25th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Lucock) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Treasurer a question without notice. Is it correct that the family of Australian animals depicted on the new decimal coins is designed to give the coinage a common motif? Would it not be more accurate to say that the two cent coin depicting a frilled lizard, which is said to be harmless until cornered, when the neck frill umbrellas out, its mouth opens and in a bewildered way it seeks to frighten enemies, more aptly depicts the Treasurer explaining the failure of his Budget proposals and predictions?
– Order! The honorable member’s question is too long.
– Has the Treasurer also considered the effect abroad if and when he is called upon to announce that overseas loans have been over-subscribed or undersubscribed according to the animals depicted on the coins?
– In the light of that question the honorable gentleman who, I understand, has been in the list of leading Labour designs, would rank as a symbol of the smallest possible coin.
– I ask the Minister for Housing whether his attention has been directed to headlines in a week-end newspaper which read: “ Want to go on a Binge? Throw a £250 Party. Buy a Summer Wardrobe, a Car or a Refrigerator. The Federal Government will Foot the Bill.” Is the honorable gentleman able to give to the House an unqualified assurance that every housing grant must be related to the purchase of a residence and that no regional director of his Department has authority to state that the grant may be spent on anything the applicant fancies?
– I have heard that headlines similar to those quoted by the honorable member appeared in a newspaper recently in Western Australia. I have not yet had an opportunity to read the article. I think the
House will agree that it is rather strange news that the £250 housing grant may be used for a spree. Before any applicant is awarded a grant of £250 he has to produce evidence of his savings and of the fact that he is buying a home, as well as evidence of many other things. The subsidy scheme has been criticised by some honorable members opposite on the grounds that we require too much evidence in order to safeguard the taxpayers. All this evidence is necessary. It is true that we do not follow through to the bitter end to see where the applicant spends his £250 or whether, having obtained the grant of £250, he spends £250 of his own money other than on his house. I think very few people seeking to acquire the first home of their marriage would wish to spend the grant on a spree. The legislation provides that in order to qualify for the grant the home in question must not exceed £7,000 in price. Those people acquiring their first home at a cost of not more than £7,000, are hardly likely to use the grant of £250 for a spree.
– I ask the Treasurer whether he has seen the statement made by Dr. Bower, superintendent psychiatrist at the Kew Mental Hospital, Melbourne, in which he says that two-thirds of all pensioners in Australia find it impossible to exist on their pensions; indeed, that they cannot afford to buy sufficient food, clothes and fuel. In view of the fact that the Treasurer warns that more money will have to be made available for defence purposes, will the right honorable gentleman give consideration to making more money available to pensioners in the light of the shocking circumstances of pensioners as revealed in Dr. Bower’s report?
– In the course of the Budget Speech I mentioned that what the Government was doing represented a realistic balance between the claims made on Commonwealth resources by defence, national development and social welfare. While there will always be the critics who will argue that we are not doing sufficient in any one of these particular directions, I think I can assure the House that the proportion of the provision being made for social welfare has grown steadily during the period of office of this Government. In point of fact, when we took office, such expenditure formed 16 per cent, of expenditure from Consolidated Revenue; in this year’s Budget, which provides for record payments from Consolidated Revenue, the proportion for social welfare amounts to 21 per cent.
– Answer the question.
– I am answering it in my own way. When we took office, the provision for social welfare was the equivalent of 47 per cent, of our collections of income tax from individuals; in this year’s Budget, it is 60 per cent. So I think honorable members will see that in these ways we have been making increasing provision out of national resources for social welfare.
I hope that in addition to what governments are able to do for the elderly people of the community, in a fully employed and highly prosperous Australian community such as we have at this time, a sense of family responsibility will ensure that our aged persons are well cared for by the remaining members of the community.
– I address a question to the Minister for Trade and Industry. What progress is being made in preparation for the Kennedy Round of trade and tariff negotiations? Does the work involved in the primary industry or commodity section of these negotiations present greater difficulty than that concerned with secondary industries? Is there thus a danger that commodities may fall behind in the negotiations and that the industrial nations may settle for proposals involving secondary industries while failing to open the door to increased trade in commodities?
– What one might describe as the totality of negotiations in the so-called Kennedy Round, which is very embracing, commenced more than a year ago with a ministerial meeting under the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, at which some general measure of agreement was reached between the countries concerned. Negotiations were resumed at a general ministerial meeting later on.
In the meantime, there have been exploratory, or what I might perhaps more aptly call preliminary meetings, for the purpose of examining commodity agreements on such things as cereals, meat and dairy products. The position at the moment is that there has been a broad tentative agreement that these tariff negotiations shall contemplate a reduction of industrial tariffs by 50 per cent. It is not intended that this shall be binding upon the newly developing countries. We were successful in obtaining a modification which made it clear that the 50 per cent, reduction would not be binding upon Australia or on certain other countries.
Concurrently with this, negotiations on commodity agreements have been commenced, because the total concept is that the advantages in international trade that industrial countries would get from a reduction of 50 per cent, in all tariffs with few exceptions should be balanced, for countries that export bulk commodities, by devices such as general, bilateral or special commodity agreements These would give to the countries depending on the export of bulk commodities commercial advantages equal to the industrial advantages obtained by industrial countries from a 50 per cent, reduction of tariffs. The two things are ultimately to be taken, not separately, but concurrently. I think that the House will be heartened by knowing that Mr. Freeman, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, within the last three months has said -
The United States continues the policy that it will enter into no ultimate trade agreements unless significant progress is registered towards trade liberalisation in agriculture as well as industrial products.
This is very heartening for Australia.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Some time ago, the honorable gentleman authorised the prosecution of a member of a certain overseas shipping conference under the terms of the Australian Industries Preservation Act in respect of the manipulation of overseas shipping freight rates to the detriment of Australian industries. Did a deputation composed of representatives of the colliery proprietors and the combined mining unions last week wait on his colleague, the Minister for National Development? Did that deputation point out to the Minister’s colleague the obvious manipulation of the prices of petrol and fuel oil to the detriment of the Australian coal industry? Will the AttorneyGeneral confer with his colleague, ascertain what allegations were made by the deputation and consider the institution, for the protection of the Australian coal industry, of proceedings similar to those taken in the shipping case?
– A prosecution was launched against a member of a shipping conference. The matter is proceeding by way of pleadings before the High Court of Australia. I shall confer with my colleague and consider the matter.
– I ask the Treasurer a question. Is he aware that in Sydney yesterday the Deputy Prime Minister said, according to reports, that overseas investment should not be welcomed in Australia on an unlimited basis? Is the Treasurer aware also that the Victorian Country Party is advocating additional tax of 1 s. 6d. in the £1 on overseas companies that do not permit a substantial percentage of Australian ownership? Is it true that the current level of overseas reserves provides Australia with an unusual opportunity to initiate restrictions on overseas investment? Finally, when will the Government heed the call by both the Australian Labour Party and the Country Party for legislative action to achieve some selectivity in the acceptance of overseas capital?
– I always listen with very great interest to the views of my colleague, the Leader of the Australian Country Party. He speaks great sense on matters of national interest and I have enjoyed instruction from his statements over a long period. For my part, as Treasurer, I continue to give expression to the policies that this Government has supported during its period of almost 15 years in office.
– My quesion is directed to the Treasurer, and it is not supplementary to the question asked by the honorable member for Grayndler. Has the Government conveyed its congratulations to the designer of the new decimal currency coins and the advisory committee which selected the designs?
– I think one can fairly infer from the question and the manner in which it was put that we might add the approbation of the honorable member for Mackellar to the warm body of approval that has reached us from most parts of Australia since the designs of the coins were published. I can assure the honorable member that the Government has expressed in very sincere terms its congratulations and commendations to Mr. Devlin for what I have publicly described as a brilliant and imaginative piece of work on his part which will, I believe, serve the nation very well indeed. Thanks from the Commonwealth Government go also to the advisory committee and to the other designers who, while their designs were finally not selected, gave very considerable assistance to Mr. Devlin in the collaboration which he enjoyed in the course of preparation of the designs. I hope that with a fresh, clear, brilliant set of designs - as I see them, anyhow - for our new decimal currency coins, we shall be happily launched not only on a successful system of decimal currency, but on a period of continuing prosperity.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for External Affairs. I preface it by saying that Mr. Tom Mboya, Minister for Justice in the Kenya Government, who is at present visiting Australia, speaking on the South African problem, said: “ If we fail to bring change by peaceful means we are left only with the alternative of violence “. Mr. Mboya suggested economic sanctions as one step towards a peaceful solution of problems in South Africa. Will the Australian Government impose economic sanctions against South Africa, particularly in regard to trade, as requested in the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of 6th November 1962?
– The honorable member knows that he has raised a question of policy which will be considered by the Australian Government in the usual manner and a decision will be announced in the usual manner.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Air. Is it a fact that the Royal Australian Air Force has been experiencing structural problems with its Hercules transport aircraft which have seriously restricted the use of these planes?
If so, what was the cause of these difficulties and what steps are being taken to solve the problem?
– Yes. The Air Force did have some trouble with some of its Hercules aircraft, as did many other countries throughout the world. We were advised of the problem by the manufacturers, the Lockheed company, and we found that five of our aircraft needed modification. Luckily, due to the great help we received, not only from our own servicing divisions but also from Qantas Empire Airways Limited and the Lockheed company itself, we have been able to have all the faulty parts completely modified and rectified. All the aircraft are now back in operation. Although there was a certain amount of inconvenience, no essential task of these aircraft had to be forgone. It reflects great credit on everybody concerned that these rectifications have been carried out so rapidly and effectively.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. If there is to be a delay in arriving at a decision regarding the proposed resettlement of the Nauruans, will the residents of Curtis Island be permitted to remain on their properties until such a decision is reached? If the present residents of Curtis Island are to be dispossessed before a decision regarding Nauruan resettlement is reached, will the Minister undertake, should the Nauruans finally reject Curtis Island, to give all dispossessed residents an opportunity of repurchasing their original properties?
– So far no finality has been reached in the discussions with the Nauruans, and as far as I can see no finality is likely to be reached within a reasonable time. Therefore, I see no reason why our policy on the acquisition of Curtis Island should be changed. I am not prepared to make a statement to the House on what will happen if eventually the Nauruans do not come to Curtis Island.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Industry obtain and send to the honorable member for Reid the figures on the trade between Communist
China and South Africa last year? I think the Minister will find that those countries more than doubled their trade last year. Perhaps the honorable member should have addressed his question to Communist China instead of to the Minister.
– I do not know whether it is possible for me to procure these figures. If it is, I will procure them, and then they will be available to any honorable member who wants them.
– I address a question to the Treasurer. Is the Government sincere in its expressed desire to encourage adult training?
– Order! I suggest that the honorable member for Barton might reframe his question. He ought to know the Standing Orders by now.
– If the Government is genuine in its desire to encourage adult training, why has it again refused to alter the taxation laws in order to permit education expenses incurred by full-time and parttime students over the age of 21 years to be regarded as allowable deductions for taxation purposes? Does it not make a farce of the Government’s alleged attitude that the cost of a reference book used by a lawyer, doctor, dentist, engineer or architect in the course of his practice is an allowable deduction, but the cost of a similar purchase by a struggling young adult student in any of those fields cannot be claimed as a taxation deduction?
– I do not accept the last part of the honorable gentleman’s question as necessarily an accurate presentation of the respective positions of the people concerned. He will be aware, or should be aware, that there is an important taxation principle which has been long established and which has been supported by both sides of the Parliament, namely, that expenditure by an individual on improving his or her own capital position or capacity to increase his or her income subsequently in life is not regarded as deductible for taxation purposes. The expenditure deductions which have been provided by the Parliament are based on a recognition of the maintenance charge upon parents. In saying that, I do not dismiss the claim made by students in this connection. This matter was one of a great number of requests for taxation relief which were considered by the Government prior to the determination of the elements of its Budget. On this occasion what appears in the Budget represents the final conclusions of the Government. However, the matter remains listed for further consideration in the future.
– I ask the Minister for the Army a question. In view of his recent statement in the House to the effect that the present deficiency of 4,000 in the strength of the Australian Regular Army is, to quote his own words, “hardly a situation calling for Herculean expedients or undue panic “, can he inform the House whether his military advisers have made an assessment of the extent of the deficiency in strength which can be tolerated before introducing a system of selective national service training for the Army? If such assessment has been made, is the honorable gentleman in a position to tell the House anything about it?
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, the figure of 28,000 mentioned by me in my speech last Thursday is a target set for the strength of the Australian Regular Army as at June 1967. We hope to be very much closer to that target by June 1967 than we are at the present time. As for the second part of the question, the acceptability of the gap will depend on the assessment made by the Government and its advisers of the strategic situation at any particular time.
– I direct my question to the Minister for External Affairs. The honorable gentleman will recall that Lord Casey and the Prime Minister, in the past, suggested quite frequently that Indonesia should test its claim to West New Guinea before the International Court of Justice. Since Australia’s ally, the Philippines, is anxious to test its claim to Sabah before the Court, I ask whether the Government has suggested to Malaysia, our Commonwealth partner, that she should agree to let the Court determine the legal position with respect to this issue, which Malaysia inherited from Britain and which deters the Philippines from giving full diplomatic support to Malaysia? I do not ask whether the Government has suggested that the citizens of Sabah should express their preference between Malaysia and the Philippines, as they did last year between Malaysia and Britain; I limit my question to the legal claim, which can be determined only with Malaysia’s consent.
– The view of the Australian Government is that this is, of course, a matter primarily for the Governments of Malaysia and the Philippines. It would seem to the Australian Government that if the two countries concerned agreed to have recourse to the International Court of Justice, then this would be an appropriate and fitting course.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the recommendation of the Wool Marketing Committee of the Australian Wool Board that the present system of selling wool by auction should be varied by, amongst other suggestions, the introduction of a reserve price scheme. In view of the fact that the Australian Wool Industry Conference cannot be considered as fully representing the opinion of Australian woolgrowers, as it does not include representatives of certain woolgrowers’ organisations, particularly the Australian Primary Producers Union, will the Minister assure the House that a referendum of growers will be held on this subject and that the Government’s decision will not be made solely on the recommendation of the Wool Industry Conference?
– I have repeatedly stated that it is Government policy that where there is a major alteration under consideration in regard to the system of wool selling there will be a vote of the growers concerned. That policy still stands.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In the recent High Court case of Airlines of New South Wales versus the State of New South Wales and others, was the Commonwealth forced to become a party because Airlines of New South Wales sought an injunction against the Director-General of Civil Aviation? Was judgment given against Airlines of
New South Wales, and the plaintiff ordered to pay the defendants’ costs? Were these costs paid? If they were not paid, why not? If they were paid, what was the amount involved? Were costs involved in the subsequent appeal to the Privy Council and, if so, were they sought by the Commonwealth and paid by Airlines of New South Wales?
– As to the substance of the introduction to the question the answer is: “ Yes, there was a case “. I am unable to say whether the costs have been paid, but I will make inquiries to ascertain what the position is. My recollection is that costs were ordered against Airlines of New South Wales in both the High Court and the Privy Council, but that is only a recollection and I am unable to say whether they have been paid. I will make inquiries and inform the honorable member of the position.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Can he say why the Budget makes no provision of funds for planned extensions of the Australian War Memorial? Does this mean that the new 1939-45 galleries, plans for which, I understand, have been prepared and approved, will not now be commenced in this financial year? Had it been hoped that these galleries would have been completed by the fiftieth anniversary of Anzac, due to occur next year? If there has been a change in plans, can the Minister say why this change has been made?
– During the discussions on the Budget, many proposals are put forward and these are considered with the overall economic position. Not every proposal is accepted. I should like to inform the honorable gentleman that a considerable sum is being spent on Anzac Parade which we hope will be ready for the Anzac celebrations next year.
– I address my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Can the Minister inform the House whether orders likely to be placed with Australian shipyards for the construction of new ships, including tankers for the Australian register, will be within the capacity of existing ship yards? Is there likely to be a shortage of shipbuilding employees required to meet the shipbuilding programme?
– So far as I know, the orders of Australian shipbuilding of which the Australian Shipbuilding Board is aware will be well within the capacity of the Australian shipyards. It is true that in this industry, as in the whole economy at the moment, there are difficulties in obtaining skilled labour but for how long that situation will continue I cannot say.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that charges have been made by members of this Parliament against the Australian Broadcasting Commission programme “ Four Corners “, accusing it of political bias because of the alleged presentation of the Minister for Social Services in a Fascist role and as a most unsympathetic Minister, and suggesting that the action of the A.B.C photographers in using close-up angles to bring a large full faced vision of the Minister to television viewers savoured of anti-Government prejudice? Is the PostmasterGeneral prepared to make a statement defending the A.B.C. and agreeing that the programme was an honest presentation of the treatment of pensioners in Australia today?
– I was not aware that any complaint had been made by any honorable member concerning the programme “ Four Corners “.
– I address a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Whilst the annual report under the Fishing Industry Act states that the transfer of a whaling company from Carnarvon to Fremantle gave added urgency to the need for better information on sperm whale stocks, I note that the department is now considering whether acceleration of the programme is warranted. I ask the honorable gentleman whether the urgency of the situation has resulted in a speeding up of the decision to spend some of the trust funds in the interests of this section of the whaling industry.
– I am afraid I am not conversant with the point raised by the honorable member. However, I know that the industry has great knowledge of the availability of sperm whales. As the International Whaling Convention did not agree to limit the number of whales that could be taken, this Government decided to allow the Australian companies on the western coast to take full advantage of the position and not to allow other nations only to fish there. So the industry can proceed full steam ahead and catch whatever whales are available.
– I desire to ask the Treasurer a question. Is k a fact that when decimal currency is introduced small shopkeepers who bought their cash registers before 1947 will not be paid any compensation at all? If this is so, will he have this matter further considered so that justice will be done to the owners of these cash registers, particularly as the registers would still be capable of profitable use if the Government had not decided that their owners must scrap them once decimal currency is introduced?
– It seems to me that if the cash registers were purchased as far back as the honorable gentleman has said they would be written off for tax purposes well ahead of the introduction of decimal currency.
– But they are still capable of profitable use.
– That may be so. We have acted on the advice of the Decimal Currency Board in this matter. I have set out the basis of compensation in considerable detail. I had an analysis made of the effect of the introduction of decimal currency on small shopkeepers. It seemed to me to be very much less than had been publicly suggested. I shall see whether I can secure information for the honorable gentleman and any others who may be interested. I do not happen to have the facts in my immediate possession.
– Will you have the matter examined further?
– I will refer the honorable gentleman’s query to the Board.
However, I can assure him that all aspects of this matter have been well canvassed. He must bear in mind that, in addition to the small shopkeepers to whom he has referred, we represent the general body of Australian taxpayers and we must see that there is equitable treatment all round.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. The Australian Agricultural Council had on its agenda proposals for a levy on pig meats for research and promotion. Can the Minister inform the House of the results of the discussions?
– The question of a levy on the pig meats industry for research has been referred back to the industry for more information. The Australian Agricultural Council discussed this matter but did not reach finality on it. We are prepared to consider the matter further.
– Will the Minister for External Affairs say whether he is aware that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. Holyoake, recently was reported as complaining that the New Zealand Government had sought support from the nations of the Pacific for a protest to be lodged at the United Nations against the proposed French nuclear tests and that no support was obtained nor was any support forthcoming when the protest was actually made in the United Nations? Was the Australian Government approached by the New Zealand Government on the proposed protest? If so, why was no support forthcoming, and why did this nation not support New Zealand’s protest at the United Nations? I point out that last week Senator Mcclelland in another place sought information on this subject but received an evasive reply from the appropriate Minister there.
– I have no personal knowledge of any approach to this effect by Mr. Holyoake but, of course, he may have made the approach before I succeeded to my present office. There need be no misunderstanding about the attitude of the Australian Government on the subject of French nuclear testing. We have already announced to the House on more than one occasion the opinions that we have expressed and the protests we have made.
– I ask the Minister for External Affairs a question. As the previously much-discussed subject of selfdetermination for the residents of former West New Guinea appears to be overshadowed and in danger of being forgotten in view of problems being fostered by Indonesia I ask: Will the Minister at every opportunity keep this subject before those concerned as one of current importance and not allow it to be forgotten, and therefore the case for self-determination weakened, long before the date on which a decision is taken, as has been promised.
– I am sure the honorable member will recognise that this matter is the subject of agreement between the Netherlands and Indonesia and is under the notice of the United Na lions as one of the conditions for the transfer of administration from the United Nations to Indonesia. The Act of Ascertainment is one of the conditions laid down for the transfer of administration to Indonesia. It will be in the interests of the Australian Government as well as, J think, those of all other members of the United Nations, to see that the terms of the transfer are complied with.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Industry whether it is true that at the weekend he made another speech in which he criticised the inflow into this country of foreign capital that takes over existing assets without contributing anything to new economic techniques. If so, will the Minister say whether he has taken any action to see whether legislation can be introduced into this House to discriminate between the various forms of foreign capital? If he has not taken that action will he do so, or does he propose merely to go on making speeches without doing anything about them?
– Yesterday I addressed a meeting in Sydney. At one stage of my address, speaking about investment in Australian industry, I pointed out that the level of such investment in recent years has been, on a percentage basis, below the level of investment in manufacturing industry in the United Kingdom, France and Italy. I pointed out that the figures were not conclusive because of the inflation that has occurred in France and in Italy. Dealing generally with the theme of investment I observed that it was to be welcomed that overseas countries should invest in Australia when that investment brought with it new techniques and new skills and led to the production of goods which otherwise we would import. Also, overseas investment was to be welcomed when it brought with it the opportunity to make new export market connections which the parent companies of the investing companies had. I then observed that it was not highly desirable for overseas capital merely to buy out an Australian concern, introducing nothing but new money. This is a view, which I do not find controverted.
– In asking the Treasurer a question I refer the right honorable gentleman to his reported statement that the notes issued in decimal currency will have values equivalent to the existing notes, namely, that the new notes will be issued in denominations of one, two, ten and twenty dollars. I direct the right honorable gentleman’s attention to another reported statement that he would not consider the introduction of a five dollar note until after decimal currency had been introduced and he had had an opportunity to see whether a five dollar note was required. In view of the tremendous advantage attaching to the circulation of a five dollar note, which would bridge the gap between the two dollar and ten dollar notes, will he give consideration to introducing this denomination when decimal currency is introduced?
– The honorable member has referred to a statement attributed to me. All I recall is receiving a telephone query in answer to which I did not purport to make an authoritative statement. I did point out however that it was convenient for us, in commencing the. decimal currency system, to use notes which corresponded in value to those currently in use. Indeed, there is the possibility - I have mentioned this recently - that there may be some difficulty in printing the quantity of notes required by the time it is proposed to introduce decimal currency. It all hinges on the provision of equipment from overseas. This is a matter within the administration of the Reserve Bank; but I have pointed to the possibility that we may be required to use existing designs of bank notes but with the dollar value printed in the space where the present value is printed. I am not suggesting that the dollar value would be an overprint on the current notes. Confusion in the transition period will be lessened if we confine the varieties of notes to those with which Australians are at present familiar. From my experiences in the United States of America I am aware of the frequency with which a five dollar bill features in transactions. I can imagine that a five dollar bill would be a very useful denomination to have in Australia. I assure the honorable member that the practicability and the desirability of having such a note will not be overlooked.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, a few days ago 1 was asked a question about my letter to the Premiers regarding civil aviation control. I indicated that I had asked for the consent of the Premiers to publish the document. I now have that consent and I will table the letter that I sent to the Premiers. Honorable members will find that the letter is a reasoned one. It sets out the reasons for the action being taken.
Perhaps 1 should make clear to the House one fact which is contained in the letter. In 1963-64 the Commonwealth spent £12,500,000 on the maintenance and operation of the aviation facilities which it had provided for the industry, and approximately £6 million capital on the provision of additional facilities. That is a total of £18,500,000. The financial burden on the Commonwealth, both for the provision of facilities and for their maintenance and operation, will increase substantially over the next few years. A careful check of the State Budgets would seem to confirm that the assistance provided by them in 1963-64 would probably have amounted to little more than £100,000. That fact will fit into the pattern of the letter, as honorable members will see. I gathered from an interjection or two the other day that honorable members would like an opportunity to discuss this matter. I hope they do not want it this week. We would not like to interrupt the general Budget debate, but I am quite willing to facilitate an early opportunity to discuss the paper. If that is desired, I shall get one of my colleagues to move that the statement be noted so that an adjournment may be taken and a debate on a future occasion made possible.
I present the following paper -
Civil Aviation Control - Letter, dated 6th August 1964, addressed by the Prime Minister to all State Premiers.
Motion (by Mr. Fairhall) proposed -
That the House take note of the paper.
– Why did the Prime Ministor not move that?
– Because I might want to take part in the debate.
– You want two goes every time.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
– The Leader of the Opposition, not for the first time, has made a complaint: He asks why I did not move that the House take note of the paper. I have not advanced any argument; I have only tabled the letter. The Leader of the Opposition wants the position to arise in which I cannot take any part in the debate. All I can say is that I think I have a perfect right to take part in the debate and I have exercised that right by arranging with one of my colleagues to move that the House take note of the paper.
– If I might make an observation -
– You let the Prime Minister make an observation.
– In order to keep within the Standing Orders, I think it might be wise if the Leader of the Opposition asked for leave to make a comment.
– If I may say so, with due respect, the Prime Minister did not ask for leave.
– I, retrospectively, ask for leave, and I indicate that I am very willing that the Leader of the Opposition shall have leave to make an observation.
– He is making another speech.
– Poor Arthur.
– Order! The Chair extended the courtesy of allowing the Prime Minister to make a comment. The Leader of the Opposition may be correct in saying that the Chair should not have done this, but at that stage we had reached the point where statements were being made all over the place. I felt that if we were to keep within the Standing Orders it would be wise for the Leader of the Opposition to ask for leave if he wished to make a comment. I have no doubt that leave would have been granted. My concern was to keep within the Standing Orders.
– I am protesting at the procedure. If the Prime Minister wants to make a statement on this important matter he should not just table the document and then arrange for one of his Ministers to move that the debate be adjourned, so that he can find out what other people have to say, and then come in at the end of the debate and misrepresent the position when there cannot be any answer to him. Parliament is entitled to look to the leader of the Government for a statement of policy at the beginning of a debate, not at the end of it. I am asking that when statements are made in this Parliament by any Minister they shall be definitive statements, saying what the Government intends to do, and where it stands. Then the Munster himself should move that the paper be printed instead of arranging for one of his understrappers - I am sorry - one of his supporters, to move that the debate be adjourned in order that he may then get in a second speech. That practice has been growing up-
– Why not?
– Very well. Unless we are treated on a basis of equality, we will refuse leave. I am not listening to interjections from the lunatic fringe on the Government side.
– Order! The House will come to order.
– Unless we are treated on a basis of equality we will refuse leave and then the Government can take responsibility for the conduct of the House. If the Government wants our co-operation then it has to be sought on fair terms, not on those that the Prime Minister likes to dictate from time to time - throwing a resolution across the table to me and saying, “Second this, or else I will attack you,” as he did over the Churchill affair.
– Order! I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition is getting far wide of the scope of even the comment that he wanted to make.
– I am making a passing reference.
– Order! The debate on the motion that the paper be noted was adjourned; the matter upon which the Leader of the Opposition is commenting now relates to the procedure of the House, which is in the hands of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House. I think that the Leader of the Opposition has now covered the subject sufficiently.
– I submit that I have leave to make a statement on this matter - and that means all aspects of the matter - both the way in which the Prime Minister brings his statements to Parliament and the way in which the debate which follows the presentation is to be conducted. If we have no rights in the matter, we might as well not be here. When that day comes, the Hitlers and little Hitlers will all be controlling the Parliament. This is not a body that merely registers support for the opinions of the Government; this is supposed to be a debating assembly and if all the people who are howling on the other side do not realise that, at least their Prime Minister still has some respect for this democratic institution.
– by leave - Consequent upon signature of the compromise bill by President Johnson last Saturday, legislation has now been enacted which will apply to United States imports of meat from all sources for each calendar year as from 1st January 1965. The types of meat covered are fresh, chilled or frozen beef, veal and mutton. Lamb and canned meats are not subject to the legislation. As I have said before, it is a very complex piece of legislation which leaves considerable discretion and flexibility with the President and the Administration. The manner in which the powers under the legislation will be exercised will only really be shown should a situation calling for restriction arise. The legislation does not initially establish any individual country import or export quotas as such. What it does do is to set a total global import ceiling for beef and mutton which, if estimated to be exceeded, would automatically set in train a mechanism which would establish import quotas for individual supplying countries.
Prior to each calendar year an import ceiling for that year will be calculated on a base figure equal to average United States imports for the calendar years 1959 to 1963. This base figure of 323,000 tons will be adjusted annually by a factor which reflects increases or decreases in United States production. For 1965 this factor is plus 16.5 per cent., which, applied to the base period gives a figure of 376,000 tons. The import ceiling for each calendar year is 10 per cent, above this figure, and for 1965 would be some 414,000 tons. This figure is about 55,000 tons below total imports in the record 1963 import year, but is equal to imports in the previous record year of 1962.
The President has the power to increase this ceiling when he deems it to be in the “ over-riding national interest “. There was specific recognition by the United States Congress that such a situation could arise on trade or balance of payments grounds. In addition, the President could increase the ceiling if United States meat supplies were inadequate to meet domestic demand at reasonable prices.
It is clear that Australian exporters are subject to no specific restriction under the legislation as regards the level of their exports to the United States in the calendar year 1965 or succeeding years, provided that the prescribed ceiling of imports from all sources is not, on the estimates of the United States authorities, expected to be exceeded. If the ceiling is expected to be exceeded, however, country quotas in total, somewhat lower than the overall ceiling, would be established. If, for example, individual country quotas were to be established in 1965, they would be apportioned within a total quota figure or 376,000 tons. The complicated provisions of the legislation would mean that total imports would be restricted to 376,000 tons, only if total imports were expected to exceed a ceiling of 376,000 tons plus 10 per cent. - that is, 414,000 tons. If country quotas were to be introduced in any calendar year, their apportionment could not be known to exporting countries in advance with any precision. The selection of an appropriate “ representative period “ on which quotas would be based would be determined by the United States Administration at that time, after consultation with supplying countries. Provision is also made in the legislation for other special factors to be taken into account in the establishment of country quotas.
– That is vague, is it not?
– It is complex, anyway. In addition, if any supplying country was unable to export up to its full quota entitlement, the shortfall could be re-allocated to other suppliers. Although the legislation makes specific provisions for the introduction of country quotas if imports are expected to exceed a certain level, the size of the country quota is intended to be determined only in relation to circumstances at the time restrictions are called for. United States authorities do not anticipate that such a situation will arise during 1965.
In short, although the American meat legislation will become operative from 1st January 1965, no action has as yet been taken, nor is any action indicated at this stage, which would contravene the provisions of our bilateral agreement. There is no denying, however, that the legislation is designed to provide quota protection for the United States meat industry in circumstances which, if the protection were invoked, could negate the assurances of access contained in our recently negotiated agreement. Only if this situation were to eventuate would it be possible to appraise the prejudicial effects it would have on our bilateral trade relations with the United States. It is our hope, and the belief of the United States Administration, that we shall not be called upon to face such a situation.
In the wider context, we shall be participating in the trade negotiations within the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - the Kennedy Round - to secure overall marketing arrangements for meat and other bulk commodities which will lead to a greater and more predictable access to world markets. It is to be hoped that developments in this sphere will remove the need for the current United States legislation, and will enable our bilateral meat agreement to be replaced satisfactorily by a wider international agreement. In the meantime, departmental officers will continue to work closely with United States officials to register and further clarify our understandings under this legislation, especially in the areas of discretion and flexibility. Any information, as it is obtained, will be conveyed to the trade to enable it to undertake forward planning with greater certainty.
I think I have made it clear, Mr. Deputy Speaker, even if I have made nothing else clear, that the United States measure is a complex piece of legislation.
- Mr. Deputy Speaker, in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1913- 1960, I present a report relating to the following proposed work -
Lengthening and strengthening of the existing runaway and strengthening of the apron and taxiways at the Cairns Airport, Queensland.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill - by leave - presented by Mr. Swartz, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to the Government’s Budget proposals on repatriation, which reflect our intention to maintain at appropriate levels the rates of benefits available under the repatriation system to ex-servicemen and their dependants. In accordance with accepted practice the Government this year has again reviewed the operation of the repatriation system and has concluded that in the light of established principle, and the needs of the pensioners concerned, a number of increases in pension rates are warranted.
I have indicated on previous occasions that the Budget is by no means the only method by which the Government gives effect to improvements in the repatriation area. It is, however, the instrument through which we adjust pension rates themselves, as well as making overall provision for repatriation needs in the course of any one year. This year the Budget provides for repatriation services a total sum of over £122 million, reflecting both increasing demands and the Government’s continuing concern for those for whom the repatriation legislation provides. I am pleased to say that the increases to which I am about to refer will extend to all of the main pension rates for ex-servicemen themselves and for war widows, as well as to the war pensions of wives of bothspecial rate and general rate pensioners. Our objective has been to see that the benefits provided have been as widely distributed as possible among repatriation, pensioners.
I now turn to the details of the Budget measures. The Bill provides for an amendment to the Second Schedule of the Repatriation Act to give effect to the increase of 10s. in the special, or total and permanent incapacity, rate of war pension, bringing it to £14 5s. per week. This’ rate is payable to those whose war caused incapacities are such as to prevent them from earning more than a negligible percentage of a living wage, and to the war blinded. The new rate will also be paid to ex-servicemen who are temporarily totally incapacitated, and to certain sufferers from tuberculosis. The pension known as the class B rate for tuberculosis, which is paid under the Second Schedule to tuberculosis sufferers who are capable of only light or intermittent work, is also to be adjusted to provide an increase of 7s. 6d. to £10 2s. 6d. per week. Under the Schedule the rate is fixed by the Repatriation Commission. In addition, following the increase in the special rate of pension, the additional amounts payable to certain amputees under the first six items of the Fifth Schedule to the Repatriation Act are being increased by 5s. to £8 5s. per week. These amputees will also receive the increase of 5s. per week proposed for the 100 per cent, general rate pension, making a total increase for these pensioners of 10s. per week.
The general rate increase of 5s. per week will itself be provided by an amendment to the First Schedule to the Act. Pensioners eligible for the full 100 per cent, rate will now receive £6 per week. Proportionate increases will follow for those on lesser rates of pension. At the same time, the Third Schedule will be amended to provide a war pension increase of 5s. per week to £2 Os. 6d. for the wives of incapacitated ex-servicemen receiving the 100 per cent, general rate pension or higher, which includes, of course, the totally and permanently incapacitated. In this case, too, there will be proportionate increases for those whose husbands receive lass than the 100 per cent. rate. The increase in the rate for wives will also apply to the widows of general rate pensioners whose pensions are continued after the death of a husband from causes not attributable to war service. Following the increases in the special and general rates of pension, there will be increases in the rates of medical sustenance. Sustenance payments are made to exservicemen at appropriate rates in respect of in-patient and out-patient treatment, and during investigation of a pensions claim.
The Bill also provides for an amendment to the First Schedule to give effect to an increase of 5s. per week in the rate for war widows, the new rate being £6 per week. War widows with children, or who qualify by reason of age or infirmity, also receive the domestic allowance of £3 10s. per week, and the great majority of war widows qualify for this benefit, so that the widow herself will, in these circumstances, now receive £9 10s. per week. There will also be increases for what we term “ member service pensioners “, parallelling those for social services pensioners. The full rate of pension for married service pensioners will increase by 5s. to £5 10s. per week, and for single service pensioners by the same amount to £6 per week. No amendment to the Repatriation Act is necessary to give effect to these increases as that Act applies the rates payable under the social services legislation.
It is also proposed that the provisions for fares, subsistence and loss of earnings for appellants attending hearings of appeals at tribunals will be brought into line with the corresponding provisions for attendance for other repatriation purposes; for example, for treatment or for pension review. These allowances are to be provided under the regulations, and a small amendment is being made to section 72 of the Act to enable this to be done. The effect will be a more generous provision for tribunal attendances.
Following my earlier practice I have prepared, for the convenience of those who arc interested, a table which summarises the repatriation Budget proposals. With the concurrence of honorable members I incorporate this table in “ Hansard “.
The following statement shows details of proposed variations in certain war and service pensions.
General. - Provisions for the reimbursement of expenses incurred in travel, loss of salary, &c, for appellants attending Tribunals will be brought in line with those relating to the payment of expenses to persons required by the Repatriation Department to attend at an appointed place for medical treatment or pension purposes.
I might mention, too, that amendments to the Native Members of the Forces (Torres Strait Islands) Benefits Regulations will extend the foregoing war pensions proposals to eligible ex-servicemen in that area. They will also receive the increase in the service pension.
In accordance with established practice, the amendments will come into force from the date on which the Act receives the royal assent to enable the higher pensions to be paid on the first pensions pay day after that date. The measures with which this Bill is concerned are a continuing development of the repatriation system according to the soundly based principles which have emerged over the years. They confer worthwhile benefits on a substantial number of ex-servicemen and their dependants and I commend the Bill to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20th August (vide page 514), 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: - “ the House is of opinion that the Budget does not adequately grapple with the problems of striking a realistic and fitting balance between the claims on national resources arising from defence, development and social welfare”.
.- The Budget with which we are now dealing estimates total cash receipts at £2,529.6 million and total expenditure at £2.511.1 million, leaving a cash surplus of £18.5 million. However, it is very difficult for one to place much reliance on the estimates of the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) after having seen his performances in connection with the Budgets of 1962-63 and 1963-64. In 1962-63, the Treasurer budgeted for a deficit of £118 million and concluded that financial year with a surplus of £16 million. He was £134 million out in his reckoning. In 1963-64 he budgeted for a deficit of £58 million and ended the financial year with a surplus of £28 million, being out again in his reckoning to the extent, on this occasion, of £86 million. If one were to make an assessment of this Budget based on the last two Budget performances of the Treasurer, one could safely say that the final surplus will be anything from £70 million to £100 million, not £18.5 million as estimated by the Treasurer.
I should like to refer to the manner in which this Budget has been received by a cross-section of the Australian community. First, let me read what some of the newspapers had to say about it. The Melbourne “ Herald “ called it a wet blanket Budget. The Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ said -
Defence is a much smaller part of the reason for the Budget’s stringency than Mr. Holt’s words indicated … It looks as though Mr. Holt has been tougher than was strictly warranted so that he can again be ingratiating on the right political occasion later.
The Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “, an ardent supporter of this Government, said -
A pedestrian Budget, safe but uninspiring . . the oppressive restrictions placed on commercial TV, plus the tremendous advantages showered on the A.B.C., can only mean that the viewer is now going to pay more and get less for his money.
The Adelaide “ Advertiser “ said -
Unexciting and will scarcely be popular.
– Have you to depend on the newspapers?
– If you will only restrain yourself I think I will explain it to you. The Brisbane “ Courier-Mail “ said -
The Budget lacks the incentive for industry to go ahead with development, so particularly needed in Queensland. The shock is that the Treasurer has increased taxes and charges so much.
The Brisbane “ Telegraph “ said -
The Budget turns savagely on the average man and sends up his taxes, makes him pay more for his telephone, his TV, his new car, his cigarettes. It demands from the business community a substantially increased contribution at a time when every employer is having soaring costs.
I should like to quote also what a few prominent people in Australia said about the Budget. I commence with what was said by the Country Party Premier of Queensland, Mr. Nicklin -
The added tax burdens could have the effect of retarding development. I realise the need for increased expenditure on defence but there is also a need for incentive at this stage of Australia’s development. In thelong run some of the tax increases could reduce the return to the Government.
Mr. D. Brand, the Liberal Premier of Western Australia, had this to say -
I can only say we are disappointed. There is no provision for money to be spent on the £30 million secondstage of the Ord River irrigation project.
Mrs. K. Adami, General Secretary of the Housewives Association in New South Wales and an ardent supporter of the Liberal Party, said -
I am shocked and disgusted at the increase in telephone rentals. The5s. rise in pensions is a paltry sum when considered against the background of rising prices.
Mr. K. Barry, President of the Federal Taxpayers Association in Queensland said -
The taxation increases go against the pattern of a virile, developing nation. The retrospective company tax increase of 6d. in the £ is vicious, dishonest and completely anathema to every decent principle of taxation.
Mr. Self, the Executive Director of the Employers Federation in New South Wales said -
Industry recognised the need for a Budget such as this to avoid inflation. But the increases in phone charges and extra taxes representstill one more group of the rising costs which have hit industry in recent years.
Of course, honorable members opposite say that what I say is based on prejudice because I happen to be a member of the Opposition; but I have quoted what ardent supporters of thisGovernmnet, including two anti-Labour Premiers, have said about this Budget. 1 wish to mention some of the details of the Budget. The niggardly increase of 5s. a week in the age and invalid pension rate clearly displays this Government’s callous disregard for the needs of age and invalid pensioners. The estimated cost of the 5s. increase is £10,430,000 in a full year and £7,825,000 in 1964-65. I believe that it is scandalous for any government, irrespective of its political ilk, to budget for a surplus of £18.5 million while thousands of people in the Australian community are in dire circumstances. This increase should have been at least 10s. a week instead of 5s. a week. Had it been 10s. a week, according to the Treasurer, the Government would still have had a surplus of about £8 million.
Over the past week we have heard Government supporters comparing the pension paid by the Labour Government in 1949 with the pension paid today as percentages of the basic wage. Only last week the Minister for Housing (Mr.Bury) compared the expenditure on social services as a percentage of the gross national product in 1 949 and today. What a fallacious argument that is. The only matter with whichI personally am concerned is the answer to two questions. First, is the base rate of pension sufficient to keep any person in reasonable living comfort according to our Australian standard of living? Secondly, can we afford to pay more? I believe that the answer to the first question is definitely “ No “. If any honorable member on the Government side of the Chamber thinks that the base rate of pension is sufficient to provide a reasonable living for any person in the Australian community, let him rise in his place and say so. The answer to the second question is definitely “ Yes “. The Australian economy can afford to pay more. That is evidenced by the fact that the Government is budgeting for a surplus of £18.5 million.
Once again the Government has failed to abolish the iniquitous means test on pharmaceutical and medical benefits as applied to age and invalid pensioners. The position is that if single pensioners have an income of £2 a week or more, or if a married couple have an income of £4 a week or more, they are debarred from receiving a medical entitlement card. That provision is having a grave effect on thousands of pensioners and superannuitants who are finding it very difficult to make ends meet and to pay for high-priced services out of their own resources. The abolition of this means test would cost the Treasury £1,350,000 a year, which is only½ per cent. of the total expenditure provided for in this Budget.
Over the years that I have been in this Parliament I have heard many members of the Government parties advocating that in the future we should completely abolish the means test on age and invalid pensions. What hypocrisy it is for them to advocate something which would cost between £130 million and £150 million, when they will not stand up in their places and advocate the abolition of the means test on pharmaceutical and medical benefits as applied to pensioners. The cost of the abolition of that means test would be infinitesimal.
In addition I point out that in 1954 the base rate of pension was £3 10s. a week and the average basic wage was £11 16s. At that time the permissible income, exclusive of the pension, was £3 10s. a week for a single pensioner and £7 a week for a married couple. Let us compare those figures with today’s figures. Shortly the pension will be £5 10s. a week each for a married couple and £6 a week for a single pensioner, and the basic wage is £15 8s. a week. Yet the permissible income is exactly the same today as it was 10 years ago, despite a higher pension rate and a big increase in the basic wage. This state of affairs is most unsatisfactory and unjust to pensioners with income other than their pensions, particularly superannuitants. The permissible income should be increased to at least £4 5s. a week for a single pensioner and £8 10s. for a week for a married couple.
Let me give another illustration of this Government’s callousness to pensioners. I refer to the recent burdensome increase in telephone rentals from £14 12s. 6d. to £20 a year. As most honorable members know, thousands of pensioners have had telephones installed for use in case of emergency, such as calls to their doctors. Surely the Government could stretch a point and grant a concession on pensioners’ rentals.
I refer now to the Government’s proposal for the training of adult tradesmen. Let us analyse the position. In October-November 1962 national conferences were held to discuss the apprenticeship system. The main features of alterations to the system agreed upon were: Arrangements for three to three and one half year apprenticeships for 17 to 20 year olds with higher educational qualifications; 20 weeks continuous daylight technical training; employers to be able to train in excess of their needs; fifth year apprentices to be disregarded in the normal ratio intake; where adequate training facilities exist, normal ratios may be exceeded; group apprenticeships, that is a number of employers rotating a number of apprentices; and greater opportunities for country boys by assistance to employers and living away from home allowances. Actually, that scheme received very little support until the latter half of 1963. It still is not functioning fully throughout the Commonwealth.
As against that scheme, the Commonwealth Government’s proposals mean 20 weeks daylight technical training for persons 19 years of age and over who, after serving an additional two to two and one half years in an approved industry, may obtain a tradesman’s certificate. This would virtually kill apprenticeships for youths at a time when a greater number of youths are leaving school each year and will continue to do so until 1984, and when youths represent an increasing percentage of the total population. As at 30th June 1963 no less than 38 per cent, of the population was under 19 yeaTS of age.
The trade unions express opposition to the plan advanced by the Government for a number of reasons. First, the basis on which the proposal was formulated - namely the shortage of tradesmen - is not acceptable either generally or in sections of industry. Secondly, the Government must substantiate the claims of shortages of skilled tradesmen by making a survey of the actual current requirements of tradesmen in all phases of industry. It can do this by ascertaining the number of youths available for employment as apprentices in January for the past two years; by ascertaining the number of apprenticeships which could be offered on the prescribed basis of the number of tradesmen employed; and by detailing the number of apprentices entering studies mis year compared with previous years, and the immediate future trends.
Thirdly, the Government’s plan fails to comprehend the differing factors applying to the various industries, for example, vehicle building, and even between sections of engineering. Fourthly, the plan also relegates the apprenticeship system to a position of minor importance leading inevitably to its elimination. It is therefore objectionable and has already caused considerable public concern and industrial discontent. Fifthly, having regard to past experience in emergency training of tradesmen and the accepted requirements of trade qualifications, the unions have stated tha the proposed scheme could not actually produce skilled trained tradesmen but would rather worsen their standards generally.
On the basis of the material submitted, the unions do not agree that there is a serious and acute shortage of tradesmen. Where shortages may exist, these have resulted from the failure of the employers, both government and private, to train apprentices in adequate numbers. This position can be readily corrected by increasing the number of apprentices within industrial establishments, utilising the additional scope for training apprentices as agreed upon between the unions and employers in 1962, and by bringing back to the industry experienced skilled tradesmen.
The unions assert that any alleged shortage is of a temporary nature and can be effectively overcome through the current apprenticeship system. In consequence, governments and private employers should be compelled to fulfill their responsibilities to enable available youth to be trained as apprentices.
There is a lack of proper training by the Commonwealth and State Governments and the employers to provide a balanced programme which would ensure the supply of skilled tradesmen to meet the needs of industry and the nation. To assist the induction of youth into trades there should be a reassessment of wage rates and conditions in accordance with the policy of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and in keeping with the skill and responsibility required of tradesmen. The trade union movement has always expressed readiness to confer on matters affecting apprentices and trade training. This is exemplified by the conferences in the metal, electrical and building industries between the organisations, the employers and the governments. It is proposed, therefore, that tripartite committees be set up to review the apprenticeship system and to recommend alterations and corrections designed to strengthen it by revision of existing apprenticeship legislation or regulations.
It is interesting to note that in July 1963 there were 80,000 registered unemployed in Australia of whom 20 per cent, were under the age of 21 years.
These figures, released by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) would include lads lost to apprenticeship who were potential future skilled tradesmen. At the end of March this year there were 2,372 boys registered as unemployed, according to figures released by the Minister and published in the newspapers. Of the three major establishments in New South Wales which always take their full quota of apprentices, figures have been given that show there are more lads applying for apprenticeships than there are positions available.
Before commenting further on the current scheme proposed for adult training of tradesmen, I would like to point out that the tables submitted through the Department of Labour and National Service to union representatives at a gathering on 22nd April 1964 cannot be accepted as an accurate guide. This is because there are many jobs registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service which do not exist when persons apply for them. In fact, many employers are not interested in employing tradesmen over 45 years of age. The second reason is that there are many jobs registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service which are on file at more than one centre. Thirdly, employers often register for more employees than they require, in order to have the opportunity of greater selection.
I would also like to point out that it cannot be accepted that the position of a deficiency of tradesmen is serious and acute. The metal trades unions strongly support the apprenticeship method of training for skill, supplemented by the intake of qualified migrant tradesmen. As recently as the 6th May 1964 the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Opperman) announced that a record 8,400 assisted British migrants would leave Britain for Australia that month. The Minister said that these departures in May were the culmination of a record year for migration from Britain to Australia. Surely the proportion of skilled tradesmen in these migration figures must be effective towards meeting the alleged shortages claimed by the Minister for Labour and National Service.
The objections by many employers to employing apprentices must, if continued, create a shortage of skilled tradesmen.
Stronger measures should be taken by the Commonwealth and :State Governments to ensure that all the apprentices required for the future prosperity of the nation are trained “either as apprentices in industry or in technical training schools established by the Government. If the problem is acute, legislation should be enacted to provide for employers, where facilities for proper training exist, to engage apprentices subject to penalties for non-observance, similar to the penal legislation directed against the unions.
During November 1963 the Minister for Labour and National Service announced that encouraging progress had been made in the apprenticeship field since the national conference on training for skill in the engineering and electrical trades which was convened during November 1962. The principal recommendation of that conference was for the introduction of apprenticeships in the engineering and electrical trades for the more highly educated youths in the 17 to 20 years age group and their attendance at specially designed continuous period courses at technical schools. This development should be extended to all younger lads leaving school and desirous of becoming apprentices.
If a scheme is necessary to supplement the present apprenticeship system it should be on similar grounds to schemes in the main European countries, such as West Germany, East Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Poland and some other countries where school age lads are sent to technical schools for a period of three years. It is desirable that they then go into workshops for a further two years before being granted recognition as tradesmen.
The present proposals by the Commonwealth Government to introduce adult training, if implemented, can result only in detriment to the present and long established apprenticeship system in Australia and lead to industrial disputes. It will create much dissatisfaction in workshops, which could result in stoppages if trainees are employed alongside skilled craftsmen, the majority of whom would have served five years’ apprenticeship. The dissatisfaction of present apprentices, who are the future skilled craftsmen of the community, can well be imagined.
Under the Commonwealth Government’s proposed scheme the new intake would have a distinct advantage over some members of our organisations who have had many years at the trade and who fail to get recognition because of the provisions of the Tradesmen’s Rights Regulation Act which requires a minimum of seven years’ experience in the trade in Australia. Under the new system it would require only two and a half years. At present 50 per cent, of employers are not taking on their full quota of apprentices. Many are not employing apprentices at all and are relying on a supply of migrant tradesmen. Employers generally have not given the apprenticeship system a fair trial to see if it can provide Australia’s need for skilled tradesmen. However, the metal trades unions consider that it is not too late for Government and employers to take remedial action in support of the apprenticeship system in Australia.
I turn, now, to a brief summary and some supplementary points. Government proposals for trade skill dilution by entry of adults for 26 weeks training is a serious challenge to the social and economic standards of the members of craft unions. Employers have failed dismally to recognise their responsibilities to the future developmental needs of the country and, in times of adequate opportunity, have failed to employ their full quota of apprentices. Some employers have stated that it is too expensive to train apprentices. As the protection of the trade and tradesmen’s standards is the special business of craft unions, they foresaw and warned of the present position many years ago. Government and private employers alike were told by the craft unions of the folly and effects of not ensuring an adequate intake of youth each year to trade apprenticeships.
Trade unions and their membership are now asked to accept Federal Government proposals for dilution of trade standards with its obvious effect upon already depressed wage standards and conditions. Thousands of tradesmen have left industry to take up other occupations because of more acceptable conditions and better wages. Trade apprenticeships have not been adequately advertised in general and certainly not popularised. The wage standards of apprentices in many cases are less than those of unskilled junior workers. At the end of March 1964 there were 2,372 junior males seeking employment through the Commonwealth Employment Service. Most governments and private employers alike have opposed daylight training for apprentices, yet current proposals of the Federal Government are for 26 weeks of daylight training for adults of 19 years and over with their entry then into industry at tradesmen’s rates.
In 1962, craft unions strongly opposed the employers’ proposals for adult dilution of trade skills. The present scheme of the Federal Government is another attempt to this end. Decisions of October-November 1962 conferences in regard to short term apprenticeships have not yet been given the opportunity to take full effect, nor have they been given maximum and continuing publicity, particularly through schools. The metal trades unions could not support current Government proposals for the training of adults as skilled tradesmen. Finally, let me put this to the House: The profit hungry employers who refuse to contribute to the future progress of Australian secondary industries by failing to engage their rightful number of apprentices should be condemned at every possible opportunity.
– I thank the Opposition for its assistance and courtesy. I should like to draw attention to the fact that the Opposition, understandably, has criticised this Budget, but it is interesting to note from the debate that the criticism has been almost entirely destructive and that not one major constructive economic proposal was made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). This is the type of negative approach that we have become accustomed to and that has now become well known to the people of Australia.
Dealing with the economic situation in Australia, I would say that, as with other countries in the free world, Australia has passed through various phases of economic adjustment in the post-war period, with changing emphasis, so far as economic activity is concerned. It has passed through phases of tension and disturbance and through periods of scarcity and surpluses. This Government has maintained its steady policy of encouraging free enterprise and we have seen the removal of most of the restrictions which retard growth. At the same time, the Government, within the powers available to it, does exercise some tolerable form of economic control to ensure stability without retarding steady development.
That this policy has been successful is borne out by the remarkable achievements of the past year. Production increased and there were records in some industries. Employment was at record levels. Wages and salaries rose by 9 per cent. Farm income increased by 26 per cent, and the gross national product increased by 9 per cent. Among the most spectacular achievements were those in the field of export trade where exports rose by £309 million for the year to a record figure of £1,374 million. Whilst imports rose considerably during the last year, the strength of our export trade increased our overseas reserves by £228 million to a new record total of £854 million. When we look at the employment situation we all remember the reference of the Leader of the Opposition during the last Budget debate when he referred to -
How frustrating it must be for him to know that in the last 15 months there has been an increase of more than 150,000 in the workforce, making a total workforce today of approximately 4.4 million.
A review of the employment situation for July 1964, which was recently released, revealed a record fall in the number of persons registered for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service. The figure was 3,433. The present employment situation in Australia is better than that in any other country in the free world today. Despite the criticism from the Leader of the Opposition, the Australian economy is in a condition of high domestic activity and great external strength which will continue strongly during the present financial year. However, the rate of expansion could be a little lower than last year due, to a certain extent, to the limiting factor of the availability of labour. The situation will be helped considerably this year by our immigration programme under which Australia hopes to receive 127,000 new settlers. Priority is being given to workers urgently needed by Australian industry. It is estimated that 50 per cent, of these migrants will be available for employment and that 40 per cent, of them will be skilled and 35 per cent, unskilled workers.
A glance at some further statistics will show how misleading is the claim of the Leader of the Opposition. During his reply to the Budget Speech, he referred also to his rather old fashioned cliche of stopgo. The statistics for personal consumption expenditure are a good yardstick with which to measure rising living standards, and figures that I shall refer to briefly reveal steady progress over recent years with continuing expansion in this field anticipated for the present financial year. 1 will extract figures for some of the years since 1948-49 to emphasise this point. In 1948-49, the figure was £1,496 million. By 1951-52 it had risen to £2,495 million and in 1955-56 it was” £3,399 million. We can see the steady progress. In 1959-60 it was £4,367 million, again a steady increase, in 1962-63 £4,998 million and in the last financial year 1963-64, £5,313 million. This gives the- complete lie to the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition and the emphasis he placed on what he referred to as a; stop-go policy. The figures show a steady and progressive increase over the years in the figure for personal consumption. The figures cover most personal consumption items and include household durables and motor vehicles which, as I said, are a good measure of our improving and stable living conditions.
– You do not believe this, do you?
– The honorable member will be interested to learn that the statistics were compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician, and I am sure even the honorable, member would believe them.
Other’ figures show a steady growth and reveal that the Leader of the Opposition has been- badly misinformed and has no basis for his criticism. Let us take motor vehicle registrations. In 1948-49, 103,149 vehicles were registered. By last year, 1963-64, the figure had risen to 344,983. This is a tremendous increase over the period and is a good yardstick by which to measure our standards. Another figure shows the very substantial improvement we have made. This is the value of new building approvals. In 1948-49 the figure was under £300 million. By 1962-63, the last year for which I could get information, the figure had risen to £658.2 million. Again, the net value of primary production has risen from £575 million in 1948-49 to £1,354 million in 1962-63.
Net factory production shows a similar substantial improvement during this period. In 1948-49, the figure was £569 million and in 1962-63 it was £2,398 million. This is another good yardstick by which to measure our standards, and shows the good conditions that we enjoy at present. Our present standard is also revealed in the figures for savings bank deposits. In 1948-49, savings bank deposits stood at £714 million, or an average of £90.3 for each depositor. In 1962- 63, the amount had risen to £1,970 million or an average of £180.5 for each depositor. This shows the substantial prosperity of the community and again disproves the claim of the Leader of the Opposition.
This statistical evidence of growth and stability is supported by a number of authoritative statements, all of which confirm Australia’s economic standing and the Government’s economic policy for continued growth and stability, as expressed in this Budget. I quote first from the recent annual report of the Reserve Bank of Australia. The Bank had this to say -
There were solid grounds for satisfaction in the performance of the Australian economy in
By early 1964, business confidence had improved and investment in plant and equipment was rising more strongly. The upward trend in industrial production continued and, with the broadening of expenditure and reduction in excess capacity within industry, imports began to rise strongly towards the end of the financial year.
The labour market tightened as unemployment fell and vacancies rose; shortages of skilled labour became more widespread. The increasing pressure on resources contributed to the tendency for prices to rise after almost three years of stability.
Events in 1963-64 suggested that selective changes in policy, implemented promptly and appropriately in the light of changes in the demand for and supply of liquid assets, can make an important contribution to financial stability.
That, of course, is the very thing that this Budget is designed to do. The report of the Reserve Bank was produced after the Budget had been prepared. Let us look overseas. The London “ Economist “ of 29th May 1964, said-
Australia is the most stable element in the Commonwealth. Few countries have moved so fast in the past ten years or promise mere in the next ten years.
Closer to home, the Institute of Public Affairs on 25th March 1964, said -
The Australian economy is in robust health.
Even Sir Douglas Copland is reported in the “Sydney Morning Herald” of 13th July 1964 as having said that the Australian economy has grown at a rate faster than the economies of most other countries. All this, of course, is in complete conformity with the outline of the economy given by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) and with the Budget proposals of the Government, which are designed to maintain stability within the community and to ensure that development continues at an expanding rate. 1 want to refer to a subject that is of vital interest to my State, and that is development in Queensland and the degree of Commonwealth co-operation with the Queensland Government. This is of vital interest to Australia because of the importance of the development of our northern regions. The present year will see the beginning in Queensland of major industrial projects, costing many millions of pounds, and the partial completion of others. This new era of northern development has been made possible by active co-operation between the Queensland and the Commonwealth Governments over recent years and also by direct and indirect finance from the Commonwealth. The developments include the £50 million alumina refinery at Gladstone, a £3 million synthetic ammonia plant and a £2 million expansion in the chemical field, which will give Queensland one of the largest sulphuric acid plants in Australia and the country’s third phosphoric acid plant.
The expansion of the sugar industry announced last year is well under way. During 1964 and 1965, Queensland sugar mills alone will spend £15 million on new equipment to enable them to handle the additional cane that will be processed.
Industrial progress was accentuated in the closing stages of the previous year with the announcement that £5 million was to be spent on the production of chemicals in Queensland. The first synthetic ammonia plant in Queensland is to be built at a cost of more than £3 million by a company to be formed jointly by A.C.F. and Shirleys Fertilisers Ltd. and Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia and New Zealand Ltd. The plant is expected to start operating early in 1966.
One of the most significant increases in the Queensland economy has been in the sugar industry. One of the great incentives to industry in Queensland in the latter half of 1 963 was the implementation of the major features of the report of the Sugar Inquiry Committee. This, of course, was done in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government. The recommendations provided for an increase in the production of raw sugar by 700,000 tons to 2,500,000 tons by 1970-71 and cover the greatest expansion in the history of the sugar industry in Australia. Provision has been made for opening up 1,000 new cane farms through the sugar areas. Production is to be stepped up to 2,200,000 tons by 1965-66, and this means early action for the additional planting of new cane land.
The proposals have far-reaching effects on the whole industrial future of Queensland, with the consequent demand for new machinery of all types, port improvements and additional bulk handling machinery. It will also lift the demand for fertilisers and provide a market for the output of the new synthetic ammonia plant.
I want to refer to a new industry of significance to this State, and that is the oil industry. Work has begun on two refineries which are being built by two oil companies at a total cost of approximately £39 million. The first plant is expected to be completed next year. It will have a capacity of approximately 40,000 barrels a day. Work began on construction above ground last year and the work force is expected to grow from 1 50 employed late last year to about 1,400 during construction this year. Thirty-one tanks are to be built, which will hold more than 2 million barrels. The second refinery will have a capacity of 25,000 barrels a day and will be operating by early 1966.
The first work on above ground construction began last December.
As I mentioned previously, during the past twelve months the industrial future of central Queensland has been assured by the announcement that the largest alumina plant in the world is to be constructed at Gladstone. The plant is scheduled for completion in 1967. The new company will process to the first stage bauxite from Weipa on the Cape York Peninsula and will have a capacity of 600,000 tons of alumina a year from 1,200,000 tons of raw material. This indicates the tremendous development in this field. There has been considerable development in the coal industry in Queensland. The development of the Moura coalfield west of Gladstone is bringing great prosperity to the area. That prosperity will be maintained because orders have been received from Japan for 1 million tons of coal a year. This progress in the coal industry will lead to prosperity in the other industries which service the coal industry.
The Commonwealth has a substantial record in oil search not only in Queensland but also in other States and in the Territories. In recent years more than £110 million has been spent in the search for oil. Great impetus was given to the search for oil by the discovery of a commercial field at Moonie in Queensland. Oil from that field is now flowing through a 200-mile pipeline to a storage depot in Brisbane. Apart from the Moonie field other significant discoveries of gas have been made. Assisted by the Commonwealth, Queensland has been able to plan ahead as far as the production of power is concerned. It is estimated that in the next few years approximately £80 million will be spent on the development of three new major power houses in Queensland. It is interesting to note also that Mount Isa Mines Limited, one of Australia’s greatest industries, will spend a further £22 million on expansion in the next three years, bringing total expenditure in the ten years from 1956 to almost £64 million. Under an agreement with the Queensland Government the Commonwealth is providing financial assistance for the reconstruction of the Mount Isa-Townsville-CoIIinsville railway. The railway is being extensively improved so that it may cater for the expanding mineral production at Mount Isa and for general development in the areas which the line serves, including development of the cattle industry. The Commonwealth is assisting northern development by providing £8.3 million in the five-year period from 1st July 1961 for the construction and sealing of beef cattle roads. These roads will facilitate the movement of cattle from the beef cattle producing areas of the State and are expected to increase the turn-off of beef cattle for export, which is so vital to us at the present time, lt is estimated that almost £3 million will be provided by the Commonwealth for this purpose in 1964-65.
Over a five-year period the Commonwealth is providing, in the form of interestbearing advances, a maximum of £7,250,000 for the development of 4,271,000 acres of brigalow land in the Fitzroy River basin. It is apparent from an examination of developments in Queensland and the assistance that is being given to that State by the Commonwealth that the economy of that State is very buoyant. With continuing Commonwealth co-operation the future prosperity and growth of Queensland is assured. Many great new industrial ventures and a succession of ancillary projects are now in the early stages of construction. All this indicates the emphasis which the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government place on the development of the north.
I wish to refer briefly to several other matters. One is the important subject of defence. It was very strange to hear the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable members opposite criticise the expenditure on defence by vaguely claiming that something more in this field should be done. Over the years we have regularly heard members of the Opposition demanding a reduction in defence expenditure and suggesting as an alternative that we should spend the funds that are being devoted to defence on road construction or some other laudable purpose. I do not think their change of heart at the present time is one of sincere belief; transparently it has been motivated by political considerations. In the Budget, £296.8 million is allocated for defence purposes. That is a substantial amount when we compare it with the figures of just a few years ago. Recently the Government completed a review of important areas of Australia’s defence preparedness. That review has been carried out against a background of continuing instability in South East Asia, which is the area of direct strategic significance so far as Australia is concerned. In pursuance of our treaty obligations and for the protection of our own vital interests we must be in a position to commit forces at short notice in a variety of situations. The immediate requirement is for well trained regular forces to deal with subversion and insurgence in the so called cold war. Elements of the Australian Services are currently stationed in Malaysia, Thailand and South Vietnam in the performance of tasks of this nature. We must be ready also to make an immediate and effective contribution should hostilities on a larger scale develop and be prepared to expand these forces as the situation might require. As has been stated by my colleague, the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes), the Government is satisfied that at the present time Australia should continue to rely on the voluntary principle in recruitment to the Services. The situation will, of course, remain constantly under review, but we must remember that Australia is now better prepared than at any other period in peacetime history.
One of the final matters I want to touch on involves, very properly, social welfare. The Opposition’s criticism of the Government’s policy and performance in the field of social welfare is as strange as its criticism of the Government’s record in defence. Statistics provide the simplest and most accurate rebuttal of any attempt to disparage the Government’s record in the field of social service and health benefits. In 1949-50 expenditure from the National Welfare Fund amounted to £92.9 million. Expenditure in 1964-65 is expected to amount to £452.2 million. Statistics reveal that the percentage of income tax collected and spent on social service and health benefits has increased since this Government came to office. In 1949-50 slightly more than 47 per cent, of income tax was spent on these services. This year the percentage is expected to rise to more than 60.5 per cent.
Let us look briefly at some relevant increases in age and invalid pensions compared with increases in the cost of living and in the basic wage. Since 1949 there has been an increase of 158.8 per cent, in the married rate paid to age and invalid pensioners and an increase of 182.3 per cent, in the rate paid to single pensioners in these categories. Yet, in the same period the consumer price index increased by only 95.1 per cent, and average weekly earnings by only 143.4 per cent. Those figures indicate clearly that the Government has a record in the field of social services of which it may be justly proud. The figures are there for all to see. They cannot be denied, no matter what tenuous argument may be advanced by the Opposition.
In conclusion I say that despite substantial increases in expenditure on defence and social welfare, there has been a steady and universal advance in all sectors of the economy over the past two years. Our external trading position is strong and there is a continuing degree of domestic stability. It will be seen from the facts that I have placed before the House that responsible and balanced consideration has been given to the requirements of security, development and social welfare. This refutes the arguments that have been brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Deputy Speaker, we can look forward with confidence to another year of progress.
.- I think the speech just delivered by the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Swartz) may be divided into four parts. First, the Minister dealt with the Government’s economic policy and, by using a massive array of figures, he endeavoured to prove that the economic situation today is better than it was last year, the year before, and probably some other years that he had in mind. That may be true. I think it will be generally conceded that there has been some slight improvement in the economic situation. But considering the high level of unemployment only 12 months ago, this Government is bound to admit that an improvement was necessary.
The second point the Minister dealt with was northern development, with particular relation to his own State of Queensland. It is problematical whether all the development which the Minister says has taken place and is now taking place in that State is due in any way to the policies of this Government. The development to which he referred is mainly private enterprise development, although most of it could well have been undertaken by the Government long ago.
The third point referred to by the Minister was defence. I do not intend to deal with that subject at this stage for I hope to have an opportunity later to voice some opinions of my own on this very important matter. Of course, one does not overlook the opinions of the Minister for Repatriation on these matters. I think it will be generally conceded that he has had some experience in defence matters generally; but I do think that he dealt with the subject much too briefly and certainly the opinions that he expressed did nothing to convince honorable members on this side that we have solved all the defence problems confronting the country.
Finally, the Minister for Repatriation passed to a subject on which this Government is probably more open to criticism than it is on any other subject. I refer to social services. Here again, by the use of figures, the Minister endeavoured to prove that the position of pensioners and recipients of social service benefits generally has improved during the period of office of this Government. But once again he touched upon a highly debatable matter and I hope during the course of my remarks to be able to prove to him and to all honorable members on the Government side that there is very little substance in the Minister’s argument that the condition of pensioners generally has improved in any way under this Government. On the contrary, I believe that their position has retrogressed.
Last Tuesday night, when dealing with this Bill, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) submitted an amendment on behalf of the Opposition. That amendment refers to three important subjects upon which the Opposition believes the Government is open to criticism. I believe that the criticism that was levelled at the Government on that occasion by the Leader of the Opposition has been substantiated by that which has since emanated from various sections of the community and particularly from interested people who have some knowledge of these matters, as well as from honorable members on this side.
The matters to which the Leader of the Opposition referred when moving the amendment were defence, development and social welfare and those are the very matters with which the Minister for Repatriation dealt this afternoon. Although they are by no means the only matters upon which this Government can be criticised, I think that they are the three most important. Defence is of fundamental importance today. So also is national development - development which should touch every State in the Commonwealth and which, during the period of office of this Government, has been very sadly neglected. Social welfare ‘is the third important matter because it affects a great many people in this country. That is the matter upon which, as I said a few moments ago, the Government has attempted to prove, by using a massive array of figures, that it has dispensed justice to that very deserving section of the community which is covered by our social services legislation. The Opposition disputes the Government’s claims in this respect and I repeat that I hope to have the opportunity of dealing with this matter in greater detail in a very few moments.
The highlights of this debate have been the attempts by honorable members on the Government side to prove their arguments by the use of figures which they suggest were supplied by the Comonwealth Statistician. We know only too well that if figures are used in an attempt to prove that there has been an improvement either in one particular phase of the economy or in one section of the community, then those figures must be considered in conjunction with the circumstances which applied in 1948-49, the last financial year before this Government took office. Honorable members on the Government side have not attempted to do that. They have merely applied figures which may have been made available by the Commonwealth Statistician during the year 1963-64. I suggest that unless those figures are considered together with the general increase in the cost of living and the basic cost of commodities necessary to the section of the community to which I referred a moment ago - pensioners and others in receipt of fixed incomes - they mean very little.
If what the Minister for Repatriation had to say about the Government’s record with respect to social services is correct, and if what he had to say concerning the general economic situation in this country is correct, one has every right to ask why this Government found it necessary under this legislation to increase both direct and indirect taxes - including an increase in the sales tax on motor cars - as well as telephone charges. If, as the Minister for Repatriation claimed a few moments ago, and as the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) claimed a short time ago, the economic situation in this country has never been better, why has it been necessary for the Government to increase these impositions?
The Government is budgeting for a surplus of £18,500,000, yet it proposes to collect the additional revenue to which I have already referred. According to the Treasurer’s Budget Speech the additional excise duty on tobacco should have added 3d. to the price of a packet of king size cigarettes. The next day, however, the price was increased by 4d. a packet. Whether the Minister or the tobacco manufacturers have the final say in these matters, we are not able to determine. The fact remains that the increase of excise will raise the Government’s revenue by £12.5 million this financial year.
The Treasurer, in his Budget Speech, stated that the Government was no longer in a position to allow the 5 per cent, rebate of personal income tax. As a result of the withdrawal* of this rebate, the Government’s revenue will rise by £30.8 million this financial year. I mentioned, only a few moments ago, the increase in sales tax on motor cars, which has been raised from 22i per cent, to 25 per cent. Only a few years ago, the motor industry was singled out by this Government for a very substantial increase in sales tax. On that occasion, while some members of the Government and some of its supporters were still justifying the Government’s action in interviews on television and radio, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies), speaking as he was about to leave Australia for a trip overseas, announced the removal of the increase. In 1964-65, the Government has again singled out the motor industry for an increase in sales tax. The increase of 2i per cent, now to be imposed will increase the Government’s revenue by £5 million in the current financial year.
On every occasion when the Government has sought to increase its- revenues during the period of almost 15 years for which it has been in office, it has singled out, in addition to one or two major industries, those who use the services provided by the Postal Department in one form or another. On this occasion, television viewers’ licence fees are to be raised by £1 and telephone rentals will be increased from approximately £14 or £15 a year to £20 a year.
– That is in the metropolitan areas.
– That is so, but there will be proportionate increases in other areas. The fact remains that, once again, those who use the services provided by the Postmaster-General’s Department have been singled out to provide additional revenue for this Government. I think it may be soundly and convincingly argued, Mr. Acting Deputy Speaker, that the services of the Department are of very great benefit to this country. Those services are necessary, and the Department provides them in a confident and efficient manner. Nevertheless, the Government always singles out this Department and raises charges for its services when revenue is to be increased. The proposed increase in television viewers’ licence fees will raise the Government’s revenue by £1,725,000 this financial year and the increases in telephone charges will increase revenue by a further £9.5 million in a full year, or £8.5 million in 1964-65. The total increase in revenue resulting from the raising of taxes and charges will be more than £87 million in a full year.
The Minister for Repatriation has argued that the economic situation in Australia has never been better, and he has attempted to justify the Government’s policies . of social services and the defence programme. If what he has said is correct, we may well ask: Why is it necessary for the Government to budget for a surplus of £18.5 million and at the same time for additional revenue of more than £87 million in a full year? This kind of Budget usually is presented by the Government in the year following an election, but never in an election year. If one studies the economic record of this Administration throughout the whole of its term of office, one finds that economic measures of this kind normally follow an election year, though there is possibly one exception. The horror Budget and all the little Budgets were presented in years following an election. None was presented in an election year.
Apparently, this Government believes that telephones are a luxury, since it has decided to raise telephone rentals to £20 a year in the metropolitan areas. I suggest that the Government has overlooked the fact that a great many people throughout Australia have telephones not just because they want them but because telephones are a necessity to them. They are forced to have telephones and they depend on them from day to day. Over the years, the present Government has increased the charge for the installation of a telephone. On the occasion of this Budget, it proposes to increase both rentals and the installation charges. For some years, honorable members on this side of the House have pleaded with the Government to extend concession rates to people on fixed incomes, and particularly pensioners, who are forced to have telephones and who depend on them. These people do not have telephones just because they wish to have them.
I ask honorable members on the Government side of the chamber particularly to consider the position of these people for a few minutes. Can any honorable member opposite tell me how a pensioner who has no income apart from the pension, even if he has the maximum property permitted under the Social Services Act without effect on his pension, can afford a telephone at the rental and installation charges now to be imposed? The Government has completely ignored the pleas made over the years by honorable members on this side of the chamber for concession rates for pensioners. Not only are concession rates refused, but pensioners are now to be asked to pay the greatly increased charges. Their need for telephones is certainly as great as that of the members of any other section of the community.
All the measures that I have mentioned have been introduced by the Treasurer on behalf of the Government in the name of stability. Honorable members opposite have produced a massive array of figures to back up the argument about stability. We on this side, however, are concerned not merely with figures but with realities. If there is stability, surely it can be maintained without all these additional imposts on the mass of the people who cannot bear the burden that will be inflicted on them. I remind honorable members of an occasion in 1960 when, in presenting a little budget to the House, the Treaurer stated that taxes and charges would be raised. All of those charges on that occasion - as the increased charges are today - were spread over the great mass of the people - the people who are not in a position to bear the burdens of increased taxes direct and indirect, for which this Government has been largely responsible during its period of office.
While it may be said that unemployment has stopped rising and production has stopped falling in this country, the plain fact is that the economy is still, to a large extent stagnant. I do not mean that the economy is dead, but I do say that it is hamstrung or, if you like, prostrate. This has been the effect of the Government’s economic measures since 1960. It is true, as I think the Minister for Repatriation said this afternoon, that during 1963 there was some improvement in this economic condition. But I do not believe that we should begin to talk now about over-full employment, as the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) talked the other night. As I have said, it is true that unemployment has stopped rising, but that does not necessarily mean that we can overlook the fact that 45,000 persons are registered for employment and 17,000 are still receiving the unemployment benefit. In such a situation, no member on this side of the House would agree that we had a condition of over-full employment.
If the Minister wants to talk about over-full employment he should provide honorable members on this side of the House with a fair analysis of the kinds of people who constitute the 45,000 registered for employment or the 17,000 receiving the unemployment benefit. It is time the Minister gave this House a fair analysis of the situation but, instead of doing so, he stood up and talked about over-full employment. The number registered for employment is not less than it was a few years ago. Ever since this Government has been in power, it has had more than a reasonable pool of unemployed in Australia. One can only assume from what the Minister for Labour and National Service said that the Government believes that with 45,000 registered for employment and 17.000 receiving the unemployment benefit, commonly referred to as the “ dole “, we have full employment in Australia. 1 say, as I have said before, that we do not believe there is a condition of full employment when so many people are registered for employment and so many are receiving the unemployment benefit.
Who are the people in these two groups? Are they New Australians? If they are, one should certainly look closely at the immigration programme. I do not believe that they are New Australians, but we know that 120,000 new people are coming into this country each year and this is one of the reasons why we are entitled to see an analysis of the figures. Again, are these people unemployable? Are they seasonal workers? The Minister does not say who these 17,000 are who are receiving the unemployment benefit. He gives us no figures in this connection. I utter a note of warning to the people of Australia and remind them that while unemployment has stopped rising, the fact remains that this Government has very readily learned how to provide a pool of unemployed. While the number of unemployed may be comparatively low today when compared with the numbers of unemployed in previous times, we know only too well that if this Government wanted to increase the pool of unemployed it could very soon introduce into this House the kinds of economic measures to which I have referred and which in the past have been responsible for high levels of unemployment.
It has been mentioned - again, I think, by the Minister for Labour and National Service - than in 1963 tradesmen such as fitters received a marginal increase of 12s. a week. He also reminded us that the basic wage had increased by £1 in 1964 and that employees in many industries now received three weeks annual leave. What the Minister should have told us is what proportion of the marginal increase or the £1 increase in the basic wage has been left to the people who received these increases. Even since this Government has been in power we have seen the effects of creeping inflation. Although people may .have received an increase of £1 in the basic wage, I think it would be a fair commentary on this Government’s administration to say that very little of that £1 a week, in terms of actual financial gain, has been left to the people to whom the increase was granted. The same applies to those who received the marginal increase. Already the benefits they may have received from those increases have been swallowed up in additional costs and prices, and I believe that figures could be presented to substantiate my argument.
Now I want to turn to the matter “of social services which was raised by the Minister for Repatriation. I have just said that the £1 a week increase in the basic wage has been largely swallowed up by increased prices. The Government has now decided that age and invalid pensions will be increased by 5s. a week. It must be remembered that, for married pensioners, this is the first increase for, I think, two years. There was no increase in 1962, no increase in 1963, and now in 1964 the Government has granted a magnanimous increase of 5s. a week. This will increase the amount for a married pensioner to £5 156. a week, while the rate for single pensioners will rise to £6 a week. I think the Minister for Labour and National Service claimed last week that while social service payments in 1949-50 represented 3.4 per cent, of our gross national product, today they represent 4.8 per cent. Again, I say that these figures can be assessed only after taking into account other increases such as increases in the costs of basic commodities. People speak about increased indirect taxation. The fact remains that a person who received an increase of £1 a week in his wage pays no more in indirect taxes than a pensioner who now receives only £5 15s. a week. They both pay the same amount in indirect taxation for basic commodities. This Government talks about having dispensed justice to recipients of social service benefits. One could hardly claim that increasing the base rate of pension by 5s. a week represents a dispensation of justice on the part of this Government.
There is a great deal to be done in this field and I have no doubt that the amending legislation with which the House will be concerned will provide an opportunity for honorable members on this side to deal with these fundamentally important matters. This Government has ignored its responsibility in the field of social services. Nobody in this country with any knowledge of the current situation and the difficulties faced by recipients of social service benefits would accept the proposition that justice is being meted out simply because the proportion of gross national product represented by social service payments has increased. I do not accept it and my colleagues on this side of the House do not accept it. We believe that people who have some knowledge of this subject would support our point of view.
Mr. ACTING DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Failes). - Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard) said that members of the Opposition were more concerned with realities than with figures. Then he went on to quote numerous figures in an effort to prove his arguments. What are realities? Are they figures? Or are figures realities?
– I did not quote any figures.
– The honorable member quoted quite a lot of figures, particularly towards the end of his speech. However, I do not propose to follow him through most of the arguments that he presented. I want to make a speech on the Budget as I see it.
The Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt), in presenting his Budget, said, among other things -
Altogether, 1963-64 v/as a year of notable economic achievement for Australia. Admittedly we had a fair share of good fortune. At home the seasons stood to us again. Abroad, the prices of a number of our main exports rose and some commodities, like wheat and sugar, found wider markets than we would normally have expected.
The Treasurer said that the seasons stood to us again. That is very true. It goes to prove - he recognises this and I think most people should recognise it - that the Australian economy is based almost wholly and solely on the seasons because most of our export earnings come from our primary products. So, if the seasons are bad the economy suffers.
I sometimes wonder why certain honorable members continually criticise what they call hand-outs - money that is made available to the primary industries through the Budget. These hand-outs that they talk about are subsidies which are paid to primary producers for the purpose of giving them a fair standard of living in comparison with the standard of living of their fellow workers in the cities. These subsidies automatically reduce the prices of the products that people in the cities buy, below the prices that they would pay on the basis of the cost of production. Let us look at this matter from that point of view.
These subsidies are paid in order to give primary producers a decent standard of living comparable with that of their fellow workers. How do those fellow workers maintain their standard of living, of which we are so proud? Tariffs are imposed to protect .our secondary industries against competition from cheaper imported goods, so enabling those industries to pay decent wages and to maintain the standard of living of their workers. Therefore, tariffs are subsidies, in another form, which are given to secondary industries and to the people who work in them. So let us hear no more about rural industries receiving hand-outs from revenue derived from the taxpayers. The performance of Australia’s primary industries over the last few years has been remarkable. That was demonstrated by the Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr. McEwen) in his speech last Thursday night. He quoted figures to prove that the primary industries are still the mainstay of the whole Australian economy.
By and large, I approve of the Budget. I believe that it is a sound exposition of the economy of this country. It is designed for a specific purpose; namely, to restrain spending in certain avenues which are really nonproductive. As the Treasurer said, there are elements in the economy which point to excessive spending and therefore the indications are that inflation might come upon us again. That is why I approve, to a very large extent, of what has been done in the Budget. But I intend to criticise certain aspects of it.
The first aspect that I criticise is the increase in telephone rentals. I believe that this matter should have been approached in another way, because as other honorable members have said, a telephone is not a luxury today, particularly in areas such as I represent. Many people have a telephone not only for business purposes but for purposes of security. I have paid for the installation of telephones in certain areas in order to give people telephones. They have paid me the rent over the years. The outward calls from those telephones would be practically nil, and the revenue that the Postmaster-General’s Department receives from the inward calls to those telephones would make up for the lack of revenue from outward calls.
I suggest that the Department reconsider its policy. I put forward this proposition: When a telephone is installed, the cost of it should be paid by the person who bas it installed, and afterwards the Department should make a service charge for maintaining the telephone. Other business undertakings install an apparatus and then make a service charge on the person who has it installed. In this case the telephone would be installed, the person would pay for it, and then the Postal Department would make a service charge. The cost of any new parts would be paid by the person who had the telephone installed. If that system had been adopted, I do not think the Department would have lost any revenue; in fact, it would have increased its revenue because the telephone would have been used more. Today, before a person picks up a telephone to use it, he thinks how much it will cost him. So he does not use it to the extent that he would use it if the rental charge was reasonable. I put forward that suggestion.
During previous Budget debates and debates on the estimates of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department I have put forward other suggestions regarding the operation of the Telephone Branch. I will not repeat them now. They are well known to honorable members.
– The five-year plan.
– Yes, there is the five-year plan and the divorcing of the Postmaster-General’s Department from the Treasury. I will leave it at that I want to refer to another matter which is controlled by the Postmaster-General’s Department, namely the. curtailment of country mail services. Many mail services in my area have been reduced from three to two and from two to one a week. The excuse given is that the cost of delivering articles is getting out of all proportion to the revenue received.
Let me give the facts of a typical case which came to my notice recently. The people concerned have had two mail services a week for 40 years, but now the service is being cut back to one a week, in their opinion for no good reason. In 1953 the tender rate for the service was approximately ls. 6d. a mile and the letter postage rate was 2id. In 1964, when postage is 5d. a letter, the lowest tender received by the department was for ls. 6d. a mile. The people there say they are led to believe that the accepted tender for the single service they receive was for 2s. a mile and that the cost of the service now is approximately the same as the cost of the previous twice weekly service at ls. 6d. a mile. Let me go further. As I said before, the accepted tender in 1953 was for approximately ls. 6d. a mile. Ten years afterwards, in 1963, the accepted tender was for ls. 4±d. a mile. Now, in 1964 the lowest tender for the twice weekly service was ls. 6d. a mile. Yet the PostmasterGeneral’s Department said that this price was too high and it has now accepted a tender rate of about 2s. a mile for a service operating once a week. When you examine the years 1953, 1963 and 1964 it appears that the increase is not commensurate with the increased postal rates and the increased cost of living. Since 1963-64 there has been an increase of £1 in the basic wage.
On the mail route that I am referring to there are 28 points of call and it serves between 125 and 150 people. In that area members of nine families are doing correspondence courses and members of nine more families will start them during the next five years. What is going to happen to the education of those children? The position does not make sense. If the service could be provided in 1953 for ls. 6d. a mile and there was a tender in 1964 for ls. 6d. a mile why does the Department now say that ls. 6d. a mile is too dear and then let a contract for 2s. a mile? Of course, in the intervening period the postage rate, the basic wage and the cost of living have all gone up. This is the sort of thing that is happening. As a matter of fact I believe that in some of the country areas people are worse off today than they were in the horse and buggy era. There has been a retrograde step as far as I can see.
There is another matter, regarding telephone calls, to which I want to refer and which is not appreciated by a lot of people. I refer to fixed time charges. People living in country areas cannot stay around their homesteads all day to wait for their calls so they are compelled to put in a fixed time call. Most of my constituents have many long distance calls. The rate for a fixed time call to a particular person over a distance of from 30 to 50 miles is1s. For a call over a distance of 100 to 200 miles it is 3s.; for 200 to 300 miles it is 4s.; for 300 to 400 miles it is 5s.; and above 400 miles it is 6s. The average call distance in my area would be between 200 and 300 miles. In that case the average cost of a call lasting three minutes would be 4s. or 5s. A telephone is not a luxury, but is a necessity for these people, though the price for it is a luxury price. I ask that these fixed time charges be reviewed because I believe they are adding greatly to costs in country areas.
One of the main things I want to deal with today is the necessity for increasing the growth of this country. I believe the Government has taken the initial step as far as water resources are concerned. It has done this in regard to both surface and underground water resources. It will not be long before we will be seeking extra water supplies. We read in the Press these days that most countries are finding that they are hard up for water supplies. We in Australia have the opportunity to avoid making the mistakes other countries have made. We have the opportunity of making provision for future water supplies. I should like to refer to an article which mentions a recent symposium on irrigation development held at Griffith, New South Wales. It states-
The present excess of food production above the Australian usage would only support, on an Australian diet, an extra 3 million people, and our population would increase by this number in a little over 12 years. This indicates the vast role that irrigation must play in our development as a food producing area of the world.
I urge the Government to give water conservation a No. 1 priority. Without adequate supplies it will not be long before we catch up with the amount of food that this country can ordinarily produce without further irrigation. This article states that the increase in population would catch up with food production in a little over 12 years. Therefore this matter should be given No. 1 priority. I urge the Government to carry out the project, put to it jointly by the New South Wales and Queensland Governments six months ago, relating to the border rivers. This project has been investigated by the Governments of Queenlsand and New South Wales, and they are satisfied that it is an economic proposition. I have mentioned this matter in the House before and have given figures relating to it, but I want to raise it again. I have written to the Department of National Development asking when it can give an answer on whether the Government is prepared to go into the scheme on an equal basis with the States. I have been informed that the matter is still under investigation, although all available data regarding the scheme is already available from the water and irrigation departments in New South Wales and Queensland. This Government should give an answer on this proposal. The people in the two States concerned are prepared to spend the money and to increase their production by irrigation and by water conservation, but they want to know where they are going so that they can formulate their plans.
Last year the Government, in its wisdom, granted a bounty on superphosphate, and I believe it will reap great benefits from this action. I approve of that action. But superphosphate is used mainly in our southern and western regions. It is hardly used at all in Queensland. The further north one goes the deficiency of our soil increases so far as humus and nitrogen content are concerned, and nitrogen is being used more and more every day. On behalf of the people who use nitrate and those who want to use it but cannot do so because of the cost, I ask the Government to consider subsidising nitrogenous fertilisers in the same way as it has subsidised superphosphate.
The price of urea, which is one of the nitrogenous fertilisers, a few years ago was £48 a ton in Brisbane. The price has been increased twice in the last few years and it is now £53 a ton and from what I have heard there are likely to be more price rises within the next few months. It has been proved at the University of Queensland that urea is a very important element and one of the best controls we have of mottling in wheat. Some honorable members may not realise that mottling of wheat is a problem that must be faced and that it is a problem existing not only in Australia but all over the world. The probable cause of mottling of wheat is some deficiency, probably of nitrates, or of adequate rainfall to release the nitrates. It is believed at the University of Queensland that this deficiency is one of the main causes of mottling “and the university is now almost satisfied that urea will afford the best control over this condition. Mottled wheat will not make good flour. That has been proved in the laboratories and any flour miller can tell you that.
I repeat that mottled wheat is found not only in Queensland but throughout the whole world. In an effort to combat this condition the Government should give some consideration to granting relief to those who are required to apply nitrogenous fertiliser to the soil, even if the application of the fertiliser is merely to avoid mottled wheat. This condition in Australia is costing us probably hundreds of thousands of pounds each year because mottled wheat is not good, no matter what variety of wheat it may be. If honorable members care to check on this matter by reference to the Library they will find that what I have said on this subject is substantially correct. I know that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) is quite conversant with the problem. The cost of applying this nitrogenous fertiliser is very great. I suggest that early consideration be given to relieving the primary producers of the burden of some of that cost. More and more urea is being used every day, and more would be used if it were brought within the reach of the primary producer. lt has been proved definitely that with the application of urea at the rate of half a cwt. per acre wheat production can be increased by from 10 to 30 per cent. Consequently, this is a matter that deserves very serious and earnest consideration.
I should like now to say a few words about social services. Government sup porters have been challenged by the Opposition, and in particular by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Barnard), to say something about the means test. I accept that challenge. I suggest that the means test should be abolished. We have moved progressively to do this down through the years, more so than any other Government, but I think the time has now arrived when the means test should be abolished. I do not know whether my friends opposite would agree, but it is my belief that any person who draws social service benefits should be liable for income tax if his total income is in a taxable range. We will have to face up to the situation some day, if we are to have the social state that everybody is talking about, that it will be necessary to abolish the means test, but to do so it will be necessary for social service benefit recipients to become liable for taxation.
Many honorable members opposite have spoken about defence. I do not claim to be a strategist or to understand Australia’s defence problems. I am prepared to accept the view of the experts on this subject. However, honorable members opposite suggest that the Government is not spending enough on defence, but they make no suggestion about how the money should be spent. I believe that the Government is doing the right thing, but I believe also that if we armed every man, woman and child in Australia with conventional weapons and had to fight a conventional war we would not have a hope against the people who are usually referred to as our potential enemy. I agree that we should spend more on defence, but I believe that the expenditure should be on nuclear weapons. This is the only way that we have to defend Australia. The Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) demonstrated to the House that the training of men takes such a long time that we would get only 18 months active service from each two years spent by men in the Services. In a country like Australia where we are crying out for development we should not be taking men from industry. I believe that it is nonsense to spend money on conventional weapons when we already have an adequate defence force. We should be spending much more on nuclear weapons.
I had intended to refer to decentralisation but I know that other honorable members from my party will speak on this subject. In the Budget some ground has been broken towards decentralisation. It is proposed to introduce a uniform petrol price which will ensure that the price of petrol anywhere in Australia is not more than 4d. above the capital city price.
– When will that be introduced?
– It will be introduced. Do not worry about that. The introduction of such a scheme is not the simple matter that honorable members opposite seem to think it is. We must face the problem of decentralisation with a greater degree of concentration and, in doing so, we should consider subsidising transport costs to attract industries into our country areas. One honorable member suggested that we should remove the sales tax from freight. I shall leave it to the honorable member to explain that proposition to the House if he wishes to do so.
Gas has been found in my electorate in Queensland. It has been estimated that the supply will be sufficient to supply the needs of Brisbane and Sydney, if it can be piped to those cities. I ask the Government and honorable members to give consideration to this project because the impact of the use of gas on industry will effect the use of other fuels used for the generation of power. I know that the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) is concerned about the use of coal. Consideration should be given to the impact that the use of gas by industry will have on other fuels that are now used to generate power and to turn the machinery in industrial areas.
Much has been said about agricultural research, the need for extension officers, and the money that has been made available in this field. I am now going on to my hobby horse again and suggest that if we are to attract the extension officers that we need and if we are to keep our agricultural scientists so that they can impart their knowledge to others they must be paid a decent wage. Agricultural scientists have been considered to be the poor relations among scientists. I know that the Department of Agriculture is losing the services of many of these officers who are going to private enterprise. Others will not remain with the Department and I know of quite a number who have gone back on to the land. Doctors of agriculture, agricultural scientists and other highly educated men are going on to the land. They all have degrees but they are leaving their instructional posts with the universities and the extension services and are starting out in business for themselves. They cannot see any future in their present positions. If they have a family, they cannot see how they will be able to educate their children on the miserable pittance they receive as agricultural scientists. I ask the Prime Minister to take note of this trend and to consider it when he is looking at the education field as a whole.
Sitting suspended from 5.41 to 8 p.m.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, this Budget could hardly be called an exciting document. It is purposeless, unimaginative, without drive, uninspiring and, in some parts, downright unjust. That may seem to be a rather sweeping criticism of the Budget but it is supported by a summary of the Budget which appeared in our new national newspaper, the “ Australian “ on 20th August. Referring to the last ten years of this Government’s term the newspaper stated -
The Federal Government still only shows the glimmering of an understanding of the need for more planning and a greater national effort in defence, education, transport, city planning, northern development and the fuller exploitation of our rich natural resources, material and human.
The article pointed out also that the Government had neglected to develop Australia’s timber resources with the result that this country is heavily dependent on imported timber. The article quoted Sir Warren McDonald, Chairman of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, as saying that Australia had to import about £70 million worth of timber yearly. In fact, in each of the years 1951 and 1960 Australia imported more than £100 million worth of timber. Yet we should be able to grow all of our timber requirements.
The article in the “ Australian “ pointed out that two years ago Australia was spending only 1 per cent, of its gross national product on defence compared with an expenditure of 3i per cent, ten years ago. Today we are spending about 31 per cent, of our gross national product on defence. I hope to say more about these matters later.
The article also dealt with education and pointed out that, despite some improvements in recent years, we in Australia are still spending only about 3 per cent, of our gross national product on education. Compared with this figure, we find that Britain is spending 4 per cent., the United States of America and Canada 5 per cent, and small countries such as Norway and Holland are spending more than 5 per cent. Russia spends about 7 per cent, of her gross national product on education. The article directs attention to the fact that government expenditure in Australia, as a percentage of the gross national product, is well below expenditure in other countries. This fact is important in the light of the Budget contents and some of the statements that were made prior to the Budget being introduced. The “Australian “ states that government expenditure in Australia amounts to 18 per cent, of the gross national product. In Canada government expenditure amounts to about 20 per cent, of the gross national product; in France, to 22 per cent; in New Zealand, to 21 per cent; in Sweden, to 25 per cent; and in the United Kingdom, to 24 per cent. In the United States - that country lauded as the great free enterprise country - government expenditure amounts to 22 per cent, of the gross national product. Those countries that I have mentioned are able to provide the fundamental requirements of national development in a way that our Government has not yet been prepared to tackle.
The Budget is notable, I suppose, for some of the things that it mentions, but it is very notable, I submit, for some of the very important public issues and problems that it does not mention. Where can you find in the entire Budget Speech any reference to the great problem of decentralisation of population and industry in this country? This problem is one of the most urgent in our community today. The tendency for people to congregate in our large capital cities is not lessening but, in fact, increasing. I hope to say more about this matter later. Virtually no mention or provision is made in the Budget for water con- servation and timber conservation. Where in the Budget is there much reference to research, particularly industrial research? We hear a great deal about our dependence on overseas investment in this country. Apparently all people approve of this investment if it brings with it knowhow, but is it not time that a young and virile country like Australia, with all the resources that it commands, gave greater stimulus to research of its own? I have just visited the Ord River scheme and I frankly concede that there has been a good deal of development in the area. There is a spirit of optimism about the place, but I wonder why the Budget makes no provision for the commencement of the second stage of the scheme. I hope that I will be able to refer to this matter in greater detail later.
Above all else, the Budget contains no plan of national development for which the Australian Labour Party has clamoured in season and out of season in recent years. All honorable members have been supplied with what I think is a very valuable document prepared by the Stanford Research Institute and entitled “ The Development of Australia “. The document was prepared for the Australian Development Research Foundation. One very pertinent paragraph reads -
The development of a region along the lines pioneered by the Tennessee Valley Authority, from which the Snowy project drew much of its inspiration, is likely to be a more successful method of economic development than piecemeal experiment under political pressure.
Does not that describe this Government? The document continues -
But where to find another Snowy? The answer to this question can only come from research studies undertaken as part of a development programme conceived in national terms. The costs of such regional development are high, but the costs, either of failure to undertake it or of dissipating national resources in ill-prepared and premature piecemeal development - a road here and a railway there, an agricultural settlement somewhere else, and exhortations to industrial decentralisation - may well be higher.
That is a very appropriate criticism of the Government’s performance in recent times and as outlined in the Budget.
As I said earlier, in travelling through the north of Australia one finds that many laudable projects have been undertaken. Some of them need greater attention than they have received so far. In saying that, I have in mind particularly the much lauded beef cattle roads. I saw holes in the newly constructed beef cattle roads in the north of Australia which would engulf a motor car. There have been washaways on the roads and parts of the roads have been ground into powder. Many hauliers who use the roads in the Northern Territory are going out of business because of the deterioration of these roads, which are financed substantially from taxation revenue derived from the people who live in the southern part of the continent.
One of the principles that seems to underline the Budget Speech is that when the nation is enjoying unparalleled prosperity it is least able to assist the unprosperous sections of the community. The Government adopts the peculiar reasoning that to give greater assistance to the unprosperous sections of the community would endanger or undermine the country’s prosperity by encouraging inflation. Speaker after speaker from the Government side of the House, particularly Ministers, have told us in the course of this debate how prosperous Australia is. They have told us how productivity has increased, how we have record overseas balances and how our exports are at an all time high. They could have added - but, discreetly, they do not - that profits are also rising and that wages have gone up. But somehow in this period of great prosperity the Budget is able to do very little for the people who have to live on nothing but a pension. It does nothing to correct the great anomalies and deficiencies of the national health scheme. Indeed, it imposes penalties on the people, including those who are not very well able to bear them. I think that a government which, in this day and age, gives pensioners a paltry increase of 84 d. a day - the cost of about half a loaf of bread - will long have to endure criticism from not only the pensioners but all people with any sense of humanity or with any sympathy for the plight of pensioners. With living standards as they are, to ask a single pensioner to live on only £6 a week is to expect far too much, particularly in times of the unparalleled prosperity about which we hear so much. I remind the House, too, that the 5s. a week increase for married pensioners came after three years of no increase whatsoever.
I do not want to dwell too much on this matter because so many of my colleagues have referred to it, but one of the things I will never understand is why the B class and C class widow pensioners receive only £5 7s. 6d. a week, even under the new provisions of this Budget. What is the logic behind it? Why should a woman who is widowed at, say, 52 years of age, and who has no other resources, be expected to live on £5 7s. 6d. a week when £6 is allocated to a woman who becomes an age pensioner at 60? Why is it suggested that a younger woman should be able to live on substantially less than an age pensioner? I hope that before long the Government will set up a full inquiry into the whole gamut of social services in this country. I cannot help thinking that our social services structure has just grown up in a topsy turvy fashion. Bits have been added here and there, without any basic understanding of what is economic or social justice for the people concerned.
One of the crudest things in this Budget is the increase in postal charges. I refer particularly to the cost of telephone installation, which is to rise from £10 to £15. Rentals, likewise, are to go up. In capital cities the rental charge will be £20 a year. The reason given for these increases is that the Telephone Branch of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department has been running at a loss. But let us just have a look at the “ Financial and Statistical Bulletin “ for the year ended 30th June 1963 - the latest issue available. It states that in that year the earnings of the Telephone Branch were £93,536,000. But the ordinary commercial expenses amounted to only £75,490,000. Where is the loss in that? That is actually a profit of something like £18 million. The Branch probably made even more this year. I do not know at this stage. How, then, do we arrive at the loss which has caused the imposition of these severe additional costs upon telephone users? It comes about as the result of a decision made by this Government just a few years ago to include in the accounts a new item - an item that had never been there in all our previous history. It is an item called interest. The interest charged against that £18 million profit amounted to £19.9 million. With this phoney charge we come down to a loss of £1.9 million in the Telephone Branch.
What is this interest item that is included in the telephone accounts? It is interest charged on capital that has been provided to the Postmaster-General’s Department from the Treasury over the years; and the Post Office customers, especially the telephone users, are required to pay interest on that capital. Where did the Treasury get this capital? Did it come from loan money? Was it money that the Treasury had to pay interest on to the community at large? It was not. It was provided to the Treasury out of taxation revenue. So we get to the silly situation where the telephone user is not only paying for the commercial costs of the enterprise but is also paying interest on the capital provided by his own taxes. If that is not a most stupid idea, I do not know what is. The result is that from now on, new applicants for telephones will be required to pay an extra installation cost. In Sydney, for example, instead of being charged £17 10s. or £17 17s. for installation and the first half year’s rent as at present, they will pay £25.
We all have in our electorates a good number of elderly sick people, and they are the people who particularly need a telephone service. Many of them have little else but their pension out of which to pay their way. This higher rental charge, to say nothing of the fee for installing the telephone, will cost them an extra 2s. Id. a week out of the 5s. that they are to receive by way of an increase in their pension. It is no wonder that there have been bitter complaints by these people.
We have said on many occasions that when charges similar to these are introduced they perseverate right through the economic structure of the community; they become part of the cost of production and I remind the House that these new imposts are being superimposed on production costs at the very time when the Commonwealth Government is appealing to private industry not to increase its charges as the result of the basic wage increase. The Government is appealing to private industry not to increase its charges, but what moral leadership does the Government give to the nation? It goes straight ahead and increases its charges, and I point out that its increased telephone installation charge and the increased rental are all the more severe because they are both included in the one Budget. For that reason I, and I am sure other honorable members, have many complaints from people in the community. 1 know that throughout Sydney at least - I think this would be particularly true of neighbouring areas - some people have been waiting for two or three years to have the telephone connected. It is lovely news to them now, after waiting all that time without being able to get a telephone, to learn that when they eventually do get it they will be faced with an initial charge of £25 before they can make their first call.
In this building we have seen the pitiful spectacle of blind people being led into King’s Hall to approach members of Parliament with a view to getting some concession on telephone rentals, if not telephone call charges. To these unfortunate people, the telephone is much more than just an instrument of social communication; it is their lifeline. Yet the Government not only resists giving them concessions but adds this tremendous burden upon them.
A good deal has been said in this debate about the proportions of revenue collected in direct and indirect taxation. I have heard a number of Government speakers, from the Treasurer down - if I can put it that way - claiming that under this Government the incidence of direct taxation has been greater proportionately than it was under the previous Labour Government. Direct taxation, of course, bears upon people according to their incomes, whereas indirect taxation tends to be aggressive - a flat rate that falls upon the rich and poor with equal severity. I have taken the trouble to check on the claim by Government supporters. They have been, referring of course, to the Commonwealth’s share of taxation.
It is probably true, in that direct taxation produces a bigger percentage of total revenue than does Commonwealth-imposed indirect taxation, but I think it is fairer to take the incidence of taxation imposed by all authorities over the whole of Australia. If you do that you will find that in 1948-49 indirect taxation produced 46.5 per cent, of total tax revenue and direct taxation produced 53.5 per cent. By 1962-63, however, the yield from indirect taxation had climbed from the 46.5 per cent, that it was in 1948-49, when the last Labour Government was in office, to 50.7 per cent., while the yield from direct taxation had fallen from 53.5 per cent, as it was in Labour’s day to 49.3 per cent.
Probably the Prime Minister or someone else will say: “ Yes, but this includes, as you said, all other governmental agencies apart from the Commonwealth Government”. But I think that this is still the fair way to regard it. After all, the States have had to shoulder additional burdens. Their only source of revenue, apart from Commonwealth reimbursements, is indirect taxation, so they have been compelled to levy higher rates of taxation than they would do ordinarily if they received what they regard as a fair share of the revenue from direct taxes raised by the Commonwealth Government. I understand that Victoria is at present in some difficulty because it has not been charging the high estate duties and other indirect taxes that other States have been charging, so these taxes will have to be increased in Victoria.
Another group of people who have been dealt with rather badly of late, not only through the Budget but in various other ways through conditions in the economy, is the ordinary wage-earning community. We are all very well aware that after a prolonged inquiry the basic wage was lifted by £1 a week. Since that happened, prices have been going up. As 1 said before, the Commonwealth is not giving the kind of moral leadership in this matter that we would expect it to give. We have seen the price of housing go up. lt has been assessed that the price of building materials alone has risen sharply by 9 per cent, in the last 12 months. Consumer prices are confidently expected to rise by 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, between June 1964 and June 1965. As recently as yesterday the “ Australian Financial Review “ carried an article to the effect that home building costs are to climb again. It mentioned the increase in the price of timber which will cause further difficulties for home builders. The £250 that many young people receive as a result of the Government’s election promises has been almost wiped out already by the increases in the prices of timber and building materials generally that have occurred mainly since the £1 a week basic wage rise was granted.
I remind the House that when the learned judges looked into the wage question they looked at the whole economy from three points of view to see what it could afford. They looked at it from the point of view of the movement of prices since 1961; they looked at it from the point of view of productivity; they looked at it from the point of view of the capacity of the economy, at that time, to pay. I bring to notice the wide scope of the Court’s inquiry. The Court looked at rural industry and said that its examination showed that production, exports and farm incomes were at high, increasing levels. It looked at our balance of payments position and said that our overseas reserves were in a very healthy position. After looking at our competitive position in relation to secondary industries, the Court’s judgment was that a general all round improvement was taking place. The Court looked at investment and said that there was a definite improvement in that regard. It looked at employment and said that the employment position had improved considerably, as we have been reminded by the Government. It looked at company income and said that this was another indication of the prosperity of the economy. It looked at the position in relation to money, banking and personal consumption. In all these respects - I daresay the Government will take some pride in this - the state of the economy had improved somewhat and - this is the important point - it was able to afford the £1 a week basic wage rise.
But what has happened to the £1 basic wage rise? Who has received it? Is it the ordinary wage earner, or is it those firms in the community which, almost the day after the basic wage rise was announced, jacked up the prices of their commodities? There was no research into their price structure. There was no research into whether this basic wage rise would add so much to their costs. No! In their opinion the £1 basic wage rise entitled them to put up their prices almost immediately. However, some increases were delayed slightly and are being made only now. So we have the sorry spectacle once again of the Commonwealth Government, in a different form on this occasion, giving a poor lead to private enterprise, to rob the wage earners of the basic wage rise to which, in the judgment of the Court, they were entitled. We remember, of course, that it is only a few years since the Commonwealth Government intervened in the Court to try to prevent the wage earners receiving an increase in the basic wage.
I have stated that research did not get a mention in this Budget. It has been said that a would-be industrial country which continues to use second hand methods will never be anything more than second rate. The cost of imported knowhow is variously estimated at between £20 million and £50 million a year. Additionally, this importation of foreign knowhow often involves increased foreign control and/or ownership of Australian industry. We heard some references at question time today - we know how strongly the Country Party and the Labour Party feel about this - to the unwarranted foreign investment that does not bring knowhow with it but which takes control of Australian enterprises without making any contribution to our economic development. Apart from that, we are aware that very strong representations were made to the Treasurer and to the Government to give inducement, to give encouragement, to give incentive to private industry, as well as to government activity, to engage in research so that we can become an exporter, rather than an importer, of ideas, methods and techniques. 1 am reminded of a statement made by Dr. Raymond Ewell, Assistant Director of the National Science Foundation, when addressing the American Drug Manufacturers’ Association in April 1963. I think his words are well worth notice. He said -
In the United States of America it is estimated that the annual return on investment in research is between 100 per cent, and 200 per cent, and that nearly half of the annual increase in the gross national product can be attributed to new knowledge and the use of new techniques. Research may bc the most important single factor in economic growth in the United States of America.
The Labour Party tried to bring this to the notice of the Australian electorate during the last election campaign. It promised, among other things, to establish a national science foundation. It promised to appoint a Minister for Education and Science who would be responsible for the foundation, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. It promised to set up a powerful scientific body in Australia, and it promised to provide special tax concessions for industrial firms to encourage them to undertake research and development. These things are being done in Canada, France and many other countries, but despite its strong pleas to the Treasurer industry apparently received no satisfactory consideration in the Budget.
I mentioned also that the Budget fails to do anything about the urgent problem of decentralisation. In 1954 over half of our population - 54.2 per cent. - lived in the metropolitan areas. By 1961, the proportion had risen to 56.2 per cent. All these things add great burdens to our community and to the economy in terms of costs. None of these things seem to have invited the active attention, as it is often described, of the Treasurer in this Budget. These are great problems that have not been tackled by the Government. Indeed, it seems to think that they scarcely warrant a mention. We have referred to defence already. Defence, development and all these other things fail to receive the attention that the Australian Labour Party thinks they deserve. That is why we have proposed an amendment that amounts to a motion of censure on the Budget.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am glad that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds), at the conclusion of his remarks, has thought fit to remind us that we are considering what amounts to a motion of censure, because, otherwise, this may have been overlooked during the debate of the last week. I do not propose to take up time discussing the honorable member’s impassioned remarks, except to suggest to him, in a friendly way, that, since he is so upset about interest being charged on revenue moneys for capital purposes being advanced to the Post Office, he should perhaps look into the position of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme. In that Scheme, the Commonwealth is not aiming at profit. It has provided the overwhelming bulk of the money for the Scheme out of revenue. That has been found by the taxpayers. In the calculation of the price to be paid by the States concerned for the power provided by the Scheme, interest on that money is taken into account. There is nothing new about this. Indeed, the honorable member, if he takes the next opportunity to talk to any Labour Premier whom he can find, will discover that this has been accepted by all the Premiers, whatever their party affiliations may be. It has been accepted for a very good reason: There is no particular reason why a State should secure power in perpetuity at a cost that loads the whole of the capital burden on to today’s taxpayer. This is perfectly proper. Therefore, I suggest to the honorable member, in a friendly way, that he should look into the financing of the Snowy Mountains Scheme. 1 wish primarily, Sir, to say something about the attack made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell) on this Budget in the guise of an amendment that may be said to amount to a censure motion. He encountered some difficulties, because, if ever there was a Budget which was well balanced and in which stability, growth and action to counter inflation were nicely blended, it is this Budget. I know of no completely responsible commentator who has not admitted this. All I can say for myself and my colleagues is that we subscribe to every line of this Budget. The Leader of the Opposition, of course, felt that as usual he must launch an attack. He received, no doubt, suitable advice. Indeed, for some time during his speech last week, I thought he was almost in a brown study, if honorable members can follow me in that allusion. He garnished his speech with a few flourishes of his own. I shall say a little about them later, I hope in a tender way.
There were a few phrases that struck me. For example, the honorable gentleman said that this was a stop growth Budget. I suppose even he became a little tired of saying “ stop-go “. So he just made this rather pleasant variation on a theme and said that this is a stop growth Budget. Stop growth! Why, the honorable member for Barton has just delivered a eulogy on the growth of this country that I could not imagine to be surpassed in any quarter. However, his Leader said first that this was a stop growth Budget. His Leader then said that this was a deflationary Budget. All I can say is that you cannot win with the Leader of the Opposition. At any rate, I cannot. I am like King Charles’s head: I keep popping up.
But what does the honorable gentleman mean by a deflationary Budget? Does he mean a counter to inflationary Budget or does he belong to that school of thought - if it is to be called thought - which holds that there is no middle course between inflation and deflation? The whole purpose of this Budget, as was made abundantly clear in the most lucid terms by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in presenting it, is to produce not a deflationary result but an anti-inflationary one - to avoid inflation and to preserve that stability in the country on which the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns) was kind enough to compliment me when he spoke in this debate, though I do not know why he did so. All these things are the purpose of the Budget. To describe it as deflationary is to give it a fantastic description. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition very soon abandoned that proposition. There is one thing about him: He is never so consistent in his attack that you can detect no flaw in the armour. On this occasion, having explained that this Budget was deflationary, and having painted a picture of impending misery and depression, as he did when last year’s Budget was presented as well as during the last election campaign, he then forgot what he had just done and said - ] venture to suggest that this Budget will prove, os last year’s Budget did, to have underestimated revenue by at least as much as Inst year’s Budget or by at least £50 million.
The Leader of the Opposition went on to say, referring to the Treasurer -
If this proves to be the case … the effect on the economy may well be much more drastic than he foresees.
So he says that we are underestimating the revenue. How is the revenue estimated by the Treasury? It is estimated by making the best possible forecast of the state of the economy, of prosperity, of rates of earnings, of prices, of export earnings and so on, and then working out the sums. If revenues exceed estimates by £50 million, this will mean that the economy has been expanding more than had been estimated, in that employment, earnings, sales and imports will have risen more than the Treasury had estimated. If that represents deflation, we must get another dictionary. Now that I think of it, I shall come back to the dictionary a little later for another purpose. What I have just mentioned is a plain contradiction by the Leader of the Opposition of himself. First, he says that this Budget is deflationary and then, in effect, he says: “ No, that is nonsense. We are to have a very expansive year.”
The honorable gentleman then attempted to show, with the aid of a table that he incorporated in “ Hansard “, that the incidence of taxation has changed. If I may interrupt myself, let me point out that the incidence of taxation does commonly change if income grows. This is not an uncommon experience. The Leader of the Opposition said that the incidence of taxation relative to prices and incomes has changed consistently to the detriment of those on lower incomes. This constitutes his case. This is one of the great points that he sets out to make in support of his censure motion.
With the aid of a table that he produced, he attempted to show that a basic wage earner with a wife and two children had found his position deteriorating in the last ten years under the administration of this Government, which the honorable member for Yarra described as unhappily popular. The Leader of the Opposition declared that in the last ten years the tax paid by a basic wage earner with a wife and two children has risen from 5s. a week to 10s. 6d. a week, or from £12 8s. to £27 7s. a year. These are the figures he cited. Let us assume the existence of this man on the basic wage. The honorable gentleman forgets that this man’s wages have risen by £187 a year, out of which he pays an additional £14 or £15 a year in tax. He also forgets that, in addition to the increase in his actual earnings this man has been receiving, over this period of time, increased social service benefits, which can never be left out of this calculation, and to which I shall refer again in a moment.
But I would like to carry my examination of the honorable gentleman’s table a little further. I want to consider the increases that have occurred in the 10 year period from 1954-55 to 1964-65. The income of the basic wage earner - this somewhat mythical being - increased in that period by £187. His income tax increased by £15, so that of his increased income he has retained 92 per cent. The income of the average wage and salary earner, given in the honorable gentlemen’s table under the heading of “ Income of average earnings “, increased over the period of 10 years by £485. His income tax increased by £79, so that he retained 83.7 per cent, of his increased income. The income of a third group is given in the table under the heading of “ Income of four times average earnings “. The increase in money income amounted to £1,940. Income tax increased by £933, so that the man in that category retained 51.9 per cent, of his increased income.
Let me repeat these results briefly so that they may be considered in relation to the charge that everything is altered to the detriment of the lower income earner - 92 per cent, retained by the basic wage earner, 83.7 per cent, by the average earnings man, 51.9 per cent, by the man in the third group selected by the Leader of the Opposition, which comprised those earning four times the average earnings. If this indicates that there is a constant pressing down on the position of the lower income groups, then I fail to understand the meaning of elementary facts.
There has been no justification for the charge made by the Leader of the Opposition. However, as I said just a while ago, I would like to talk about certain other advantages that have been provided. Let me say a word about the increased benefits provided all the time, mark you, from the proceeds of taxation, which go materially in the direction of the lower income groups. It is very proper that they should do so and I am not complaining about it; I just want to state as a fact that they do so. The period with which 1 shall concern myself is that which covers the whole term of office of this Government. The appropriation for age and invalid pensions has gone up - taking the figures to the nearest million - from £45 million to £215 million. No change in the value of money can explain that away. The amount for widow pensions has increased from £4 million to £23 million, for child endowment from £30 million to £86 million, for hospital benefits from £6 million to £29 million, for pharmaceutical benefits from one-third of a million pounds to £30 million, for medical benefits from zero to £18 million and for pharmaceutical benefits for pensioners from zero to £10 million.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, if figures can have any eloquence at all, it is perfectly clear that the benefits of the proper social measures for which we have been so largely responsible do not go to the rich in the community but to the people who need them primarily. Therefore, this allegation that there is a sort of policy of grinding down the lower income earner is pathetic nonsense. I am shocked to think that the honorable gentleman could have obtained any more or less academic support for it.
Now I come to the next point made by the Leader of the Opposition: This point was made, indeed, last year by the honorable member for Yarra, who is a thoughtful speaker and docs a lot of work on these subjects. The Leader of the Opposition said that the country is slowly recovering from the artificial depression of 1961 - this depression wickedly brought about by this Government. Considering the results, I just take leave to say that this is far from true.
I do not want to add to the many things that have been so well said previously on this side of the House, but I suggest that to answer the honorable gentleman’s argument the right thing to do is to compare today’s position with the position in the boom year, because he has said: “ Oh, yes, you cut down on the boom year, and all we are doing is recovering.” So I will compare the boom year with the one which we have the acute misery to live.
Civilian employment in June 1964 was
I I per cent, higher than in June 1960. In that period of time private employment rose by 249,000 and public authority employment by 85,000, an increase of 11 per cent, in each sector. “ Just recovering,” says the Leader of the Opposition. We are recovering - plus this enormous increase. Total wage and salary earnings in this last financial year were 27 per cent, greater than in 1959-60, the year that we refer to as the boom year. Average male earnings since that year have risen by 16 per cent, and since the consumer price index rose by something less than a third of that the increase in real earnings has been considerable and notable.
Farm income increase is, of course, explained by a variety of circumstances. One of them is a tremendous increase in production. There has been good fortune in seasons and good fortune in prices, but never leave out of account the increase in production which is the result of the efforts of the man on the land. Farm income increased between the boom year and the last year by 46 per cent. Cash social service benefits increased in the same period by 39 per cent, and other forms of personal income by 23 per cent. The gross national product increased by 27 per cent.
Then let me talk about concrete matters and get away from purely monetary considerations. In the same period, production of steel rose by 35 per cent, electricity 38 per cent, and cement 28 per cent. I need not go on. I could talk about motor vehicles and the enormous increase in the number of houses and flats commenced. In the boom year the number was 91,000, which was a record at that time, and in 1963-64 the number had increased to 107,000. Savings bank deposits have increased by 50 per cent, since the boom year. They have risen to an average per head of population, men, women, children, grandchildren - I must stick to my last - of £200 a head, while in the boom year the average per head was £148. Those are phenomenal figures. Anybody who can look at them, acknowledge their truth and be heard to say that all we are doing is struggling out of the trough of a depression created in 1960 and 1961 is so far gone in partisanship that he will never’ really be able to take an objective view of anything.
It is quite true - I venture to say this and I think the public will agree with me - that,but for sound budgeting, sound monetary management, sensible economic policies and the preservation of a healthy climate, those figures that I have quoted would have produced an inflationary pressure much more serious that the one at which we have been looking.
I was delighted that the Leader of the Opposition, is his speech, had a little of his own when he said -
And when we delve deeper into this “ Harold in Wonderland “ speech, things grow “ curiouser and curiouser “.
He quoted the words of Alice. I thought this was rather agreeable. In fact, it so stirred me that I re-read “ Alice in Wonderland “. I am indebted to the honorable member for having given me this literary refreshment.
– Were you thinking of the white rabbit?
– No, no; I was thinking about the March Hare. When the honorable member began his speech, with all the hint of a censure motion, I thought that we were going to have something pretty powerful, not weak tea.
– Some people are thinking about the Mad Hatter.
– I am thinking of both, old boy; but I was going to leave you out of it. I am sure honorable members will recall what was said. In fact, I was thinking of it, without having checked the precise words, when the honorable member was promising this powerful, pungent attack. I am sure honorable members remember these words - “ Have some wine,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table -
For this purpose I am Alice - the Mother of the Year.
That is not a bad summary of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition. I also remembered - as I am sure many of us did - as the honorable member kept repeating some of his erroneous conclusions, that he was doing it on the well known principle that Lewis Carroll expressed - “ What I tell you three times is true “. I recommend to the honorable member the further pursuit of these studies. Having said that, I will go back to the point that he thought he was making.
– Go back to “ Alice in Wonderland “.
– I will continue to quote his speech. And you listen to this, my boy; you will learn from it. Your leader - I regard him in that sense - went on to say -
Strangely enough, we can nowhere find in the estimates any allocation for the instalment payments on the TFX bomber. Last year we allowed £10 million; this year nothing. Why? Will the Treasurer say why? Will the Prime Minister say why? Will the Minister for Defence say why? Will the Minister for Air say why?
This is a fine rhetorical phrase -
According to the promise made last November, this bomber was to be delivered by 1966. Despite heated denials in this place, the former Minister for Air -
I assume that that is correctly reported - surreptitiously inserted into a general statement on the TFX the fact that it could not now be delivered before 1968.
I had always regarded the Leader of the Opposition as something of a purist in language. Everybody knows that “surreptitiously “ means secretly or by stealth. How a Minister is clever enough to introduce into a public document, by stealth, a plain statement of fact, I just do not understand; but the word “ surreptitiously “ is used.
Let me remind the House that in October of last year I myself spoke about the TFX. 1 have forgotten whether I did it surreptitiously or not: but I am usually audible in the House, 1 hope. I said -
The Government of Australia has agreed to purchase from the United States two squadrons of F111A aircraft, which used to be called the TFX. By special arrangements with U-.e United States of America, the aircraft will be available to Australia at the same time as deliveries are made to the United States armed forces, which will be from 1967 onwards.
That was my statement - not 1966, but 1967. Then on 18th June, my colleague, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge), in this so-called “ stealthy “ statement, said -
The latest expert advice available to the Government makes it clear that the Canberra will not begin to be phased out of Squadron service until 1970. Doubts about its stated fatigue life have been resolved and it will continue to be a useful operational aircraft. In the light of advice from its professional advisers, the Government has decided to accept deliveries of Fill A aircraft in 1968. These aircraft will embody modifications made as a result of United States Air Force squadron trials, thus providing Australia with a fully tested aircraft.
In other words - I thought all honorable members understood this - the choice was between getting in 1967 a type of aircraft which we would have to handle and which we might have to modify, and waiting one year longer and getting aircraft after they had gone through the whole of their squadron testing in the United States and had received their ultimate modification. So, showing very good sense, the Chiefs of Staff all said: “ The second choice is a good bargain. Let us play it that way “. Finally, the Minister for Defence, in his statement, said -
Information from the United States shows that the development of the FI IIA aircraft is proceeding satisfactorily.
I thought all of that was pretty well known. But the Leader of the Opposition is troubled because there is nothing about it in this year’s Budget. I just want to say that I am delighted about that; and I will tell the House why. The reason why no payment is being made for the TFX aircraft this financial year is, quite simply, that the United States authorities do not require any payment. The provisional schedule of payments which was negotiated by my late friend, Mr. Townley, is being revised in consultation with the United States to reflect the Government’s decision to take deliveries of the aircraft in 1968 for the reasons I have mentioned and not to accept the loan of the B47 bomber as an interim aircraft. The Minister for Defence announced the reasons for these decisions in June.
The revised schedule of payments has not yet been finally drawn up, but it is clear from discussions with the United States authorities that no payment is required during 1964-65 to supplement the amount of just under £9 million paid by us last year. In the meantime, that amount is earning interest until such time as payments are made to the United States contractors for our aircraft. Putting it in brief, Sir, we have a year’s holiday from payments, and during that year we receive interest on the money that we have paid already.
Future progress payments will be determined in consultation with the United States authorities. The estimated total cost to Australia of the 24 aircraft remains at the figure of £56 million announced by Mr. Townley in November of last year. Current advice from official United States sources is that progress on the project is on schedule, and firm assurances have been given that there is no reason at all to doubt that deliveries will be made to the Royal Australian Air Force in 1968. This is up to date advice and it may be relied on.
I do not want to trespass on the time of the House but I will just add one remark on this matter as a result of something that was said by the honorable member for Yarra (Dr. J. F. Cairns). He went to some trouble in the course of his speech to establish that we did not need the TFX; that we did not need this kind of aircraft. On the contrary, he said, the kind of war that might have to be dealt with by Australia was one in which a bomber of this order, of this range, of this capacity, would be entirely irrelevant. So, not for the first time the Leader of the Opposition says one thing and the putative Deputy Leader of the Opposition says another. Anyhow, it has been a pretty futile attack and 1 do not say any more than that we reject it.
– Order! The right honorable gentleman’s time has expired.
.- The Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) opened his speech with a criticism of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). He said that the Leader of the Opposition had received advice from outside about his speech. I suggest that the people realise that the vast array of figures presented to this Parliament tonight by the Prime Minister were prepared for him by his advisers in the Treasury. So what is wrong with the Leader of the Opposition seeking advice - if he did - on the speech that he made in this House last week?
In 1939 in this House I heard the Prime Minister, as he was also in those days, inform this Parliament that he had the honour - or otherwise - of introducing the first Budget in the history of the Commonwealth of Australia which provided for an expenditure of £100 million. In his Budget Speech the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has informed us that in 1963-64, the Consolidated Revenue of Australia was £1,904,688,000. The right honorable gentleman said that the estimated revenue for the forthcoming year was £2,177,600,000, and that increased charges which have been announced would add £76 million to Consolidated Revenue. We are also informed that revenue for last year exceeded the Estimates by £87 million. If the Estimates for the current year are no better than the estimates for the last financial year, it would indicate that the increased taxation and other charges imposed upon the community are wholly unnecessary.
Let us have a look at the budgetary miscalculations for 1963-64. Customs revenue was under-estimated in round figures by £51 million, excise by £3i million, sales tax by £6.9 million, individual income tax payments by £29.25 million, companies income tax by £3.25 million, revenue from business undertakings by £6.5 million; revenue from Territories by £2 million and other revenue by £10 million. They were the under-estimates made in respect of the Budget delivered in this Parliament last year. Yet the Treasurer has provided in this Budget for the imposition of charges to yield an additional £76 million. When one studies the details of these new impositions one can only say that the rank and file of the people of Australia - those with the smaller incomes - have been penalised most severely.
I am one of those perhaps old-fashioned people who believe that the function of the Government is largely, after all, to protect the weak against the strong. If one looks back over the history of this Government one finds that from the time it took office, there has been one continual spiral of inflation. Fortunately we have one instrument which this Treasurer, and previous Treasurers, have used to advantage in endeavouring to prevent inflation. I refer to the control of bank interest rates which the Treasurer has through the Commonwealth Bank, the Reserve Bank and other instrumentalities.
But despite the prophecies of the Prime Minister and despite the promises of the Government that it would endeavour to see whether the Constitution could be amended to give the Government control over fringe institutions, we find this anomalous position: Whereas on the one hand the Commonwealth Government can offer 51 per cent, interest, and the banking institutions can be nailed down to a limit on overdrafts, the so-called fringe institutions can offer any old rate they like for money. Let me cite a few illustrations: Lightburn Finance offers 10 per cent, for 6 to 10 years; Pinnoch Manufacturing Co., 10 per cent, for 5 to 10 years; Testro Bros., 10 per cent.; L. J. Hooker 8.5 per cent.; Thiess Bros. Holdings, 8i per cent., Ansetts, 9 per cent, and 10 per cent.; Reid Murray - finished now, of course - 8 per cent.; Lombard, 7 per cent.; Centenary Estates, of which a former Treasurer is now a director, 9 per cent, debenture stock; Cumberland Credit, 10 per cent, and so on. There is a whole sheaf of them.
Now, while these so-called fringe institutions, can charge the public - or offer the public - these excessive rates of interest for money, the trading banks are pinned down to other limits. The semigovernmental instrumentalities, such as the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works and the Gas and Fuel Corporation of Victoria and others can offer only 5i per cent. Obviously there is a drain on the money available to the institutions which offer extremely high rates of interest. Finally, of course, through the hire purchase organisations - with which many of these people are associated and which charge the purchasing public anything up to 20 per cent. - the economy is robbed of money which otherwise should be available to finance the work of developing Australia.
Then there is another economic evil. We find that because the population of Australia is increasing and has increased from 7) million to 11* million between 1949 and 1964, there is a demand for property. That means that there is a demand for broad acres by speculators and a demand for building allotments by the workers and other people. We find also that the Commonwealth Government spends £15 million of the people’s money each year on immigration and brings into this country about 125,000 people each year. That migration adds to the demand for broad acres and building lots and leads to the absurd situation where land is sold at prices that are absolutely ridiculous. Let me give an illustration. A couple of years ago the Commonwealth Government purchased at Tullamarine several thousand acres on which to construct an international airport. Farmers in that area, for 400 or 500 acres of land, received the sum of £i million. Who is blaming them?
Let me give another illustration. The Victorian State Government has announced that it intends to establish a new university at Bundoora, which is about eight miles from Melbourne. Immediately the announcement was made every building allotment in the area jumped 100 per cent, in value. The end result of all these activities, as is the case with farm lands also, is that by virtue of the spending of Commonwealth revenue the taxation, payments of the ordinary man and woman have increased greatly. There has been a vast accretion in the value of land, and it is a fictitious value. Everybody knows that if you sell for £100 an acre a farm that is worth as a production entity about £25 an acre, you make a profit of £75 an acre. Similarly, if you sell for £2,000 a building allotment which is worth £100 you have made a handsome profit. Yet allotments at Latrobe in Melbourne, in the area where the new university is to be established, are bringing those prices. Everybody knows that if the person selling the land is not in business as a land dealer he is not required to pay to the community, which created the increased value of his land, one penny piece in taxation on that windfall. That is one of the causes of inflation in Australia’s economy.
I have no objection to a mild form of inflation introduced to cope with unemployment or the advancing prosperity in Australia, but when it is an inflation that gives to those who do not mentally or physically yield one penny piece from the profits of their brain power or physical service it is no wonder that the ordinary man and woman in the community is becoming impatient. The consequences are that when honorable members hear the Government bragging about what it has done about war service homes and other housing they know that it is referring to an expenditure on houses that now cost double their cost 15 years ago.
– Housing by compulsion.
– Yes, housing by compulsion. The end result of all this is that the wage and salary earner is unable to pay from his income his instalments on the purchase of a house. He has to approach the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and present a case to prove conclusively that he can pay neither his interest nor his instalments on capital on the inflated value of his home and his land. The farmer who has bought land on which to produce wheat or wool is in the same pickle. Having presented his case to the Commission, and the Commission being convinced, he is granted an increase in his wages and an improvement of his conditions. As a result, the cost of production of our primary products for export is correspondingly inflated and the problem of competing in the world markets is exacerbated.
– What would you do?
– The honorable member for Mallee wants to know what I would do. I will see him after the. House adjourns and I will tell him confidentially what I would do with people like him with their reactionary political views. The honorable gentleman knows that in the dried fruits area that he represents one of the great evils today, and the thing that is pressing most heavily on the dried fruits growers, is brought about by inflated land values. That section of the growers who have come into the industry and bought blocks within the last 15 years, during which the honorable member has been supporting this Govern ment, paid excessive prices and they are now unable to pay their way, as they could have if this problem had been dealt with.
– No red herrings; what would you do?
– You can tell the Parliament later on what you would do. We know that you are a stodgy old reactionary. These are the problems with which we are confronted. One reason for the situation is the lack of control over fringe banking institutions which represent a large volume of capital invested by the private banks of Australia. The private banks use fringe banking institutions as an escape from the restriction; which the Commonwealth Government can constitutionally place upon them. Until this problem has been dealt with, until the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) and his Government translate into reality the promises that they have made to this Parliament and to the electors that they would endeavour to amend the Constitution to deal with the hire purchase problem, there is no way out. The end result is that we have the inflationary position in which huge profits are being made - profits which are not taxable as they are classed as capital gains. I do not blame individuals for taking a profit when they see the opportunity, but I do blame the Government whose responsibility it is. Many people are making profits of this nature, and it is a problem for the Government to face.
The burden of taxation is placed on the poor man in the community, the man who has made no capital gains but who is the victim of those who have made unearned capital gains. It has always been my understanding of society that no man or woman who is fit and well and of working age is entitled to remuneration unless he or she has rendered some mental or physical service to the community. Thousands of clever people today are rendering nothing to the community, but are taking their toll. I remind the Minister for National Development (Mr. Fairbairn), who is now at the table, that some people in this community have no ambition to make money while others have a terrific ambition to make millions. There is always the ordinary man who is happy to dodge along with sufficient only to support his wife, rear his children and provide some security for his old age. After all, it is the duty of society, through its parliaments, to ensure that the total fruits of production in any one year are equitably distributed according to needs among those in the community who are entitled to them. Among those who are entitled to a share are the old, the widows, the invalid, the sick and so on; but let us consider how they are treated.
We have been told that the age pensioner, the widow and the invalid pensioner are to receive an additional Ss. a week. Some honorable members opposite smoke cigars that cost them 2s. 6d each. I buy little cigars at 3s. 3d. a packet. Yet honorable members opposite propose to give to the age, invalid and widow pensioners, at a time when the capacity of our economy is so great, a lousy increase of 5s. The Government proposes to give to the war pensioner in receipt of a 100 per cent, war pension another 5s. a week. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves. I am. After all, if honorable members refer to Budgets presented during the last 15 years they will see that it was common to increase social Service payments by 5s., but that was when 5s. would buy 21b. of butter. Now 1 lb. of butter costs 5s. The era has arrived when, if we are to maintain the equivalent of the purchasing power of 1949, we should be giving an increase of at least 10s. a head to the social service recipients. They do not spend their pensions on pile carpets, imported pianos or works of art; their income is spent in buying products produced on the land - clothing, butter or eggs. We all know that eggs are now 5s. a dozen. If the pensioner wanted to buy steak with the increase he would get perhaps i lb. of steak, and it would not be rump or undercut. What a miserable lot of hounds we are. I agree with the honorable member for Mackellar (Mr. Wentworth) who suggested that the present system governing pensions must be changed to a system in which there is no means test. As one Sydney economist suggested only last week, a flat rate contribution of 10s. a week would enable the means test to be abolished’. The means test should be abolished and the increased revenue required should be raised by instituting a progressive increase in the income tax payable by every Australian citizen according to the income earned.
The Government’s action in relation to telephones is shocking, and I am sure that the honorable member for Mallee (Mr.
Turnbull) would agree with me. The rentals, installation charges and charges for calls have been increased. We are told that the cost of installing a telephone is £570. I want to know how this cost is calculated. Does it include the capital cost of the installation of a coaxial cable between Melbourne, Sydney and other capital cities? Does it include the subsidy paid on the installation of telephones in country areas? If it does, it is a wicked calculation. Everybody knows that, as a matter of public policy, supported by every party in this Parliament, the primary producer is given a telephone at a low cost. Telephone lines are run across thousands of miles for him and he is given all sorts of concessions. If this cost is included in the £570, it is wicked. After all, the primary producers and the people in the outback receive these concessions as a public subsidy from all the people of Australia. They should not be included in this calculation but could be included in a calculation of the cost to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
In the main, the coaxial cables are used by the television and radio stations. Let them pay the capital costs of the cables. Why take £10, £15 or £20 from the pensioners, from the lonely old ladies who want to talk to their sisters or relatives over the telephone? This is a mean charge loaded on to the general community. If the Government wants to do so, it may charge me another 5s.; I have a more comfortable income than the age pensioners have. Some honorable members on the Government sids of the House should deal with these matters.
I want to examine another situation, this time in the realm of social services. I think that I am right in saying - the Minister for National Development, who is now at the table, may correct me if I am wrong - that it is proposed to erect in my constituency a hospital for the Royal Australian Air Force. Is that right?
– And for the military too?
– No, that is in New South Wales.
– Laverton is to have an elaborate hospital, and rightly so, for the men of the R.A.A.F. They will not be subjected to a means test when they seek treatment at this hospital for any illness or injury they may suffer. They will receive the very best of treatment in the very best of accommodation, and this is quite right. No matter what happens to them, they will receive free medical treatment, including treatment by specialists. Similarly, exservicemen whose injuries are accepted as being due to war service receive medical attention in repatriation hospitals, irrespective of whether they were major-generals, colonels, lieutenants or privates. They receive the best medical treatment, including the services of specialists, and the best of everything. This is quite right. It is sensible.
But is it not possible for the Government to rid itself of the stupid national health scheme which compels people to join a friendly society or a hospital benefits society in order to receive the Commonwealth benefit which is paid only to members of societies? A sick person may get into a hospital, if he is lucky, but even people on medium incomes find the cost of treatment heavy. The Government should plan deliberately for the whole of the community to have a medical scheme similar to that provided for personnel in the Services. Surely it is as important to restore the civilian who suffers an injury or an illness to a full economic and industrial life as it is to restore to full military activity the soldier, sailor or airman who may suffer an injury or an illness. In 1924 I spoke on the hospital Sunday platform. It was one of my first political speeches. I said that I hoped the day would dawn when this cadging from a few generous people who attended hospital gatherings would cease and that a government would, through the Consolidated Revenue Fund, introduce a system that would enable everybody who required it to receive the very best medical attention free of charge, without in any way conscripting the medical fraternity.
My time is almost exhausted. I would like to have another hour, but I have not and I want to comment on the speech made by the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay). He delivered a very interesting discourse on the exciting possibilities of the Australian gas, oil and related industries - the new discoveries, as it were - and the impact of the operations in Australia of the foreign-owned oil companies.
– It was a good contribution.
– It was a very interesting contribution and, like the curate’s egg, it was good in parts. It provoked thought. He pointed out the economic and industrial advantages that will accrue to Australia from the use of natural gas and its byproducts. He referred to the Italian company called E.N.I. - the Ente Nazionale Idrocarburi. This company obtains fertilisers, petrochemicals and other products from the natural gases of Italy. The honorable gentleman made a plea for a similar organisation to be set up by the State and Federal Governments to develop our natural gases and to ensure that we are not exploited, in effect, by the Chase Manhattan Bank. I agree that something should be done by the Commonwealth Development Bank. We are at one on this point. However, the honorable member did not elaborate on the Italian organisation, and I would like to do so.
I made some inquiries about this organisation in 1962 when I was in Italy. It is looked upon in most parts of the world as a miracle. It was set up by the Italian Government in a minor way in 1926, when it was given authority to develop the gas deposits in the Po Valley in the vicinity of Milan. Subsequently, war interrupted the activities of the organisation. After the war, it was again established, with the authority of the Italian Parliament, under the direction of a genius named Enrico Mattei. The organisation is almost wholly owned by the Italian Government. It drills for oil in Italy and Sicily and it has located oil. It controls the production and the distribution of gas in Italy. It has completely defeated the domination of the international oil cartels. It builds its own tankers, pipelines and drilling rigs. It has leases in Algeria, Sinai, Somaliland, the Middle East and many other places. It undertakes all types of work. It built a pipeline from Calcutta to Burma and back to Delhi, a distance of a thousand miles. It built a pipeline from Genoa, through Switzerland and Austria to Stuttgart. In Italy it completely controls and dominates the production of gas, oil, nuclear power, electrical energy and petrochemicals, including fertilisers for the farmers. It was set up for that purpose. It is a magnificent conception.
I think the honorable member for Evans knows as much about the organisation as I do, but, if he would like to look at the book that I have here, 1 would be glad to show it to him later. I would suggest to him and to the Government that the establishment of a similar organisation in Australia is of such immense importance that it should be earnestly considered now. Unfortunately, the search for oil in Australia is, in the main, in the hands of foreign companies, mainly American. It is high time that this Government, with the States, set up an organisation similar to E.N.I., which has been so successful in Italy. Such an organisation would ensure that the ownership of wells or wet holes, as they are called, would not fall into the hands of foreign enterprises but would remain the property of the Australian people and would be developed and exploited for the benefit of the Australian people. The Government would be well advised to send the Minister for National Development - he is a good Minister - and a parliamentary delegation to Italy to investigate this organisation. The organisation is immense in concept and immensely successful. The honorable member for Evans dismissed it lightly, saying that it was making fertilisers from gas, but there is more to the picture than that. The organisation trains its own staff and provides holiday homes for them. It has rid itself completely of the grip of foreign investment. We in Australia are in the grip of foreign capital, which controls our refineries and the oil that we are discovering in this country. I am sorry to see that my time is almost up. I would have liked to say a lot more about the Government’s misdeeds and the impositions that it is inflicting on the Australian people in this Budget.
– I call the honorable member for Angas and remind the House that the honorable member will be making his maiden speech.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise to make this, my maiden speech before the House, as, no doubt, many other honorable members have risen before me, with some humility at the thought of the task that confronts me. I intend, tonight, to deal with the Budget insofar as it relates to trade and exports. Before commencing my remarks may I thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and many other honorable members on both sides of the House for having helped and encouraged me in the few weeks that I have been in Canberra.
The 1964-65 Budget deals with Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue. 1 believe that the Budget has been extremely well received by the people of Australia. Perhaps I may comment at this stage on the difficulty I had in understanding several features of some of the speeches that have been made so far in the debate. I find, on the one hand, for instance, that the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) has been criticised for estimating an increase in expenditure. Yet, at the risk of being contentious, I find, on the other hand, that the Government has been criticised in many speeches for not having spent enough on defence, development and social services. As I see the Budget, it envisages increased expenditure in just those three fields. The increased expenditure in the Budget is due largely to increased spending for defence. That point has been validly made by many speakers. The Budget provides increased social benefits. I would mention in particular the provision for the Government housing subsidy, which has been so well received in my electorate. The Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) and his departmental officers deserve credit for the way the scheme has been devised and administered. At the same time, the Government has shown what I regard as a proper responsibility in that it has attempted to keep a proper hold on cost and price stability. This fact is very much appreciated by the industries represented in my decorate and, no doubt, by those in other electorates. I refer particularly to industries that possess an export component.
In the last year, our gross national product has increased by 9 per cent. This has been due basically to three factors - increased export prices, an overall increase in export trade, and, I suggest, the stability that the country has enjoyed in the last three years. A great deal of the credit for these increases and for the country’s stability is due to the Government and particularly to the Treasurer in the responsible position that he holds. Export receipts are a major item in the increase in the credit balance of payments that we see outlined in the Budget. Another major factor is the increase in the volume of export sales. Might 1 refer, here, to page 33 of “ Treasury Information
Bulletin No. 35 “, which deals with the increases in production of the main industries concerned in our export trade. During the last year, the value of wool and sheepskins exported increased to £518 million. The value of wheat exports rose to £203 million. Those two commodities represent 53 per cent, of our total export earnings. The other 47 per cent, is composed of the exports of primary industries, such as grain ‘ other than wheat, meat, butter, cheese, eggs, processed milk, cream, fruits, sugar, and zinc, lead, copper, iron and steel, vehicles and machinery. Exports of minerals increased by 16 per cent, and of general manufactured goods by 25 per cent.
In the period since 1949, export receipts have increased by 60 per cent, but the labour force engaged in primary industry has decreased by 10 per cent. Surely this is some proof of the efficiency of these industries. By legislating for export incentives and by incurring expenditure on beef roads in Queensland and Western Australia - a fact not entirely lost on South Australia - the Government has encouraged export trade, as indeed has Japan in its recent economic plan further to substantiate and to enforce the strength of its export items. I think that much of the success in marketing our primary products overseas is due, not only to Government action through our trade commissioners and through trade promotion, but also to the vigorous action of the many boards that sell our primary produce. I refer to boards such as the Australian Apple and Pear Board, the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Wine Board, which have done a terrific job in helping to sell increased quantities of our products to other countries. Production in some industries, particularly some of the smaller industries, has increased, due to the stable conditions and, in other cases, due largely to the increased plantings in which the industries have engaged. In other industries, such as the citrus industry and the crushed grape industry, production has increased because of greater managerial efficiency and greater knowledge of the crops grown.
Although there has been a marked increase in the income of most of our export industries I suggest that we should keep in mind and carefully look at one or two of them. The problem of the wine industry today is not so much one of bad returns on the home market as one of a surplus of juice and raw spirit in Australia for which an outlet cannot be found in exports. Might I add that this is of particular concern to the State of South Australia. The citrus industry is slightly different. Its export sales are quite good and prices are rising, but the home market is in trouble and I believe that the return to farmers has fallen alarmingly over the last few years. This is quite contrary, might I say again, to the picture we see when we look at the increase of the average income to our primary industries.
The question I put at this stage is this: Is this condition of over-supply, of having surplus production, a dangerous one for us? I suggest that it is not because I believe that, due to the vigorous action of this Government, and to the spirit abroad in Australia, this country will progress very markedly over the next decade and our increase in population could well take up this surplus production. I found it rather difficult to get figures for the expected consumer demand for foodstuffs. I might add that this matter seems to be surrounded with an aura of mystery which I found extreme difficulty in breaking through, so I now intend to quote some figures relating to the matter. Although they may not be completely accurate, I believe that they do portray the kind of trends in consumption that we need to correlate to production trends to ascertain where we are going in terms of production in the minor export industries to which I refer.
Generally speaking, unless a further expansion of our primary industries takes place within the next 12 years, we will be consuming all reasonable surpluses by the end of that period. It has been estimated that within 30 years we will need an increase of more than 20 per cent, in the production of fruit, an increase of 100 per cent, in the production of vegetables, and an increase of 40 per cent, in our dairy production and double our present production of meat. So I ask again: Is today’s over-supply dangerous, or should we continue to encourage production, knowing full well that there is a general shortage of such foodstuffs in the southern hemisphere? Personally, I see no ultimate harm but only good accruing as long as sales can be made.
However, in spite of the Government’s commendable efforts in this Budget to control obvious trends in this growing and expanding country towards increases in costs and prices, I believe that over the years, of necessity, these will rise. If this should be so, then I believe that government action will eventually be necessary to aid worthwhile export items so that we can continue to earn sufficient foreign exchange to assist the type of growth we need in Australia over the years. I realise the limitations imposed on Australia by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but I remind the House that many countries selling in competition with us on the export markets of the world today do, in fact, receive some form of government propping on their internal cost structure. So, in the short term, may I suggest with due humility that the principle already settled by the Government of introducing a subsidy for superphosphate be carried a stage further and that an increased bounty be applied to the sale of nitrogenous fertilisers. Many of the industries which I represent are extremely small users of superphosphate and I believe that the action I have suggested would help their cost structure considerably and so help them to become more competitive with other foodstuffs on the home market and better competitors in the export field.
In his very capable speech, the honorable member for Evans (Dr. Mackay) referred to the petroleum industry and its ramifications. May I take him up on the point he made with relation to the production of nitrogenous fertiliser as a by-product of the petroleum industry, or, as it more particularly affects South Australia, a by-product of the natural gas industry. I believe that in about a decade, when nitrogenous fertilisers are available from this source, the price will fall appreciably. So, in asking the Government to have a look one day at the cost factor in the production of nitrogenous fertilisers, I suggest that it bear in mind the probability that an increased bounty would be necessary only to level out a temporary high in production costs. If action of this type were taken, perhaps at this time next year, we would be, in effect, temporarily propping the cost structure to the benefit of the industries I have just mentioned.
I believe that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has completed a quick tour of many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States of America. No doubt he will have noticed, as I did in a twelve months careful study of agriculture in those countries, the very meticulous and fine farming carried out in many agricultural pursuits. Not the least of the important factors that contribute to the very high standard of farming there is the fact that farmers are able to buy balanced fertilisers, usually composed of the basic ingredients of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium with various minor elements added to them. I believe that in time to come the availability of cheap nitrogen in particular will enable us to produce balanced fertilisers which can be ordered by numbers, as is done in other countries. These are not fertilisers to suit a whole farm, but balanced fertilisers to suit various paddocks on the farm. I am convinced that this will make a real donation towards increased production in the primary industries in the years to come.
Over the years, the Government has given great help in the promotion of export commodities overseas. Last year I spent some time in South East Asia and I must admit that I was highly impressed with the most careful job being done by the Trade Commissioners in that area. I have no doubt that their dedication has done much to improve the financial position not only of the farmers in this country but indeed of the general population. Credit for this is due also to the Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr. McEwen) and the officers of his Department.
I come now to wine production. I note that, in March of this year, in line with the procedure adopted in other countries in the past, an attempt was made for the first time to promote the consumption of wine in Japan. Japan has a population of 96£ million people, and although we are not trying to promote Australian wines at this stage I believe the Trade Commissioners are attempting over a period of years to overcome the Japanese habit of not drinking wine. The Government probably intends to further implement this line of action in the coming year.
I notice with some satisfaction the increase of almost £25,000 in the estimated allocation to the Commercial Intelligence Service in Japan, making the total allocation £79,600. I notice also with some satisfaction that Commercial Intelligence Service in Canada, a country which has some potential for Australian export wines, has received an increased allocation of £1,210. Thailand, Germany and many other countries have been looked at leniently for one reason or another in increases for the Commercial Intelligence Service.
The trend in the consumption of Australian cheese in Japan has shown a very marked increase. This will be of great help to our dairy industry. Japan has also increased its imports of coal. No doubt it will increase its imports of iron ore. 1 hope that we can start a similar trend for Australian wines.
I have suggested that there are two kinds of short-term action which can help industries, particularly in my area, which have some anxiety about their prospects. 1 am reminded of the comment - perhaps this is a trifle harsh - of a parliamentary spokesman in England in 1956. He said -
Not only has the increased output from our farms contributed substantially to our balance of payments by saving in imports of food, but 1 am absolutely convinced what you cannot hope to have in this country a flourishing industrial community side by side with a depressed agriculture. Industry and agriculture are nol competitive - they are complementary.
These conditions, of course, do not apply in Australia today. The only point that the spokesman makes for us - I think he makes it well - is that it is necessary to have some balance in profitability between the various industries if we are to progress properly. I believe that already this principle has helped to create a strong consumer demand in Australia. The saving in the expenditure of overseas funds has enabled us to import more neccessary commodities and, more importantly perhaps, it aids in normal social justice.
During the last two weeks I have heard various honorable members refer to South East Asia. Some have suggested that certain areas be neutralised, to coin a phrase, by confined military action. Others have suggested that United States forces, and indeed ours, be removed from this area to allow natural events to take their place, and that economic aid be stepped up to 1 per cent, of the gross national product. I should like to comment briefly on the concept of economic -aid as being the most important action to assist South East Asia. I believe it has great importance, particularly in the field of capital works, as these countries have not the ability to finance such works from their own resources. But no person likes a patronising friend, and no country likes being under an obligation to another country particularly if conditions are attached to the economic aid. I cite United States Public Law 480 as applied some years ago as a classic example of this. Shiploads of food were loaned to foreign countries. The United States took interest and capital repayments and then used those funds for a hard currency capital investment in the recipient countries. In other words, the United States took more than one bite at the cherry. I do not believe that aid of this kind helps in building goodwill between the donor country and the recipient. Cordell Hull once remarked that “ if goods do not cross frontiers, armies surely will “. I agree with him. I believe that the answer to all these problems lies in fair trading with the countries immediately to our north. I hope that in the future Australia will take every opportunity to buy the simple manufactured goods that they produce and help them to build up credit balances. If this is done, no doubt they will consider sympathetically the purchase of goods from us.
The difficulty that the Australian Government, or indeed any government, faces when dealing with a country like South Vietnam is the old one of trying to lap the general will of the country or of assessing the opinion’ of the country on political matters. How do you find the general will? Is there a general will? Does the leader of a country know the general will or, as has happened in many emerging countries, does the leader sa’y: “ I am the general will “7 If he does, then a state of tyranny exists. Might I add that in spite of the difficulties they face, many of these emerging countries, as we term them, in fact have this problem due mainly to lack of responsibility on the part of the government of the country, on the one hand, and of the opposition, on the other hand - if there is one - for having allowed that state of affairs to develop.
Finally, may I make a plea for individuality, a matter already introduced. I think, by the honorable member for
Hughes (Mr. L. R. Johnson). Perhaps it would sound better if I made a plea for non-conformity. No doubt over many years this chamber has been all the better for the wide range of viewpoints expressed by an even wider range of personalities. No doubt my eminent predecessor lent colour and individuality to this Parliament. While on this subject may I say how pleased he would be if he were able to hear the many words of praise that I have heard for his efforts on behalf of the electorate of Angas, both from within the electorate and from honorable members on both sides of the House. It is always difficult to follow a man so respected for his tolerance, integrity and, indeed, his intellect.
However, to return to the matter of individuality, let me refer to the emphasis given to the proper encouragement of initiative in youth by such people as His Royal Highness Prince Philip, and the late President Kennedy. Great achievements have taken place through the years because men of spirit and individuality have been prepared to back their judgment and their initiative and to dare an issue. This reminds me of the fact that recently we have seen a new newspaper called the “ Australian “. This is a case in point of people with imagination and courage who see a need that exists in Australia today. I believe that the “ Australian “ possibly goes a long way towards meeting that need.
All sections of the community today need leaders, whether in the field of commerce, manufacture, the professions or agricultural associations. Good and able men now lead such groups, but I wonder whether younger men of even finer calibre are coming forward. I am proud to belong to a party which, I believe, encourages individuality. I believe that in the appointments to Cabinet of various young members over a period of some years we have had no yesmen, no weak reeds, but men who have shown their ability and individuality in the past. May I say, furthermore, that I am sure the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Kelly) will not mind if I suggest that his promotion to the important position of Assistant Government Whip is a classic example of the 6ort of thing to which I refer.
Do our easy social conditions of today and our present mass produced education make up conformists? I do not know the answer to this question, but I hope that we shall find the answer, or some of it, when the Martin report on tertiary education becomes available. I believe that men of confidence and imagination are needed today to fire Australia by their example. I believe, also, that one of the proper responsibilities of the government is to lay down, by means of its policy and its legislation, conditions that will encourage the proper initiative of man.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support the Bill before the House.
– Mr. Deputy Speaker, I support the amendment proposed by my Leader, the honorable member for Melbourne (Mr. Calwell). In doing so, I should like to say something on behalf of the school leavers and apprentices who will be our future technicians. They are being attacked by this Government through the infamous scheme of adult training proposed by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon). He has announced the Government’s proposals for a supplementary training scheme to increase the supply of tradesmen. These proposals were supported by employers’ representatives at a meeting with Mr. Bland, Secretary of the Department of Labour and National Service. Represented at the meeting were the Associated Chambers of Manufactures of Australia, the Australian Council of Employers Federations, the Australian Metal Industries Association, the Australian Automobile Chamber of Commerce, the Master Builders Federation of Australia and the Electrical Contractors Association of Australia.
The Minister said that the new training scheme was designed to supplement the apprenticeship system and provide an additional means of overcoming shortages of tradesmen in the engineering, electrical and building trades, where significant shortages persist despite vigorous efforts to encourage the training of more tradesmen. He said that national conferences dealing with training for skill in these trades had been held over the past 18 months and encouraging results had been achieved. He stated that all the information available suggested that since 1962 there had been a decided increase in the intake of apprentices in these trades. However, this expansion of intake would not affect the supply of tradesmen for some three to five years. He said that migrant tradesmen had made and would continue to make a most useful contribution to the skilled labour force, but it was apparent that immigration did not provide the solution. The Minister declared that, although efforts to popularise apprenticeship would not be relaxed and, indeed, would be intensified, the Government had concluded that in the meantime normal methods of training tradesmen would have to be supplemented.
The Minister said that the Government’s plans provide for six months’ intensive training in technical colleges, followed by a further period of two years on the job training in approved employment, whatever he may mean by that. He said that these plans provide for training allowances during full time technical training, living away from home allowances where necessary, allowances for fares, assistance for the purchase of books during training and tools of trade after training and tradesmen’s rates of pay on completion of technical training. The Minister stated also that persons eligible under the scheme would include persons beyond the normal age for apprenticeship who may have been unable in recent years to obtain apprenticeships or may have made the wrong occupational choice. He said, among other things, that tradesmen would be placed only with employers who continued to take apprentices at not less than the current level of intake. The Minister added that people who were competent to advance themselves should be given opportunities to do so and thus be able to improve their standard of living in the community.
As a tradesman, I condemn the persistent endeavours of this Government, through the Minister, to foist this stopgap scheme on the trade union movement. This is a short term policy to bridge the gap by making instant tradesmen. I emphasise that this proposal is a reflection on society’s values, which, in the past decade, have tended to treat tradesmen as inferior to white collar workers. Statistics for the postwar years show that in certain sections of the building industry the intake of apprentices has been static, despite the growth of population and the demand for new buildings. In some building trades, such as bricklaying, the intake of apprentices has decreased at an alarming rate. When the Minister has trained these instant tradesmen, how will he get them to take positions at low wages, and what will he substitute for the five years of learning and practice on the job that are the minimum necessary for a competent tradesman?
I should like to point out to members of this honorable House that all the trade unions concerned are totally opposed to the Government’s scheme. Furthermore, the New South Wales Teachers Federation claims that the Department of Technical Education in New South Wales has not enough staff or equipment to implement this adult training scheme. Mr. Leslie, the Assistant General Secretary of the Federation, said that the Executive of the Federation had passed a resolution opposing the scheme. He stated that this resolution followed an investigation of the whole apprenticeship system by the technical teachers section of the organisation. He said that the Federation favours a vigorous apprenticeship system and he described the Minister’s proposals as rather piecemeal. Mr. Leslie said that the Teachers Federation had proof that technical colleges in New South Wales could not handle increased numbers of students. He stated that at the beginning of this year there had been a lot of difficulty in providing staff and workshop facilities for an additional 30 apprentices. This highlights the inadequacy of the Federal Government’s grant for technical education in New South Wales, he said.
It is also worth noting that Mr. R. E. Dunbar, Director of Technical Education in New South Wales, in an article published in the “Sunday Mirror” on 2nd August 1964, stated that Australians are in the midst of a second industrial revolution in which scientific and technological changes are rapidly transforming our way of life. The pre-eminence of science and technology in our lives has important implications for everybody. Each new advance, though it reduces physical exertion and gives us greater leisure, also increases the complexity of our lives and brings a demand for higher skills and more knowledge. This is true of the automatic factory in a large industrial undertaking. There are engineers to design, draughtsmen to prepare plans, tradesmen to build and technicians and tradesmen to maintain the intricate machinery of the assembly line that is installed from day to day. Mr. Dunbar stated that if we are to win a worthwhile place in our modern society we’ need skilled training. More and more occupations are demanding higher and higher levels of skill.
The skilled training that is needed cannot be provided by the kind of piecemeal scheme proposed by the Minister for Labour and National Service. This he should know, as his officers must have advised him. The Secretary of the Department, who seems so anxious to implement the proposed scheme, must be withholding valuable information from the Minister - I say this deliberately - because, in his research prior to preparing the scheme, he must have found that there was insufficient equipment to implement a nefarious scheme such as this. We all know that we are entering a mechanical and automatic age. But how can the Minister claim that he is doing something to provide the technicians who will be necessary in the automatic age when he withholds the assistance that should be given to apprentices, those who are learning their trades, and also the thousands of school leavers whom he is prepared to throw on the scrap heap? I remind the House that some 85,000 children will be leaving school this year.
This adult training scheme, was aimed at developing an army of process workers. The Minister is playing the game of big business in helping to develop that army. I would like to advise the Minister, as a tradesman, that trade skills are learned from the bottom up and not from the top down, and the latest Commonwealth scheme which we are told is aimed at curing a longstanding illness in the skilled trades will surely worsen the situation. Would-be apprentices will be tempted to delay their training until later. After leaving school, many of the more astute youngsters will take more highly paid unskilled employment, with the probable result that they will never willingly undergo training later for what will be, after all, a lower paid job. For economic reasons, many employers will be reluctant to prescribe, and older trainees will be reluctant to undertake, some of the more humble tasks which are essential for a basic and thorough understanding of most trades. Many people who have failed in other fields will be tempted to try this nice, pleasant short-cut training. People who do undertake and carry out this simpler form of training, no doubt, will be getting the same rates of pay as tradesmen with wider training and long experience. This will cause unhappiness among workers and further vacancies in the ranks.
If the Government is looking for a supply of tradesmen at short notice, let it attract back into the trades people who have already attained the required standard. The final solution to the problem of gaining and holding tradesmen is to award them a realistic margin for their skill. Members of the craft unions realise that the cry of the employers and the Press about shortage of skilled labour, linked with the plans for adult training, is designed to break down the standards of. tradesmen. There is no real shortage of skilled labour. I know that boilermakers, for instance, certainly cannot be choosy about jobs and often have to travel inconvenient distances to stay in work.
The Minister should disregard the false information he is receiving and should personally call a conference of all leaders of the skilled-trade unions and seek their valuable advice. The trade union leaders of today are men who hold very responsible positions and who have the interests of the great Australian nation at heart. They realise what is needed in the community and they see in this adult training scheme an attack by the employers who pay large amounts of money at election time to support this infamous Government. Now these employers are demanding their pound of flesh through the implementation of this scheme.
Early in the period of World War II the unions, in conjunction with the Labour Government, showed their patriotism when their native land was menaced by the enemy, and accepted a dilution scheme proposed by the then Mnister for Labour. The purpose of this scheme was to meet the demand for skilled labour during the war period. Now the avaricious employers, aided and abetted by a sympathetic government, are preparing an infamous scheme to dilute further the dilutees of the World War II period, in an endeavour to destroy the crafts completely. It this scheme were accepted, what would happen after a trainee had served his six months period on full tradesman’s rates of pay? The trainee would naturally wish to become a member of the particular craft union. Then, in course. of time, when the Government found there were enough of these instant tradesmen, the employers would approach the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an award asking for a reclassfication of all sections of various trades with reduced wages in the reclassified sections. This is the old story of the avariciousness of the average employer, supported by a vicious anti-Labour government, designed to destroy trade unions generally.
Let us see what the unions think of this scheme. I shall refer, first, to the Boilermakers Society of Australia. The Federal Council of the Boilermakers Society has closely examined the submissions put forward by Mr. Bland on behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service and it rejects the proposal out of hand. The Federal Council states emphatically that there is no shortage of skilled boilermakers and boilermaker-welders in the Australian community. It does, however, say that there is an extremely grave situation in connection with the training of apprentices to the trade. The situation is solely the responsibility of the Government and the employers. The Society has consistently endeavoured to have the employers train more youths but with only partial success. Many employers have refused to train lads. The Government has failed to implement the recommendations of the committee that it appointed to inquire into the apprenticeship problem. The Federal Council cannot accept the figures produced by the Department of Labour and National Service purporting to show the shortage of boilermakers and welders. In the first place, these figures do not result from a proper scientific analysis of the industry itself. Secondly, many of the employers unable to obtain the services of boilermakers and welders are Government departments paying extremely low wages.
The Society has closely examined its accurate records, particularly over the period from 1954 to 1963 - the period analysed by the Department of Labour and National Service. It has found that in that period no fewer than 8,853 people had left the Society and the trade, and that considerable numbers of these - thousands in fact - were still members of the Australian community. Despite this tremendous drift from the trade, the overall membership in that period has increased by 9,074 and is increasing by about 800 a year. J would like honorable members to take note of these figures. In that period also the Society has, by relaxing its policy in connection with bona fide tradesmen, permitted no fewer than 7,315 workers to enter the Society as provisional members. These are people who have not served an apprenticeship to the trade but have proved themselves capable of carrying out the work. In the main, they have come from lower paid unskilled or semi-skilled occupations to the more highly paid trade of boilermaker. However, the analysis shows that of these 7,315 workers no fewer than 5,634 have left the trade. The basic reason for this is that much higher wages can be obtained in other occupations. Another interesting point is that 60 per cent, of these people are in the 20 to 40 years age group.
The unions have consistently tried to have wages and conditions of tradesmen improved. Even more consistently, the Government and employers have endeavoured to maintain wages at unreal low levels. As so many people have come from lower paid jobs to trades and then left the trades for the better paid jobs available, it is obvious that those who would be trained under the Government’s proposed scheme would naturally follow the same trend. Therefore, the number of skilled men prepared to work in industry would not increase and the plan would fail. Furthermore, the plan must, if implemented, lead to a situation in which no lad would want to serve an apprenticeship and most parents would not consider putting their lads to apprenticeships. The whole apprenticeship system must break down, to the detriment of industry and the national economy, as the scheme proposed by the Government cannot turn out fully trained tradesmen, but only people trained in particular sections of trades.
The obvious answer to the problem of skilled workers in industry is for wages to be raised to the level that would attract skilled workers and hold them, and the cessation of the use of the obnoxious penal provisions of the arbitration acts which prevents workers obtaining the wages that employers can but will not pay and also drives skilled artisans into other jobs where they are not subjected to the indignity of the conscripted labour conditions resulting from the use of the penal provisions.
I turn now to the Amalgamated Engineering Union which covers a big percentage of tradesmen employed in the metal trades industry and which has forwarded to most members of the Opposition a copy of its objections. The Union says that the alterations to the adult training system agreed upon through national conferences - these are the conferences to which the Minister for Labour and National Service refers - held in October and November 1962 were: Arrangements for three to three and one half year aprenticeships for 17 to 20 year olds with higher educational qualifications; 20 weeks’ continuous daylight technical training; employers to be able to train in excess qf their needs; fifth year apprentices to be disregarded in the normal ratio intake; where adequate training facilities exist; normal ratios may be exceeded; group apprenticeships, that is, a number of employers rotating a number of apprentices; and greater opportunities for country boys by assistance to employers and living away from home allowances. Actually, that scheme did not get going until the latter half of 1963, and it still is not functioning fully throughout the Commonwealth.
This adult training proposal means 20 weeks’ daylight technical training for adults 19 years of age and over who, after serving an additional two to two and one half years in an approved industry, may obtain a tradesman’s certificate. This would virtually kill apprenticeships for youths at a time when more youths are leaving school each year and will continue to do so until 1984, and when youths represent an increasing percentage of the total population. As at 30th June 1963 no fewer than 38 per cent, of the population were under 19 years of age.
On the basis of the material submitted, the unions do not agree that there is a serious and acute shortage of tradesmen. Where shortages may exist, they have resulted from the failure of the employers - both Government and private - to train apprentices in adequate numbers. These shortages can be readily corrected, first, by increasing the number of apprentices within the establishments; secondly, by utilising the additional scope for training apprentices as agreed upon between the unions and employers in 1962; and thirdly, by bringing back to the industry experienced skilled tradesmen. There is a lack of proper planning by Governments- Federal and State - and the employers to provide a balance programme which would ensure a supply of skilled tradesmen, to meet the needs of industry and the nation. To assist the induction of youths into trades there should be a reassessment of wage rates and conditions in accordance with Australian Council of Trade Unions policy and in keeping with the skill and responsibility of tradesmen.
The trade union movement has always expressed readiness to confer on matters affecting apprentices and trade training. This is exemplified. by the conferences in the metal, electrical and building industries between the unions, the employers and the Government. It is therefore proposed that tripartite committees be set up to review the apprenticeship system and to recommend alterations and corrections designed to strengthen the system of .apprenticeship by revision of existing apprenticeship legislation or regulations.
The bricklaying and carpentering unions, in declaring their opposition to the adult training scheme, stress their support for the conclusions of the national conference on training for skill in the building industry of November 1963 in the following terms -
I shall now read a letter sent by a Mr. Edwards, Director of A. W. Edwards Pty. Ltd. of Glebe, New South Wales- a building company in a large way in Sydney - to the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and
Joiners. Under the heading “The Apprenticeship Problem “, it states -
In reply to the argument for higher wages as an attraction for apprentices, I can say that for the past quarter of a century I have been a director of a building company which has never failed to train its full complement of apprentices in all building trades. During recent years there have been more boys seeking apprenticeship with us than we could legally employ. There is no shortage of boys’ offering.
The small cottage building contractor, the man who could - and did - give boys the best basic training, simply could not carry on in the face of competition from the project builder who lets all of his work to pieceworkers, misnamed subcontractors, who do not train apprentices because they cost too much.
I would like the Minister for Labour and National Service to note that. The letter continues -
The apprentice with the small contractor is an important part of the work force, and his place in the team is vital. His absence at technical training during working hours causes serious disruption whch makes it quite impossible for the small contractor to continue to employ him and stay in the competition with builders who have no apprentices.
Mr. McMahon’s adult training scheme is not an answer to the problem of skilled labour shortage. It is only a palliative, and a miserable one at that. There is no substitute for the on-site practical training of apprentices, so let Mr. McMahon place his ear a little closer to the ground and learn what is really going on around him. The answer is to subsidise the training of the right boys at the right age in the right manner - on the job- with technical colleges providing supplementary technical training.
This suggestion, of course, will bring forth the cry: “ Where will the money come from? “ 1 will name two sources of ready money. One is for the Government to put back into industry the payroll tax that it has been extracting from employers of labour over the years, and the other - and this is favoured by the building fraternity who have put it forward in high places before today - is to finance a subsidy by the imposition of a tax on new building work amounting to a few pence per cent, collected upon the notification of a job to the Department of Labour and Industry.
The scheme would have the effect of:
I suggest that the Minister for Labour and National Service disregard the advice offered to him by his officers and listen to the advice of practical men in regard to his adult training scheme.
.- The speech by the honorable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr. Curtin) does not give me much cause for comment. It was a well read speech, well composed, and did not contribute very much to the debate on the Budget. I think that the people of Australia have accepted the Budget presented by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) very well. In fact, I think even the Opposition has accepted it pretty well too. It has not found much cause for quibble in the Budget provisions except, of course, that it always wants more money spent on social welfare when we arc already spending nearly 25 per cent, of the total Budget on social services. Let us consider the general economic atmosphere existing in Australia when this budget was composed Unemployment was nearly at a record low. About 1.2 per cent, of the share market indexes in the various capital cities were at an all time high. Car production was high. Savings bank deposits were at a record level and our overseas reserves were higher than ever before in the history of Australia. In such circumstances, it was not easy for the Government to present a Budget which provided for a lot of extra Government expenditure such as that which was necessary through the National Welfare Fund and the Department of Defence in particular. All these factors combined to make the situation in Australia extremely inflationary with all the recognised pressures which contribute towards a rise in cost.
I know from what the Treasurer has said that the Government recognises that these pressures are present. The right honorable gentleman said that costs and prices could be driven up and speculation could break out again. This, of course, was the situation that existed in 1960 when speculation was rife, both in land and on the share market. It was aided and abetted by the banking system which ignored the Government’s request in February 1960 to restrict lending to the levels that existed at that time. We remember that the banks lent about another £180 million in the next ten months, mainly for speculative purposes, and the Government then found that the economic measures of November 1960 were necessary. Even now, when Australia has probably never been more prosperous, and the economic position has never been better, there is a need to watch very closely any tendency for this inflationary process to operate within the economy.
Although the Budget is extremely sound, naturally we find that individual members of Parliament are disappointed that certain departments have not been allocated more money. I am particularly disappointed with the amount of money that has been allocated for two spheres of activity. I refer to the need for the expansion of agricultural advisory services and the lack of imagination in the encouragement of decentralisation of population and industry outside the capital cities of Australia. For years I have been pressing for an expansion of the agricultural advisory services, considering this vital to the future not only of the primary producer of this country but also of Australia. I must admit that after having talked on this subject in practically every Budget as well as on the Estimates of Department of Primary Industry for the past five years I was considerably heartened and encouraged when I noticed in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that the Government considered that scientific research in the rural industries was of the highest importance.
His Excellency said -
Special funds are already available to the States to assist in having the benefits of research available to the man on the land. However, my advisers believe that the process can be quickened. They are prepared to work out arrangements with the States to bring this about.
According to the Budget there is no prospect of anything being worked out or of any extra finance being made available to this extremely important Department during this financial year, because not only has the appropriation for the expansion of agricultural advisory services been increased by the miserly sum of £2,000 but there is no mention at all in the Budget document of any provision later this financial year for expansion in this direction. It has always seemed extraordinary to me - to repeat myself for about the fifth year in succession -‘that the Federal Government can allocate only £260,000, or a little over £i million, for the expansion of advisory services to the primary producing industries of Australia which, last year, contributed over £1,000 million to our export income. All that the Government can find is just over £i million, which is not good enough. The facts are that the farmers both warrant and need this assistance if for one reason only, to increase their production or to lower their production costs in order to meet their constantly increasing costs. No matter what we say, the costs to the primary producer are constantly rising. As I have pointed out, it is all very well to quote the consumer price index, but there are many things that the primary producer uses that are not included in the calculations of the consumer price index. I stress that the consumer price index is not necessarily an indication of the primary producer’s cost structure.
Almost every phase of farming involves the application of scientific methods, and there is no question that more finance must be allocated by the Federal Government and the States for the express purpose of extending agricultural advisory services. We note that only 4 per cent, or 5 per cent, of the total number of students at our universities throughout Australia are undertaking agricultural courses. What is the matter? Why are so few of our university students undertaking agricultural science courses or veterinary science courses when this country depends on the primary producing industries for its export income? I repeat that over £1,000 million was contributed by the primary producers of this country to our export income last financial year. There is no question that one difficulty is that the salaries payable to agricultural scientists are too low. Not only is their commencing salary not good enough - it is about £1,500 a year with the Department of Agriculture - but the increments year by year are absolutely pitiful. If the State Governments have not the money or will not allocate the money then the Federal Government must step into the picture.
There are certain encouraging features about the employment by individual farmers of farm advisory experts, and it is very pleasing to see an increase in the number of farm management clubs formed throughout Australia. Although some farm management clubs are not 100 per cent, satisfied with the men whom they have employed, complaining that they are too theoretical and not practical enough, the employment of these experts is a step in the right direction. We must expect complaints of this type when a scheme is in its infancy. We must expect that it will not run perfectly smoothly right from the beginning. There is no question that farm management clubs are here to stay. Although these clubs have not been successful in some cases, in the vast majority they have contributed greatly to an increase in the farmers’ income.
I feel that the Australian Agricultural Council should discuss with agricultural colleges the curricula that are being undertaken at various colleges throughout Australia. People have said to me that they would rather send their sons to Lincoln and Massey colleges in New Zealand than to colleges in Australia. They consider that the standard of instruction and education that their sons will receive at those colleges in New Zealand is much sounder and of much greater practical use to them in future life whether as farm advisers or as farmers. I remind honorable members that I did not say this; it was said by people whose judgments I respect, people who have actually incurred the expense of sending their sons to New Zealand. They must believe that something is to be gained by doing so.
Dealing further with the Federal Government’s part in agricultural advisory services, I am pleased that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. Adermann) has recently visited the United States of America and has made investigations into the set-up there. I certainly appreciate that he could not have influenced the allocation of finance in the Budget as a result of bis investigations because the Budget had been finalised before he went to the United States. I also had the opportunity to visit the United States. One of the two Government Departments in which I took an interest was the United States Department of Agriculture Federal Extension Service. I have not sufficient time to cover all the ramifications of this Service, which is an extremely large organisation with a great number of activities. I should like honorable members to know that I feel that we could not adopt the United States scheme completely in Australia but I am certain that a similar set-up could work here. I feel that we have much to learn from the United States Department of Agriculture Federal Extension Service.
Briefly, this Service has a principle which is right in line with the thinking of our Government. The Service works in partnership with the State Governments, with the land grant colleges, State universities and with bodies right down to the local government level. It reaches down from the
Federal Government to the level of the local county council, and the greatest pride is taken in the fact that it is a co-operative venture. I found at all levels of the Service men who were dedicated to the welfare and future of agriculture in the United States. No-one tries to be boss and all work together in the common interest. I feel certain that this result could be achieved in Australia.
I found that officers of the United States Department of Agriculture mostly had been Extension Service agents before joining the Department. I spoke with university professors who virtually are engaged in three activities at the one time. They teach at the universities, perform extension work and conduct research. The agents are very well paid and highly respected members of the community. Almost every county in the United States has an extension agent, and the counties are no bigger than our shires. There are about 208 counties in California, where 562 extension agents are employed. In Iowa there are 87 counties and 87 extension agents. All the extension agents are university graduates. They hold at least a bachelor’s degree in some form of agricultural science, and in California half of the agents hold master’s degrees in agriculture. The Extension Service agent is probably regarded as the man right at the end of the line, yet he is a university graduate.
The cost of the Extension Service scheme is not extraordinarily high. The Federal Government usually contributes about 41 per cent, of the funds and the State Government contributes the balance of 59 per cent. The total outlay for the whole nation is only about 180 million dollars, or about £A90 million. Considered in proportion to our population, it is apparent that a similar scheme for Australia would not cost huge sums of money. My colleagues in the Australian Country Party have often said in this chamber that the State Departments of Agriculture are the Cinderella departments. By adopting in Australia a scheme similar to the American Extension Service, the Federal Government could direct money to the States to achieve results comparable with those obtained in America.
The second subject I want to deal with is decentralisation of industry, government and population. It has been said here before that this is primarily a matter for the States. We recognise the truth of that statement but I believe that the role of the Federal Covernment in decentralisation is the same as in all fields. It has to give a lead to the State Governments where it is satisfied that the State Governments are not doing the job themselves. This Government has taken certain action to develop country areas. In past years, administrations composed by the present Government parties gave considerable taxation concessions to primary producers; they established the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation; they improved country telephone services, and they established the Australian Loan Council and the Australian Agricultural Council. In more recent years, this Government has allocated finance for the construction of ports and the renewing of port facilities all around Australia. It has allocated finance for the development of brigalow country in Queensland and in Western Australia. It has allocated money for water conservation, for the Ord River scheme and for the superphosphate subsidy.
– And beef roads.
– And, as my colleague from Gippsland says, for beef roads. It has also undertaken to reduce the difference in petrol prices between various areas to 4d. All these moves, I say without fear of contradiction, are in line with the fundamental policies of the Australian Country Party. The Government has taken the action and there is no doubt that it has seen the wisdom of these policies that have been developed through experience and discussion with interested parties over the years. AH these moves have helped country people and country businessmen and have fostered the development of country areas. However, the big cities are still mushrooming, mainly because of the establishment there of secondary industries. It has been said that, if the present trend continues, by the time the population of Australia reaches 20 million, 10 million people will be living in Sydney and Melbourne. If 10 million people live in Melbourne and Sydney, they will waste a tremendous amount of time going to and from work. In addition, this population in the two cities alone will create tremendous social problems.
The moves that I have mentioned have applied mainly to primary producers. Except for reducing the petrol price differential to 4d the Government has not offered any really strong inducement to secondary industry to move away from the capital cities and the seaboard. Several Opposition members are interjecting. I notice that they are mostly members from New South Wales, which is one of the most highly centralised States in the Commonwealth. The Government of that State has done practically nothing to encourage decentralisation. Labour sends representatives here to talk about decentralisation, but they cannot mention any achievement’ of the New South Wales Labour Government. Of course, the Opera House probably could have been built more cheaply if it had been located at Bourke or Broken Hill.
If the Commonwealth Government wants to make a real contribution to decentralisation, it must break away from convention. Certainly, there are constitutional difficulties, but ways and means have been found to overcome these difficulties. I feel that some unorthodox moves must be made and I want to make a few suggestions. At the moment Australia is divided into zones for the purposes of tax concessions. Why not zone Australia completely or, alternatively, zone Australia much more than has been done up to this time? Some of the great statesmen of the Australian Country Party have been advocating for many years the establishment of new states. I hope that the member for New England (Mr. Sinclair) carries on the tradition established by his predecessor. Another thing we could do is to establish a reserve fund which would make finance available for our secondary industries. This is what those industries require. Secondary industry wants some financial incentive either with regard to profits or to help it overcome its initial expenses and to establish itself away from the big city areas. A reserve fund could be set up from which could be obtained long term loans at low interest rates. Even some assistance in the purchase of new machinery or the erection of some buildings would be helpful.
The final suggestion I have is that every effort must be made to continue to maintain the percentage of parliamentary representation in this Parliament for the rural areas of Australia. This is a subject, of course, that touches the hearts of all members of this Parliament very closely, although one would not think so having heard the debates in this House this year. For instance, when I mention the subject of the redistribution of electorates in Australia, the Address-in-Reply debate comes to my mind. I checked up on this debate during the recess to see just how many times the subject of redistribution was mentioned by members from the three parties in this House. I was very interested to find that, even though redistribution was expressly mentioned in the Speech delivered by the Governor-General, the subject was only mentioned on 19 occasions in this House. It was mentioned on 11 occasions by members of the Country Party; on seven occasions by members of the Opposition; and once by members of the Liberal Party. Those figures indicate that honorable members, other than those belonging to the Country Party, are not particularly interested in maintaining the present proportion of representation of rural areas in this Parliament. This is a subject which, surely, has been very close to every member’s thoughts throughout the major part of this year. The fact that this subject was mentioned during the Address-in-Reply debate by so many members of the Country Party indicates to me that country people should realise that they are fighting to retain their representation in this Parliament and that any talk to the contrary is not sincere, particularly when it comes from members of the Opposition. It will be interesting to see the various comments on this matter when the amendments to the Electoral Act are before this Parliament. Then we shall see what the position is. In conclusion, it is my hope that the remarks I have made on the subject of decentralisation and agricultural advisory services will be taken into account by the Government and that some action will be taken in the very near future.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I think that we have all been wondering how accurate the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) will be in his Budget Estimates for this financial year. We ali remember that in 1962-63 he budgeted for a deficit of £1 10 million, and he finished at the end of the financial year with a surplus of £16 million. He was only £126 million in error. In 1963-64 he budgeted for a deficit of £58 million and had a surplus of £28 million. He was only about £90 million out. So in the two Budgets preceding this one the Treasurer miscalculated to the tune of more than £200 million. This year he has budgeted for a surplus of about £18 million. If his past performances are any guide he should finish this year with a surplus of about £100 million. I do not know what the Treasurer has in mind about that surplus, but you can bet that it will be in his interest. One thing we can be certain of is that the pensioners of this country will not finish the year with a surplus. The very meagre increase of 5s. in pensions, provided in the Budget, is poor recognition of the needs of pensioners of all kinds. The Government has treated these people shamefully.
In the Budget Speech the Treasurer referred to the important matter of housing. In my opinion housing is one of this nation’s most important needs. Housing is an essential ingredient of a happy marriage. Satisfactory housing is a must if our population is to increase. In my opinion, peopling this nation is our best assurance of national security. We will never populate this country while our young people are forced to go through the trials that they must face today in their efforts to obtain homes for themselves. Bidding for social security is useless if first we do not have national security. The best way to obtain national security is by an increase in population and by an adequate programme of defence. If we do not have an adequate population we have no chance of getting the adequate defence that we need to assure us of national security.
In Australia we have only two schemes that are concerned with providing houses for people on low incomes. These are the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, in respect of which £46 million is provided in this Budget, and the war service homes scheme, for which £35 million, is provided. The total provision for the two schemes is a little more than £80 million. If we estimate the average cost of a home at £4,000 - it would be much higher - that £80 million will build only 20,000 homes. Those two schemes are not sufficient to meet the housing needs of low income workers. Even four times the amount earmarked for those schemes would hardly be sufficient to meet the annual demand of about 100,000 new homes, which is increasing.
Housing provided under those schemes is too expensive. With costs as high as they are today, few working people will ever own their own bornes. Nothing tends to increase the happiness of a family more than a man’s equity in his home and the knowledge that he will own the home during his working life. In the course of his speech in this debate the bon. member for Gellibrand (Mr. Mclvor) referred to the heavy burden in interest charged on housing loans. The figures that he cited related to the Housing Commission of Victoria, which makes loans of up to £4,000 to home purchasers. A man who obtained a loan of £4,000 repayable over a period of 30 years at 4± per cent, interest would repay a total of £7,320. This means that that man will pay in interest £3,320. In the case of repayment over 40 years at 41 per cent, a sum of £8,640 would need to be repaid. In other words the interest would amount to more than the £4,000 originally borrowed. For a 45-year period the interest is even greater. The repayment of a £4,000 loan over 45 years would cost the purchaser £9,360. The interest quotient in that case would be £5,360. It is ridiculous that the interest amounts to twice the purchase cost of the home.
There are other important facts about housing that I have received from the Commonwealth Statistician. There are 80,000 marriages in Australia each year, and about 20,000 families arrive from overseas under our immigration plan. These people need 100,000 homes. We have to consider also the accumulated shortages during the depression of the 1930’s. For a period of five years never more than 1,000 houses were built in one year. More than 50 per cent, of the work force was out of work at that time. Then we had the Second World War when all our man power and resources had to be diverted to the defence of this country. Very few houses were built during that period. The result was a very large backlog of housing needs wilh which we have never caught up.
The present position does nothing to encourage marriages. I have already pointed out that what we need in this country is population, but we will never get sufficient population unless we provide homes for the young people who are getting married. The short supply of houses suits the subdividers and land monopolists. They are able to demand prices far beyond the means of possibly 80 per cent, of the workers of this country. The price of building homesites in metropolitan areas in Australia - it does not matter which capital you consider, the position is the same - has increased by up to 600 per cent, in the last 1 5 years. In my own electorate only 15 years ago you could buy a block of land on which to build a home for £100. The cheapest price at which you could obtain such a block of land today would be £1,200. This applies to every suburban area in our capital cities. If a person wanted to live in some of the more salubrious areas along the waterfront or along the rivers he would be lucky to obtain a block of land for £2,000. In most instances the price would be £3,000 or £4,000.
The Treasurer in his Budget Speech referred to the provision of the £10 million homes savings grant and also to the establishment of a housing loan insurance corporation. He said, too, that £5 million would be set aside for an accelerated housing programme for members of the armed forces. If all this is implemented as the Treasurer suggested, it will not make provision for more than 5,000 extra homes. If the homes built under the two existing schemes - the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement and the war service homes scheme - are added it will provide only about one-quarter of the housing needs of this country.
Notwithstanding . the Government’s announced intention to make more money available in the Budget for housing, it is interesting to note that the Reserve Bank of Australia is opposed to this policy. It fears that an increased supply of money for home building will have an inflationary content, that an increase in prices will result and that this will throw the economy out of balance. We must surely have a very queer monetary system if the provision of homes for families that are helping to increase production in industry will throw the economy out of balance. Any scheme that could be thrown out of balance in this way must be a very bad one - there must be something radically wrong with it - and the sooner it is scrapped the better it will be for all concerned. 1 believe that the present monetary system suits the monopolies whom this Government protects to the detriment of the best interests of the people. As far back as 1960 the Government promised to introduce legislation dealing with restrictive trade practices in order to guard against this sort of thing. However, the Government is procrastinating, and whether it does intend to introduce the promised legislation still remains to be seen.
I wish to mention the matter of the high price of land upon which to build homes for the workers. It costs nothing to produce land nor does it cost .anything to maintain land. Therefore, it is contrary to all natural justice that families should be priced out of homes by the high cost of land. I believe that the prices of land should be controlled in order to protect the worker who desires to build a home and rear a family.
The next matter to which I wish to refer relates to the exorbitant telephone charges proposed in this Budget. I believe that the Government and the Treasurer are using the Posal Department as an additional taxing instrument. The Government has exhausted all the usual methods of hoodwinking the people by the use of indirect taxation and it is now turning to the Postal Department. The Department is a public utility and should not be misused by the Government. It is one of the most friendly public utilities we have and renders a greater variety of services to the people than does any other public utility. Consequently, I regard it as shocking that the Government should be using the Department to gain more revenue by socking the people with heavy telephone charges. I assure the Government that the people feel very irate about the proposal.
Telephone rentals are to be increased from £14 to £20 a year and the installation fee from £10 to i.15. I remind the House that no installation fee was charged until 1959. At that time, approximately 100,000 people were waiting for telephones and the Government, knowing this, said: “ Here is an easy way of getting £1 million “. It then made use of the Postal Department as a taxing instrument and introduced an installation fee of £10. That fee is now to be increased to £15.
Telephone rentals will vary according to the number of accessible subscribers who may be connected. In future, too, Canberra is to be treated as a metropolitan area. Canberra residents have received the greatest blow of all because, prior to the introduction of this Budget, Canberra was classed as a country area and the telephone rental was no more than £8 10s. a year. Canberra is now to be classed as a metropolitan area and residents who require a telephone will pay a rental of £20 a year. First, an applicant for a telephone must pay an installation fee of £15 at the time of making application and, when the service is connected, he will be required to pay £10, this being a half year’s rental in advance. So new subscribers will have to meet the extortionate charge of £25 by the time their service is connected. That is a very heavy blow indeed and one that I believe is beyond the capacity of the ordinary working man to pay. Certainly pensioners have no hope of having a telephone connected when these heavy charges are levied.
Like every other honorable member, I receive . representations from pensioners. They produce doctors’ certificates recommending that they have a telephone service in order that they may make quick contact with their medical advisers. But how can an invalid pensioner, an age pensioner or any person who is incapacitated afford to pay the exorbitant rental charge? The charge of £20 a year works out at 7s. 6d. a week. How can a pensioner pay this charge, even with the paltry increase of 5s. a week which is provided for in this Budget? 1 think the new rental is completely unreasonable and that the Government is guilty of discrimination in using the Post Office as a means of imposing what is, in effect, taxation.
I have some figures here which show the reason why the Government is imposing these charges. Some time ago the Government decided that it would change the accounting system of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department to what is known as commercial accounting. I believe that this was only a pretext and that the Government really wanted to find a way of raising money other than by increasing direct taxation. The Government set up a committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Alexander Fitzgerald, to ascertain the capital cost of developing the Post Office since Federation. Some members of the Committee found that the cost was £380 million, and
I believe that in a minority report the cost was given as £300 million. When Cabinet had considered the report of the Committee it said: “ We will split the difference between £300 million and £380 million”. If decided that the capital cost of the Post Office since Federation was £340 million. The Government then decided also that the Post Office would be required to pay interest on its capital expenditure. In the first year of operation of what was called commercial accounting, the Post Office paid £15 million in interest. In the next year it paid £17 million and in 1962 it paid £20 million. Last year the sum was £21 million. We have not yet got the Postmaster-General’s annual report for 1963, but it seems that the interest payable for that year will be well over £22 million.
Over the period since the change to commercial accounting, the Post Office has paid about £96 million in interest. One can realise why the Post Office is being used now to sock the people. The Post Office has to pay this interest, but that is not so in the case of other Public Service departments. lt does not happen with the Department of Civil Aviation.
One can see how much the Government is doing for the airlines. In 1959-60 - the year in which the new accounting system was commenced in the Post Office - the Department of Civil Aviation spent £12 million on building aerodromes and on maintaining them as well as on providing meteorological services and operational services. In 1960-61, the Department spent £12 million; in 1.961-62, £12 million; in 1962-63, £13 million; and in 1963-64, £15 million. This year it is contemplated that the Department will spend £17 million. This does not include what is called expenditure, the total expenditure on capital works and services. With the addition of this expenditure for aerodromes and air services, and operational and meteorological services will be £25,890,500.
Turning to income in the form of air navigation fees and the various charges that are supposed to be made against private operators, we find that in 1960 the private airline companies, including Qantas and Trans-Australia Airlines paid £1.8 million. This has grown year by year until in the current financial year it will be £4.6 million. That is regarded as revenue received by the Department of Civil Aviation. Included in that amount is the profit earned by the national airline, T.A.A. It is expected that this year T.A.A. will earn a profit of £525,000 and that Qantas will earn a profit of £974,000. As I have said, these amounts will be paid into the revenue of the Department of Civil Aviation. However, Ansett.A.N.A. and the other private operators will retain the profits they earn. This year, in my opinion, the Government is subsidising those operators to the extent of about £21 million.
The Government has no right to treat the Post Office any differently from the way in which it treats the Department of Civil Aviation or any other Department. Why is not the capital expenditure of all public utilities a charge upon the Government? Why is there discrimination against the Post Office? The figures I have mentioned reveal an astonishing manipulation and juggling of established accounting practice which strikes a very heavy blow at the well being of the people, particularly the little people mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). I support his proposed amendment which states -
The House is of opinion that the Budget does not adequately grapple with the problems of striking a realistic and fitting balance between the claims on national resources arising from defence, development and social welfare.
That amendment should be supported. I hope that when it is put to the vote the majority of honorable members will support it.
.- It is always a great inspiration to rise in this House at this time of night and speak on the Budget to a full House which is obviously on its toes and tense with interest. First, I should put the honorable member for Banks (Mr. Costa) at ease by saying now that it is not my intention to support the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Calwell). However, I am sure the House will permit me the privilege of making some weak criticisms of the Government on a number of aspects of the Budget with which I do not agree.
The purpose of the Budget was explained both by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) when he presented it, and by the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Menzies) tonight. This explanation has been accepted by the majority of the people. They realise that the
Government’s proposals are necessary and that the Government is acting in their best interests. Some people seem to feel that more should have been done but very few say what should have been done, lt is interesting that one newspaper - probably the one that attacked the Budget most strongly - suggested on its front page that the Budget was designed to curb advancement. However, on the financial page it stated that all shares were maintained or rising because most people had feared that the Budget would be harsher.
I feel very strongly about two matters. The first is the pension increase of 5s. a week. I believe that, in all fairness, provision could have been made for the pensioner to get a slightly larger rise than that which has been granted by the Government. I believe that the majority of the people of Australia are of the same opinion. It is my belief that they want to give a little more to the pensioner. I realise that it is better for many pensioners who have their own homes and some other small income to be given indirect advantages such as free medicine and reduced fares than to receive an additional 5s. a week which frequently is immediately eaten up by rising costs. These advantages, which are not sufficiently highlighted, are of great assistance to such people. However, to those who receive a full pension and have no other means of income an increase of the pension rate is a very big thing.
The second proposal with which I disagree is the method which has been announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) to obtain revenue for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. I do not argue with the need to raise additional revenue. I realise that the problems associated with telephonic communication throughout Australia are dissimilar to those of most other countries. We have to cover a continent of mountainous areas, deserts, snowfields, and thousands of miles of unoccupied country with areas of bush to be cleared, but we have only 11 million people to pay for that work. I congratulate the PostmasterGeneral’s Department upon what it has achieved. I repeat that I realise it must have additional revenue to meet the demands made upon it.
The La Trobe electorate is one of the fast developing areas in which great demands for additional telephones are made. I look forward to a much quicker alleviation of the demand than in the past as a result of the money that is to be raised. However, I strongly disagree with the method that has been adopted by the Government to raise the additional funds that are required. All I can suggest is that no thought whatever was given to the problem beyond the fact that money was required. Perhaps it is reasonable to say that those who have telephones should bear the cost and that those who do not have telephones should not be taxed in this respect. However, I believe in my own heart that that does not ring quite true. The raising of the rental of private telephones to a sum equal to business rentals appears to have been without any thought whatsoever. If, as was stated by the Treasurer, it was purely to discourage people from applying for telephones, then I believe that very little thought was given to the matter. To hit every subscriber in Australia purely to disuade other people from applying for a telephone seems, to put the matter on the lowest level, to be political stupidity.
To charge private indivduals including sick people, elderly people, pensioners, mothers with young children, and people in country areas, to whom a telephone is possibly of the greatest necessity, the same rental as is charged for business telephones is wrong. In my electorate, many people who are living in sparsely populated areas cannot afford to be without a telephone. The cost of business telephones is an allowable deduction for taxation purposes. An increase in rental means nothing if you can write it off against profits. But it is most crippling to little people many of whom literally are giving up much so that they may retain their telephone which, frequently, is their only contact with the outside world. I strongly hope that the Treasurer, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Hulme), and possibly the Minister for Social Services (Mr. Roberton) will get together to review the proposal instead of, as has been done during the past week, passing the buck from one to the other.
When considering the Budget, one must select the subjects that he wants to discuss. There is no doubt that the subject of defence must have top priority, because the outcome of whatever else we discuss or whatever we do in this House is dependent upon defence. We can talk as much as we like about what we are doing and what we would like to do but, unless our defences are adequate, what we do is not likely to mean anything at all. During the last recess, the Minister for Defence (Senator Paltridge) made statements about an improvement of the pay and conditions of members of the Services. No doubt those statements were made during the recess because the matter was one of urgency. However, when such statements are made during the recess, they cannot be debated in this House. On one occasion, I asked the Minister for Supply (Mr. Fairhall), who represents in this House the Minister for Defence, whether a statement on defence would be made, and I was informed that no such statement would be made. During consideration of the Defence estimates, all the Services will be grouped together and each honorable member will be allowed 15 minutes to discuss them, or, if he is lucky, and has two periods, 30 minutes. Some people may consider that that is sufficient time for the discussion of defence in times like these, but I certainly do not think it is.
I agree with the honorable member for Deakin (Mr. Davis), who suggested that the power of this House is being lost to the Executive and that the private member has no say in the decisions that are made and no opportunity to review a number of the acts of the Executive. I agree, too, with much of the criticism by the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) of the inadequacy of our defence programme at present. Let me say that I see no reason why private members should not be given more complete information by Ministers. I resent very strongly the attitude that Ministers are the be all and end all of government and that private members have no right to be informed about the details of administration.
When I was absent from the House owing to an illness which confined me to bed last week, I turned on my radio and heard a speech by the Minister for the Army (Dr. Forbes) about national service training and other matters affecting the Department of the Army. I respect the Minister very highly, for he has great ability. Indeed, what I have to say about the defence forces does not apply to any of the present Ministers in charge of the defence departments. They have not been in their present positions long enough to achieve the results that I am sure they will achieve after they have administered their portfolios for a while longer. At this stage, I believe that some of the statements made by the Minister for the Army should be looked at more closely. I regret that I have not time this evening to discuss the Navy and the Air Force.
Let me say that I believe that private members have a right to criticise. Indeed, it is their duty to criticise if they think that insufficient is being done by Ministers. I do not consider that it is to the advantage of this Parliament or of a Minister for him to say in this House that criticism voiced here by private members is damaging to the morale of the forces or that the Government’s advisers have not given it complete details of the matters about which advice has been given. There is nothing worse for the morale of the forces than hearing Ministers make statements that do not accord with the situation that exists in the Services.
In 1962, during the consideration of the Defence estimates, I said -
What we now have to do is to assess the threat and decide whether we are equipped to meet it. Are our forces adequate for our defence? Any planner must be assured that what he plans he can do. A soldier, sailor or airman must know that what he needs in order to fight he will have . . . Can we do what the planner has planned for, and has the serviceman the equipment that he will need?
That still applies today. Let me now read some passages from the speech made last Thursday morning by the Minister for the Army. I regret that I may have to quote from it extensively. He stated -
Much of the criticism assumes, for instance, that Armageddon is just around the corner, that we should be basing our defence planning, for example, on the belief that we are in imminent danger of attack or invasion. As I say we base our planning on a forward posture in a cold war - limited war situation in South East Asia.
What does all that mean? What is it but a great mass of words that are uttered in this House for the purpose of confusing poor innocent backbenchers who are never able to get the basic information that they seek? Does the Minister suggest that the official advice of his experts to the Government is that there is no possibility that we may be called on because of the situation in both the South East Asia Treaty Organisation area and the Malaysian area at the same time? Does he suggest that, if this happened, Papua and New Guinea could not be affected as well? Is it not possible that the situation in both Borneo and Thailand could go bad at the same time and that we would have to send troops to those countries? Does he suggest that what we have in the Army at this moment could meet this situation? He went on-
The role of the Australian Regular Army, if I may refer to that first, is to deal with a cold war situation, to have the capacity to deal with the likely situations which may arise in a cold war, the sort of situations which have repeated themselves from time to time”. . .
Does this mean that we may have to send 60 advisers to Vietnam, four airmen to somewhere in Malaya, and a squadron of engineers to Malaysia? Is this the threat that his advisers consider is the only one which we may have to face. Does he consider that the incident in the Gulf of Tonkin and the invasion by the Indonesian guerrillas of the Malaysian mainland could not have introduced and accelerated a situation wherein our forces might have to move very quickly? In relation to the Regular Army, he goes in -
It must have the characteristics to do this. It must have the size to do it. It must have the mobility to be able to do it, and it must have availability. That is, it must be ready to move at a moment’s notice if it is to be able to do these things. It must be well enough equipped to do them and to employ that equipment in the area to which it is likely to go.
There he makes six basic points which the Regular Army must have. They include characteristics, size, mobility, availability and equipment. If the six basic requirements cannot be met it is obvious that the Army is not in the conditions which we are told occasionally it is in. The Minister continued -
I believe that the Australian Regular Army is able to fulfil this particular role. Honorable members can criticise the role if they like, but, given the role, the Australian Regular Army has the characteristics and the capacity to fulfil it.
Let us take the six points that he raised. First, has it the characteristics? Perhaps the A.R.A. has them at the moment, but they must depend on the other five points. Has it the size to do the job? The Minister at no point tells us how much he envisages as being used. Is it one battle group, is it two battle groups, or is it the full pentropic division of 15,000 men? Later in his speech he indicates that it is the division to which he refers, and he refers to a division in most places. As I understand it, what are required to meet the maintenance of a full division - called the divisional slice - are the combat support units and logistic units of approximately 30,000 men; that is, for a full division of 15,000 to be selfsupporting overseas in any theatre of war. Have we these forces? These logistic and support units are similar to the old corps troops during the last war - the line of communications units, base units, ordnance units, hospital units, transport units, provost units, finance units, etc. From where are these, plus the first reserves and second reserves, to come? If the logistic force comprises most of the officers and noncommissioned officers from the base ordnance depots and other corps throughout Australia, who will be maintaining these at home, or will we be denuded? This would be chaotic. Therefore, have we the size which the Minister says is essential?
I should like to ask the Minister whether he will produce for this Parliament - which has a right to ask for it - the war establishment table for the A.R.A. Division showing postings filled and postings unfilled, and the same particulars for the Citizen Military Forces Division. In relation to the A.R.A., the Minister states -
Today we have a strength of approximately 24,000. Our target for early 1967 is 28,000.
Why 1967? I would not know. It seems that things will be pretty safe in 1965 and 1966. What do these 24,000 regular troops comprise? We are not told. We are never told the break-up. We do not know how many are in base jobs and how many are doing essential work here in Australia. Why shouldn’t we know? However, in 1959-60 the then Minister produced an explanatory memorandum which showed the break-up of the Regular Army of that time. It consisted of 22,000 then as against 24,000 now. In one section of the memorandum the following appeared -
The 22,000 members of the Regular Army for whom financial provision is made in these Estimates will be employed as follows: -
Are they to go to the war? Are we not to have any cadres for cadet units and so on here? Then the memorandum went on -
Are we not to have training schools and installations here, which are necessary? The memorandum continued -
That gave the breakup of the 22,000 in 1959. It means that we had a fighting force of 7,716 including the then logistic forces. I do not know whether it took in the women’s army. I understand that possibly it did not. But there is an A.R.A. women’s army, and the Commonwealth “ Year Book “ for last year gave the strength of the Australian Military Forces, including 702 in the Pacific Islands Regiment and 729 in the women’s services. So you have the women’s services included in your total of 24,000. How many of those people can go away at this time? Therefore I ask: Where are the troops coming from for the logistic force and reserve?
Let me revert to the six basic principles I have enumerated. First, has our force the required mobility? Well, has it? We moved 300 troops to New Guinea recently, but that is not a division. What about the heavy equipment, the stores, the tanks, the bulldozers and so on? Where are the ships required to move these forces and their equipment?
In respect of a further point made by the Minister for the Army, let me quote this passage from his speech -
If the Regular Army at the strength I have set out were the only force available to meet our commitments and any potential future situation, we could be justifiably criticised. The people who say only too readily that we have minute forces would be right if that were true. But it is not. The Australian Army - I cannot emphasise this too strongly - is not just the Australian Regular Army. It is an army of much greater size, organised on the basis of two divisions. I am sure most honorable gentlemen will agree that in the current situation an army of two divisions is a very creditable contribution by a country of Australia’s size.
Well, I am one who does not, because I frankly do not feel that at this time we have two divisions. However, I know that the planning is in train to give us these two divisions and that we will get them.
– Don’t spoil your speech.
– I say that even though it may offend the honorable member for Hindmarsh. I now come to another one of the six requirements, the capacity to move straight away. Can we move our forces forward if we are required to do so? Then there is the other question: Are they ready to move? Even if you can send the two regular battle groups, can you send the C.M.F. components? I say at this stage that I do not think so.
Then there was the fifth requirement, that the force must be well enough equipped to do the job. Is it? We do not know. We are not told. Let me ask the Minister: Some years ago the M60 general purpose machine - gun was announced as standard equipment. Can the Minister now say how many we have in the country to equip the two divisions he speaks of? How many 105 millimeter howitzers do we have? What period of time would he expect would be necessary to equip two divisions fully with modern equipment? How much of the War Equipment Table is planned to be filled with 303 rifles, Bofors guns and 25 pounders? How many of the M60’s and howitzers have we in reserve? You can be equipped, but unless you have sufficient stores behind which can go forward when required you are not in a very strong situation.
Unless the Minister can convince me that all these things are available I cannot agree that the Australian Regular Army has the equipment or the capability at the moment to fulfil the role which he has mentioned. The Minister, in his speech, asked, again whether two divisions is a creditable , force. I do not think it is. I think we need a Regular Army component and a much stronger C.M.F. However, the Minister has given regard to the C.M.F. Despite what the honorable member for Bradfield (Mr. Turner) said about our advisers, the Minister said -
The C.M.F. will be ready to move by the time it is required as dictated by the exigencies of the military situation.
As I understand it - I hope I am wrong - the shortage of officers in the C.M.F. in the Southern Command at the moment is between 400 and 500. The Army is endeavouring to train more officers at an officers’ training school to overcome the shortage, but at the present rate, even if 100 per cent, of the men are retained and passed, it will take five years to fill the vacancies for officers in the C.M.F. The shortage of officers in tha A.R.A., I understand, is 500. I do not know how we are to encourage young officers to go into the A.R.A. after the Government took to the courts the question of the right of an officer to resign from the A.R.A. It appears now that Service officers have lost the right to choose what they will do with their lives. A civil servant can retire whenever he wants to. Let me make a correction here. The Government did not take this question to the courts, but by refusing requests for permission to resign it forced the officers to do so. I am not disagreeing with that action, but I am suggesting that it has brought about the circumstance that young fellows who are thinking of going into a Service will give the matter a second thought unless we improve the position in that regard. Unless that is done, we will never get the officers needed to fill the vacancies in the A.R.A.
Let me now refer to the position of the C.M.F. prior to the last war. This is quite an interesting study. The Minister made mention of what ,the C.M.F. will do. He said it will fulfil its usual role of bringing in officers of good quality. I feel that this is not likely to be so. As I understand it there are in Victoria at the moment the First and Second Battalions of the Royal Victorian Regiment. I understand also, on checking up, that there are two full C.M.F. colonels in charge of these battalions. One of them had been a Regular for many years. He retired as a lieutenant-colonel, Staff Corps, and was appointed a full colonel in the C.M.F. On investigation I find that there is at present not one C.M.F. lieutenantcolonel serving at present who has any current command experience with a battalion. How is the C.M.F. going to provide the officers who will be required for mobilisation in the event of hostilities coming to this country? There are two deputy commanders of the regiments, but you cannot say that a deputy commander has the full command experience necessary.
Let us look at the position before World War II. We then bad two divisions in Victoria. Taking the infantry side, we had 15 battalion commanders and 30 2-l.C. majors, all with command experience in the C.M.F. Let us look at the names of some of those officers. In 1939 we had Sir Iven Mackay, who ended the war as a Lieutenant-General with a whole cluster of decorations. Before the war he commanded the 2nd Division. We had as colonels in 1939 the following men- -I give them their ranks as at the end of the war in 1945 - Major-General Burston, Lieutenant-General Morshead, MajorGeneral Allen, Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Herring, Major-General Steele, Major-General Murray, LieutenantGeneral Savige, Major-General Stevens, Major-General Ramsay and Major-General Simpson. All those men were battalion commanders at the beginning of the war. When mobilisation came, they immediately went in with command experience and were able to organise the Australian Imperial Force. But today we do not have such men. The C.M.F. component, as at present organised, has no chance of producing any of the senior commanders whom it turned out in pre-war days.
I suggest that what we require is, first, the Australian Regular Army - nobody can replace it - to meet the requirements under our treaties and for the initial move into the area where defence is required. But then we need our reserves; we need our logistic forces. If men go into an area and cannot be supported, they will not be very effective. We are not likely to open hostilities; we are likely to be attacked. A force under attack and not taking the initiative, usually takes high initial casualties, because there is no warning of the blow.
Many people, including former C.M.F. and A.I.F. commanders, have criticised our present defence set-up. They are not all fools. They are not all old fogies. They have served this country. I resent very much the suggestion that they do not know what they are talking about. We hear about the unanimous advice of the government’s advisers. I believe it is wrong that the Government should state that its advisers give advice on certain matters, when the advisers themselves are never enabled to speak. In conclusion let me hurriedly read a statement made by ViceAdmiral Sir Roy Dowling, a former Chairman of the Australian Chief of Staffs Committee and a top authority. I have time to read only this passage -
But from this study is assessed the nature and strength of possible threats to our security and it is then possible to consider the best military strategy to meet such threats, to follow up with a proposed composition of forces required and finally to assess the cost. Now this cost figure is generally far higher than the Government is prepared to approve, so a process of whittling down, of choosing priorities and of hard bargaining between the Chiefs of Staff commences. In the final count if, as usual, the financial cut is considerable it is not possible to meet the requirements of the approved strategic basis for defence, so that in the end instead of the requirement deciding the cost, as it should logically do, the cost decides a false requirement.
That statement was made as I have said, by a former Chairman of the Australian Chiefs of Staff Committee. He says that advice may be given but the Government may not accept, it.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Luchetti) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.54 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated -
n asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
As this is a matter of security practice for safeguarding Commonwealth establishments, it is not proposed to give the information sought. I might add, however, that a thorough review undertaken by my department has revealed that several Commonwealth departments are availing themselves of the services of private security services to safeguard Commonwealth establishments. The decision as to what security arrangements are made in respect of each individual establishment rests with the department controlling the premises.
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
For Schools other than Roman Catholic -
Archbishop H. R. Gough- New South Wales.
Archbishop F. Woods - Victoria.
Archbishop P. N. W. Strong - Queensland.
Bishop T. T. Reed- South Australia.
Archbishop G. Appleton - Western Australia.
Bishop R. E. Davies - Tasmania.
For Roman Catholic Schools -
Cardinal N. T. Gilroy- New South Wales.
Archbishop J. D. Simonds- Victoria.
Archbishop P. O’Donnell - Queensland.
Archbishop M. Beovich - South Australia.
Bishop M. McKeon - Western Australia.
Archbishop G. Young - Tasmania.
The Standards Committee comprises -
Mr. L. C. Robson (Chairman)
Mr. E. D. Gardiner.
Rev. Brother Dr. V. C. McKenna.
Professor R. Selby-Smith.
Professor H. C. Webster.
Dr. Alice Whitley.
Mr. I. I. W. Bisset (Executive Member).
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
The Department of Civil Aviation has discussed with New South Wales State Authorities the possible use of an area at the southern end of Botany Bay for airport development. The proposal is associated with the long term development of the area as a whole and all that is being done at the present time is to see whether an airport development in part of this area could be properly co-ordinated with other developments in which the State authorities are interested. The runways for the airport, if it were developed in the area, would require some reclamation of the southern part of the Bay.
Proposals are of a very general nature and have been included in an overall investigation which is being undertaken by the State Authorities. They are not at this stage in such a form that they could be denned sufficiently to determine whether any particular areas of land or water would be affected and they are still subject to a determination of whether they can be carried out at all. They relate to the long term planning of the area.
I can assure you, however, that any airport development which might in the future be carried out in this area will be such that it would not constitute a hazard to people living in neighbouring areas.
son asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Do the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act prevent television and radio licence holders from obtaining refunds in respect of any unexpired periods of such licences?
e. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows -
son asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows - 1 and 2. The information sought by the honorable member is not available. Australian posts overseas and, where there is no Australian representation, British Consular Offices acting on our behalf, have delegated authority with regard to the issue of visitors’ visas. Statistics and other data are not maintained with respect to unsuccessful applications.
i asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What was the number of unsatisfied telephone ‘ applications in each Federal electoral division in New South Wales, as at the latest dale for which this information is available?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows -
A special study carried out early in June 1964, showed the Allowing position regarding deferred applications in each Federal Electoral Division in New South Wales.
y asked the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows -
b asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
How many of the 11,631 physically handicapped people placed in employment by the Commonwealth Employment Service during the year 1963-64 were in receipt of invalid pensions?
– This information is not available.
Conference on Antibiotics. (Question No. 460.)
m asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Has an Australian representative yet been sent to the annual conference on antibiotics in the United States of America in accordance with the resolutions of the National Health and Medical Research Council in November 19S8, and May 19597
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following reply -
The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission sent a representative to the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy held in New York in 1963, and will also send a representative to the next such conference to be held in New York in October 1964.
I might mention also that Dr. B. C. Stratford, an eminent Melbourne bacteriologist, attended conferences on antibiotics in London, Prague and Detroit earlier this year and subsequently reported on the results of these meetings to the Antibiotics Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission also sent a representative to the Prague conference.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 August 1964, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1964/19640825_reps_25_hor43/>.