24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. CAIRNS presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government (1) support the United Nations resolution for a nuclear test ban treaty, (2) ensure that foreign bases are not permitted on Australian soil, and (3) in response to the call of the United Nations, declare Australia’s willingness to enter into an agreement not to manufacture, test, station or acquire nuclear weapons.
Petition received and read.
Mr. HA WORTH presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the Government remove section 127, and the words discriminating against aborigines in section 51, of the Commonwealth Constitution, by the holding of a referendum at an early date.
Similar petitions were presented by Mr. Drummond and Mr. Jess.
Petitions severally received.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, I present the report relating to the following proposed work: -
Construction of airfield pavements for the Tullamarine Airport, Victoria.
Ordered to be printed.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913-1960, I present the report relating to the following proposed work: -
Construction of Stage Two of the Darwin High School, Northern Territory.
Ordered to be printed.
– I present the following . report of the Public Accounts Committee: -
Sixty-second Report - The financial document known as The Budget.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 22nd August (vide page 492), on motion by Mr. Harold Holt-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Calwell had moved by way of amendment -
That all words after “ That “ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: - “ while approving of such benefits as are contained in the Budget, and particularly those for primary producers and social service beneficiaries, the House condemns the Government for its failure to make adequate provision for defence, education, housing, health, social services and northern development. The House is also of the opinion that the Government’s failure to provide for full employment and for increases in the rate of child endowment which has remained stationary in respect of the second and subsequent children since 1948 is wrong and unjust. For all the foregoing reasons the House is of the opinion that the Government no longer possesses its confidence or the confidence of the nation “.
.- Mr. Speaker, the House is called upon to consider the Government’s financial proposals for the year 1963-64. As is his right, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has moved an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the bill, and the Government has accepted his amendment as a motion of censure.
– Hear, hear!
– You will not say “ Hear, hear” in a little while. There was a time in the histories of this and other countries when budgets presented by governments attracted very little attention from the average man in the street. In those days budgets did not involve the huge expenditures that are now involved and they usually concerned those who were considered to be the big financial men. In these days of the welfare state, however, the average individual is so dependent on governments that a budget has an impact on everybody. Because of this, individuals with a capacity for understanding take an interest in the Budget. It is good to know that individuals throughout Australia are taking a very considerable interest in the Budget that the Government has presented on this occasion.
Individuals generally do not agree with the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition to the motion for the second reading of this bill. They agree with the opening phrases of that amendment which express agreement with the provision that the Government is making for social services and they accept that, for the rest, this is a good Budget. There are some, of course, who will say that they are not satisfied. When all is said and done, it is impossible for any budget or any financial proposal to satisfy every individual and every section of the people, because most people look on all government financial proposals from a purely personal point of view. The average attitude to a budget is: What do I get out of it and what will it take from me? A budget is considered to be acceptable to an individual only if it takes nothing from him and gives him a heck of a lot. The situation is as simple as that. I cannot help feeling that this expresses precisely the attitude taken by the Leader of the Opposition and his party on this occasion. They want all the benefits, but they are not prepared to shoulder any of the burdens. Their attitude is: Let the other fellow carry that. It is his responsibility, not mine. That is an entirely wrong attitude for the Opposition to take in relation to the Budget.
This Budget merits the full approval of the Opposition because, as I hope to demonstrate later, it provides for the smaller man, the family man, those people who most deserve help by way of either social services or relief from the burden of taxation and those people who ought to have relief from taxation because they need to be encouraged and stimulated to expand production in order to earn overseas income for this country. That is the story of the present Budget in a nutshell, Sir-
One aspect of recent events that is not directly involved in the Budget will have a very big effect on finances during the coming year, and I wish to mention it particularly. Last Thursday, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) announced the features of the new wheat stabilization plan which will operate for the next five years. I believe that the adoption of the new plan is the most significant event in our post-war history. I emphasize that. I believe that the new plan represents a monument to a great achievement in the history of Australia’s economic management. As I have said, it is the most significant event since the war. The achievement on which this plan rests .cannot be highlighted enough. I refer to the fact that the wheat-growers, in a time of increasing costs and prices, have managed to reduce their costs of production. What an example to the rest of Australia! What an example to every person in Australia whatever the section of the community to which he belongs! I say to my friends of the Australian Labour Party-
– We are not interested.
– Of course you are not interested. Here is a basic thing that has been achieved for the first time in the history of this country since the end of the war: Costs of production have been reduced! But the Labour Party is not interested. Of course it is not. It is interested only in increasing its demands. The honorable member for Lilley says that the Labour Party is not interested in reducing costs of production. Let us bear in mind the fact that within the last twelve months, because of Australia’s prosperity, salaries and wages have carried a prosperity loading. Working conditions have been improved, hours of work have been reduced and longer periods of leave have been granted. All these benefits have meant added costs to the basic producing industries, of which wheat-growing is one. Despite all these added costs, the wheat-growers have responded to the encouragement which this Government has been giving them to increase production and to increase efficiency, and have succeeded in reducing their costs of production. What an achievement, encouraged and stimulated by this Government! This Government can justly take as much pride in this achievement as can the wheat-growers, all of whom have every reason to be proud that they have set such an example to this country. I say to my friends in the Labour Party, “ Go out to the people whom you profess to represent here; go out to those who support you and say, This is an example which will bring prosperity and lasting stability to this country ‘ “. I say to my .friends of the Liberal Party, “ Go out to those sections of the people which created your party, and maintain it - commerce and industry, but secondary industry in particular - and urge them to follow the example set by the primary producers; go out and encourage them to say, We will find ways and means of absorbing costs; we will find ways and means of reducing our prices; we will find ways and means whereby we can assist in earning overseas the export income so badly needed by this country ‘ “. Encourage them to adopt that attitude so that they in turn will contribute towards earning some of the money that they need to buy from overseas the materials which they use. Every wheatgrower can take pride in the fact that at this time the wheat-growing industry has managed to reduce costs of production.
What will this great achievement mean? It will have an overall beneficial effect throughout the country and I hope that in time the wheat-growers will have handed back to them some of the benefits derived from their achievement. For instance, I hope that the home-consumption price will not be fixed by the States on the basis of cost of production, or at such a low level that this section of the producers will be denied the benefits of their labour, their industry, and their efficiency. At the moment, the wheat-growers are being penalized because they are becoming more efficient. I hope that when the homeconsumption price is fixed by the States at least the States will take cognizance of the need to reward the wheat-growers for their energy and industry and for the way in which they are tackling the problem of meeting this country’s demands.
I would hope, too, that this first reduction in the cost of production is an indication of a move to what I would call economic sanity, that it means the beginning of the end of the present inflationary spiral. If one section of the community, the wheatgrowers, can achieve this objective of reducing cost of production, surely to goodness other sections can help to do likewise in order to make Australia a prosperous country. The effect of the wheat-growers’ achievement will be widespread. It will lower the prices which the householder pays for commodities made from wheat. It will also mean a reduction in the cost of stock-feed, which will benefit the poultry farmer. No section of the community will not benefit from this splendid achievement of the wheat-growers in reducing, for the first time since the war - I emphasize “ for the first time “ - their costs of production, despite the most adverse treatment they have received and despite all the burdens that have been placed upon their shoulders by the rest of the community. And they have been enabled to do this because of the encouragement they have received from this Government. If other primary producers and other industries could emulate their example, what a wonderful thing it would be for Australia!
I should like to refer now to one part of the Budget which, as I said earlier, will affect every one in the community. I refer to the proposals relating to sales tax. Some of my friends on the Opposition side who came into this House recently are still in their political nappies, you might say. Their lack of experience in political matters is so great that you might regard them as embryos in the political womb. Because of their lack of knowledge and experience they do not appreciate the value of the proposal to remove the sales tax on foodstuffs, nor do they appear to be aware of the determined efforts which have been made for a considerable time by members of the party to which I belong - ranging from the Postmaster-General (Mr. Davidson) and the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) to the back-benchers - to have that tax on foodstuffs removed.
Last week one honorable member opposite suggested that we had not interested ourselves in this matter. On the contrary, we made consistent representations to the Government for the removal of the sales tax on foodstuffs and satisfied ourselves that if the tax were removed the benefit would be passed on to the consumers. I have in my hand several letters from various Federal and State food manufacturing organizations representing icecream manufacturers, biscuit manufacturers and others. They all said that if the sales tax in question were removed they would pass on the benefit to the consumers. The Australian Food Manufacturers’ Association, a federal body, had this to say -
We are in a position to state that manufacturers of a large range of processed foodstuffs will in fact pass on the whole of the sales tax reduction, if granted, to the consumer.
That is typical of the wording of all the letters to which I have referred. After we received the letters we pointed out to the Government that there was no justification for not removing the sales tax. I do not know what the Government’s intentions were before we made our representations. I have shown how wrong members of the Opposition were in suggesting that we on this side of the chamber made no representations or took no action to secure the removal of the sales tax on foodstuffs.
I return to my opening remark, that no budget will ever satisfy everybody. If a budget ever did that it would indicate that we had reached a stage of contentment and were stagnating. We can always anticipate that some one will want more than is provided in a budget. I regret that the representations which I have made for a long time relating to the manner in which sales tax is levied have been unsuccessful, but I shall continue my efforts. I requested that sales tax be levied at the source of manufacture or importation, as the case may be, and not on costs incurred in distribution. Freight, cartage and so on should not be included in the cost upon which sales tax is levied. The present system penalizes consumers in country districts because they pay sales tax on the proportion of the cost of an article represented by rail freight or road haulage charges. The people most seriously affected in that connexion are those in Western Australia.
– Where is that?
– The honorable member for Watson does not deserve to have a place in this House if he pretends not to know that a third of this continent is Western Australia. The children in the gallery could educate the honorable gentleman in that matter.
– Tell him where it is.
– Order ! The honorable member for Kingsford-Smith will remain silent.
– I plead with the Government to have another look at this unjust burden that is carried by people in country districts, particularly on the western side of this continent, where we have tremendous freight and haulage costs.
I am certain that I will be in agreement with honorable members on the other side of the House when I commend the Government on its decision to provide a subsidy on superphosphate.
– Our policy.
– Order! The honorable member for Phillip will remain silent.
– I suggest that the honorable member look through the “ Hansard “ volumes of the past few years. He will find in them no reference by any Labour member of this House to a bounty on superphosphate, but he will find plenty of references to the cockies getting too darn much assistance. It is a fact that in recent times - possibly because some information has leaked out from the Country Party or our ally, the Liberal Party, that we thought such a bounty was very necessary and that we were making some impact on the Government in connexion with it - our Labour friends have got on the band wagon and said, “ It is our policy to provide a subsidy on superphosphate “. But we were talking about it long before they ever came into the picture.
I doubt whether many members of the Labour Party would even know the impact that this superphosphate bounty will have on the primary industries. I doubt whether they would be really aware of the quantity of superphosphate that is used. I do not propose to go into that question. Our purpose in seeking this subsidy was to continue to apply our policy of encouraging increased production. In my own State of Western Australia the saving in superphosphate cost to the average wheat-grower will be about 6 per cent, of his cost of production; and a wool-grower in a good rainfall district will save about £100 per 1,000 sheep in the cost of applying superphosphate to his pastures. Those savings will not go into the pockets of the producers; they will be used to purchase superphosphate in order to make their lands more productive. We want this bounty in order to increase our production and to do what the wheat-growers have done already, namely, help this nation at a time when it needs help, in a period of rapid development.
The benefit of this subsidy will be far-reaching. It will not merely put so many pounds into the pockets of the wool-growers, wheat-growers, cane-growers and other primary producers. This subsidy will be of continuing benefit because the additional superphosphate that the producers will be able to purchase and put on their land will improve the productivity of that land. That process will continue over a period of time. I can see that in a short time we will be able again to boast that we have reduced the cost of producing the primary commodities upon which this nation depends. I challenge other commerce and industry and the work force to meet that challenge and see whether they can help the nation instead of trying to get the nation to help them whenever possible. It is time somebody other than the primary producers carried a fair share of the burden of this nation and provided the necessary money to produce export income.
I want to refer now to some of the other provisions in the Budget. I note that pension benefits have been very wisely applied. The benefits will go to the most deserving cases. Nobody is more deserving of assistance in providing a decent standard of living for herself and her children than is the civilian widow. We welcome the assistance that is provided for these people. I applaud also the decision to subsidize on a £2 for £1 basis accommodation provided by Churches and approved voluntary welfare organizations for disabled persons working in sheltered workshops, but I am a little afraid of this provision. Of course I approve it - I will not look a gift horse in the mouth - but I urge the Government to look again at this matter and see whether the provision meets all the requirements of these people. Like Oliver Twist I will always come back for more, and do not forget that I represent Moore.
I should not like to see this benefit restricted only to those persons who are working in sheltered workshops. I remind the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton), the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and other members of the Government that the problem of adequately providing for physically handicapped persons in our community is a very serious one. I could name hundreds of parents who know that their children will in later life require special care. Those parents wonder what will happen to their children when they are left to fend for themselves in this world. In all of Australia there is no place where those people can be cared for except in mental institutions, and they are not mentally ill. Some provision must be made for the care of physically handicapped persons. They do not necessarily need skilled nursing attention but they need so much attention as will enable them to perform for themselves ordinary everyday tasks. They must be looked after. I know from inquiries I have made, and from personal knowledge of the way this matter is handled in other countries, that Australia has nothing of which to be proud in its dealings with physically handicapped persons.
– A shame on the Government.
– It is a shame not only on this Government but on all former governments and, as long as the situation continues, on every member of this House. It is a shame because so many of us are not aware of what is needed. I invite honorable members to go out and see how great is the need of these people. Because of the pace of modern living the number of handicapped persons requiring special attention is increasing. This situation is brought about by the large number of motor car accidents, industrial accidents and sporting accidents that occur these days, not to mention the cases that are the result of illness. The accident rate in Australia is increasing alarmingly. The number of persons requiring skilled attention and later care also is increasing. I hope that the Minister for Social Services will examine the proposal to provide a £2 for £1 subsidy and endeavour to see that the subsidy is made available in respect of accommodation provided for all physically handicapped persons, irrespective of whether they can work in a sheltered workshop. But at least the proposal outlined in the Budget is something. At least we have got that far. If the benefit must be limited to those who work in a sheltered workshop, well and good, we have at least opened the gate to help those people who are badly in need of help, but I ask that the gate be thrown wide open and that the generosity of this Government, which is well-known, be exercised in the right direction.
The proposal to increase the pension paid to single pensioners is extremely wise.
– What about married pensioners?
– 1 do not suggest that we should not assist married pensioners, but if anybody in our community is deserving of assistance it is the single pensioner. I speak with some experience because of my knowledge of the welfare work done in Western Australia, where the heaviest demand for assistance comes from the single pensioners. Some single pensioners pay as much or nearly as much, for the accommodation they occupy alone as a pensioner couple pays for a home, but a single pensioner receives only half the income of a pensioner couple.
The grant of an increase to the single pensioners deserves commendation. This action of the Minister is extremely wise and imaginative. When I discussed this matter with him recently, he told me that - I think I remember the figures - of the 700,000 pensioners in Australia almost half a million were single persons, and that we should keep in mind that some of the married pensioners would be single pensioners before long. Indeed, all married pensioners will ultimately be single pensioners, who are the people most in need of help. I remind honorable members that in giving the additional 10s. a week to single pensioners, the Government has not taken anything away. The supplementary rent allowance will still be paid to those who are entitled to it. This is not the substitution of one benefit for another. The additional pension is well deserved and well placed. The decision to give it to single pensioners is a great credit to the Minister.
– Do you agree that-
– I have said I agree with what the Government has done to provide relief for the single pensioner, whose need is great, and that is as far as I will go.
– And neglect the married pensioner.
– The Government has not ignored the married pensioner.
I go on to deal with taxation in the little time remaining to me. Again I point out to my friends of the Opposition that if they are kicking against anything in this respect they are kicking against taxation benefits being given to the people who need them most. I have heard Opposition members claim that a 5 per cent, reduction of income tax is not fair because the big man receives more than the little man does. The Government has looked at the needs of the family man and has removed the limit on the medical and dental expenses that can be claimed as income tax deductions. In my own State - not in my own electorate - I know of people, particularly aged people, to whom this will be of inestimable benefit. Their hospital bills alone are two or three times the previous taxation limit on medical and dental expenses. These are the people who most deserve consideration and who will benefit most from the Government’s action. Their medical expenses are high and they need some relief.
Again, the increase in the allowable deduction for education will benefit the small man. The rich man who can afford to pay a heavy education bill is not so worried about the amount of the deduction. The other provisions-
-Order! The honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- It was very interesting to hear the honorable member for Moore (Mr. Leslie) complaining about the high cost of production and the effect this has on the primary producer. I remind the honorable member that this Government has been in office for fourteen years and must accept responsibility for the present high cost of production. I remind him also that a certain gentleman gave a solemn promise that he would put value back into the £1 if returned to office. I should like the honorable member for Moore always to keep these points in mind when complaining about the high cost of production.
A factor contributing to high costs is overseas shipping freights. Not once in the eight years I have been in the Parliament have I heard members of the Australian Country Party, the alleged representatives of the primary producers, complain about increased shipping freights. The honorable member for Moore also said that he was one of the advocates of the superphosphate bounty of £3 a ton. I would like to remind him that a Labour government first introduced this bounty and that the government he supports abolished it in 1950. It was our policy at the last election, as enunciated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), that if elected to office we would restore this bounty of £3. This is another portion of Labour’s policy which has been filched by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), no doubt because he knew that, if given the opportunity, we would do the right thing and he wanted to keep in the good books of the primary producers.
This Budget, prior to its introduction, received very widespread publicity and glamorization, similar to the treatment accorded the great Hollywood spectacular, “ Cleopatra “. However, both “ Cleopatra “ and this Budget have been proclaimed by first-night critics as being complete flops. There are many superstitious people who believe that the thirteenth day of each month is an unlucky day. In this instance I believe that the superstition is fully justified, because Tuesday, 13th August, was indeed an unlucky day for the people of Australia. On that day they were saddled with an uninspiring Budget, which was brought down by a government completely lacking in foresight or nerve and without any plans for the future progress and prosperity of Australia.
The Budget cast no ray of sunshine for the 78,000 registered unemployed and gave them no hope of securing permanent positions. The mothers of Australia have once again been denied justice by the failure - indeed, the constant refusal - of this Government to increase child endowment. This is the first time in the history of this Parliament that any government has discriminated between single and married pensioners in regard to the bas? rate of pension. I did not think I would live to see the day when any government would stoop so low as to do such a dastardly thing to a certain section of pensioners.
This Budget does not throw any light of hope on the future of school leavers or give them any chance of obtaining suitable employment, commensurate with their ability and capacity. As a matter of fact, most school leavers will be fortunate to find jobs of any description, as has been the case over the last two or three years in particular. In that time many youngsters who left school - as was the case last year - have been unable to find work. Many have had to return to school, thus placing an added burden on the educational services of the States.
The unpopularity of this Budget can be accurately gauged by the cold reception accorded to it and the adverse criticism of it by newspapers which are normally supporters of this Government. It is interesting to note that the State governments again will not be able to provide proper educational facilities or hospitalization, because they will not get sufficient money from the Commonwealth with which to do so.
I wish now to refer to the question of unemployment. The latest figures available reveal that there are over 78,000 persons registered with the Department of Labour and National Service as being unemployed. That figure does not indicate the true number of people who are out of work, because there are many thousands of others who are not entitled to the unemployment benefit and who do not register with the department but prefer to search for work themselves.
I believe a reasonable, minimum estimate of the actual number of people out of work would be nearer to 100,000. This will be recognized if you know anything about the Department of Labour and National Service or ask its departmental officers. My brother worked for that department for 25 years, and I know what I am talking about. What I have said is particularly applicable to little country towns in which there may be ten people out of work, although only two or three of them have registered with the department. These are the facts, as honorable members opposite can readily ascertain by inquiry from the department.
This state of affairs. is unforgivable when one recalls that at the last federal election in 1961, twenty months ago, the Prime
Minister gave a solemn promise that if returned to office he would abolish unemployment within twelve months. That statement, of course, merely added to the list of broken promises made by the Prime Minister over the years in which his Government has been in power. Let me remind the House of some of those broken promises. The Prime Minister has said at various times, “I will put value back into the fi “, “ I will tax excess profits “, “ I will provide adequate housing for the people of Australia, and I will cater particularly for young married people “. He has made many other promises which he has not kept. In view of this, how can people take him seriously when he makes promises, particularly the unfortunate people who are unemployed and who were led up the garden path at the last federal election and told that they were sure to be back in employment within twelve months?
It is interesting to note the attitude of some Government supporters and the callous indifference that they display to the plight of the unemployed. I should like to refer to a speech made in this debate by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Lindsay). The honorable member said last Wednesday - 1 consider that 1.8 per cent, represents a very low percentage of unemployment. We have to remember that included in the 1.8 per cent, are a certain number of people who perhaps are unwilling to work, the sick and the invalid and also a large number of women.
From that it would seem that the honorable member for Flinders believes there is no need to worry about our unemployed people. It also displays his complete ignorance of the workings of the Department of Labour and National Service. The honorable member referred to people being unwilling to work. For the edification of the honorable member for Flinders let me say that if a person wishes to receive the unemployment benefit he must satisfy the departmental officers that he is earnestly searching for work. If work is obtainable through the department, even though it be only for a day or two, he must take that work. Refusal to abide by these requirements means that the person concerned may not receive the unemployment benefit. Could any one imagine a person taking the trouble to register with the department if he were not eager and willing to go to work?
What the honorable member for Flinders has said, of course, is reminiscent of what we have heard many times from his colleagues in the conservative parry. If a man gets out of work they condemn him. They say: “ You do not want to work. You are unwilling to work.” In other words, to put it bluntly, they say, “You are a loafer”. That is what we must conclude when We hear honorable members on the Government side making such irresponsible statements.
The attitude of the honorable member for Flinders who, incidentally, is a man of great wealth, as are many of his colleagues, illustrates the way in which honorable members opposite treat the unemployment position as unimportant. It is all very well for some people to say that it is unimportant, provided, of course, those people are not themselves unemployed. An unemployed person would hardly want to criticize another who happened to be unemployed. But how many honorable members opposite have had personal experience of being out of work? Has the Prime Minister had such experience? Has the honorable member for Flinders? I can speak from personal experience and I can say that there is nothing more humiliating than for a man to be thrown out of work when he has a wife and children depending on him. There is nothing more humiliating than for a man to have to go home week after week knowing that he has not the means to support his family, seeing debts mounting up, borrowing money to keep going. Government supporters, particularly the honorable member for Flinders, are callously indifferent to the plight of such unfortunate people. The honorable member for Flinders is seeking to interject. Let me say this to him: “You should suffer some of these experiences. Have you ever been broke and out of work? Of course you have not. You were born with a silver spoon in your mouth. You are one of the richest men in this House. Yet you have the audacity to say that the unemployment problem is unimportant.”
Let me now refer to the Government’s constant refusal to increase child endowment. During the period of seven years, from 1941 to 1948, two Labour governments, the Curtin Government and the Chifley Government, were responsible for doubling the rate of child endowment. The rate was increased from 5s. to 10s. a week.
Apart from the introduction of the payment of 5s. a week for the first child in 1950 there has been no increase in child endowment payments since 1948. The rate of payment has remained the same, despite the fact that the value of the £1 has been reduced by more than one-half and despite the fact that the basic wage has increased from £5 19s. a week to £14 8s. a week.
We believe that this represents a gross injustice. Is it not agreed that it is necessary for us to encourage an increase of our population? Is it not desirable for us to give our children proper education? Do we not want to feed them and clothe them adequately? Are child endowment payments suffifficient at the present time to enable the parents of our children to do these things? The honorable member for McMillan (Mr. Buchanan) is trying to interject. If he is opposed to an increase in child endowment let him stand up in his electorate the next time he has an opportunity and tell the people that he does not believe in increasing child endowment. If he does believe in it, then let him support us on this issue. The Government’s failure to increase child endowment represents one of the greatest social injustices perpetrated by the Government in its fourteen years of office.
I now refer to another serious injustice in the field of social services, the refusal of the Government to increase the funeral benefit. In 1943 this benefit was introduced by the Curtin Government. An amount of £10 was payable to the person responsible for the funeral of a relative or a friend who had been receiving a pension. In 1943, £10 was worth £10. To-day, twenty years later, the benefit still stands at £10, although funeral costs are three or four times as great as they were in 1943. I attended a conference recently with representatives of the Returned Servicemen’s League when claims for repatriation benefits were discussed. I was told that the cheapest coffin obtainable in Sydney to-day costs £12 10s. The benefit of £10, therefore, does not even pay for a coffin let alone the other costs involved in a funeral.
I should like to refer to another matter concerning pensioners. This involves certain provisions of the National Health Act. In 1955 the late Sir Earle Page, who was then Minister for Health, amended that act by imposing a means test in respect of pharmaceutical and medical benefits available to age and invalid pensioners. The effect of that means test is this: A single pensioner with an income of £2 a week or more in addition to his pension, or a married couple with a combined income of £4 a week or more in addition to their pensions, is or are not allowed free pharmaceutical and medical benefits. I consider this means test to be a vicious one and I believe it should be abolished. During the years I have been in this House I have heard honorable members on both sides speaking about the rights of people receiving superannuation payments. I have heard honorable members saying that eventually we should completely abolish the means test in respect of pensions. As a start, the iniquitous means test that applies to pensioners seeking pharmaceutical and medical benefits should be abolished. Pharmaceutical and medical benefits for such people should be increased. It is a fact that the older people get, the more medical attention they require. This vicious means test reacts very harshly against older people. Its abolition would not cost the Treasury a great amount. About two years ago I placed a question on the notice-paper and was informed in the reply to it that the abolition of this means test would cost the Treasury approximately £1,500,000 a year. That is not a great amount in a budget of £2,280,000,000.
I should like now to refer to the subject of school leavers. Over the last two or three years thousands of youngsters leaving school have been unable to find any employment at all, and many others have been unable to find employment suitable to their capacity and ability. The Government has not planned to meet this problem in the future. We believe that it is essential for our children to be educated to a very high standard. Science is becoming more important in this world, and the talents of our children will be needed later on, but, despite this situation, school leavers are denied opportunities to find suitable work because of the failure of the Government to plan ahead.
Another important matter in relation to our economy is that of shipping freights. Since 1955 the overseas shipping combines have increased to an alarming degree the freights on goods shipped to and from Australia. To illustrate this point I shall read some of the increases of the last eight years. Since 1955 the freight on butter shipped from Australia to the United Kingdom and Europe has risen from 10s. 5d. a box to 14s. 4id. a box, an increase of 38 per cent. The freight on eggs in the shell has risen in that period from 309s. 4)d. a ton to 427s. a ton, an increase of 38 per cent. On refrigerated beef the freight has risen from 2.58d. per lb. to 4.38d. per lb., an increase of 70 per cent., and on lamb from 3.68d. per lb. to 5.41d. per lb., an increase of 47 per cent. The freight on mutton has risen from 3.1 2d. per lb. to 4.39d. per lb., an increase of 40 per cent. On rabbits the freight has risen from 241s. to 334s. a ton, an increase of 38 per cent. The freight payable on dried fruits might interest the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull). It has risen from 164s. a ton to 222s. a ton, an increase of 35 per cent. The freight payable on fresh apples has risen by 19 per cent. - from 12s. 9d. a bushel to 15s. 2d. a bushel. The freight payable on greasy wool has increased by 45 per cent., rising from 3.21d. per lb. to 4.68d. per lb., and that on scoured wool by 45 per cent., rising from 4.35d. per lb. to 5.86d. per lb.
As each year passes the need for an Australianowned overseas shipping line becomes more urgent. I have often heard it said jokingly that Switzerland does not have a navy. That is quite correct. Australia does have a navy. But Switzerland owns an overseas shipping line, and Australia does not. Switzerland does not even have a seaport, yet its overseas shipping line plies to practically every port in the world. Australia, with its very economic life dependent on the carriage of goods by sea to and from its ports, does not own one ship that trades overseas and, as a consequence, is completely at the mercy of the overseas shipping combines. We in the Australian Labour Party believe it is essential that this country should have its own overseas shipping line. We have never suggested that Australia should build enough ships to carry all its imports and exports. We have suggested only that Australia operate a shipping line as a means of competing with the overseas monopolies and in order to stabilize costs. Primary producers would benefit from an Australian-owned overseas line, and it has always amazed me that Country Party members never support us in this suggestion.
The knockers on the other side of the chamber say that Australia would lose money on such a line. That is possibly correct. It might need a subsidy. But the subsidy payable to civil aviation over the last ten years has totalled £160,000,000, an average of £16,000,000 a year. Very few Australians travel by air, but every Australian taxpayer must pay heavily to help those who do. Despite this, the Government is not prepared to make a subsidy available for overseas shipping. Nobody in his right senses would say that civil aviation was as important to us as the overseas shipping upon which our very existence depends. Therefore, it is quite competent to suggest that if we can afford to subsidize air transport, which is mostly personal transport, we could afford also to subsidize overseas shipping.
In concluding my remarks, let me say that whenever the Labour Party comes out with a programme which is designed to stimulate the economy, to return unemployed people to work, to give child endowment its proper value and to treat all pensioners equally and not discriminate against some, we find the knockers on the other side saying, “ Those things cannot be done; they will ruin the economy”. I recall the 1961 general election, when the Leader of the Opposition produced a splendid policy designed to do the things I have mentioned. He said that we should budget for a deficit of £100,000,000, but the Prime Minister ridiculed this suggestion and said, “ It would smash the Australian economy. We cannot afford it.” In the next budget, however, the Government budgeted for a deficit of £118,000,000. That is consistency for you! Whenever the Australian Labour Party has initiated social and industrial reforms there have been cries from the knockers. In 1926 the Labour Government of New South Wales introduced child endowment, widows’ pensions, workers’ compensation and a 44-hour week, and the anti-Labour parties of the day said that the country would be bankrupted and ruined. “ The time is inopportune”, they said. In 1947 the Labour Government of New South Wales introduced a 40-hour week, and the same old cries and moans went up. Then we saw the introduction of a fortnight’s compulsory annual leave, later increased to three weeks. There followed the introduction of three months long service leave after twenty years service, later amended to three months leave after fifteen years service. These are measures which the Labour Party introduced- measures which caused the knockers to cry, “This cannot be done. It will bankrupt the country. It will ruin us.” Again there was the familiar cry, “ The time is inopportune “.
The Labour Government in New South Wales has introduced equal pay for the sexes. The Commonwealth Government believes in the principle, but only so long as it is not adopted. This Government believes in equal pay for the sexes, but dare not introduce it, or else will not. Which is it? One evening, in this chamber, I heard the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) make a speech about this subject. According to him, the Government thought that equal pay for the sexes was a grand idea. But the Government has done nothing to introduce it. The introduction of this sort of social advance is always left to the Australian Labour Party.
I believe it is time this Government was thrown out of office to make way for a Labour government that would be bold and imaginative in putting into effect a policy of development and would restore justice to those who have been denied it and give the little people more purchasing power. The people of Australia ought to wake up to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and see beyond the great stream of eloquence that he puts over every time he speaks. The sooner the people wake up to the fact that his statements are not sincere the sooner we shall get rid of this Government.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) has described this Budget as one of slogans and slipshod promises. He has attacked it on the grounds, among others, that it fails to make adequate provision for defence and social services and to cope with the problem of unemployment, and that the Government’s tax policy is unjust and its financial policy generally inadequate. One finds it difficult to detect any measure of sincerity in the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition last Tuesday evening. On analysis, it appears to be composed of hum bug and hypocrisy. The honorable gentleman said -
We shall take the defence of this nation from the dusty realm of three and seven year programmes which are pigeon-holed almost as soon as they are made. Australia has never had any effective defence since this Government came to power. We will repair the deficiency. We will tell the people, openly and frankly, what defence burden they must bear.
For sheer hypocrisy, this takes some beating. lt would be laughable if it were not tragic. One has only to read the speeches made by honorable members opposite during the last few years in the debates on the defence- estimates to realize the insincerity that characterized the Leader of the Opposition’s speech on this Budget. Let me quote the words of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Uren) in the debate on the defence estimates for the financial year 1960-61. He said-
I rise for the second time to speak to this group of estimates and to express the policy of honorable members on this side of the chamber. We have advocated a reduction in armaments and the diversion of the money now spent on armaments to such peaceful purposes as national development and aid to Asian countries. That is our policy, and we unanimously support it. There has been no split in the party and there has been no division of personalities on the matter.
That the honorable member spoke the truth is evident from the speeches made by members on the Opposition benches during the same debate. I shall quote extracts from a few of them. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Cairns) said -
The submission I am making here is that a belief that by spending £198,000,000 upon military, naval and air force equipment you could meet the situation of the limited war you are aiming at is wrong. I submit that you should think basically in terms of the United Nations.
The honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard), referring to the fact that the great powers of the world had nuclear weapons at their disposal, said -
AH 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 international police force to clean up the situation.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James), in the debate on the defence estimates for 1961-62, criticized the Government for budgeting for defence expenditure of £204,000,000. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Killen) interjected -
Would you cut it?
The honorable member for Hunter replied -
Yes. I would cut it.
Those are views expressed by members of a party which now has the audacity to tell this Government that it is not spending enough on defence. As I have said, for sheer hypocrisy this takes a lot of beating. But even this is mild when one reads the criticism expressed by the Leader of the Opposition in relation to social services. He said, among other things -
The Government refuses increases in basic war pensions, pensioner medical services and pensions to married couples. The arbitrary exclusion of all married pensioner couples from the ten shillings weekly increase is unprecedented in the discrimination it enshrines. It makes the mere fact of marriage a complete bar to receiving the standard pension.
Having to listen to such humbug being uttered by the Leader of the Opposition almost made me sick. Labour’s treatment of the pensioners and under-privileged people does not even bear comparison with what has been done for those people by this Government. However, for some reason or other, not enough pensioners are aware of what the Menzies Government has done for them. In deference to my colleagues of the Australian Country Party, I want to make it clear that when I mention “ the Menzies Government “ I mean the Menzies-McEwen Government.
The Leader of the Opposition said that the Government refuses increases in the benefits under the pensioner medical service. Do the pensioners forget that under Labour there ‘ was no pensioner medical service? The honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope) has just mentioned what he described as the vicious means test that prevents some pensioners from receiving the benefit of the pensioner medical service. As I have just pointed out, Labour provided no such service at all. Let me make the position clear: The means test was introduced at the request of the British Medical Association, as it then was - now the Australian Medical Association. I want to make it quite clear that pensioner couples who were entitled to the benefits of the pensioner medical service in October, 1955, did not lose their entitlement. But, as from that time, an income limit of £4 a week in addition to the pension was imposed. This means that, at present, a pensioner couple receiving a total income of £14 10s. a week or more is not eligible for benefits under the service.
The reason is that the basic wage is at present £14 8s. a week. Do honorable members opposite suggest that age pensioners - men must be 65 and women 60 to qualify for the age pension - having no dependent children and having a total income of £14 10s. a week should receive the benefits of a free medical service whereas the man on the basic wage who is trying to raise perhaps three of four children on an income of only £14 8s. a week should have to pay for medical treatment? If honorable members opposite suggest that, they should come out in the open and say so.
Let me mention that this year 830,950 pensioners and their dependants are receiving the benefit of the pensioner medical service provided by this Government at a cost to the taxpayer of £5,000,000 this financial year. Have the pensioners forgotten that it was this Government that provided this service? Have they forgotten that it was this Government that introduced the legislation under which homes are provided for the aged? Up to date, under that scheme, £17,000,000 has been allocated and homes have been provided for 16,000 aged persons. Have the pensioners forgotten that it was this Government that introduced the supplementary rent allowance to assist pensioners living alone who paid rent and were virtually dependent on their pensions? In order to assist such persons further, the Government, in this Budget, has provided an additional 10s. a week for all single pensioners and has extended that benefit even to a married pensioner whose spouse does not receive a pension. Surely this fact disposes of the bunkum put up by the Leader of the Opposition when he said that marriage is a complete bar to the receipt of the standard pension.
As a matter of fact, two-thirds of all pensioners will receive this increase of 10s. a week. But this increase was not intended as part of the standard pension. It is, in effect, an additional pension introduced particularly to lighten the burden on those pensioners who find that the household income of £10 10s. a week is reduced to £5 5s. a week when one of the couple dies. The pension is cut in half, but the expenses of running the home are not. However, far from receiving credit for what I believe to be a humanitarian approach to the problem, the Government has been criticized by the Opposition for discriminating against married couples. I have resigned myself to the fact that, however good may be one’s intentions, it is too much to expect to receive credit for what has been done. I have reluctantly resigned myself to the fact that people are selfish. This applies to people in all walks of life. I exclude no section of the community, not even honorable members in this place. Unfortunately, the individual measures the merit of legislation by what he will get out of it. A few years ago, this Government introduced a merged means test which made more people eligible for age and invalid pensions. I checked with the Department of Social Services to ascertain the number of age and invalid pensioners as at 13th February, 1961, which was prior to the introduction of the merged means test, and the numbers obtaining pensions as at 30th June of that year. I found that after the introduction of the merged means test an additional 30,000 pensioners received a pension for the first time and, of course, a great many more received greatly increased pensions as a result of the easing of the means test.
Honorable members may remember that at that time the property limit which prevented a pensioner couple from receiving the full pension was £4,500. Under Labour, it was £1,500. The merged means test moved that limit up to £9,250. I thought this was a wonderful improvement, and I think most honorable members on both sides of the House would agree with me, but you can imagine my feelings when I was told by an official of the Combined Pensioners Association that this was a ridiculous limit, that even £4,500 was too much. This official was not interested in the fact that many people who had not received any pension before would receive some pension, or the fact that people who previously had received a part pension would receive a full pension; all he wanted was an increase in the full rate pension for those who were already getting the maximum.
The stock argument of these people is, “ How would you like to live on £10 10s. a week? “ I make no secret of the fact that I would not like to try to live on £10 10s. a week. But has society ever accepted the proposition that it is the entire responsibility of a government to keep people when they reach the retiring age? Are the families of these people entitled to escape all responsibility? There is no doubt that we can double the present rate of pension if the taxpayers are prepared to pay for it. I recently addressed a letter to the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) asking him the cost of abolishing the means test for persons over the age of 75 years. I was told that it would be in the vicinity of £30,000,000 or £40,000,000. This, of course, would not provide any additional benefit for those persons over the age of 75 who are already receiving a full pension.
I have never suggested that £10 10s. a week was enough for a married couple to live on, but honorable members opposite have no reason to criticize this Government for its treatment of age pensioners which is generous in the extreme when compared with Labour’s treatment of them. We must not forget that to-day income from property is exempt. This further benefit was introduced by the Menzies-McEwen Administration. At the present time, a pensioner couple with no income other than income from property may have up to £4,040 between them, apart from their home, their motor car, their furniture and personal effects, and still draw the full pension of £10 10s. a week between them. Under Labour, they received £4 5s. a week, and the property limit was not £4,000 but £400. When related to the basic wage, the £10 10s. which we pay to-day represents 73 per cent., whereas the £4 5s. paid by Labour represented only 66 per cent., and when we apply this test to the pension paid to single pensioners, the comparison favours us even more. The £2 2s. 6d. paid by Labour to a single pensioner represented 33 per cent, of the basic wage. To-day, as well as the additional 10s. which this Budget proposes, many single pensioners receive the 10s. rent allowance, making their total pension £6 5s., which represents, not 33 per cent, but 43 per cent, of the basic wage.
– What number of age pensioners would receive that?
– They represent nearly twothirds of the number of pensioners. Many pensioners forget this. They forget that the Menzies-McEwen Administration merged the means test, that the MenziesMcEwen Administration introduced the supplementary pension as well as the additional pension for single pensioners. They also forget that the Menzies-McEwen Administration introduced the pensioner medical service and homes for the aged and that it extended the payment of social services to aboriginal natives. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien) would do well to remember these things because, when referring to social services last week, he said -
Is this Government making two reviews - one for the haves and one for the have nots?
He referred to the case of a widow with three children and said that the maximum amount payable to her is £10 a week. He overlooked the fact - he probably forgot it - that she also receives £1 5s. a week endowment; but he may be interested to know that when Labour went out of office a widow with three children received, not £10 a week, but £2 7s. 6d. a week. The Menzies Government introduced the benefit payable to a class A widow of an extra amount for each child after the first. Labour paid a widow with six children £2 7s. 6d. a week. This Government will pay her £12 5s. The £10 which is paid to a widow with three children to-day represents an increase of more than 400 per cent, on Labour’s rate, yet the basic wage has increased by only 123 per cent, in the meantime. This must surely cause the honorable member for Petrie to regret his extravagant criticism of the Government, if he has a conscience - and I think he has. He said -
Even if Government members go to their offices only once a week-
That was sarcasm - there must be some widows waiting to tell them that their children have been condemned to wearing second-hand clothes, to getting second-hand books and to being denied an opportunity to go on trips with other school children because they are regarded as second-grade children by the Government in its reviews and consideration of the wants of widows.
I remind these widows that Labour paid them £2 7s. 6d. whereas this Government will be paying £10 a week. This Government also pays an additional 15s. a week for all children after the first, whereas Labour paid nothing. Further, these benefits are paid whilst children are undergoing full-time education up to the age of eighteen years. Under Labour, a class A widow lost her qualification when her child turned sixteen years of age.
– That was fourteen years ago.
– Yes, and we have moved with the times. I have with me a page from the “A.L.P. News” of 5th August which is headed, “Holt’s Help-the-Rich Budget Condemned in Advance “. Like all Labour criticism, the article published on this page is wide of the mark. One paragraph relating to the pensions payable to the class A widow reads -
The rate of benefit for a widow with two children should accord with that payable to an age pensioner couple.
We are paying a pensioner couple £10 10s. a week, while the ordinary widow with two children receives £7 a week with her child endowment. The sort of statement appearing in the publication to which I have referred only serves to drive home the fact that Labour has two policies, one when it is in office and another when it is in opposition. It does not practice what it preaches, because, in 1949, when it went out of office, Labour was paying the age pensioner couple £4 5s. a week, but the widow with two children received only £2 7s. 6d. a week, or only 56 per cent, of the rate paid to a pensioner couple. The members of the Labour Party are saying to-day that the widow with two children should receive the same as the pensioner couple. A Labour government did not pay anything like that; it paid only a little over half whereas this Government will lift the rate to more than 88 per cent. With child endowment added, her benefit will be 95 per cent, of the rate paid to a pensioner couple.
But Labour’s hypocrisy has not fooled the Association of Civilian Widows, as the national and State president of that association, Mrs. Eva Franks, is reported in the “ Daily Telegraph” of 14th August as saying -
We are very, very delighted with the allowances. We are particularly happy about the allowance for the education of children which has been overlooked in the past. This will give the widow the opportunity to give her children the standard of education which is required in to-day’s way of life.
In the whole range of health and social service benefits, and of repatriation benefits, this Government’s record causes those benefits provided by Labour to pale into insignificance. On health and social services alone, this Government is spending 70 per cent, of the money it collects from personal income tax. Labour paid out only 51.5 per cent, of its personal income tax collections on health and social services. These are facts that cannot be denied. This Government is spending a greater percentage of the gross national product on health and social services than did Labour, yet the Combined Pensioners Association can be so unfair as to print this in the August/September issue of its newspaper -
No government has ever done justice to pensioners and this Government is no exception.
I would respectfully suggest to the members of that association that they go back a few years to the time of the last Labour government and compare what they received then with what they 2re receiving to-day. If they did that, they would realize that if ever they had a friend they have one in the Menzies-McEwen Administration.
– You should go back to 1939.
– I realize that the honorable member does not like comparisons. I am relating my argument to percentages, not amounts.
Let me deal now with unemployment. In case any of my friends opposite pretend to misunderstand me, I want to say at the outset that I believe that every person who is willing and able to work is entitled to a job. Having made that clear, I want to say that a lot of nonsense has been both talked and written about unemployment. We heard a little more of it this afternoon from the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope). Unemployment has been discussed as a matter of urgent public importance in recent months. On 2nd April of last year Labour launched a no-confidence motion against the Government. One issue on which the Government was attacked was the fact that there were then 96,042 persons registered for employment. To indicate the kind of nonsense which has been talked in relation to unemployment, I shall read from a speech made then by the honorable member for
Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser). Referring to the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) he said -
He manages to overlook completely and he would like the rest of us to overlook the fact that 90,000 of his fellow-citizens are registered as unemployed and that they and their families making a total of 200,000 men, women and children have had a meal to-night which only the dole will provide. They have not had enough to eat of the food they would like and need.
What utter rot it is to imply that every person registered for employment is a breadwinner! That is far from being so, as I shall prove. During the same debate the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) was even more extravagant. He stated -
Not only the unemployed breadwinners have been affected. The credit squeeze has affected their wives and families and probably 250,000 people have suffered as a result of the Government’s policies.
To-day the registered number of unemployed is in the vicinity of 78,000, but last Tuesday evening the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), in reply to an interjection from one of his supporters, said -
That is the official figure. Of course the real figure is much greater than that.
By implication, Labour claims that the number of unemployed is much greater than the 78,000 who have registered for employment. To-day the honorable member for Watson said he believed that the number is nearer to 100,000. If we accept that, why do unemployed persons not register? Even more importantly, why do those who have registered not claim unemployment benefit? I tried to find the answers to those questions. I thought that perhaps we made it too hard for them to register, so I obtained the leaflet issued by the Department of Social Services on the subject of unemployment and sickness benefits. This indicates that claim forms may be obtained from the State headquarters and regional offices of the Department of Social Services, from offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service or its agents and from post offices. Claims may be lodged, either by hand or by post, at any office of the Department of Social Services, at the local Commonwealth Employment Service office, or with its agent. It appears to me that it is not hard to lodge a claim.
If it is as easy as the form indicates, why do unemployed persons not lodge claims?
I thought that perhaps we made the qualifications a little too hard; but that did not seem to be the answer. In order to qualify a person must be at least sixteen years of age. If a man, the person must be under 65 years, and, if a woman, under 60 years. The applicant must have been resident in Australia for at least a year immediately prior to the date of the claim or intend to reside in Australia permanently, so migrants are included. The applicant must be unemployed and must show that his unemployment is not due to his being a direct participant in a strike. He must be capable of undertaking, and willing to undertake, suitable work and he must have taken reasonable steps to obtain work. Registration with the Commonwealth Employment Service is necessary. I do not believe that it is very hard to qualify for the benefit.
I then said to myself, “ Perhaps the benefit is not worth having “. I do not think that is the answer either, because to-day a married man is paid £7 2s. 6d. a week, plus an additional 15s. for each child under the age of sixteen years. He is permitted to earn up to £2 a week from other sources and for this purpose child endowment, war pension and payments from friendly and benefit societies are exempt. If that benefit is not worth collecting, let me remind honorable members that when Labour was in office the unemployment benefit was £2 10s. a week for a married man with one or more children. That represented 39 per cent, of the then basic wage of £6 9s. Under this Government a married man with two children receives £8 12s. 6d. a week, which represents 60 per cent, of the present basic wage.
If it is not hard to apply, if it is not hard to qualify and if the benefits are worth having, why is it that of the 78,131 persons registered for employment at the end of last month only 37,174 of them, or less than one-half, received unemployment benefit? Obviously they do not qualify. Possibly there are four reasons for this. First, there are married women whose husbands are working. I remind honorable members that if any wives wish to register for employment they are eligible to do so. Secondly, the unemployed persons may have been out of a job for less than one week. A person does not qualify for the benefit until he has been unemployed for one week. Thirdly, the persons in question may have an income which disqualifies them from receiving the benefit. I remind honorable members again that a married man without children does not lose his entitlement until his earning or income from other sources exceeds £9 2s. 6d. a week. If he is receiving £9 a week he can still receive some benefit. This group would include pensioners who are already receiving a pension but, out of some desire to occupy their minds or to supplement their pensions, want to take a job. There is nothing to stop them registering for employment. They are entitled to do so, but they do not receive benefit. Fourthly, some possibly are already in employment but desire to change their jobs and have not disclosed to the departmental officers that they are already working. There are possibly other reasons but you can be absolutely sure that if there were 78,131 families with not enough to eat there would be 78,131 persons drawing the unemployment benefit.
In any case, appendix No. 1, attached to the last report issued by the Minister for Labour and National Service, indicates that there were 23,000 juniors under the age of 21 years registered for employment at the end of July. Do honorable members opposite suggest that these are all married with dependent families? Apart from the juniors, there are 17,320 adult females registered. Altogether there are 31,437 females registered for employment, of whom only 13,475 are receiving benefit. It is reasonable to infer that the remaining 17,963 receive no benefit because they are not entitled to it. Even if all female juniors under the age of 21 years are subtracted from this number, there are still 3,845 adult women not receiving benefit. I think it is a fair assumption that there are at least 4,000 married women registered for employment. An article in the latest issue of “ Review “, a publication of the Institute of Public Affairs, sets the figure at 10,000. So out of 78,131 people registered for employment we have 23,000 juniors and 4,000 married women, leaving 51,131 adults, of whom 37,821 are male and 13,320 are female. This represents far less than the 1 .5 per cent, of the work force which Mr. Albert Monk accepts as being composed of seasonal workers who at any given time it is reasonable to expect will be registered for employment. He made that statement at a Citizenship Convention in Canberra a few years ago. I have that extract from his speech if honorable members want to read it.
I have never been able to learn what Labour accepts as a reasonable level of unemployment. After the war the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) stated that he believed 5 per cent, was reasonable. Mr. Albert Monk at the 1961 Citizenship Convention said that owing to seasonal occupations in Australia it is necessary to have a floating work force of about 1.5 per cent, to deal with seasonal and major construction works. Last week the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Crean) went one better than that. He stated that no one should be unemployed. In saying this he proved himself to be out of step not only with the honorable member for Parkes and Mr. Monk but also with reality. As I said earlier, I believe that every person who is able and willing to work is entitled to a job, but it is a fact of life that since records have been kept by both Labour and nonLabour governments there never has been a time when there were no persons registered for employment. It is most unlikely that that state of affairs will ever exist, however desirable it may be.
The fact remains, however, that although during last year we absorbed approximately 120,000 migrants and more than 46,000 school leavers registered for the first time, the number registered for employment fell by nearly 12,000 or about 121 per cent. The important thing is that there were approximately 75,000 more persons in employment at a given period this year than there were at the same time last year. Apart from this, the Department of Labour and National Service has reported that its survey of overtime and short time worked in the week ended 21st June, which covered 2,500 factories employing 479,000 persons, showed that two-thirds of those factories and one-third of their employees were working overtime.
Already in some trades the number of vacancies exceeds the number of applicants, and provided the Opposition drops its theme of gloom and despair and begins adopting positive policies rather than negative think ing, it will not be long before the only persons out of employment are those who either do not want to work or are not able to work. I commend to honorable members opposite the last paragraph of an article on the unemployment problem which appeared in the April-June issue of the Institute of Public Affairs publication “ Review “. It reads -
The bald percentage figure of unemployment can be highly misleading. But it still continues to be used without discrimination by many who ought to know better. Governments should clarify these matters and make clear the true nature of the employment problem from time to time. Otherwise the unemployment ratio will continue to convey a misleading impression of the real position to the general public, and will be used irresponsibly by that minority of people who love to foment industrial and political discord.
I conclude by saying that I support the Budget. I believe it is a good budget. I believe it is a fair budget. I believe that it will ensure Australia’s prosperity for a great many years to come.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, the Budget which is under discussion shows that the amount to be expended by the Commonwealth in the Australian Capital Territory has been increased in total by almost £2,500,000 to a new high level approaching £25,000,000. Departmental expenditure is increased by approximately £500,000 to £6,364,000. The balance of £18,356,000 represents an increase of £1,882,000 in the provision made for capital works and services in the Australian Capital Territory. The bulk of that amount will be expended by the National Capital Development Commission. The grant for the commission has been increased by £1,770,000 to a total of £13,920,000. By any one’s measure that is a very substantial expenditure. In this House there may be people who regard it as extravagant. I have not the slightest doubt that arguments could be adduced to show that the amount will be inadequate.
What I want to talk about to-day is the emphasis of expenditure in the Australian Capital Territory and the allocations made to various types of development, particularly to the projects handled by the National Capital Development Commission. I believe that the commission is doing very well indeed in the spectacular field of development in Canberra - in the construction of monumental buildings, the lake, the bridges, the schools, the auditoria and so on - and also in the provision of services - water supply, sewerage and works of that kind. But I believe that there is a pressing need for greater expenditure and increased emphasis on the provision of housing for rental in the City of Canberra. I shall quote to the House figures provided to me by the Commonwealth Statistician.
I go back only as far as the year 1958- 59, which was the peak year for home construction in Canberra. These figures are for government homes only. In that year the Commonwealth built 976 houses and 259 family flats. In addition, it built a number of bachelor flats to accommodate single persons. I am not taking those flats into account in these figures. In 1958-59 a total of 1,235 family housing units - whether they be houses of two or three bedrooms or flats of two or three bedrooms - were built. In the following year, 1959- 60, the totals fell to 702 houses and 449 family flats, or a total of 1,151 family housing units. In 1960-61, there was a quite dramatic fall in the number of completions of homes built by the Government. The totals fell to 729 houses and 139 family flats, or a total of only 868 family housing units. In 1961-62 the numbers increased to 812 houses and 148 family flats, or a total of 960 family housing units.
For the financial year just completed, there are definite figures for the first nine months. Those figures show that in the nine months ended 31st March, 462 houses and 21 family flats were completed. The Commonwealth Statistician has provided figures for the June quarter. I do not doubt the accuracy of them, although he has stated that they are preliminary estimates and are subject to revision. For that quarter the figures were 226 houses and no family flats. That means that in the twelve months just concluded the Commonwealth has completed the construction of 709 family housing units in Canberra.
Let me recapitulate. The total dropped from 1,235 in 1958-59, to 1,151 in 1959-60, to 868 in 1960-61: then there was a slight increase to 960 in 1961-62; and in the year just concluded the total was 709. Those figures show that in general the rate of home constructions by the Government has been dropping steadily since the peak year of 1958-59. In the Civil Works Programme, which is presented with the bill that is now before the House, provision is made for the construction of 600 houses and no family flats in the financial year on which we have just entered. So, over the past five or six years the Government has allowed its home construction rate - that is, the rate of construction of houses and flats by the Government for rental - to drop continuously, and a further drop is envisaged in the year ahead of us.
Those figures should be considered against the backdrop of Canberra’s population increase, because the years in which the Government has permitted its housing construction programme to fall year by year have been the years of the greatest population increase in this city. That population increase was engendered by the Commonwealth’s decision to transfer the defence departments and other authorities of the Crown to this city. Here I shall quote from three studies prepared by Professor Borrie, Professor Arndt and Mr. Rudduck of the National Capital Development Commission. I refer now to Professor Borrie’s population figures which, of course, repeat the census figures.
In 1954, the total population of Canberra, as distinct from the Australian Capital Territory - there are about 2,000 people living outside the city area - was 28,277. In 1957 - at a time in between censuses - the population was 35,827. At the time of the 1961 census the population was 56,449. In July this year the Commonwealth Statistician took a population count in Canberra. The figures published on 26th July show that Canberra’s population at 20th July - just over a month ago - was 70,775. Comparing that figure with the figure of 35,827 for 1957, it is apparent that the population of Canberra has practically doubled within the past six years; and those are the years in which, as I have stated, the Government’s home-building programme has been cut back year by year.
We are forced to look for the reason for that. I hope to do so shortly. The figures released recently by the Commonwealth Statistician showed an average annual growth in the population of Canberra of 7,161 in the two years between the 1961 census and the population count in the middle of this year. The rate of population increase was about 11 per cent, per annum over those two years. The figures show, I think, that the restriction of the housing programme has been a deliberate policy of the Commonwealth. I turn again to one of the three studies. This one is by Professor Arndt. He makes this point -
The present policy of the authorities in refusing to increase the rate of housing so as to reduce the waiting list illustrates this form of control of the rale of population growth.
Professor Arndt states that he can see no present reason for any decision of that kind to restrict the growth of the city. It has been stated and is accepted that the National Capital Development Commission feels that if it constructed houses to a point at which it practically abolished waiting time1 - if houses became easy to get in Canberra - the population would increase vastly. It is felt that a strain would be placed on the services of the community in other ways. That seems to me to be completely fallacious thinking. People will not come to Canberra just because they can get a house in Canberra - apart from a few people who are known as probate dodgers and who come here from the States so as to relieve themselves of some responsibility in this regard. People in general do not come to this city simply because they think they may get a house and they would not come if houses were immediately made available to them. Their only reason for coming to this city is to get employment. In a country that has some unemployment, measured in differing degrees on either side of the House, Canberra is a city in which there is a very high rate of employment.
Another point to remember is that to become eligible as a tenant of a governmentowned house or flat in Canberra a person must be employed in Canberra. If he is employed in Canberra surety he is required in this community and should be assisted to secure a house. I suggest that the thinking behind the decision, either by the Government or by the National Capital Development Commission, whichever originated the policy, that if you restrict housing you will restrict the inflow of population, has been proved completely false because the rate of population increase, as I have shown, has been running at 11 per cent, or 12 per cent, over the last two years. That is the highest rate in the whole of
Australia. The population of this city is now more than 70,000, and it has doubled in the past six years. That is clear evidence that people are coming here not because they can get houses. Even until recent months the waiting time for a threebedroom house was three years and five months and the present waiting time is 31 months. No, those people come here because they are required in the community to carry out certain classes of work. They are valuable members of the community and the Government should step up its programme of housing to assist them and to endeavour to abolish the present waiting time. I know that not everybody at present on the housing list requires a house, but there are about 4,000 names on the list for a house in this city. Literally hundreds of families are living in every kind of temporary accommodation. People are living in sheds, shacks, garages, caravans and shared accommodation of various kinds while they wait for their turn to rent a house. There is urgent need for an increase in the home building rate.
Although the Government professes to be a private enterprise government and although the National Capital Development Commission dislikes its responsibility to provide housing for rental and feels that the responsibility for housing should be gradually deposited on the shoulders of private enterprise, the fact is that this private enterprise Government and this commission have failed to give private enterprise a go. Here in Canberra all land is owned by the Commonwealth - all land within the city area - and is made available for residential purposes on 99 years leases. The Government controls the ability of private enterprise to build houses, whether the private enterprise is an individual, a speculator or a project developer. It has become notorious over recent years that the Government has created a land famine in this city and has reaped the benefit of famine prices from the auction sales of leases. Indeed, I believe the situation in this respect has reached scandalous proportions. But here again, apparently the argument is that if we restrict the availability of land we will restrict the opportunity for people to build houses, and thus we will restrict the growth of the population. But that has not proved to be the case.
Surely the Government and the commission should now recognize that the population rate has increased and that the influx of people to this city is continuing. They should revise their policies in order, first, to provide adequate housing for rental for those who require it and, secondly, to make available adequate land for those who wish to build their own homes. If the Government does not feel adequate to the task of building homes in Canberra it has had opportunities to accept offers from project developers of some magnitude who would have come to this place and built entire suburbs, developing the roads and streets and providing the services, but those opportunities have not been seized. The fact that land has been kept in short supply and the fact that at auction sales of leases there are never sufficient blocks of land available to meet the demand, or anything like the demand, have meant a great increase in the premiums paid for leasehold land in the city. This situation has led to the creation of a land famine in this city and to all sorts of snide and illicit dealings in land which never should be permitted. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) to his credit has taken steps - belatedly, but certainly some steps - to try to restrict the operations of dummies, entrepreneurs and speculators at land sales. He introduced restricted auctions at which only individual homeseekers could bid for land. But there were ways around the restrictions introduced and the Minister has forecast further steps to try to tighten the restrictions on the leasing of land. Probably he should require the person who bids at a restricted sale to give a declaration that he requires the land in order to build a home in which he will reside, or to undertake not to transfer or seek to transfer the lease for a period of years.’ Only in those ways will we put an end to the practices that have developed.
The business of land sale has become very profitable for the Crown. To illustrate that fact I need only quote from the fifth annual report of the National Capital Development Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1962. Under a heading “ Canberra as a Crown Investment “ the report lists the amount paid for leases of residential and commercial sites and states -
Obviously these prices for leasehold land have significant consequences for people wishing to establish themselves in business or wanting to build houses. At the same time the level of cash premiums does provide an interesting commentary on the value of Canberra as a Crown investment The immediate cash return for development works carried out with Government funds is substantial. In 1960, for example, one day’s selling of City retail sites brought £287,000 and a one-day sale of City office block sites brought a return of £410,000.
The report continues - if is clear that the land development being carried out in Canberra is a profitable investment to the Crown and, through it to the community.
The report further states -
The rents on houses built by the Commission cover the cost of construction and ensure a reasonable return of interest on the capital cost.
The Government has provoked these false values for land by keeping land in short supply. The only solution to the problem as I see it is to make more land available in this city for residential sites. In the year under review, the Commonwealth collected £1,500,000 in premiums on land. In the estimates of revenue that will shortly be discussed, the amount expected to be received is shown as £750,000. I do not know what the explanation for this fall is. I do not know whether the Government intends to offer less land for home-building or whether it intends to offer land in such quantities that the premiums will come down. But the commission has followed the policy of making leases of land available for sale only when the services have been provided to the land. This policy was introduced by the commission. It is a commendable policy, if the commission can keep ahead of the demand for land whilst following it. But in the present circumstances, I believe the commission should revert to the system operating previously of offering the leases of land for sale at auction before the services are provided.
I can see no argument against this. If the Government through the commission made available sufficient numbers of residential sites, whether services were provided or not, the present evil in the community would be overcome by wiping out the opportunity for entrepreneurs and others to take quick profits from land. This policy would satisfy the needs of the individual home-seeker who must secure land on which to build a home for his family. If the Government made land available before it provided services, as it did in the past, the successful bidders at auction sales of leases would know that they had the land. They sign undertakings to commence building within six months and to complete building within twelve months. Of course, these times are quite readily extended by the Minister on the production of sufficient grounds. A successful bidder would know that he had the land and would have six months in which to commence to build. This would give him opportunity to have plans drawn for the home he desired to build and to arrange the finance he required, and by the time the home was commenced the services could be on the land.
I can see no objection to this system. The Government must increase its allocation to provide for the servicing of blocks of land - the average cost of servicing a block to-day, I am told, is about £700 - or make land available before the services are provided. There are no other ways to overcome the famine of land in this city. The famine must be overcome if the Government is to defeat the operations of the land sharks who are entering the city and making the most of their opportunities.
Considerable concern has recently been expressed over the procedures adopted for the variation of some residential leases in a section of Canberra. I refer now to variations of residential leases in Northbourneavenue, Braddon, which is near Canberra City. The procedure for the variation of a lease is prescribed in section 11a of the City Area Leases Ordinance. It delineates the power of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory to grant a variation of a lease after hearing evidence from anybody who may object to it. But the section specifically provides that if within a specified time the Minister for the Interior files a certificate that the variations sought would be repugnant to the principles for the time being governing the construction and development of the City of Canberra, no variation can be made. In effect, the court is then barred from dealing with the application for the variation of the lease.
When applications were made recently for a variation of residential leases in Northbourne-avenue, it was revealed that a company was prepared to purchase the sites and construct on them a motel costing about £300,000. The applicants for the variation gave the figures that they had been offered for the land. I think in one instance £20,000 was offered for a lease that had cost £5,250. The Minister made no objection. He filed no certificate with the court objecting in any way to the variation of the purposes of the leases. Officers of the National Capital Development Commission went before the court and stated that the area was becoming ripe for re-development, as they called it, and that they could see no objection to this type of development taking place. They said that the commission’s policy was to design and handle planning on an organized basis. I believe that the failure of the Government to lodge any objection to the variation of the leases was a breach of faith in that it had made other sites available specifically for motel sites and had rigidly controlled the type of commercial development in every other part of Canberra.
If the Government desired to replan this area and if the commission considered that the area was becoming ripe for redevelopment, the Government should more properly have resumed the leases, paying fair compensation for tenant rights in the improvements and possibly for disturbance of the leases and then, in order to allow competition, should have either auctioned the leases for commercial purposes or allowed them to be balloted for or tendered for, with unimproved capital values stated and with building covenants determined. The Government did not choose to follow that course.
I want to state my view on this because it is a question that is increasingly concerning the people of Canberra. Other similar applications are coming forward. I do not believe in the private ownership of land. I am a strong advocate of the leasehold system, with the land remaining the property and the asset of the community generally, administered and controlled by the Crown in the interests of the nation. I believe most strongly that no one should be able to take an unearned profit from land. A lessee should be entitled to profit from the product of the land. He should be properly compensated for his improvements on the land or, to an appropriate extent, for the interruption or termination of his lease, but he should not be able to take a gross unearned profit from the land itself.
– Does that apply to farmland too?
– That should apply to farmland too, in my book. The Government applies very rigid controls to rural land in this area.
The Government is at present permitting unearned profits to be taken from land, and possibly future variations of residential leases will be allowed. Acquiescence by the Government in land transactions of this kind opens the way to speculation, collusion and conspiracy. This should not be permitted. I do not have to draw it in black and white for honorable members to see that when development of this kind is permitted without any objection from the Government, there are almost untold opportunities for the type of dealing to which I have referred. There are opportunities for the speculator, opportunities for collusion between those in the know and those who own the land, and opportunities for conspiracy. I believe that is wrong and that the Minister should not allow this type of variation.
There is at present in this community very considerable disquiet about the operations of the National Capital Development Commission. There is a loss of confidence in the commission. In many quarters there is an absolute lack of confidence in the commission, which on its formation promised to take the people of Canberra into its confidence. It said it would not do anything without letting the people of Canberra know what was to be done. But there are complaints to-day that the commission is becoming a law unto itself, that it is autocratic in its approach and that it seems to have the idea that it is dealing only with bare land and figures and not with people. There has been quite considerable evidence of this disquiet. The Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council has before it for discussion a motion which was not reached at the last meeting but which presumably will be reached at the next meeting.
It is a motion seeking to abolish the National Capital Development Commission. At its last meeting the council considered a motion for the appointment of a royal commission to inquire into the administration of Canberra. I have the details of the motion here, but the time available to me will not enable me to present them to the House. The chamber of Commerce has discussed an investigation of Canberra at high level, either by a select committee of the Senate, a joint parliamentary committee or a royal commission. I must say at once that I have always found the commissioner and his associate commissioners easy to approach and ready to assist in the explanation of any particular angle of development. But the general impression in the community at other levels is that this is not so and that the commission is riding a high horse in this community. In the face of the available evidence of disquiet in the community, I believe the Government and the commission should take a second look at the situation in order to see whether or not the commission is exceeding the terms of the statute which created it.
Mr. WHITTORN (Balaclava) [4.361.- The honorable member for the Australian Capital Territory (Mr. J. R. Fraser) very commendably talked about his own electorate and told the people of Australia that the population of the Territory is almost now 71,000. He also informed us that the population of Canberra had doubled since 1957. From that remark I gather that excellent work has been done by somebody in the Territory to ensure that this tremendous increase in population has been housed and also serviced with the usual facilities required in large capital cities. I believe the people of Australia will really understand Canberra as the capital of Australia when its population reaches the six figure mark, namely 100,000. However, I do not propose to confine my remarks to the honorable member’s electorate or to Canberra.
I will deal with the Budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) on Tuesday, 13th August. Having listened to many speeches delivered from both sides of the House - and particularly by members of the Opposition - I find that there has been repetition of the claim that this is not a Budget for the little people of Australia, not a Budget for the under-privileged, but one for the big business magnate and big business generally. In fact, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) said -
And each year our claims on behalf of the little people have been rejected.
In an earlier sentence he said that the average salary or wage-earner received about £1,200 a year. I would like to ask him just what he means by “ the little people of Australia “. Quite obviously he does not mean the people being helped by this Budget - the people about whom the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) spoke about 30 or 40 minutes ago. The honorable member showed, in a very detailed way, how this Government has helped the single pensioners and widows and children - and this Budget does that - and the wife of the invalid pensioner. All these little people and all these under-privileged people have been helped by this Government and particularly in the Budget presented for 1963-64. These people are obtaining and will continue to obtain relief from this democratically selected government. They have been helped at all times by budgets submitted by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt). It would appear that all budgets should help all the people at all times and, as 1 have said, I believe that the little people and the under-privileged people have been helped quite considerably in this Budget.
If we look at this year’s estimates for the National Welfare Fund - I think the people of Australia should know this - we will find that a grand total of £411,386,000 has been set aside for social services. The total sum provided for age and invalid pensions is £201,053,000, an increase of £13,299,000 over the figure provided in the Budget of last year. Taking another item - widows’ pensions - we find £20,582,000 provided in the 1963-64 Budget, which amounts to an increase of nearly £5,000,000 over last year’s figure. And so we go on. We find that provision for child endowment this year is increased by £8,890,000 compared with last year’s figure.
But there are two reductions this year compared with last year’s figures. The first is with regard to unemployment and sickness benefits. The reduction of £3,657,000 is explained by the fact that we now have 1.8 per cent, of unemployment instead of something over 2 per cent. The other item is “ Miscellaneous Health Services “, and the reduction is £5,000.
It is not only the little people or the under-privileged people, but also the working man who has been helped indirectly in this Budget by the reduction of sales tax. He certainly was helped during February, 1962, when a reduction of sales tax on consumer goods was made by the Treasurer. Now, sales tax on foodstuffs has been reduced, as all honorable members know.
Surely, secondary industry will benefit from this extra money which will go to the under-privileged, the little people and the working man as the result of this reduction in taxation! Secondary industry must also be helped by the impetus which will be given to housing as a result of the new rule which the Treasurer has contracted with the savings banks, changing from what was known as the 70-30 rule to the 65-35 rule. In other words, an additional 5 per cent, of the savings banks deposits of both the little people and the bigger people can now be put into housing if the savings banks so desire.
I would like honorable members to know that these little people - and these workers - they are the people who deposit their money in savings banks - had a grand total of £1,970,000,000 invested in savings bank accounts at the end of June this year. If 1 per cent, of the extra 5 per cent, that the savings banks can now use for housing is applied for that purpose, a further £19,700,000 can be used for housing in this financial year. If 2 per cent, of the extra 5 per cent, is used for housing that figure of £19,700,000 would be doubled, and so on. Of course, it is not obligatory on the savings banks to divert these funds to housing, but the opening is there, if they desire to do so.
Before talking particularly about the Budget, I will refer to the Budget Papers themselves which, I feel all honorable members realize, contrast sharply with those papers presented to them last year and the year before. Honorable members no doubt know that we have the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts, comprising members of both the Government and Opposition. For some years this committee has been talking to officials of the Treasury in regard to the Budget Papers and over the years efforts have been made to simplify them. I am’ sure that honorable members agree that the Budget Papers now submitted are simple in form and easy to follow. It was generally considered - particularly by Treasury officials who appeared before the committee - that the Budget speech was more widely used by the community than any of the Budget Papers. The speech has, therefore, been left more or less in its original form, but the papers for the Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure and for Commonwealth Payments to or for the States and any information that had been duplicated in the various documents have been eliminated. I am sure that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) will be pleased about this, because he was one of the members of that committee who made an impact on those listening to the evidence with his contention to the effect that any person reading the Budget or wanting to know something about it should be able to get the information in simplified form. This Budget speech has been appreciated on ali sides, first because it is simple in form and easy to follow and, secondly, because its contents and those of the associated papers show clearly and in a concise form the aims of the Commonwealth. The Budget speech itself summarizes the results of operations during 1962-63, and sets out the Budget estimates in total and for the various departments for 1963-64. As I have said, all honorable members have been issued with various other documents covering Commonwealth payments to or for the States and other matters of importance. They have been issued with the White Paper on National Income and Expenditure. All of these documents are useful and are readily understandable by members of the House and by the public generally.
The Budget itself and its effect on the economy, are of course, of prime importance to the community generally. Although the Opposition has attempted to deride the Treasurer and the Government, this year’s Budget, in the view of honorable members on this side of the House and also of some honorable members opposite, is a good Budget for the people of Australia and for Australia itself. There is no doubt that before the Budget was presented many sections of the community expected a good deal from it. They expected more handouts in the form of social service payments and reductions of personal income tax and other taxes. But reasonable people - and they are the people who vote for this Government - know that Governments cannot reduce taxes and maintain the standards of living that are accepted as normal in Australia to-day. Even the Leader of the Opposition stated, some time before the Budget was brought down, that taxes could not be reduced, because he thought at the time that tax concessions would be contained in the Budget.
The Leader of the Opposition believed that this would be an election Budget. Let me tell him that this Government has not in the past had to frame budgets for election purposes, and that it will not have to do so in the future. There are more important matters for this Government to concern itself with than framing budgets for election purposes. The welfare of Australia is of prime importance to both the Country Party and the Liberal Party sections of the Government. As I have said, this Government will produce budgets designed to lead to prosperity in Australia. Although the Opposition has attempted to discredit the Government, the Treasurer and others on this side of the House, there is no doubt in my mind that the people of Australia realize that 1963-64 will be a good year for them.
I can never understand why the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues talk about 100,000 people being unemployed, when the official figures tell us that 78,132 were unemployed at the end of July this year. Honorable members opposite continue to exaggerate by a matter of 25 per cent. Such statements of gloom and foreboding have accounted in the past for a slowing down of Australia’s economic growth. Members of thc Opposition, and some business leaders also, seem to be past masters at gloomily picturing Australia as a country that has had it. The fact is that retail sales last year increased by 8 per cent., and this was a record. In no other year have we seen an increase of 8 per cent, in retail sales.
When I say that business leaders paint a gloomy picture I say it advisedly, because we have all seen newspaper headlines showing that various business leaders claim that there is something wrong in the economy somewhere. They have constantly asked, “ What is the Government doing about this or that problem “ or “ What will the Government do about this or that matter now? “ In most cases the solution of the problem is in the hands of the very people who ask these questions. The pronouncements they have made have induced small investors to put their money into the savings banks. As I have said, there is now a total of £1,970,000,000 of investment money in savings banks, of which £235,000,000 has been contributed by small investors. The savings banks and all other banks have never been so liquid. As a result we had a record over-subscription to Commonwealth loans last year. Banks and insurance companies are holding a tremendous amount of liquid capital because they are not investing their money in private industry as they should be doing. This money could have been used for the purchase of goods, and retail sales would then have shown an even higher increase than the 8 per cent, to which I have already referred.
While these predictions of gloom are seen in newspaper headlines and are made by members of the Opposition in this House, the little man, of course, will put his money in the bank. Then the overseas investor comes to Australia - even in the face of much criticism by the Opposition - and buys out Australian companies in whole or in part, because he knows that his money is being invested in a good country, that his return is assured for all time, and that if he wants to re-sell his interest in Australia he will get a good price.
I believe that business leaders and members of the Opposition have a duty to induce Australian investors to invest in their own country, and that the less we see of wholesale taking over of Australian companies by overseas companies the better. Unless Australians invest in their own local companies we will continue to see overseas investment in Australia. Leaders of industry in this country should get back on the job and should cope with the task of competing with local and overseas competitors, leaving politics to the politicians. I have no doubt that at times they must endeavour to influence the Treasurer and other members of the Government when they want something done. for the country. I have no doubt that at other times they should approach members of the Opposition and try to have something done about a particular matter. But the gloomy talk of foreboding that we have heard has done no good for this country since 1960, and it will do no good for the country in the futile
Look at the opportunities that are available for Australians to invest in their own country. Look at the advantages for them. Consider, first, the rates of taxation in Australia as compared with those in other countries. The maximum rate of personal income tax in Australia is 63.3 per cent. In New Zealand it is 67.5 per cent., Canada 80 per cent., United Kingdom 88.75 per cent., and United States of America 91 per cent. Australians have a glorious opportunity to take advantage of the low rate of taxation applicable in this country. Taking only the few countries I have mentioned, we find the Australian rate of personal income tax at the bottom of the list and the rate in the United States of America at the top.
If this simple comparison is not enough, let us look at the maximum rate of company tax that industry pays in Australia, and industry groans about in Australia. The maximum rate on profits earned is 40 per cent., whereas in New Zealand <t is 42.5 per cent., in Canada 50 per cent., in the United Kingdom 53.75 per cent. In the United States of America it is hoped that very shortly the rate will be reduced to 47 per cent. Again we find Australia at the bottom of the list, while at present the United States of America is at the top.
If you care to look at the position from a slightly different angle, and consider revenue from taxation as a proportion of gross national product, again you will find Australia at the bottom of the list. Expressed in this way, as a proportion of gross national product, taxes in Australia were reduced from 23.5 per cent, in 1961-62 to 22.4 per cent, last year. In the other countries I have mentioned, the proportion of taxation to gross national product varies between 25.5 per cent, and 27.9 per cent. What is it that business people want from the Australian Government? I have been told - and I hear cries of “ Hear, hear “ from honorable members opposite - that there is plain evidence of lack of confidence in the economy and that the economy needs a fillip. I ask these people whether they want this private enterprise Government to take over the savings of the people and the pent-up reserves of the companies to use for the good of Australia, or whether they want that to be done without Government intervention I hate to bring in personalities, but we do not need Mr. Anderson of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures to gloomily predict that Australia’s unemployment will soon be aggravated by a new wave of school leavers. We know that. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) and officers of his department are well aware of the number of prospective school leavers.
– What are they doing about it?
– I will tell you in a moment. It is known that there will be a number of school leavers at the end of this year. We would like Mr. Anderson to say that industrial and commercial enterprises and enterprises in the retailing and tertiary fields not only have the capacity but also have the will to use these school leavers, particularly those who have had any real training. In answer to the honorable member for Mitchell (Mr. Armitage), let me say that I examined the last two Saturdays’ issues of the Melbourne “ Age “. I was amazed to see in last Saturday’s “ Age “ twelve full pages of classified advertisements of professional vacancies. The previous Saturday there were ten pages. In the Melbourne “ Herald “ of last Friday there were five and a half pages of advertisements of professional positions and on the previous Friday there were five pages. I cannot see where there is the unemployment referred to by honorable members opposite. I am sure that the Minister and his department will take every step to ensure that people are placed and maintained in employment.
Members of the Opposition have made great play of the fact that 78,000 people arc listed as unemployed, and they say that the real figure is 100,000. The honorable member for Henty (Mr. Fox) supplied a good answer to their argument. The statistics show that fewer than 50 per cent, of the people listed are men. About 37,800 are men, and the balance is composed of non-breadwinners. I agree that married women should work if they want to work, but I do not believe it is a national tragedy if some of them are not able to get jobs temporarily. I remember when the Labour Party and the trade unions not only frowned on but actively resented women taking men’s jobs. I am sure that in the dim and distant future, when Opposition members are on this side of the House and in office, they will repeat their performance then. When that day comes, we will see the Labour Party endeavouring again to prevent women from taking men’s jobs. I believe that the Minister for Labour and National Service and his departmental officers have done and will continue to do everything to ensure that unemployment is reduced to the lowest possible level.
It is the prerogative of every honorable member to discuss the Budget and hit the headlines, if that is his desire. Some of the statements made about the Budget are fascinating. I will confine myself to two of them. The first is, “There have been a lot of small concessions but they will give no stimulus to industry “. What does this statement mean? It means that although at least £18,000,000 has been given to the little people, the under-privileged people, they will not spend it. What will they do with it? Will they put it in the banks, or in tins? I know what they will do with it. They will spend it and help our secondary and primary industries to maintain and increase the production now achieved.
I really liked the second comment I wish to quote. It is, “The public works programmes proposed are not sufficiently related to the pools of unskilled labour near the centres of population “. I suppose this statement means that this Government should build dams within ten miles of Sydney and Melbourne and keep on building dams within these radii in order to employ unskilled workers there. I cannot see any other meaning.
In this Budget the Government has assisted primary industry to a great extent. The superphosphate bounty, amounting to £9,000,000 in a full year, is certainly a move in the right direction. It must increase the ability of the farmer to produce efficiently. The amount of arable land used for production will also be increased. Pastoralists and people in rural industry generally will be helped. The investment allowance on new plant will not only assist primary industry, but also secondary industry, because the plant for use on farms is produced by secondary industry. A further £5,000,000 has been added to the funds of the Commonwealth Development Bank, essentially for use in farming areas. This indicates that Cabinet has given great consideration to the sector of primary industry which has contributed and will continue to contribute so much to our export earnings.
I agree with the honorable member for Watson (Mr. Cope), that our main problem in future will be the employment of school leavers as they join the work force in ever-increasing numbers. Honorable members on both sides of the chamber have agreed that primary industry cannot absorb these school leavers. Since 1953 primary industry has increased production by 50 per cent, in volume, without using one extra man from the work force. Therefore, I believe that Cabinet should consider the appointment of a Minister for Manufacturing and Tertiary Industries. Those are the two sectors we look to for the employment of our future school leavers. Statistics show that primary industry uses 12 per cent, of the work force, or 500,000 people. Secondary industries use 28 per cent., or 1,200,000 people. Tertiary industries use 35 per cent., or 1,500,000 people. The honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) has told us that primary industry cannot absorb any more of the work force because of ils efficiency. School leavers joining the work force must be used in secondary industry and Cabinet must give greater consideration to measures for their absorption. I suggest that some consideration be given to a research allowance for secondary industries. Every year £50,000,000 in the form of royalties and commissions goes to overseas investors in Australia. This money could be well used used here. I do not believe that secondary industries, which produce the cars, refrigerators, washing machines and other goods used in our homes, can be expanded if they rely on the domestic market in an economy such as ours. There fore, exports must be increased from the manufacturing sector of industry. The Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and other members of the Cabinet must tackle this problem and ensure that our manufacturing industries do export their products. This can be done if more consideration is given to research and development with a view to our becoming increasingly competitive with overseas countries.
.- Like many Australians, all that I have received from this Budget so far is a very nasty dose of influenza, which will curtail my activities to some extent this afternoon. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) for all the reasons that he gave. I know that honorable members opposite claim - and perhaps rightly so - that some concessions have been made to a very limited section of our community. It has been stated authoritatively, however, that the concessions have not been sufficient to give the economy the stimulus that, in the opinion of experts, is needed if we are to go forward. It has been pointed out, for instance, that if you added together all the developmental programmes provided for in this Budget, they would not amount to enough to replace the Snowy Mountains scheme, which is now tapering off. It has been pointed out, too, that in several respects the Government has failed, despite all that may be said and all that has already been said by Government speakers in this debate. The Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia has only recently suggested, in the bank’s annual report, that there is still too much unemployment in this country. If we of the Australian Labour Party repeatedly insist that there is too much unemployment in Australia, what is wrong with our doing so? I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that those who criticize us for that perhaps feel that there is not quite enough unemployment in Australia.
The honorable member for Higinbotham (Mr. Chipp), last Thursday afternoon, said something that reflects the attitude of the Government and supports our claim that the thinking among those on the Government benches is that there should be a pool of unemployed. As reported at page 426 of “ Hansard “ of last Thursday, 22nd August, the honorable member for Higinbotham said -
The Lender of the Opposition is out to destroy them all. First, all of us - I am not speaking only of the workers now - have to work harder if we want to improve our standard of living. That brings a smile to the face of my friend from Reid (Mr. Uren). His idea of Utopia is when nobody is working at all. We know his view. 1 put this to the Opposition apart from politics: How can you have Australians, whether they be in unions or not, doing an honest day’s work if there are three jobs for one man and the fellow in a job can thumb his nose at the boss when he is asked to do an honest day’s work and go and get another job next door?
– Does not the honorable member agree with that?
– I do not agree with it.
– You ought to be ashamed!
– I agree only that it is an expression of an opinion that we on this side of the chamber have long thought has been held by many members on the Government side. They believe that if the lash of unemployment sufficiently threatens the workers, a better day’s work will be done.
The Government is getting rather too complacent about the unemployment situation. Honorable members opposite point out what they regard as the virtues in the situation. They say that the present level of unemployment represents only suchandsuch a percentage of the work-force and claim that the Government has done this, that and the other thing. But the plain fact is that this Government still has a pool of unemployed. We see no sign that it is being or is likely to be significantly reduced below 70,000 or 80,000 on an average. If we believe that that is the situation, are not we justified in drawing the conclusions that we have drawn from the events of the past few years? If we draw the conclusions that we have drawn, we would be totally and utterly wrong not to state them to the public. That is our attitude. Government supporters say that we on this side of the chamber should be ashamed of our approach to the unemployment problem, but I say that the Government and its supporters ought to be ashamed of their attitude, for they would rather forget entirely about unemployment. However, they will not be allowed to forget about it.
Some Government supporters have voiced peculiar points of view. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. King), quite properly bemoaned the fact that, up to the time when he spoke, nobody had even mentioned the plight and the fears of the woolgrowers. Up to the time when the honorable member addressed the House, a great number of Government speakers had taken part in the debate, including a number of members of the Australian Country Party. Members of that party are supposed to represent rural interests. Yet the honorable member for Wimmera, himself a member of that party, smarting, I presume, under the threat that he would lose his seat to a Liberal candidate, chided Government supporters in particular on the fact that nobody had even mentioned the plight of the wool-growers up to that stage.
The honorable member did not say, although he knew, that the newspapers on the morning of that very day had reported a decision made by the Australian Labour Party about the proposed increase in the wool promotion levy. That decision, which was acclaimed by the president of the woolgrowers’ association, was made, significantly enough, by 36 faceless men. I hope that the wool-growers take note of it. As I have pointed out, their organization has done so. The Labour Party’s decision was in these terms -
Recognising that -
Any change in the method of wool marketing will require the approval of Australian wool growers by referendum, and
the proposed increase in the wool promotion levy from 10s. to 44s. per bale is excessive and will limit the capacity of wool growers to contribute towards the cost of any new marketing system; and
Reaffirming Labor’s view that - the introduction of a new marketing system providing for a reserve price at auction to protect the industry is an urgent necessity, the Labor Party opposes the proposed increase in Wool Promotion Levy until the introduction of a new marketing scheme.
Recognising however - the necessity to continue the promotion of wool for the benefit of the industry and the national economy, Labor restates its policy of matching the present wool promotion levy on a £1 for £1 basis by a Commonwealth contribution.
Labor pledges itself to review this promotional levy annually and to keep its contribution in line with that of the wool growers.
We of the Australian Labour Party are deeply concerned over the proposition that faces the wool-growers at present. Yet a member of the Australian Country Party had the audacity to state in this House that nobody had spoken on behalf of the woolgrowers. Honorable members opposite who belong to the Country Party may attempt to answer that assertion if they can.
T have another complaint to make about the Government’s attitude towards the primary producers. The honorable member for Wimmera decried the delay that apparently still exists over the renewal of the wheat stabilization scheme. He pointed out that unless something was done the wheatgrowers would face serious prospects. He also mentioned the fact that there had been a suggestion that the acreage to be put under wheat be reduced. The honorable member said that nobody had raised this matter here, although, as I have pointed out, a number of members of the Country Party had taken part in this debate up to the stage at which he spoke. However, all that Government speakers had done was to berate the Australian Labour Party. Their only defence of this Budget has been to to berate the Labour Party. Honorable members on the Government side of the chamber have dodged the issue at all times. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden), for instance, devoted his attention, for the second time this year, to restrictive trade practices and the urgent need for legislation to deal with those practices. He listed a number of restrictive practices, probably taken from the pamphlet distributed by the Attorney-General (Sir Garfield Barwick). He was not concerned so much about the fact that these practices were being engaged in to exploit the people. Oh, no! He was concerned more about what Labour might do. He said that if this Government did not do something about the matter a Labour government might come into office and it might do something even worse to control monopolies than this Government contemplated. And so we go on. The Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) then made a contribution, but all he could say was that Mr. Calwell did not write his speech. Apparently the Minister found so much good1 matter in Mr. Calwell’s speech that he could not believe anybody on this side of the House could have written it. Whether Mr. Calwell wrote it or did not write it does not matter; what really matters is the content of the speech, the proposals put forward in it, and I am firmly convinced that Mr. Calwell did write it.
– He always writes his own speeches.
– Of course he does. I know he does. Let us forget for the moment the alleged weakness of the Opposition’s case. This Government claims that everything in the garden is lovely with respect to employment, social services, development planning and indeed almost everything. Why - and this should be of interest to members of the Country Party - it even claims that everything in the primary producers’ garden is lovely because of the decision to pay a bounty of £3 a ton on superphosphate. Honorable members on the Government side forget that the bounty paid by the Chifley Government was £2 7s. a ton, and that at a time when the price of superphosphate was only £6 a ton. The price now is twice that figure, and the £3 which this Government proposes to pay is not worth half what the £2 7s. was worth in the days when a Labour government held office. It is well for the primary producers to remember these points.
The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) had much to say about what the Government is doing for the little people. Whatever this Government has given to the little people, they really needed it and I do not quibble about what has been given to them except to say that they have not been given enough and that the benefits given to them are not spread over a wide enough field. But there is one section of little people which has continuously had a raw deal from this Government, and it is still getting it. Because the people in that section are inarticulate, I think their plight should be brought to the notice of the Government once again, I say “ once again “ because on no less than three occasions now I have brought to the notice of the Government the plight of and treatment accorded to those victims of industrial accidents who seek to qualify for workmen’s compensation. On the first occasion I referred to the harsh way in which the workmen’s compensation legislation was being administered. That was on 1st June, 1960. On that occasion I mentioned the cases of three widows who had appealed to the Supreme Court. They were all cases in which there would have been no doubt whatever under the provisions of all workers compensation legislation other than the Commonwealth act. Their appeals were dismissed mainly because, while the appeals were being heard, a case known as the Ockerdon case had been determined by the Privy Council. That case related to liability under circumstances similar to those applying in the cases of the three widows and because of the decision given by the Privy Council, the presiding judge who was hearing the appeals submitted by the three widows had no option in law but to dismiss them. The point I wish to emphasize is that the Commonwealth asked for costs in those three cases. In all my experience in compensation matters - and it is fairly extensive - most private insurance companies have refrained from asking for costs even though they may have won the case. Only in cases where it is obvious that the claim is frivolous or capricious do they ask for costs, and such cases are very rare indeed. But this Government asked for costs in these three cases, and it must be remembered that at the time of the submission of their appeals, and right up to the time of the Ockerdon decision, those three women were entitled to assume that their cases were good. The Commonwealth obtained costs against them in the amount of about £200 each. I have spoken of this matter during the adjournment debate in this House, and I have raised it in correspondence and in other ways with the Treasurer, and the Government has relented a little, but only very little. For over two years this Government adopted every known device of the professional debt collector in order to brow-beat these three unfortunate women into paying a debt for which they were only technically liable anyhow. It stands to the shame of the Treasury Department and of the Attorney-General’s Department, as weil as of the Government, that for that period these three women, in addition to suffering the grief of seeing their children deprived of a father and being required to leave school earlier than they normally would have done because they thought they had lost certain opportunities in life, were the victims of too harsh treatment from this alleged protector of the little people which employed every known device of the professional debt collector to browbeat them into paying costs that they could not possibly pay. Ultimately, the costs were offered by somebody else who had compassion for them, and the Government accepted the money.
Figures were produced to show that in 1951 this Government had issued instructions to the creature - that is all I can call him - who administers the workmen’s compensation legislation to tighten up the act. I remind honorable members that the administrator is supposed to exercise compassion and to give consideration to all the circumstances of the case when carrying out his duties. By section 6 of the Commonwealth Employees’ Compensation Act, he is required to give the applicant the benefit of any reasonable doubt that may exist. In actual fact, this is what happens, and it is by far the worst feature of this Government’s treatment of the little people whom it ignores in its workmen’s compensation legislation: The administrator arbitrarily rejects claims. He gives no reason and is not required to give a reason. If a reason for rejection is sought, he will not give one. In those circumstances, the victim, shall I say, of this harsh administration can test his rights only by appealing to the Supreme Court. But when making the appeal, he does not know the ground upon which his application was rejected. He has no information at . all. He simply submits his case. His case is prejudiced from the outset. Either he or his solicitor lodges the appeal, and, after the appeal has been lodged, the administrator can change his original grounds for rejecting the application if he so pleases because nobody knows what they were. In those circumstances, the appellant is prejudiced from the outset. The Government’s attention has been directed to this state of affairs, which does not exist in any field of law in Australia, let alone in the field of workers compensation.
Since the 1951 “ get tough “ decision things have become so bad that there has been an increase in the number of appeals, many of which have been successful. There have been many cases of widows successfully appealing to the Supreme Court because an administrator who has refused to grant the compensation claimed has not stated his reasons for doing so. In addition, there have been many cases in which no appeal has been lodged for the simple reason that a widow, stunned by the tragedy that has befallen her and facing the prospect of battling as best she can to provide for her family, is too broken-hearted to take the risk - if it is a risk - of appealing to the Supreme Court in the knowledge that if she loses her appeal she will be liable for another £200, which she does not have. To my knowledge no private insurance company would treat a widow in that fashion.
Now who speaks for the little people? There might be some excuse if the present situation had not been brought to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and Government supporters, but this has been done, to my knowledge, on not less than three occasions. So the Government and its supporters stand condemned for the misery and suffering which they have caused. They have hardly any consideration for the little people because the little people have no organization which can exercise political influence. I speak the truth; let Government supporters deny it if they can.
It might be said that I approach this matter from the point of view of plain sentimentality, but so bad has been the Government’s approach in the courts that to-day judges will not tolerate the Government’s actions any longer. His Honour Judge Frederico, in the case “Harry Henry Secombe v. the Commonwealth “-No. M.54 of 1962 - refused to make an order for costs against the worker concerned who had lost his appeal. His Honour said -
I must confess that I am surprised an application has been made for costs in this case, but having been made, it must be dealt with, and my discretion must be judicially exercised.
I propose to exercise that discretion in favour of the appellant and refuse costs, and for this reason: As I understand the position when an application for compensation is made under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act, the application with medical certificates and perhaps other matter, is put before the delegate, who considers it privately and then gives his award, which states either that compensation has been granted or compensation has been refused. He gives no reasons whatever for the decision and in this case he simply found - I have not the exact award before me at the moment - but he simply found it was not an injury by accident under section 9, or disease due to the nature of the employment under section 10.
In those circumstances, what has the appellant to do? He does not know what consideration or what reasoning has been applied to the matters he has put before the Commissioner and consequently the only thing he can do is appeal to this court.
In these circumstances, I do not think the appellant should have to pay the costs when he loses. In my view the only time when he should be required to pay costs is when he has put forward a case which, on any reasonable basis, could not be allowed. The appellant being, in my view, forced into the position he is in, of having to appeal, and having satisfied the court as to the truth and merits of his application, should not have to pay the costs in these circumstances.
The application for costs is therefore refused.
Judge Mitchell gave a similar judgment in another case. He also castigated the Commonwealth department for the manner in which it prosecuted these cases. As I have already stated, this matter has been brought before the Government on frequent occasions. If it had escaped the Government’s notice there could be an excuse, but that is not the case. The Government and its supporters stand condemned for the way in which this and many other acts are administered.
Only yesterday I had before me the case of an ex-serviceman who has a 70 per cent. incapacity. Obviously he is not fit for work and obviously - I checked this - the Department of Labour and National Service cannot find him a job. If you want to administer the act in this case with some compassion, you must take into consideration other circumstances apart from the clinical evidence. A few years ago, before the Government applied its credit squeeze and wrecked the country’s economy, a man who was 70 per cent. clinically unfit still had a chance of getting a job. To-day, as a result of the unemployment situation, a man who is 70 per cent. clinically unfit is in effect totally and permanently unfit. No employer wants him because he cannot give 100 per cent. service. A man with a 70 per cent. incapacity who perhaps was well catered for when there was full employment has no hope of obtaining employment to-day. That aspect should be considered seriously by the Government.
In addition, the question of rehabilitation and restitution is involved. The Government might forget that, but the little people do not forget it. When Labour was in office it subsidized in employment those who were not able to make the grade. This Government should give some consideration to rehabilitating incapacitated people in some measure, even if it cannot find it in its heart to make complete restitution to them by giving them adequate and equitable pensions.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
Motion (by Mr. Davidson)- by leave - agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Whitlam) each speaking without limitation of time.
.- When speaking in the debate on the Budget the honorable member for Scullin (Mr. Peters) made a remark which I thought was most interesting. Referring to overseas investment in Australia in the last fourteen years, which has amounted to £1,900,000,000, the honorable member asked whether a similar amount will be allowed to come into Australia in the next fourteen years. Apparently he feels that this Government will be in office, for the benefit of Australia, for another fourteen years. Members of the Opposition said that the support for the loan market showed a lack of confidence in the share market. Yet previously, when the loan market was not as buoyant as it is to-day, they criticized this Government for not instilling in the people confidence in the loan market. As we look at this matter we see that in relation to it, as well as in relation to many other matters, members of the Opposition make the points that suit their own arguments.
Before commenting on the Budget, .1 wish to say something about a matter that I mentioned in my speech on the Budget last year. I refer to the appointment of a select committee from both Houses of this Parliament and from all parties in this Parliament to look into the matter of automation. I believe that this could be done by this Parliament for the assistance of the Parliament, the nation and industry. This problem of automation will increase in intensity in the years that lie ahead. The effects of it have been . seen in other countries. I believe that the appointment of a select committee at this stage would be of advantage to all concerned. The committee would have discussions with leaders of industry, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and people connected with the progress and development of Australia.
I join with my colleagues, particularly the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull) and the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes), in commenting on the rifle clubs and asking that consideration be given to them. They are of tremendous value in training people because they emphasize the importance of the individual. At this stage, to my mind, that is of value. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Brimblecombe) mentioned the young people in the cadet corps. As we travel around our electorates, we all see the work that is done by the lads in the cadet corps and the training and instruction that are given to them by their officers. We appreciate the value of this work not only to the young people themselves but also to the schools and the communities of which they are part.
There is one other factor to which the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) and the Government might give consideration. I refer to the people who served in the merchant navy during the war. Consideration should be given to them. I know that this is a difficult problem. It raises many problems and difficulties. But I believe that the time has come when the people who served in that sphere during the war should be given consideration. There are occasions when these men, who made a noted contribution to the war effort, are penalized because of the sphere in which they served.
I was very happy, Mr. Speaker, to see the step taken in regard to social services. You might recall that a few years ago I commented on the possibility of having graded payments in social service benefits. I felt that there were people who needed special assistance because they were in special circumstances. The 10s. that is given to people who have to pay rent and the additional amount given to single pensioners who have to face heavy responsibilities and financial difficulties will be of tremendous benefit to them. I make one comment on the unemployment benefit.
Sometimes a person is not granted the unemployment benefit, and, therefore, is penalized, because he does not take a job that is offered to him when it entails some travel or even having to go away from his home town. I think the Department of Social Services should give some consideration to that factor. In some circumstances, unless there is a guarantee of continuity of employment, hardship and even financial loss could be inflicted upon a person who has to choose between taking such employment or losing his unemployment benefit.
There is no criticism of the Minister for External Affairs (Sir Garfield Barwick) in the comment that I now make. I have expressed the same view on other occasions. I believe that at this very important time in Australia’s history and the history of international affairs it is not good for the Commonwealth Parliament to have one man as Minister for External Affairs and AttorneyGeneral. That places too great a burden on the shoulders of the person who is trying to fulfil the duties of those two very important posts. We know the magnificent contribution that the Attorney-General has made in the legal sphere. I believe that a separate Minister for External Affairs should be appointed.
– He cannot do the job.
– The honorable member for Petrie, having no appreciation or understanding of the situation, would be the one to make that comment!
I wish to make four comments in regard to the Budget - a general comment, a comment on State and Federal relationships, a comment on the importance of primary and secondary industries in our economy, and a comment on defence and our responsibilities in that field. By way of general comment, I say that the presentation of the Budget by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) reveals a continuation of progress and development of which we can be very proud. There will be criticisms from certain quarters to the effect that something has not been done in this or some other sphere. But, looking at the overall picture, I believe the Budget shows that Australia is going forward, that it is developing, and that its progress is something of which we all can be proud.
We see the situation in Papua and New Guinea. Additional money is going into that vital area. I again pay a tribute to the people who are serving in that area, in both the private and the governmental spheres. We in Australia owe a debt to the people who are serving in the Papua and New Guinea Administration. I have commented on social services. Here we see something that has been shown every year since this Government came into power, namely an increase in social service payments and benefits.
The administration of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been complicated because of the advent of television and the extension of radio services. We should acknowledge the part that is being played by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in both radio and television. Here we have seen development. There is criticism because somebody has not a telephone. We sympathize with people who, for certain reasons, are unable to have telephones installed in their homes or business premises. But, on the other hand, let us look at the progress that has been made by the Postmaster-General’s Department in the installation of telephones, particularly in country areas, and in providing the various services that the department gives. All those things illustrate the development and progress that are being made in our country under the guidance of this Government.
I wish to say something about State and Federal relationships, because I believe it is a vital issue. Many people speak about this subject quite glibly and without a full appreciation and realization of some of the complexities, difficulties and dangers that are associated with the comments that are made. In his amendment the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) commended the Government for some of the benefits contained in the Budget. That is interesting. The amendment continued in these terms -
I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the Government should be condemned for its alleged failure to deal with those matters, but let us look at the situation.’ The matters referred to in the amendment are important. There can be no doubt of that. But, as the honorable member for Lawson (Mr. Failes) pointed out, if the Opposition’s amendment is carried there will be grave danger that we will have in this country not federation, which is what we stand for, but unification. This is something that we on this side of the House should stress with all the power at our command. We must awaken the people to the danger of what could come about in this country. We realize that the Opposition wants unification. It is something that honorable members opposite desire because it would give them centralized control. Their policy and their abilty to come to power would be strengthened if they had centralized control.
My comments must not be taken to mean that we on this side of the House are unsympathetic towards the need for education, housing and roads. I suggest that it may be of interest for people to read the White Paper on Commonwealth Payments to or for the States, 1963-64. When the Federal Government is accused of not giving the States sufficient money for this purpose or that purpose too few people appreciate just how much is being given by the Commonwealth. The White Paper to which I have referred gives details of provisions for tax reimbursement and financial assistance grants, special grants recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, other payments for specific purposes of a revenue nature, dairy industry extension services, extension of agriculture advisory services, maintenance of tuberculosis hospitals and coal-mining industry long service leave. Anybody who peruses the table showing the amount of finance contributed by the Commonwealth for these and other purposes will appreciate just how much the Commonwealth is giving. The total Commonwealth payments to or for the States in the last financial year was £440,407,000. This year the amount will be £469,094,000. That amount is being provided for such requirements as roads, universities, development of northern areas of Western Australia, development of coal-loading facilities, beef cattle roads, development of brigalow land and construction of the Chowilla dam and the Blowering dam. Because the Commonwealth is providing funds to the State’s for those purposes the responsibilities of the States have been reduced.
Over a period of time, and particularly since this Government came to office in 1949, more and more the Commonwealth has accepted financial responsibility which previously was accepted by the States. For example, let us consider the position of universities. This year New South Wales will receive £6,923,000 in grants for universities. The total granted to the States this year for this purpose will be £17,979,000. In 1948-49 New South Wales received from the Commonwealth £54,000 by way of dairy industry extension grants. This year New South Wales will receive for this purpose £89,000, and the total grants to the States will be £337,000. Those amounts are grants made by the Commonwealth to the States and absolve the States of the responsibility of finding funds for these purposes. We do not minimize the importance of the purposes for which these grants are provided but we say that there is an urgent need for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States and for the States to face up to their responsibilities.
If we follow to its ultimate conclusion this trend for the Commonwealth increasingly to provide finance for the States - if the Commonwealth comes more and more into the economic picture - ultimately the State parliaments may become rubber stamps. This ultimately could lead to the abolition of the State parliaments. I wonder whether Ministers in the New South Wales Labour Government, which has been in power for so long, indicating that the public sometimes will take anything for almost any length of time, realize that in pressing their demands on the Commonwealth they arc bringing about the abolition of their positions and their authority. Consider the case of the Blowering dam. Here is an example of a State failing to face up to its responsibilities. The Commonwealth has had to step in and accept the financial burden by giving increased funds to New South Wales for this purpose. Another factor to bear in mind is the danger of having too much governmental expenditure at the expense of private expenditure, with the result that ultimately all of the expenditure comes from governments and none is left for private enterprise;’” ”
I want to refer briefly to the importance of primary industries in Australia. I was interested to hear some speeches by honorable members opposite indicating a realization and an acceptance of the importance to Australia of primary industries. I trust that honorable members opposite will indicate by deeds as well as words their awareness of this importance. However, being conscious of what is happening in New South Wales, I fear that this will not eventuate. The Budget provides extremely important benefits to the timber industry. Perhaps one or two points remain to be clarified. I hope that on those points the industry will have discussions with the Treasurer and that the outcome of those discussions will be of benefit to the industry and to the Commonwealth.
– There has been no reduction of State timber royalties.
– That is right. There has been no assistance from the States with regard to royalties. Royalties have been hampering the industry for a long time.
Many people are claiming credit for the introduction of a bounty on superphosphate. When giving credit for this benefit two groups in the community should not be forgotten. One group consists of people in our Country Party organizations and branches and in the other Government party organizations and branches. Those people have been for a long time submitting proposals for a bounty. The second group which deserves credit consists of the concerns in the industry itself. That is why 1 was most disappointed to hear the derogatory remarks made about leaders of primary industry by the honorable member for Cowper (Mr. McGuren). 1 think that the leaders of our primary industries have done a tremendous job. Many of them have spent time and effort on behalf of the industries and of the country. I can pay only the highest tribute to those leaders in my area and elsewhere in the Commonwealth with whom I have been associated for the contributions that they have made to the economics of this country and, particularly, of the primary industries.
Honorary members opposite have said that we should find markets for our products. What has the Minister for Trade.(Mr.
McEwen) been doing? As some of my colleagues have already pointed out on more than one occasion, did not the Opposition oppose the signing of the Japanese Trade Agreement? The Minister for Trade has been doing a fantastic job in finding new markets for our primary industries. The economy of this country is dependent on our primary industries. About eighteen months ago the Minister for Trade made certain remarks which have just as much force to-day. In a speech to the New South Wales Country Party he said -
Manufacturing industry is important to the manufacturers for their profit and for the employment it gives; it is important to Australia for the overseas exchange it saves. I pointed out to these people a coincidence of figures. This year the statisticians calculate that Australian manufacturing industry will need to have available to it overseas exchange to pay for its raw materials, components and specialized equipment about £570,000,000. By sheer coincidence that is the figure calculated to be earned this year by the sale of our wool clip and our wheat crop. This is quite startling. To keep the wheels of Australian factories going round, manufacturers need the whole return of the two biggest export industries, wool and wheat.
This shows the importance to the country of our primary production. Unless our primary production earned the overseas finance needed by secondary industry, secondary industry would not be able to provide employment and contribute to our domestic economy to the extent that it does.
– We agree with you.
– Primary production has this importance. If, as the honorable member for Mitchell says, members of the Australian Labour Party agree, I hope they will start to say so not only with words but with actions. The honorable member for Mitchell is a New South Wales member of the Parliament. One thing he could do - he should have done this earlier - is to persuade the New South Wales Labour Government to limit the production of margarine, which, as my State colleagues have pointed out very frequently, has been detrimental to the dairying industry as a whole.
I want to mention defence briefly, because this is linked with our security and our responsibility. If we face up to our economic position, we should also realize that what we have is worth defending. I was very pleased to. see the increased expenditure, on defence, Opposition members have been critical about defence expenditure and have asked what we have to show for it. They do not understand what is entailed in defence expenditure. Defence requires a tremendous amount of administration, and this entails a large expenditure, perhaps between £100,000,000 and £150,000,000, for which nothing can be shown. But we do have something of a concrete nature to show for our expenditure. If Opposition members look at our Navy, Army or Air Force, they will see the evidence of our defence expenditure, and they will see something of which they can be proud.
Recently, negotiations have led to a partial nuclear test ban in which the Russians have joined. We should be pleased that this has eventuated, but I hope that it does not create a sense of complacency among the people of Australia or the people of the West. I believe that at the moment the Russians are frightened of the Chinese Communists. It is said that most of the Russian defence forces are on the Chinese border. I think this is so and I think we should use this to our advantage and to the advantage of the West as a whole. But I ask the people to think of what happened in Poland. When the people of Poland revolted against the Germans, they waited for assistance from the Russian forces, but Stalin halted the Russian forces and allowed them literally to stand by and watch the massacre of the Poles who had rebelled against their German masters of that time. Although Stalin has gone, the system still remains. I ask the people to think also of what happened in Hungary. We must never forget these events. I do not say that we should not negotiate with the Russians or that we should not accept the fruits of negotiations as they come to us; but while we are negotiating we should watch to see that we are not deceived.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting, I had spoken about the relationship between the Federal and State governments, primary and secondary industries, the importance of primary industry to the economy of Australia and the defence of our responsibilities. I had spoken about the negotiations that have been carried on by the Western democracies with the Soviet Union and I said that, while we should be prepared to accept this advantage to the West we should never forget that the Soviet Union was the country which betrayed Poland during the Second World War and which subsequently betrayed Hungary. I emphasize that we must not let this agreement lull our thinking or the thinking of the West into a sense of complacency and that we should still be forewarned, because although the leaders of the Soviet Union may have changed, the system remains the same.
I conclude on this point: I believe there are times when we in the West are too apologetic. I am proud of the contribution of the Commonwealth to the international situation. I think that, while there may be some times and some pages in the history of the Commonwealth of which we may not be proud, on balance the contribution that the Commonwealth has made to the world and to the international situation is something of which we can all be proud. It is something of which we need never be ashamed. The day when the Commonwealth is unable to make a vital contribution to the international situation will, I think, be a loss to the world in general.
I believe there is a testing time for the West and for Australia. Tunku Abdul Rahman said that he compromised over Malaysia because he wanted to work for peace. I remember that President Benes of Czechoslovakia said in 1938 that Czechoslovakians were prepared to sacrifice their country for the peace of the world. That thought should never be forgotten bv those, of us who live in 1963.
We need to be the friends of the people in Asia. We need to work with them and to give them their place in the sun. But I believe our greatest contribution can be made if we make them respect us. One of the greatest ways in which we can make them respect us is to have no ambiguity in our foreign policy. In this way we in Australia must stand firm. We must not leave the people of Asia in any doubt as to what our position is in relation to the situation in that area. And so, with respect to Papua and New Guinea, let us leave the Communists in the United Nations and some of the fellow travellers in no doubt that we are proud of our record there or of the fact that we mean to stand by it and sustain it.
Let other countries in this area know that we will be their friends and that we will help them, but that our being their friends and helping them does not mean that we betray the traditions and the heritage of our land.
The honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess) said that young people must be taught that if you want freedom you must earn it. J believe that if any among us, through complacency, indifference or self-interest, fail to impress that truth upon the young people of this generation and of this Commonwealth, we do not deserve the heritage which is ours. I have pleasure in supporting this Budget because it is a continuation of what this Government has represented in budgets over the last fourteen years - progress and development for all the people and for all of the community in this Commonwealth.
– The Treasurer announced in his Budget speech that the Government had provided a new standard rate of age and invalid pensions. The new standard rate is to be £5 15s. a week, an increase of 10s. a week on the present standard rate of £5 5s. a week. That increase is welcome. It will be especially welcome to those people who receive it and particularly to those among them for whom existence is at present a daily battle.
But all such are not to receive it. Married couples are to be shut out from it, completely irrespective of their needs or circumstances. When the standard rate of pension is increased to £5 15s. a week, as it will be if this proposal is given effect, married pensioner couples are to continue to receive their pension at the rate of £5 5s. a week.
The £5 15s. a week will become the
Standard rate of age and invalid pensions and the £5 5s. a week will become the substandard rate of age and invalid pensions. The standard rate of £5 15s. will be paid to all those pensioners who are classified by the Department of Social Services as single. The sub-standard rate of £5 5s. a week will be paid to all those pensioner couples who are legally married or who are deemed by the Department of Social Services to be living bone fide together as man and wife.
During his speech, the Treasurer described this as an important innovation.
In fact it is a complete and sweeping departure from the pensions system established in this Parliament 50 years ago and maintained ever since then by every government, Labour and non-Labour alike.
At various times changes in the pensions system have been proposed. At one time, in the depression years, a non-Labour government actually proposed that the amount of pension payable to a pensioner should be recoverable from his estate after his death. That proposal was quickly dropped.
– It was proposed by a Liberal government?
– That is right. But even then, no government advanced this proposal - that a sub-standard rate of pension should be established to be payable to a married pensioner as distinct from a single pensioner. In attempting to justify this proposal the Treasurer said that it is a matter of doing the most possible to provide justice between the various classes of beneficiaries and to promote the maximum social welfare. I do not think any one in this House can quarrel with the objective.
The Government’s proposal appears to be based on an attempt to make an additional payment to those who have additional and special needs. That can be the only way in which the proposal justifies the Treasurer’s statement. It appears to be roughly based upon the saying that two can live more cheaply than one which, I take it, in general terms means that two can live at least as cheaply as one can live. But even if that is the basis of the Government’s proposal it is still open to the objection that the proposal, as announced, will not work out in that way.
It can be shown that the new proposal will create a number of anomalies. I suppose it is not sufficient, in order to condemn a proposal, to show that it will create anomalies. I imagine there is no proposal in the social service field which is not open to the argument that it creates anomalies. The question here is whether this complete and utter departure from the pensions system which has existed in Australia for the past 50 years does not in fact create such tremendous anomalies and such bitter injustice that it ought not be proceeded with. I think that there is very strong ground for believing that it does create such anomalies.
I think that there has been, on both sides of the House, an increasing tendency in recent years to accept the principle that social service payments should be adjusted so that the maximum assistance will be given to those with the maximum need. This is recognized by the Labour Party in its policy, which proposes a standard rate of pension payable to all pensioners, and which would represent a moderate increase on the prevailing rate, plus additional supplementary payments to those in special categories of need, and also to those individuals who can establish special individual need. The basis of the Labour Party’s policy is a standard basic pension payable to all pensioners, plus special payments for special needs.
The Government itself recognized this principle several years ago when it introduced what is popularly known as the rent allowance. This allowance is based solely on need. As a matter of fact, in order to ensure that it goes only to those who arc really needy, the conditions governing it are so rigid that they themselves create a number of anomalies. But at any rate the proposal of the Government for supplementary rent allowance was based entirely on the objective of providing for those in the direst need. So the supplementary rent allowance of 10s. a week is paid, first, only to pensioners living alone and, secondly, only if their other income does not exceed 10s. a week.
The present proposal of the Government is a complete departure from the principle behind the rent allowance because the present proposal has no regard for need whatever. It merely separates pensioners into two categories, single and married, and then, irrespective of need, provides for 10s. additional payment to every pensioner classified as single, while withholding the 10i. from every pensioner who is one of a pensioner married couple. This, as I have said, is a complete change from the policy adopted by the Government two or three years ago.
– It is paid to certain married couples as well.
– I said that excluded from it are all pensioner married couples, that is all married couples each individual member of which is a pensioner. Irrespective of their needs, the extra payment now proposed will be withheld from all married couples when both the members of the couple are pensioners.
– It is paid to certain married couples.
– It is paid to certain married couples, but not to pensioner married couples. When one member of the couple is a pensioner and one is not, the additional 10s. is paid. It is not payable to any pensioner married couple, irrespective of their circumstances.
I would like straight away to give some examples of how this would work out because, as I say, while no system is exempt from anomalies, if it can be shown that this system is full of anomalies and will create new injustices as between categories of pensioners, then I think the Government should have another look at it. First of all, take the case of a widower receiving at present £5 5s. a week with £3 10s. a week other income. This gives him a total of £8 15s. a week. The Government now says to him, “ You need another 10s. a week. We will give it to you, so that you will then have a total of £9 5s. a week, because you need that much in order to live.” The married pensioner couple without additional income will have £10 10s. a week between them, £1 5s. a week more than the widower, and yet the Government says to them, “ You do not need any increase. We will withhold the increase from you.”
Take this case a little further. Suppose this widower owns his home. He now has £9 5s. a week rent free, and under this new proposal the Government says to him, “ You still need the additional 10s. a week and we will give it to you “. Yet the Government then says to the married couple living next door and paying £2 a week rent, leaving them £8 10s. a week, “You do not need anything extra and we will withhold the increase from you “.
Let us carry the illustration even a bit further. I am taking an extreme case, because I think an extreme case is necessary to show how this can operate. The widower lets two rooms in his house, getting £3 a week for them. This is income from property and therefore free of means test. He now has a total amount of £12 5s. * week rent free, and the Government says to him, under this new proposal, “You still need the additional 10s. a week and we will give it to you “. Yet to the married couple next door, receiving £8 10s. a week after paying rent, or £3 15s. a week less than this widower, the Government says, “You do not need anything further. We will withhold the extra payment from you.”
– Aren’t you forgetting that the other man has to pay rates and perhaps interest charges?
– No, I am not forgetting that, and it is quite an important consideration. I thank the honorable member for his interest, but I think he will agree that what he suggests does not alter the fact that the married couple on £8 10s. a week after paying rent will still be much worse off than the single pensioner receiving £12 5s. a week rent free, even though he does have to pay rates and other charges and provide for depreciation. I think the honorable member will agree that this is so.
Let me take the case to its logical extremity. Suppose the married couple to whom I have referred rent two rooms, the very two rooms that this widower has to let. Then the widower and the married couple will be living in the same house, and the married couple will be paying £2 a week rent to the owner of the house. The Government will come to the door of that house and say to the owner of the house, who is receiving £12 5s. a week, “You need the extra payment; here it is “. It will say to the married couple living in the same house on £8 10s. a week after paying the rent, “You do not need any extra payment and we will withhold it from you “.
It goes very much further even than that. Take two sisters, or two brothers or two relatives living in the family home - this is not a very unusual case - and with annuities of £7 a week. They will have a total of £18 10s. a week between them, rent free, and the Government will say to them, “ You need the extra £1 a week; we will give it to you”. The married couple paying £3 a week for two rooms in that house will have left £7 10s. a week between them, and the Government will say to them, “ You do not need any extra payment. We will withhold it from you “.
It may be rather easier to confront these arguments in this house than to confront them at a gathering of pensioners in the electorates that we represent, when numbers of pensioners come forward telling of these anomalies and injustices which engender in them such feelings of bitterness. Take the case of two people living in a rooming house. They are friends, they occupy two rooms in the house and they share expenses for food and so on. Each will have £5 5s. - the present standard pension - plus 10s. rental allowance and the new increase of 10s., making £6 5s. a week for each, or a total of £12 10s. between them. A married pensioner couple living in the same rooming house, also occupying two rooms and paying the same rental, will receive neither the rental allowance nor the pension increase. Why will they be deprived of the increase? It will not be because their need is any less, because it must be equally as great. They will be deprived of the increase for no other reason than that they are married. They will receive £2 a week less than another couple, who are unmarried, living in the same rooming house and sharing expenses between them, just as the married couple are sharing expenses.
While the Government’s proposal is seemingly based on the policy of special assistance for the person at the bottom of the pensioner scale, it departs entirely from the principle which ought to govern any such system of payments. Every one in this House agrees that the pensioner living alone, paying rent and having no income whatever except the pension, is right at the bottom of the scale, compared with the married couple living in their own home, with the maximum permissible income between them, perhaps owning their own motor car and enjoying other amenities. But that classic illustration is no justification for assuming that every married pensioner couple is necessarily better off than a single pensioner, no matter what his circumstances. The Government will pay the 10s. increase to a single pensioner even if he has £2,020 in property. Good luck to him that he receives the increase; he deserves it. But the Government will withhold the increase from a married pensioner couple who have no property whatever and therefore no income from property. The Government will pay the increase to a pensioner .at.thc age of 65 years who is capable, if he is in good health, of earning extra money or who has extra income by way of superannuation, but will withhold it from a married pensioner couple, both in their eighties, who need special assistance, special food and special medicines.
I called at the week-end at a home in my electorate where there is a blind pensioner, aged 84 years, who cannot move, because of weakness in his legs, from the chair in which he sits all day until he is carried to bed at night. He and his wife pay £2 15s. a week rent for a very humble cottage. The Government will exclude them from any supplementary assistance and from the new pension increase. They are to continue to exist on £10 10s. a week, less the £2 15s. a week that they pay in rent.
When the old lady leaves her husband to go down the town to do her shopping or to call at the post office to collect her pension, will she not feel an intolerable sense of bitterness and injustice when she realizes that she and her husband are each to receive 10s. a week less than ablebodied people twenty years younger who are able to earn extra money, able to look after themselves and able to get along without any special assistance?
If the Government had adopted the principle of special assistance for special needs, every one on this side of the House would have applauded it. I give the Government credit for increasing the standard rate of pension to £5 15s., but surely, upon reconsideration, the Government will recognize that the basis for the payment of special assistance is to establish a standard rate payable to every one and then to pay additional amounts to those with special needs, rather than to establish a new standard rate and to exclude from the increase all people in a special category based on marital state, irrespective entirely of needs.
I know that the argument is used that the system of making higher pension payments to single people rather than to married people applies in some other countries. I agree that it does, but there are several things to be considered. I have looked, as I suppose many other honorable members have looked, at the systems that apply in other countries. There is no other country with a pension system similar to ours, based on a means test in any way similar to ours, in which there are differential rates for single and married pensioners.
Even if there were, our boast in Australia has always been - or always used to be - that we lead the world in the field of social justice and of provision for people requiring social service assistance. In former years we did not look to other countries to see what they were doing and then modify our system to make it agree with theirs. On the contrary, it was our pride that in social service systems we set an example to other countries. I am very sorry that that is not so to-day.
The case of Sweden has been cited, where there is a difference between the rates paid to single people and married people. If the Government were to adopt the system of social service payments and benefits which applies in Sweden, there would not be one member of the Opposition who would not heartily agree with the liberality of its proposals. In order to make this matter clear beyond doubt, this afternoon, through the kindness of the Swedish Embassy, I obtained details of the social benefits at present payable in Sweden. It is true that single people in Sweden receive a slightly higher rate of old age pension than do married people, but the first thing to observe is that payment is entirely free of a means test. Therefore, the most bitter of the anomalies to which I have referred as arising in Australia do not apply in Sweden. Secondly, it is completely overlooked that in Sweden, in addition to the means-test-free age pension, there is a supplementary pension. In the case of most married pensioner couples, the husband is receiving this supplementary retirement pension, the full retirement pension equalling 60 per cent, of his average earnings for the best fifteen years of his life. If he had been earning an average of £25 a week in the best fifteen years of his life, he would receive a £15 a week retirement pension for himself, irrespective of the age pension payable to his wife. There is nothing comparable with that system in Australia. Therefore it would be indeed foolish to rely any longer upon the argument about what happens in Sweden.
If the Government really desires to follow the example of Sweden, let me refer it to the first page of the booklet I have here, “Social Benefits of Sweden”, which deals with the magnificent system whereby for every child under sixteen in Sweden, including the first child, irrespective of the means of the parents, an allowance of 550 kronen a year is paid. The krona, I think, is equivalent to about ls. lOd. or ls. lid. So in Sweden, the authorities pay about £1 a week for every child under the age of sixteen years. They give completely free medical and health supervision of children at maternity and child welfare centres up to school age and then by special medical staffs throughout schooling. They provide free holiday transportation. They provide a return journey annually to anywhere in Sweden from the child’s home at any time of the year. The same holiday travel benefits are available to the guardians of children who are under the age of eleven for a very small fee of about 9s. or 10s. The Swedish authorities provide holiday accommodation for children in private homes outside their home district. In some cases, a fee is charged for this holiday accommodation, but the fee is low, thanks to grants from public funds. The authorities provide day nurseries and nursery schools and child care officers are available to give advice and assistance.
School meals and school supplies are free and a general study grant is paid. This is inconceivable by comparison with anything we have established in Australia. The authorities in Sweden provide a magnificent system of study grants through all stages of education. In addition to the age pension system that I have outlined, they provide tremendous assistance in rent allowances to all families whose income is less than 6,000 kronen. The authorities in Sweden provide the mother with a special allowance for up to 1 80 days before the birth of her child, at rates varying from 2s. to £2 a day. They provide her with a maternity allowance of £80 or £90 on the birth of each child. If the Government wants to adopt the example of Sweden, Mr. Speaker, let it follow some of the social service measures set out in this booklet.
In the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ the other day there was a cartoon showing an aged couple looking at each other, one saying to the other, “ D’you think we made a mistake back in 1900?” This was an amusing comment on the fact that a couple, because they are legally married, will be deprived of this extra 10s. a week each, entirely regardless of their need. But there is much more in that cartoon than the amusement it provides. It shows extremely clearly that married couples living in Australia to-day in dire poverty are to be deprived by this Government, simply because they are married, of something to which they are entitled. No one would deny that very old people who need special medicines, special foods and special assistance, and who are required to pay rent and are deprived of the rental allowance as well as of this new pension increase, are in dire need. The Australian Labour Party is completely opposed to the differentiation against aged married couples in this proposal, and we very sincerely hope that this proposal will be re-examined before the bill to amend the Social Services Act is brought in so that the new standard rate is paid to all age and invalid pensioners.
– Mr. Speaker, my purpose to-night is to deal with the amendment to the motion for the second reading of this bill submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell), which constitutes a motion of no confidence in the Government. After all, as we have already indicated, that exposes the Government at once to the risk of defeat. Therefore, it is proper that I deal with the matter. In order to remove any anxieties, perhaps I should make it quite clear that we propose to vote against the amendment. I think that is fair enough.
I do not propose, Sir, to duplicate what has been said already - and said very well - by a number of honorable members on my side of the House. I would like to begin quietly, as I hope to continue, by mentioning that one of the remarkable things about my distinguished opponent’s speech was that two of the Opposition’s earlier cries were abandoned. It is worth recording them so as to accord them, as it were, the proper obsequies. First of all, we were accustomed over quite a period to being told by the Opposition that we had ruined the loan market. That is very interesting. When the loan market was a little sluggish, the Opposition explained that this was due to want of confidence in the Government. This capacity on the part of the Opposition, driven desperately by so many years in the wilderness, to have a bit each way fascinates me. The Opposition said that we had ruined the loan market. Now, it has to concede that the loan market was never heavier, never more successful. Opposition members said that they would restore the loan market by lower interest rates. We did that- We restored the loan market and then we reduced the long-term bond rate. And the loan market still was tremendously healthy. All I can hope is that the subscribers to Commonwealth loans issued on behalf of the States will continue to express their discontent with the Government in the same fashion.
The second allegation that is worthy of passing thought, Sir, is that by dropping import licensing we imperilled our overseas balances, I remember listening in this House time after time to Labour leaders - honorable members opposite have never had fewer than three or four at a time - saying, “Look at the overseas balances you inherited from us and see bow they have fallen “. When we got rid of import licensing for all practical purposes, we were told that we had taken the opportunity to destroy our overseas balances. At 30th June, the overseas balances of this country stood at £626,000,000 of gold and foreign exchange, plus an International Monetary Fund drawing right of £223,000,000. If this be the ruination of our overseas funds, we must have the dictionary re-written.
I just mention those things very quietly, Sir, because I think that, in order to observe continuity in politics, some of those who were not here at the time ought to know the kind of things that have been said by their leaders. I now pass on from that. I know that some of the things I shall say have already been said extremely well, but I just want to make my own speech on this subject as head of the Government that is under censure.
Time after time in his speech, the Leader of the Opposition made allegations of dishonesty. This is one of his favorite words. When I hear it from him, I take it seriously. If I heard it from somebody else, I would ignore it. , We heard from the honorable gentleman repeated allegations of dishonesty. Yet the central allegation that appeared time after time in his speech was itself completely dishonest. That allegation was that my colleague, the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), speaking on behalf of the Government, proposes a deficit of £300,000,000 and that this deficit - he kept on repeating it - contains the seeds of inflation. That statement was clearly, deliberately, repeatedly and grossly dishonest. We might as well have the facts out on this. He is not going to accuse us of dishonesty and escape from these perfectly clear statements about his own attack. I will come back to this in a moment and demonstrate it, chapter and verse, but, before I do that, let me just continue with these rather agreeable, pleasant remarks.
It is only a few months ago that the Leader of the Opposition was preaching depression and stagnation. All of us who were here remember that, do we not? He spoke about these things so yearningly that I almost believed he wanted them. Perhaps he did. He spoke about depression and stagnation. Now he invents a £300,000,000 deficit with, as he pointed out, increased expenditure but no increased taxation, and he says now - or he did the other day - that this means a period of boom and bust. I use his own somewhat sculptural expression. To meet this, he wants largely increased expenditure to increase basic demand. That is what he called it. Apart from altering the graph of income tax to increase the burden upon those earning over £1,200 a year, which is the average wage earning of to-day - I will say something about that in a moment because I want to keep the best till the last - he wants to reduce revenues from pay-roll tax, from petrol tax - I need not go through the whole list - but he would increase expenditure on homes, on education, on defence and on northern development. This is a curious thing. He says this is a policy of boom and bust, that we are in for a deficit of £300,000,000, which he knows is completely untrue and which the Treasurer made it perfectly clear was untrue.
Having said that, what does he do about it? If this contains the seeds of inflation, then obviously the revenues ought to be up, and, or, the expenditures ought to be down; because he finds in a deficit of £300,000,000 all the seeds of inflation. What is his cure?
It is to increase the expenditures and reduce the revenues. Sir, this is almost incredible. I am perfectly certain that if all the electors of Australia could hear this statement, and think about it, they would refuse to entrust their fortunes to a prospective Prime Minister with these astonishing ideas.
Before I pass on from that, I want to say a word about what he proposes to do about defence. He wants more money spent on defence. I took an extract from his speech, and I propose to read it out. This is a puzzle. Even a quiz competitor might be hard put to it to explain this -
We will not pretend,- said the honorable gentleman - as this Government does, that the national interest is served by a system of down payments on the instalment plan for weapons and equipment which may be delivered anything from one to five years hence and which, when delivered, are obsolete or obsolescent.
This statement caught my ear at once. I asked myself: “What does the Leader of the Opposition mean by that? Has he discovered some profound means by which you can go and buy the latest weapons and the latest .aircraft off the hook? “ If he has, I would appeal to him as a somewhat occulting friend of mine to tell me the secret. “ Oh,” he says, “ you must not buy them on down payments; you must not buy them on the instalment plan “. Is he really innocent enough to think that you can get a replacement fighter or a replacement bomber or a reconnaissance plane by going along to a shop and buying it? That, I thought, of all the things he said, was the most fantastic. Having looked at it, I concluded that, as he has a rather attractive sense of humour from time to time, I must regard this as a sort of beau geste on his part. To sum all that up, let us put it in this way: His cure, and therefore presumably the cure of his party, for a boom is to have a bigger one, and the right way to avoid worrying about a bust is to make it a stone certainty.
Now let me come back to this famous £300,000,000 deficit. I ask all honorable members to think about it quite seriously. If the honorable gentleman knows anything about these matters - and he should by now - he knows that the estimated cash deficit is £58,000,000, and he knows that, on all former occasions, acting on the old system of presenting the accounts in terms of cash results, this is a substantial deficit, though not the biggest one that we have ever budgeted for. The Treasurer explained this, I thought, in the simplest terms, and, of course, the figures establish it.
In past years - and I say this for the benefit of anybody who may not have followed these rather recondite Treasury problems, although the honorable gentleman opposite, of course, is familiar with them - revenue and loan items have been added together, revenue and loan or capital expenditures have been added together, we have subtracted one from the other and a cash result has been brought out. Under that system we determined that the cash deficit would be X or Y or Z. This year, we happen to have adopted the system which has applied - I think I am right, Mr. Treasurer - for a long time in Great Britain, where all of what we call the revenue and expenditure items are put above the line and the capital items below the line. Adopting that system and assuming that we do not borrow a shilling on behalf of the States, there is a deficiency of £358,000,000. But because we know that, on behalf of the States, we will borrow large sums of money from the public on the loan market, we make an estimate of the amount involved. The Treasurer estimated it - he cannot be precise at this stage- at £300,000,000. So you have a deficit of £358,000,000. You set off against that the £300,000,000 which you anticipate borrowing from the public - all on behalf of the States, mark you - and the deficit in cash of £58,000,000. The Leader of the Opposition knows that. It was explained with the utmost clarity in the Budget speech. Why does he now seek to deceive the public by talking about a record deficit of £300,000,000? That he has set out to deceive the public appears from his own speech. It is sometimes useful to quote your opponent, so I will weary the House by reading two or three passages from his speech. He said -
Thus, we have the spectacle of a Treasurer who poured ridicule on the Opposition”s policy, in 1961, of running a deficit of £100,000,000-
Labour proposed a cash deficit of £100,000,000 in four or five months, which was equal to £300,000,000 in a year- himself proposing a deficit of more _ than £300,000,000 nearly three years later when, as far as he is concerned, the unemployment problem has been solved.
Here is a deliberate falsification. Here is a comparison of a cash deficit of £100,000,000 and the £300,000,000 deficit in this Budget, which represents a cash deficit of only £58,000,000. The people of Australia deserve better treatment than that. They do not deserve to be deceived in this fashion. Plunging further, the honorable gentleman went on to say -
In our view, this increase of over £200,000,000 represents the cumulative results of the disastrous policy of too little too late-
The honorable gentleman is a master of the cliche - which he has followed ever since he and his Government destroyed full employment and business activity in November, 1960.
I hope it is clear to all who are listening to me that here is a comparison between two utterly different things. But the honorable gentleman went on and stated -
And yet, in what is claimed to bc a propitious situation, the estimated budget deficit is the greatest on record.
He knows that to be untrue, but although he knows that he says -
Let me repeat. It is three times more than that contained in Labour’s policy speech . . . If the Treasurer’s diagnosis is correct, then he is being highly irresponsible. He is imperilling price and cost stability because he lacks the courage-
Let me repeat for the benefit of all concerned that I am quoting the words of the Leader of the Labour Party - to raise taxes to at least match the extra expenditure he is budgeting for.
I say no more about that. I regard this as a rather unsavoury episode and I apologize for having had to take up so much time to expose it.
I will go on with the author - if he is the author - of the motion of no confidence in the Government. He might say that this will be my last speech as Prime Minister. No doubt that is the expectation and therefore I must deal with these matters. He turned his attention to taxation. He said that he would reconstruct the income tax system to help the man receiving less than £24 a week. I imagine from what he said that he would like to save the man earning less than £24 a week 5s. a week in tax. I point out to honorable members that even that saving would increase the tax paid by those receiving more than £24 a week by an average of almost 10 per cent. I do not think the honorable gentleman, or those who advise him, has ever worked out this problem to discover how the break-up in taxation in Australia occurs. There would be an average increase of about 10 per cent. The honorable gentleman might say, “ Those who are receiving £26, £28, £30 or £40 a week, naturally would be required to pay only a nominal increase “. I wonder what he would do when he reached those income brackets upon which we rely so much for investment and development in Australia! He has not told us.
Then, hoping to strengthen his imperfect story - the one on which we are to be thrown out of office - the honorable gentleman mentioned direct and indirect taxation. He set out to convey the impression that under my Government there was a trend to increase indirect taxes and to reduce direct taxes. The honorable- gentleman said, “ The Labour Party when it comes to office” or “ if it comes to office “ - I have forgotten which he said - “ will reverse the trend towards indirect taxes “. This is a beautiful old argument. I have heard it all my political life. It is said that the hard shell tories or whatever we are called are the boys who want to pile on the indirect taxes because the ordinary fellow, the wageearner, has to pay them, and they cut down direct taxes, income tax and the like, because the silver-tails will get some benefit. If the honorable gentleman wants a short course in political history he might direct himself to the facts. In 1948-49 he was a Minister in the last Labour government. Perhaps I could have said the latest Labour government, but I will call it the last. At that time Labour was the master of all it surveyed. It had a handsome majority in the House of Representatives and a handsome majority - at least a large one - in the Senate. In 1948-49 direct taxes in Australia were 56.6 per cent, of total taxes. Would honorable members be good enough to carry that figure in their minds? When we came into office - about half-way through the financial year 1949-50 and after the Budget had been established - the proportion was 55.2 per cent. In 1961-62 the trend about which the honorable gentleman has complained had been so reversed under my Government that the proportion of direct taxes had risen from 55.2 per cent, of total taxes to 59.9 per cent. In the financial year covered by this Budget it is 59.5 per cent. Let it be well understood that under this Liberal-Country Party Administration the percentage of direct taxation has increased. It has not fallen. The honorable gentleman, having thought that he had something to complain about, now finds that the boot is on the other foot.
I pass from that. The Leader of the Opposition has a thesis which, with great respect to him, is self-contradictory. In one breath he says that the Budget is potentially inflationary. His own expression was that it contained the seeds of inflation because there was a huge deficit. In the next breath he says that the Budget, although potentially inflationary, will fail to restore a strong basic demand. With great respect, I say that he cannot be right both ways. If he is right in thinking that the Budget is inflationary, then, of course, demand will expand excessively in relation to supply. But if what he calls basic consumer demand lags, then there can be no inflation unless, of course, there is some cost inflation by the raising of costs in spite of the relative stability, or the almost absolute stability, of the consumer price index.
Then he went on to say that nothing has been done to restore the purchasing power of ordinary people. This is a time-honoured argument. I am happy to say that we have been put into office and kept in office for a long time by ordinary people - and ordinary people who are not fools. Let us have a look at the facts again. I apologize if I am repeating things infinitely well known to honorable members, but they deserve to be brought together. Just now I mentioned the consumer price index which is the most modern index of what I will call the cost of living. It rose by 0.2 per cent. - that is a negligible fraction of a fraction - last year. But the wages and salaries paid in Australia in this time of terrible depression increased by £210,000,000, or 6 per cent., compared with 2 per cent, in the previous year. This is worth noting. In the March quarter of this year, with a stable consumer price index figure, average weekly earnings increased by 2.5 per cent. - in one quarter. These are not my figures; these are the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician who stands outside controversy and outside bias.
The gross national product rose in 1962-63 - the last financial year which finished on 30th June - by 8 per cent. The consumer price index was static. The gross national expenditure - that is to say, the total market value of goods and services bought for use in the Australian economy -increased by £752,000,000, or 10 per cent., in a dead year. Remember that I said the honorable gentleman talked about restoring consumer demand. Here you have the gross national expenditure rising by 10 per cent., with the cost-price level reflected in the consumer price index remaining stable. Personal consumption rose by £245,000,000, or 5 per cent. Private fixed capital expenditure rose by 13 per cent., including an 8 per cent, increase on dwellings, and was 4 per cent, higher than any previous rise in our history. We all ought to be crying ourselves to sleep when we contemplate these figures. The number of houses and flats approved in July this year was 9,465; in the same month last year the number was 8,200; and in July the previous year the number was 7,000. This is a tremendous symptom of development.
Since honorable gentlemen opposite choose to concentrate their fire on the question of employment of people, I point out that in the last financial year the total numbers actively employed in Australia rose by 100,000. This is where we all are supposed to get down and weep and persuade people that misery is on hand, that disaster is about us and that there is a sluggish economy. But, of course, I am wrong. I apologize to the Leader of the Opposition because, although I have dealt with one of his remarks - that there is a sluggish economy - I am bound to say that on the other hand he had a saving bet on the seeds of inflation. I leave it to him.
I want to turn away from that and say something very briefly about northern development. I would have said more about this, perhaps, if it were not for the fact that my colleague, the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck), in the course of this debate, made what I venture to describe as an extremely brilliant speech on this matter - a speech which I hope will be read and circulated very widely in this country. I gather that the Opposition wants a committee or a commission. Before we came into office, the Labour Party established a committee of Ministers from the Commonwealth, Queensland and Western Australia, with a committee of officials, to have a look at these matters. I have noticed that there has been some controversy on some television session; but I have made inquiries from impartial people as to the records in my own department. I find that the committee of Ministers last met in 1947 and that the committee of officials last met in February, 1948. After all, we did not come in till 19th December, 1949. What came of it? They thought it was a good idea. It might very well have been one. I do not discuss it. But what came of it, apart from tax zoning? If I give that in, what came of it? I do not know.
We have gone about northern development in a practical way. We have collaborated with the Queensland and Western Australian governments and with private enterprise. By so doing we have helped in the most spectacular and valuable northern development in our history. In discussions of this kind projects have been selected. They have been selected by governments. After all, governments have the responsibility of performance; do not forget that. These projects have been discussed by governments as priority matters calculated to improve Australian commodity trade balances, to increase exports and to save imports. It is a pretty practical and effective system, Sir, which produces in our own time the great mineral developments, cattle roads development, water storage, irrigation, railway works in the north and so on. I will not bother about giving an exhaustive list of these things.
– Yes, oil.
– You put it there, did you?
– No, but we did what you did not do: we gave material help in the search for it. All I need to say - because I am not going to repeat what has been said by my colleague - is: What do the people want - committees or results?
I want to talk about my last topic with some particularity because it has been the subject of a very intensive campaign. The newspapers of 19th August contained an advertisement published by the Victorian
Teachers Union of 22,000 teachers. It is very much in line with some of the things that I have heard from teachers in this House. I would like to read the advertisement. It is always a risk to do these things, but I will accept the risk. This is a large and costly advertisement and it contains explicitly and implicitly allegations which I propose to deal with and to denounce. Let there be no mistake about this. The advertisement reads -
In 1945 Mr. R. O. Menzies, speaking in Parliament on the problems of State schools-
This is 1945 when a Labour government was in office and I was Leader of the Opposition - said -
And I am quoted in bits - “The Commonwealth must in my opinion give aid to the States. . . . Whatever State Ministers of Education may say about what they would like to do, there is a sharp limit to their resources.” Now, after fourteen years of office, Sir Robert Menzies-
I was promoted in the meantime - has yet to fulfil this promise. The situation in the State schools has become far more serious, yet they still do not receive any Federal Aid whatsoever. This aid is essential - to provide adequate classrooms, equipment and playgrounds, to reduce the size of classes and to increase the number-
To increase the number mind you - of trained teachers. Yet Mr. Holt’s . . . Budget gave no direct aid to State primary, secondary and technical schools.
Leave the Treasurer out of it for the moment; this is mostly about me -
The schools need more money. Your children’s future depends on it.
That is signed “ A public statement in education week from the Victorian Teachers Union of 22,000 teachers “. The reference to 22,000 teachers has a slight suggestion of pressure about it. Speaking for myself, I can resist nothing as well as that kind of pressure.
I hesitate to believe that that advertisement represented the views of very many of the Victorian teachers.
– You should have been at the conference in Melbourne.
– I know all about that. I know that the honorable member is a teacher. I understand his point of view. But I am ^peaking here to-night as a man who has done more for education than any other Prime Minister in the history of this country. The Victorian Teachers Union advertisement quoted what I said in 1945 - a time when a Labour government gave tax reimbursements to the States amounting in total to £34,800,000. That same government continued in office for some years but made no provision in its budgets to subsidize or to underwrite State loan raisings, which were, incidentally, among other things for school buildings. Not a penny!
– There was no need to underwrite them.
– You are talking about fairly small matters. The tax reimbursement to the States was £34,800,000 but the fact is- and you cannot squeak your way out of it - that at that time and until we came into office not one shilling was found out of the Commonwealth Budget to supplement loan raisings for the States’ programmes, including their programmes of works for education. Also, 1945 was a period in which the Commonwealth Government made no special grants to the States for universities or teaching hospitals.
What is the position to-day. I want to say this as one who is supposed to have forsworn what he said in 1945: The tax reimbursement to the States, as even honorable members opposite must know, materially enables the States to pay their running education costs because it includes a calculation for growing population. The tax reimbursement has increased from £34,800,000 in 1945 to £318,400,000. That is something worth thinking about - an increase from £34,000,000 to £318,000,000 under our Government. The tax reimbursement is now called financial assistance grant, but it is the same thing. The effect of this generous treatment of the States in revenue and loans - it was generous; it went beyond any formula that had ever been devised in the time of the Labour Government - has been that whereas the Slates spent on education in 1950-51, just after we came to power, an amount of £46,000,000, in 1960-61 they spent £184,000,000, and I would think that this year they will spend something more than £200,000,000. That represents an enormous increase.
Sir, it is a very strange performance for a teachers’ spokesman to assume that Commonwealth payments to the States contain no education aid. All along we have exceeded the Chifley formula by supplementary grants. In 1959 when my colleagues the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) and the Treasurer were at the Australian Loan Council and the Premiers’ Conference we agreed to a greatly liberalized formula, and an important factor in all this was population and, therefore, school needs. Over the past thirteen years we have provided something that was never provided before in the time of the Labour government. We have provided a grand total of £801,000,000 for State loan works over and above actual loan raisings. In 1945 such assistance was unknown. I repeat: Over a period of thirteen years we have provided £801,000,000. I say without any fear whatever that but for those actions on our part State expenditure on schools and school equipment would have been immeasurably less than it was. Yet I am to be told that we have done nothing. I can understand some people who are not fully aware of these matters falling into the error of repeating that falsehood, but I can neither understand nor forgive people who know about them who will repeat it.
Our performance in relation to universities is well known. I will not rehearse it. When I originally spoke about this matter in the House and announced that the Government would adopt the Murray committee’s report our action was hailed by the then Leader of the Opposition as munificent - those were his very words - and indeed, so it was, and it was proper. The setting up of the Murray committee, the adoption of its report, the application of that report to the Australian Universities Commission, the introduction of a system of triennial grants, the inclusion of teaching hospitals - a very great development - the establishment of the tertiary education committee, which is now sitting and which I hope will report before long and which includes in its scope all tertiary forms of training, including technological training - all these things we have done, but according to the advertisement we have done nothing. I must have misunderstood English when I was taught it at school.
The Premiers had an extraordinary conference in February, 1963. On that occasion the Premier of New South Wales, Mr. Heffron, a man whose interest in education and service to its cause I tremendously admire - he has done a great deal for education - submitted a proposition once more that a special grant, not part of the general grant to the States, should be earmarked for education and that a special inquiry should be held. The Acting Premier of Victoria, at that conference, said that what Victoria wanted was general assistance to the State budget so that - I quote his words - “ we can retain the right to control education within our own budget “. Mr. Pizzey, of Queensland, a greatly respected member of the Queensland Government, agreed. He said, “We do not favour a special grant “. Sir Thomas Playford agreed. My old friend does not always agree. But he agreed on this occasion. The Premier of Western Australia repeated that whatever provision there was should be a part of the general grant. That was the state of mind of the clear majority of the Premiers.
I have been speaking about the meeting in February, 1963. Then there was a normal meeting in June of this year, when my two colleagues were present and I was out of the country - perhaps fortunately, but I do not know. My colleagues made an arrangement with the States for substantial increases in the provision to the States. Mark you, Mr. Speaker, this was done after the education discussion in February, 1963, with the Premiers. They had said then, when this matter was very much in their minds, “ We want a little more on our general grants so that we can cope with the problem of State education “. Later substantial increases were made.
The financial assistance grants to the States were increased by £14,000,000. I will just give the actual increase. Considering that these grants had risen before, this was a big sum. The grants to the two claimant States went up by £200,000. That is nothing much. The additional assistance grants, which were special, went up by £2,500,000. There was other assistance of a revenue nature which went up by £1,700,000. The States works and housing allocation went up by £17,000,000 and other assistance of a capital nature went up by £6,300,000. These two later items add up to £23,300,000 in one year, and if the first group I gave is added the total relevant improvement in the position of the States in one year was £41,700,000. I have not included any federal aid roads grants or anything of that kind. Some of this £41,700,000 would include provision for schools and equipment, because the education votes of the States have become so large.
The only other thing I want to say is by way of confirming what I have just said. Under present arrangements - all made since my 1945 speech and since the 1949 election - the States have been able to quadruple their expenditure on education. The proportion of their capital expenditure devoted to educational purposes, such as school buildings, rose from 6 per cent, in 1949 to 20 per cent, in 1961-62. It is probably a little more now. There was a reference in the advertisements to teachers. In 1951, in government schools, there were 36,000 full-time teachers and there were sixteen teachers’ colleges. In. 1961, after this socalled miserable default of mine in relation to education, there were not 36,000 full-time teachers by 63,700. There were 19,000 teachers in training and instead of sixteen teachers’ colleges there were 28. This, I venture to say, could be better. Everything could be better. But there is no case for a condemnation of our approach. On the contrary, there is conclusive proof that we have responded actively to the claims of education - claims which I profess to understand as well as any other man in this place.
I conclude by saying that this advertised propaganda is badly informed, is inaccurate and, what is worse, is grossly unfair.
.- Right at the threshold of his speech the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) made it plain that he did not intend to deal with the Budget speech of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), but with the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He was not going to enthuse this, year over the Treasurer’s Budget speech as he did last year. He was not going to endorse the Treasurer’s Budget speech this year as he did last year.
– If it will ease your mind, I think it is the best Budget speech we have ever delivered.
– You are becoming more and more easily satisfied.
This is the first Budget debate, Mr. Speaker, to which you have been able to listen directly, but you may have been told that last year the Prime Minister said -
Too few people realize that a cash deficit of £120,000,000-1 will put it in round figures- will of itself have a most expansionary effect. . . .
Talcing into account the deficit, including the tax refunds now being made, it is clear that purchasing power in Australia this financial year will be uncommonly high.
He said also -
The large deficit of nearly £120,000,000 is, for reasons f have mentioned, calculated to stimulate this process, that is, to facilitate a full return to a rapid but sound national growth.
One would have thought that after that uncompromising endorsement of the Treasurer’s speech twelve months ago the right honorable gentleman would have given some explanation of how his estimate - not only the Treasurer’s estimate, but his estimate - so greatly miscarried. I do not have to deal with the Treasurer’s Budget speech as interpreted or endorsed by the Prime Minister. I have the easier task of refuting the various points the Prime Minister made on the Budget speech of the Leader of the Opposition.
He started with one general attack. He said that Labour speakers on the Budget all used to say that his Government had ruined the loan market. He said this was not true, but his concluding remarks were largely devoted to the amounts that his Government had paid out of revenue for State public works, and for education in particular - so endorsing our criticism. When the last Labour Government was in office, it was able to finance all the States’ public works out of loans. It did not have to raise taxes to pay for State public works. It was because for so many years under this Government taxes had to be spent on public works that we said the Government had ruined the loan market.
The right honorable gentleman next criticized us for saying that we would lower interest rates. The same criticism was made, in particular, of me when I delivered the Opposition’s reply to the Budget speech a year ago. At that time I said that not only should the Government have budgeted for a larger deficit, but also that, as a stimulus, it should have lowered the interest rate. It will be remembered that the Treasurer’s technique, when he is finding dissension among his advisers or among his colleagues, is to attack me. Last Thursday week the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that, dissatisfied with the views of the Minister for Trade on overseas investment, he attacked me for my views on overseas investment. Last year the Treasurer attacked me for suggesting that there should be a reduction in the bond interest rate. It transpires that the Reserve Bank of Australia was advocating the very same thing at that time. Now, for the first time - I thank the Prime Minister, the Treasurer or whoever is responsible for it - the report of the Reserve Bank has come before Parliament while the Budget debate is still in progress. Accordingly we have had a different view put on investment, interest rates, unused capital equipment, unemployment and so on by the Reserve Bank from the views put by the Treasurer only the week before. The Reserve Bank, throughout that part of last year, was advocating a reduction in interest rates on bonds and finally the interest rate on bonds was reduced in February. How much more happy would be the position of the country, the Treasurer and the Prime Minister if, in fact, the Government had budgeted for a larger deficit last year and if, in fact, it had reduced interest rates when the Reserve Bank advocated that course and the Opposition advocated it as well?
The Prime Minister’s next point was that we had criticized the Government for dropping import licensing and so imperilling our overseas balances. This is a rather touchy subject for him to broach, because overseas balances at the moment are kept healthy only by overseas investment and wheat sales to Communist China, a rather precarious pillar upon which to lean. We require from £250,000,000 to £300,000,000 of capital inflow every year to pay our way. In this regard the Reserve Bank has said that our balance of payments is still heavily dependent upon capital inflow. The Government’s measures to promote export income partly depended on term loans from the banks and on this subject the Reserve Bank said -
So far, firm propositions specifically for export finance have been rather few. . . .
We are depending for the health of our overseas reserves on what the Minister for Trade says is selling a bit of the farm every year in order to live.
He has said, too -
We are not earning enough and we are selling a bit of our heritage every year. . . . Due to the inadequacy of export earnings …. lt is necessary for use to have a tremendous capital inflow.
The Prime Minister merely scratched the surface of this problem. He has no solution for promotion of our exports. The extraordinary thing about this Budget debate is that neither the Prime Minister nor the Treasurer has said anything about our trade balances. The great worry before this country a year ago was the likely impact of the European Economic Community, and Britain’s application to join it, on Australia’s overseas trade balances and export income. Members of the Government never mention it now. They step back into their old torpor. But the problem is still there. Britain’s application to join the European Economic Community merely highlighted and accelerated the problem, but the Government never mentions it now, hoping that the people will forget its greatest failure, the fact that its overseas balances, even now, after a very successful year of overseas investment, from its point of view, are well below the balance which it inherited from the Labour Government in 1949.
We are familiar with the Prime Minister’s technique of taking a subject upon which somebody else has spoken, giving his version of what that person has said, making that version obnoxious or ridiculous and then condemning the person who broached the subject - condemning, of course, his own version of what the honorable member concerned had originally broached. With typical sleight of hand he said that the Leader of the Opposition said that Labour would reduce pay-roll tax and the petrol tax. The Labour Party has not said it would reduce the petrol tax. It has said that it would spend the whole of the petrol tax on roads.
The right honorable gentleman later got very indignant. He used terms such as “ falsification “, “ deception “ and “ gross dishonesty “. I ask honorable members to listen to the gross dishonesty, falsification and deception in that sleight of hand - that addition of the words “ petrol tax “. We never said we would reduce it. We said we would spend the whole of the petrol tax on roads. This Government has constantly increased the petrol tax and it is paying out a smaller percentage of the petrol tax for roads. We would spend the whole of the petrol tax on roads.
It is an extraordinary thing that in this debate on the Budget, which provides for the last financial year under the present dispensation of the Commonwealth Aid Roads Act, no member of the Government has mentioned the question of roads. Since this Government came into power the States’ financial resources for road building have been reduced as the result of decisions by the Privy Council and differences of opinion in the High Court of Australia. Only the federal Parliament now can raise taxes which are fair to all road users but the federal Government does not, in general, build roads. This Government avoids its responsibility by siphoning off a great deal of the petrol tax into general revenue and even increases the petrol tax for general revenue. We said that now the Commonwealth is inevitably the principal supplier of money for roads the whole of the petrol tax should be allocated to roads. This is more necessary than ever as a result of the courts’ decisions which have reduced the financial resources available to the various State parliaments.
I pass now to the right honorable gentleman’s reference to defence. He tried to laugh off the fact that so much of our defence expenditure on equipment this year is on equipment which will be imported. The Royal Australian Navy has never been imported to such a degree as now. The Royal Australian Air Force and the motors for its aircraft have never been imported to such a degree as to-day. It is because under this Government we have not matched Australia’s technical and industrial competence with our defence needs. Australia should be able to build as good ships and aircraft as before. Are we to say that our industrial skills are less than they were, compared with those of the ‘rest of’ the world? ‘ Our defence expenditure will be more on imports, proportionately, than at any other time in our history. The right honorable gentleman asked us whether we could expect to get these items of equipment off the peg. Of course, if you delay long enough in your equipment programme, you cannot expect to get the equipment off the peg, and that is exactly what this Government has done.
I invite honorable members to recollect the position of the Navy. It will be remembered that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Townley) three years ago said that the Fleet Air Arm, which like all the arms of the Australian fighting services was established by a Labour government, would be reduced. He said that it would no longer be a strike force but would be a reconnaissance force and that we would use it for spotting submarines. The Venoms and Gannets that we had were to be discarded at the end of June of this year. The Minister said that they would be worn out by this time. It has now been realized that the Navy has a strike role to perform and, as a consequence, the Venoms and Gannets must be retained for another four years. This is a remarkable tribute to the skill of the maintenance men in the Navy.
No wonder, then, that we cannot expect to get aircraft for the Fleet Air Arm off the peg. It will be some time before we can get them. We have to place the orders now. And what are we to do about ships for the Fleet Air Arm? Do we need a new aircraft carrier? Are the present aircraft carriers not too slow and inadequate for a strike force? Clearly it will be some years before we can get these things. But we would not have had to wait so long, we would not have had to import the aircraft, we would have got them off the peg now if it had not been for this misjudgment of a few years ago. This misjudgment was made more dangerous by our support of the Dutch in West New Guinea and the inevitable build-up of our neighbour into one of the great armed forces in the world.
Now I come to the Air Force. I notice that a couple of warriors in the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) and the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) are amused by these . recollections. The. Air Force i, is equipped, except ,for the latest
Neptunes, entirely with aircraft ordered by the last Labour government. The P2V7’s were acquired by this Government, but the P2V5’s and all the rest of the aircraft were ordered by the Labour Government.
– Did the Labour Government order the Hercules?
– I thank the honorable member for the correction. However, the Hercules is not a combat aircraft. The honorable member scarcely proved a Hercules during his tenure of this portfolio. He was rather a lightweight.
In 1955 a mission went overseas looking for replacements for all our aircraft. It was led by a notable warrior in Sir Philip McBride, now the federal lay head of the Liberal Party. This mission was to look for replacements for all our aircraft. It decided that the Sabre should be replaced; we shall have a replacement in 1965. But it did not decide to replace our bomber. Instead it said, “The Canberras are obsolescent, but if we move them up to Butterworth they will do for a little while longer “. Nobody knows what our tenure of Butterworth is. We have no agreement covering our use of that place at all.
– We know your policy on it.
– The Prime Minister said that there are no arrangements at all with Malaya, that we have no commitment to Malaya. I quote what the right honorable gentleman said at a press conference - “ No arrangement with Malaya. No commitment to Malaya.” We have no security in Butterworth. The Canberras are obsolescent now even in Butterworth. Now we find that after another eight years we are still waiting for a decision on a replacement bomber. We cannot expect to get one off the hook, to use the phrase of the right honorable and redoubtable gentleman.
Perhaps one could cite, as an instance of futile Army expenditure, the £100,000,000 that went down the drain on national service training, which was finally abandoned. One of my colleagues now tells me that it was £150,000,000. The programme was abandoned because the skilled men - and they have never been so technically competent and skilled as they are to-day in the Army : - were being tied down in training people who in fact were not being used to the best advantage of the country, from the point of view of defence. I thought the right honorable gentleman’s rather flippant remarks on defence deserved some more specific refutation than is needed for some of the other points which he made.
Now I come to the point on which the Prime Minister was particularly indignant. I thought he became more than usually rubicund and florid when he accused the Leader of the Opposition of falsification, deception and gross dishonesty. These are strong words, and if it were not that they were staled by repetition in the mouth of the right honorable gentleman they could be taken quite seriously. The Prime Minister in general is well able to understand an argument. He is as able to understand an argument as he is able to distort an argument. But on this occasion he seemed genuinely unable to understand the argument.
It all turned on two questions; first, what was the deficit in this Budget, and, secondly, what was the stimulus of this Budget. I am not saying that the Budget was stimulating, I am just referring to the economic stimulus of the Budget. The term “ deficit “ does not occur in the Budget. The Treasurer is embarrassed at the use of the word “ deficit “. This concept which has served him and all his distinguished and learned predecessors for 60 years of federation has been abandoned. The £118,000,000 deficit which he referred to a year ago, the £120,000,000 deficit which the Prime Minister referred to a year ago, have been abandoned. Rather than revive such uncomfortable memories, a new concept has been adopted. We have now decided to use a terminology which the British have used. Nobody ever referred to it before. It is a good concept, a useful comparison and a useful check. Let us look at it in terms of deficit. What the Leader of the Opposition was saying was this: He was, of course, twisting the Treasurer’s tail-
– Frankly, I am not as ready with these physiological references as the Prime Minister is. He deals quite glibly and deftly with people’s anatomies, but I am not going to deal any further with the twisting of the Treasurer’s tail. It was an unfortunate metaphor. The Leader of the
Opposition recalled the statement that the Treasurer put two years ago, when he, the Leader of the Opposition, had proposed that in the circumstances then obtaining we should have budgeted for a deficit of £100,000,000 instead of £16,000,000.
– That was over four months. Who is falsifying now?
– I am sorry to see that the Federal Secretary of the Liberal Party has now left the gallery too. All these interpretations have been circulated among honorable members opposite. We are used to this falsification. It is scarcely a gross deception. It is worthy of the Liberal Party office, I suppose. However, it is always said that the suggestion was for a deficit of £100,000,000 over four months. The Leader of the Opposition spoke in terms of a deficit at a rate of £100,000,000 in a year, and he said that in the circumstances that was the proper budgetary procedure. The Treasurer had budgeted for a deficit of £16,000,000, and he was very indignant at the time, saying that the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition was grossly inflationary and irresponsible. The Prime Minister himself pursued the line indicated by the Treasurer until the end of 1961, when the people showed that they wanted the policy of the Leader of the Opposition implemented. Then the right honorable gentleman quickly adopted that policy in February, 1962. The Leader of the Opposition quoted the words which the Treasurer used in ridiculing a Budget proposal for a deficit of £100,000,000 two years ago.
If one resurrects the phrase “ deficit “ which the Treasurer so studiously avoided in his Budget speech, one finds that this year’s Budget deficit is £58,000,000. Now we come to the point that the Leader of the Opposition was making. The Treasurer says that circumstances to-day are propitious. He concedes that two years ago circumstances were unpropitious. In other words, two years ago, the Treasurer said, a deficit of £100,000,000 would have been wildly irresponsible, when things were unpropitious. Now he is saying that, when things are propitious, £58,000,000 of deficit is just the right amount. The Leader of the Opposition points out that if things are propitious now, then talk about deficits being wildly irresponsible and inflationary is completely misplaced. He points out that it should not be necessary to have a deficit now if the Treasurer’s arguments then were correct. But they were not correct, and the Leader of the Opposition shows the falsity of the Treasurer’s arguments over the years, and that the deficit now is just the sort of deficit that two years ago the Treasurer would have said was wildly inflationary and irresponsible.
The other point that the Leader of the Opposition has made, and which I must assume the Prime Minister has genuinely misunderstood, relates to the stimulus given by the Budget. Let me quote what the Treasurer said about the stimulus of last year’s Budget in his Budget speech of August, 1962. He said - expenditures by the Comonwealth this year will exceed the total of its revenues, loan proceeds and the cash available to it from trust funds by £118,328,000. . . . This involves budgeting for a deficit, in the accounting sense, of £118,328,000 … we are doing this to ensure that expansion shall not falter . . . and in so doing put into the hands of the community something above £110,000,000.
That was said in August, 1962. In January, 1963, when it was seen that probably there would not be a deficit because of the huge loan raisings, the Treasurer wrote to the “ Canberra Times “ saying -
It would be natural to conclude that the reduced deficiency would mean a reduced budget impact on the economy and a smaller stimulus than we aimed at giving when the Budget was introduced. But this conclusion does not necessarily follow at all. Despite the likely change in the accounting result of the Budget, its economic impact will be just as great as it was intended to be when the Budget was presented.
It is not very easy to see what the Treasurer did mean by last year’s Budget or what it accomplished, This year he has not given any explanation and has not forecast the effect of the Budget. On this occasion he has avoided forecasts or interpretations. For last year, instead of a deficit of £118,000,000, and despite the supplementary Budget of last February, there was a surplus of £16,000,000. If the Treasurer had not cancelled the loans due in April there would have been an error of about £170,000,000 or even £200,000,000. Last year the Treasurer said a stimulus was needed. The Treasurer said then -
We must give the immediate situation all necessary support. Unemployment has to be reduced further. There is still a fair amount of plant capacity which could be taken up.
In that situation, the Treasurer increased the net indebtedness of the Commonwealth by £62,000,000. This year, as appears from Table No. 6 of the Budget Papers, he is increasing the Commonwealth’s indebtedness by £55,000,000. This is extraordinary. Last year, when things were unpropitious, the indebtedness was increased by £62,000,000. This year, at a more propitious time, the indebtedness is to be increased by £55,000,000. The stimulus has gone down by only £7,000,000. Why do we need virtually the same stimulus when things are propitious as when they were unpropitious? There are only two explanations of what is being done. Either this year’s stimulus is too great and includes the seeds of inflation, as the Leader of the Opposition said, or this year’s situation is not so propitious, not so rosy as the Treasurer is depicting.
I have dealt in some detail with the deficit and the stimulus because they are the matters in the Leader of the Opposition’s speech with which the Prime Minister specifically dealt. I will not say that he misinterpreted the Leader of the Opposition, but he misunderstood him. It is clear that the Government is a victim of its own double talk. Whichever way one looks at it, the Government’s interpretations in the past cannot square with its interpretations to-day.
The Prime Minister then turned to the subject of taxation and spoke of the position when his Government first came into office, but he omitted to mention that for two or three years after his Government achieved office the whole of the taxation structure was distorted by the greatest burst of inflation there has ever been in this country. Therefore, we have made comparisons with the position since then, because the position before the Menzies inflation cannot be recovered. We have said that we will re-adjust the balance between direct and indirect taxation and restore the position that obtained after that burst of inflation ten years ago. If the rates which applied to direct and indirect taxation ten years ago were to be restored, Australians would be paying £100,000,000 less in indirect taxation and £100,000,000 more in direct taxation over the year. We think that that is fairer. You pay direct taxation according to your capacity to pay. You pay indirect taxation according to consumption, according to the size of your family, and according to the number and age of your dependants. I repeat that £100,000,000 less would be paid in indirect taxation and £100,000,000 more in direct taxation if the rates of ten years ago were to be restored.
– Are you referring to personal income tax?
– Yes. I am referring to persona] income tax and to company taxes.
The Prime Minister next mentioned growth and prices. It will be remembered that he and the Treasurer compared the growth last year with the growth in a bad year, the previous year. If, however, the growth last year is compared with that of two years ago, it will be seen that there has been no such growth as was mentioned by the right honorable gentlemen. Many Government followers make the same point. Last July the Associated Chambers of Manufactures and the Bank of New South Wales both reported that no inroads had then been made on the unused capacity of industry. The Reserve Bank reported last week that although the growth of activity had tended to become more pervasive during the last financial year, it could have been more vigorous. The Treasurer admits that the comparison of this year with a year ago was fallacious. If the comparison were made with the previous year, the growth rate would be 4 per cent., not 8 per cent. The comparison that he relies on depends on the high rates of growth of company profits and rural incomes and on the rebuilding of stocks. Stocks will not be rebuilt this year at the rate that prevailed last year. That was a rebuilding which occurred once and for all. If one looks at wages and salaries, the increase in the last year has been 5.6 per cent., not 8 per cent.
Dr. Coombs, in his Shann Memorial Lecture delivered at the University of Western Australia last May, estimated that over the last .decade the Australian economy has grown in real terms at the rate of somewhere” between 4 percent.’ and 4£ per cent, a year. It could have grown, he said, by a further 1 per cent, to li per cent, a year without involving Australia in serious balance of payments problems, changes in private and public investment and levels of taxation. That is what we could have achieved. In fact, comparable countries in the Western world have achieved a greater increase than we have.
– And achieved a higher rise in the consumer price index.
– That is not true. The increase in Australia, insofar as there has been an increase, has been due principally to the fact that our population has grown quickly, but our productivity has not grown as quickly as in r.ny of the countries in the Common Market or in most of the other countries of Europe. Australia’s productivity has increased as much as Britain’s. That is conceded. But that also is under a Conservative government.
Then the right honorable gentleman referred to prices. Prices were stable after the horror Budget of 1951. They were stable again after the horror Budget of 1956. They have been stable for longer this time, because the effects of the 1960 horror Budget have been more pervasive and more continuous. The Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council gave evidence before the Committee of Economic Enquiry a couple of weeks ago that during this Government’s term of office the industry’s costs have risen by 97 per cent, but wool prices have fallen by 15 per cent. This is our greatest export industry.
The Prime Minister then passed to the subject of housing, Sir. I need not mention housing very much in this context, because he compared approvals - not commencements - this year with those of 1962 and 1961. He did not compare approvals in 1963 with those of 1960. What sort of reasoning is this? How honest is it to compare building approvals in 1963 with those in the previous two financial years? The proper comparison would be with building approvals in what the Government calls the boom year. But that was not a year of exceedingly great house construction. Australia is on the threshold of a very greatly increased demand for housing. All the academics tell us this. The Department of National Development refuses to make a survey in the matter. It made a survey after the 1954 census, but it refuses to do so after the 1961 census. All the State Housing Ministers last February asked for a housing survey to be made by the Commonwealth Government, but this Government has not yet replied to the request. The request will be refused. We have a greater proportion of Australians in their teens and in their twenties now than at any time this century. Inevitably, therefore, there will be a greater demand for housing. There will be a demand for education. There will be a demand for many items of social expenditure.
It is in this sort of context that the Prime Minister’s concluding remarks can be seen to be so futile and fatuous. He has no vision at all for the future. He is concerned only with defending himself against the attack made by the Leader of the Opposition. Usually, the right honorable gentleman takes two days to consider his reply to the Opposition’s attack on the Budget. This time, he has taken seven days to consider his reply. He was completely on the defensive the whole time. I now come to the concluding remarks which indicate his lack of vision, his lack of planning, and his lack of thought for the welfare of the rising generation in Australia and the unpopulated parts of Australia.
The right honorable gentleman at this stage turned from the Leader of the Opposition’s speech and passed to an advertisement published by the Teachers Union in Victoria. He seems to be very hostile to teachers in this place. Only two sit behind him, and six sit behind the Leader of the Opposition. We make no apology for the contributions to the debates in this Parliament and to the social conscience in Australia made by the school teachers who sit in this House and in the other place as members of the Australian Labour Party.
On this question of education, Sir, the Prime Minister made an approach that was particularly futile and vain - vain in both senses of the word. He reverted once again to his very great contributions to university education in Australia, in which he carried on the pioneering work of Mr. Chifley and Mr. Dedman. He continued the Commonwealth’s assistance by. way of benefits to students and grants to the States for the universities, but he has refused to give any benefits to students or to make any grants to the States for any form of education preparatory or parallel to university training. He refuses to do so for technical colleges, teachers’ colleges and secondary schools. The right honorable gentleman, when he took office, had before him two proposals, one for a continuing and permanent scheme of scholarships for university students. After two years’ wait, he decided to implement that proposal. The other proposal was for a continuing and permanent scheme of scholarships for secondary and technical students. After two years, he abandoned the idea and refused to implement that proposal. We have said that we would implement it.
The Prime Minister said that he would deal with the motion of censure on the Government proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, but he did not mention child endowment or social services in any other form, although he followed in the debate the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser), who is an expert on social services and who gave a most lucid and compelling interpretation of the provisions of this Budget in relation to social services. The Prime Minister did not refer to child endowment. There are more Australians staying at school, we are grateful to say, after their sixteenth birthday than ever before, absolutely and proportionately. Child endowment stops at the sixteenth birthday and is not continued for children who remain students. If young people happen to fit in the quotas for the universities, they may obtain scholarships, but they can get no assistance to help them to get to the university stage.
– And even the university scholarships are becoming scarcer.
– That is true. The proportion of qualified students who are admitted to the universities is constantly dropping. The proportion of university students who receive scholarships and living allowances is constantly dropping. The Prime Minister referred to the report of the Committee on the Future of Tertiary Education. We shall not receive that report until the .end of .this year. The aspects dealing with technological education will be confined wholly to the university level. The report will not deal with technical colleges. No committee is considering the training of students at teachers’ colleges, although such training, obviously, is tertiary education.
In these matters, the right honorable gentleman. takes refuge in the Premiers’ Conference. The Premiers, at their conference two years ago, asked for a specific grant for and inquiry into other than tertiary forms of education, just as the Commonwealth has made a specific grant for and inquiry into university education. The Liberal and Australian Country Party Premiers have been lobbied in the meantime, and last February they abandoned their request for a special grant. The Prime Minister, by another feat of sleight of hand, would have had us believe that the Premiers had abandoned last February, and did not mention last June, their request for an inquiry into education. They persisted with that request in February and in June. This is just one of those snide things that the right honorable gentleman does. He thought that we would overlook the subject of the petrol tax and that we had likewise overlooked the reference to the education inquiry. But the Premiers still unanimously want, and have wanted for two years, an inquiry into forms of education other than tertiary education, including technical, secondary and primary schooling and teacher training, just as, six years ago, there was an inquiry into university education.
If the Australian public and the Australian Government were to receive on other forms of education the same enlightenment as they received on universities from the Murray committee, the Australian public would willingly pay the bill. And, here again, as in housing, we have the effects of this great dividend in population that we have received since the war. Many people can benefit and want to benefit from university, secondary and technical education and teacher training. They are not getting the opportunity, and they will not get it from this Government.
I come now to the Prime Minister’s remarks concerning northern development. His colleague who is responsible in this matter does not believe in northern development as a government initiative. He believes only in backing individual proposals and specific projects. The present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon), who a few years ago represented in this place the Minister for National Development (Senator Sir William Spooner), and who apparently is the Minister that the Prime Minister was disowning in a recent television disputation, has said, “I do not think it is the function of the Commonwealth Government to develop an overall plan “.
This Government’s plans for northern development are incomplete. We hear a great deal about beef roads. The Government has published a map which shows that there are hundreds of miles of roads which the Queensland Government asked the Commonwealth to subsidize and which the Commonwealth refused to subsidize. The beef roads scheme was started by the Chifley Government. The bill which first provided for beef roads in Western Australia and Queensland was introduced in this House by my colleague, the honorable member for Lalor (Mr. Pollard). This Government wound up the scheme which was begun by the Chifley Government. In 1959 the Government of Western Australia asked the Commonwealth to provide for beef roads and for northern development in general, and this Government refused. The right honorable gentleman refers to something being said on television, but he does not refute what Mr. Court, the Western Australian Minister for the North-West, said. Mr. Court said that in 1959 the Menzies Government refused a request by the Western Australian Government for a northern development authority. Australia will not get one from this Government. It had the forerunner of one under the Chifley Government, with the co-operation of the Premiers of Western Australia and Queensland. It will get one under a Calwell government. It will not get one from the Menzies Government.
I need not go through the subject of railway standardization. After all, the railway standardization plans were stalled for ten years by this Government. It is only now that appropriations are being made, for the first time, under the act which the Parliament passed in 1949, for the standardization of the line from Broken Hill to Port Pirie. The right honorable gentleman paid a tribute to the Minister for Territories (Mr.
Hasluck). The Minister for Territories also believes that the function of governments is only to get behind mineral proposals which are made by companies and, inevitably, in the Australian context, under this Government, by foreign companies. For instance, if the Pechiney company or any one of the great number of British or American companies chooses to make a proposal, the Government will co-operate; but the Government will never initiate a proposal. One of the two things which the Treasurer dealt with in northern development - the Ord River scheme - will wait for three years under his proposals before anything further is done about it because he is cutting down the allocations for the northern development of Western Australia in this Budget and in the next two which he forecasts. The diversion dam on the Ord River has been finished and the main dam is ready for commencement, but no allocations are to be made by this Government, under its time-table, for three years. This means that the contractors, the work-force and the machines can be dispersed, the wharfs at Wyndham can remain idle. The Ord River scheme will benefit not only Western Australia but also the Northern Territory. When T asked the Minister for Territories whether any negotiations had been held or arrangements made for irrigation in the Northern Territory in consequence of the Ord River scheme, he said, “ No, we are talking about erosion “. In other words, there is no proposal, so far as this Government is concerned, to use the Ord River, but 40 per cent, of the water will be surplus unless it is used by the Commonwealth in the Northern Territory.
In respect of beef roads, this Parliament can deal directly only through its Public Works Committee with roads in the Northern Territory. The Public Works Committee was making an adverse report on expenditure on beef roads in the Northern Territory, but the Government lobbied, shall I say, the Government members of the committee and the subject has been recommitted. It would be interesting to know what the plans are for co-ordinating beef roads across the north. The cattle do not know the border. The roads should not acknowledge the borders any more than the Ord River waters should acknowledge any border. We need co-ordinated development across the whole of the north, and we will not get it from this Government.
The Prime Minister’s concluding reference on this subject was to oil. He did not explain, of course, why the Government sold out its share in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. That was a reprehensible action to take at a time when refining was commencing in Australia, at a time when we were commencing to carry refined petrol between Australian ports, and at a time when we still had to import most of our crudes from overseas and compete in the concessions and rebates in that field. We wipe our hands of the whole problem. We just deny ourselves the whole prospect of participating and competing.
– Have you ever heard of Kwinana?
– That had something to do with it, you know.
– I know. That is operated by the company in which you sold your interest. Kwinana is the greatest refinery in Australia. It was projected by Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited at a time when the Commonwealth had a 51 per cent, interest in it, and as soon as Kwinana was projected, the Commonwealth sold its interest. That is, it abandoned its interest in Western Australia and it abandoned its interest in Australian refining, importing, discovery, competition and participation.
I have quoted these matters of housing, roads and northern development because these are matters in respect of which longterm planning is required. You cannot build a dam or a series of beef roads in the course of one Budget; you cannot in fact overcome the housing lag in Australia, nor can you provide for housing or the education of the rising generation in Australia in just one year’s Budget. The great fault with this Government is that it refuses to plan ahead. It makes an itinerary for one year alone. The Budget shows no concern for these continuing matters.
Once again the Treasurer has refused to give positive direction to the growth of the economy. We can plan ahead on housing and education and northern development because we know how many people will be marrying, and wanting housing, how many children will be wanting to go to school and what the needs of the north will be. These things are capable of precise statistical projection, and the Government refuses to do anything about them. A serious attack on all these matters would have produced a significantly different budget within the terms of the funds the Government believes are available to it. The benefits that would accrue to the Australian people from a positive approach to these national problems would well outweigh the possible additional cost. It is true that such an approach would involve heavy pressure on available resources in Australia and in so doing would create problems of control over the course of the economy. We, however, would be quite happy to face these problems rather than avoid them as the Government is doing. We are not happy with the unimaginative play-safe policy of this Government.
A persistent critic of the Government’s policy recently had this to say -
We should never forget that for a country in Australia’s dynamic circumstances stability is not enough. We will always be tormented by the choice of pursuing growth and development at a pace which impinges on stability, or of slowing down our growth to have the comfort of pleasant stability. In the world in which we live I believe that Australia cannot afford to slow down. We must not be timid or half-hearted.
Those were the words of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) speaking as Leader of the Australian Country Party. They are only a month old. They sum up the timidity and tiredness of this Government. It is becoming increasingly obvious that the Government has run out of ideas. The Prime Minister has adopted so many of Labour’s policies that the Australian people must wonder whether he has any worthwhile and original policies of his own. We are flattered that he should have adopted in this Budget policies which a year ago he was contemptuously dismissing. The Australian people now suspect both his competence and his sincerity.
The people of Australia do not want imitations, derivations or selections of Labour’s policy. They want policies carried out by the party .which proposes them and really believes in them. They want them carried out fully, promptly and wholeheartedly. This Budget demonstrates that the Government has no purpose or drive left. The Government has neither the courage nor- the vision to face the critical problems of defence, education, housing and northern development. It has no zest for growth and development. It is unfitted to govern in these days and in this country.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) has indeed emptied the House. I have seldom heard him deliver a less attractive speech. He is usually a very able advocate. I will not say that he always is intellectually honest, but he is a very able advocate. To-night, it appeared to me that he was stumbling badly. Let me run over some of the matters on which he joined issue with the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies). He began by saying that the Government is still relying upon overseas investment in Australia to balance its international accounts, and he chided it with doing so little, as he said, to stimulate exports. I want to say only one thing about that. The Labour Party, to a man, voted against the trade agreement with Japan, but there has been no greater opportunity for Australian exports than in that country. The Labour Party opposed that agreement root and branch. I shall say no more about people who argue that the Government has not done enough to stimulate exports. I have given sufficient indication of their attitude.
I had hoped that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would say something about overseas investment in Australia, but he did little more than make a passing reference to it. If Australia is to develop as rapidly as it must and if it is to attract the population without which it cannot survive, it will need savings from overseas. If we were prepared to go along, as a Labour government would, depending upon such savings and investment as we could generate within our own economy, we could not hope to develop or to survive. As the Labour Party is opposed to overseas investment in Australia, I hoped that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would say a great deal about it, because it is a matter of prime importance to our future. However, he contended himself with a passing reference. ,
He then went on to make some discursive remarks about defence. I am not quite sure why he did that, but since he said something about the subject let us consider it. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition stated that we had been waiting a long time for a bomber to replace the Canberra. He made reference to the greater need of the Navy for an aircraft carrier and for aircraft based upon a carrier. I do not want to go into detail upon this matter, but I noticed that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that we were waiting for equipment that we would not receive from overseas for a considerable time. He advocated that Australia should build the ships and the aircraft that she requires. I do not know how long we would have to wait if we were to build those things in our own country. I have the very strong feeling that the Labour Party is not concerned so much with defence and defence equipment as it is with giving employment to Australians, even if it takes twenty years to build a ship which would be long out of date by the time it was completed. I have the feeling that the Labour Party looks upon defence rather as a means of unemployment relief or of providing more employment for Australians.
We believe that defence must be considered on its merits and treated as being quite separate from the providing of employment in shipyards, aircraft factories or elsewhere. We need ships and aircraft as quickly as we can get them. This does not mean, of course, that we can buy them as in a shop, but we can get them much more quickly from overseas than by building them ourselves. I do not know why the honorable gentleman referred to defence, but he did so, and 1 thought that those observations should be made upon his statement.
He went on to speak about the Prime Minister. He referred to him as becoming rubicund and florid. Those were somewhat unbecoming expressions, I think, coming from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition about the Prime Minister. He also referred to the Prime Minister as becoming very excited about the alleged deficit of £300,000,000 to which his leader had referred. As I see it, this matter is quite simple and perhaps I might explain it in a few words. If you intend to borrow £300,000,000, as ‘near as you can estimate the amount, from the public, clearly you are intending to borrow liquid funds which otherwise would be used for investment - perhaps in private industry if private industry had the confidence or the means to use them. If private industry did not use them and they remained as liquid funds, they would be a total subtraction from the purchasing power of the community unless the Government borrowed them and put them to work on employing Australians directly and indirectly - directly in public works and indirectly in stimulating demand for the products of our primary and secondary industries. So the deficit is £58,000,000, as the Treasurer has stated, and not over £300,000,000, as the Leader of the Opposition has stated. The Prime Minister has pointed out, and it is unnecessary for me to repeat it, that the Opposition wants to have this both ways. The Opposition wants to claim that there is a huge deficit - which there is not - that will bring about a boom and a bust, and it wants to claim also that there is insufficient stimulus and that the economy is likely to stagnate. This shifty approach to our national economy will not impress the Australian people.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred to the Prime Minister’s figures showing the balance between direct and indirect taxation when Labour was in office in 1949 and to-day. He adduced the extraordinary argument that because there had been considerable inflation in the early ‘fifties - due, of course, to the legacy of the Labour Government and to the Korean war - the balance between direct and indirect taxation in 1949 was affected, so that any subsequent comparison was invalid. This is an argument which I just cannot follow. In 1949 money had a certain value, and direct and indirect taxation had a certain ratio. Inflation affected both direct and indirect taxation. It affected the incomes of people whether they were high or low in the scale. The ratio is just as significant as it was before, despite the inflation which occurred. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to belittle the great increase in national production which has occurred during the past twelve months. The Prime Minister referred to the fact that there had been an ‘8 ‘ per’ cent’, increase in ° the gross national product. But the Leader of the Opposition pointed out that at the same time wages and salaries had increased by only 5 per cent. Of course, the possibility of an increase in the gross national product in Australia over the last ten years or so has been greatly affected because the terms of trade have been against us. It is quite clear that we suffer from the fact that our great primary industries have not received any major increase in prices overseas during the past ten years. Exports of primary industries represent almost onehalf of our national income. If almost one-half of our national income is affected by this situation, clearly growth in the other one-half must be enormous if you are to have high rates of increase in productivity such as other industrial countries overseas have been able to register. Nevertheless, despite this heavy handicap an extraordinary result has been achieved in the past twelve months inasmuch as our gross national product has increased by 8 per cent. This has meant a real increase in the incomes of all the people of Australia. It has not been watered down by inflation. The increase has been due largely, as the Prime Minister pointed out, to the stability in prices which has brought about much greater efficiency in industry as well.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to speak about housing. He said that the Prime Minister had been unfair because he quoted the housing figures in a bad year, 1960-61, and the improvement upon the figures after that bad year. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that the Prime Minister should have gone back further to a really good year and drawn a comparison between the present year and that good year. Very well; let us draw that comparison. We can take either dwelling commencements or dwelling approvals. Let us take dwelling approvals in the years from 1958 to 1963. I am giving the figures for one quarter, not the annual figures. These are the figures for the June quarter, which is typical of the other quarters, of the year -
So, except for the one boom year, 1960, it is clear that dwelling approvals have been higher in 1963 than in any previous year. Of course, there was a decline in 1961. So, if the Prime Minister was considered to be unfair, I hope that that unfairness has been corrected. Anyway, the Prime Minister’s general statement is proved to be correct.
While we are considering housing, let us consider one or two pointers. In 1947, 54.8 per cent, of Australians either owned their own homes or were in the process of buying them. At the present time that figure has risen to 75.5 per cent. Again, whereas in 1949 there were 4.1 persons per dwelling, to-day the figure is 3.7 persons. So, despite the strictures of the Opposition about the Government’s housing achievements, in fact those achievements turn out to be pretty good. We are measuring them against what can be done by ordinary human beings, not as compared with some ideal of perfection which no Labour government would be any more likely to attain than would other human beings.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition went on to speak about education. I do not propose to spend very much time on this matter because anybody who heard the Prime Minister will not have been very impressed with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition’s attempt to belittle the achievements of the Government in this field. Of course, the Prime Minister did not refer only to what has been done in regard to university education and scholarships. Clearly, the Commonwealth, by taking some of the load off the shoulders of the States in regard to university education, indirectly has assisted them in regard to primary and secondary education. All this is true, but the tremendous assistance that the Commonwealth has given has been in increasing the grants that have been made to the States for general purposes, including education. The Prime Minister made that very clear. As a matter of fact, the expenditure on education in Australia amounted to 2 per cent, of the gross national product in 1949, the last year under a Labour government. In 1962-63 it amounted to 3.5 per cent, of the gross national product. That is quite a sizeable increase. Last year the States expenditure on education was £168,000,000 out of revenue, or 28 per cent, qf the total revenue available to them, and £45,000,000 out of loan funds, or 20 per cent, of the total loan moneys available to them. This year the States are in a position to do even better. That is not a bad performance in the field of education. 1 mention this simply because the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made a point of it.
He went on to speak about northern development. I should like to say a few words about it, too. He said that when the Labour Party returns to office it will establish a northern development authority. He said that we need to co-ordinate development right across the north of Australia. The fact is, of course - I think the Prime Minister pointed this out - that the last Labour Government established a committee or commission to do precisely that. 1 followed the Prime Minister very carefully - perhaps more carefully than the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did. I noted that the commission or committee, in fact, had ceased to function long before the Labour Government went out of office, lt had simply fallen into disuse, lt had been abandoned. It had fallen to bits, as one of my honorable friends says. fs the establishment of a commission of the type of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric Authority the way to do the job of developing the north of Australia, as the Labour Party has advocated not only here to-night but on other occasions outside and inside this chamber? Is that really the way to develop the north? The Snowy Mountains Authority had a very great but very simple task to perform. It simply had to conserve water, generate electricity and then pass that water on to the States for them to use for irrigation or other purposes. That was a very simple charter. The development of the north is infinitely more complex than that. It is not simply a matter of impounding water and passing it on to irrigate land and grow something, without knowing whether you can grow it or whether you can sell what you do grow. It is infinitely more complex than that.
Much experimentation has to be done, as my honorable friend from Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) knows, for example, in the development of pastures and a variety of other ways. This experimentation is going on. For example, on the Ord River people are finding out what they can grow; whether they can grow cotton, linseed, safflower, tobacco or whatever it may be. They are meeting with great difficulty. They are finding that there are other parts of Australia in which these crops can be grown more economically. Are we just to rush in to the building of a great dam on the Ord River to enable people to grow things which, perhaps, can be grown better elsewhere, or to produce crops which, even if they can be grown and grown at an uneconomic cost, we may not be able to sell? Are we to load the Australian taxpayers with the cost of subsidies in order to grow and get rid of things that people do not want? Surely experimentation must go on for some time yet before we know how we can develop the north of Australia.
The approach that the Government has followed is a wise one. Until we learn more and until we find out whether a project can be developed on an economic basis, or if not on an economic basis then at least so that we know what it will cost us, we should not go ahead. Surely we should not establish a commission, as is proposed, in the belief that it should go ahead as the Snowy Mountains Authority has and perform this infinitely more complex job and, incidentally, have to deal with a number of people living in States and in the Northern Territory who need all the services that governments can give quite apart from what an authority can do. Surely that is not the way to do the job.
Let me now say something about the concluding blurb - I call it that - of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. Clearly, he had it written out by some public relations man or he wrote it himself. It was a lot of blurb about planning, imagination and so forth. I believe that this Government has a fault. The fault is that it has not done as much as it could have done from the public relations point of view concerning its great achievements. In every field it has proceeded carefully and prudently, as it should. It has proceeded not without imagination but wisely. Whether in the field of housing, education, northern development, defence or anything else the Government has not proceeded without forethought and planning. Of course it has proceeded with forethought and planning. The Opposition believes that in order to capture the imagination of the people you must come up with some grandiose scheme, no matter whether it be wise or prudent. This is an old socialist habit. For example, the socialists in Russia - I think they called themselves socialists - built the underground railway in Moscow. That was not a project of any great advantage to the people, but it was something grandiose - something to look at and exclaim over. I do not believe that the people of Australia will be led astray by the kind of blurb that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition resorted to towards the end of his speech. I do not think that the people want some grandiose plan before they can feel satisfied that the Government is doing its job.
Conducting the financial affairs of this country and guiding its economy might be compared to riding a horse. You may ride over all kinds of roads - up hill and down hill. These are the conditions in which the economy must function having regard to economic changes in the outside world. Constantly you must adapt yourself to economic change. This is why the Opposition is able to claim that the Government has so often followed its policies. If you say often enough that interest rates should be reduced, the time will, of course, come when interest rates are reduced. The economy fluctuates and the set of circumstances will arise sooner or later in which a reduction of interest rates is proper. This is what guiding the economy means - continual adaptation. If you repeat a formula often enough, sooner or later the circumstances will arise in which that is the right formula. Then the Labour Party claims that the Government has adopted its policy.
Let me now deal with some of the things that this Budget does because it is a budget with which all of us feel particularly happy.
– Speak for yourself.
– I am speaking for myself, and with great feeling. I am very happy about this Budget. The Treasurer has outlined a number of policies which will result in growth. The Treasurer referred to the raising of the immigration target. The more people- there are in the country the more products they will need. The increase in the immigration programme means more dynamic growth. The Treasurer referred ,to Australian Loan Council approval of borrowings by State and semi-government instrumentalities being increased this year to £27,000,000. He referred to the housing programme and the fact that savings banks will be permitted to increase from 30 per cent, to 35 per cent, the amount of depositors’ funds that may be channelled into housing. This will mean an increase of funds for housing amounting to £70,000,000 or £80,000,000 a year - no small measure of assistance to the building industry, particularly when we bear in mind that the rate of unemployment among building workers is quite low. Indeed, it may be said that we are forcing the pace a little too fast.
The Treasurer referred also to the superphosphate bounty, which will cost 9,000,000 a year. Although the terms of trade affecting people in the rural industries have improved a little in recent times, these people have in the past been at a great disadvantage because their costs have been continually rising whilst their prices overseas, except for a brief period lately when they rose a little, have remained stable. The Treasurer referred to the increase in the capital of the Commonwealth Development Bank. He referred to a number of specific projects, including the Mount Isa railway, beef roads, the development of the brigalow lands, the building of coal ports in Queensland and New South Wales, the Kalgoorlie to Kwinana railway, the Chowilla dam, the Ord River diversion weir, the Broken Hill to Port Pirie railway and the Blowering dam.
When I said that I was pleased with the Budget the honorable member for Bowman (Mr. Comber) told me to speak for myself. I am speaking for myself when I say that I am particularly pleased with the social service provisions in the Budget. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Allan Fraser) claimed that anomalies arise by reason of the increase of 10s. in the pension payable to single age pensioners. The honorable member took some extreme cases, but let us look at this matter broadly. Broadly speaking, a single pensioner is infinitely worse off than are married couples. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro chose as examples some extreme cases. There will always be some anomalies in any scheme. Two-thirds of age pensioners are single pensioners. There will be some anomalies, but that is not what matters. What matters is . that two-thirds of pensioners - not a few cases - have been at a grave disadvantage compared with married couples. This situation has now been set right. I am delighted also to know that pensions payable to widows with children have been increased by £3 a week. There are no more deserving cases in our community than widows with children and I express to the Treasurer and to the Government in general my great appreciation that this need has been met. The Government has set out in its social service provisions to give help where the need for help is greatest. This is the right approach.
Already 75 per cent, of the proceeds from personal income tax go to social services. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro referred to the great social services scheme that operates in Sweden. Of course, he deliberately omitted to mention that the Swedish scheme is a contributory scheme. Obviously the benefits payable under a contributory scheme can be greater than benefits paid from public funds under a contributory scheme.
I was surprised that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not refer to unemployment, because unemployment has been such a popular subject with the Opposition. I have figures to show that the rate of unemployment in Australia is amongst the lowest in the world. The percentage of unemployment in Australia is 1.8 per cent. - the same percentage as exists in Sweden, that paradise about which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro spoke. The percentage of unemployment is infinitely higher in the United States, very much higher in Canada and higher in the United Kingdom than it is in Australia. Perhaps the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has at last learned discretion and has decided not to flog dead horses.
.- With all due respect to the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and his Budget, the people where I come from do not think very much of this Budget. Judging by reports that I have seen of comments by pensioners and mothers of children, they, too, are not very impressed.
Honorable members may be surprised to know that 1 want to talk about northern development. When we speak of development very often different things are understood, although most of them are complementary. We could mean development of existing natural resources, such as deposits of metallic ore. The ore is transported to another country, usually in the form of concentrates, to be refined and the metal thereby obtained used in manufacturing industries. Such development is typical of colonial development which exists to a large extent in northern Australia to-day as we see with regard to bauxite from Weipa and Arnhem Land and copper and lead from Mount Isa.
Another concept of development is to provide such conditions that the area under consideration could be closely settled by permanent population. This, no doubt, is the basic meaning of the term “ development of our empty north “, which is so often used. There are certainly valid political and defence reasons for this development, which is a matter of utmost urgency for Australians generally.
In considering development, a number of facts must be borne in mind. There should be ready access to the area by a reliable transport system. This must be the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, for neither Queensland nor Western Australia has the financial means to provide for this development. Even if sufficient natural resources or raw materials are obtainable, the fact that the area under consideration is situated in the tropics must be taken into account and prospective settlers must be attracted by providing a high standard of living. This has been evident at Mary Kathleen, but the Rio Tinto organization is now closing down because of a lack of orders for uranium. The predominantly agricultural economy of northern Australia offers a high standard only for a very limited number of people. The mining industry similarly sustains only small communities in decent circumstances. It is an accepted fact that a large area supporting a larger population must have a mixed economy - that is, agriculture, mining and manufacturing industries, which provide the bulk of well-paid employment. Obviously, whilst in the north there is some development of agriculture and mining, the manufacturing industries are lagging sadly behind.
Any manufacturing industry needs a number of conditions if it is to develop at all. The first and most important is capital. This could be provided either internally by savings or externally by borrowing. In the former process, which was employed by Great Britain in the nineteenth century and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the ‘twenties, the people have to consume less than they produce. The difference between total production and total consumption is saved and provides the necessary capital for industrialization. This socalled capital investment goes to the making of railways and machines, building of factories and water conservation projects. It is doubtful whether the comparatively small population of Australia would be able and willing to make such a sacrifice.
External borrowing could be of two kinds. It is unlikely that private capital would invest in basic developments such as railways, roads and dams, because it takes a long time for such developments to return profits. As we all know private enterprise is interested mainly in profits. Consequently, the capital for this development must be provided by the Commonwealth Government. We on this side of the House have been saying this for some time. The Government would have to borrow the money overseas, The second kind of borrowing overseas for the development of manufacturing industries could be obtained from private capital. This capital would be attracted only if a manufacturing enterprise had a ready source of raw material, ready transport and a ready market for its products. The last two conditions, transport and a ready market, are the greatest obstacles to the development of the north of Australia.
Any market for manufactured products could be of two kinds - an internal market or an external market. The current position in the north with about 250,000 people living in the area does not provide a sufficient market for any large-scale manufacturing. By the north of Australia I mean that part situated above the Tropic of Capricorn. The populated southern part of Australia has already developed most of the necessary manufacturing industries, which in turn provide employment for its population. To run any manufacturing in the north in competition with the south would be unrealistic, because the distance of 1,500 miles on an average would be such a burden in transport costs that any product could hardly compete with the southern manufacturer. Secondly, even if a product could be put on the southern market for a cheaper price, it would create unemployment for the workers in the south and would undermine the southern economy.
Obviously, we must examine, at least for the time being, only the external markets. If we draw a circle with a radius of 2,000 miles around the north of Australia, we find in this circle roughly 100,000,000 people living on the many islands of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Only one area has a white community, and that is New Zealand with a population of 2,500,000. This is a limited market and in many ways it is an outlet for manufacturing industries in the south of Australia. The agricultural products of north Australia, which also depend on external markets, are not exported very much to the countries within a radius of 2,000 miles. In fact, exports to our closest neighbour, Indonesia, which has a population of 97,000,000 people, represented only one-half of 1 per cent. of our total exports for 1960-61. There are a number of factors which might account for this low export to our neighbouring Asian countries, and I think most honorable members are aware of them. The major factor is the comparatively low standard of living in these countries and their inability to pay.
Important factors in the development of the north are power and water. Though electrical power could be produced, and is being produced in Queensland, in thermopower stations, the capital outlay is very high and there are only limited possibilities of generating electricity by hydro-power stations. The only areas left in Queensland that would be suitable for hydro-power stations are the Herbert River and the Burdekin River. Water is a major problem in the north of Australia. Almost two-thirds of the area has less than 10 to 15 inches of rain a year. This creates a major problem. A water conservation symposium at the Queensland University in 1959 pointed out that the margin of water still unused in the whole of Australia under present-day conditions could hardly support a population exceeding another 15,000,000 people. Therefore, large-scale conservation schemes financed and executed by the Commonwealth Government are of major importance. However, these schemes could apply only to the areas of north Queensland where the annual rainfall is high - 40 to 60 inches per annum - and to some parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory where the rainfall is in excess of 40 inches per annum. No doubt, the capital outlay for such schemes would be enormous. In a short time perhaps we should be able to discover a cheap way to filtrate fresh water from sea water by using atomic power. However, at present a largescale conversion of sea water into fresh water appears to be uneconomical.
Northern Australia, with a little over 1,000,000 square miles, has only about 250,000 people. Half of this population, however, is settled in the eastern coastal belt between Mackay and Cairns. In the Northern Territory, there are 200,000 square miles for one man, not counting fullblooded aborigines. This means a density of population of .05 people per square mile. The total population of the Northern Territory is 26,000.
– Why did you not include the aborigines?
– I did, really. Do not bother me with such silly questions.
The natural resources of the north of Australia are widely dispersed over a large area. Until now, there has not been enough capital at our disposal to develop them, and in fact their extent is not yet accurately known. The pastoral industry does not need a large amount of labour and due to the enormous distances from the major Australian markets, and inadequate transport, only very little farming-type agriculture has developed, with the exception of sugar and tobacco. These last two crops are confined to the eastern coastal belt of northern Queensland. The fact is that even here, with the small population that exists in the north of Australia, there is unemployment, for most of the labouring work offered is of a seasonal nature. North Queensland, as I know quite well and as most honorable members know, has a large percentage of unemployment during the off season.
To develop this area, large capital is required. This could hardly be found on the internal market. External capital may be cautious at this stage of the political situation developing north of Australia, especially as the view is held that at present reliable defence appears to be nonexistent. The present defence system seems to provide only for guerrila warfare. The only practical solution, until the Government decides to adopt some overall development plan, is selective development of small areas with readily available transport and resources. Such selective development could be within the range of Australia’s financial potential. The first area for such selective development should be the north-eastern region of north Queensland, roughly between Mackay and Cairns, with the addition of the northwestern hill country in the Cloncurry district for mineral resources.
This area, compared with other areas in north Australia, has a number of distinct advantages. It has one of the highest rainfalls in Australia and it has the only railway line connecting the southern States with the region north of the Tropic of Capricorn. This railway runs through the district and terminates at Cairns. The area has satisfactory port facilities and the highest density of population in the whole of north Australia. There are approximately 140,000 people in the area. It has sufficient natural resources, such as coal, metallic ores, and raw materials for chemical industries and food processing industries. There is also the possibility of the development of secondary or manufacturing industries, as suggested by the study conference of the Australian Institute of Management held in Brisbane in May, 1962. The emphasis must be on manufacturing industres that are able to employ a large number of people.
The heavy chemicals industry was considered. This is the manufacture of certain relatively simple chemicals which are in common use. It embraces the. making of common alkalis such as caustic soda, soda crystals, the common acids and bleaching agents. Caustic soda, with salt and limestone as the major raw materials, which are both readily obtainable in the district, should be of special importance for the aluminium industry because alumina, oxide of aluminium, is separated from the other constituents of the ore by dissolving it in hot caustic soda, from which it is later recovered.
Sulphuric acid could be cheaply produced if Mount Isa Mines Limited would establish a zinc refinery in Townsville, where the sulphur gases would be a by-product, but I am afraid this is a dream for the future. I spoke to the manager of this industry and he is not really interested. Sulphuric acid would be an important raw material for fertilizer of which a great deal is used in that area to-day. Industrial alcohol could be produced in greater quantities, as is now being done at Sarina.
At this stage I want to speak about the iron and steel industry which would exist in north Queensland to-day if we had had the treatment we should have been given in the 1920’s. The importance of the manufacturing capacity of a country is measured by its potential for producing steel. The Labour Government in Queensland between 1917 and 1920 made an all-out endeavour to establish an iron and steel industry in Bowen, based on the coal deposits at the back of Bowen, at Collinsville - which are enormous and which the present Queensland Government has sold to a private company - together with the iron ore deposits in the Cloncurry district. In 1918 the State Labour Government established the Queensland State Iron and Steel Works, under the authority of the State Enterprise Act of that year. An American steel expert, Mr. J. W. Brophy, was appointed general manager. On his advice the Queensland Government in 1920 bought from the Government of Western Australia mining leases of iron ore on Cockatoo Island, Yampi Sound, for £30,000. This non-siliceous ore, with nothing such as phosphorous or sulphur to condemn it, was supposed to be blended with the iron ore from Cloncurry and about Bowen. The Government had plans drawn up for four open-hearth furnaces and one blast furnace.
In 1921, the State Government opened negotiations with English and French suppliers for the delivery of a plant. At the same time it made an endeavour to secure a loan of £4,000,000, which is not much to-day, but which was quite a bit of money in those days, to buy the plant and for the construction of the steel works in Bowen. This loan was one of the reasons why the then Labour Premier, Mr. Theodore, went to London in 1920. However, a delegation consisting of Messrs. Philp, Cowley and Walsh, politicians who opposed the Labour Government, followed Mr. Theodore to England and ruined the credit of the State. Premier Theodore was refused the loan money in London and the French firm of Schneider refused to accept the Queensland Treasury’s debentures as payment. Therefore, the iron and steel industry was never established in north Queensland and the development of that part of the State was retarded for 50 years. The iron ore deposits at Cockatoo Island are to-day in the possession, of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. However, the iron ore deposits - especially at Constance Range - and the enormous coal deposits at the back of Bowen still exist. Any government which seriously considers the industrial development of north Queensland should first establish a heavy steel works in either Bowen or Townsville.
The selective development of small areas appears to be the only practical solution until the Government is prepared to spend the time and money to work out an overall plan. The north-eastern region of Queensland should be the first choice, for the reasons I have already given. The first step should be the establishment by private enterprise of a zinc refinery in Townsville and the. establishment of an iron and steel industry by State enterprise in Bowen or Townsville. Both enterprises are complementary as the zinc could be used for galvanizing iron. Heavy chemical industry would be the next step.
With such developments, the population of the north-eastern region could be doubled in five years and trebled in eight years. The value of production in the region could be increased tenfold from the current figures of from £67,000,000 to £70,000,000 per annum, based on the 1961 data. The political and defence considerations of such development should not be overlooked, because practically any industry can be used in war production.
At present we have in north Queensland the People the North Committee, which is working very hard to try to establish some sort of liaison with the south, and with the Government of Queensland and the Government of Western Australia. It is getting a lot of publicity although much of it is not always good. The knockers are at work there - the people who say it cannot be done and that it will not be done. There are several newspaper people up there who are also doing their bit. There are such targets as the Burdekin dam scheme, which is becoming urgent and the Herbert hydro-electric scheme, which is just as urgent. We have a few small factories up there making pre-stressed concrete sleepers and that sort of thing for the mills but, due to the lack of co-operation and assistance in the way of freights from the State Government, they look like having to shut down soon. When you realize that even a small industry which keeps ten people working supports about SO people, you must agree that it is worth considering. We have in Townsville a copper refinery. It is an efficient unit and its production will increase as time goes by. The future and the possibilities are there. It is up to the Government to assist in the development of those resources. I certainly hope it will.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Ian Allan) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.6 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1963, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1963/19630827_reps_24_hor39/>.