeral benefits, child endowment, rates of benefit to married minors and adult unemployed persons, and domestic allowances for widows.
Child endowment has not been increased by this Government since 1950. In his second-reading speech when referring to the increase to 15s. in the payment for the second and subsequent children of unemployed persons, the Minister said -
Honorable members will note that the emphasis has been placed on the unemployed who have a family to support. Whilst, however, the timing of this measure has been largely due to present circumstances, the opportunity has been taken to introduce what the Government has already had in mind for some considerable time - an improvement in the circumstances of the unemployed person, man or woman, with the larger family.
The inconsistency and hypocrisy of the Government are shown in that statement. The Government has shown by its attitude towards child endowment that it has no sympathy for the unemployed person with the larger family. That statement by the Minister means that this Government is interested only in seeing that the unemployed man with the larger family has his circumstances improved. These are reasons why this bill should be postponed so that it can be amended in accordance with the suggestions that have been made by the Australian Labour Party.
The Government stands condemned for its inactivity in the field of social services. The honorable member for Henty and the honorable member for Sturt quoted copiously from a booklet which has been read time and time again by honorable members. They harked back to 1949, four years after the Second World War, when the country was just beginning to get back to normal. Despite that fact, the honorable member for Sturt chided the Opposition for reverting to events of only a couple of years ago. That honorable member then spent five minutes saying what the Labour Party had not done in 1949. The fact is that at that stage the Labour Party already had in mind many plans for the improvement of social service benefits. If honorable members study the development of social services between the end of the Second World War and 1949, they will see that our record compares more than favorably with that of the present Government.
The Government should consider the fact that since 1954 there has been no change in the amount of income that a pensioner can earn without affecting his pension. The amount is still £3 10s. a week. The honorable member for Henty quoted percentages and money values. But they do not mean anything unless the value of money now is exactly the same as it was in 1949. If anybody is being hypocritical, it is the supporters of the Government because they had an opportunity in December when their leader’s policy speech was being prepared to indicate that these things should be done. They neglected to do them because they did not realize that their disastrous policies would have such an effect on the result of the election. Because they want to escape from the trouble they have caused themselves, they are now making an effort to relieve the suffering of some of those who were affected by their policies. The whole point at issue is the fact that this Government is concerned that unemployment should flourish. The bill before the committee is a negative bill. If the Government took positive action to relieve unemployment and if it increased the amount of money available to the States for public works, perhaps it would get the support of the Opposition, but until the Government is prepared to look at the current problems and reach a solution urgently, the Opposition will take every opportunity to criticize it.
When answering the honorable member for Bonython (Mr. Makin) the Minister adopted an old, old tactic. He tried to appeal to the inherent decency and honesty of the honorable member for Bonython to gag him because the Minister realizes, as do all other members of the Government, that the criticism levelled by the Opposition is the criticism that is being levelled at the Government by every section of the community. One has only to look at the frantic efforts being made by the leader of the Liberal Party in New South Wales to deny the very existence of the Liberal
Government in Canberra, lt is calling the State organization “ Askin’s Liberal Party “ because-
– Order! The honorable member is getting away from the measure before the committee.
– Mr. Askin realizes that this Liberal Government has let the people down in relation to child endowment, funeral benefit, age pensions and developmental work and in every other way. It is no wonder that the Liberal Party in New South Wales disowns this Government. Some honorable members on the back benches on the Government side are quietly criticizing the Government outside. There is an insurrection against the Minister for Social Services and against the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) himself. It has already commenced. There are doubtful and critical elements in the Liberal Party in Canberra just as there are in that party in New South Wales because this Government has failed to do justice to the pensioners and the parents of our young people. The Government deserves to be criticized for its record in social services. The Government has a duty to the community to postpone this bill so that the suggestions made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro on behalf of the Labour Party can be put into effect.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– We are now in the committee stage of a bill, the sole purpose of which is to broaden the qualifications for an age pension and increase the rates of unemployment benefit over a wider field. On the first clause of the bill, which contains no substantial matter, the Opposition has moved a motion for the postponement of the clause. This move clearly of its very nature is a political move designed to give the Opposition an opportunity to range over the whole field of a political contest. The Government is more concerned with getting this measure through the Parliament so that the increased benefits can be paid as soon as possible. So that that can be done, I move -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . ……. 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question put -
That the clause be postponed (Mr. Allan Fraser’s motion).
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . …… 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
Section proposed to be amended - 112. - (1.) Subject to this Part, the rate of an unemployment benefit or of a sickness benefit shall be-
Motion (by Mr. Allan Fraser) proposed -
In paragraph (a) omit “Four pounds two shillings and sixpence “, insert “ Five pounds ten shillings “.
– Order! A point of order cannot be raised at this stage; the Chair is still considering the matter and has not given a decision. I rule now that as the amendment moved by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro would increase the amount of the appropriation required, it is out of order.
– I move -
That the ruling be dissented from. (Mr. Whitlam having submitted his objection to the ruling in writing) -
Question put -
That the ruling be dissented from.
The committee divided. (The Chairman- Mr. P. E. Lucock.)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of bill - by leave - taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill - by leave - read a third time.
Debate resumed from 21st February (vide page 90), on motion by Mr. Cockle -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to -
We, the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign,and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- Mr. Speaker, on rising to speak to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, I should like, first, to associate myself with the mover and the seconder of the motion in the expressions of loyalty to Her Gracious Majesty the Queen, and, secondly to say how proud we were to have the new Governor-General present for the first time to deliver the Speech to the Parliament. I should like, thirdly, to congratulate you, Sir, on the honour that you recently received, and, fourthly, to congratulate the new honorable members who respectively moved and seconded the motion in their maiden speeches in this chamber.
In addressing myself directly to His Excellency’s Speech, I refer, first, to the passage where he said -
This is the first occasion upon which 1 have had the honour of addressing honorable senators and honorable members as representative of Mer Majesty the Queen at the opening of the Parliament. 1 am proud to be here and to be able in this way to continue my association with Parliament, to which all the British peoples look to safeguard their freedom and advance their welfare.
All honorable members, whether they be on the Government side or on the Opposition side of the House could well pay attention to the words “ to which all the British peoples look to safeguard their freedom and advance their welfare”. Having listened to the proceedings here since the Parliament assembled last Tuesday, I suggest that Opposition members have paid very little attention to the people’s welfare. The Opposition has an equal responsibility with the Government in parliamentary affairs. The Government has the prime responsibility for legislation, but the Opposition has a responsibility to oppose measures reasonably, honorably and effectively and not to impede legislation purely for the sake of gaining office and creating confusion in the minds of the people.
We all have a responsibility in this place. The gentlemen of the press who in this establishment represent the national newspapers have a responsibility to report fairly and without bias towards either side what goes on in this Parliament. We all know that there are two types of newspaper today - the editorial newspaper and the managerial newspaper. The editorial newspaper publishes the views of the editor and conveys to the people his opinion about what is being done in the National Parliament. The managerial newspaper frequently portrays the view accepted by the interests which dictate to it or which control it.
– The “Sydney Morning Herald “ is one.
– I was speaking, not wholly, but to a certain extent, of the “ Sydney Morning Herald “.
We in this House have a great responsibility to our country. Australia is a young nation and we have a great future. We have an opportunity to be one of the outstanding nations of the world if only we as a Parliament have enough courage, and the Australian people as a people have enough courage, to go forward and accept that future. We can take from all parts of the world the things that are good and we can, by our example, show the rest of the world what a nation should be.
I should like to discuss the economy briefly, Mr. Speaker, although 1 am not an economist. So many honorable gentlemen opposite have proved that they also are not economists. The problem of reconciling and adjusting conflicting interests and behaviour of the major economic groups within our society is of the greatest importance. There is no doubt that one of the great problems in Australia to-day is that of adjustment between the interests of primary producers and employers in industry and the interests of the trade union movement. Each must, and, I am sure, does, accept that one is dependent on the other and that the future of this country depends on them all jointly. More specifically, we need greater co-operation between these three sections of the community. Sometimes, each one represents a case which is to its own disadvantage and could be to the disadvantage of the country as a whole.
Another thing that I think we must have is a lesser degree of partisan politics than we have had in the past. It seems to me detrimental to the country’s interests that to politicians votes appear easier to get by appeals to prejudices and other emotions than by appeals to reason. They all prefer to becloud rather than to clarify economic issues. It is easier to get support for an easy-credit policy than to make people understand the dangers of inflation. It is easier to convince people that their standard of living is lowered by the import of foreign goods than to convince them of the disastrous long-term consequences of import licensing or a policy resulting in unnecessarily high tariffs. Some things must be considered as national issues to-day and should be faced by this Parliament as national issues and not dealt with merely for petty political advantage.
Having listened to Opposition members for one week and one day since the Parliament assembled, I suggest to them that the result of the recent general election may be taken as a vote against the Government’s policies rather than as a vote in favour of the Opposition’s policies. I am not adamant about this, for it has yet to be proved, but I think it could be dangerous for the Opposition to become too arrogant and to accept the result of the recent election as a vote in approval of its policies. I shall accept the outcome when it is proven. We have heard the various arguments advanced by Opposition, members in the short time since this Parliament assembled. They talk of full employment. They talk of what they will do and of what they would have done had they been in office. However, I think it is fair to say that over the last two years the Australian Labour Party has done very little to assist the unfortunate people who are at present unemployed. Opposition members talk about what they would do about the investment of overseas capital in Australia and the establishment of industries here by overseas interests, but they have not told the people where Labour, if it were in office, would employ the people who are at present working for overseas organizations in Australia.
The period of 25 minutes allotted to each speaker in this debate is not long enough for the discussion of all the various matters that may be raised in conjunction with the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. I turn now to the Government’s record. I stand by it. I sincerely believe that this Government’s record over the last twelve years has been a good one. We have had great growth in this country. Our trade balances have improved. Internal price levels are becoming stable. The loan market is buoyant. The one big problem at this time, unfortunately, is unemployment. Other speakers on this side of the chamber have adequately dealt with the measures that the Government has taken. In my view, the Opposition has been able to submit very little argument against the Government’s case. One point that does come to mind is that the Opposition, which has been criticized for twelve years as being incapable, incompetent and divided, was considered by some newspapers, within one month of 9th December, to be the great gift to the Australian community.
Let me now discuss briefly the Government’s export trade promotion programme and its dealings in connexion with the European Common Market, of which it can justly feel proud. The Government has created new trade commissioner posts, it has sent trade ships abroad, and in various other ways has sought to open up the markets of the world for investigation to give our private enterprise exporting industries an opportunity to sell Australian products abroad. No government can promote export trade by itself. The private sector of the community must take some responsibility, and must make some endeavour to sell our products overseas and increase our export earnings.
The action taken by the Government in connexion with the European Common Market is proving of great value, and I am sure that its representations will meet with success. I am confident that at this stage the Australian people believe that Australia’s interests are in safe hands in this connexion. I am sure, too, that their confidence in the Government will be greatly enhanced when they see the shadow cabinet announced by the Opposition.
Honorable members opposite have been thumping their chests and making a great play by suggesting that this Government has adopted their policy. Why, earlier this afternoon, they told us how inadequate that policy was! When it suits them to say we adopted their policy, that policy is considered to be adequate, but when it does not suit their purpose they alter the whole tenor of their arguments. The measures which the Government is introducing are short-term measures, while those which the Opposition suggests should be introduced would be permanent measures, which would impose an added cost on the costs of the community for all time, because I am sure no government would ever reduce social services once they had been increased. This Government prefers, and is prepared, to give additional benefits through its various services each Budget year.
How can Australia increase its export trade if honorable members opposite continue to insist that so many things should be added to our cost structure? Every honorable member on both sides of the House would like to be able to give all those things which it is so popular for the Opposition to suggest, but 1 am sure most honorable members on both sides realize that the Government must have some regard to the financial commitments of the country before introducing the measures which the Opposition is able to promise so glibly. I remind the House that the New Zealand Labour Government was elected on promises similar to those made by the Labour Party here, but it was defeated after its first term because by that time New Zealand was almost bankrupt. Let us remember also that when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) delivered his policy speech- he did not include many of the promises which have been made over the years by the Labour Party. Any honorable member who cares to read the report of the Budget debate for 1961 in this House will see that many promises were made at that time by the Labour Party; but the Leader of the Opposition was too crafty to include them in his policy speech. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) was in- Queensland he, too, made very many promises, as did other members of the Labour executive. I am sure that if we totalled the cost of implementing the promises made by members of the Labour Party, including those made by the Leader of the Opposition in his policy speech in 1961, the final figure would be most interesting.
The election on 9th December last was a very confused one. In my opinion, there can be no doubt that the major issue was missed by the people. To me, the major issue for the Australian people at this particular stage is the defence and foreign policies of the Labour Party. Unfortunately, the Government parties got sidetracked, and they did not do enough to bring this point before the people of Australia. It is an important issue because it affects every man, woman and child in the country. Referring to foreign policy, His Excellency the Governor-General made three points in his opening Speech. The first was that we should be faithful and contributing members of the United Nations. The second was that we should cultivate and maintain friendly and helpful relations with our neighbours, and the third was that, to guard against resort to war by those who reject these principles, Australia should have powerful and friendly mutual association with those nations which are best equipped to defend a free peace.
Let us compare that with the foreign policy of the Opposition. I understand that at eight o’clock to-night the Opposition proposes to submit a censure motion. I venture the opinion that when that motion is submitted nothing will be said about foreign policy, because I understand that caucus is meeting to-morrow to find out just what is Labour’s foreign policy, and to decide whether the Leader of the Opposition or the honorable member for East Sydnev (Mr. Ward) shall lead the debate on behalf of the Opposition. I think all people agree that the question of West New Guinea is a delicate and highly dangerous one for Australia. Through its diplomatic representations and its Ministers, this Government is doing a good job for us, but how can we continue with successful diplomatic representations while we have in the background this braying ass who has no policy, no idea of diplomacy and no thought of the detrimental effects of his numerous utterances? I am sure the Leader of the Opposition will submit his censure motion as a proposed amendment to the AddressinReply. As he disagrees with us on so many points in connexion with defence and foreign policy, it is only right that be should move in that way. For instance, on one occasion under the heading, “No Defence Cuts “, he was reported in the press as saying -
We would use such of our forces as are needed from time to time as a peace unit of the United Nations.
That was a very good one. Nobody understood it, but it got into the press. Another statement attributed to him in the press was -
The Labour Party wished to see SEATO replanned on a cultural educational, medical and technical assistance basis and not on a military basis.
I am sure that will save Australia if we ever have to go into action. He also said that Australian troops should be withdrawn from Malaya. I suppose the Leader of the Opposition has some strategic plan in mind, some plan under which he proposes to concentrate the whole of Australia’s troops ia one area on the Australian mainland, preferring that they be attacked there. He is also reported as having said -
We are opposed to the conscription of Australian youth to serve under Asian commanders in a new Pacific Ocean Treaty Organization.
I do not know whether by “ Asian commanders” he means Asian commanders or commanders who are stationed in the Asian theatre. Nor do I think anybody else understands what he means. The Leader of the Opposition is also reported in the Melbourne “ Age “, of 5th January, as having said that Australia’s defence was mismanaged. Let me here quote some of the statements made by honorable members opposite when debating the defence estimates in 1960. And I remind the House that the Leader of the Opposition has said within the last fortnight that he would not cut defence expenditure. When taking part in a debate on the defence estimates, in 1960, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) said -
This Government should reduce the expenditure on armaments and use the money it is now wasting on expenditure for war to work for peace. It should devote the money to peaceful uses. It should disarm and contribute to the work of the United Nations.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) is reported in “Hansard”, of 11th October, I960, as having said -
I firmly believe that the best defence measure we could take would be to ensure that we have a railway system of uniform gauge throughout the entire continent.
Then, in “ Hansard “ of the same date, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) is reported as having said -
All we need to have at our disposal is something in the nature of a police force to meet that form of attack pending the arrival of assistance from the United Nations.
Time will not permit of my reading all the extracts I have, but the following statement by the honorable member for Reid is of interest -
What have we to fear from China? I have said that we need have no fear whatsoever of the People’s Republic of China. China is concerned only with her own development for peaceful purposes.
Now let me direct the attention of the House to the difference between the attitude of the Australian Labour Party towards the defence of Australia and that of the United Kingdom Labour Party, which is slightly more intelligent, towards the United Kingdom’s alliance with Nato. If we substituted “Seato” for “Nato” wherever it appeared, it would make interesting reading. In October, 1961, Mr. Gaitskell, leader of the Labour Party in Great Britain, said this at Blackpool -
Can the United Nations today guarantee the security of its members? The answer is “No “. It has not the power, and if it had the power it is by no means certain it would have the united will. I hope and pray that the time will come when this power exists, when there is a world authority and when people accept it, but it is not here yet.
I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will have a discussion with Mr. Gaitskell to find out who is right. Mr. Gaitskell goes on in this way -
That is why nations, wherever they may be, things being what they are, are bound to rely on themselves ultimately for their own protection, either by such defences as they decide to erect or by alliances or by both. Our answer to the proposal that Britain should become neutral and give up the Nato alliance is simple.
Remember, Seato is the same as Nato, for the purposes of this discussion -
We passionately believe that if Britain were to do this it would be profoundly dangerous for the peace of the world. If Britain walked out on the American people they would regard it as a terrible betrayal of their closest ally. What would the Russians think? One of the dangers of the Berlin situation is that they think that the West is weak and divided, and if we walked out they would take their chance and seize Berlin. Let no one regard that lightly, whether he cares for Berlin or for the peace of the world.
For “Britain” substitute “Australia” and for “ Nato “ substitute “ Seato “. I hope that honorable gentlemen opposite at their caucus meeting tomorrow will endeavour to silence the Leader of the Opposition who at present is the alternate Prime Minister of Australia, and teach him something about diplomacy before it is too late.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has explained fully the Government’s policy on foreign affairs. At question time to-day the honorable member for Reid asked a question relating to Christmas Island. The object of the question was, I think, quite clear to most honorable members. I refer the honorable member for Reid to what the leader of the United Kingdom Labour Party said about nuclear research and testing because that shows clearly where the honorable member and some of his colleagues in the Australian Labour Party are out of step with their more intelligent brothers in the
United Kingdom. The object of the Australian Government’s defence policy is stated in these words -
The primary aim of our defence policy is continually to improve the ability of our forces to act promptly and effectively with allied forces in situations that might arise which would pose a threat to our security.
We have gone a long way towards achieving that objective. We have services which are very effective; but I feel that we have to do a lot more. Ultimately the question of the re-introduction of national service training must come before this House. When it does, we should bear in mind that we must not have national service training in which men will be sent to camp for training ill-equipped and inadequately catered for. Instead, wes should have modern equipment and the most modern armaments which can be obtained for the training of our men and for our defence. In addition, the manufacture of some of these weapons in Australia would go a long way towards solving the economic problems which now confront us.
Returning to the question of unemployment, can honorable members opposite refer me to one speech that they have made, either in this House or outside it, which they consider will help the unemployed in Australia? Can they point to any endeavour that they have made to restore confidence to the people? Can they point to any endeavour that they have made to restore confidence to the Australian manufacturer so that he will increase production and make jobs available? Is it fair to say that honorable members opposite are endeavouring to get into office over the backs of the unemployed? I believe that honorable members opposite would like to see the continuance of unemployment - for a short time only, I admit - so that they can continue to portray themselves as the saviours of this nation? Even if some of the Government’s policies have been wrong who are worse, those who do wrong or those who do nothing?
Australia is a wonderful country. You have only to travel overseas to realize that. This country will be made great only by what we. on both sides of the Parliament, do to help it. It is up to us to decide to work together so that we shall overcome the problems which now confront us. I leave this thought with honorable members opposite: There is no such thing as a small country. The greatness of a country is no more affected by the number of its inhabitants than is the greatness of an individual measured by his height. Mr.- Speaker, I am looking at the height of the honorable gentlemen opposite and I am not impressed.
.- First of all, Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your re-election to office and your elevation to knighthood. I trust that you will live long to enjoy your knighthood, although I trust that you will not occupy the position of Speaker for too long. Nevertheless, you have my good wishes.
During the last few days we have heard a lot about the unemployed. We have delved into a considerable amount of statistical research to find out what parties and governments have done in the past, to try to discover who thought of what first and who implemented it. I remind honorable members that what is past is history. Although it may have a certain amount of historical significance it is of very little use to the unemployed to-day. We live in the present and we move into the future. It is not what we have done in the past, but what we intend to do in the future that will decide where this country is going and what it will become.
Perhaps the economics of the situation are a little different to the man who is unemployed from what they are to us. We have an arbitration system which decides from time to time the amount that is required to keep a man, his wife and his children. Now we have offered to the unemployed an amount which falls short of what is considered to be sufficient to maintain him and his family. Let us remember that the wage set by the courts is a minimum wage. It will not make a man wealthy. No matter by how much the unemployment benefit is increased, if it falls short of the specified minimum wage it is insufficient and ineffective. Let me point out also that as the amount is increased it gets closer to the stage at which the Government, by adding slightly to it, can get something for its money. The unemployed do not want the dole; they want work. If the unemployment benefit were increased just a little further we could have 131.000 people contributing to
Australia’s development and wealth. At present the money we spend in this way is lost to the country although the recipient does receive some small benefit from it in that it is a small contribution to his maintenance. lt is not our job here to think up ways and means of keeping people unemployed; it is our job to think up ways and means of putting them into employment. We could not estimate the wealth that has been lost to this country through people who contribute nothing. There are a lot more of those people than appear on the statistical papers relating to unemployment which we receive. In my own electorate are waterside workers, a group of people whom some sections of the community appear to regard as professional agitators and loafers; but when you consider the circumstances under which the waterside workers exist you get a different view of the situation. Over the whole of last year in the port of Gladstone an average of 72 Waterside workers received only nine hours work each week. Their gross income individually for the twelve months, including appearance money and the holiday pay, was £10 17s. 2d. a week and that is less than the benefits that will now become applicable to some categories of unemployed. Of course it can be said that they can find other work somewhere else in the interim, while there are no ships in the port, but if any honorable member cares to follow that Idea through he will get a very clear view of the position these men are in.
I know one man who, having worked on a boat, registered himself for social service payments. As honorable members know, an applicant does not get the benefits immediately. Before this man received any payment he was offered a position by the employment bureau as a temporary fettler on the railways. He had to take that Job because if he did not he would not qualify for any social service payments. Having taken the job he worked for three days and was then notified that a ship would be in port on the following day and that he had to appear again in his capacity as a Wharf labourer. The Railways Department took a very dim view of that and told him that if he left he need not come back although, if he stayed, he would have only a temporary job. He went back and got in three shifts on that boat and applied again for social service benefits, and had another fortnight to wait before receiving payment. That was the case of a man with a wife and children and rent to pay.
These men are quite willing to work, and it is a matter of finding employment for them. We have, in that area, other categories of employees such as meat workers. Employees in the meatworks are paid a very high wage while the season is operating and without any doubt that wage was estimated at the beginning to account for the fact that the employment is seasonal. But our experience is that the season has a tendency to shorten. In that industry we are faced with the can pack system. We are told by those administering the meatworks that it will not immediately affect the number of men employed, because as the slaughtermen can now secure a much higher output extra men will be needed to handle the carcasses in the works. What they have not told us is that there is a limit to the number of carcasses that the meatworks wishes to turn out annually, because there is a limited market. The immediate result of this is that the season will be again shortened by eight or ten weeks. To a city like Rockhampton, this means a difference of £20,000 a week in wages. In other words, £200,000 less will be paid in wages in ten weeks in that city because the employment will fall short by that period.
No community can afford to have its economy affected in that manner. It is a penalty placed on a rural community because we cannot find alternative employment for these people. It is no satisfaction to the men concerned or to the business community in such centres to know that instead of £20 or £30 a week these men may be paid £7, £10 or even £11 a week in social service benefits after being out of work a fortnight. These circumstances operate from one end of this country to the other. We have not only these people who are permanently unemployed through no fault of their own, but also people who are temporarily employed on seasonal work. Some of the men previously employed in this type of work have lost their jobs for good. We have cane-cutting machines and mechanical loading devices in the industry now, and the jobs of these people will never be returned to them. Although some people were quite pleased when they realized that the waterside workers in places like Mackay would no longer have available to them the sugar loading, because to-day it is almost entirely auomatic and the man in charge, with a closed circuit television set, can even control the trimming of cargo in the hold without any human being being there, they were not so pleased when they discovered the volume of money that was no longer available in the city where these men previously spent their wages. It has gone, and it is not likely to come back.
The problem we are faced with is that of providing alternative employment and it must be provided permanently. No community in this civilized1 world can afford to have a large section of its members unpaid and not playing a part in keeping its commercial structure intact. The greatest market we have in this country is the Australian people - the ordinary man in the street with money in his pocket, because he spends it. That money goes through the commercial system and that is what keeps our economy operating. The same position applies to the primary producers. In this House a few days ago the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon) told us about his beans. It was not that he lost track of the beans so much as, apparently, he lost track of the price; and as a former primary producer I sympathize with him. We lost track of most of our crops. Over the last decade the primary producers of this country have increased their production by 33 per cent., but in that same period have increased their financial take by only 4 per cent. At the same time the cost of the things which the primary producer buys and must buy has risen by 55 per cent.
What effect will that have on the primary production of this country? It has had the effect in some areas of my electorate that half the dairy farmers have gone out of production. They have sold their farms to their neighbours and have turned to other types of production. So we have a situation where not only the worker but also the primary producer is losing’ his purchasing power.
Only a few weeks ago one of my constituents came to me for some assistance and disclosed the fact that his income from his farm was only £308 in 1961 - less than £6 a week. He was a farmer, a man who probably works sixteen hours a day. And for what? Certainly for no profit. These are matters that we must rectify. They are problems to which we must find the answers if we are going to make this country great. There is no greatness in unemployment, and there can never be any greatness in a country which crushes its primary producers in the dust. If these people do not produce, you and I, Mr. Speaker, do not eat. It has been said that they are the backbone of the country, but if we keep going in this way we shall have only backbone left to us. In Labour’s policy speech, which the previous speaker did not altogether approve of, we said that developmental work should be undertaken on a large scale to provide the unemployed workers with permanent work and that, having provided them with permanent work and a reasonable wage, we would provide the primary producer with a market again.
One of the things that worries the dairyfarmers in my area is margarine, which sells at a lower price than butter and which, because of the present state of the economy, the ordinary person is often forced to buy in preference to butter. The probability is that if such a person had more money to spend on the necessaries of life he would buy butter instead of margarine. I point out, Mr. Speaker, that it might be within the ambit of the Government to place some sort of embargo on the import of some of the raw materials, produced under cheap labour conditions, which are manufactured into an article that takes away the livelihood of dairy-farmers. If we must have margarine why cannot we have margarine that is manufactured from the products of our own farms? That should be easy enough to do. We feel that if we can - and we could - provide the necessary developmental work to give more people employment we could solve both problems.
The previous speaker was a little perturbed about the defence policy that members on this side of the chamber had propounded. Let me assure him, without any hesitation, that should anybody at any time threaten the security of this country there will be as many people from this side of the chamber as from the other side who will see to it that the attackers will not get a very good reception when they arrive. We have done it before. We did advocate the return to Australia of the garrison that we presently have in Malaya. May I say, Mr. Speaker, that the main motive for that was that we did not wish to make a contribution to the next Burma Railway. We had a lot more men up there when the last war broke out than we have now. That is where they finished. Some of us discovered it to our cost. So we are not motivated by any desire to see this country undefended, or to destroy the basis on which we might defend it. I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that it was Labour Governments which fought and won the two previous world wars.
We have heard a great deal about the importation of foreign capital. If we want to discover what will happen to us eventually if there continues to be an unrestrained flow of foreign capital we have only to look at what has happened in other countries. In Canada, since the last war, there has been foreign investment to such an extent that to-day more than 60 per cent, of all Canadian industry belongs to foreigners. Anybody who thinks that that is beneficial should examine the Canadian unemployment statistics. He will discover that during the period of foreign investment in Canada the unemployment rate has risen from 5 per cent, to 11 per cent. One of the reasons for that is that the investment of foreign capital does not always mean additional development. The great bulk of such foreign capital is invested in existing enterprises and does not help a person who is seeking employment. Those employed only have a change of bosses. The step that follows the investment of foreign capital in a country is amalgamation - the take-over - which results, as an honorable member has mentioned, in the discarding of some of the people previously employed in an industry. We have had that happen in my own home town of Rockhampton. In Canada people now say that they have pushbutton industries. The industries are in Canada, and the buttons are in the United States.
The second point about foreign investment is that the profits from it are repatriated to the countries in which the investors live. When a country reaches the position where the amount of profit being paid to foreign investors exceeds the amount of money that they are investing in that country, it has become a victim of robbery. Is it not possible, if we must have capitalistic investment in this country, to have it so controlled that we can stipulate that those who wish to invest their capital here shall come here with it, keep their profit in this country, and spend in to the benefit of this country, in which they have earned it?
In Queensland we have bauxite deposits which are the basis of an aluminium industry. When those deposits were discovered we were given very clearly to understand that the raw material would not be exported for processing and that steps would be taken to see that the manufacturing processes, at least in the early stages of smelting, would be done right here in Australia. What do we find now? In to-day’s press there is a report that arrangements have been made to ship 600,000 tons of bauxite to Japan. As we see it, Mr. Speaker, the smelting of that bauxite should be carried out in Australia - in Queensland, where the bauxite was mined. We have all the facilities to do that in places like Gladstone. In Queensland we have some of the greatest coal deposits in the world - never mind Australia - in the immediate hinterland of Gladstone. We have plans for a super powerhouse. In our last policy speech we made a proposal that that super powerhouse be constructed, and that the Government subsidize the cost of producing the power, if necessary, to put production on an economic basis and to make the proposal attractive to the company concerned with smelting so that it would do the smelting right there on the site. That would be a commonsense thing to do. The amount of money that the Government would have to spend on subsidizing production of electricity would be only an infinitesimal amount compared with what it would receive in taxes as a result of the operations of the industry. It would be an investment, and a good one.
The development association in my area estimated that had we a super powerhouse in central Queensland the employment in the aluminium industry and in industries arising from it - such as those producing fertilizer and sulphuric acid - would be such that the population of the area would rise to 175,000 people. That is development of the kind we want. That would represent the accomplishment of something I am sure every person in the House greatly desires to see - the development of the northern part of Australia. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that we cannot expect for ever to hold this country if we do not develop the parts of it which are now empty. How can we expect hundreds of millions of people to starve outside while we fail to use the facilities we have inside? It is only common sense to do something about it. Such a move would be the greatest provision for the defence of this country that this Government and this Parliament could make. Put people in there and develop the area. If you give people a stake in that country they will be the people who will see that nobody takes it from us. That is why we declared that we would spend £60,000,000 a year on the development of northern Australia. We have to do it. We can never do it sooner and we can never do it more cheaply - and it can be done right now. More than 130,000 people are out of work in this country and, as I pointed out before, for a small part of the money that the Government proposes to pay to keep these people in idleness it could have that work done.
It has been stated that if a country has the necessary labour, the skill and the materials it can do anything. I believe that that is correct. We have those things. We have problems of development. We have schemes that we can use to overcome these problems. I suggest that we should lose no time in using them.
Remember that we fully support, with most countries to-day, the payment of social services. The welfare state, Mr. Speaker, has come to stay. No government can survive its abolition, but there are some categories of payments which we might well use elsewhere. Do not let us forget that if we do not proceed sensibly we could easily pass from the welfare state to the farewell state. Greater countries than this, greater communities and, if I may say so, even greater parliaments have, in the course of the history of civilization, faded out altogether.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Speaker, I shall commence my remarks by congratulating you on your re-election to your very important office. I wish to congratulate also the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) and the honor- , able member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon), on . their speeches introducing this debate. After listening to .them, I am convinced that the electors of Warringah and Gippsland were wise in their choice and that those honorable members will be a credit to this House and to the people they represent. I congratulate all the new members of this House including the large number of new members on the Opposition side. We on the Government side would have preferred to have seen more new members supporting us. However, I remind those new members that they were elected on a swinging vote and if the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) gets his way and there is an early election, the pendulum might swing the other way. We might then see more new faces in this chamber. I am sure that the people realize now that this Government has done a worth-while job over a period of years; and they will make sure at the next election that it is returned with a much bigger majority than it has now.
Might I offer my congratulations also to the new member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) on his maiden speech. The addition to the Australian Labour Party representation of a former primary producer is something that has long been needed. When I look around and see the older members of the Opposition, I feel there are very few honorable members on the Opposition side who really understand the problems of the primary producers. I do not say that about all honorable members on that side, because I see the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard) in his seat. One cannot deny his knowledge, but generally there are few members of the Opposition who understand primary producers’ problems. I was interested to note on the notice-paper to-day a question by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. Ward) concerning the wheat industry. If honorable members read it, they will note that it is not in the interests of the wheat-growers. The honorable member is concerned about the taxpayers and the price of flour. That is the limit of his knowledge of that industry.
I suppose that one can also congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on the increase in the number of his supporters in this House. At the same time, I do not altogether approve of the tactics that he is employing. He has given me the impression, both before the election on 9th December and since, that he is attempting all the time to secure office at all costs. That is evident from the various statements that the honorable member has made to the press from time to time. The Melbourne “Age” of 8th February published a statement by the honorable member in which he said -
We will press for an election.
The statement generally was described as “ a sharp attack on the Government “. The very same day in another press statement, the Leader of the Opposition was quoted as having said that the Government had done the right thing in introducing the new measures announced by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies). According to the Leader of the Opposition, the only thing wrong with the new measures was that they were fifteen months too late. Just what does the Leader of the Opposition want? One minute he has said that the Government is doing the right thing and then he wants to criticize it. Speeches that have been made by members of the Opposition show the same tendency. The Australian Labour Party is still a divided party because all its members do not think alike. Some of them are interjecting now; and they still cannot agree. One could say the same of the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament. His views on the Commonwealth Government’s measures were not in accordance with some that were made by members of this Parliament.
We have to cast our minds back to appreciate what we are going through to-day. To get events into the right perspective, we must go back to the period before November, 1960. As honorable members know, we were going through a boom period of full employment. People were not complaining about their incomes. They had plenty to spend. Motor cars were being bought at a rapid rate. Most of the people were happy with the situation, but not all of them. Those who analysed the situation were far from happy, and they included members of the present Government. We know why certain measures were introduced at that time. Our balance of payments was running out. Our costs structure was the main problem. It affected primary industries in particular and, to a’ lesser degree, the secondary industries which do not play as important a part in our economy as do the primary1 industries. Prices for wool and wheat are at a reasonable level to-day, but it is useless having a good price if the cost of production is excessive. That was our problem.
I direct the attention of honorable members to a report by Mr. G. D’A. Chislett, economist of the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council. This statement is published in a pamphlet headed “Past, Present and Future “. My attention was drawn to this pamphlet by the remarks of the honorable member for Capricornia, because among other things, it deals with the ratio of prices received to prices paid by farmers. The index of prices paid shows that the index price in 1949-50 of the cost to primary producers was 117. To-day the index figure is 227, or almost double the previous level. On the other hand the ratio of prices received to prices paid by primary producers which was 115 in 1949 was down to 81 in 1960-61. So the tendency has been for high costs to dominate.
Most deep-thinking people and those in authority who knew what was happening appreciated that the Government had to take action as early as 1960. Then the trouble started. I believe that the Government’s action that year was sound; but the Opposition tried to create gloom. It sought to convince the people that a depression was around the corner, and it poisoned the people’s minds, as it were. The members of the Opposition played the role of Calamity Jane.
The result of all this was that the people lost confidence. This was an ideal result from the point of view of the Opposition, because it was striving to take over Government benches at any cost. The members of the Opposition were not really concerned about the higher level of unemployment, as they purported to be. Their main objective from the point of view of the Opposition, because it was striving to take over the Government was quick to realize the situation, and it made its first move by removing the increased sales tax on motor cars. From then on, as the situation changed, various other measures were removed, until we found, about six months ago, that all the measures that had been introduced in November, 1960, had been abandoned. The Government had to contend with the Opposition, which was gaining confidence because it could see that the people were dissatisfied. It continued to take various steps to boost the economy, culminating in the measures announced by the Prime Minister two or three weeks ago.
Having made those remarks, I would just like to issue a warning to the Government. I believe that in the period before the measures of November, 1960, we had been going through a boom period, when our cost structure was very high. Now we have introduced further measures to increase our spending power, and it seems to me that this will raise the level of our cost structure as soon as the people regain the confidence that they had two years ago. This is something that the Government will have to watch very closely.
Time after time we have heard members of the Opposition saying that this is a stopgo government, but let me suggest, Mr. Speaker, that we should thank God that We have a government prepared to act in the way that this Government has acted. Any government which, faced with a situation such as we have seen in recent times, was content to go along the old straight and narrow path, would never have achieved any measure of control. After all, the economy of any country is balanced on a razor’s edge, and governments are like tight-rope walkers. They cannot lean to the right or to the left, because to do so spells ‘tragedy. We have had a government that has been prepared to steer its way through a difficult period, but I would like, as I have said, to issue this warning: If we continue to give these hand-outs, as they may be called, and the people regain the confidence that they formerly had, Australia will experience a boom period Unparalleled in its history. I suggest that the Government should watch the position very closely.
There is one industry that has been seriously affected, not so much directly by measures taken within Australia, as through interference by production in other countries. I refer to the flour industry. No doubt many honorable members will say, “ Why worry about the flour industry? We are disposing of all our wheat. Last year we had a record harvest and record sales, so we have no need to worry about the industry.” But the matter is not as simple as that. Let me refer to some cuttings taken from newspapers published in my electorate. The first, is from the “ Charlton Tribune “, and the article is headed “Future Gloomy for Wimmera Flour Mills “. The next is from the Nhill “ Free Press”, under the heading “More Flour Used but Export Down “. All these newspapers, incidentally, were published in January. Another article in the Nhill “Free Press” is headed “Must Hold Present Markets to Keep Mills Working “. If I had the time I could read these articles to the House. They show that the people in those districts are very concerned for the future of the flour industry.
Considerations such as these, of course, may not seem very important to honorable members opposite, but I remind the House that industrial activity in many country towns is very limited. I call to mind the case of a small country town with a population of fewer than 1,000 people, in which a good number of the inhabitants were employed in the local flour mill. When the mill eventually had to close down, all those people lost their jobs and had to leave the town. Further, as honorable members are no doubt aware, for every one of those men thrown out of work, another man in the town would also have been thrown out of work as a consequence.
If one studies the milling industry, one finds that it is carried out most efficiently on a three-shift basis. If a mill can work three shifts it will make some kind of a profit. If it has to carry on on a two-shift basis the profit will disappear. If a mill is reduced to working one shift only, as is the case with many mills, the result, of course, is a certain loss. It is interesting to note that in Victoria a rationalization scheme has been adopted. Some of the smaller mills have closed down. As a matter of fact, no fewer than four mills have already closed because of reduced volume of sales, not so much in the local market as in the overseas markets, eight mills are working one shift, twelve mills are working two shifts, and only nine are on a three-shift basis. The situation is quite serious. °
I would like to direct attention to the movements in sales of flour in overseas markets over a number of years. If we go back to the year 1947-48 we find that Australia exported 973,000 short tons of flour. In case honorable members suggest that I have selected only one year, let me say that in the period from 1947 to 1954 the average annual sales were 805,000 tons. For the period from 1953 to 1960 the average dropped to 596,000 tons, and in the year 1959-60 the figure was 547,000 tons. I might add, Mr. Speaker, that in the prewar period, from 1930 to 1940, Australia was the world’s biggest exporter of flour. To-day both Canada and the United States of America export a good deal more flour than Australia does.
– And what government has been in office during the latter period?
– The Government has the worst Minister for Trade in the world.
– It is interesting to note that at the time when our exports started to fall a Labour government was in power. In 1947- 48 we exported 973,000 tons, while in 1948- 49 the figure dropped to 788,000 tons. Honorable members opposite cannot blame this Government for what has happened. If they listen to what I have to say they will appreciate, first, that they do not know anything about the industry, and, secondly, that Australia has had very little power to control the trend of events.
As I have said, Australia’s cost structure is involved in this matter. Let me say also that countries like the United States of America and France are subsidizing their flour industries to keep up exports. The United States of America, under what is known as Public Law No. 480, is disposing of three-fifths of her total exports of flour. Furthermore, she is exploiting some of the markets in which Australia should be active, but in which we cannot compete because of the great advantage enjoyed by American exporters as a result of Public Law 480.
Another of our difficulties stems from the fact that countries which used to import flour from us have built their own mills. These countries include Hong Kong, Burma and the Philippines. Why have they built these mills? For the simple reason that they can produce their flour for much less than it costs them to import it from Australia.
– -Where do they get the wheat from?
– They are purchasing the wheat from Australia. The honorable member who interjects is not as knowledgeable as he thinks he is. He should realize that these countries can produce flour in their own mills a good deal more cheaply than they can import it from Australia. They can import sufficient quantities of wheat more cheaply than they can import our flour. Secondly, by producing their own flour, they get the offal, but when they purchased flour from us they had also to purchase the offal. This increased their costs. Labour in these Asiatic countries is much cheaper than it is in Australia. I have mentioned three countries that have already erected flour mills, but other countries are either in the process of building or are considering building mills. Singapore, Malaya, Thailand, Kuwait and Fiji are building mills to grist their own flour. The owners of the mill in Singapore will grist sufficient flour for use there and will have a surplus to export. Naturally, our wheat will be used, but they will be competing with the Australian production of flour. The “Straits Times”. Singapore, of 10th November, 1961, published the following item -
Wheat flour will be milled locally next year when a two million factory at Tanjong Rhu starts production.
To be operated by . . . under pioneer status, the mill will produce 3,600 tons of flour a month at the start.
The report states that this will be doubled at least in a very short time. A footnote contained the following comment -
The company apparently has plans to export to nearby markets as Singapore’s requirements are about 45,000 tons per annum.
The mill will not only produce Singapore’s requirements but will export. The position with mills in other countries is the same and we find that Fiji will have two mills.
Some honorable members a short time ago had the audacity to say that they blamed the Government for this situation, but let us seek an answer to the problem. Can we compete with the United States of America under its Public Law 480? As I said before, the United States exports three-fifths of its flour production under this law. It not only sells flour under this system, but also sells many other types of primary goods to the total value of 2,500,000,000 dollars a year. We would find some difficulty in trying to match this effort. We should try to get the countries exporting and importing flour to consider an agreement similar to that in the sugar industry, where a quota is fixed. We should also consider undertaking a large-scale promotion campaign in which the Commonwealth, the flour milling industry and perhaps the wheat industry could co-operate. The flour industry in Australia to-day is a very sick industry. The capacity of mills in Australia is the equivalent of 106,000,000 bushels of wheat but we consume only about one-third of this as flour.
There are other matters I wanted to mention to-night, but time will not permit me to do so. One matter of grave concern to me is the lack of doctors practising in country areas. Although I have not the time to deal with this subject now, I will certainly raise it when opportunity permits.
Motion (by Mr. Hasluck) - by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) speaking for a period not exceeding 45 minutes.
– I move, as an amendment -
That the following words be added to the Address: - “ but desire to advise Your Excellency that the Government no longer possesses the confidence of the Parliament and the Nation because its latest proposals -
neglect to restore continuous full employment and are totally inadequate to assure job opportunities for school leavers;
leave Australian manufacturing industry without adequate protection and the business world without a return of confidence;
adopt only short-term measures which can be readily reversed or abandoned in a further application of its ‘stop-go’ policies;
provide no basis for long-term planning of investment, production, employment and balance of overseas payments;
overlook family social services which would have a continuing social and economic benefit;
reject the unanimous and urgent request of the Premiers for an inquiry into the needs of education;
fail to reverse its three increases in interest on housing loans;
ignore the need to protect wool producers from price manipulation;,
give no assurance to the dairying, meat, wheat, sugar, fruit, and other primary industries in the event of the United Kingdom being admitted to the European Common Market;
fail to restore a fertilizer subsidy to strengthen primary industries;
defer the restoration of selective import licensing;
ignore the opportunities for developing Northern Australia;
employ the wrong methods in reducing taxation;
betray the hopes of migrants coming to Australia, and
postpone legislation to expose and curb monopolistic and restrictive practices.”
The result of the elections on 9th December, 1961, which brought this Twenty-fourth Parliament of the Commonwealth into being, imposes the duty on the Opposition to submit the amendment which I have moved. If government should rest on the consent of the governed, then the wishes of the majority of the Australian people, as expressed at the ballot-box, which favoured the proposals contained in the amendment and not those contained in current government policy, and certainly not those contained in the Government’s election policy, should be given effect to. The fact that the Opposition represents a majority of Australian voters gives it the moral right as well as the duty to pursue the course it is following.
I say current government policy because this Government is notorious for the way it changes its policy from year to year and from season to season. What is right one day is wrong the next. What is allegedly staggering and inflationary if advanced by the Australian Labour Party becomes commonplace and acceptable when put forward by a Liberal-Australian Country Party government under the influence of grave electoral losses.
The Labour Party has a moral right and a duty to submit the amendment because the Australian people cast 2,217,476 votes for Liberal and Country Party representatives and gave the candidates of the Australian Labour Party 2,534,680 votes. The Labour Party polled 317,204 more votes than did the Government parties. There were 456,962 votes cast for the splinter parties in combination, and these parties in the main supported the Labour Party’s economic and social betterment policies, and not those of the Government. The Government remains in office with no mandate itself and is continuing to deny the people what they want.
What the overwhelming majority of the Australian people want is a change of policy while the Government remains in office. They also want a change of government as soon as they can get the opportunity to bring it about. The Government has, to some extent, bowed before the storm, but the extent to which it has departed from the policy which the people endorsed, and the extent’ to which it has failed to implement that policy fully, is contemptuous of public opinion, and is damaging to the national interest as I will show later.
I think it is proper to say something about the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) because, on his own evidence, he is the man primarily responsible for this situation. I think it is proper to examine some of the remarkable statements he made about the economy to see just what they signify and to see just what wilful ignorance they represent. Truly, the Prime Minister has a curious approach to economic problems. He has hunches. He feels in his bones that in six months’ time we all will be wondering what the fuss was about. I am using his own exquisite, expressive terminology. He dislikes theories. He distrusts experts. He ignores university professors, unless, of course, they agree with him. In the golden days when the Liberal Party of Australia believed him infallible and his Government believed itself immortal - that goes back to last August at latest, the Prime Minister told a Liberal Party rally in Sydney that he was proud to say that not one of his six senior cabinet Ministers was a theorist. He went on to say -
They are not the kind of people who want a university professor to write them an essay and then say, “That goes for me”.
I am more experienced at dealing with the economy of Australia than any theorist.
Whenever I have expressed a view of the economy, it is one that has stemmed from my own experience and judgment, a view which I am prepared to stand up for.
As I have said that was in August, 1961. How different was the scene in January - five months later - when we had the extraordinary spectacle of the man who was more experienced than anybody else asking scores of people, representing many different and conflicting points of view, to come to Canberra to tell him, the Prime Minister of twelve years’ standing, exactly what was wrong with the nation’s economy and what he should do about it. If he had had more consultations of this sort two years ago, Sir, the Prime Minister would, perhaps, not be experiencing so much humiliation now.
But what was his attitude before the December debacle? He said on 3rd June, 1961-
Nobody can get rid of an inflationary boom without treading on somebody’s corns. You can’t do it without hurting somebody. It is the duty of the practical statesmen to select the corns and not to be afraid of treading, on them. To achieve this I must be content to annoy thousands.
To annoy thousands. This is what this great practical statesman succeeded in doing. He annoyed hundreds of thousands and achieved the highest rate of unemployment Australia has had since he was last in office, at the end of the 1930’s. He has inflicted unnecessary suffering on thousands of Australian families, wrought untold havoc on many Australian industries, cut back the rate of growth, and halted the progress of the nation. And all those who have suffered from it have the Prime Minister’s profound sympathy.
In that most disastrous of documents, his policy speech, which was so very nearly his last political testament, the Prime Minister said -
It is a painful business to stop a boom. Some who have profited by the boom lose some of their business or profits. Some of their employees have to seek- other employment. For the men and women so rendered temporarily unemployed, we have a profound sympathy.
This speech was presumably the Government’s considered view of the national economy as at November of last year. I wondered at the time how anybody could be so obtuse as to say such things. The people of Australia, also, wondered and, of course, voted overwhelmingly against him for his folly.
A few weeks later, the Prime Minister himself explained exactly what makes him tick. He confessed his besetting fault when he spoke at his first press conference after 9th December. At last breaking his long and understandable silence he said -
I have a singular capacity for remaining uninformed until I want to be.
And that was the trouble. There was nobody about him who could or would tell him exactly what he ought to know. Neither the Treasurer (Hr. Harold Holt) nor anybody else could or would do it. “ I know best. Trust me,” was the Prime Minister’s dictum, and there was not, and is not, in the whole of the Cabinet, or in the whole of the sycophantic crew sitting behind the treasury bench, one man who would tell him exactly what was happening and what the people were thinking about him and his policies.
The three major characteristics of the economic policy of the Menzies Government have been its rapid changes from an emphasis on expansionary to depressive measures and back again, its disregard for certain aspects of social and economic justice and its equally notorious failure to plan ahead. In other words, it has failed to formulate policies within a wellconsidered framework of what should be done to promote Australia’s growth and increase the security and happiness of its people. Expansion is and must be the keynote of everything that any good government does. In this day and age, expansion must be the continual theme of every government. I admit quite freely that to ask this Government to act sensibly on any economic matter is like asking it to do the Impossible. But there is no harm in trying, no matter how vain the prospect may appear.
Having struck a heavy blow at the economy by its emergency measures in November, 1960, and having wilfully failed to correct the easily foreseeable effects of those emergency measures, the Government is now trying to reverse the direction. In my speech on the 1961-62 Budget, I showed how wilfully the Government was acting at that time in neglecting the danger signs of ever-growing unemployment, business stagnation, stock exchange uncertainty and a general lack of confidence throughout the community. The Government’s present proposals reveal nothing more than that a sudden wave of cold fear has swept over Government supporters since the results of the last election became known. Without the merciful intervention of that election, we would certainly still be hoping against hope that the blind adherence to manifestly wrong policies could somehow be changed. We would still be hoping that by some miraculous dispensation the forces within the Government which favour stagnation instead of growth, depression instead of expansion, could somehow be exorcised. We would still be hoping that somehow the dead hand of the Treasurer and his advisers, to take but one example, could be lifted to permit the natural and urgently desirable expansion of employment and production to be resumed and maintained. But, thanks to good fortune, and the expression of feelings of deep resentment by the general public on 9th December, 1961, we have been told of the new measures which the Government proposes to enact.
These proposals represent another change in policy. This time the pointer indicates the “ go “ sign. Last year it was the “ stop “ sign. The regular pattern of the Prime Minister’s policies never changes. It is always “ Stop-go “ or “ Go-stop “. But these proposals represent more than change. They are inequitable because they favour the rich, the strident pressure groups and the big manufacturers. They are likely to be inefficient. They will not restore full employment in this country within twelve months, and they will add to, rather than ease the confusion now existing in the country. They give no hint, Sir, that the Government has even the slightest understanding that at this stage there is an urgent need for national planning in our empty north, for the establishment of attainable national economic targets and for a rational lead to business and government planning for that faster growth which our country needs. So, when all is said, these measures amount to nothing more than a shock reaction to a near defeat and, therefore, to an urgent political problem. Apart from that, they are still in the old depressing mould of “ stop-go “. I will return to these questions of planning and social and economic justice later. For the present, I seek an answer to this question:- Will these measures in themselves be sufficient to restore full employment in this country within twelve months? At the best, there is room for grave doubt as to whether they will do this even in two or three years.
The first measure proposed is the reduction of 5 per cent, in the personal income tax payable for 1961-62, which is to be concentrated into the last four months of the financial year. The effect of this has been stated by the Prime Minister to be to “ add £30,000,000 to the disposable income of the community “ over the last four months of the current financial year; that is between March 1 and June 30 next. The effect will not be as great as the Prime Minister suggests. In the first place, I believe his estimate that a 5 per cent, cut in personal income tax would mean a revenue loss of £30,000,000 in 1961-62 is exaggerated. The estimate is obviously based on the assumption that the Government would in fact have collected the full £577,000,000 in individual income tax which it budgeted for in August last. We already know that the Government’s revenue estimates for 1961- 62 are seriously astray.
In the first six months of 1961-62, total Commonwealth revenue was actually £4,000,000 less than in the same period of 1960-61, while the Budget estimate was for a rise of £59,000,000 over the year as a whole. This mistake in estimating revenue, a mistake which reflects the Government’s wildly optimistic views on the trend of the economy, is also found in the personal income taxation estimate. For the year as a whole, the Government estimated that revenue from taxation on individuals would rise by £58,000,000; yet in the first half of the year it was only £13,000,000 greater. So in view of the shortfall in income tax revenue which is in prospect, I estimate that the additional disposable income which will come from the 5 per cent, cut may not be much greater than £26,000,000. In addition, it is clear that not all the £26,000,000 will be spent, it will be nothing like that sum.
The nature of the tax cut is that rich people get a much bigger proportionate increase in their disposable income than people on lower incomes. This type of income tax reduction is regressive. It favours the wealthy, and it is made at the expense of those on the lower incomes, as I have pointed out. And here is the evidence: A single man on £5,000 a year will get a tax rebate of £85 or 1.7 per cent, of income against a rebate of £5 or 0.5 per cent, of income for a man on £1,000 a year.
And so the rich man gets more than three times the proportionate relief accorded to the poor man. This is, of course, in line with the Menzies Government’s notions of social and economic justice. I refer honorable members to the latest edition of the “ Taxpayers’ Bulletin “ in which it is pointed out that the married man with family responsibilities receives a lower reduction than does the man with no responsibilities. The bigger a man’s responsibilities, no matter what his income may be, the less he gets compared to a single man on the same income.
The economic effect of this tax will, therefore, be to concentrate a large proportion of the total increase in disposable incomes in the hands of people on relatively high incomes. And as the spending habits of these people have not been greatly affected by the economic slump, the increase in their disposable income will not lead to a very noticeable increase in their actual spending. But it is spending which is needed. And it is spending which the Government says it is trying to achieve. I do not believe, therefore, that the cut in personal income tax will lead to an increase in actual spending much greater than £20,000,000; £10,000,000, or one-third, less than the Prime Minister suggested could be the effect.
I now turn to the effects of the proposed increases in government expenditure of all kinds outlined by the Prime Minister. He said that the spending resources of the States local and semi-government bodies, would be “increased by £25,000,000 over the next four to five months “. There would also be, he said, some “ useful, if limited “ scope for increasing the Commonwealth’s own works programmes in the coming months. We know nothing of the details of these “ useful, if limited “ increases at this stage. I want to say immediately that spending will not rise by anything like the £25,000,000 increase in allocations to the States and their subsidiary bodies. This is because spending by these bodies and by the Commonwealth combined on public works and housing has already been vastly accelerated in the last half of 1961 beyond the rate planned for the year as a whole.
It has already been revealed by the Government that during 1961-62 it proposed to allow an increase of £10,000,000 in the total allocations to the States for works and housing, over what was allowed in 1960-61. It proposed in its August Budget to increase the Commonwealth capital works programme by £11,000,000 in 1961-62 compared with 1960-61. And the borrowing programmes of the semi and local government bodies were, before these recent changes, to have been £5,000,000 greater than in 1960-61. So before these recent measures, the total spending power of State, local and semi-government bodies on works and housing and of the Commonwealth capital works and services programmes, was to have been £26,000,000 a year greater than in 1960-61. But the national income estimates for the December quarter, prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician, show that in the first half of 1961-62, total spending on public works by Commonwealth, State and local governments, was £307,000,000 against only £268,000,000 in the same period of 1960-61. So in the first six months of the current financial year, total public works spending by all public authorities was £39,000,000 greater than in the first half of 1960-61. Yet the Commonwealth had provided for an increase of only £26,000,000 over the whole year 1961-62, in the total public works and housing spending of Commonwealth, State and local governments.
If we add on to the £26,000,000 increase granted at the time of the last budget in August, the £25,000,000 which has been granted now, and about which we heard so much a few weeks ago, we get a total of £51,000,000 as the total increase planned for Commonwealth, State and local governments’ public works and housing spending in 1961-62 compared with 1960-61. Yet, in the first six months of 1961-62, the national income estimates show that total expenditure by Commonwealth and local governments was running at an annual rate £78,000,000 greater than in the same period of 1960-61. This was vastly greater than the mere £26,000,000 increases allowed for at the time of the last Budget. It was three times as great.
This simple calculation serves to expose the true reason for the Government’s desire to expand the spending resources of the State and subsidiary bodies so quickly. The aim of the manoeuvre was not to increase the actual rate of spending on public works and housing beyond what was already taking place in the last half of last year. The aim of the manoeuvre was to allow that vastly accelerated rate of spending to continue, for the Government knew perfectly well that it had taken panic measures in the last half of 1961 to accelerate the rate of public authority spending in order to underpin the crumbling structure of confidence and spending in the community. The aim was to stop the already deepening slump from getting deeper.
Faced with the consequences of this problem now, consequences which my colleagues and i predicted during the election campaign, the Government has had to make further increases in allocation of finance to the States and their subsidiaries in order to prevent the drastic cut-off in the rate of their spending which otherwise would have taken place.
So what does this vaunted increase in Government spending amount to? It simply means that the recent very high rate of spending on Commonwealth, State and local public works will not fall as heavily as otherwise it was bound to do. Can we call this defensive measure, which is the logical consequence of the Government’s own actions before the last election, a vast stimulus to spending? Of course not!
Far from this increase in the loan allocations leading to an increase in the total rate of spending on public works, the economic effect looks like being very mild indeed. The recent rate of spending, which as we all know has been insufficient to stop unemployment rising to record levels, at the very best will be maintained. It is very doubtful whether there will be any increase in the rate of spending on public works at all. That is my second reason for stating that once we are given a chance to look behind the facade of the Government’s proposals, they begin to look milder and milder, less and less capable of meeting the task of restoring full employment within twelve months. The Prime Minister went on record only recently as saying that these proposals would restore full employment within twelve months.
The third major change instituted by the new proposals is the 20 per cent, investment allowance. When this measure comes into effect and when time has elapsed after its introduction, it may gradually amount to a substantial revenue loser for the Commonwealth. But in the immediate future its effectiveness in increasing the flow of spending is likely to be small. New projects have to be planned, and once planned brought to the stage of purchasing equipment. This will take time. So the investment allowance, a real handout for the large manufacturer, the huge concern, will take’ a considerable time before its effects are felt. For this reason, I do not believe it can make a substantial contribution to the problem of restoring full employment in the next twelve months. This allowance will do nothing to relieve the problem of excess capacity which is widespread throughout industry to-day. Surely it is a curious policy to seek to encourage business to invest in more plant when there is already vast excess capacity. What business needs to-day is more customers, more sales. That is the immediate problem.
Restoring, and then increasing, the level of consumption spending is the key to a quick return to full employment and rising production. Why does the Government- go in such a roundabout way to achieve this end? One reason is, of course, the heavy pressure from big business interests, under which the Government has obviously collapsed, for big handouts to big people.
On the economic effects of the Government’s measures, therefore, I can say that, in the first place, the 5 per cent, cut in personal income taxation will increase spending somewhat over the coming months, but by probably one-third less than the Prime Minister suggested when he said that it would lead to a £30,000,000 increase in disposable income. Secondly, I can say that the £25,000,000 increase in public works and housing spending power will serve at most to stop the rate of spending from falling below the level of the last half of 1961, and this is a rate which was then quite inadequate to stop unemployment rising to record levels. Thirdly, I can say - my colleagues will agree with me in this - that the 20 per cent, investment allowance will make very little contribution to the immediate problem of boosting spending and sales. So the panic programme - or the crash programme as the Government likes to call it - is very much less significant, when analysed, than the vast flurry of propaganda would have us believe. It will lead to some increase in the rate of spending, but vastly less than the Prime Minister suggested with his airy talk of a £55,000,000 increase in disposable incomes of persons and the spending power of State and local governments. Like most other economic measures of this Government, these measures have been designed in a great hurry to meet a specific urgent problem which, in turn, is entirely the result of other miscalculations the Government has made in the past.
Labour’s election programme, on the other hand, was designed with this urgent national need specifically in mind. What is more, Labour’s programme was designed to increase economic and social justice. How do the Government’s measures stand up to this criterion? Against a miserable increase of about £2,000,000 a year in unemployment benefits for the people who have been thrown out of work by the Government’s policies, the Prime Minister brings down an investment allowance which will save Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited alone at least that amount in a full year.
I say the inevitability of more stop-go is implicit in every statement by the Prime Minister and his colleagues. The Treasurer has given us an illuminating insight into his state of mind in a document which I understand has been circulated privately for the edification of Government members. This document is printed under yesterday’s date in a section of the press favorably disposed towards the Government. In this document, the Treasurer poses a number of questions and answers them himself at considerable length. Certainly nobody has ever been able to accuse the Treasurer of being laconic. Several of these questions are worth examining. For instance, the Treasurer asks: “ Was not the economy already reviving before the Government’s latest measures were announced? “ The answer commences with the remarkable words “The first signs of revival in the economy appeared about six months ago “. The next question is “ Might not these measures prove inflationary? “ To this the Treasurer answers “The immediate measures are of a flexible character and can be modified if that proves necessary “. My comment on this is that it sounds suspiciously like the stop-go practices to which this Government is addicted. In the mouth of the Treasurer the word “ flexible “ has a sinister as well as a familiar ring. And then the Treasurer asked himself a third question which was “Has not the Government simply taken over the Opposition’s programme? “ In the course of his answer, the Treasurer estimates that the present proposals will cost £50,000,000 in the current financial year, but then says that part at least of this cost will be non-recurring. In other words, he is giving to-day and taking away to-morrow. When he wrote this answer the Treasurer obviously had the same suspicion as I have, because he then immediately asks “Are not the- measures likely to be merely another chapter in a stop-go serial? “ The Treasurer, answering the Treasurer, says “ Growth and stability need the adaptation of economic measures to changing circumstances “. The people of Australia know exactly what that means at the hands of this Government.
The Prime Minister and his colleagues are constantly talking about the need for confidence. But what possible confidence in his word can the motor vehicle industry have, an industry which has undergone three major changes in sales tax in the last fifteen months? Does the Government have the faintest understanding of the damage its chaotie methods induce in industry? Does the Government have a target for motor vehicle production which it believes the country should aim for? Can it say what level of motor vehicle output it regards as desirable? Eventually it will have to form some judgment on the question. In November, 1960, the level was thought to be too high, so sales tax was raised. In February, 1961, it was thought to be too low, so the Prime Minister abandoned the November increase and he did it on the tarmac at Kingsford-Smith airport. In February, 1962, it was still thought to be too low, so the tax was cut still more. Does the Government have any consistency in its assessment of the desirable level of motor vehicle sales? If it has, I challenge - the Prime Minister to tell us what the figure is. Then the industry will know at last what it is supposed to do and what it can reasonably plan for. As it is, without a tittle of real long-term guidance, the industry will be left to flounder and languish.
The same applies to housing. In November, 1960, the rate of house building was said to be too high. So down came the axe. During early 1961 the level was thought to be too low. So an attempt was made to provide more finance. Now we have another sketchy attempt to build up this badly mauled industry by increasing war service homes loan limits and by giving the States more money. Can we expect that by November next we will again be told that the industry is building too many houses? Yet here is an industry which is a key to the level of economic activity in the whole country. No one knows what the Government intends for the long-term future of the industry. No one knows the Government’s plans to deal with what easily could be a serious lack of demand for houses at going interest rates, and with present availability of finance, in the early and late ‘sixties. Does the Government have a plan to meet this problem? Does it even know that the problem is likely to arise? Of course it has no plan, and as a result the industry must face the prospect of another smashing blow at some future time when this capricious Government finds that something has yet again gone wrong with its policies. What about the Government’s own spending? Can we reckon on any planning for the expansion of public works, for the provision of education, of water, of power, of hospitals, beyond the dribbles of information let out each year, at Budget time? Of course not, because this Government can only bother itself to give enough attention to the urgent problems of expanding our economic structure when a crisis exists.
Does the Government have any but the vaguest notion of what the demand for imports is likely to be when full employment is eventually reached again, if it is ever reached while this Government lasts. Will the demand be too high for us to stand? Or will it be manageable, as some estimates are now suggesting? Has the Government given this urgent problem five minutes of its time? Of course it has not. It is obvious that in the management of this country’s affairs the Government has been a failure, a costly failure. Yet these are modern times, when the management of economic affairs demands constant attention, unremitting effort, and a bold and imaginative approach. These are times when business must plan ahead, often years ahead. How can business plan ahead when the activities and plans of the Government itself are so unpredictable? Too tired to plan ahead, too uninterested in the need for vast improvements in economic management, too unsettled to give a steady lead, this Government lapses into the waste and confusion of “ stop-go “ policies. These most recent proposals have been hailed as heralding a new “ go “ phase. I have shown they are far less important as a means to full employment within twelve months than the Government has implied or stated. I have shown they are inequitable, the characteristic of this Government’s approach. I have shown they give no hint of any improvement in the steadiness of the hand at the helm. I now say that another “ stop “ is inevitable.
Sir, there can be no confidence while this Government lasts. There can be no confidence while the outmoded and discredited policies of the Liberal Party and its Country Party ally are allowed to play havoc with the economy of this nation. There can be no confidence while the present Prime Minister remains at the head of the nation’s administration. He has been so long in office that he has reached the point where he really believes that those who are against him are against the nation. It is the duty of this House to speak for the nation. I believe we will speak for the nation if we carry the amendment which expresses no confidence in the Government and thus prepare the way for its defeat at the ballotbox at the earliest possible date.
– I second the motion and reserve my remarks.
– Mr. Speaker, the Calwell ghost has walked again to-night. It is not the same ghost which accompanied the honorable member for Melbourne through the earlier part of his political career when he was a dedicated Socialist proclaiming, in season and out of season, the Labour Socialist programme. But to-night we have a different ghost - the ghost that came into existence, so far as we became aware of him, just before the recent election, the ghost that discovered that Labour’s policy was not to cut back the defence vote as had been proclaimed to us year in and year out. The policy of the Labour Party has suddenly been transformed and so to-night we have had the most recent addition. Frankly, I prefer the real member for Melbourne to either of the ghosts we have heard from at different times in his career. At least he is more entertaining and at least more members of the House remain awake while he is on his feet.
But the real trouble with the Leader of the Opposition is that, unlike most of his fellow Australians, he just cannot accept the fact of defeat. And the fact is that the honorable gentleman and his . colleagues were defeated in the recent election. I am not arguing that we did not take a poke from the electorate. Of course we did, or we would have a lot more supporters here; but, in language which most Australians will understand, we won the race. It may be true that we won it in a photo finish, but we got the verdict of the people and you, Mr. Speaker, are where you are on that account and we are where we are on that account. Even if it was a photo finish we are still in the saddle, and we intend to go on doing the best job for Australia that we can, as long as we remain here. The honorable gentleman just will not accept that verdict. As the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has publicly reminded him, he has tried to make a take-over bid for the Government almost every day since the decision of 9th December and here to-night we have another attempt to take over the Government of this country.
Why, so soon after an election following Which a majority sits on this side of the House, does the honorable gentleman take this course? I have not heard him, in the course of the long speech which he has just read to us, indicate one aspect of policy from this side of the House on which any member now sitting on the Government benches has indicated his intention of crossing the floor and voting with the Opposition. What does he hope to produce out of this motion of censure at this time? The most significant thing about the motion of censure is that in the fifteen points which you, Sir, have just read out, very much more effectively than did the Leader of the Opposition - I only knew it contained* fifteen points when I heard you finish your declaration on his account - and which range over just about the whole field of national affairs, even getting into the fertilizer subsidy, there is not one word on defence or on foreign policy. Why is there not any statement, in this omnibus motion of censure, on defence or foreign policy? For days before this motion came along the usually well-informed press, well supplied with background information from the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) were predicting that the Government was going to get a two-pronged attack, one on its economic policies and the other on its handling of the West New Guinea situation. But no! When the boys got together again they discovered that they were not very happy about the truculent, hamfisted fumbling with the West New Guinea situation which they had experienced from the Leader of the Opposition. They found this new ghost line a little hard to stomach as against the policy which they adopted when they were harassing the Dutch at the most critical stage of the Dutch-Indonesian negotiations. This hero, who would go it alone against Indonesia if he had his way at this time, was not prepared to go it alone against lim Healy when lim Healy was holding up supplies on the waterfront so that they would not reach the Dutch in those days. This is a very extraordinary performance, and I am not surprised that we find the Leader of the Opposition and his deputy leaving some things to others, because so far, to the best of my knowledge, they have not come in on either of the last two debates on the defence estimates, but have left those to the honorable members for Reid (Mr. Uren), Yarra, (Mr. Cairns), Lalor (Mr. Pollard) and others whose politics are well defined.
Sir, there has been an expression of the differing Labour attitudes on defence just as, in the words of the honorable member for Yarra and others who think like him in this place, there are differing approaches to this problem of West New Guinea and Indonesia. It is common knowledge around this Parliament that the caucus is to meet to-morrow to try to resolve these great differences of policy. The very divisions of policy which, at the Hobart conference, resulted in the worst split inside the Labour movement in the history of this country, still exist inside the Labour Party’s caucus at this time, and again disqualify Labour from office.
I do not want, in the very limited time that I have, to pursue these fascinating byways. The honorable gentleman set out to make some sort of economic challenge to the policies adopted by the Government. He suggested that we had pirated our policy from the Labour Party. May I, for the record, remind him that policies are not the monopoly of the Labour Party? In the course of the election campaign, speaking of the economic measures that we had already adopted, I said, as reported on 1st December, in a very authoritative place, as asknowledged by the honorable member - the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ -
If the measures currently in force do not produce a sufficiently strong demand for the labour offering in the new year, then the Government will take such action as it considers best suited to strengthening the demand. The Government has not claimed that it is satisfied with the present state of employment registrations, relatively small though the numbers may be. It has undertaken to improve the employment position by any reasonable means available to it.
Pursuant to that undertaking, soon after the election I requested the officers of the Treasury to produce a series of measures which would give some stimulus to the economy at a time when unemployment registrations were mounting - as they had in the December and January figures. The honorable gentleman does not seem to be able to make up his mind whether he approves those measures or not. To-night he alleged that our income tax concession was going to amount, in effect, to only about £20,000,000 in the year, but on the eve of the Loan Council meeting he put out a statement that the cost of these measures would be about £218,500,000 a year in the coming months, and he showed how that figure would be made up. In relation to the income tax concession he produced a figure of £90,000,000. There is nothing really inconsistent in his inconsistency, because the honorable gentleman has stated at other times his view of the economic situation, and has been hopelessly out in the forecasts he has made.
At a time when Australia was in an admittedly difficult situation, this financial genius who now seeks authority to control the economic affairs of this country acted in a way that 1 shall mention. One would have had to go back to the 1930’s to find a situation when we were under greater economic pressures because of movements in the terms of trade and in our overseas balances and the like. In the 1930’s we on this side of the House, then in Opposition, did all we could to strengthen the hand of the then Government to deal with the economic situation at that time. Recently, however, the honorable gentleman and all those who sit beside him made it their business to destroy the base of confidence in this country for their own political purposes. At a time when we were struggling with a difficult economic situation, the Leader of the Opposition said that there would be 150,000 unemployed in the country in a year. He was out by 66,000, because the actual figure was 84,000. When he came to talk about the movement in our overseas reserves, he predicted that we would lose approximately £200,000,000 between the period in which he was speaking - November, 1960 - and the end of June, 1961. In point of fact, there was an increase in the reserves from £400,000,000 in November, 1960, to 550,000,000 in June, 1961. So, instead of dropping by £200,000,000 as the honorable gentleman forecast, our reserves rose by £150,000,000.
– But you borrowed money from overseas.
– Yes, we borrowed in accordance with our drawing rights from the International Monetary Fund, to the extent of £78,000,000. If you like to subtract that from the error of £350,000,000 in the forecast made by the Leader of the Opposition, good luck to you, but there will still be a fair-sized error left on the part of the honorable gentleman.
It is on that kind of economic forecasting that we are told we have lost the confidence of the people, and that honorable gentlemen opposite have secured it. The party opposite, Sir, had prised from it in 1949 a “ milkbar “ economy, with inflation running at 10 per cent. At that time the Labour Government had just come through the most disastrous industrial dispute in the history of this country. That was the time when Labour had to put troops into the goalfields and had to gaol trade union leaders. It was a time when unemployment in Australia reached an all-time post-war record. This is the same crowd that says that we should hand over the reigns of government to it.
Let us take a quick look, Sir, at the current state of the economy, which honorable gentlemen opposite are so speedy and energetic in attacking. Let us have a look at this battered economy on which the dead hand of the Treasurer is said to be resting at this time. In the first place, our overseas balances - always a measure of economic health - stand steadily around the £600,000,000 mark, together with our drawing rights of more than £130,000,000 on the International Monetary Fund. I have not heard anybody say that this is not an eminently healthy position. For the first time in the post-war years the consumer price index is stable. We have really got value back into the £1. In the last two quarters there has been an almost imperceptible downward movement in the index, and we are as near to real price stability as we have known in this country for very many years. Indeed, nobody has been more impressed with that than the Australian Council of Trade Unions, because this is the first year for many years in which the A.C.T.U. has not sought an increase in the basic wage. It recognizes that the situation is stable, and it is not seeking to disturb it. Our trade position is remarkably healthy, and I think that honorable gentlemen opposite have cause to envy it. In each of the last seven months there has been a surplus of visible exports over imports, the aggregate for the seven months being £132,000,000. In the comparable seven months of the preceding year there was a surplus of imports over exports to the extent of £170,000,000. So, comparing period with period, there has been a favorable turn-round of just over £300,000,000. This is a very remarkable result and a very happy one.
I am proud to say that Australia has one of the highest credit ratings, internationally and at home, of any nation in the world. This year we have had successful loan operations abroad, but even more spectacular has been our loan experience inside Australia. I ask honorable gentlemen opposite to dwell on these facts for a moment because I am really unhappy that they should see the economy in terms of such gloom and depression, and that they should be spreading that gloom and depression throughout what is for most Australians a sunny land in which a lot of people are going about their business in a confident way. We asked for public support for the biggest total of loan raisings attempted in any year since 1946 - a total of £55,000,000. We offered that sum at a low rate of interest. The rate offered was 5 per cent., which is a very respectable rate by comparison with interest rates around the world at the present time. It represented a reduction of 7s. 6d. per cent, on the September loan of last year. I am sure that honorable gentlemen opposite will be mortified to learn that in this battered economy the Australian public are so bereft of confidence in the stability of the currency or in this Government that they subscribed over £90,000,000 - a peace-time loan raising record. If that is the dead hand of the Treasurer at work I am sure that quite a few people will wish him well in his future endeavours.
We have, of course, been able to make record provision for social services, for housing, for roads, for the public works of the Commonwealth and State governments, and to effect some tax reductions by way of stimulus to employment. We have never understood nor underestimated the importance of employment in the Australian economy. We have had consistent objectives throughout our term of office. It is all very well for honorable gentlemen opposite to twit us with having stop and go policies. Any man who gets into a motor car and sets off for a known destination knows where he wants to go, but if he were to drive ahead without regard to the state of the traffic he would soon end in disaster. The goals ahead of us have been known throughout our term of office. National development, industrial growth, immigration sustained on a large scale, full employment for our people, improving social standards, a reasonable provision for national security and adequate housing have been our great economic goals, in association with the greatest stability of costs and prices that we could achieve. If we are to pursue these goals persistently without winding up in the kind of disastrous depression which once faced a Labour government we must be flexible in our policies. I am quite un moved by these stop and go references. Rarely in the history of any industrialized country has a government been able to subdue a boom in the manner in which the Australian boom was subdued with so little dislocation to the Australian people. Of course, there was some dislocation. But we must try to keep these matters in perspective.
Let us consider the great issue of employment. At the present time, of 100 average Australians in the work force, 97 are employed at good wages and conditions. That does not mean that the Government is indifferent to the fate of the remaining three. We hope that the measures recently announced will speedily increase opportunities for employment for those seeking work. Honorable gentlemen opposite know that there will be an improvement in the employment position over the months ahead, but they have had very little to say about that to-night. As a contrast let me take honorable members back to the time when a Labour government tried quite unsuccessfully to combat the economic difficulties that then faced it. If you had taken 100 of your fellow Australians - 100 registered trade unionists perhaps - at that stage, instead of having three out of work there would have been 30. That was real economic disaster. Those honorable gentlemen opposite who say that they had no confidence in the Government are doing mighty little to sustain confidence among the Australian people during a difficult period. We will have other opportunities, I hope, to discuss economic matters in more detail.
Before I conclude I should like to turn to another aspect of the challenge put out by honorable gentlemen opposite. The Opposition’s amendment is a motion of censure, so we are informed, and we have been asked to treat it as such. Members of the Opposition, therefore, are putting themselves forward as an alternative government. Our policies on this side of the House are well known from our public declarations, and anybody who cares to take the trouble to write to the headquarters of the Liberal Party or to my office may get a copy of the up-to-date platform of the Liberal Party. This sets out very clearly the full range of our general policy statements. In this way, people can know where they stand with those of us on this side of the House. But I’ defy any Australian to ascertain to-morrow the comprehensive official policy of the Australian Labour Party. It is no good the Leader of the Opposition saying that this was contained in the policy speech that he made before the last general election because there were aspects of policy in that speech which he had no authority to proclaim. He knows and honorable gentlemen opposite know that, according to the rules and procedures of the Australian Labour Party, the federal conference of the party is the supreme governing authority and policy-making body, and its decisions are binding on all State branches and affiliates, upon the Federal and State Parliamentary Labour parties, and upon the federal executive. No one opposite can deny that.
In between federal conferences, the federal executive is the chief administrative authority and it elaborates details pf policy decisions adopted by the federal conference. In July of last year the federal executive did that in Brisbane. It set out to announce the policy of the Australian Labour Party. But the Leader of the Opposition was not there. He was in New Guinea. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was not there. He was in Sydney. The federal executive was such a divided force that when its members came to’ select a new president of the Australian Labour Party they found themselves so hopelessly deadlocked that they could resolve the matter only by picking a name out of a hat. That is how the highest office bearer in the Australia Labour Party came to take office in July last year.
Opposition members know that each of them is pledged to a socialist programme. Is that not a fact? Through you, Mr. Speaker, I ask whether each and every one of them is not pledged to a socialist programme? Yet their leader who claims to be a prospective Prime Minister of this country says publicly from a platform, in effect, “ I pledge myself to dishonour my pledge. I am pledged to the socialist platform but that is for the birds. Ladies and gentlemen who come to the ballot box, I give you my solemn pledge that there will not be one word of socialism out of me in the next three years if you give me office.” Where does the nation stand in the light of Labour leadership of that sort and a programme of that sort?
Nobody in Australia knows clearly what to expect should Labour take office. The people know clearly where they stand with the Government which has given Australia its greatest period of development since this federation was founded. The Government has made Australia a respected nation, a progressive nation and one which not only stands high in the councils of the world but enjoys the strong support of friendly allies. What is the alternative? Others in the debate will give the answer.
-Order! The right honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Speaker, may I congratulate you on having been appointed once more to the high position you now hold. In doing so, I assure you that I shall respect your office at all times while I am a member of this House. The previous speaker in this debate was the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), and as he spoke on behalf of the Government I noted the expressions on the faces of honorable members from Queensland who are newly elected to this place. I observed first dismay and then disgust. We members from Queensland, who represent the new feeling in that State, hoped that at least the Treasurer would tell the Parliament what his Government intended to do to alleviate the privation that has been caused by the Government’s measures. But we heard nothing of the sort; his speech was a farce. The right honorable gentleman referred to ghosts and Communists. He raised Jim Healy from the dead. He spoke of Labour policy. Is it not a measure of the current national emergency that there are 135,000 unemployed in Australia to-day? Is it not also a matter of national emergency that the great State of Queensland has been neglected and undeveloped for the past twelve years?
Surely supporters of the Government realize that the vote of the people of Queensland, in particular, on 9th December, was one of complete rejection of the policies of this Government over the past twelve years? A few days after the general election, the Prime Minister said that the people of Queensland had been misinformed. There is only one newspaper group, and it is most certainly not a supporter of the Opposition; and the control of radio and television is in similar hands. How, then, did the information get to the people? I should like to take this opportunity to recall a few events which led to the great re-awakening of political thought in Queensland. A number of old men on the Government side have for too long been out of touch with the young people of Australia. They are not aware that the educational standard has been lifted and that there is a great appreciation of what is going on in the Commonwealth Parliament. Because of that knowledge, the people of Queensland reacted as they did last December.
During 1961, and in the latter part of 1960, the people of Queensland traced the Government’s money-lending activities in connexion with the Mount Isa railway. After long negotiations, misrepresentations and letters that went astray, this Government finally lent the Queensland Government £26,000,000 at usurious rates. The money was repayable over twenty years and the annual interest repayment was £600,000. Then the Prime Minister granted Queensland £5,000,000 over five years for beef roads. He had the interest payments of £600,000 a year from the loan for the railway, added £400,000 and gave us back our own money. The people of Queensland reject that deal and the beef roads. The money is insufficient, the roads will not be sealed and possibly they will be washed away by heavy rains such as we experience in Queensland. Perhaps Government supporters are not aware of those conditions.
Queensland is one State that pays its way. We have a favorable balance of exports over imports of £57,000,000 and no deficit. With all due respect to New South Wales and Victoria, they cannot equal that record. On the other hand, we see ministerial trips made to Mount Isa for cocktails and then the big men come back and say what a tremendous potential we have in Queensland. The people of Queensland have come to realize just what is happening. The young people there have seen every big departmeint store taken over. They have seen retrenchments. They have seen industries try to start without any protection from this Government. We had one industry producing panelyte, but it was closed down because it competed with a giant monopoly, Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Limited.
What is the Government doing about monopolies? Nothing at all. In Queensland we have Coal, steel, silver-lead, zinc, gold and bauxite. Now the monopolies are taking over the bauxite. The party political cousins in Queensland of this coalition Government told the people of that State that they would get the bauxite reducing factories, the alumina plant and subsequently the aluminium smelters. They said, “We will not export it”. But yesterday, as the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray) has said, a contract to supply hundreds of thousands of tons of bauxite was signed with Japan, delivery to be over three years, to start in 1963.
After the Government was rejected so badly on 9th December, it realized that it would have to do something for Queensland, and so a grant was made. What was the effect of that grant? Actually, it was a grant to enable each local government authority to raise money to employ the unemployed on roads and sewerage as a shortterm measure. The people of Queensland could see through this move. In Petrie, the Redcliffe Council has been granted permission to raise £30,000 to put the ratepayers into debt so that unemployment can be alleviated. Throughout Queensland the local government authorities are objecting to the attitude of the Government which has said, in effect!” “Go ahead and raise money on the loan market. Put your ratepayers into debt; the obligation for providing employment is yours.” Such morally wrong action by any government should be condemned.
There are some 135 local government authorities in Queensland. If they object to raising the money and putting the ratepayers into debt, and if they reject this allotment of loan money, the Commonwealth Government, through its party political cousins in Queensland, will say, “ It is the fault of the councils that nothing has been done. We gave them the money.” That is what the people are being told. But they realize the position as is evidenced by their vote on 9th December. At the risk of being called parochial, I remind honorable members that Queensland is the most notable State and the most neglected State in Australia. The Government has announced short-term plans. When is it going to introduce legislation to develop Queensland?
Quite obviously, the great combine, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, cannot keep pace with the development of Australia. When is the Government going to subsidize the building of a steel industry? What better place is there for a steel industry in Queensland than the vast open-cut field of Kianga? Under this Government’s preposterous policies, it would rather send coal and iron ore to Japan and buy back the steel.
Such is the attitude of this Government. The Liberal-Country Party Government must realize that in modern times the task of developing this country according to the requirements of its people necessitates Government participation in industry.
As I have said, a good deal of disappointment has been felt by all Opposition members of this House, and particularly those from Queensland, at measures taken by this Government in recent times. I was particularly disappointed to read details of the amendments introduced by the Government to the Stevedoring Industry Act last year, purportedly to grant long-service leave to waterside workers. About 25 per cent, of the registered waterside workers in Brisbane employed on the waterfront are in my own division of Petrie. Any honorable member who cares to peruse “ Hansard “ can see how this Government has been trying to rule the country with fear and by force. It has implanted a feeling of fear in the minds of the people through its propaganda media. The fear is the fear of communism, as has been so eloquently expressed by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen). The people have been confused into thinking that there is a possible association between communism and the Australian Labour Party. The Government has also attempted to rule by force, by introducing more and more penal clauses in legislation affecting the trade union movement.
No group of workers has been as constantly harassed by penal provisions during the last twelve years as the waterside workers have been. One should not wonder why the waterside worker reacts as he does. He has been unduly maligned over the years. Nearly every piece of legislation that has been introduced in this Parliament covering his employment has contained a penal clause. It is assumed that he is to blame for all industrial strife, while his employer is never wrong. He is constantly attacked by the newspapers, it being suggested that since his union has been under Communist leadership in the past he, as an individual, is not a 100 per cent. Australian citizen. Many honorable members on the Government side, however, have admitted that waterside workers aire good, honest Australian workers. This being so, I am given to wonder why legislation has not been introduced in this Parliament to assist men working in the stevedoring industry, and why such an obnoxious piece of legislation as that which was concerned with the grant of long-service leave was introduced here last May.
In 1943, Dr. Ronald McQueen was asked to examine waterside workers on the Sydney waterfront. His report was subsequently incorporated in the report made by His Honour Mr. Justice Foster on the stevedoring industry in 1944. These are some extracts from Dr. McQueen’s report -
I was forced into a real and surprised admiration for a body of men earning a more or less arduous living handicapped by gross and serious physical abnormalities. I can only surmise with the most profound gloom the condition of those over 60 years of age. My chief impression of those men was that all of them were prematurely aged. It was rare to find a man who did not look at least ten years older than his stated age. . . .
Occupational injuries were the commonest disabilities encountered. In many instances, such as deformities from severe compound fractures of limbs and crippling wounds, the physical handicap could be very easily estimated.
Spinal and head injuries, multiple fractures of various bones and ‘finger amputations abounded. . . .
I can say without hesitation that neither the shearing nor timber industries can produce any comparable number of physical derelicts as I have encountered among the waterside workers of Sydney.
That report, as I say, was incorporated in Mr. Justice Foster’s report of 1944. Since then no enactment has called for an investigation of the kind of work undertaken on the waterfront. In the Basten report, the Tait report and the Foster report very little attention, if any, was given to the kind of work that the waterside worker had to do.
We have heard many airy phrases from honorable members on the Government side of the House to the effect that the stevedoring industry is a turbulent and hazardous one. If there is any foundation in such suggestions, why is it so? The 1961 amendment was introduced, we hoped, for the purpose of giving long-service leave to waterside workers, so that a man could have a rest from his work, and return to his employment in better health and with a better mental approach to the job. The Government, by introducing this obnoxious piece of legislation with indecent haste on 10th May, 1961, has caused further distrust and hatred among some 21,000 waterside workers on Australia’s waterfront. I do not have time to traverse at length the provisions of that legislation, but I do wish to tell the House that a report issued by the Accident Prevention Officer in .Brisbane showed that in the year 1960-61 a total of 3,157 accidents occurred on the Brisbane waterfront. The Stevedoring Industry Authority’s report for the same year showed that with an average available number of 1,827 men, and a daily working force of 1,040, there were 688 men on attendance money, working a week of 21.9 hours. This shows that an average daily working force of 1,040 men incurred 3,157 accidents. If there had been full employment on the Brisbane waterfront, and the 688 men on attendance money had been employed, the number of accidents would have increased to about 5,000 a year.
Honorable members may ask what the significance of this is. Let me direct attention to section 45c, sub-section (4.), para? graph (i), sub-paragraph (ii) of the Stevedoring Industry Act. This provides that a waterside worker may be credited with fifteen days a year towards his qualifying time for long-service leave. What is the effect of this? Over a period of twenty years the average waterside worker is on workers’ compensation for from three to four years. I assure honorable members that some hundreds of waterside workers have been unfortunate enough to fall down a ship’s hold and be on compensation for five years. With the provisions which restrict qualifying service, they would have to wait for 28 or 29 years before they became entitled to long service leave. In 1946 and 1947, there was a vast recruitment of exservicemen, but they will have to wait until they are nearly 65 or 66 years old before they become entitled to long service leave.
But what other mediaeval, torturous clauses are in the legislation? If a waterside worker stops work for one day, his qualifying service is reduced by 30 days. A man may be planning to start long service leave in April. If there is a stoppage, his leave is postponed and the children are sent back to school. What sort of torture is this for a waterside worker? His cleave could be postponed continually under the penal clauses of the act. In effect, section 45d of the 1961 act provides that if a waterside worker decides to leave the industry, he is not entitled to any pro rata payment for leave Chat may have accrued to him. He may have been in the industry for 25 years but if he leaves he does not receive any pro rata payment for leave unless he falsifies the position and produces a doctor’s certificate to say that he is not well.
In a nutshell, this legislation was introduced with indecent haste when outside organizations exerted pressure on the Government to circumvent the redundancy clause of the 1949 legislation. This provides that the last man on the job shall be the first man to be put off. The Government’s action means that the younger men are being retained at the expense of the older men who are being kicked out of the industry. The redundancy clause has been worrying the Government and the people it represents for some time, and they wanted to defeat it. They did so with this masterpiece of legislation which was introduced, I believe, without any reference to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The authority did not have an opportunity to examine any of its technicalities before it was introduced. It is an abuse of trade unionists and will remain to the everlasting shame of honorable members on the Government side who supported it.
A public servant waits only 15 years before he becomes entitled to long service leave, but the man who goes down the holds of ships, stows cargoes and works in terrific heat for long hours must wait for many more years before he receives his leave. During the war, waterside workers worked from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Just before the war, many waterside workers walked the streets looking for work and when they were able to get it on, say, the “ Monowai “ or the “ Aorangi “ they were ordered to start at 10 o’clock and to bring five meals. They worked from Friday until Sunday, and this led to the comments made by Dr. McQueen in his report. What reward is given to these men for the work they did? They must work for at least 22 years before they qualify for long service leave, and this does not include any periods of illness and compensation. With all the restrictions, they would work for 26 or 27 years before qualifying for leave.
We are very disappointed at the proposals of the Government. Though when we look back we see the restrictive legislation that has been introduced, we hope that the Government will introduce legislation for the betterment of all the people of Australia and will develop north Queensland.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- In rising to speak in this House for the first time and making this first presentation to the people of Australia, I am deeply conscious of the great privilege that has been conferred upon me by the people of the electorate of Canning. I know they would wish me to be associated with the affirmation of loyalty and with the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply which has been so ably moved by the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Cockle) and seconded by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Nixon). I would like to compliment them and the honorable members opposite who have made their maiden speeches in this House. I hope that I will be able to emulate their considerable eloquence.
The seat of Canning was previously held by Mr. Hamilton for a period of twelve years. He represented the electorate from its inception and during this period came to enjoy the very great respect of the people in the electorate. I hope that I may be able equally to represent the wishes and the ambitions not only of the people of the electorate but also of the people of Australia. I have been prepared to accept great responsibilities in this task and I believe that these responsibilities transcend all limits imposed by political beliefs and by State or electoral boundaries. They transcend all social classes and distinctions and expressly convey a sentiment of service to the people of the nation in whatever way it may be thought necessary or desirable from time to time. This perhaps suggests idealism. If this is so, I make no apology, for I believe that a degree of idealism is eminently desirable in any member of this House and certainly in a new member, because it does show a sincerity of purpose.
With your indulgence, Sir, I would like to present a brief description of the Division of Canning. It is an area which includes a vast proportion of the agricultural country of Western Australia. I have travelled widely throughout Australia and overseas, and I believe that my electorate represents a fair cross-section of the people of Australia, their activities and their industries. Indeed, few electorates have a wider range of activities. The division includes a portion of the metropolitan area of Perth as well as this vast area of wellendowed agricultural land. It includes the industrial area of Kwinana which, as a result of the magnificently progressive work of the State and Federal Governments, has seen and is seeing the establishment of major heavy and other industries. It includes also a portion of the dairying and irrigation areas of Western Australia, and associated nearby is the timber industry which has played a highly significant and important part in the development and the history of Western Australia.
The division is perhaps best known for its wool and grain growing propensities in the Great Southern. The fame and products of this area have long preceded me into this part of the Commonwealth. The electorate produces more than 25,000,000 bushels of grain, nearly 300,000 bushels of fruit, 18,000,000 gallons of milk and more than 51,000,000 pounds of wool annually, and I think that this qualifies it for description as an agricultural constituency. But one must not overlook the ever-increasing possibilities for the production of copper and the rarer minerals in the Ravensthorpe district and bauxite on the escarpment of the Darling Range which is becoming the basis of a further major industry in Western Australia.
I have made this brief survey with your indulgence, Sir, for the express purpose of directing attention to the huge contributions that are being made in the field of exports by my electorate, in common, of course, with the entire State of Western Australia. I think it relevant to point out that his contribution, in terms of the total exports from the State, represents in value £212 a head of the population. I believe that this justifies any consideration which the Government is prepared to give to the establishment and development of secondary industries, the opening up of new lands and, very importantly, the improvement of communications, as well as the provision of the amenities of life that are now regarded as normal.
We are, I believe, well aware of the importance of our agricultural production and its export. This has been stressed in the Speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General, and I should like to refer to a subject which is closely related to that dealt with in the Speech in these terms -
The overwhelming important fact is that the whole national and international balance of the Australian economy requires that primary production should continue to increase in quantity
It is a fact that farm incomes in this country have fallen, and there have been periods when funds for development and the improvement of farming properties have been in short supply. I emphasize that the provision of long-term finance for farming operations is absolutely vital. This is a lesson which I have learned, not only from my own farming experiences, but also from study overseas and during the years in which I have been engaged in agricultural extension work in Western Australia. I was therefore gratified to hear the GovernorGeneral state that increased funds are to be made available to the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia for this and other purposes. My observations of the service which has been provided by that bank in its two years of operations lead me to regard it as one of the greatest developments at government level for the agricultural industries of this country.
In many departmental and expert surveys into the various sections of primary industry, Sir, the conclusion has been reached that, in addition to the need for finance, education and the extension of improved methods of farming rank as one of the most important considerations in efficiency. I am delighted, therefore, at the reference to this matter in His Excellency’s Speech. I believe, however, that preliminary agricultural education is fundamental to the acceptance of information which is made available through the extension services. I am well aware that excellent facilities exist throughout the Commonwealth at agricultural colleges, high schools and similar institutions - facilities which are. capable of training young people to take up farming properties and to farm them well, but by far the great majority of young people in this country have no such opportunity available to them except through the services and activities of certain voluntary youth organizations which function in each State but which, for various reasons, are quite unequal to the huge task which confronts them.
At this stage, I should like to direct attention to the facilities available in technical training and the requirements and standards demanded in the trades by way of apprenticeships and so on compared with the facilities which exist for workers in agriculture. This I consider to be of the greatest importance from several points of view. First, let me illustrate with figures based on experience in Western Australia. This may apply to other States, also. Land is currently being brought into production in Western Australia at the rate of approximately 750,000 acres a year. The total area of land in production increased from 15,900,000 acres in 1940-41 to 25,400,000 acres in 1961. It has been variously estimated that of the area of approximately 40,000,000 acres remaining in the agricultural districts, one-quarter, and probably far more, can be regarded as potentially productive agricultural land. This suggests that, apart from sub-division and the extension of existing properties, this land will be taken up by a completely new generation of farmers.
I consider, therefore, that sufficient finance for the purpose is eminently desirable and should be made available, and also that there should be knowledge sufficient to enable this land to be farmed well and to provide for enlightened methods of farming, farm management and marketing. This I consider to be of national importance. The primary industries so largely finance this country in terms of export earnings and we shall face greater competition in world markets in the future. It becomes even more vital, then, that we must have a continuing crop of young farmers, well versed in the industry, if we are to face the future with a degree of confidence. Our young farmers, if they are given the encouragement and the opportunity, can be better farmers than their parents, can achieve higher efficiency and can farm the good earth according to the most advanced principles of husbandry.
Sir, it was not my intention to display an undue pre-occupation with these problems in agriculture, because I believe that our secondary industries, also, should receive the benefit of enlightened technical training, as it is in these industries that we can best provide for the absorption of that desirably large population which can contribute so greatly to our social and economic security and, indeed, is so necessary to it. Development, Sir, has been a key-note in the politics of this country. I regard development in these fields of human endeavour as being of no less importance than is the physical development of parts of this continent which have very rightly received so much attention.
.- In an electorate the size of Kalgoorlie, where the distance round the boundary is something like 5,000 miles, it is only natural there should be many different interests, many different industries and many different problems. It would not be possible for me to deal with all those interests and problems this evening. Therefore I shall address myself to but a few of the matters which I feel should receive the immediate attention of the Government in the interests of the electorate and of Australia generally. I hope that in due course I shall have the opportunity to express myself on other matters that affect the people whom I have the pleasure, the privilege and the honour to represent in this Parliament.
First, I wish to deal with the gold-mining industry and the granting of assistance or subsidies to help overcome the difficulties confronting the industry and those who are dependant upon it to-day. I was very disappointed to find in the Governor-General’s Speech only half a dozen words relating to the Gold Mining Assistance Act. It seems to me that the Government intends only to extend for a further three years the provisions of the act as it now stands. There should be no need for me to stress the importance of the gold-mining industry. Surely every responsible member of this House realizes the importance of gold not only to the area in which it is actually produced and the people who are actually engaged in its production but also to the nation. A quite considerable income is derived from the export of gold, and that income will continue provided the goldmining industry continues. Income from exports is one of our problems to-day, and in gold we have a commodity which is and will continue to be in demand and in respect of which we have no marketing worries.
In Western Australia at least, the production of gold could be increased steadily provided the industry is given some intelligent assistance over the difficult period now confronting it. There has been, no worth while increase in the price of gold since May, 1949, when it was £15 9s. lOd. an ounce. In May, 1954, the price was increase by 2s. 8d. fo £15 12s. 6d. an ounce, and it has remained at that figure ever since. Of course, costs have risen considerably since 1949, and it is therefore obvious that if the gold-mining industry is to rely wholly and solely on the price of gold for its survival, it is essential that there be a substantial increase in the price of gold in the very near future. I therefore request the Government to use every method at its disposal, to explore every avenue and to take every opportunity that arises to press for and bring about a substanial increase in the price of gold. Meanwhile, it is essential that the Government bring down a measure which will not merely arrest the present creeping paralysis overcoming the industry but give it new life.
The gradual decline of the industry has also meant a serious reduction in the numbers employed in it. This has led, first, to decreases in the populations of towns and then the eventual complete disappearance of whole towns from the gold-fields. Too many people have been forced to leave the gold-fields, too many towns have disappeared. We cannot allow to continue a condition which will mean a further reduction of the population on the Western Australian gold-fields if we can possibly avoid it. It can be avoided if the Government will take immediate steps not just to slow up the decline in the industry but to give the industry that stimulus which will put it back in a position where production may be increased without reducing the normal life of our mines. While the Gold Mining Assistance Act in its present form does assist some of the so-called marginal mines and some prospectors to some extent, it does not and never will stimulate the industry as a whole. Under the act as it stands, assistance is based upon ounces of gold produced. If there are no ounces produced, there is no assistance. I repeat, ounces must be produced before any assistance whatsoever is paid under the act as it stands.
To anybody who does not know the goldmining industry, this may seem a very worthy provision. It may be thought that if increased production is required the correct incentive to offer is a subsidy based on ounces produced. What actually happens, however, is that, in chasing the additional ounces in order to qualify for the subsidy, the life of the mine suffers. For instance, low-grade ore is either by-passed or not developed at all; and when that happens it is very unlikely that the ore body will ever be recovered. In this way, thousands of ounces of gold from which we could derive a considerable amount of income are lost. The correct way of solving the problem is to bring about a condition which will increase production whilst at the same time retaining the normal life of the mine and to give encouragement to prospectors, syndicates and companies to renew or increase their efforts. We must look to the goldmining industry in Western Australia as a source of export income as well as of employment for not only just a few years but for many years ahead. The major cost of gold-mining is that of the development work. If anything is done either to stop or curtail development work, that will be the beginning of the end of the mine. It is absolutely essential that a firm plan of development be proceeded with if a mine is to live. In starting off a new mine, a considerable amount of development work is required before one ounce of gold is recovered. Yet, under the act as it stands, people engaged in development work are not eligible for one penny of assistance.
I should like to point out that in 1938 there were 15,374 men engaged in the goldmining industry in Western Australia. By 1960, that number had dropped by approximately 9,950. The number employed by mines associated with the Chamber of Mines in Western Australia in 1938 was approximately 2,000 more than it is to-day. Since 1950, the total number engaged in the industry has fallen by 2,000 to slightly over 5,000. Surely, when we see such a big reduction in the numbers engaged in one particular industry, especially an important one like the gold-mining industry, it is more than high time that the position was treated seriously. I should like to point out also that in 1942 there were 35 large companies operating in Western Australia, but to-day there are only thirteen and a couple of those are rather shaky. So, since 1942 the number of large companies operating in this field has reduced by almost two-thirds.
The gold yield in 1938 was 1,172,953 ounces. By 1960 the yield had dropped by 302,984 ounces, representing a loss of income of almost £5,000,000. It is also disturbing to note that since 1947 the amount of ore treated by the State batteries in Western Australia has dropped by 20 per cent. This gives a very clear indication of the lack of activity in the prospecting field in which we really want the men to look for and establish new mining areas, to increase gold production, employment and population, and to restore confidence to the people on the Western Australian gold-fields.
The Government should adopt three measures. In the first place, the present assistance should be continued. Secondly, in addition to the present assistance I suggest that £500,000 a year should be made available for additional development, that is, development beyond the normal programme. This would allow the development of low-grade ores which at present are being bypassed. By this means the life of the mine would be lengthened. There should be a provision also to prevent assisted companies from increasing dividends to shareholders and to ensure that additional profits are ploughed back into the industry. Thirdly, there should be a scheme whereby syndicates or groups of prospectors or companies would be assisted on a £1 for £1 basis to carry out intensive prospecting in metalliferous areas. The operations of a few groups of five or six men under the supervision of competent persons would be certain to result in the discovery of new fields or the re-opening of mines which have been relinquished. It would be necessary to ensure that groups wishing to participate in the scheme were genuine and had sufficient capital to meet their share of the cost.
The proposals which I have advanced could be financed by the Government providing about £1,000,000 a year. This money would be well spent, and a considerable proportion of it would be returned in income tax and by savings on unemployment benefit payments. Let me emphasize that a large number of those who would be employed are unskilled workers who find it impossible at present to secure employment. The January figures indicate that 7,576 people were registered as unemployed in Western Australia, the highest number in the post-war period. The Government should realize that a healthy gold-mining industry would absorb a large number of unemployed on a permanent basis. If the Government is doubtful of my proposition, it should not hesitate to send to Kalgoorlie a person who has the necessary qualifications to make investigations and inquiries and to confer with the several interested organizations such as the trade unions, the chamber of mines and the prospectors’ association, to learn their views on the matter. It may be said that my remarks relating to the gold-mining industry would have been better left until the gold-mining assistance legislation was before the House, but I would be failing in my duty to the people on the gold-fields if I did not take the first opportunity to place before the Government the plight of the industry and to give the Government the opportunity to rectify it as soon as possible.
Turning to the north and the north-west of the State, an immense amount of wealth is available in food items and minerals if only the Government would show the proper interest and pursue a real developmental programme in the area. We know that due to the nature of the country and the climatic conditions it will not be easy, nor will it be cheap, to carry out the necessary development, but these problems must be faced and overcome if we are to get from the north the value which undoubtedly is there. There are two major requirements - roads and water conservation. If we are to develop and populate the north, and this must be done quickly, not only for the wealth that we can recover but also from the defence angle, we must lose no time in carrying out the work which I have suggested. Good roads must be constructed - roads over which people can travel freely and without fear; roads over which stock can be transported for long distances without the risk that it will be bruised or damaged and so reduced in value; roads over which goods can be transported rather than by air, thus reducing the present high cost of articles. These roads must be constructed as soon as possible. The Government must not adopt the attitude that it will get around to this task at some time or other in the distant future.
Let me deal now with water supplies. There is a very high rainfall during the wet season but very little, if any, is captured for use in the dry season when there is practically no rain. Admittedly we have the Ord and Fitzroy projects which will be of great value to the north, but we cannot stop there. These are not enough. We must push on and develop the north. There is a good deal of scope for development. There are many more rivers which must be exploited in the very near future.
The north cannot be developed by a plan of hesitation or stop and start. For instance, it is no use advancing £1,000,000 and hinting vaguely that there will be more to come. A solid long-range plan is required by which those responsible for the work will know for several years ahead exactly where they stand in regard to finances. It is futile to talk of the progress, development and the population of the north unless we are prepared to pour several millions of pounds into it quickly for water capture and conservation and for road survey and construction.
Then we have the other important aspect of encouraging people to go to the north to work and to settle. We hear a lot about decentralization and a good deal of condemnation of the people who will not leave the cities; but very little is done to encourage men to take their wives and families to the north to work and to settle. A worthwhile form of encouragement would be to lift completely from those people the burden of taxation. If the Government is not prepared to go that far, at least it should treat district allowances as being tax-free and, in addition, allow increased deductions for educational expenses. District allowances are granted by the court to offset certain disabilities in the areas in which people suffer from high costs, lack of amenities, rigorous climatic conditions, isolation and the many other things which people in a city are not called upon to endure. By taxing the district allowance the incentive granted by the court is reduced considerably. For instance, if a man with a wife and child is earning £25 a week in Wyndham - he certainly would not want to be earning any less in that area - he would pay £1 a week tax. If the district allowance of £3 10s. were not taxable, he would pay only 10s. 6d. a week tax. So by the Government taxing the district allowance a man is deprived of money which was granted to him for the disabilities that he suffers in the north. People in the country, where there are no facilities for advanced education, are forced to send their children long distances, and at great expense, to places where the facilities are available. Yet we find that those people are not entitled to any more taxation deduction for education expenses than are people in the city. That position is wrong and completely unfair. It should be altered and the education expenses deductions should be increased considerably to cover the expense which those people meet because they are prepared to live in remote areas.
While on the subject of the country areas, I wish to deal briefly with radio reception and programmes and the lack of television in some of the areas which I think should be served. In many parts of the electorate which I represent the people* have a very limited choice of radio stations and of programmes. In many places only two stations can be picked up unless one has a very powerful radio set. Not only is the number of stations limited but also the reception is very poor and in a large part of the electorate, except in the evenings, one cannot get anything at all in the way of radio broadcasts. Radio is the only form of entertainment which some of these people have. It is their only means of obtaining up-to-date information and news, market reports, weather reports and that sort of thing. If it is possible to improve reception and to give a greater choice of programmes no time should be lost iri seeing that this is done because, as I said previously, these are the people who are prepared to go out into the remote areas. They are the people whom we say others should follow in regard to decentralization. They are required to pay the same licence fees as city people who have a large range and choice of programmes and stations and who can always be sure of getting good reception. This seems to me to be another of those cases where country people are charged the maximum amount for minimum service.
With regard to television I simply direct the attention of the Government to the fact that a very large number of people, through their several organizations or as individuals, have expressed their disappointment and indignation, particularly in the Kalgoorlie and Geraldton areas, that those districts are not listed, apparently, for television in the near future. These people rightly consider that on account of their isolation and lack of amenities available in the cities they should be given priority when the Government decides, as press announcements indicate, to build relay stations to serve areas which are at present beyond reach of metropolitan stations. I trust the Government will take heed of the remarks I have made.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ian Allan) adjourned.
Russian Visitors - Business of the Parliament.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- This afternoon at question time I raised a matter concerning vises issued to three citizens of the Soviet Union, and the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Downer) directed to me a reply which, to say the least of it, Was surprising. My question arose out of the limitation placed upon three women from the Soviet Union who visited this country and sought an extension of their stay here of fourteen days. In the course of his reply to me the Minister stated -
The honorable member in his very long and argumentative question gives me the impression that he has been attacking my decision.
Quite frankly that is precisely what I do in this case, not so much in regard to the three people concerned but on the general principle that he has evidently applied in this case. As my time is limited I shall just quote what the Minister said. He stated -
These cases of applications from citizens of the S’oviet for permission to visit Australia are, as a rule, considered upon their merits. In this particular case these three women applied as recently as 15th February last to come here for one month for the purpose, so it was stated, primarily of attending an international women’s day celebration. Their application was sponsored by an organization known as “A National Committee to Invite a Delegation of Soviet Women “.
The Minister continued -
As I understand it, this committee functions
Under the auspices of the Australian-Soviet Friendship Society- which he stated is a Communist-front organization. The Minister continued -
It is not simply a case of three ordinary women travellers wishing to visit Australia merely to have a look-see. … At least one of these visitors is, so we understand, a prominent mem ber of an international Communist front organization.
He said further -
Therefore, when this application was made and came before me last week, it seemed to me that a fortnight was a perfectly reasonable time lor the stated object of the visit. When you consider the spate of visitors who come to Australia from other countries - from what might be described as allied countries, from really friendly countries - who are perfectly content to come to Australia for a week, ten days or a fortnight to do their business, then I would think that the honorable gentleman is surprisingly out of order in substance in criticizing the Government for giving vises of a fortnight for visits to Australia for the purpose stated. I might add that I have no intention whatever of changing my decision..
In that respect I regret that the Minister will not change his decision in this case. Let me say, first, that I have had personal experience of this limitation of vises. In respect of the Soviet I shall not discuss the matter. But I applied for a vise to visit Czechoslovakia with another member of this Parliament and after considerable effort I was granted a vis6 for only four days. I expressed my disappointment at that limitation on travel in a country which I wished to see. I know at first hand the inconvenience and disability one suffers on that score. As I was in Czechoslovakia I wished to extend my stay to see more of the country and its people. Possibly there should be some reasonable restriction of vises, but I believe that the limitation in this case was wholly unwarranted.
First, there is the question of whether one should be given a vise or not, as in the case of these three women. I think the test that should be applied is whether they gave false evidence on entering the country. If they did, and they were granted vises, the Government, if they were here under false pretences, would have the right to challenge their stay. I think the test to be applied to people entering this country is whether they are really a danger to the security of Australia. Are they spies and, if so, why were they granted permission to enter the country at all? In that respect the Minister and his department must be challenged if they find that this was the case and they granted the vises. For my part those facts cannot be substantiated, because they were granted vises and in that respect were evidently looked upon by the department after investigation as people eligible to come into this country. That being the case, why do we apply what is the iron curtain and Soviet principle of restricting their right to look around this country? We say it is wrong for the Soviet to do these things, and I agree. I think we should be given an opportunity to see these countries.
When I was in Czechoslovakia I asked why restrictions were placed upon me and they said, “Your country does the same thing to us “. I said, “ Certainly not to the extent that you do here”, and they said, “ Yes, somewhat drastically “. And their reaction to our restrictions has been to our detriment. I was amazed to read in the press of what had been done and to see that we are restricting the vises of people visiting this country as I was restricted in other parts of the world. I think the only way in which we can overcome many of the disabilities associated with our intercourse between nations is to be allowed almost unrestricted travel in countries which are looked upon as foreign to us. At a recent conference pf the International Parliamentary Union I criticized the Soviet and other countries for imposing restrictions similar to those which we impose on visitors to this country at the present time.
I can see no end to international tension unless we sponsor visits during which people will be unrestricted and allowed to observe and in every way understand the problems of people in other countries. Undoubtedly, for better or worse, the people to whom I have referred must leave Australia with a bad impression, because they have been restricted. I have no sympathy with the cause they espouse. But would it- be said that we should restrict Mr. Khrushchev to fourteen days if he wanted to visit this country? Would it be said that we should restrict the Premier of any iron curtain country to fourteen days if he came here? If we did, that would hardly be a good advertisement for democracy as we know it.
I am not speaking in any airy-fairy way; I am dealing with the general principle of the matter. I believe that cases such as this should be reviewed before the people arrive here. If they are regarded as security risks in the real sense of the term, the Government was remiss in allowing them to enter in the first place. Once they are in, why should we curtail their activities?
Even if they are allowed in and it is found that they are doing things that are wrong, there are opportunities to stop them at that stage. The real situation, as I see it, is that these people have been admitted and then restricted to fourteen days. Evidently, the Minister was under no misapprehension about their background. Personally, I would be surprised if they are not closely allied with the Communist cause, but that is their business. After they have come here, they are restricted in this way, their activities are curtailed and rigorous impositions are placed on them, similar to those that were applied to me in Czechoslovakia and other countries. That does not do our democracy any good. That is not a good advertisement for Australia.
I believe that this case and others must be judged on a broad basis and decided on a general practice. The Minister concerned may have taken this action in all good faith, but I hope that this practice will not be continued. If people are to be restricted because they are a danger to Australia, I hope the first step will be taken by stopping them from entering Australia. Accordingly, I lodge my protest on a broad basis.
.- Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the clock has beaten me. I had intended to be in the House before the previous debate was adjourned. We are now in this position: There is a very closely divided House and an amendment of censure has been moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). That should not be treated as a mere matter of routine by any means. It is important that we should treat it as a censure proposal which ought to be disposed of before the House proceeds to other business.
– You are a great old traditionalist.
– I am. This is a very good tradition, and one which you have followed in your own time. It is a tradition which it would be proper to follow, particularly when we are meeting in a new and very closely divided Parliament and an amendment of considerable importance involving censure of the Government has been moved. Therefore, I want to say that, having considered this matter this evening, we think that the proper course to be pursued is that- no other business should be taken - for instance, no questions, according to the usual practiceuntil the amendment has been disposed of.
– Let us break that precedent and create a precedent.
– You may engage in whatever tangle of words you care to engage in. All I am saying is that this is how the Government proposes to treat the matter.
– Are you getting nervous?
– Not a bit. I would be surprised if any member of the Opposition wanted us to pursue any other course, having regard to the amendment that has been moved. It is an amendment of substance. It involves the existence of the Government. The whole object of it, as I understand it, is to test the feeling of the House at an early stage. Under those circumstances. Sir, I do not want to have to move that the question be put. I hope that honorable members generally will realize that this is the proper course to pursue and that when the House resumes to-morrow we will resume the debate on the amendment put forward by the Leader of the Opposition.
This is a matter of great moment, a matter that ought to be debated by the House without interruption and brought to a conclusion so that we may al! know where we are.
– That is fair enough.
– I think that was one of the objects of the honorable gentleman in putting down his amendment.
– That is right.
– I am sorry that I could not give the Leader of the Opposition notice of this, but I came into the House rather hastily. Before the honorable gentleman came in just now, I was saying to the House that we propose to treat the amendment in that sense and to follow a well-known practice, which is particularly applicable in a new parliament in which there is a very close division of numbers. We propose to take no other business until the honorable gentleman’s amendment has been debated and voted upon.
– That is quite proper. May I interject -and ask this question: Does that mean that the senators will go home for a fortnight?
– I do not know.
– That is in accordance with the practice, too, you know.
– The amendment has to be dealt with in this House. If my friend and I can deal with the proceedings in this House, and if all members have an opportunity to vote one way or the other on this amendment in this House, we will be doing very well. I do not want to indulge in argument about what will happen in another place. It is what happens in this place on this amendment that will determine whether the Government is in or out. Quite frankly, I want that matter discussed and brought to finality without interruption by any other business whatever, except the formalities of opening and closing the House.
– I wish you would close it.
– Yes, I know you do. I am perfectly willing to move that the question be put, but I hope that I will not be invited to do that. I have stated quite frankly our view on this matter, and I have stated it in terms with which I would expect members of the Opposition to agree.
.- I see some logic in the contention of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies); but, Sir, on this occasion an extraordinary position arises. The fact is that the people mentioned by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) are here for a fortnight, but this debate may proceed for three weeks. Surely, under those circumstances, when the question arises of whether or not this is a democratic country which is willing to throw the whole country and its institutions, excluding defence, open to inspection by certain people, it is a coward’s castle in which the Prime Minister hides.
– It is very unfortunate that your leader has just agreed with me.
– On the question of precedent, I may be wrong, but I ask the Prime Minister: Is it not a fact that invariably, when a motion of no confidence in the Government is moved, the Senate adjourns? I also ask the right honorable gentleman: Has the Senate adjourned tonight?
– Mr. Speaker, I want to add a few words to what has been said by the honorable member for Grayndler (Mr. Daly) on the matter that he raised in the House this evening.
Motion (by Mr. Freeth) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Majority .. .. 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
r asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
A continuing survey of the sheep industry throughout Australia.
A survey of the agricultural and pastoral development potential of the brigalow belt in central Queensland.
A survey of the cotton-growing industry. This survey is being undertaken in association with C.S.I.R.O.
An economic survey of berry fruit growing in Tasmania and Victoria.
An economic survey of the tobacco-growing industry in Western Australia.
A survey to estimate the benefits and costs arising from the development of the Mareeba-Dimbulab area.
A survey to estimate the benefits and costs arising from irrigation development on the Ord River in the Kimberleys, Western Australia.
In addition to the surveys mentioned above the bureau is engaged in a number of specialized studies, based on sample farms in various regions and industries, including the sheep, beef cattle, poultry and dried fruits industries.
Live-stock Insecticidal Preparations.
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
d asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The following are the answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
d asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
What are the essential differences between the old system of indentured labour in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea and the system which he has advised me has now replaced it by which labour is provided under agreements entered into by the worker and the employer?
– The answerto the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The system of indentured labour existed in Papua and New Guinea both prior to and subsequent to the Second World War and was abolished in 1950. This system was characterized in the prewar years by a series of heavy penalties for breaches of employment contract, in some cases involving imprisonment without the option of a fine and in the early post-war years by a series of pecuniary penalties. The essential difference between this system and the present system which replaced it in 1950, and by which labour is provided under agreements entered into by the worker and the employer is that, whereas the former legislation provided penal sanctions’ for breaches of contract, under the amending legislation the parties are left to their civil remedies for breaches of an agreement.
Naval Base in Western Australia.
b asked the Minister repre senting the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
In view of the likely loss of Singapore as a naval base, is any consideration being given to the provision of a naval base with essential docking facilities on the Western Australian coast?
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
Consideration was given to the question of establishing a naval base in Western Australia at the time of framing the current defence policy, and the advantages of dockyard and other facilities were then, as they are now, fully recognized. No provision has been made in the naval programme however, as the facilities required would cost many millions of pounds and would necessitate either a tremendous addition to the navy vote or a reduction in the ships available for fighting. Nor is it beyond argument that an addition to the naval vote would not provide better defence if spent on additional ships and equipment. Current naval opinion is in favour of mobile logistic support afloat which enables fleets to operate away from bases for considerable periods. However, the provision of shore facilities somewhere on the western coast of Australia will continue to be considered but any implementation must depend on the consideration mentioned above.
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 February 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620227_reps_24_hor34/>.