26th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr SPEAKER (Hon. V. J. Aston) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER presented a petition from certain electors of the Commonwealth praying that the Government implement Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by providing increased social service and housing benefits for the aged, the invalid, the widowed and their dependants.
Dr GIBBS presented a petition from certain citizens of the Commonwealth praying that the House make a survey of the full requirements of pensioners of all types and adopt a policy for the progressive liberalisation of the means test resulting in its removal within 3 years.
A similar petition was presented by Mr Bonnett.
Petitions severally received.
– - I ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes - after question time, 1 suggest - to make a statement concerning the reported invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union and her confederates.
– I do not know that I will be in a position to make a statement on this matter after question time today.
– Are you waiting for instructions from the USA?
– From E.A.? I think it is reasonable. Honourable members will be aware when all that a Government has to go on - and this is virtually all we have to go on at the moment - are news reports and certain inconclusive cables it is not possible immediately to sift fact from rumour and therefore to have a firm basis on which to make a statement. But 1 can confirm to the House that news from official sources indicates that forces from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have entered Czechoslovakia and that forces from East Germany, Poland, Hungary and Bulgana are also participating in this entry into Czechoslovakia. The United Press International - I put that for what it is worth - has reported a monitored statement over Praha radio to that effect. Mr Speaker, I do not wish to go further at present by drawing on information which has been received but which has not been confirmed. But at this point I do state most firmly that in the view of the Australian Government such interference in the affairs of an independent country is to be condemned. Furthermore threats and armed intervention, particularly since it appears to be motivated merely by a desire for oppression of freedom of thought in that independent country, is a most serious breach of the United Nations Charter, of international law and practice, and is deplored completely and utterly by the Australian Government.
– And by the Australian Parliament.
– I would assume without question that it was deplored by the Australian Parliament as the representative of the Australian people throughout the length and breadth of this land. It must be a matter which is saddening to all those who had hoped that there might be in the Communist world some relaxation of this central dogma, of this central tyranny, which has for so long been imposed, and that we might be reaching a stage where freedom would be allowed in those countries which now appear clearly to be colonies in fact of the USSR. This must not only cause us to deplore the action but must cause us distress and sadness that such things can take place in the world today.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. As the Minister will know, the high cost of connecting certain telephone subscribers to rural automatic telephone exchanges is causing great concern in country areas. Oan the Minister say whether the policy involved in this problem is being investigated by his Department? Will a departmental report be made to the Cabinet?
– This matter has been raised in the House in recent times by a number of honourable members. I know that some difficulty is caused to people in rural areas when there is a transfer from manual exchange operation to automatic exchange operation. Because a real problem is involved I have asked officers of my Department to investigate and to let me have a report on it. I will study the report when it comes to hand and will consult with my Cabinet colleagues on any solution which might be offered to me.
– The Postmaster-General will be aware of the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Downton at the Newtown transport depot in July this year.I ask the Minister: What security actions have been taken by his Department to protect employees working alone at night in these establishments?
– A system for the staffing of installations such as this has been developed within the Post Office in consultation with the unions and the appropriate authorities. I have not had any report on the discussions which have been held in these various areas since the unfortunate death of Mr Downton. When I get such a report I will be pleased to look into the matter to see whether additional security measures should be taken for the protection of life in Post Office establishments.
– I address my question to the Minister for External Affairs. The right honourable gentleman will recall that on 30th December 1966, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution with regard to Rhodesia and said that it was acting in accordance with Articles 39 and 41 of the United Nations Charter. It determined that the present situation in Southern Rhodesia constituted a threat to international peace and security. Without seeking at present to argue the legality and the justification of the resolution, I ask the right honourable gentleman whether he will concede that consistency in the conduct of international affairs has considerable virtue. If so, can he say that Security Council action with respect to Czechoslovakia may be expected, more so in view of the fact that there was no evidence of Rhodesia threatening any country whereas in the case of Czechoslovakia the aggression is both stark and clear?
– I agree with the honourable gentleman that consistency is a merit, if not a virtue. But I would suggest to him with due respect that it is also a. merit in the conduct of international affairs to be careful about the analogies one draws, and I do not see a close analogy between events in Rhodesia and the very deplorable events in Czechoslovakia. They arose in different circumstances and they present different situations to the world. With regard to she decision on Rhodesia by the Security Council, all I can say is that it was within the competence of the Security Council to take the decision that it took, and while there may well be differences of opinion as to whether the action was justified or wise, the fact is that when an organ of the United Nations with recognised competence takes a decision, that decision becomes one of the facts of international affairs. In respect of Czechoslovakia I suggest that we should wait and see how the situation develops before we even venture a guess as to what’ is the best way to deal with it.
– Is the Government making, or has it made, an intense investigation of all’ aspects of its industrial undertakings with a view to streamlining their activities and cutting down on redundancy? Because of modern sophisticated production techniques has the Government invited private industry to undertake muchof the production carried out at Commonwealth Government factories? Is it true that an investigation such as I have referred to could result in the closing down of the ordinance factory at Bendigo, the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow and parts of the Government undertaking at Maribyrnong? Would these developments mean that large numbers of Commonwealth Government employees would lose their jobs?
– I am not aware of any redisposition of the productive resources in Commonwealth undertakings. However, this is a matter which would He within the competence of my colleague in another place. I will inquire of him and let the honourable gentleman have a reply.
– I address a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service. Has his attention been directed to a proposal by the Australian Council of Salaried and Professional Associations that the Government set up a committee on automation and technical and technological changes and their effects? What is the attitude of the Government towards these problems and the way in which they should be handled?
– The Government has for some time taken a deep interest in and has been concerned with both the problems and the -promise offered by technological change. About 18 months ago a special section was established in the Department of Labour and National Service to deal with the problems of technological change. We recruited a number of very highly qualified people available for this purpose, one of whom at least came from overseas. I made available to honourable members some time ago a programme of the research that has been and is being undertaken at the moment in this section of my Department. I might add that the Department keeps in close contact with individual firms and unions concerned with these problems as and when they arise. As to the suggestion of a tripartite committee, which I did see in the newspapers this morning, honourable members may recall, as 1 have issued a Press statement each time it has met, that the new National Labour Advisory Council did establish, for the purpose of dealing with these problems, a special high powered committee representative of employees and trade union leaders, assisted by the facilitiesof my Department. This Committee has gone to work with considerable zest and is doing very good work. When the results of its work will be made available is not for me to say; the Council would make a decision on this. The brief answer is that we are very much alive to the problem and have already established excellent machinery.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. He will recall that representations were made to him recently while he was in Tasmania regarding the excessive valuations of war service land settlement properties in various parts of the State. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that two separate valuations have been obtained by the State of Tasmania and the Commonwealth in respect of properties at Mawbanna and that the Commonwealth valuations in 1965 written back as valuations for 1954 are approximately double the valuations of the State authorities for 1955. Will the Minister investigate and advise as to the number of war service land settlement properties on King Island and in Mawbanna where the war service land settlement authorities have refused to accept the figure arrived at by the Commonwealth valuation officers and provide the reasons for the subsequent increases? In view of the serious concern–
– Orderl The honourable member is now giving information. I remind honourable members that question time is a period when they may ask questions based on facts for the purpose of obtaining information. In no way should it be taken as a time to make short speeches. I suggest to all honourable members that, although tolerance is shown in respect of the prefaces to some questions, short speeches will not be tolerated. The honourable member for Braddon should now ask his question.
– Will the Minister have immediate investigations made with a view to obtaining some justice for the settlers concerned?
– My predecessor and I both had requests from settlers on King Island, Flinders Island and the Tasmanian mainland, in some cases to have their properties valued and in other cases to have them re-valued. We had valuations made of these properties. The settlers have a right to appeal to the Minister against the valuations and many of them have appealed to me. They have written to me privately and appealed for a re-valuation of their properties. I intend to handle each one of these individually and to reply direct to the settler concerned.I am afraid I am not in a position to comment on the circumstances mentioned by the honourable member.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation know that for years the practice at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, has been to list patients in a book under their former unit formations? ls he aware that most unit associations have voluntary welfare officers who visit their members in the hospital in their own lime and who depend on this book for easy access to their unit patients? Does he know that, the book has now been discontinued and that this places both the patients and the welfare officers at a grave disadvantage? Will he use his good offices to have the book restored and so contribute greatly to the welfare of sick ex-servicemen in my State?
– I recall from my experience that ex-servicemen who had been admitted :o hospital at Concord were listed in the records under their own names and not under their units or services. However, servicemen’s records included these details. I will inquire from my colleague in another place what changes have been made in the interim and see that the honourable member is informed.
– My question is directed to the Minister for External Affairs, lt concerns the property which the Department of External Affairs purchased in Paris - the Paris Embassy is the most expensive of our overseas diplomatic posts after London, Washington and New York - which, according to the AuditorGeneral’s report for last year, had been empty for the previous 24- years and would have to be sold at a significant loss. 1 ask: Has the property been sold? Lf so, at what loss?
– The account of this matter that was given by the AuditorGeneral was a fair and exact account. 1 would like to express the appreciation of myself and my Department to the AuditorGeneral for the assistance that he and his staff have given in helping us to handle better the rather difficult situation. As the property has not been sold so far, I am not in a position to answer the honourable gentleman’s final question.
– I address my question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I preface it by stating that in 1966 attempts were made to give air travellers a better service by staggering schedules. The Minister announced changes in timetables in May of last year, but variations have since been made and it is apparent that during peak periods services are once again very close together. I ask: Will the public have to tolerate this situation or will the Department of Civil Aviation again conduct a referendum of travelling passengers as it did in 1966?
– My Department and I have always made it clear to the major airlines that we believe a spreading of timetables is in the best interests of the travelling public. At the same time, we appreciate that there are limitations on such spreading. There are practical and economic difficulties. However, since my announcement last year there have been some changes. I draw (he attention of the House to a major change that has occurred since the beginning of last year. For example, there was an increase in frequency from 22 to 29 on the major route from Melbourne to Sydney. There has also been an increase in the daily time slots from 14 to 16 and the inclusion of some additional slots on peak days, such as Fridays. Jet services on this route have doubled during this period. So, on this major route there has been a very impressive improvement. I realise that there are still some shortcomings in the overall services provided, but I will certainly continue to work towards the end that T mentioned at the outset.
– My question is directed to the Treasurer. 1 refer to the increased flow of private charity abroad tha; has b:cn induced by the Nigerian war and the famine in Biafra. Will the honourable gentleman reconsider his attitude on donations to overseas aid organisations and make them tax deductible? Further, what is the estimated loss of revenue in 1967-68 if donations to these organisations had been made permissible deductions? Mr Speaker, I appreciate that the Treasurer may not have this figure available immediately. If he is not able to give that information now, perhaps he will advise me later.
-Order! The honourable member must not make a comment after asking a question.
– The problem with opening up the income tax legislation is that there are so many organisations which seem to have an equal right to make a request to the Commonwealth Government and if we gave assistance to one it would be extremely difficult to refuse others. I have also said in the House - and this principle has been followed by successive Treasurers and successive governments - that the Government should try to help those organisations in Australia that can benefit Australians. The Government is extremely generous in its international aid grants. In fact, Australia is one of the leaders in the world in making grants for international aid. I think that if one looks at the Budget papers one will see that we are second in terms of world priorities in the grants we give, but that we are first in terms of generosity because we give in grant form and not in terms of tied loans or other kinds of restricted operations. Nonetheless if the honourable gentleman wants me to look at this question again and to try to get particulars of amounts I will do so, but 1 think it will be difficult. I will ask for details to be obtained, if possible, and I will let him know the results.
– I address a question to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is there any plan to provide air passengers at international airports in Australia with easy boarding facilities, including covered ways, comparable to those provided at most international airports overseas?
– It is intended to provide this type of facility at our major international airports. In fact, at both Sydney and Melbourne airports, where work is well under way on the new international terminals, concourses are now under construction and aero bridges will be provided to give the facilities that the honourable member has indicated. It is also intended, in planning for the future development of the Brisbane airport, to have this type of facility included.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Transport say what is the total amount collected by the Silverton Tramway Company for severance pay and compensation to its employees? How will this amount be distributed? Will the whole amount be distributed to the employees?
– 1 understand that a certain amount of money was contributed by the companies whose freight was carried by the Silverton Tramway Company and that this amount has been published by the Silverton Tramway Company. The contributions were up to 31st December last year, at which stage contributions were terminated because the amount was already in excess of $400,000. Actual details of the fund and the way in which it is operated arc not known by me. Apparently if the arrangement follows in the way of most of these instruments there will be a trust deed. I have no doubt that employees who have a concern to ascertain their entitlement and the way in which the money is to be distributed will be able to do so by consulting the trust deed. Beyond this, 1 understand that the Silverton Tramway Company itself has also set up a special reserve by appropriation from its profits. This totalled about $150,000 as at 30th June last year. The purpose expressed when the provision was created was that it would be used to support the severance fund or any other matters arising from the standardisation project.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education and Science. In view of continued representations by all sections of the Katherine community and the North Australian Cattlemen’s Association concerning the lack of classroom space and a craft block at the Katherine school will the Minister say when work will start on these vital additions to this long overcrowded school?
– As a result of a visit with officers of my Department to the Katherine school earlier this year and also, I might say, as a result of the repeated and urgent representations of the honourable member himself, the planned expansion and development of the Katherine School has been brought forward. Whereas it had been planned to construct two additional classrooms only during this current financial year, in addition a quite major craft block will be begun this financial year. I cannot say when construction will commence, because this will depend upon the calling of tenders, but these things are all allowed for in the Budget. I believe that with the additional classrooms, the covered play area and the craft block that are now planned, all for commencement in this financial year, the needs of the citizens and students of Katherine will be met substantially - certainly much better met than they have been up to the present time. The estimated total cost of this work will be something more than $300,000. The honourable member might also be interested to know that in this financial . year a new primary school is planned for the Darwin area at a cost of about $45Q,000. In addition, further classrooms will be built at the Parap Primary School and at Darwin High School. All of these are new works. The works begun in the last financial year will be proceeding.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question. Is it correct that during the next 3 months two Qantas 707 jet aircraft will be flown to Hamburg in West Germany for extensive structural modifications to the wing sections in the vicinity of the undercarriage and that later the remainder of the jets in the Qantas fleet will be flown to West Germany for similar modifications? Will these modifications cost $].5m and has the work been recommended by the Boeing company? As the Minister is aware that there have been substantial retrenchments of labour in the Australian aircraft industry can he say why these modifications are not being made in Australia so as to provide much needed work for this important but struggling national industry rather than have the work done by Lufthansa, the West German national airline?
– It is true that certain modifications have to be undertaken, on the recommendation of the manufacturer, to the Boeing 707 aircraft. This work will be undertaken by Qantas at a time far ahead of the manufacturer’s requirement. This maintenance work will be phased over the off-peak period for Australia’s international airline. The work could be done at the Boeing plant in the United States but it can be done for less cost in the off-peak period at the Lufthansa works in West Germany. Qantas has arranged with Lufthansa to have this work done in the latter’s factories in Europe during the off-peak period at a relatively low contract price. This work will be done over a period on several of the Qantas aircraft. The maintenance facilities available to Qantas and other operators in Australia are working at almost maximum capacity. There is no shortage of work for our maintenance facilities. The work on these aircraft cannot be done in Australia because we do not have the necessary facilities. It can be done at the Boeing plant or at one or two other centres throughout the world. The saving in costs by having this work done in Europe is considerable. The general conditions applying to this work are suitable as far as Qantas is concerned.
– Is the Minister for Health aware that Denmark, which is recognised as one of the advanced countries as far as welfare is concerned, discovered recently that 90% of its nursing homes for elderly people were below a satisfactory standard? Now that a commendable supplementary payment for chronic patients is proposed under the Budget, will the Minister’s Department review the licensing procedure so as to preserve the highest possible standard of care in homes where the Commonwealth benefit will be paid?
– The answer to the honourable gentleman’s question is yes. Since the introduction of the nursing homes benefit we have always been very careful to inspect premises which are licensed by the Commonwealth and which are, therefore, eligible to receive the nursing homes benefit. That policy will continue. With the introduction of the supplementary benefit 1 would envisage that over a period nursing homes would tend to divide themselves into institutions that cater mainly for intensive care cases on the one hand - the ones that receive the supplementary benefit - and those that cater for light nursing cases on the other. This process will enable us to adjust our standards so that we can insist on a somewhat higher standard in respect of homes which provide intensive care, perhaps allowing a somewhat lower standard, particularly of staffing, in respect of light care nursing homes.
– 1 direct my question to the Minister for Immigration in his capacity as Leader of the House. Is he aware that a standing order providing for the motion That the question be now put’, or what is known as the ‘gag’, was introduced in the House of Commons in 1882, its purpose being to permit legislation to be rushed through, debate on a subject embarrassing to the government to be stifled or unpopular speakers to be silenced? If so, is the Minister able to state which of these motives, if any, prompted the young, handsome honourable member for Griffith to move the ‘gag’ recently in this House when the Minister was speaking on a highly emotional subject?
-Order! The fact that the honourable member for Grayndler was elected to this House 25 years ago today does not allow him any special privilege or permit him to transgress the Standing Orders. I suggest that he complete his question.
– Finally I ask: Would the Minister also accept a suggestion that youthful parliamentarians be urged to treat senior parliamentary representatives with dignity, respect, tolerance and understanding?
– I also have learned thai the honourable gentleman was elected to this Parliament 25 years ago today. I do not know whether to congratulate him or to commiserate with him on coming through such a harrowing experience. But it is apparent that he still retains his sense of humour. The honourable member for Griffith held a point of view quite strongly and in the circumstances of the debate, which as the House will recall will culminate in a free vote, he chose to assert his view. He chose a method by which to do this, and the House chose the way it would vote. The honourable member has been identified as a young member. But there is no weight for age handicap in this place. He has all the responsibilities that all of us have and he carries the same load. When he has been here 25 years he will not be as exceptionally young as he is today. I may say that one of the things that surprised me about the vote was the number of erstwhile Voltaires on the Opposition side of the chamber who found themselves on this side of the House when the division was counted. So far as tolerance is concerned, I hope that the honourable member for Griffith will continue to treat me and every other Minister with tolerance. On the score of dignity, the honourable member for Grayndler need not worry about me, because I am as tough as an old boot.
– I ask the Treasurer a question which relates to the recent report of the Auditor-General on investments made by the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund and the statement by him that some $14m of the Fund had been illegally invested. Can the Treasurer give the House some information on this matter?
– Both the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund and the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund, because of the high interest rate and the very good security obtained, adopted the practice of investing in what are called ‘buy back’ securities. In other words, the security was better than they normally could obtain. The Commonwealth securities that they purchased then on ‘buy back’ terms were considered to provide the best security that they could possibly obtain. But they then found out, through legal opinion, that this was not according to the law and they decided that they would not continue with the investment. The securities were short term, of about 3 to 6 months, and consequently, as the term of the loan matured they were able to receive the money back. The amount involved initially from both funds was a large amount - certainly in excess of $16m - but by the time it was reported to the Auditor-General there was only $lm outstanding, and the practice has now been discontinued.
– About enough to put fruit on the sideboard.
– Yes, for those who benefit most from it. I think I can understand the attitude of the two Funds in wanting to get the very best return, providing it is a secure return, from the investments that they make. I do not know what attitude will be taken by the Funds themselves, or whether they will ask me for an amendment to the Act. Of course I, like most honourable members in the House, regret that this avenue is not open to them - that when there is perfect security they cannot get the very best return that is available.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the widespread public indignation that Australian governments have spent less on developing Australian fisheries than the Soviet and Japanese governments have spent, how does the Minister justify the fact that expenditure which he and his predecessor have approved from the Fisheries Development Trust Account was reduced from $67,368 in 1966-67 to $7,838 in 1967-68?
– The accusation that we have not spent as much as some of these other nations is understandable. We do not have the large developed fishing industry that these other countries have. But we are endeavouring to concentrate more on developing our fishing industry, particularly in the northern parts of Australia where discoveries of prawns, in particular, have been made. It is hoped that we can develop a fishing industry research trust fund from contributions made by industry and matching contributions made by the Commonwealth Government. I am not in a position to give the honourable member reasons for the decrease in the figure that he mentioned. I shall certainly look into the matter and reply directly to him.
– My question, which is directed to the Prime Minister, is supplementary to the question asked earlier by the Leader of the Opposition. If the news reports and the early official information concerning the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Russia and the Warsaw Pact countries are confirmed by later and more complete official reports, will the Prime Minister cause a protest to be made on behalf of his Government direct to the Russian Government or through its representatives in this country?
– I have been given to understand by the Department of External Affairs that there is official confirmation for the troop movements to which I referred. Certainly this grave breach of the United Nations Charter - of the way in which nations must live together - must occupy the attention of the Government which, I believe, would seek in the appropriate quarters to make its opposition to this and its condemnation of this perfectly clear.
– In the absence of the Minister for. National Development I direct my question to the Treasurer because it also concerns him. Can he say whether an investigation is under way to determine the practicability of damming the Gascoyne River in Western Australia in order to provide a permanent supply of water for irrigation purposes at Carnarvon? If an investigation is under way, when will the findings bc made available and r-ri.-e importantly, are financial arrangements between the State and the ‘ Commonwealth being considered?
– 1 cannot give an immediate answer to the question but I will find out and let the honourable member have an answer.
– 1 would like to give a complete answer to the question asked yesterday by the honourable member for Grayndler. He implied that in the case of negotiations between Doulton Potteries (Aust.) Pty Ltd and R. Fowler Ltd there had been a breach of the guide line proposals for the banking system. I then stated I had grave doubts as to whether his statement was correct. I am now able to confirm that no application whatever has been received by the Reserve Bank. Therefore the implications of his statement are wrong.
Mr CLYDE CAMERON having addressed a question to the Leader of the Opposition-
-Order! The question is out of order.
– Order! A question must relate to the business of the House.
– I do so with reluctance, Mr Speaker, but I ask, if I may, on what grounds it is ruled out of order.
– The relevant Standing Order states:
Questions may be put to a member, not being a Minister, relating to any bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business of the House, of which the member has charge.
The question is out of order.
– Well, Mr Speaker–
– I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– I have received advice from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he has appointed Senator Prowse to be a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
With the Budget debate having commenced, it is the traditional practice of the House not to take general business as usual on Thursday.
– It is perfectly proper that this motion should be proposed but nevertheless I am encouraged to make one or two observations about it in the absence of any assurance from the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) about the programme of the House. The general business that will be postponed by the carrying of this motion happens, at least in my judgment, to relate to a matter of considerable importance. I will read to the House the general business that will be suffocated, put aside, and then revived when we come back to it. I have on the notice paper the following motion:
That this House expresses its profound regret that Her Majesty’s British Government is still permitting ships sailing under the British flag to enter the Port of Haiphong in North Vietnam when that port is the major port of entry tor military supplies to North Vietnam and to the
Vietcong, and calls upon Her Majesty’s Australian Government to draw to the attention of Her Majesty’s British Government the fact that troops owing allegiance to Her Majesty arefighting in South Vietnam, and further, that it is the view of this House that while hostilities continue, Her Majesty’s British Government should direct that no ships flying the British flag should enter the Port of Haiphong.
I do not want to startle the front bench too much, but I will employ every device to get a vote on it.
I think the Leader of the House has a responsibility to indicate to honourable members the timetable for the Budget debate and for consideration of the Estimates. Will this continue for another 6 weeks or 8 weeks?I do not know. I am reluctant to cast a silent and uncritical vote on this motion. I want to know what the timetable is. During the last Budget debate Government business took precedence over general business on general business Thursdays on four occasions. AmI to wait for 2 months to go by before I can direct the House to a consideration of this scandalous state of affairs whereby British flag ships are going to Haiphong? I hope the Leader of the House will indicate to us the timetable he has in mind so that I may know where I stand before I cast my vote.
– Mr Speaker–
– Order! Is the Minister closing the debate?
– I know that I am closing the debate but I will respond to the honourable member’s request for information. As I indicated yesterday I expect the Budget debate, that is the second reading debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 1), to last until Thursday of next week.I expect that the Estimates debate will then take the usual 60 hours. I am unable to say with certainty at this stage how that time will be allocated because there has been some change in the presentation of the Estimates in the Budget papers. I do not think, however, that this will make a very significant difference. I spoke today with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Barnard) about this matter. My recollection is that this will mean that the Estimates debate will last for 3 weeks after the 2 weeks set aside for the Budget debate. In other words, I expect (hat there will be four more Thursdays on which Government business - that is the Budget debate and the Estimates debate - will take precedence over the alternating days set aside for general business and Grievance Day debates.
– This is wrong.
– This has been the practice andI think it is reasonable to maintain that practice during the Budget debate. The Budget debate is a wide-ranging debate and it is always expected that Grievance Day debates and general business will be deferred during the period of a Budget debate. When the Estimates debate is concluded we wilt return to the practice of debating general business and grievances. May I say. Mr Speaker - in some senses this might he self justification - that during the period I have been Leader of the House only on very rare occasions have general business and grievances not been dealt with.
I have movedthe suspension of the Standing Orders on many occasions to allow general business and Grievance Day debates to proceed.It is my intention to continue to do so.
– Mr Speaker–
-Order! The debate is closed. No other honourable member rose to speak when I called the Minister for Immigration and mentioned that he was closing the debate.
Question resolved in the. affirmative.
– -I move:
The proposal is to construct a three-storey accommodation block for senior sailors and senior WRANS, single-storey galley and mess for junior sailors and WRANS, and a victualling store. The estimated cost is $1,050,000. The Committee has reported favourably on the proposal, and upon the concurrence of the House in this resolution detailed planning can proceed in accordance with the Committee’s recommendations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 20 August (vide page 352), on motion by Mr McMahon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr Whitlam had moved by way of amendment:
That all words after ‘That’, be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: this House is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision-
to lighten taxes and health costs for families and to increase benefits for them,
to plan defence procurement and expenditure.
to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities, and
to retain control and promote development of Australia’s mineral, fuel, land and marine resources’.
-I rise to direct attention to the failures and omissions apparent in the 1968-69 Budget brought down in this Parliament last week by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon). At the outset 1 want to repeat and support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) last evening. It was in these terms:
That all words after ‘That’ be omitted with a view to inserting the following words in place thereof: thisHouse is of opinion that the Budget is inadequate in that it does not make provision -
to lighten taxes and health costs for families and to increase benefits for them,
to plan defence procurement and expenditure,
to meet the problems of Australia’s capital and provincial cities, and
to retain control and promote development of Australia’s mineral, fuel, land and marine resources’.
I am the third speaker on this side of the House and I want to direct my remarks to the first part of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. For the purpose of the case I want to submit 1 suggest it would be appropriate to add these words to the amendment: ‘That this House condemns the Treasurer, the Prime Minister and the Government for the obvious attempt to dictate to the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the economic role it should play in arriving at industrial decisions on applications made bv trade unions for wage increases for workers in this country’.
I accept what the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said earlier this week, that any attack on a Minister is an attack on the Government. What I say in respect of the Treasurer, therefore, will refer also to every other member of the Government, including the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes), who is now sitting at the table. I want to condemn the Treasurer roundly for his action on the occasion of the annual dinner of the Metal Trades Employers Association in Sydney this year, when he made a blatant attempt to dictate to the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir Richard Kirby, in what I could describe as one of the worst such attacks by any Minister, let alone a Treasurer, that have come to my notice in the long period I have been dealing with industrial matters. With what could well be described as a captive audience, the Treasurer blatantly averred that the Arbitration Commission should take what he chose to term a fundamental economic role in procedures before it. For sheer cheek and audicaty this goes beyond anything I have previously seen. Here was our Commonwealth Treasurer calling upon members of the Arbitration Commission to lay the groundwork for the Budget by restricting the avenues in which they will work in looking at wages and conditions for workers.
I think it is important at the outset to get one thing clear; that is, the function of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The present Commission was not created by a Labor government but by the present Government.Its function is to settle industrial disputes and in so doing to place a community valuation on the work of the individuals concerned. It is not the function of the Commission to make decisions calculated to implement any particular economic policy.Itis certainly not the function of the Commission, nor is it equipped to carry out such a function, to attempt to achieve price stability by controlling wage movements in accordance with some economic theorem. Having underlined the only function of the Arbitration Commission, let me now quickly deal with the next move of this would-be little dictator, the Treasurer, in his efforts to prevent any improvement in the standards ofliving of workers in Australia, whilst at the same time adopting his Nelson’s eye stance towards the profit makers and the profiteers. On Tuesday evening of last week, those people interested in the claim by the Australian Council of Trade Unions in the national wage case which opened yesterday - of course, sitting on the bench is the same President of the Commission who was at the function in Sydney - stood aghast when the Treasurer went before the public on a television programme and called for the Arbitration Commission to use restraint in a decision yet to be made. I repeat here, with all the emphasis I can, that for sheer cheek and audacity this Treasurer wins the prize in any field.
One point that the Treasurer does not seem to understand or will nol accept is the principle upon which the Arbitration Commission works. Whilst Mr Justice Gallagher does not always give the decisions that the workers would like, he did lay down pretty clearly in the total wage case in 1966 a principle that the Treasurer might well fold up and put in his pocket. In that case Mr Justice Gallagher said:
Once the Commission attempts to take unto itself in any way the role of price stabiliser, then’ it is going in terms of logical reasoning, and an analysis of the past, to thereby not give effect to what is the common desire of all members - that is that award wages should reflect the increased output of goods and services.
One would have thought that when Mr Justice Gallagher laid down that principle so clearly in the 1966 decision, at least the national Treasurer in this Parliament would have had some regard for the principles upon which the Commission works. But his only outlook is the one-eyed Nelson outlook towards inflationary trends and it is levelled all the time at the worker’s pay envelope. He has held this attitude for a long time and at every opportunity that presents itself in his Treasury career he continues, to try to impress upon the Arbitration Commission that the only impetus to inflation is to be found in the worker’s pay envelope.
It is necessary to look at other features of the economy that may add to the Treasurer’s fears. After all, this Treasurer has had a lot of experience in Cabinet and in private enterprise and one can understand that he constantly believes that as long as he protects his friends it does not matter a hang if others must exist in some other way. The Treasurer tries to force upon the Arbitration Commission the type of thinking that he wants it to adopt when it makes its next decision. But let us look at profits. I turn to just one Australian newspaper, the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 19th August. I invite honourable members to look at pages 35 and 36. There they will see the real basis of an inflationary trend. The first item I notice is:
Profit lift by Lanray.
Lanray Industries Ltd, property investor, lifted profit from 5153,402 to $183,237 in the year to June 30.
What part did that company play in improving productivity?
I will give five instances of companies that increased their profits and I invite the Treasurer to say what part they played in increasing productivity. He has said repeatedly that, unless we want inflation, wages must be tied to the productivity level, although he has never cared to assess it. The next item in the newspaper states:
Winterbottom Holdings Ltd plan to make a one-for-five bonus issue after profit up from $548,355 to $573,314 in the year to June 30.
The next item reads:
Consolidated net profit taken after tax of West Australian Newspapers Ltd for the year ended June 30 was $1,792,823, compared with (1,624.988 the previous year.
The newspaper also reports that the National Bag Company of Australia Ltd lifted its dividend from 12% to 15% after earning a record group net profit of $806,435 in the year to 30th June. This was a leap of 5 1 % in net profit on the previous year. The last item I will mention refers to the Commercial Banking Co. of Sydney Ltd. This is one of the friends of the Treasurer and of this Government and one of the gallant seven private banking institutions in Australia, lt lifted net profit from §3,525,044 to $4,271,477 in the year ended 30th June. What causes the inflationary trend? Is it the workers’ pay envelope or the profits of the companies? The Treasurer has never uttered a word against company profits since he has occupied this portfolio.
Now let me come for one moment to what the Treasurer said last Thursday in reply to a question I asked. He said: if there is an increase in wages and salaries that runs ahead of the increase in productivity we must inevitably get inflation.
The Treasurer, speaking for the Government, holds the view that if we repeat a phrase often enough we might even believe it ourselves. Where is the productivity that comes from all the profit making that I have mentioned? Where is the productivity that flows from the profits to which he should direct his attention when he assesses the cause of inflation? Where is the productivity index to be used by the Arbitration Commission? There is no such index. But this does not stop the Treasurer uttering platitudes about the worker’s pay envelope being tied to productivity. After being in office for 20 years, the Government does not have the courage or the capacity to establish a productivity index that would be a guide to the Arbitration Commission. For the Treasurer and the Government at this stage to speak about the worker’s pay envelope being tied to productivity without attempting to produce a productivity index is not only sham and hypocrisy but is the worst trait we could possibly have in a Government that has been in office for 20 years.
Let me trace quickly the events that show that it is not the worker’s pay envelope that causes inflation in the Australian economy. In 1953 the Arbitration Commission abolished quarterly wage adjustments. I say without hesitation that this was done at the behest of the Government, which at that time held the view that quarterly adjustments were a factor in inflation. So in 1953 the Commission abolished quarterly adjustments, but by annual reviews until 1960 kept the basic wage at about the same level that it would have been if it had been regulated according to the C series index. In I960 the Commonwealth Statistician abolished the C series index and produced what he called the Consumer Price Index. This suited the Government. Let me indicate quite clearly what the Consumer Price Index did and what it covered. If anybody cares to read the “Labour Report’ of 1961 he will see an itemised list of what falls within the category of this new Consumer Price Index. As it is a long document I can read only part of it. Under the heading of ‘Purpose, scope and composition’ it states:
The consumer price index is a quarterly measure of variations in retail prices for goods and services representing a high proportion of the expenditures of wage earner households. The weighting pattern relates to estimated aggregates of wage earner household expenditures and not to estimated expenditures of an ‘average’ or individual household of specified size, type or mode of living. In this way it is possible to give appropriate representation to owner-occupied houses as well as rented houses and te include motor cars, television sets, and other major expenditures which relate to some households and not to others.
That is the basis of the Consumer Price Index. that was introduced in 1960. 1 repeat, and let the Treasurer deny it if he can, that the Consumer Price Index suited the pattern of this Government. It did not suit the Australian Council of Trade Unions at the time. However, the ACTU felt that, with this Government in office and with the attitude then adopted by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, out of the Consumer Price Index might flow some real stability for the living standards of workers in Australia. In the first industrial decision after the Consumer Price Index was introduced, which was the judgment handed down in the basic wage and standard hours case in 1961, two important provisions were made. Firstly, the basic wage for male employees covered by Federal awards was increased by a uniform amount of 12s or $1.20 a week. The judgment then stated:
For the specific reasons set out in the judgment we consider that in February next the only issue in regard to the basic wage should be why the money wages fixed as the result of our decisions should not be adjusted in accordance with any change in the consumer price index. . .
In effect, what the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission did in 1961 was to accept that which the Government accepted as the minimum basis for the wage structure in Australia. It accepted the Consumer Price Index as the measuring stick from 1961 onwards, increased the basic wage by 12s or SI. 20 and said that in the future it was on the employers to show why the basic wage should not be varied in accordance with movements in the Consumer Price Index from year to year. For the first time after this Government assumed office in 1949 the worker in Australia started to reap the real value of the money that he earned. In 1962 there was no increase in the Consumer Price Index although 12s or $1.20 had gone into the basic wage. In 1963 there was still no increase. Up to 196’! - a period of 3 years - there was only a 2s a week increase in prices in Australia. But that did not suit the Government for over those 3 years it had allowed a 5% rebate in taxation to the salary and wage earner. Because there had not been an increase in prices or wages there was no direct increase in taxation revenue. So, when the 1965 case came on the Government and the employers combined to smash the principle that had been laid down in 1961. I again draw attention to what the Government did in 1965. Honourable members will recall that although 20s or §2 had been added to the basic wage in 1964, the increase in the Consumer Price Index for the next 12 months was only 12s. In 1965 the ACTU merely claimed an increase in the basic wage to the extent that the Consumer Price Index had increased. If the Commission had been allowed, to accede to that claim and the same conditions had obtained from 1965 onwards as had obtained since 1961, that 12s could have been absorbed without any further increase in prices in Australia in the succeeding years. But that did not suit this Government. Despite the fact that only 20s had been added by the 1964 decision - 2s for the movement in the Consumer Price Index and 18s for productivity over 3 years - in 1965 the Government briefed counsel to submit to the Commission that an increase in the basic wage at that time would be fraught with danger. All that the workers had received in 1964 was 6s a year for the increased productivity between 1961 and 1964. The Treasurer talks about productivity and the value of the pay envelope of the worker being related thereto. But after seeing the 12s wage increase absorbed by the employers, the Government wanted the 1961 principle destroyed. With prices virtually fixed as they were, the Government did not want to see the private prom makers made responsible for going to the Arbitration Commission and saying that the basic wage should not be increased even by the amount of profit that they had gained. Before I refer to the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 196S I think it is important to read what the President of the Commission, who is still in office, said in 1965. The President’s decision was overridden by the majority decision. Two judges who sat on the bench on that occasion have not been seen in industrial matters since. Obviously they were there to do the work of the Government. The President stated:
In my view the 1961 judgment should be followed because of the correctness of the principle it laid down and its approach to the question of basic wage fixation. Nothing has been put which causes me to think that the 1961 judgment was not correct.
The fact that this was the view of the President of the Commission gives added weight to its intrinsic import and is another reason why the 1961 concept should never have been departed from. But what did the new bench decide? This is where the whole structure of wage fixation in Australia commenced to fall down and this Government did nothing about it. In fact, it supported the Commission and never once protested against the decision. At the behest of the Government the Commission decided two points. Firstly, it refused the union’s claim for an increase in the basic wage based upon an increase in the Consumer Price Index. I wish to underline that point. The trade unions claimed only the amount of increase in the Consumer Price Index. The Commission decided that neither the basic wage nor margins should be altered because of movements in the Consumer Price Index, whether the movement were up or down. So, in 1965, after 16 years of this type of government, for the first time in Australia since 1934 the workers were denied a base rate that was at least the equivalent of that which was found to be the normal requirement of a family. This Government did not even raise a protest. The Treasurer is running round in circles talking about difficulties being experienced at the present time. Of course there are difficulties. There is no standard any longer. The Treasurer feels, and he goes out and says it often enough, that the Arbitration Commission should take note of him. If the Treasurer and the Government get away with it in the 1968 national wage case the precedent will be established for the Government to exert influence whilst ever it remains in office. In other words, it may instruct a public instrument, through statements by the Treasurer. It virtually says that the Arbitration Commission shall not, unless the Treasurer says so, do other than play the role he wants it to play, namely, refuse to grant any increases in Australian wage standards. lt is interesting to note the reaction of Robert Gordon Menzies when a single unit wage was suggested for Australia. 1 urge honourable members to look at the records. Robert Gordon Menzies said: ‘Never can you take out of this structure the two unit wage. Never would I be a party to a single unit wage in this country.’ Although he did not use those words they have the same effect. But he has gone and the people who have followed him have no conception of the necessity for a decent wage standard in Australia. They do not give two hoots in hell what happens to the lower wage group as long as they continue to make profits of 15% to 20%, as long as bank reserves are built up, as long as the expenses of the Government can be met when it wants an election.
I speak with much feeling on this matter because yesterday the national wage case opened and it was reported in the Press that the representative of the Government said that we have a single unit wage and that no longer is there a minimum standard for the Australian worker - no longer is there such a thing as a basic wage. Why was the basic wage introduced in 1921? It was introduced because of an undertaking by the Prime Minister of the day that the worker would be guaranteed a proper living standard during his term of office. The worker was to get a sovereign’s worth of goods for a sovereign earned. Then in .1934 the basic wage was tied to the cost of living and adjustments were automatic. Here in 1968 the Government is crying, through the Treasurer, about the possibility of inflation and at the same time is refusing to face up to the need to set a standard upon which to fly the flag and to establish an Australian wage level.
One of the first things that a Labor government would do would be to call upon the Commonwealth Statistician to cooperate with employer organisations and the Australian Council of Trade Unions to set about preparing a productivity index. If the Treasurer is honest in what he said on Tuesday of last week I challenge him to do this. Secondly, a Labor government would leave wage fixation problems as one of the functions of the Department of Labour and National Service. The Treasurer should keep his mouth shut concerning what should be done about industrial matters. Thirdly, a Labor government would, through counsel representing the Government before the Arbitration Commission, reveal the true state of the economy to enable the Commission to make a valid decision as to what could be done within the state of that economy. A Labor government would urge that until something better could be produced the productivity index should again be the measuring rod for a minimum wage in Australia, as was the case in 1961. A Labor government would press for the restoration of the 1961 principle and would put the onus on the employer, the profit makers and the profiteers to argue that the workers’ standard, as set in 1961, should not be maintained if they allow prices to rise. A Labor government would not stand by and permit profiteering to continue. It would protect the wage earner and would not let the profiteers say: ‘You cannot have any increase in your wages because if you do inflation might grow’.
I have been in the trade union movement for a long time. The Australian worker must have a proper standard of living. The amount in his pay envelope must reflect truly what it costs him and his family - whether that family comprises three or ten members - to live in comfort and decency, enjoying to the full the riches that this nation is capable of providing. To me, and to those people with whom I have been associated, bread, meat and butter for the pensioners and all others in this country are more important than dividends for overseas investors and gains to the profiteers and those who take everything out of and put little back into the community. After all, who are the producers? The most humble worker in Australia produces more for the wellbeing of the Australian community than does any of the major banking organisations, yet the workers are forced to pay high interest rates if they want to own a home. This is the kind of thing that this Government and the Treasurer allow, and they expect the members on this side of the House to accept it without rising in protest. I condemn this Budget for what it is - a budget for the rich and a slap in the face for those in the working classes.
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
Mr PEACOCK (Kooyong) (3.56]- I have no wish to engage in a debate on the weary repetition of stale phrases that emanated from the honourable member for Blaxland (Mr E. James Harrison), but I do wish to refer to a matter of great importance which occurred today. I realise that full information is not before the Parliament on the armed invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and some of her satellites, but only 3i months ago, together with the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy), I attended a United Nations Conference on Human Rights in Teheran. It was the opinion of the three of us and, in particular, of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and myself that the Czechoslovakian delegation was probably the best delegation at this conference. The address given by the leader of the Czech delegation was full of liberal thoughts. He was the only member of the Soviet bloc to deliver his speech in English. He was the only member of the Soviet bloc to get away from the transcript from time to time to interpolate comments about various matters and to expand further what he had put forward. We were deeply impressed. He was, in fact, given a standing ovation at the conclusion of his address.
Regrettably I do not have with me the exact speech that was delivered by the leader of the Czech delegation but I do have a copy of the summary records which were produced by the conference and I should like to place before the House and on record some of the statements that were made. I ask honourable members to bear in mind that this was only 3 months ago, that the conference continued for some weeks after this was delivered, and that the Czechs continued to take, when they thought it proper, a line independent of the Soviet Union. Bearing that in mind, I now read from the summary records the report of what was said by the leader of the Czech delegation. It was as follows:
The conference was taking place at a time when his country was going through a social process of direct relevance to the problems before the conference. The object of the national discussion taking place today was the preparation of new standards in the field of human rights and civic liberties. . . . human rights and political liberties that had been limited or suspended during the revolutionary changes had not all been re-introduced when they should have been.
The events taking place in his country did not challenge the Socialist nature of the national system but were directed at its renaissance.
I think it is important that the people of Australia should not get swept away with any anti-Communist attitudes on purely emotional issues. There is a desire for Socialism in Czechoslovakia, but it is a desire for reform of the Socialist movement that they have had in that country without being dictated to by the former doctrinaire approach of Moscow. The report of what the leader of the Czech delegation said continues:
Socialism was capable of changes and development, a concept expressed in the programme of the new Czechoslovak Government which aimed to develop the rights and freedoms of its citizens, especially their political rights and freedoms, and which considered the rights of the individual as the cornerstone of the Socialist state.
Some may join issue with me on the matter of political philosophy but nevertheless, there was the desire and the expression of human rights emanating from the leader of this delegation. The document reads further:
A wide range of legislative and institutional changes were being prepared and significant changes made in the political and economic system. Fundamental civic and political rights, in particular the freedoms of assembly and association and the freedom of opinion and expression were already being exercised more than ever before.
I remind the House that the Czechoslovakian delegate was referring to the changes that were taking place in Czechoslovakia in the latter part of April this year. The document reads further:
As far as the international protection of human rights was concerned he considered the adoption of human rights covenants had been a success which proved that ideological differences should bs no obstacle to international co-operation. His delegation was pleased to announce that Czechoslovakia would shortly sign the covenants.
Further the document reads:
His delegation hoped that the conference would help create throughout the world an atmosphere in which acts contrary to the Universal Declaration would meet with general condemnation.
I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton), when answering a question asked today by the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns), say that as soon as further relevant facts are before Cabinet the Government will condemn the action taken today by the Soviet Union and its satellites in the Soviet bloc which support it. The document from which I have been reading continues:
The greatest success the conference could achieve would be to succeed in awakening the conscience of men so as to protect human rights not through institutions but through the people themselves. His delegation was willing to take its share of the responsibility.
Those views, expressed not privately to individuals such as the Attorney-General (Mr Bowen) and me or the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) but at a public forum, such as the United Nations conference, were a clear indication of the role which the Czechoslovakian leaders and her people wanted to take. The intervention of the Sovet Union should not be condemned on emotional grounds based on an anti-Communist attitude, because here was a group of people seeking new liberties and freedoms for themselves. It appears that today they have been overrun. They have met with armed intervention on the part of those who desire to be their masters.
I come now to the Budget. I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on the responsible Budget which he introduced last week. The three major items in the Budget were grants to the States, defence expenditure and expenditure relating to national welfare. In each case the amounts have been increased as compared with last year but the manner in which the Government has tackled certain aspects invites comment. I wish to refer in particular to the proposal to pay $10m into a trust account for Aboriginal welfare; the proposal to extend Government assistance to the aged and chronically ill; and the proposal to make a grant of $1.5m to the arts, particularly the performing arts. These proposals all are noteworthy. With regard to the proposal to make a grant to the arts
I note that there was no comparable figure last year or in any former year. I presume that this grant will be utilised by the Australian Council for the Arts. 1 wish it well.
I refer now to the increase of 19% in expenditure on education and in particular to the proposal to make allocations to libraries. Unquestionably the majority of school administrators today would favour this move if they were asked what form of assistance they desired. The increase expenditure on education not only will fill a need in relation to capital works and school building programmes but also will encourage a proper usage of text books by students and therefore encourage self-help and initiative in those students. After all, students are no longer spoon fed as. for example, the honourable member for Lilley was. He would have been handed a series of notes which he would have duly learned, only to regurgitate them at examination time. The whole basis of the educational system today is questioning, probing and analysing problems. Libraries are important in this context. The technique of students probing and analysing problems is in itself something of which we must be well aware. Not long ago I was in Paris, after attending the conference to which I have referred, and I witnessed the student demonstrations which were occurring at that time. We are well aware of the degrees of student dissent - minor and differing in their nature - which emanate throughout various parts of Australia today and it simply is not good enough to say that young people should be put in their places. If you are developing an educational system which, by its very nature, brings about an analytical approach or a questioning of what is happening around you, it is essential to realise that when students leave the field of secondary education and move into the tertiary field they will question society around them. It must be recognised that if this system of self-help, analysis and probing, is the best form of education, as I believe it is, society will be faced with an ever-increasing degree of probing, questioning and dissent. This sort of thing should be encouraged but not to the extent - Heaven forbid - of the violence that occurred in Paris, where a city was reduced to a standstill. But anything which brings about a greater understanding of society and an awareness of its problems and which brings forth an articulate case by students or any other group in the community is to be encouraged.
With this in mind I would like to see the subject of politics and sociology made an integral part of secondary school cur.riculums. I would like to see university curriculums less demanding from a technical point of view. Greater encouragement should be given to political activity by all students. Political activity should not be left to an extreme minority. The creation of multiversities probably would do much to help in the communication of the idea of the active search for truth through the democratic system. I would like to see adult education revolutionised so that universities are not just vehicles for those in their late teens who may have an interest in affairs around them. We must enable adults in the community who take a lively interest in community affairs to take advantage of adult education. Adult education should be revolutionised, expanded and brought within the university curriculums in order to help inform older generations. In Victoria adult education serves a very worthwhile purpose but it is only on the periphery of the university. In fact, the Council for Adult Education operates alone, assisted by university lecturers. Adult education has the effect of informing members of the community who have gone beyond the stage of doing a university course. Adult education serves also to relieve housewives of their burden and their boredom. I suppose that this in itself is a good thing. But the key to a university should be not only that it is a searcher for truth but also that it is a proclaimer of truth. It must communicate with the people. Through adult education it could do this. A university must have a continuing process. Adult education should be a major role of any university and not just a peripheral role, as it is today.
If the suggestions which I have made were adopted and if we had a better informed community we would need to see that we marshalled the information and the talent that resides within society to play a role within the political system. To make it worth while we want as many well informed people as possible playing their role. To do this, decentralisation of government is a must. Australia has possibly the most centralised system of government among the federal systems throughout the world. This has the effect of defeating local initiative, plans, purposes and participation. Both local and State governments need greater powers to make them economically viable, to allow them to make economically viable decisions and encourage people to participate at these levels.
I do not know why it is fashionable to state in Canberra or to write in journals that centralisation of government is not only inevitable but also the best means of organising a political society. All over the world responsible leaders today realise that the real political problem is not to centralise power but how to decentralise power. We have a system which, perhaps it should be said, is nothing but a mere legal fiction. But at least legality and the concept are there to enable a federal system to be made to work’ properly. It is recognised that overall control of defence, national planning, priorities and the economy generally is absolutely essential. But if we want people to participate in a system we must have a system which provides opportunities for them to do this. A properly working federal system cf government is the type that is needed. It provides the only system in which people can participate at all levels. It is the only way to get the sort of thing people refer to and understand as participatory democracy, a term that has become almost a cliche today.
In all states people should have a greater role to play. But we must have the mechanism for individuals to develop as individuals. We cannot get this by a centralised state. Therefore, what we have to do is to present an efficient working of the federal system of government which provides incentives to the citizens to participate and which gives a more efficient role to government than we have at present. I remind the House of something I said 18 months ago. I said then that we are faced with the fact that as our federal system stands today there are three alternatives. We can muddle along with the present inefficient system; we can go all out with a centralised form of government - for the reasons I have given I disagree with this alternative; or we can make our federal system work. I hope that in the forthcoming year earnest attempts will be make to bring the Premiers together in an effort to stop the parochial bargaining that goes on time and again at annual Premiers Conferences and meetings of the Australian Loan Council so that we can work out a rational formula that will enable our federal system to work effectively.
– I listened carefully to the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) who pointed out how favourably he had been impressed by democratic socialism in Czechoslovakia. He reminded me of Russell Lowell who, in his Biglow Papers’, wrote: ‘I do believe in freedom’s cause as far away as Paris is. The honourable member believes in democratic socialism as far away as Czechoslovakia is. I am not impressed.
Australia is a big business. The people are the shareholders. The Government is the board of directors. The Budget Speech with its accompanying documents is the annual report, balance sheet and stocktaking. The Treasurer (Mr McMahon), in his recent Budget Speech, said:
The annual Budget is a time for talcing stock of where we stand and what lies ahead of us.
I suggest that a look over. the past will show us how Australia has reached the position it occupies today. Such a’ survey could help us to follow a satisfactory and safe course in the future. Since 1950 the population of Australia has increased, from 8 million to 12 million. Because the increase has consisted of an immense number of adult migrants, who came as workers, the work force has increased in greater proportion than the population. The output per worker in primary and secondary industries has kept on increasing because of the advances made by science and machinery. The national product of Australia has as a consequence kept on increasing. The annual production of the big business called Australia has multiplied. Figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician show this. Gross national product, at constant 1959-60 prices, was 8,600m in 1948-49. In May 1968 it was $19,500m. Persons employed, excluding rural and domestic employees, numbered 2,400,000 in 1949 and 3,900,000 in 1968. Gross national product per person employed was $3,479 in 1949 and $4,900 in 1968. I have a table prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician that shows details of the increases year by year. I have consulted the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and he has agreed to its incorporation in Hansard. Accordingly I ask for leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
– It is usual to show material to the Minister at the table on making such a request.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Drury)Order! That is the usual practice.
– I am happy to show it to the Minister. As the production per worker increased by 33%, it would appear that production increases-
-Order! I ask the honourable member to resume his seat until the Minister has determined whether leave will be given for the document to be incorporated in Hansard.
– Leave will be given.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I incorporate this document in Hansard.
Production increases should have made the period since 1950 a time when all the shareholders of Australia were enjoying exceptional prosperity. It would seem a time when the big business called Australia should have been selling much more than it was buying. It ought to have been a time when the shareholders of Australia consolidated their ownership of Australia and all assets within it and reached out to buy interests in other countries. These things have not happened. The standards of living of pensioners and of workers in general have not immensely improved. During the period of Australia’s unparalleled prosperity between 1950 and 1968, the accumulated balance of payments deficits came to about $7,000m, or over $600 for every man, woman and child in the country. Australia has paid for goods and services provided by the people of other countries $7,000m more than its people have received for the goods and services they have provided for people in other lands. In other words, Australia has failed to pay its way. It has lived beyond its means to the tune of this immense amount.
An analysis of Australia’s trading operations shows that the value of goods exported between 1953 and 1957 was $ 1,026m more than the value of goods imported; in the next 5 years, $l,750m more; and in the next 5 years $23 lm more. Solely because of payments for invisibles, freight, insurance, interest and dividends these favourable trade balances were changed into a total unfavourable balance of payments of over $4, 000m for that period. In recent years a change for the worse has taken place. Australia is now paying more for goods imported than for goods exported. Australia now has unfavourable trade balances as well as immense deficits on invisibles. In 1965 Australia had an unfavourable trade balance of Si 65m and a balance of payments deficit of $774m. In 1966 the trade deficit was $196m and the balance of payments deficit was $887m. In 1968 the trade deficit was $23 8m and tha balance of payments deficit was $1,081 in. In July last year Australia had a favourable trade balance of $10m. In July this year it had an unfavourable trade balance of $31m.
Per head of population, footwear, textiles, clothing, steel and all kinds of manufactured goods are coming to Australia at a great rate. Even aircraft and the equipment necessary for the defence of this country must be imported. The honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) has repeatedly referred to this matter in his defence of Australian industry. I have no doubt that he will take advantage of the Budget debate to reiterate his demand that Australian industry should be given greater protection. Employment in many of our industries is getting less instead of increasing with increased population. Fewer people are now employed in the footwear and textile industries than were employed a year ago. The money that we receive for our exports is not sufficient to pay for our imports. The position is consistently getting worse. The Treasurer says: ‘Why worry?’ I refer to his Budget Speech, in which he said: the external deficit on current account widened to about $ 1,000m. This was more than covered by a surplus of over SI, 1 00m on capital account. Bigger Government loan raisings abroad and the exceptionally large inflow of portfolio investment and institutional loans produced the means by which a record addition to the supply of resources from abroad could be financed.
Later on he said:
We have entered 1968-69 with a generally buoyant economy. . . .
Net immigration is rising and employment could increase by 3% this year. If gains in productivity are as good as the average of recent years, this could mean an increase of as much as 6% or more in gross national product at constant prices.
The Australian people are entitled to ask whether this increase in productivity will be accompanied by a further increase in the balance of trade and the balance of payments deficits. It certainly looks as though it will. The trade deficit for July this year was $31m, but in July 1967 Australia had a favourable trade balance of $10m. When invisibles are taken into account, Australia’s balance of payment deficit in July 1968 was immensely greater than it was in July 1967.
There are only three ways in which to finance balance of payments deficits. The Government can. use overseas reserves, loans or capital inflow. T have already referred to the fact that the Treasurer said that the overseas deficit of more than $ 1,000m last year was covered by bigger Government loan raisings abroad and the exceptionally large inflow of portfolio investment and institutional loans. At 30th June 1968 Australia’s overseas loan obligations totalled approximately S 1,589m. Debts are owing in England, the United States of America, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Germany and to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The Treasurer in his Budget Speech intimated that the raising of loans overseas was becoming very difficult. He said that interest charges have risen and are rising.
The interest payment to Germany was at the rate of about 7% and there was no Australian taxation on the interest. It appears that overseas loans will soon be practically unobtainable.
Australia’s overseas funds were reduced last year by $35m to $ 1,341m, which included Australia’s right to draw upon the International Monetary Fund. A few years ago they totalled S2,200m. At very few periods in Australia’s history have our overseas funds been relatively so low. It is obvious that if Australia cannot borrow abroad and her deficit next year is similar to the one this year, overseas reserves will be almost, if not totally, exhausted next year and Australia’s economic position will be worse than that of the United Kingdom and of New Zealand. Of course, our position would be worse were it not for the increasing inflow of overseas capital. Can and will this inflow of overseas capital continue to increase? Of course, capital will continue to come to Australia only so long as Australian assets can be purchased.
What is the proportion and value of Australian assets now owned overseas? What is the proportion and value of Australian assets owned in Australia? When the Treasurer is asked these questions he says that there is not sufficient information or data available to enable him to answer them. The Vernon Committee of Economic Enquiry has stated that in 1965, 26% of all Australian industrial assets were owned overseas. It said further that if overseas investment increased by $3,000m by 1975, 46% of all Australian industrial assets would be owned overseas. This additional amount of capital inflow will have come to this country since 1965. So according to the calculations of the Vernon Committee, 46% of Australian industrial assets must now be owned overseas. Others have estimated that the proportion of Australian assets owned overseas is much greater.
– You know that is not true.
– Those statements were made by the Vernon Committee. When this Government is challenged to give the proportion of Australian assets owned overseas it does not supply the figures. On more than one occasion the Government has been asked to supply these figures but it has not done so. It should be obvious that the Government cannot finance its balance of payments deficits by loans or out of overseas reserves. Therefore, for how long will it be possible to finance them with capital inflow? Will it be possible to do so for an unlimited period? The greatest difficulty envisaged for Australia is not that in a few years it must balance its trading operations by paying for all goods and services obtained from overseas with money received from exports. The Australia for which Australians will bc called upon to make further sacrifices will be owned in England, in America and perhaps mainly in Japan. Is it fitting, I ask. that Australians should be called upon to make sacrifices in other parts of the world to protect their own country if every day their opportunities for a share in the industries, natural resources and farming of pastoral enterprises of this country are becoming fewer and fewer? The inflow of overseas capital into Australia last year was over SI, 100m. This figure represents $90 for each man, woman and child. To this amount the value of the increase in output per worker between 1950 and 1968 could be added. Have the pensioners or the workers received the advantages or a reasonable share of these immense increases, or have profits from here and abroad accounted for more than a fair share? It is obvious that the vast inflow of capital, the increases due to technology, the increases due to the vast number of people in this country and the increases to its productivity annually due to other circumstances within Australia have not been shared generally throughout the community. Warnings are multiplying that disaster is inevitable if the Government pursues its policy of encouraging the inflow of overseas capital, which amounts to encouraging the takeover of Australia.
– You have been saying for years that disaster is just around the corner.
– The honourable member for Barton says that I have been saying this for years.
– So you have.
– Others are saying it. The Vernon Committee said it. A committee established in Canada and which submitted its report to the Canadian Government last February said it. One hardly picks up a paper today in which there is no report of leading industrialists warning the Government of the dangers of the increasing deficit in our balance of payments and the attendant difficulties that will arise from the inflow of foreign capital necessary to finance industry. An article in the ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 19th August quotes Professor Whitmore as follows:
The anxiety of foreign capital to invest in Australia’s minerals industry strongly suggested that Australia should raise the terms for cooperative development.
The policies of Japan in regulating and restricting capital inflow might be followed.
The Vernon Committee, as I have already staled, and the Melville H. Watkins report released in Canada last February stressed the dangers of such foreign takeovers as are occurring in Australia. The time for urgent and drastic action is now. The encouragement of capital inflow by double taxation agreements and other concessions giving immense advantages to overseas investors might well be immediately eliminated.
The position is that Australian dividends amounting to $400m are payable overseas annually. Upon those dividends the overseas investors pay a tax rate of 15%. On a similar amount Australian taxpayers pay at least 30% and probably up to 50% . Tens of thousands of millions of dollars annually go in taxation rebates to people in other countries so that they will invest in this country. Yet the honourable gentlemen who constitute the Government say that this country is the safest and the most attractive place in the world for anybody to invest. Why does the Government find it necessary to give overseas investors taxation advantages over Australian taxpayers? I have heard the honourable gentlemen who sit upon the treasury bench point out how we are helping overseas countries. We have the Colombo Plan and we are giving a percentage of the capital of this country to promote the interests of undeveloped countries. Yet at the same time we are enticing one hundred times as much capital, or more, from other countries by giving concessions to the investors of those countries. If the capital were not invested here it might well be invested in undeveloped countries and more deserving areas.
This Government gives an amount to war and civilian pensioners that does not bring their purchasing power up to what it was many years ago. There are no concessions to the family in the form of increased child endowment or other social services. The increase this year in pensions will be financed from a sales tax that will increase pensioners’ and workers’ costs of living. Today the ‘Canberra Times’ reports that a rent increase for pensioners that will take about half the $1 increase to age pensioners is to operate almost immediately. The capital inflow bonanza since 1950 of over $600 per man, woman and child, or $2,400 per family of four, and an increased output of 30% per worker have gone mainly in a rake-off of profits by overseas and Australian big business.
The Treasurer said that this is a time for taking stock of what lies ahead. There lies ahead a period when more and more of the assets of Australia will pass rapidly into foreign hands. The economic ownership and control of Australia by the United Kingdom, the United States and particularly Japanese investors spells greater control of the political destiny of this country by foreign interests. The standards of living of our people will be eroded to pay dividends to foreign interests. This is no rash prophecy. At the end of 10 years the assets of Australia for which overseas investors have any desire will be owned by them. There will then be no further inflow of overseas capital; there will be a considerable outflow, for which this ‘country will receive no return. Almost all dividends on industrial activities will be payable overseas. The people of Australia will have few opportunities to obtain interests in the primary or secondary industries of this country.
The Government denies these things. Let lt then establish a commission similar to that which recently reported to the Canadian Parliament to investigate the whole question of capital inflow and its effects upon the Australian economy. The ownership of Australia is the most important issue that faces the people of this nation today. It will determine our independence as a nation. Only recently in a statement in our daily Press a highly placed and responsible industrialist pointed out that the economic destiny of this country was rapidly passing into the hands of the United States and Great Britain but more rapidly into the hands of Japan.
– Who said that?
– A leading industrialist in Australia.
– Who was he?
– If the Minister reads the Press reports of a week ago he will find the man’s name. The Minister may laugh. However, it is indubitably correct that the dominance that Japan was unable to secure in war with her armies and embattled might is being obtained by the cheque books of her investors and the capacity of her tradesmen. They are doing this rapidly. This is the thing that this complacent government must realise. This is the thing that must be fought if control of Australia’s destiny is to be preserved in Australian hands. Only yesterday, I think, a leading article in the ‘Australian’ pointed out that control of our destinies was passing into the hands of people in other countries. The article pointed to the manner in which the utilisation of our natural resources is being taken out of Australian hands. The processing of our resources is being taken out of our hands. The raw materials having been exported, goods manufactured from such raw materials are being imported. This is absolutely undesirable.
I suggest that honourable members who scoff from the Government benches including the honourable members for Angas (Mr Giles) and Gippsland (Mr Nixon), men who have not suffered as a result of the inflow of overseas capital and who will not suffer when payment is being made, will see a reduction in the standard of living of our workers and in the age pension. They will see that we will have to pay our dividends and interest to the exploiters abroad.
– Only one government has ever reduced the age pension.
– Another honourable member joins the galaxy of scorners. I I suggest that it would be easy to establish whether I am right or wrong if the Treasurer were to produce a statement setting out the proportion of Australian industries which are owned overseas and whether, every year, an increasing proportion of Australia is coming under the control of overseas interests. If what I have said is true, if an increasing proportion of Australia’s resource is coming under the control of overseas interests each year, then ultimately the whole of Australia must be dominated by foreign powers.
– The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) reminds me of a starving man who, having been given a meal of turkey and ham and all good things, looks up and says: ‘What, no sauce?’ Some people are never satisfied. We should regard the money that comes to Australia as a compliment to our stability, to the potential of this nation, and to the way in which we have managed our affairs, lt is a blessing for which we should be very grateful. The situation of the developing countries would be desperate indeed il they were to take any notice of the honourable member. Equally, the countries of Europe, which are now so rich and powerful, would have been in a very sorry plight if they had refused Marshall aid from the United States of America on the grounds advanced by the honourable member.
The Budget which we are discussing today was misinterpreted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). He chose to confuse the issue somewhat by accusing the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) of not adopting sufficiently positive programmes and plans and incorporating them in the Budget. The truth is that a Budget does not necessarily feature forward plans. The Treasury is not a creative department, it is not a constructive department. It acts as a custodian ot our resources. The plans of which the Leader of the Opposition spoke are the sorts of things for which the Government accepts responsibility and which are revealed in legislation throughout the year. I hope that 1 have put the Leader of the Opposition on the right path in making this distinction. Each year we are tempted to marvel at the skill of the Treasury experts who manage to balance our affairs in a satisfactory way while resisting the pressures and the claims which come from so many directions. We must not at any time expect the Treasury to play a larger part than its role as custodian. Its role must always be subordinate to that of a government. The Treasury does, perhaps, keep the ship of state afloat. It certainly keeps it on an even keel. But it is the government - it must always be une government, even in the type of managed economy that we have these days - which gives the ship power and direction.
There are three matters that I would like to draw to the attention of the Government today. I consider that they are not receiving the attention that they warrant. The first is the need to set up a precise target for industry. It is interesting to note that the Chairman of the Tariff Board has set out to establish a new set of criteria for the Tariff Board as part of the tariff machinery. Whether or not this new criteria will be clear, concise and comprehensive, I believe it is the duty of the Government to accept this responsibility and to nominate a clear goal for industry at large. In a country which has, and always will have, such a high ratio of natural resources to population we should aim to encourage all industries which have a high ratio of capital to labour. We should endeavour to spread as widely as possible the talents of our people. Our economy should be so pointed that all industries which have a high ratio of capital to labour, and correspondingly a high level of skill and high wages, are encouraged by way of tariff and other inducements from the Government. This, then, is the first of the suggestions I offer to the Government: That it give close consideration to establishing a target of this nature in precise terms so that industry will know what it faces in the way of Government benefits or Government imposed penalties.
The second suggestion I make to the Government is that it take the initiative in promoting certain industries which have an obvious potential, industries which draw upon unused latent resources in this country. The first of these is one 1 have spoken of before. I refer to the soya bean industry which has spread so extensively in oilier countries. It has spread so remarkably in the United States of America that it has become celebrated as the number one dollar earner in that country. The demand for this commodity is increasing year by year r.t a very steep rate. Yet in Australia we have virtually no production except that which is grown experimentally. In fact we fc.port $3 .4m worth of soya beans and sn-. !>can oil each year. There is no reason why we should not be able to grow soya beans extensively in Australia and develop a most lucrative export trade. If we put a little bit of money from the exchequer into this industry, whether by means of a bounty or by way of encouraging further research, we could reap a very rich harvest indeed. 1 understand, in passing, that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which is an instrumentality of this Government, has done no work whatsoever on the soya bean. This seems to me to be very strange indeed.
The second industry which I think should be given more encouragement or more stimulus by the Government is the forestry industry. 1 know that the Government can claim to have done something in this direction a couple of years ago, but very much more remains to be done if we are really to put the forestry industry on its feet in Australia. We use only 1 8% of our available forest lands, according to a report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, while Japan uses 95% of the forest lands in that country. We have something over 500 million acres of ‘usable forest land, of which we use only 86 million acres or 18%. The extent of our use is not made very clear in this report, but it appears that the proportion we really use is very small. We import $200m worth of timber and timber products every year and our bill for these items is rising at a steep rate. World demand for timber is increasing very sharply. It is quite wrong for us, in every sense of the word, not to use our resources adequately to meet the need.
The Australian Forest Development Council claims that to satisfy the Australian market by the year 2000 we will need 3 million acres of forests. I am quoting from an editorial in the Forest Development Journal which says that if private enterprise were allowed to tackle this job it could do it very much more cheaply than if it were left to the State authorities who at present do most of the forestry work. The Journal informs us that for 3 million acres the finance required from governments by State authorities would be $900m, whereas the finance required by private authorities to plant the same area of forests would be only $35dm. The return from the State forests would be S3,000m in royalties, whereas the return from the private forests would be $9,000m. There are other comparative benefits associated with private enterprise but 1 shall not go further into them. Certainly the figures are so extraordinary that they deserve investigation by the Government.
Another authority on softwoods in Australia is the manager of the Federal Match Co., Mr Hay, who said in an article in Forest Development Journal’ for June 1967:
The coastal river basins of New South Wales lend themselves to tremendous development in poplar. It is interesting to postulate what an injection of, say, $12m would do to one particular valley.
I remind the House that he was speaking of an area which is depressed at the present time because of difficulty in disposing of dairy products. He went on:
It would in fact allow for the planting of 1,000 acres per year for 20 years, simplified as follows:
Then he pointed out that the yield would be ultimately some $4,500,000 and that it would support two large veneer mills, two large sawmills and one pulp mill or particle board factory. That is a claim made by a responsible and experienced man, and it certainly calls for close attention by the Government. It appears from these figures that a small amount of financial assistance by this Government, if properly directed, would yield enormous returns in increased forestry production and would possibly lead Australia into the role of an exporter of softwoods, rather than that of a substantial importer, as it is now.
Another industry which cries out for Government initiative is the fishing industry. This is not one that I can speak on with any great authority. My own electorate is well inland and although I am a keen amateur I cannot claim to have much knowledge of professional fishing. But I do know - and this is a matter that was mentioned in the House at question time today - that the Fisheries Development Trust Account contains almost $800,000, and 1 wonder that that money is not applied towards promoting an efficient large scale fishing industry. Most Australians have realised only in recent times what wealthy resources we have around our coasts. Until now it has been left to other countries to exploit these resources. It has been left to the Japanese with their long line fishing outside the reef in north-eastern Australia, to the Formosans along the reef and to the
Japanese jnd oilier interested nationalities, including the Russians, in the Gulf of Carpentaria. The Government should look at this matter urgently. It should not be satisfied that Australia is forty-ninth on the list of countries producing fish products when we have one of the longest coastlines of any country and fishing resources at least as extensive as any country has. We should definitely take the initiative. I have mentioned three different commodities for which there is a tremendous scope for expansion. This is a challenge to the Government to take the appropriate initiative in each case and to build up industries based on those commodities. We could become a substantial exporter of each product if we put enough effort and thought into it.
I leave it at that and go on to another matter that is also of great importance and that is the marriage of foreign trade and foreign aid. We give more to other countries per head of population than does any other nation. I do not think that this is any cause for pride. Our need for capital is as great as any one else’s. We are a capital hungry country; yet here we give more away proportionately than does any other country. What benefit do we gain from this free gift to other countries? Are they grateful for it? Do they respond in any way at all? Does it benefit them? I wonder. Apart from the gift that we make to New Guinea, we spread the aid so thinly and it is in total so small in comparison to the amount given by the United States of America and other countries that I am quite sure it yields us no political benefit whatever and does virtually no good to the countries that receive it. It is time that we looked at this subject very closely indeed. If some of the recipients knew that we were in fact a capital hungry nation and not one that was disposing of some of its surplus wealth, they would be amazed.
I suggest that the Government should study the workings of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, which has been operated by the United Kingdom since 1948, and another instrument that bears some comparison with it, operated by the United States of America, and that is the Agency for International Development, known as AID. Having studied these two organisations, the Government should set up machinery in Australia for channelling some small part of our capital out of the country to help to build trade with selected developing countries, to help to build their economies and to ensure that whatever we do to help them is recognised by them and will give us some future advantage by strengthening the bonds of friendship and association between our countries.
The Commonwealth Development Corporation operates very much as a private body. Although it is established with government funds, it is allowed to borrow up to £l50m. It disburses that money by way of loans or investments in organisations. It may participate in these organisations in developing countries on any of a great number of bases. In some it has a 100% share ownership; in others it has well below 50% share ownership. To some it lends money; in others it takes its part by the provision of capital. I have here a description of the operations of the Corporation. The 1961 annual report of the Corporation is quoted in these words: .
The Colonial Development Corporation is unique in that it alone of the metropolitan governmental development agencies maintains a permanent resident organisation in the areas in which is operates. . . We believe that the presence of Colonial Development Corporation staff on the spot, ready to share the risks of local ventures by equity investment, engenders a sense of partnership not present where development finance is provided only as block loans from abroad.
That is important, because we must try to establish trade relations with countries such as Indonesia. Last year at this time the PIBA conference was held in Djarkata and was attended by a number of Australian business men. It was not successful in launching any Australian business in Indonesia. This was very largely, I believe, because we had no office . staffed by experienced experts on the spot in Indonesia to encourage Australian industries to establish there, to give them the full score, to help them, and certainly we did not have an office there that could say, as the Commonwealth Development Corporation can say: ‘If you start your business here wc will consider going in with you on a joint venture basis. We will put up a part of the capital and with that capital will go the continuing services of our staff here in Indonesia’. We missed an opportunity to establish businesses in Indonesia because we did not have an instrument like the Commonwealth Development Corporation that could help to establish Australian concerns there. These concerns cannot be established at long range from Australia without the presence of some agent acting on the spot. It is, I am sure, the responsibility of the Government to fill that gap, to put somebody in the countries with which we wish to deal who can attract Australian businesses and accordingly Australian trade to those countries. 1 have digressed to make the point that wc have missed one opportunity already in Indonesia by not having an instrument that we could use. I go on now to talk about the American agency; AID, attracting private aid and businesses to overseas countries. AID covers a very wide spectrum. It gives all sorts of assistance to developing countries, and amongst its varied activities it has an Office of Private Resources. The Office of Private Resources does virtually the same job as the Commonwealth Development Corporation in that it can make loans and has a permanent staff established in selected points around the world. As businesses become established - they may be joint with local venture capital, they may be joint with local government capital, they may be joint with capital coming from a host country or they may draw capital from a variety of concerns - they serve as a focal point for further trade between the two countries. Naturally, the establishment of an industry in a developing country will create a demand for capital goods. Demands of that nature can be well met provided skilled staff is available on the spot. As Australia does not have this apparatus or assistance in countries which are buying capita) goods we are forfeiting markets to other countries. Buyers overseas cannot get the kind of terms from Australia that are available in the United Kingdom or the United States of America. We are in the ridiculous position here of not being able to satisfy ready buyers in countries adjacent to Australia. This is a very important matter.
No doubt the Government has considered the possibility of converting some of our gifts of foreign aid into loans. I believe that the Government should give further thought - especially in the light of the suggestion that I make - to the establishment of a special instrument for (his purpose along the lines of the Commonwealth Development Corporation or AID. If we do not do this we will have every other big nation in the world acting as our entrepeneur and closing up our markets to trade, thereby isolating us from the rest of the world. This is an absurd position to be in. Even though Australia cannot afford to start in a very large way, it has to make a start now and it has gradually to build in this direction in the future. I urge the Government to take the initiative and to set up a positive target for industry, to favour industries which have a potential for growth, and to build up our export trade by means of foreign aid in the way that I have suggested. The Government has a heavy responsibility to do this, particularly in view of the way in which events have been closing in on us in recent years.
Mr MclVOR (Gellibrand) [5.13] - I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Firstly, 1 wish to make some reference to the remarks that the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) made during his Budget speech. The Treasurer commenced by quoting what the Governor-General said when opening the Parliament on 12th March 1968. Tt was as follows:
My Government will review the field of social welfare with the object of assisting those in most need while at the same time discouraging thrift, self-help and self-reliance.
Upon hearing this statement 1 waited with great expectations to hear the Treasurer inform the House that there would be a substantial easing of the means test, but I was doomed to disappointment. So, too. were those who have over the years engaged themselves in thrift, self-help and selfreliance - to use the words of the Governor-General and the Treasurer - only to find that their thrift, self-help and self-reliance has robbed them of a pension. The retired people are the ones whose incomes arc fixed and who, as a consequence of the ever increasing price spiral today, arc finding it extremely difficult to live. Indeed, they are finding that superannuation has become a penalty instead of a benefit. The Treasurer went on to say:
Earlier this year the Prime Minister established the Welfare Committee of Cabinet to make a comprehensive examination of existing health and social welfare schemes and to suggest new approaches where desirable. The Committee has been engaged on that task and will continue with it.
The Welfare Committee of Cabinet would not have to go far to make a comprehensive examination of existing health and social welfare conditions in order to find what was desirable. Recent surveys have proved beyond a shadow of doubt that thousands of pensioners are living in a state of poverty. Poverty also extends into the homes of many low wage earners. It is true that one pay envelope is not enough for a normal existence these days.
The Budget can be truly described as a give and take Budget; it gives to the pensioners with one hand and it takes away with the other by means of sales tax. In its indecent haste to take back from the pensioners the pittance they are being given the Government introduced a new rate of sales tax on many items as from 14th August, in about 4 hours after the Budget was presented. The Treasurer warned of inflation. In other words, he meant that the prosperity of the man in the street must be curtailed. However, not one word was spoken about the grossly inflated profits that are so predominant in our midst today. Emphasis was placed on the provision of S27m for libraries and S2.5m for pre-school education. However, on the other side of the scale, parents of children attending primary schools, both State and private, will be slugged for more money by having to pay more by way of sales tax for the books that their children use.
The Government is even taking candy from the children. Increased sales tax extends to the things they enjoy, such as ice cream, lollies, soft drinks, toys and even the soap that they wash with. The family man is the person who will have to shoulder the burden of this Budget. The subtle method of indirect taxation used by this Government over the years will figure in everything the man in the street purchases. The desire of the Government to curtail the prosperity of the man in the street is clearly demonstrated by the Government’s failure to increase child endowment.
The Treasurer said that this year the Government expects an increase in the intake of assisted migrants and that more than $34m is to be provided for assisted passages. This is nearly $8m more than was spent last year on this item. We on this side of the House accept that statement but we ask: What incentive does the Government give to people to have families or to increase their families and thus populate this country? I look with horror at the 30-storey or 40-storey flats that State housing authorities are building today, ls this the sort of housing that the Government advocates families should be raised in? We are bringing up a generation of cliff dwellers and for no other reason than the Government refuses to give semigovernmental institutions and local councils finance to reticulate the open spaces with water, sewerage and lighting. The Government says that the existing services should be used. Over these existing services huge blocks of flats are being built to cope with the ever increasing demands of the people for a roof over their heads, irrespective of what it is or where it is.
Last year the pensioners called the Budget the ‘black budget’. They hailed the coming of this Budget with kisses and received it with curses. Since I have been a member of this House the pensioners have wooed this Government, pleading for justice. They have been doing so since 1949. The only course now left open to them is action - action through the ballot box. But perhaps the most significant thing that can be said of the so-called affluent times is that pensioners, those on fixed incomes and the low wage earners with families, look with fear at what the future holds for them due to the declining purchasing power of their money. The only thing that they can be certain about in the future is a decline in their living standards. The Government claims that its policy is that everyone should have a fair share in the gains of progress yet at present because of the means test only five out of every eleven persons of pensionable age are eligible for pensions. The greatest means test for thousands of pensioners is the problem of living. Rent, clothing, food and warmth and - indeed, provision for all aspects of humanity - do not concern this Government, which says: ‘We can give no more because we do not want to discourage thrift, self help and self reliance.’ So the great conspiracy, the skilful pilfering of the pay envelope, continues through the system of indirect taxation. At the same time inflated profits go unchecked.
Consumer spending can be expected to continue rising. Private capital expenditure on both housing and other forms of building and construction is given a momentum which should keep it going strongly in the months to come. This is what the Treasurer says. But what has the Treasurer to say about the latest increase in interest rates from 5i% to 6i% in private savings banks loan charges and from 5i% to 6% on Commonwealth Savings Bank loans as from 1st August? This latest increase follows the increase from 5i% to 5-i% on 1st April 1965, which by the way was April Fool’s Day - an appropriate day on which to slug the people. These increases, of course, have added hundreds of dollars to loan repayments. What does the Treasurer intend to do to help the people who have been caught by this latest increase and the previous increase to meet the higher repayments they will be compelled to make on short term borrowing? The net profit of the Bank of New South Wales increased from $8.7m in 1966 to Si 0.7m in 1967. In the same period the National Bank’s profit rose from $3.3m to S4.6m, and the profit of the Australia and New Zealand Bank rose from $6.1m to $7. 4m. Corresponding with this great rise in bank profits the price of homes rose. Indeed, the latest increase that home seekers will have to bear in addition to the increased interest rates is the S400 increase in the price of land due to the latest decision of the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works on the financing of water and sewerage reticulation in Melbourne. These factors make the need for a national inquiry into all aspects of housing more imperative. In fact an inquiry is a must, because for the newly married couples seeking homes the latest exploitation is a national calamity.
I say again that we seek migrants and deny our own people and the people we invite here the right to raise families. The Treasurer refers to thrift, self help and self reliance. I ask: Have the people any option other than to try self help, thrift and self reliance? The housing industry is the biggest single industry in Australia; it employs about 80.000 people. It accounts for about 5% of our gross national product, or about $1,1 00m a year. In the last financial year approvals for new homes and flats rose from 120,937 to 132,242. I am not so interested in the flats that are built, but I am interested in the plight of the home buyer. The Government claims that there is record home ownership. I say that t is record home buying by compulsion, lt is the home buyer, whose pay envelope is stretched to its very limits due to the high repayments on loans resulting from high interest rates, who will feel the burden of the indirect taxes he will have to pay on everything he purchases. His plight is truly becoming a national calamity. Home buyers, like the pensioners, live below the threshold of hope.
We boast of our building regulations and our housing standards, but where in this country are homes being built at a cost that the low wage earner can afford to pay? None are being built for rental, with the exception, of course, of those being built by the State housing authorities. Such is the demand for these houses that applicants have to wait and live in degradation before their turn to be accommodated comes along. Some have to wait for up to 4 or 5 years. Authorities such as the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works say that they have not the finance to reticulate new areas with water and sewerage. I might say, in passing, that they have finance to carry out work which is rightly the responsibility of the State Government - such work as road building, bridge building and foreshore improvements. These works are financed mainly from the rate money derived from the metropolitan rate-payers, but they can be described as amenities which every taxpayer in Australia can use. As I said before, there is no money for water conservation, reticulation and sewerage. So the cry goes up for slum clearance, and up go the forty storey flats so that the existing services can be used. The demand for homes continues, and the slum problem remains.
There are great plans for defence, tourism and the production of motor cars, but a national plan for housing is nonexistent. The old stop and go methods still apply, ls it any wonder that the low wage earner, the pensioner and the people on superannuation are becoming more desperate and more hostile every day? The problem in Australia today - it is predominant in major cities all over the world - is the drift to the city. Automation has driven the farm labourer into the city, accentuating the housing problems that have existed for years in most major cities. It is a problem that the Government refuses to face. It allows high density housing to continue apace, intensifying the problem, and it ignores with deliberate intent the need to provide money to build new suburbs which will provide the housing conditions to which every man, woman and child is entitled. In spite of Government claims about housing programmes, the stark fact remains that in Australia 31,000 sheds, huts and tents are being used for human habitation.In Melbourne alone it is estimated that 100.000 people are living in poverty. Mr K. J. Driscoll, the National President of the Housing Industry Association, has stated:
The number of new houses built annually has increased little, if at all, over many years. In 1958-59, 78,797 houses were completed and in 1966-67, 81,960 houses. The number of new marriages annually increased from 74,182 to 97,500 in this period.
The number offlats completed annually has increased almost six-fold in the same time from 5,361 to 29,932 units. Currently the number of flats being built in the urban area proper of Sydney and Melbourne would exceed the number of new houses being erected.
The volume of finance provided by banks and insurance companies for established houses now far exceeds that provided for new housing, whereas 6 years ago it was only a fraction of the latter.
Clearly this indicates the rapidly diminishing priority given to new homes in the overall housing pattern. Housing policy, or lack of it, has permitted a situation to develop in which all growth in building construction has been in flats, while formany years building of detached homes has remained at much the same level. Detached houses are the traditional basis of home ownership in Australia, while flats are overwhelmingly - 70% to 75% - for letting. The social consequences of this are profound and surely do not reflect the natural desires of our community.
According to the official census, in the period 1954-1961 the percentage of persons owning or purchasing the home, they occupied increased by 7%, while in the period 1961-1966 the increase was less than 1% - to an average figure for Australia of just under 71% which is still much below the desirable optimum.
Whatever else may be argued as finer points in this matter, the home-ownership situation is indisputable and the virtually static position is a serious reflection on our housing policy.
So much for the Government’s housing programme. But he went on to say:
Clearly, while the total flow of funds and resources going into housing has increased strongly in recent years, there has been little if any increase in annual construction of detached houses, the prime form of home ownership in Australia. As a result the strong trend to greater home ownership in Australia of earlier years has virtually halted in the last 5 years. This process can be stimulated and home ownership fostered by giving more emphasis to detached houses and enabling more of the available finance and resources to go into this field.
The first major step in this direction would be to lift the Commonwealth Savings Bank housing loan limit.
I agree that the loan limit should be increased. However, of what use are larger loans if interest rates are not reduced to a level where they will cease to be a drain on the pay packet of wage earners in the low income bracket or, for that matter, any worker wishing to purchase a home? High interest rates and large deposits are still the greatest deterrents to home ownership in Australia. The attention of the Government has been drawn to these matters time and time again, but still it refuses to face up to the situation. The comments which I have just read to the House debunk the Government’s claim in respect of housing.
I refer now to requests made from many areas for municipal council and semigovernment institutions to be exempted from the payment of payroll tax. The Government refuses to exempt these bodies, despite the fact that they are struggling to meet their commitments. I have referred previously to this matter. I make a further plea to the Treasurer to exempt municipal councils and semi-government bodies from the payment of payroll tax. A gesture of this kind would help these bodies considerably in overcoming the difficulties which they face.
I refer now to another problem costfronting councils in my electorate, namely Williamstown City Council, Footscray City Council and Sunshine City Council.I refer to the large areas of State and Commonwealth property in these municipalities. I direct the attention of the Governmentto a letter which I have received from the Town Clerk of Williamstown City Council. The information contained in this letter applies with equal force to Footscray Municipality and Sunshine Municipality. The letter reads:
As you are aware, the Williamstown municipality is one of the Victorian municipalities most severely affected in its financial capacity by the existence, within its area, of a large proportion of non-ratable State and Commonwealth government controlled areas, over 30% of our total area of 3,582 acres being so affected.
Our city valuer has estimated that on our present level of rating 16.5 cents in the dollar on N.A.V., my council suffers an annual rate loss of approximately $380,000 from the rating exemption of State and Commonwealth government areas.
The letter continues:
Repeated representations down the years have been made to State and Commonwealth governments for some ex gratia contribution in lieu of municipal rates to lessen the unfair financial burden that falls on ratepayers of our city, without avail.
Following the writing of that letter the Council passed a resolution to take this matter up with State and Federal members of Parliament and to ask the governments to accept the responsibility which morally resides with them to pay rates to these councils or to make an ex gratia payment in lieu of rates in respect of land and buildings which are occupied by Commonwealth and State government authorities. The area of land in the Williamstown municipality owned by Commonwealth and State governments and therefore not ratable would, if rated, return to the Council approximately $380,000 a year. These same arguments apply in respect of Footscray and Sunshine municipalities. Exemption from payment of payroll tax would be one way of extending an ex gratia payment to these councils in lieu of rates. 1 appeal to the Government to consider the request.
Similar circumstances most likely apply to other local government bodies throughout Australia. This is an injustice that should be rectified. Councils must carry out road works and provide footpaths, drainage and lighting in the precincts of these nonratable areas. The burden of paying for all this work falls on the shoulders of the ratepayers and represents another form of indirect taxation. In common justice the Commonwealth should meet its responsibilities in these places and pay rates on property which it owns.
I wish now to refer briefly to our vanishing aircraft industry. After hearing responsible Ministers talk of defence expenditure and defence planning it is astonishing to find such an important defence industry as the aircraft industry described in the last few weeks as redundant. A few years ago this industry was said to be a vital and self-sustaining industry. However, lack of planning has caused or will cause about 2,000 people now employed in the Government Aircraft Factory at Fishermen’s Bend to lose their jobs in the very near future. This is an indictment of the Government and a sinful waste of experience that has taken years to acquire. The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) has said that the skill and experience required for the aircraft industry are constantly available in Australia, even though they may be dispersed in other forms of production. This suggests that under this Government the aircraft industry will be operated on the domino theory. In the Minister’s opinion labour can be transferred from one industry to another at the whim of the Government. I suggest to the Minister that the confidence of workers in the aircraft industry has been badly shattered. Redundant employees arc seeking security. Never again do they want to go back to the uncertain continuity of employment envisaged by the Minister. Once the skill and experience of these workers are channelled into other jobs with greater security they will be lost for ever to the aircraft industry. Rationalisation between the Government Aircraft Factory and the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation is something which the Minister has said should be considered by the Government. I have no doubt that private enterprise would be glad to take over the aircraft industry but I am certain that private enterprise will not be able to absorb the hundreds of employees from the Government Aircraft Factory who will lose their jobs as a result of its closing. So, for want of planning, another very valuable defence enterprise goes out of existence.
I now turn to another matter of great concern to many industries in my electorate. lt is a matter which could affect many employees in the industries which I will mention. I refer to the annual report of the Australian Tariff Board. I support the remarks of the honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) in this regard. On behalf of industrialists and those employed in these industries I register in this House a protest against the recommendations contained in the Board’s report. I have with me telegrams and letters from affected industries. These are but a few of the many that I have received. The first telegram to which I refer is from the General Manager of Mckenzie and Holland (Aust.) Pty Ltd. This is a firm which has been operating in my electorate, adjacent to where I live, for nearly 100 years. The telegram reads:
Tariff Board’s annual report shows Board is attempting to usurp Government role in formulating tariff policies. Australian manufacturing industry will be harmed if Board allowed to proceed with public classification of industry. Request you condemn Government’s unwillingness to assert its own role in policy making.
Another telegram is from the National Forge Division of Australian National Industries Ltd and reads:
Recent pronouncements by Tariff Board of intended classification of manufacturing industry and subsequent publication of same of great concern to industries like ours. Therefore on behalf of our company and the forging industry desire through you to lodge a strong protest against such action which within the engineering industry as a whole could create period of uncertainty and postpone investment and prejudice subsequent legitimate claims for tariff protection. Believe these matters of policy which should be determined in Parliament. The forging industry produces high strength components and supplies to manufacturing industry which is already under great import pressure through marginally costed overseas manufacturers yet this industry does not enjoy a tariff classification. Further we export competitively to USA and Europe and are a major supplier of automotive, transport and aircraft industries which accept us as efficient by world standards. Finally, basic forging industry is obviously vital for the defence of this country. Grateful if you would make these views known appropriately.
I will now read from a letter received from the Chairman of Directors of Industrial Engineering Ltd. He writes:
You will remember that in chapter 2 of their last annual report the Board proposed that industries should be classified by them into ‘high’, medium’, and ‘low’ protection areas. Undoubtedly the purpose which the Board has in mind is to contain industries classified by them as ‘high’ protection. We had thought it improbable that the Government would permit a body such as the Tariff Board, whose function is purely advisory, to take upon itself the responsibility of publicly classifying industry according to its protective needs without the industry itself having had the opportunity to state a case or before the Board had conducted a detailed examination of the industry concerned.
The letter goes on to talk about protection and states that the Tariff Board’s action will cause the public to lose confidence and be reluctant to invest, thereby making it difficult for companies to raise money. The letter continues:
This, in turn, will undoubtedly lead to a reduction in the employment opportunities becoming available for the youth of this country in the future. It may well, of itself, lead to unemployment of part of the existing work force.
On behalf of my company, 1 wish to lodge a strong protest at this attempt by the Tariff Board to classify industry, and would appreciate you expressing our viewpoint at any pertinent opportunity. Our industry has been encouraged to develop by the establishment of tariffs, and can only successfully function in competition with capital intensive opposition companies overseas if tariff levels are maintained.
This deals with a heavy industry. I now turn to the textile industry. I would like to give the House some statistics on imports of knitted coats, jumpers, cardigans, sweaters and the like from Asian countries. In 1963-64 articles of both children’s and adult sizes imported into this country numbered 504,047. In the 9 months to 31st March 1968 the number was 3,109,201. Imports caused 215 jobs of Australian textile workers to become redundant in 1963- 64. In the 9 months to 31st March 1968, 1,773 jobs became redundant. Until 1963- 64 imports had averaged 21% to 3% of sales on the Australian market. By 1966- 67 they bad grown to 15%. It is estimated that had restrictions limiting imports to 15% pending a full scale review by the Tariff Board not been applied in December 1967, imports would have reached 45% in 1967-68. I have a document relating to import statistics and wage rates. It shows that a large proportion of imports came from Asian sources and it sets out a number of figures that T would like incorporated in Hansard. I believe they would be interesting to all honourable members. With the concurrence of the House, 1 incorporate the document in Hansard.
Until 1963/64 imports had averaged 21/2% to 3% of the Australian market. By 1966/67 they had grown to 15%. Had quantitative restriction not been applied in December, 1967, limiting imports to 15% pending a full scale review by the Tariff Board, it is estimated that imports would have reached 45% in 1967/68.
Origin of Imports
In 1963/64, two thirds of all imports came from UK and Europe and the balance mainly from Hong Kong and Japan. In 1966/67 over 80% of all imports originated from low cost Asian sources. This indicates that protective duties have been effective in respect of traditional European sources of supply, for which they were designed, but completely ineffective against low cost Asian competition.
Wages in Manufacturing
Formosa -11c per hour (Mate and Female average).
Hong Kong - 22c per hour (Male and Female average).
South Korea- 9c per hour (Male and Female average).
Australia - 110c per hour Male; 78c per hour Female. (Based on figures from the March 1968 ILO statistics and the Hong Kong Yearbook.)
I could refer to other matters relative to the Budget, such as the Government’s failure to increase unemployment and sickness benefits. But I close on this note: You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time. The truth of this adage will be conveyed to the Government at the next general election.
-I would not expect the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) to say anything laudatory about the Budget. Of course, one expects him, as a member of the Opposition, to oppose the Budget, and he has done that very rigidly. Just as one would have expected, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) opposed the Budget in his speech last night. One would not have expected him, however, to do so without moving an amendment condemning the Budget.
If the taxpayers of this country were to examine the Budget papers that we have in this House at present -I doubt very much whether most people read the Budget papers, because they seem to read only what the metropolitan dailies print about the Budget - as well as read the financial pages of our metropolitan dailies and examine the reports of many industrial organisations, they might well come to the conclusion, by and large, that this country’s economic prospects for 1968-69 are highly promising. 1 do not propose to develop this very interesting subject, but I want to draw the Government’s attention to some anomalies that I believe could have effects on the economy of this country in the future. I refer particularly to costs.
I have recently returned from a tour of the north west coast of Western Australia, the Kimberleys, the Barkly Tableland and the land areas of Queensland. I found in those parts an expansionary push that is most exciting. Not only do Australians find these areas exciting, but overseas visitors also remark in flattering terms on the prospects of this country. They have found the pace and scale of our mining projects staggering. But mining investment in Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania particularly has now reached a scale at which it must be contributing a significant proportion of the total figure mentioned by the Treasurer in his general review a week ago. Relating those mining activities to the Budget now before us, I think of two things. Firstly, seeing the nature of the activities at places such as Dampier and Mount Newman makes one realise that much of the expenditure should, by Australian custom, be counted in the public sector. The mining companies engaged on these great enterprises build everything. They build ports, railways, schools and even police stations. So at least some elements of what the Treasurer, no doubt, would class as private investment are perhaps capable of redefinition. I make the point purely as a reminder that at least some of the terms we use glibly in the House during these debates do not hold equal strength at all times.
The second thing that struck me was that the initiatives and the impetus involved in these huge undertakings derive from the world metal market, and the energy and drive of the enterprises directly concerned in the world metal market. The role of governments, federal or State, I am glad to say, is largely regulatory or permissive. There is no doubt that clumsy government action can hinder mining development. The real key that unlocked the treasure house of iron ore in Western Australia, I believe, was the fall of the Labour Government in that State, a government that had made it plain to mining enterprise that it was not welcome. There is, however, one very important aspect of Federal economic policy that does bear very heavily on the prospects of our minerals. Iron ore, bauxite, and most other minerals, for that matter, are sold on a world market that is absolutely free. We must be price takers. We must take the price that is offered. Even though we rank equal fifth in the world in iron ore reserves and first in bauxite, not all the conferences in the whole history of Geneva could change the situation and bring about what our Australian Country Party friends euphemistically call ‘orderly marketing’. We cannot control the prices at which we sell our minerals. We must meet the market. Therefore, the level of prices and costs in Australia becomes absolutely vital. I want to emphasise that point because it is here that we have cause for worry. Nothing the Treasurer has told us has entirely allayed my fears.
Rock minerals will be our biggest export earners within a few years, but only if they can keep their place on the market. These are economic minerals. Make no mistake, they can be sold but only at a price. I hope that honourable members opposite and even the Press realise the importance of prices. Costs and prices which in past years have been increasing at a rate of rather less than 3% have now shown a rising trend. Rates of increase of over 3% now seem likely and, if I may say so, such a rate is too high. The Treasurer mentioned this fact several times last financial year, and again in this year’s Budget he referred to (he ominous signs of inflation.
The Commonwealth Treasury is aware of the fact, because it has said so on several occasions, that Commonwealth, State, local and semi-government spending is too high. The increase in costs and prices flows partly from higher charges by Government instrumentalities, higher taxes and increased rates, and when incomes from work are heavily taxed the effect on incentive and ambition is a most noticeable reaction, as well as a dangerous drag on the rate of our national development. Having said that, one cannot disregard the fact that the present position for the Government is no easy one. The rate of development in this country is creating heavy burdens and increasing demands on essential services which must bc met and cannot be ignored. On top of the increasing demand on essential services, the burden of the country’s ever-increasing defence bill must also be met. In my own State of Victoria, apart from the everyday cry of more money for education and houses, massive expenditure is required for water resources and roads. In both these areas we are reaching a point which might be described as a crisis. In fact, the same may be said of the other States. I will have something more to say about that in a few minutes.
The Treasurer seems to be telling us, in effect, that unless we walch our step we are perilously near another round of costpush inflation. I want to make two observations regarding this problem. The first deals with the national wage level and the second concerns the rate of Government expenditure in administration. In regard to the wage level I. regret to say that the silence of the Treasurer in the Budget papers before us is almost thunderous.
– He has dropped a few hints to the court.
– I will have something to say about that shortly. The right honourable gentleman appears to be demonstrating his puny power to influence the economy in this direction, as compared with the influence of, say, the President of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Honourable members will have noted the remarks to which the honourable member for Fremantle has just referred, in which the Treasurer, in the course of a public function a few weeks ago in an exchange which, as reported, seemed rather peculiar, offered some indirect advice to the President of the Commission. I hope that this advice will not appear presumptuous on my part, but one would have thought that the place in which the Commonwealth should have expressed a view as to the wage level was in the Commission’s own courtroom. A few years ago at the national wage case the Commonwealth did express a view in clear cut terms. One hopes that the practice will be resumed this year. The Commission’s own courtroom is the place in which to make such statements. I suppose that the Commission is entitled to expect that in the absence of any means of investigation of its own. the National Government will put a view in clear terms and not in any oblique manner. I submit that this is the Government’s duty. In the absence of such straightforward action - and I think it is straightforward action - I fail to see how the Commonwealth can blame any party but itself for the economic consequences of the Commission’s decision, lt is sheer humbug to suggest that such Commonwealth representation in the national wage hearing is in any way unfair or intimidatory.
To return to the question of rising price levels, if the Commonwealth Government is to play its part in curbing inflation I believe it must also limit its own spending. In saying this 1 am only repeating the Treasurer’s own words in another form, because in last year’s Budget Speech he said: we must put a close limit on the rise in Budget expenditure to avoid straining.
The Treasury could well take those words to heart and put what it preaches into practice. In the words of the cigarette advertising which we see on television, perhaps it, too, requires a new set of values. For the Treasury to take over the most expensive prestige buildings, in order to house its own State departments, at one of the most expensive rentals in the capital cities is not, as the Treasurer said 12 months ago, putting a close limit on the rise in Budget expenditure. The State governments’ use of prestige buildings in the hearts of capital cities is unnecessarily cluttering up our city business areas and is placing a strain on our States’ essential services. Treasury can be most cheeseparing when it comes to vetoing other departmental expenses, but it can turn a blind eye to its own administration.
A discussion of Government spending would not be complete without reference to priorities. I am provoked to say something about this question of priorities because the honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) raised it this afternoon. I am alarmed to see that our roads, water and other most essential public facilities fail to keep pace with the demands of present day development. There is no doubt that because of the explosive growth of population the country is being confronted with an urgent extension of public services. No-one wants to restrict the population growth due to our migrant intake, which is partly the cause of this problem. Consequently, we must look to other means. 1 believe that there is a strong case to be made for a better distribution of money between the major cities and the less populous areas.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was discussing rising price levels in our economy. 1 referred to the Treasurer’s own words in last year’s Budget Speech when he said that we must put a close limit on the use of budget expenditure to avoid straining. I referred also to the fact that the Treasury seemed to be remiss when it came to putting a close limit on its own expenditure. This subject of government spending raises the allimportant question of priorities. I said that 1 was alarmed to see how the provision of roads, water and other most essential public facilities had failed to keep pace with the demands of present day development. 1 added that there was no doubt that I he country, because of an explosive growth of population, was being confronted with an urgent need for extension of public services. No-one wants to restrict the population growth due to our migration intake, which is partly the cause of this problem. Consequently we must look to other means.
A strong case can be advanced for the belter distribution of money between major cities and the less populous country areas. Roads and water in my State of Victoria are perilously close to a state of crisis. My State is not the only one. The freeway requirements of Sydney and Melbourne are estimated to be SOO miles. So far only a fraction of that requirement has been met - 10 miles, I believe. The economic losses incurred because of road congestion have been calculated in frightening proportions. The water situation in Melbourne was seen at its worst last year because of a drought. The failure of public utilities to keep pace with rapid development and population growth is axiomatic. There are many ways of coping with this problem, such as increasing taxation and suppressing immigration. Neither of these methodsappeals to me and I do not think it would appeal to many others except the Labor Party. I said earlier that there are valid reasons for rejecting further increases in taxation. Taxes that bite deeply into income constitute a threat to productivity and incentive.
With rising living standards in Europe it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract migrants to Australia, particularly the skilled types whom we most need. It would be unwise not to take as many as we can while they are available because increased migration creates a climate that is conducive to expansion. Industry must have the opportunity to plan ahead. The course that remains open to us to keep pace with rapid development is to establish a better set of public works priorities for all State and Commonwealth governments. I fear it must be said that the Premiers Conference is far from being an ideal machine through which to channel allocations to the States. Loan moneys must be directed into fields where the nation needs them most. The Loan Council should not be a place where the States can engage in political horse trading, as they apparently do. The allocation of funds should not be governed by puerile, fatuous State rivalries or by over-rigid adherence to an outdated formula for the allocation of Commonwealth money between the States.
During this financial year the Commonwealth aid roads grant legislation comes up for re-enactment. The formula for Commonwealth aid to the States under this Act is completely out of date. It pays no attention to the question of priorities which I referred to earlier in this speech. We must seek a better balance in the distribution of road funds. It is important to the economy of the whole nation to have a proper balance between country and metropolitan areas and between the States in the same way as we seek to achieve a balance between government and private spending, between consumption and investment, and between defence and development on the one hand and current needs on the other hand. It is not good enough to spend, say, 40% of the Commonwealth aid roads grant to the States on back country roads if it is not needed and just because an out of date Act says so, while some city and metropolitan area road system is being choked to death by congestion because no funds are available to provide a by-pass or a bridge over a river. The great urban complex of the capital cities has now reached such dimensions that special treatment is required, if it is to play its part in the marketing of the wealth of this country. Orderly development in industry must be supported by an efficient road and rail system. The success of export marketing depends on keeping costs and price rises to a minimum. If it takes twice as long to get goods from A to B because of road congestion, we are just losing out in the cost structure and are wasting much of the time spent in increasing productivity.
Let me turn to another aspect of this Budget which I believe is very important. The Government has clearly tried to resist increasing taxation to too great a degree. The result is that we are able to increase our externa] aid to the under-developed countries, including those of South East Asia, by only 13.6% this year as compared with an increase of 23% last year. This is the first year for some time in which there has not been a progressive increase in external aid. I hope that we will be able to rectify this position next year. Australian aid is important because the assistance given by most of the other donor countries is declining. I am glad that there is an increasing awareness by most Australians that our future ultimately will be connected with that of our neighbours to the north and the need for external aid to the underdeveloped countries. If the Asian and Pacific Council has achieved anything since its inauguration - I believe it has done much through the encouragement of our own Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck) - it has at least started an appreciation amongst its members that many problems of most developing nations can be solved by the more advanced nations bordering the Pacific. The Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr Takio Miki, when recently in Australia, said that Japan and Australia should take the initiative in assisting the underdeveloped countries. He went further and proceeded to outline the three ways in which this could be achieved. He mentioned self help, regional co-operation and help from advanced nations. If these proposals of the Japanese Government spring from a desire to assist these countries they deserve nothing but our praise; they are living up to the highest and noblest responsibilities of greatness. I believe that as long as it is our policy to work in harmony with selected countries to raise the living standards of the people and to promote social and economic advancement in these areas we will gain goodwill which will pay handsome dividends in the future.
Sir, 1 said earlier in my remarks that it is important that we strike the right balance between defence and development on the one hand and current needs on the other. Earlier this year, in a speech during the debate on the Address-in-RepJy to the Governor-General’s Speech, I said that we must not let our defence expenditure weaken our capacity to support our defence effort. I then proceeded to refer to statements made by Major-General Wilson, of Canada, when the Australian Chief of the General Staff exercises were held in Canberra last year. Major-General Wilson spoke about the unification of the Canadian armed forces. He concluded his remarks on that occasion by saying:
We don’t pretend, however,to have the final answer to this most complex problem. We do feel, however, that there are many advantages that will accrue to a small country with a small service. 1 concluded my own remarks on that occasion by saying that this was the time, and the year, for our Government to have another look at the Morshead report of 1957 to see whether there were any recommendations which could be applied to greater advantage to take the defence pressure off the economy.
The uncertainty of the political future of the Western Pacific and South East Asia demands that the Government conduct frequent defence surveys with the greatest of care. If opportunities exist for a rationalisation of the defence Services which would improve the forces, by both better coordination and better planned administration, that rationalisation should be undertaken. Such a survey may even bring about economies without in any way weakening our defence forces. No doubt these are tremendous issues. Assuming that the British forces are on the way out from South East Asia, and notwithstanding the statement made recently by Mr Heath, Leader of the Opposition in the United Kingdom, that should a Conservative government be returned to power it would return the British forces to the Far East, Australia’s defence responsibilities have increased considerably in the last few months. It is generally accepted in England that the British Government is in difficulties over its defence policy. 1 believe it would have been better if Mr Heath had not made his statement. It would be difficult to place any importance on this remark, and I am sure that our Government will not be misled. Therefore, at the expense of repeating myself, I say that we must not only strike the right balance between defence, development and current needs but we must conduct the present defence survey with the utmost care and with the knowledge that the political conditions which existed 12 months ago have changed again. 1 would have liked to refer to the remarks of the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Mclvor) about the sales tax and municipal government but I see that time prevents me doing so. Perhaps I will have an opportunity later to dilate on those subjects. I support the Budget but I oppose the amendment.
– It was quite interesting to hear the remarks of my friend the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth). I must congratulate him upon his forthright remarks, his condemnation of the attitudes of his Ministers, and his criticisms of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) for their indiscriminate spending and squandering of the taxpayers’ money. lt was quite refreshing.
– He did not say that.
– Do not bother me. His remarks indicate a trend which I have followed closely over the last 6 months. I have watched the manoeuvrings of members of the Liberal Party and their uneasiness at the election of the Prime Minister to his present office. Everyone knows that the Prime Minister is sitting in a very hot seat. So many members of the Liberal Party would like to be in that hot seat that they are prepared to do anything to bring this about.
I support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and the amendment that he moved. There has been a Liberal-Country Party Government for about 19 years, and I believe that the majority of the Australian people think it is time for a change. They think that there should be a change from the feeble efforts of this old, worn out and
Inefficient Administration, the members of which belong to the so called inner Cabinet which recommends what is best for the people.
For some time now this inner Cabinet has been supported by the daily Press. The Press is trying to perpetuate the deceit of the inner Cabinet by creating a new gimmick called ‘our affluent society’. The term affluent society’ is a gimmick which has met with strong support from the putrid Press. We know that the Press wants this deceit to be carried on and that it wants this Government to stay in office indefinitely. The Press also has endeavoured to create the idea that members of the great Australian Labor Party, which receives the greatest percentage of votes at every election and which is numerically the strongest party in the Parliament, is in a state of unrest. The Press has tried to perpetuate this idea. Day after day we can pick up copies of the daily newspapers and find deceitful and untruthful articles to the effect that members of the Australian Labor Party are continually quarrelling amongst themselves. The Press is trying to create the impression that as a consequence the Australian Labor Party is incapable of governing. We have to look back quite a few years, of course, to see the wonderful government of that great Australian Labor Party leader, Ben Chifley, and of my namesake John Curtin. They were examples of the calibre of men who belong to the Australian Labor Party. What the Press says about quarrelling in the Australian Labor Party is not true. I declare now that the Labor Party is a well-knit, intelligent and efficient body of men working as a party in the interests of the great Australian community. Really, the boot is on the other foot.
I could take advantage of my time in this debate to explain to the people that the daily Press throughout the Commonwealth suppresses, with all the means at its disposal, the quarrelling and fighting that goes on among members on the Government front bench, among members of what is called the inner Cabinet, and among the back benchers of both the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party. Let us look at the situation. At the Liberal-Country Party conference held in
Victoria on 31st July - just recently - the President, Mr Southey, said that three groups were carrying out planned and conservative attempts to attach an extreme right wing label to the Liberal Party. He named three groups making these attempts, the Liberal Reform Movement, the Basic Industries Group - that would be big business - and the Businessmen for Democratic Government. He went on to say that the Liberal Reform Movement had some extreme affiliations and that there was a possibility of the three groups becoming conspiratorial in their methods. He also said: Poison privately distilled can still do potent harm unless we are careful’. This was the President of the Liberal Party of Australia. He said: ‘Let us be self-critical about the matter’.
Outside the conference later the Prime Minister said that all he knew about the Liberal Reform Movement was that the man who ran IPEC had something to do with it. The Prime Minister evidently knew something about it. But, he said, it was not part of the legitimate Liberal Party. I would like to know which section of the Liberal Party is illegitimate.Is it the Prime Minister and his Cabinet or is it the Liberal Reform Group? The Prime Minister said that Businessmen for Democratic Government was a completely anonymous group and the only men he knew of who were in it were Mr Francis James and a man called Sayers - two mysterious gentlemen. But was the Prime Minister amused to find that these two gentlemen are spokesmen for a body which is busy collecting a huge amount of money for publicity for a campaign to throw the Prime Minister out of public office? lt has been publicly stated that the amount collected already totals $50,000. Of course the Prime Minister brushes this off ever so lightly, but Mr Sayers replied to Mr Gorton-
– Order! The honourable member must refer to the Prime Minister by his title.
– Very well, Mr Deputy Speaker.I am merely reading excerpts from a statement. This gentleman representing Businessmen for Democratic Government said: ‘Our aim is to have a belter and stronger Liberal Party by replacing the Prime Minister with the Minister for
Defence, Mr Fairhall’. He claimed to be exercising his right as a citizen to criticise the government leadership.
A Dr L. Webber, Victorian convenor of the Australian Reform Movement, formerly the Liberal Reform Movement, said that all these developments were evidence of a further split in the Liberal Party. He said that these three groups were in no way associated but were three completely autonomous breakaways from the traditional Liberal conservatism. He said the Australian Reform Movement was merely radical Liberal. Just what does that mean?
At the State conference of the Liberal Party the Prime Minister was again hotly attacked by none other than the Liberal member who represents the electorate of La Trobe in this place and who is well known for his actions in this Parliament. He urged the conference to ensure that the Prime Minister made monthly reports to the nation on Government policy and the Vietnam war. Tt is interesting to note that the same conference called for an immediate Government review of subsidies paid to oil search companies or, in other words, the taxpayers’ money that is being handed out to the wealthy supporters of the Government. Every member of this House is very much aware of the odour that surrounds these subsidies paid to oil search companies so I need say no more of that.
Let us get back to the dissension in the Liberal-Country Party leadership which led to the retirement of the Federal Director of the Liberal Party, Mr J. R. Willoughby. The situation became too hot for Mr Willoughby.
– How old is he?
– He is 60. He is only a young man. Look along the front bench here and you will come to the conclusion that a man of 60 is quite young. Mr Willoughby had the plum job in the Liberal Party. All sorts of oil was poured on the troubled waters when he announced his impending retirement. He had worked for the Liberal Party for 44 years. He was a dedicated Liberal but the smelly tactics being indulged in with oil search companies was too much for him. He treasured his good name and so he got out. One excuse given was that Mr Willoughby had said he was retiring to make way for a younger man. When I look at the members of the Cabinet in this House I wonder who was that younger man.
While on the subject of the trouble within the Liberal Party let us consider for a moment the resentment shown openly in this Parliament by members of the Cabinet at having a senator from another place thrust upon them as Prime Minister against their will. Let us also remember the action taken by the Leader of the Country Party and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) when he was attending a very important conference in Geneva and learned that the honourable member for Lowe (Mr McMahon) might be in line for the Deputy Prime Ministership. He abandoned Australia’s interests at this important conference and in a sulky, childish manner voiced his resentment at the development and claimed the Deputy Prime Ministership, which meant claiming priority over the honourable member for Lowe. Such bad feeling between them was observed by honourable members in this House, and particularly by me in my front seat, that it seemed the two right honourable members might come to blows right at the table. I would have had a front seat at the brawl. I was shocked to see two right honourable members almost come to blows in this austere House. At enormous expense - and the taxpayers might note this when they consider the extra taxes imposed by the Budget - the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony) was sent to Geneva immediately to take the place of the sulky, humbug Deputy Prime Minister.
-Order! the honourable member must not make personal reflections on any member of the House.
– Well, 1 am shocked to think that the phrase ‘sulky humbug’ would be considered a personal reflection, lt is an honest opinion. I apologise, Sir. This incident indicates the loose way in which the finances of our country are used to satisfy the whims of, shall I say, childish Country Party Ministers. The people interested in this speech should take the trouble to inquire about the veracity of the reference to the brawl. However, we find perpetual squabbles occurring between the
Ministers and the back-bench members. The old hard-heads of the front bench are fighting desperately to hold their jobs and to keep the young Liberals on the back benches, who all think they should be Prime Minister, from tipping them off the front bench. The young Liberals want to tip the older boys out of the plum jobs, of course. While this perpetual fight goes on, the interests of the people are left in the background. As a great writer once said: Economy lies not in sparing money but in spending it wisely. The Treasurer should take those words to heart.
It was not generally known, and the Press did not publish the fact, that only three of the twenty-two Ministers voted for the Prime Minister in the leadership ballot. I do not think anyone would argue with that assertion. Everyone knows that the former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, gave his full support to the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck). The Minister for Defence (Mr Fairhall) was the pea of the big business groups and the big business groups are the ones who contribute the huge sums of money to the Liberal and Country Party election funds. The Minister for Defence, the pea of the big business groups, was defeated ignominiously and it has been said that he was defeated because he came from New South Wales. That was the easy way out.
Perhaps he was under the influence of the nitwit Liberal leader, the Premier of New South Wales, called Askin, who just recently was carried away by his own importance at a businessmen’s luncheon. One could reasonably believe that most of the people at the luncheon would be under the influence of good bottled beer, spirits and other good alcoholic beverages. That must have reduced the Premier of New South Wales from a nitwit to a halfwit. As an example of the Liberal Party’s contempt for the average Australian, he recited a story about the time he was in the company of L8J on his recent trip to Australia. They were in a motorcade and a superintendent of police redirected their vehicle when it was brought to a halt by many students who were sitting on the road. This halfwit Premier of New South Wales said to the superintendent who had reported that they could not move on because the students were sitting on the road: ‘Run over those naughty boys’. That shows in no uncertain terms the Liberal Party’s contempt for and resentment of the average New South Wales student. However, the majority of the people in New South Wales will not forget Mr Askin’s kind remark and there is no doubt that at the next election it will be the cause of his destruction. We must never forget that the Prime Minister himself said of these self-same students, many of whom are future national servicemen who will be asked to lay down their lives or spill their blood for their country: ‘After all, they are only a bunch of nuts’. How low can the leaders of the Liberal Party get?
Then we have the flaming youth, the honourable member for Adelaide (Mr Andrew Jones), who has now been deflated to the level of a burnt out match. He has been discarded by his colleagues. I am just explaining to the people that this is the type of Liberal we have in the Parliament. The honourable member for Adelaide does not have a friend in the House. This is plainly due to his anti-Australian attitude and his penchant for topping off his Liberal and Country Party colleagues for enjoying a glass of beer in the parliamentary bar. In this affluent society we have Commonwealth monopolistic control in all avenues of industry. The leaders of industry are handed out valuable concessions in various forms as the pay-off to the monopolistic industries, which in turn subscribe large sums of money to the Liberal and Country Party campaign funds.
Now let us turn to the housing racket. This disgraceful situation has been brought about by the present Government which has limited the amount of money allocated to the various State governments for housing. This creates a shortage, and this meets the wishes of the great real estate operators in the various States. Could I even suggest at this moment, Sir, that the former Treasurer and Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, Sir Arthur Fadden, has now joined the great Hooker organisation? This is strange, is it not? Is it any wonder that all these organisations have been able to influence the present Government to create a perpetual housing shortage? Of course, the shortage means an increase in the price of homes built by private enterprise through agents such as the Hooker organisation. These real estate operators find that there is an immediate increase in the rate of interest on money borrowed from private savings banks for housing from 5% to 51/2% for new houses and from 51/2% to 6% for old houses. But, of course, the hungry private loan sharks have only one rate of interest for all loans, whether they are for old or new houses. Their new rate will be 61/4%: it was formerly 53/4%. To meet the increased charges, the terms of the loans will be lengthened and the interest is added to the original loan.
We all know the rackets in rents.I read only tonight about a group of dedicated nurses, who look after the ill and the dying. They are required to pay $39 a week for a flat in North Sydney. The Government should look after the interests of the nursing profession. Private companies influence the Government’s thinking because they provide financial support to the Liberal Party at election time. Private companies have so much influence over the Government that they can even force the Commonwealth Bank of Australia into line. Most people are not aware of that fact.
I turn now to immigration. What do we find happening in this affluent society? We find that a record number of 23,520 migrants left Australia during 1967-68. This information is contained in the report of the Government Statistician. The Statistician stated that this figure was 3,000 more than it had been in the previous year and 30% higher than the departure rate 2 years ago. The report also stated that 137,525 immigrants arrived during 1967-68. which was 1,151 less than in the previous year and the lowest number since 1963-64. I should add that the 23,520 migrants who left during 1967-68 did not include those who had said that they would settle here but who left after less than 1 year’s residence. Strangely enough, those who left were mostly British migrants. Stranger still, the Minister for Immigration (Mr Snedden) was in such a mental state that he made the outlandish statement - and those who support the principle of a great white Australia should not forget this - that he might be able to induce American negroes to settle in Australia. What a situation to create. What a statement to make. What a suggestion to come from a responsible Minister. I think the people of Australia should bear that statement in mind forever. Of course, I realise that the Minister for Immigration is at his wit’s end and that he is trying to induce people to come to Australia under all sorts of promises. But what happens when they arrive in Australia? They find that the accommodation in this country is in the hands of the real estate racketeers.
– Are you against the Aboriginals?
-I never said anything about the Aboriginals. I referred to the negroes from America.
-Order! Those honourable members who are interjecting must cease doing so.
– They do not like the truth, Mr Deputy Speaker. All I am trying to tell them is the truth. The Minister for Immigration welcomed the scheme of the shipping companies to provide special return fares for parents of British immigrants. He said that a family visit was often a perfect antedote for homesickness. I suggest to this incompetent. Minister, who has just returned from a jaunt around the world, that his Government should see that the promises of a new world that are held out to immigrants are concrete and are not just wild statements. This could be brought about by the Government making a large sum of money available to the various States to embark on a huge housing scheme in which all the citizens of Australia - old and new - could share so that they would not be subjected to the demands of racketeers for high rentals of$39,$40 or $45 a week for accommodation in sub-standard ramshackle houses. The demands of these racketeers arc rampant in Australia at present. [Extension of time granted.] I thank the House for allowing me to continue. I emphasise the high rentals because they affect every young married couple in Australia. I feel that the Government should also have a good look at social services and make a close study of poverty in this so-called affluent society. Inflation is rife in Australia and rising prices are the order of the day. Money is losing its value day by day. Almost every member of our community is up to his ears in debt because of repayments of the huge interest charges demanded by hire purchase companies. There is no use throwing one’s chest out and saying that one does not rely on hire purchase because under existing conditions every member of the community is forced to use the hire purchase means of paying for household furniture and other essential items. It seems that the Government is encouraging the financial racketeers in our community. In our affluent society the old guard is trying to delude the citizens into thinking that things are not so bad after all. 1 am glad that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) is in the House. I suppose that he will tell us that everything is good in the country and that there is no unemployment and so on. But unemployment is starting to rear its ugly head in our community. I have obtained figures from the last report of the Commonwealth Statistician on this subject. I do not take any notice of the reports of the Department of Labour and National Service about registrants for employment, job vacancies, school leavers and so forth. The last report of the Statistician gives the number of unemployed in Australia as 65,000. Some honourable members may say that that was not many but, to quote a remark made by a great Australian Prime Minister some years ago: ‘How would you like to be one of them?’
– Who was that?
- Mr Chifley. Lift your lid. Unemployment is increasing weekly. It is another feature of our so-called affluent society. I ask the people of Australia to give deep consideration to the position in which they find themselves due to the actions of this Government and the various financial societies in the community. This coalition has been too long in government.I would also like to make a few remarks in regard to the Budget. I notice that in his Budget speech the Treasurer said that receipts of $5,950m would fall short of total expenditure of $6,591 m by $641 m, which would be almost the same as last year’s deficit. This is a Government of deficits. I have been a member of this House for 1 9 years and each year I have heard that there is a deficit. We are sinking further and further into the financial quagmire. This is something that has to be looked at and looked at very soon. Take the income tax provisions. The Treasurer said:
It is proposed to increase by 2.5c in the S1 the rates of tax payable on incomes derived by companies-
This is a neat one - during the income year 1967-68.
The sum of 2.5c in the $1 means about $60m a year according to the Treasurer. He said:
The gain in revenue from the increased company rates is estimated to be $60m in a full year-
That means that the profits of companies operating in Australia are somewhere in the vicinity of $2,400m a year. Yet the Treasurer thinks it is worth while to take only S60m out of those ill-gotten gains. We find that sales tax is to be increased from 121/2% to 15% - the same 21/2% increase. Sales tax will affect the lower income groups. The tax will be imposed on commercial vehicles. The fellow with a 1 -ton truck who is trying to earn a living for himself and his family will have to pay an additional 21/2% sales tax on all the accessories for his vehicle. The increased tax is to apply to printed matter, too. I wonder whether the daily Press will be affected by this. Printed matter could easily relate to newspapers and perhaps this is a type of pay-off to the Press for its support of the Government. The Press will probably be allowed to charge an additional cent a copy for newspapers to cover the additional tax. Paper products and confectionery are affected by the tax. The Treasurer sees a baby coming out of a shop with a lolly on a stick and he grabs it; he applies an additional 21% tax to that lolly. How mean can one get?
Of course, the people who do not like to wash will be cheerful because the additional 21/2% sales tax is to be applied to soap.I doubt whether this tax will worry members of the Liberal Party. Detergents are subjected to the additional tax. lt is necessary to be clean about the house. The tax is to apply to everything that is necessary in the home. It will apply to almost all classes of household goods. Among the items affected are confectionery, soaps, detergents, potable spirits, imported wines and beers, typewriters, office furniture and equipment, and sporting goods. The son or daughter of a family may play tennis on a Saturday but if they want tennis ball or a tennis racquet they will find that they have to pay more for it now. They have had to pay extra since the day after the Budget, which is when the sales tax was increased.
All costs are creeping up and up, and the House should take this into consideration. The increased tax will apply to toys. Of course, Christmas is approaching. The extra 21/2% tax will be imposed on the doll that a baby wants for Christmas. The Treasurer knows that it is close to Christmas and he knows also that we will be in recess after November. The outcry will come when the family man has to pay extra for his children’s toys - on items that he would not deny his children. The Treasurer and those members who support the Government are making it more difficult for the family man to buy toys for his children.
– The Treasurer will be paying the sales tax himself.
– Yes, but he is affluent and can afford it. I am referring to the man who gets $34 a week which the court says is sufficient to provide him with a living for a week. The tax is to be applied to other goods’. I do not know what the term other goods’ means. The Treasurer should be more explicit and indicate exactly what he means.
– The pill.
– Never mind about that; I do not know anything about that. The Treasurer should be honest with the House and should not issue a statement through the Treasury later saying that although certain items were not enumerated in the Budget the Budget figures envisaged them, and so it is in order to impose the increased sales tax on them as the House has agreed to it. This is some sort of invisible tax and we will not know what items are affected until we come to pay for them. In conclusion I urge the people of Australia to throw out this Government lock, stock and barre) at the next election.
– I think we all have enjoyed the little rehearsal by Danny - the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin). But he was a bit astray in some of his remarks, especially those regarding negroes coming to Australia. We describe them as nonEuropeans. I think that three or four have arrived in Australia but they must be of exceptional skill or have a university standing. The same applies to other nonEuropeans who are allowed into Australia.
Never before in the past 2 years has the housing problem been tackled in such a definite way. If my memory serves me right, 115,000 residences were completed last year. We were hopeful that at least 123,000 residences would be completed this year but I have not seen figures for this year yet. Last night members of this House listened to one of the most incredible speeches made by any Leader of the Opposition on any Budget for the last 20 or 30 years. The right honourable Ben Chifley had a flair for finance and monetary matters. His ideas were unorthodox, but nevertheless he had a knowledge of the subject. Then followed Dr Evatt who always appeared to be mystified and unable to grapple with problems of economics and finance. He was always looking for some hidden monster that he could never find. Simplicities of finance and economics he could never fathom. Then for some years the right honourable A. A. Calwell led the Opposition attack on the Budget. To his credit, I think most honourable members will admit that he had an understanding of the subject matter although, of course, we never at any time agreed with his weird Socialistic ideas, which would militate against those he most earnestly desired to assist. However, last night we heard a diatribe from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) which ranged over a large field but seldom dealt with the Budget in detail. He meandered over country roads to the building up of large cities on the seaboard, making them more vulnerable to attack by nuclear warhead and more difficult to service by transport, health services and local government instrumentalities. It would appear that decentralisation would be non est or a lost cause should, by misadventure, the Party which he leads ever occupy the treasury bench.
At one stage of his address I thought that he would be better suited to be the mayor of a small municipality than Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. His summing up of the Budget was inadequate; but, in truth, it was his own inadequacy to deal with the economic and financial affairs of the nation that was apparent. He was late with his reference to programme planning. For the past 2 years the Government parties have been programme planning both within the Ministry and through and by the Government member committees, such as the committees which deal with economics and finance, social services, housing, the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Fund, Aboriginal affairs and national development. These committees have conducted many exercises for and on behalf of Ministers. They have made a close study of the work given to them and have conducted a good deal of research both in Australia and abroad. What of the defence planning now being undertaken by the Government? Is this not programmed planning?
Let me now turn to the Budget. Firstly, I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) on the efficient and capable manner in which he presented to the Parliament the Budget and related accounts. He has shown that unquestionably he is masler of the situation. Not only in Australia but throughout the world his knowledge and experience in monetary and economic matters are highly respected. His advice and opinions are eagerly sought by world authorities. He has played a major role in the proposal to establish a world monetary fund international drawing account, to which will be provided, over a period of 5 years, a sum of $500,000m to offset the stranglehold which gold now has on international trade and finance. The member nations of the western world will have specific drawing rights on the account. The rules governing the account will allow drawings to be made from it and applied to the balance of payments of member countries. I understand that money drawn from the account may be applied to the purchase of goods and materials from member countries.
Over the years I have given a good deal of thought to balance of payments matters. 1 have often wondered why, in a sophisticated society, we could not devise some method to overcome our balance of payments problems. The proposed fund will not solve all of the difficulties associated with balance of payments but it will give partial relief and f trust that it will be the forerunner of a scheme that will overcome the balance of payments difficulties that arise from time to time in most countries. 1 congratulate the Treasurer on the part that he has played as one of the prime movers in establishing this fund. I wish him every success. Only a person of his great experience, profound knowledge and vision could originate and create such a scheme.
The Budget set out to restrain inflationary pressure, which has been running at about 3%, and to care for those most in need of assistance. Let me here and now state that I much prefer a slight inflationary trend to a deflationary trend. Having had practical experience of both trends I know that both are damaging, but the deflationary evil is the greater of the two. In the year under review gross national expenditure increased by 8% whilst the gross national product increased by 6% . The rate of increase in the gross national product was hindered by the effects of the drought on farm production. Decreased earnings from farm exports and an increase in imports and other payments overseas resulted in an external deficit of about Si. 000m. However, this deficit was offset by a large surplus on capital account. The economic outlook for 1968-69 is good. Private spending on consumer goods and investment is buoyant and rising. It may be expected that the big increase in mining activities and in farm output will increase our income from exports. But if production of goods for local consumption is not sufficient to meet demand we will have to resort to the importation of consumer goods. This will result in an increase in local prices, so if is something which we must do everything to prevent. The indications are that the increase in the gross national product in 1968-69 will be as high as 6%.
This is a Budget to keep the economy moving and to promote the advancement of the nation and the social and economic welfare of all Australians. The Budget provides additional help to the needy members of the community. I would have liked to see a big increase for pensioners. An increase in pensions of $1.50 all round, with an extra 50c for single pensioners, would have given general satisfaction. It cannot be denied that age pensioners are entitled to whatever they receive.
Never before has such a programme of social services, covering such a wide field, been put before the Commonwealth Parliament as was presented in the Budget last week. The Budget provides for a wide range of new and improved social services. Provision is made for increases in repatriation and health benefits and for additional assistance in the field of housing. The Budget provides also for as increase in defence expenditure, a new and extended programme of improved facilities and opportunities in education, special provisions to promote the advancement of Aboriginals, assistance to rural industries and aid for Papua and New Guinea and other developing countries. So far, so good. In addition to the benefits which I have mentioned the Treasurer has designed the Budget to provide stable economic growth. The aims of the Budget are full employment, a high rate of economic growth, the prevention of further upward pressures on local1 costs and prices, an improvement in the external current account and the attraction of more migrants and capital to this country. The Budget is designed to achieve a greater rate of increase in the gross national product than was achieved in 1967-68, when the rate of increase was 4% . However, this was the year when the effects of the drought were felt. In 1968-69 the rale of increase in the gross national product should be 6% or greater. We have now reached the stage where we will be exporting a great deal of our farm output and the products of our mining ventures, but there is likely to be under production of goods for home consumption. There is still an opportunity for the industrious person to venture into the manufacturing sphere where goods for local consumption are in short supply.
In the year under review we were able to cover our current account deficit by a record capital inflow. We were not over sanguine this time last year that capital inflow would keep up, let alone come in record quantities. Capital will still flow to Australia because of the stability of the Government and because of the great opportunities for investment in Australia. The risk we run is that legislative enactment might prevent capital front being exported from other countries to Australia. Despite the drought, the rate of growth of private spending for both consumption and investment quickened and outdistanced the growth of local supplies.
Although Budget expenditures are to be expanded considerably in some directions - for example, in relation to social services and education - a significant slowing down has been achieved in the rate of increase of total expenditure. Whereas the 1967-68 Budget provided for a large increase in Commonwealth outlays overseas, this Budget provides for a small decrease. This will also be helpful from the standpoint of the balance of payments. Because of the need to make increased provision for social welfare, etc., the prospective rate of increase in Commonwealth outlay within Australia is almost as high as last year - 8.5% as against 8.6%. At existing rates of taxes and other charges, total receipts could be expected also to rise by about 8.5% in national accounting terms. Most of this increase, however, would itself result from greater activity and spending in the economy and thus would not do much to offset the expansionary effects of greater Budget outlays.
To achieve some moderation of the Budget’s contribution to the growth of demand and incomes, provision has therefore had to be made for additional measures on the revenue side. The measures proposed, which are estimated to yield, on a national accounting basts, $93m in 1968- 69 and SI 08m in a full year, will exert some moderating influence on the overall increase in demand. With this additional revenue, the prospective budget deficit will be reduced to S547m or 597m less than last year’s deficit of $644m. This will tend to reduce the call on bank credit for the financing of the deficit, and thereby the contribution of the Budget to the money supply and bank liquidity. In short, the Budget is designed to make a smaller contribution to the growth of demand and incomes than was made by the 1967-68 Budget. In his Budget speech, the Treasurer said:
We are seeking this effect because of the judgment we have made as to the strength of other influences operating to raise expenditures. We do not wish to see total spending in the economy run ahead too fast this year - a-, we believe it would if the Budget impact were not moderated.
Many people cannot get a proper appreciation of the balance of payments. 1 propose to mention the main features of the balance of payments for 1967-68. Because of the drought and lower prices for most rural products, there was a substantial drop in rural exports, However, this fall was more than offset by a rise in other exports, especially minerals, and total exports were fairly stable. In contrast, there was a strong increase in total imports, which increased by $340m. This resulted partly from an increase in imports of defence equipment and civil aircraft and partly from a rising level of demand in the private sector of the economy which lifted non-defence imports. There was an abnormal increase in the net deficit on invisibles. An important factor was higher freight costs resulting from the closure of the Suez Canal. As a result of the foregoing, there was a large increase - about $430m - in the net deficit on current account. However, this deterioration was more than offset by a rise of S620m in net apparent capital inflow. Government capital transactions were more favourable but the major feature was a rise of $520m in net apparent private capital. The full composition of this inflow is not as yet known but there was a large rise in portfolio investment. There was an overall surplus of$78m. Of this surplus, $7m was added to Australia’s holdings of gold and foreign exchange. However, there was a loss of $11 3m on Australia’s sterling balances following devaluation of sterling in November 1967, and Australia’s holdings of gold and foreign exchange decreased by SI06m to $l,092m at 30th June 1968. Australia’s reserve holdings with the International Monetary Fund increased by $7lm to S249m, reflecting net drawings in Australian dollars by other Fund members. Including the IMF reserves, Australia’s international reserves decreased by$ 3 5m to $l,341m at 30th June 1968. 1 congratulate the Treasurer on bringing in his third Budget. We on this side of the House are indebted to him for the tremendous amount of work that he has put in,for his efficiency and for his determination. He has not only given honourable members on this side of the House a better education but also has shown a great desire to explain to the people of Australia how these Budgets are arrived at. I believe that the time may be approaching when many of the proposals that are brought in at Budget time could be dealt with on some other occasion. Other than for the allocation of money to cover expenditure on social services, I do not think that the question of social services should be dealt with in the Budget. I think the time is quickly coming when social services should be dealt with on a quarterly basis, whereby the recipient of social services could receive consideration when an economic circumstance occurred which may not be present at the time of the presentation of the Budget. I support the Budget which was presented by the Treasurer and I oppose the amendment which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) last night in introducing our attack on the Budget. The reason why I am not excited about the 1968 Budget is quite simple. I have sat here in the opposition and have listened to nineteen Federal Budgets in a row being presented by Treasurers belonging to the Liberal-Country Party coalition. The dreariness, monotony, frustration, conservatism and irony of the matter is that plank after plank of the Australian Labor Party’s policies have been pirated and put into legislation by our political opponents. None of the honourable members opposite have sat in opposition for 19 years, therefore they do not know what I am talking about. By comparison, some of them have been here only a few hours. But these are the feelings of honourable members on this side of the chamber who have been so long in opposition. I think it is an honour and a tribute to the Australian Labor Party that so many of its policies have been pirated by its opponents. At least, these policies have been put into operation, even though we were not able to do it.
A government with a majority of forty members in this House can afford to allow itself to be blase, over-confident and very obscure about fundamentals and about future Budget proposals. On the surface, after hearing the Budget presented, one might say that it was hard to criticise. This is the delusion created by cleverly obscuring its weaknesses and gaps. The simple arithmetic of the 1968 McMahon Budget is that the Government has given with the right hand and has picked your pocket with the left hand. But what is more important, the right hand knows exactly what the left hand is doing.
The increases in social service pensions are naturally acceptable to all pensioners - there are nearly 1 million of them in Australia - but they are completely inadequate to meet the rising costs which have occurred since pensioners received their last increase 2 years ago. The pattern of a $1 per week increase in pensions every now and then is as unchanging as the laws of the Medes and the Persians. It leads me to ask why pensioners always receive an increase of $1 per week, lt used to be 5s per week. There has never been a true evaluation of the economics of pension increases. There has never been a true costing to discover what is fair and what is not fair or a truly humane analysis of the needs of pensioners and other recipients of social service benefits. The increase of $1 per week which is given every year or two is plucked out of the air without any relationship to reality.
The most disturbing feature in the Budget is that the difference between the rate for the single pensioner and the rate for the married pensioner now stands at $6 per fortnight. The Labor Party strongly opposed the Government’s discriminatory legislation about 4 years ago when it first provided that a single pensioner should receive more than the pension paid to a married couple. That had never been done before in the 60-odd years in which pensions had been paid. This tactic was intended to divide pensioners. It completely ignores the human variations between people - whether they are married or single - and the vast variety of circumstances, such as housing, rentals, food prices and transport costs, that exist between town and town, city and city, and State and State. The argument that two can live as cheaply as one is sometimes true, but often it is erroneous. It is cruel, callous and wrong to say that two can live more cheaply than one. But this principle has now been written into our social services legislation by this Government.
Increases in television and radio licences are a wicked imposition on people in the poorer sections of our community who, after having saved for years, have recently purchased a television set.
– Not the pensioners.
– No. Fortunately, pensioners pay a lower Tate for television and radio licences. Increases in postage for papers sent overseas will reduce revenue and will reduce the flow of information about this country going overseas.
The Budget’s weaknesses emerge after close scrutiny of it. After listening to the Treasurer the other night one might have thought: ‘This is a fair Budget. Look at what he is throwing around to so many sections of the community.’ But when one analyses the Budget one finds there is no evidence that the Government has planned anything. It still hopes for the best in the future, as it has done in the past. It still hopes that our agricultural export income will remain steady and that overseas investors will continue to make us a happy hunting ground for their investment. The Budget definitely has a deflationary flavour. Whatever might be said, consumer spending will be reduced.
The Budget glosses over the stark fact that overseas investments are all that is keeping us from national bankruptcy. An economist in London recently wrote that after a study of Australian conditions and the Australian set-up it is a stark fact that overseas investment is the only thing that is keeping us from national bankruptcy. The Budget also fails to provide any answer to the increasing problems of our primary producers. It also refuses to face the fact that our lower and middle income earners are worse off today than they were in the past, in spite of wage and salary increases. The $1 is not buying as much today as the same amount bought years ago. Many people today would like to see a federal price control system introduced, with wages, costs and prices fixed and guaranteed, as was the case during the war years. But when the Australian people defeated the 1948 referendum on prices control they cut from under their feet the Commonwealth’s power to do anything regarding price control. That was the worst decision that the Australian people have ever made. They were conned into it when the then Mr Fadden and the then Mr Robert Gordon Menzies tramped around the countryside scaring the life out of the people by talking about Canberra control. They are the guilty men, I say, when people ask me whether we can get price control back again on a federal level. The Budget makes no attempt to control or to contain the insidious rise in costs. I would like to hear, the comments of the honourable member for Mallee (Mr
Turnbull), who represents a farming area like I do. My electorate covers more than half the island of Tasmania. It is a great rural electorate that I am proud of, with twenty-three different kinds of agriculture. It has just had 1,200 square miles added to it in the redistribution.
– You must have had a small electorate before.
– It still covers more than half the island - 13,000 square miles. I want the honourable member for Mallee to tell me how the Government intends to contain the insidious rises in costs which are nagging the primary producer today. The primary producer cannot pass on costs any more than the wage earner or the superannuitant or pensioner can. Where is the justice in virtually pegging wages on the one hand and uncontrolled prices going sky high on the other hand? There is no sanity or justice in the system we are living under in Australia at this moment. Wages are pegged over great periods of time, even up to a year or 2 years; but prices are not pegged and costs arc not pegged. So here we have an imbalance in the economy. The editorial in the ‘Australian’ of Thursday, 15th August, after referring to the lack of national direction in the Budget and the genuine hardships faced by the needy, the sick and the aged, had this to say:
The Budget would have been the instrument by which the Government set about a defined redistribution of the nation’s wealth to eliminate genuine hardship in these areas.
That refers to the sick, the aged and so on. The editorial continues:
Irrespective of what has happened to pension values in the past few years, this would surely have meant that they should rise this year by as much as overall demand. This they will not do, assuming the official estimate of demand to be correct.
Let me comment on this. It is idle to talk about a defined redistribution of the nation’s wealth to eliminate hardship in these areas in the presence of a government which sneers at a planned economy and whose big supporters talk about free enterprise as though it were a golden calf to be worshipped. Let us never forget that the basic conception of Liberal Party philosophy is laissez faire which, being translated, means ‘Let her go’. It means, in other words: ‘Let the economy grip. Never mind about controls. Let it go’. That is the literal interpretation of the words ‘laissez faire’. Controls are used by this Government only when things suddenly go wrong and get out of hand. The philosophy of the Government is still a hit and miss affair, using the Reserve Bank now and then like a huge bulldozer as its main weapon to dampen down the spending at crisis times.
There is no genuine economic planning by this Government at all. It moves in fits and starts, in booms and depressions, and credit squeezes and the like. The redistribution of the nation’s wealth is an economic impossibility where this Government is concerned. What is actually happening in this country is that the rich are getting richer, the big man is getting bigger, the little man is getting smaller, and the poor man is getting poorer, which is the survival of the fittest in true jungle law. It is a distribution of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, not a redistribution from the wealthy segment to the less wealthy segment of the nation.
This policy of redistribution of wealth would strike at the very heart of the laissez faire, free enterprise principle that is worshipped by this Government. The Liberal Party would not have a bar of any policy which might upset ‘let her go’ economics. All except starry-eyed Liberals know there is no genuine free enterprise left in Australia. This is the day of the takeover, monopolisation and the big man. Free enterprise as we knew it in the old days is fast dying out.
How will some of the increases in sales tax affect the people? This tax will now bring in $495m a year to the Federal coffers. It is a subtle, silent, sneak thief tax which hits pensioners and superannuitants and wage earners much harder than the wealthier and more fortunate people. Thu sneak thief sales tax has no respect for persons because if a pensioner and a business manager, executive or a big shot tycoon goes in and buys a piece of soap, they both pay exactly the same increased price. This is how wicked, unfair and unjust sales tax is. It hits the poor harder than the rich because the poor cannot afford the increase. The general rate of sales tax has been increased from 121% to 15% in this Budget. All goods carrying 124% sales tax will be affected. My colleague, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Curtin), in a bright, breezy, hardhitting speech a while ago, listed some of these items. He mentioned paper products, sweets, soft drinks, ice cream, soaps and detergents, whisky, gin and other spirits - that will be pretty hard on whisky and gin drinkers - imported wines and beers, typewriters, office furniture and equipment, polishers, lacquers, disinfectants, some cordials, musical instruments, canvas goods, ropes, sporting goods, travelling cases and other leather goods, crystallised fruit, novelties and cake decorations. Printed matter includes stationery, invitations, greeting cards and wrapping paper; so the cost to the community of these items will go up.
Let us have a quick look how some of these items will be affected. Parents will pay at least lc more for all school exercise books; pencils, pens, rulers, blotting paper, rubbers and pencil cases will be dearer. That is running up the cost of education to the family man everywhere. The cost of tubeless tyres for Holdens and Falcons will rise 53c. Retreads for Valiants, Holdens and Falcons will go up by 27c, and spare parts will rise also. Thus the already overtaxed motorist will be further weighted down; he will be like Atlas carrying the nation on his back. I condemn the way in which the sales tax increase will strike at sporting equipment and confectionery and soft drink manufacturers. The cost of the highest grade tennis racket will rise by 95c, golf buggies by S2, footballs by 55c. Already an Australian Rules Sherrin football costs $8. Being the President of a football club in Tasmania 1 know the tremendous cost of footballs to our club. Some clubs cannot afford it. as can the big clubs. Yet 55c more will be added to the cost of footballs. The price of a $60 bicycle will go up by $2 and lawnmowers will go up by $3.
Another vicious impost is the charge on air travellers to help pay for aerodromes. An extra $1 for a flight anywhere between Commonwealth aerodromes and $2 for departing international passengers is to be imposed. This latter impost will keep some people away from Australia. In Tasmania, where so many of us travel by air because it is the quickest and easiest way, we will be hard hit by this impost. I have a very interesting question for the Treasurer to answer. He has not said in the Budget whether children will have to pay the extra $1 as well as adults. If they do, it seems a very disproportionate impost on the children. Put it this way: $1 added to the fare from Launceston to Melbourne, which is $16.80, is approximately a 6% increase. An increase of $1 on a half fare of $8.40 for a child represents an increase of 12%. This would affect the cost of school educational tours to the mainland and from the mainland to Tasmania, because air travel is the only practical way for a party to cross Bass Strait. Sea bookings are not practicable, as they have to be made so far in advance. I raised this matter to see whether the Treasurer could tell me if there was to be a 1.2% increase in the air fare for a child travelling from Tasmania and vice versa, or whether the increase was to be wiped out. I humbly suggest, as an Opposition backbencher, that children’s fares should not be affected by the imposition of this vicious charge. 1 want to refer to the plight of our primary producers. The Budget provides for an increase of $2 in the superphosphate subsidy, bringing it to $8 a ton. That is very welcome. The superphosphate bounty will be extended until 1971. Compound and trace elements will enjoy the same rate as superphosphate. This will cost $ 1 3m more in this coming year. This was part of Labor’s policy in 1963 and the idea was stolen by the Liberal Parly. The moreI talk to primary producers the more I realise that they face the future with trepidation. No political party and no government can afford to neglect the primary producers, who are responsible for raising 70% of our overseas earnings. They also create a livelihood for 995,000 people who live on rural holdings in Australia. They help to keep secondary industry healthy and strong. As an example, over 1,100,000 machines and pieces of equipment were built last year in Australian factories for our primary producers. The primary producers sustain hundreds of towns and thousands of business people. They feed the Australian nation as well as millions of people overseas. We must continue to maintain subsidisation and stabilisation schemes at the Federal level, grant bounces judiciously, provide adequate finance, conduct market research overseas and provide taxation relief to keep our primary production in a healthy state. If prices start to go downhill and the primary producers start to suffer, then the whole nation will suffer within a very short period.
The wheat stabilisation scheme introduced by the Chifley Government has been continued by this Government. It has lifted the wheat farmer out of fear, insecurity and exploitation and has given him a new way of life such as my father and thousands like him never knew in the 1930s. The Government has readily continued the underwriting of equalisation values for butter and cheese at last year’s levels to enable factories with average manufacturing costs to continue to pay producers 34c per lb for commercial butterfat. We appreciate this action, although the industry is now heading for a nosedive.
The wool industry is moving towards the idea of establishing a statutory wool marketing authority. Big sections of the industry believe thai such an authority should be introduced by the Government without a referendum. Honourable members opposite may not know but that is Labor’s policy. An article in (he ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 16th August headed ‘Campaign to Bypass Wool Referendum’ and written by a staff reporter, states:
A campaign to have the Federal Government legislate for a .statutory wool-marketing authority without a referendum of growers is gaining support.
There was a hig vote of 37 lo 17 in favour of a statutory marketing authority by delegates of the Australian Wool and Meat Producers Federation at the Australian Wool Industry Conference. So the wool industry is coming round to this idea. I hope the Government will have the courage to introduce a statutory wool marketing authority without worrying about a referendum. This would be the right thing for the industry.
The Australian apple and pear industry is the last big industry without a stabilisation scheme. This affects my State of Tasmania very much. A stabilisation scheme must come very soon because this industry experiences the vicissitudes of freight charges, weather hazards, marketing uncertainties and long transportation routes in a more vicious way than does any other industry. The Tasmanian A.L.P. Rural Committee is working out such a scheme now. The dairy industry is facing critical days, as is clearly shown by recent facts conveyed to Senator Devitt by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Anthony). 1 have not time to quote the reply to a question asked by Senator Devitt but it does show that the position is not too good overseas for our dairy products. The price of Australian Kangaroo brand butter in the United Kingdom was reduced by 20 shillings sterling per hundredweight initially for a month, from 11th July, as a special promotion effort. This will be continued, because a lot more butter is being sold and it is a good move. The reply from the Minister states:
Dumping on that market by the European Economic Community is controlled by import quotas imposed by the British Government at the request of the Australian and New Zealand Governments under the terms of Trade Agreement preferences which have operated wilh Britain since 1932.
There has been a reduction in the export price for spray dried skim milk. It has been progressively reduced from §276 per ton f.o.b. prior to October 1967 to $162 in July 1968. There was an over-carry of about 13,000 tons of this milk powder last season. The price of Australian cheese has fallen from 270 shillings sterling to 225 shillings sterling per hundredweight since the beginning of March this year, and so on. This is a very critical story.
There are fears among the dairymen about the Government’s S22m dairy rationalisation scheme. Plans for this scheme have not yet been brought before the Parliament but a lot of meetings have been held to discuss it. The fate of about 3,000 socalled uneconomic dairy farmers is at stake. The Government wants to wipe out the uneconomic dairy farmer and amalgamate his area with that of the big dairy farmer next door. Let us look at this matter quickly. If this revolutionary step is taken in the interest of the god called efficiency, dairy men fear that the concentration of efficiency on fewer dairy farms could so increase production that a further pile-up of unsold exports could result. This could further depress prices and returns and the vicious circle could see economically efficient farms becoming uneconomic within 5 years of the scheme being introduced. This could easily happen. The best dairy farm in Australia is still the owner operated or family operated unit.
The New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement has not yet caused grave dislocations but we are watching its operation with a great deal of interest and concern as more and more peas and beans are coming into this country, as well as lamb.
– We are eating New Zealand lamb in the dining room. It is very good.
– We do not mind some of it coming here as long as it does not interfere with the production of our own people. According to the Minister, there is a safeguard to this effect in the Agreement. The interesting thing is that New Zealand is in a very favourable situation because of the devaluation of the New Zealand dollar. She is in a better position now, in August 1968, than she would have been in 1973 when the duty on all these items 1 have mentioned had been phased out. The duty on peas and beans is to be phased out over 9 years and the duty on lamb, mutton and cheese will be phased out over 8 years. Because of the 20% devaluation, New Zealand is now in a belter position to export economically than she would have been in 1973 without devaluation having occurred and because of her low cost ‘structure she is able to undersell us in respect of these items. I believe the Government will have to look at this situation much more quickly than it would have done otherwise, because New Zealand’s cost factor is 13c better now than it would have been when the duty was phased out in 1973.
At meetings of farmers which I have attended recently questions were raised which showed the concern that is being felt at the inroads of what are known in Melbourne as Collins Street farmers, in Launceston as Brisbane Street farmers and in Hobart as Macquarie Street farmers. These are people who are investing in farms as a. way to reduce tax payments. They are doctors, chemists, other professional men and business people who buy farms, clear and subdivide them and then sell them at a substantial profit. They are not farmers, they are speculators in land. They are upsetting the balance of agriculture in many areas.
This Government does nothing to discourage these investors from setting themselves up as farmers when they are really doctors, chemists, lawyers and the like. The instrument that can and should be used to stop this practice or reduce the incidence of it is the capital gains tax which operates successfully in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, lt is an intricate lax but it is very effective in reducing the lone star ranger speculator who, though not a builder or an estate agent, buys and sells houses; who, though not a broker or registered investor, buys and sells shares and stocks and bonds; who, though not a farmer; buys and sells farms.
Our farmers are worried. They believe the time is coming when genuine farmers will have to be registered in order to prove that they are bona fide primary producers. The Treasurer will have to take a closer look at these people. How long can they be allowed to exploit the tax deductions available to genuine farmers and to reduce their overall taxation payments in this way?
– Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I do not wish to take up the time of the House in replying to all that has been said this evening by the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie). I agreed with a number of his points, but there are certainly many of them with which 1 did not agree. I was surprised to hear his reference to the variation in pension rates. It would appear that he does not agree with the principle of helping those in need, because that is exactly what this Budget has done in relation to social service benefits. I congratulate the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) on bringing forward these proposals and being able to convince his Cabinet colleagues of the importance of those in need. I certainly do not go along with the ideas expressed by the honourable member for Wilmot. One might almost get him to agree to a proposition that a widow with a family is not worth any more than an ordinary pensioner.
The honourable member made many references to primary industries. These interested me greatly because I have just had a second look through the speech made last evening by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) and I find that although he spoke for about 1 hour and 7 minutes he never once used the words ‘agriculture’ or ‘primary producer’. The honourable member for Wilmot referred to the importation of lamb. I think one of his colleagues said by interjection that we have New Zealand lamb in the dining room in this Parliament House.It would be a surprise to me if that were so. The honourable member also said he did not mind New Zealand lamb coming in on certain conditions.I was wondering what his reaction would be if we had a glut of some other commodities that are grown in Tasmania, such as peas and beans. All 1 want to say on the question of New Zealand lamb is - I speak from memory but I think my figures are about right - that lamb production in Australia is running at the rate of about 220,000 tons annually. We imported from New Zealand about SOO tons.
– It was 600 tons.
– Well, correct me if you wish. It may have been closer to 600 tons. I am speaking from memory. No-one can convince me that the importation of such a small proportion of our total consumption will ruin the price of lamb in this country. This is not the reason for the low prices. There are many other reasons, of which I think the main one is that large quantities of lambs have been coming on to the market.
I want to make a few comments about the Budget, unlike some of my colleagues who have been speaking here during the last 24 hours.
– Your colleagues?
-I did not say what Party these colleagues belonged to. lt would be fair to say that this Budget is like many other Budgets that have been brought down in this place. We have heard it described in many ways. It has been called a social welfare Budget and a Budget with a hidden sting. But to my mind a fairly apt caption for it is a give-and-take Budget. It certainly gives. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition told us what the Labor Party would be prepared to do if it came to office, but he made no reference to the manner in which he would increase the revenue so that he could carry out this policy. This Government, being a sound and worthy one, naturally has in mind the importance of obtaining enough income to cover its expenditure. With this in mind it has embarked on certain money raising ventures. There are higher postal charges and higher charges for television licences. Company tax is higher and sales tax has been increased on certain items. The honourable member for Wilmot reminded us that air navigation charges have been increased. All I want to say in this connection is that I believe we should not at this time be throwing extra burdens on the smaller airlines operating outside the recognised main routes. I think some form of assistance to these operators must be considered in the not too distant future.
We do see some increases in benefits, and I have already referred to the increases in pensions. I congratulate the Minister on his achievement in having these increases included in the first Budget after he became Minister for Social Services. There are increases in pensions for war widows and children and in certain repatriation pensions. These are all very good, but it is unfortunate that the Government has not seen fit to increase all repatriation pensions as it usually does.
I want to query the wisdom of imposing increased taxes in the form in which this is done in the Budget. As I said a moment ago, we have a responsible Government which has found it necessary to raise more revenue. This is quite true, but I do not believe it is always a good thing to concentrate on indirect taxation, because this does have a tendency to increase the prices of many commodities. There has been no increase in general income tax which I believe is one of the fairest forms of taxation. Our rate of income tax has been fairly static for a long time. When there have been alterations they have consisted of an increase in one year and a reduction in the next. But there have been no alterations of any great extent.I suggest that in future we should consider increasing income tax and reducing indirect taxation.
As I said before, the Leader of the Opposition said nothing at all about how he intended to raise the funds necessary to implement his stated policies, but no doubt if he managed to win an election - which is somewhat doubtful - and found himself in a responsible position he would have to do something about this.
I want to speak now about the wheat industry. I represent one of the greatest wheat growing areas in Australia and J have a responsibility to place before the Government a few views on the situation of the wheat stabilisation scheme. 1 recognise the confidence that was placed in me when I was asked to represent the Wimmera wheat growers in this House. It is my responsibility, particularly in times of crisis such as we have now, to keep their views in mind and to place them before the people in authority. I give my assurance to the wheat growers that, when the time comes for me to decide whether I should support a proposal, if their requests are reasonable I will do all in my power to have them implemented. This is not a threat to the Government but rather a statement of fact. I am sure other members of the Australian Country Party think as I do.
Negotiations related to the wheat stabilisation scheme have been going on for quite some time but as yet without result. 1 have spoken to many people, from Ministers through to wheat growers, and 1 fear that some of the problems associated with the renewal of the wheat stabilisation plan are the result of decisions made in the top bracket. No doubt the Minister for Primary industry (Mr Anthony) finds himself in an awkward position. On the one hand the Australian Wheatgrowers Federation is asking for a fair deal, and all it is seeking is a fair deal. But as a Minister he must carry out the decisions of Cabinet. His role is to implement the decisions of Cabinet. The difficulty arises either because the demands of the wheat growers are too high or the assistance given by the Government, Cabinet, the Treasury or whoever it may be is too small. To my mind, this is the only difference between the two sides at present.
I want to give a few facts that may help us to decide who is the guilty party. The wheat stabilisation scheme commenced in the 1947-48 season, after years of wrangling, organising and planning. It is true that a Labour Government was in office at the time, but it was not the only party to the negotiations or the only party to participate in the various talks that were held from time to time. As with many schemes, there is always room for improvement. In the first year of the scheme the average export price of wheat was equivalent to 175.3c a bushel but the grower at that time received about 143.1c a bushel. So from the very first harvest the stabilisation scheme worked against the growers. However, the growers had an outlook that was broad enough to enable them to see the value of stabilisation and they agreed to the scheme.
The coalition Government until this time has always honoured the agreements as they became due for renewal. The broad principle was that the growers would receive the cost of production for all wheat consumed within Australia, the same price for the first 100 million bushels exported and world parity rates for the balance. The figure of 100 million bushels was increased to 150 million bushels 5 years ago, when the present stabilisation agreement commenced. It will expire later this year. In the event of the price being above the guaranteed price, the grower had to put into the pool a certain percentage. This was used as an emergency fund and was available when the price fell below the cost of production. These are the broad principles of the scheme and I will not go into the finer details of repayment and so forth.
All went well. The Commonwealth was not called upon to contribute one penny towards stabilisation until 1959-60. That is some 10 or 12 years after the inception of the scheme. Since then, it has contributed about Si 13m and it is expected that by the end of this financial year its contribution will be increased to $156m. I know some of my colleagues in the Liberal Party were surprised when they saw the amount in the Estimates for this financial year. Nevertheless, there are some reasons for it. I want to repeat now what I have said often and that is that in the first years the growers sold wheat to consumers in Australia at a price well below the price they could have secured on the open market.
I have here a Quarterly Review from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics for January 1968. It clearly sets out the actual prices that the growers received for their wheat on the home consumption market, the average export price and the average return on the wheat when it was finally pooled. I will give only one or two of the figures and these will serve as an illustration. In the first year of the scheme, 1947-48, the home consumption price was equivalent to 60.6c a bushel. The average export return was 175.3c a bushel. There was certainly a big difference. The average return to growers was 143.1c. This went on right through until 1956-57. The home consumption price then was below the average export price. In 1957-58, however, for the first time the home consumption price rose above the export price. lt has been reliably estimated that during that period the growers would have obtained about S390m if the home consumption price had been equivalent to the average export price. It would be reasonable to say that that figure would be very close to SI, 000m on today’s values. When the growers contributed this amount we certainly did not have inflation and money then would purchase more than it does today. Let me put it another way. The Government’s contribution to date of Si 13m is about 25% of the growers’ contribution. On the basis of the true value, it is about 1 1 % of the growers’ contribution. However, this was the growers’ insurance not against rain, storm or drought but against lower world prices and it was a satisfactory insurance while the Government honoured its pledge.
I say now that it is up to the Government to carry this through. The growers are entitled to assistance. The Government must take responsibility for the present price structure and the producers’ coSts. It is also the Government’s responsibility to share the load when it gets heavy because when times are good the Government as well as the primary producer benefits. I have stressed a case for the wheat industry, but I need not confine my remarks to that particular commodity. Many other primary industries, such as the dairy industry, the canned fruits industry and the wool industry, are in the same position. The fat lamb industry was mentioned a while ago. No doubt there are plenty of others.
– Dried fruits.
– Yes, dried fruits. I hope the position with that industry is not as bad as it is with some others. Primary production is rapidly approaching a crisis. Although costs are increasing every year, few products are increasing in value. Many countries that are recognised as producers of foodstuffs continue to subsidise their commodities. For instance, Canada has pegged rail freights for wheat at the 1899 level. That may surprise some honourable members, but that is what Canada thinks of the importance of being able to carry wheat to its destinations. Wheat growers are subsidised in the United States of America, France, the United Kingdom and many other countries. This tends to lower the world price of wheat, which is good for the consuming countries but not so good for the exporters. We have had to depend on the world market value for our chief exports, about 80% of which have been primary products. Inflation has now caught up wilh us. As we cannot revert to previous costs, we must live with the present ones. But how can we do this? The recent drought in the southern States has brought the point home very forcibly that if the farmers’ income is cut off this is reflected right throughout the economy. Local business houses are soon affected, bad debts increase and unemployment rises. It is only when the Government comes to the party financially that we see any easing of the unemployment situation. At the present time over 2,000 men are’ employed in western Victoria on special drought aid programmes. If this avenue of finance were cut off the official number of unemployed would rise tremendously in that part of Australia.
I was surprised to read in this morning’s Press a statement by the Premier of Victoria to the effect that he thought that the grant that was officially announced yesterday afternoon by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) was a loan. That statement is very misleading because the estimate of loans to Victoria for this financial year is $5,210,000; for freight rebates it is $400,000 and for unemployment - a direct grant - it is $5. 2m, making a total of almost Slim. I hope I have made that point clear.
Primary producers do not wish to live on drought relief indefinitely. I believe that the Government must find an answer to droughts. The recent drought is over but the price of goods is too low in comparison to costs. The decision of the United Kingdom Government to devalue sterling has certainly hit the primary producer. I think that the position has been reached in Australia where consideration must be given to reviewing the earlier decision not to revalue. The views of the Leader of the Australian Country Party and Minister for Trade and Industry (Mr McEwen) on this subject are known. He has implied that Australia may eventually have to follow the lead of the United Kingdom Government or that the Commonwealth Government will have to make up the losses of the industries that have been affected. If I had sufficient time I would read a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Industry on this subject but unfortunately, 1 do not have the time.
I now briefly touch on costs. Why are costs so high and how do we cope with them? Australia is rapidly turning into a country of secondary industries. This is good to a degree as we must find work for our people. Australia’s mineral production is increasing at a rate that is far higher than anyone would have dreamed of a few years ago. I believe that this is good but for one thing, inflation, the whole basis of which is too big a demand for too few goods. The development of Australia’s mineral fields is putting a demand on the immediate economy - a demand on the labour force and a demand on the goods within the country. There are two forms of assistance to an industry - a subsidy or a protective tariff. Many of our secondary industries are protected by tariffs. This is borne out by the figures contained in the Treasurer’s Budget speech, where we find that customs duty collected in 1967-68 was S325m whereas expenditure of bounties and subsidies was only $180m. I hasten to add that only part of this latter figure was of direct assistance to the primary producer. For instance, the subsidy for petroleum search and petroleum products this financial year is SI 9m, for ship building it is $11.6m and for gold mining it is $4. 3m. These are just a few of the industries that are not directly concerned with the primary producers of this country and yet we hear people say from time to time that subsidies are paid only to the primary producers such as the wheat grower, dairy farmer and the sugar grower.
In the few moments available to me I want to refer briefly to the proposed introduction of drought bonds. I think that the Government’s proposal is excellent. Drought bonds were first suggested by some of my Country Party colleagues who carried out an investigation into the conditions during a big drought in northern New South Wales and Queensland a few years ago. Broadly, primary producers will be able to invest money in good years, without paying tax in the year of earning, and use the money in times of drought or adverse seasons. Tax will be payable in the year of usage. I am looking forward to seeing what the actual details of this legislation will be. However, I assure the Government that the introduction of drought bonds is certainly appreciated by many primary producers in the Wimmera district, as is the increased superphosphate bounty of $2 a ton.
A few moments ago the honourable member for Wilmot said that the drought bonds scheme was another one of the ideas that the Government has stolen from the policy of the ALP. Is the first person to speak up entitled to claim that an idea is his? If the Government wants to increase pensions is it prevented from doing so because an increase was suggested by the ALP? I am sick and tired of hearing this claptrap from the Opposition that the Government has stolen part of its policy. I think it all boils down to one word, jealousy.
I cannot let this opportunity go by without saying how disappointed I am with the proposals in the Budget for the carrying out of further work by the Postal Department. The Budget does contain a proposal to increase certain postal charges, thereby increasing revenue by something like $7m in a full year. I am sure that many telephone subscribers are disappointed that the Postmaster-General has not yet seen fit to remove the anomaly regarding the upgrading of telephone lines connected to country automatic exchanges. I have pointed out before in this House that the extra cost involved in removing this discrimination would be so small that the Department should be obliged to remove it. There are two simple methods that I can think of, and no doubt the Department would know of other means. One way would be to increase the number of units now involved and so take the departmental lines further. The other way would be for the Department to erect all the line for a reasonable distance and charge rentals in accordance with the distance involved. This would still certainly discriminate against the person residing a long distance from the exchange but it would be an improvement on present conditions.
I appreciate that the Department has many projects on hand for the general improvement of telephone services but I can see no more urgent measure than to provide a 24-hour service to all subscribers living within a reasonable distance of a parent exchange. The services should be upgraded to the general standard at a reasonable cost. The honourable member for Bradfield (Mr Turner) frequently refers to the poor telephone services in the metropolitan area but his complaint is negligible when compared with some country services where subscribers are permitted to use their telephones on week days from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. until mid-day and not again until Monday. We hear much about decentralisation and overcrowded cities but when it comes to doing something practical we get the same old answer -It cannot be done because of the cost’.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– It is not my intention to cover the ground that has been traversed by the previous speaker, the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King), because undoubtedly he was speaking to the people he represents. Probably this is the appropriate time for members of Parliament to raise mattersthat directly affect their constituents.I do not intend to talk about primary producers because I have had no complaints from the squatters in my electorate. I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) last night andI agree with his speech on the Budget. He covered a wide field and pointed out the inadequacies of the Government in many fields and the effects of those inadequacies upon the community in general. He drew attention to many anomalies that exist in the community.
I am surprised at the way in which the Budget is prepared by the Government or its advisers because it does not benefit many people in the community. Supporters of the
Government say that certain sections of the community will benefit, but the majority will not benefit. The people who helped draw up the Budget - the Treasurer’s advisers - seem to be way out of touch with the needs of people who do not live in the Australian Capital Territory. The public servants who live in the Territory do not have the problems that are encountered in other major cities of the Commonwealth. A vast sum is expended annually in the Australian Capital Territory. I would probably agree with some of the expenditure, but there is much with which I do not agree. Millions of dollars are spent here, and I would appreciate$1m of it being spent in my electorate to assist people who are in great need.
This is a badly prepared Budget. Certainly it gives a little and it takes a little, but most people receive nothing. There is no doubt in the minds of the people of Australia that the Government has little understanding of the needs of the Australian people. While our gross national productivity is increasing, the living standards of the workers are decreasing. The continuing spiralling cost of consumer goods is creating an undue burden on the wage earner. Whereas the cost of some goods has risen the cost of other goods has remained static, while the weight of the goods has decreased. Those people who do the family shopping will know that while some containers still are of the same weight the prices have risen whereas with other containers the prices have remained static while the contents have decreased in weight. The people are not receiving justice in the purchase of commodities.
The States are being sadly neglected by the Government. The Commonwealth Government, which controls the nation’s purse strings, always seems to have ample finance for its works but the States are finding it hard to exist on the meagre handout they receive from the Commonwealth and as a result the community in general is suffering. Schools are crying out for more money. We have insufficient teachers. The States require more finance for urgent capital works, and last night the Leader of the Opposition referred to sewerage works. Local governments are complaining that they have insufficient money for their needs. There is a general outburst from the States that insufficient funds are being made available by the Commonwealth Government. The States’ loan borrowings are increasing all the time while the Commonwealth’s borrowings are decreasing. This is an indication of the Government’s attitude to the needs of the States.
New South Wales is disadvantaged because the Government has refused to give it the finance it requires to carry out essential priority works. Until there is a change of government and a more socialistic government which will be more sympathetic to the States is elected, the situation will continue. I cannot see how pressure can be applied to force the Government to the situation where it makes more money available to the States at the annual conference of Premiers. As 1 see it, the situation will continue and, unfortunately, the people will suffer as a result. The Government is becoming more arrogant. During the past few months we have noted the attitude adopted by certain Ministers of the Crown. I instance the attitude of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Bury) when there was an increase in the Metal Trades Award. The Treasurer undoubtedly has tried to direct the judges of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to take into consideration the Government’s policy when they are deciding what is a fair and just reward for the workers of this country. No responsible Minister should give a direction to any court that is determining what is fair and just for the workers of Australia. If the Ministers are to continue to make such statements we cannot expect the workers to support our arbitration system. In making these statements Ministers are doing an injustice to the people. I do not know whether the Prime Minister or Cabinet has ever considered this matter but I believe that some direction should be given to Ministers to be more careful about their remarks.
Many honourable members on the Government side of the House have praised the Government for bringing down what has been called a ‘social services Budget’. There have been some increases in social service benefits but they have not been wide enough or big enough. Pensions have not been increased for 2 years but are now to be increased by SI. Once again there is to be discrimination against married pensioners. A married pensioner is now receiving far less than is paid to a single pensioner. I do not know where the Government gets the idea that two can live as cheaply as one. Some of those people who help to prepare the Budget should try to live on the hand-out given to pensioners. There is no doubt that the pension is totally inadequate. As far as social services are concerned the Government is ignorant of the economic needs of pensioners. In its ignorance the Government is not aware of the extent of poverty and hardship in Australia. When Opposition members have urged the Government to conduct a survey into poverty in Australia the Government has replied that the universities or some other bodies are conducting surveys into poverty and that in the Government’s view another survey is not warranted. The Government does nothing to eliminate the poverty that exists in the country. The only war which this Government does not favour is the war on poverty.
In the Budget age and invalid pensions are increased by the same amounts but anybody who knows the problems of pensioners will know that age pensioners and invalid pensioners are faced with significantly different problems. Whilst many pensioners are in good health, many more are in bad health, especially those in receipt of the invalid pension. Because of the illness from which they suffer many invalid pensioners are placed on special diets by their doctors but unfortunately they are unable to afford the extra foods so necessary for their wellbeing. As a result, their health deteriorates and most probably they are just left to die. The Government should provide extra supplementary assistance for invalid pensioners who require special foods. The Government should help these people to obtain the things that are prescribed for them by their doctors. Naturally one’s income governs what one can buy. We have all seen the television commercial which tells us: ‘No cheap tea for me; flavour is more important than price’. This may be true, but the fact remains that price will determine the brand and the quantity of anything that we buy. People who cannot buy the best must live on the cheapest. They must go for the specials because they do not have sufficient to buy the best quality.
If ever an injustice were perpetrated in this country it has been perpetrated on the wives of invalid pensioners. The Budget provides for an increase of SI a week in the allowance paid for the wife of an invalid pensioner. This is a poor way to treat these women. The Government is not even treating them as second-class citizens; it is treating them as third-class citizens. The Government cannot see its way clear to pay them even the married pensioners’ rate. These are dedicated women. In many cases they must be nurses to their husbands, on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The allowance paid in respect of the wives of invalid pensioners should be increased to at least the equivalent of the age pension. 1 do not know how most Government supporters feel about this matter but I think we should be ashamed that we are treating these women as third-class citizens. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth) will do something for these unfortunate people because in my opinion if anybody were ever in need of assistance it is the wife of an invalid pensioner. There should be no second-class or third-class citizens in this country. We know that some people are treated in this fashion, and something should be done about it. It is up to the Minister and his advisers to do something to improve the position of these people. Let the Minister and his advisers try to live on the pension. Let them pay SIO a week for a room, as some pensioners in my electorate do, and live on the rest of the pension. No wonder pensioners are living on dog food. No wonder they are forced to eat Pal - the only pal they have at meal time. Let the Minister and his colleagues see what pensioners are forced to eat. Their only nourishment is what you would feed to your dog. This is how we treat our pensioners. The Government should be ashamed of itself.
We are spending millions of dollars on the Fill aircraft. Nobody knows what the final cost will be. Who will ultimately pay for these aircraft? Government supporters call this a social services Budget, but how many sections of the community in need of assistance have been forgotten by the Government? Was endowment for the first child increased? What about the maternity allowance, particularly in view of the high cost of rearing children and the high cost of confinements? Was the funeral benefit increased? The cost of burying a deceased relative is a great burden on many people. One grave injustice in the Budget was the Government’s failure to increase the sickness benefit. This has not been increased since I entered the Parliament.
– And the unemployment benefit.
– There has been no increase in the unemployment benefit. How does the Government expect a person to live on S8.25 a week if he is out of work or has been forced to go into hospital? This is utterly ridiculous in the community we are supposed to have today. No consideration is given to these people. The Government merely tells us what sort of Budget it is presenting. I believe that we ought to consider these matters. I do not know whether many honourable members have received a copy of a booklet that I received. It is entitled ‘The Sunset Struggle’, and was prepared by A. R. Fox. This gentleman has done a fair bit of research into some of the problems confronting those unfortunate people who depend on social service benefits. If honourable members on the Government side of the House were to sit down for half an hour and read this booklet, they might be enlightened about the majority of the problems that confront these unfortunate people today.
I know that the Minister for Social Services has been one of those who have been greatly outspoken on the needs of the unfortunate people in this community, and I do not doubt that he has put his cane before Cabinet. Unfortunately he has been outvoted by his Cabinet colleagues and he has not been able to obtain for the people whom he serves what he feels would do them justice. I do not put the full blame on the Minister, because I believe that lie has been sincere in his actions on behalf of these unfortunate people. As I said before, he has been overruled by the Cabinet. As a result, these people are suffering. I ask Government supporters to take half an hour to read this booklet and to enlighten themselves on some of these problems.
I believe that one of the major matters that concerns pensioners today is housing. Members of Parliament, especially from areas such as the one I represent, each week receive representations from pensioners who seek accommodation at reasonable rents. Unfortunately, in the Sydney city area where I live, we have few charitable organisations which can afford to buy or purchase land and qualify for a grant under the Aged Persons Homes Act in order to build homes for these unfortunate people. In the City of Sydney there are very few such homes. To my knowledge only one home erected in my electorate has qualified for the Government’s handout. As a result, these unfortunate people are in need of accommodation. We know that the lists of the Housing Commission of New South Wales continue to grow as a result of the number of these unfortunate people who put their names down. These people are told that they might have to wait for 5, 6 or 7 years before they can receive adequate accommodation. This is much too long. I believe that unless some sort of crash programme is adopted by the Commonwealth Government to provide these people with houses, many of them will die in the rooms in which they exist at present.
Another major problem confronting the States at present is education. We know that there is inadequate finance for the building of schools. I estimate that in New South Wales .we require at least another 1,500 school rooms to adequately accommodate the State’s school children in a decent environment. I believe this is a conservative estimate. We know that education plays a very important part in any developing country. We should see that decent educational facilities are provided for the children in all States. We know also that there is a shortage of teachers. There has been an outburst by the New South Wales Teachers Federation which complains that when teachers become sick there are not enough replacements. The education of the children suffers as a result of this shortage. Furthermore, hundreds of teachers leave the country every year to teach overseas. We have no replacements for them. Of course, the Budget will make some provision on this occasion for teacher training. But we do not have sufficient teachers atthe moment. The reason for this is this Government’s failure to provide sufficient finance. We want to see that teachers are adequately trained. We want to see proper equipment provided in schools for children.
We want to see decent assembly halls provided where children can meet, listen to talks and put on their plays. But we find that these facilities do not exist in many schools. Recently during Education Week, I visited a school at which the girls had spent 5 months practising a play. They had to put on the play in a courtyard which had no amplifying facilities. Although the girls had spent so much time rehearsing to put on the show for their parents, unfortunately many of the parents could not hear their performance. This would not have happened if the school had had a proper assembly hall. These things may not appear to be important to the Parliament but 1 believe they are important to the children at school. After all, these are the people we ought to be concerned about.
We know that health is being neglected. Many people in many sections of the community cannot afford to be sick. They cannot afford to belong to a hospital fund.
– What is the percentage?
– The following information may be of interest to the honourable member. Senator McClelland in another place, asked a question on notice in which he sought information about the sums that had been written off by public hospitals because patients could not afford to pay for their hospitalisation. It amazed me to see that in 1966-67 over $6m had to be written off by the hospitals.
– -There would be more than that swinging, too.
– There would be. These are the latest figures that I have. They are given on a State basis. In public hospitals coming within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, 825,142 had to be written off for the period from 1st July 1967 to 30th April 1968 because people could not afford to pay for their hospitalisation. The honourable member for Griffith asked about the percentage. I suppose that 30% of Australians are not insured in hospital funds. Many of them cannot afford to join these funds. To qualify for the maximum repayments of the hospital and medical funds a contributor has to pay about $80 a year. This is what it costs a person just be be a member of a fund. He then has to pay a portion of the doctor’s fee and then has to pay a fee for a prescription.
– A big percentage of those come from Queensland, where there is free hospitalisation.
– The hospitalisation may be free, but I am not speaking about one individual State. I am speaking about Australia in general. 1 think that we have to look at what is good for Australia. The scheme in Queensland was introduced by a Labor government. We will get free hospitalisation again in the other States when a Labor government takes over after the next Federal election. There was free hospitalisation in public wards when the Labor Government was in office in the Commonwealth.
The other important matter to which 1 refer is the warning given to doctors by the Minister for Health (Dr Forbes) when he was addressing the Australian Medical Students Association in Adelaide on 20th May 1968. He warned doctors against overcharging, over-prescribing and over-visiting of pensioner patents. I do not know to what extent a doctor overcharges or what we consider is a reasonable fee which a doctor should receive for his services. This is decided by the medical association itself over which the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction whatsoever. But I believe that the Government has some influence on how many visits a doctor makes to a pensioner. I believe that in the vast majority of cases, if a pensioner is genuinely sick a doctor goes along to see him and gives him the treatment which he requires. If, as the Minister has said, some doctors are seeing pensioners who are not sick, then the Government has a duty to do something about it. But I do not believe that it should say to the doctors: ‘Do not go along to see pensioners. It is costing too much money to look after pensioners and we do not want to put this burden on the Australian taxpayer.’
Order! The honourable member’s time has expired.
– I support the Budget and I intend to vote against the amendment moved by the Opposition. I think that T could well be expected to do that if for no other reason than that, during the short time I have spent in this place and during my experience in a State parliament, I have never heard a weaker attack on a budget.
– Do not be so unkind.
– I never am. I am always meticulous to avoid it where possible. I have never heard so many apologies for inability to produce an argument against a budget. Let us look at what some honourable members opposite have said, because really and truly, it was wonderful. My friend, the honourable member for Wilmot (Mr Duthie), got up and said that he had no real complaint against the Budget because, frankly, there was not much about which he could complain. That was a strange start to his speech. He followed it with a rather rueful performance which went this way: He said: ‘It has been most mortifying sitting here in the Labor Opposition for 19 years and seeing all the ideas that we have put forward being incorporated in the Government’s budgets over the years’. What a strange way in which to attack a budget. I can very well understand his difficulty because the last two Budgets produced by the present Treasurer (Mr McMahon) have been very competent documents and they have been produced by a very capable and competent Treasurer. It is quite strange to find that the honourable member for Wilmot apologises for the fact that he has nothing on which he can really criticise the Budget. He did say that there are problems in primary industry. I do not think that he referred to apples, although he did refer to Australian rules football. To my mind, this Budget was a very happy compromise, in view of the imponderables with which the Treasurer and the Government have had to cope. I intend to touch on these matters more fully a little later on. I shall now deal with one or two remarks that were made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam).
In trying to clutch at some argument that would appear through the Press or over the air as being a valid one, the Leader of the Opposition obviously decided to keep off the subject of Federal matters altogether. He dealt almost entirely with State responsibilities. I think he did this rather well because, as we all know, he does not stand for federalism. He can be excused for adopting this attitude and discussing sewerage, roads, local government and all the other matters with which he dealt. What an anaemic, slothful, hopeless attack upon a budget by the Leader of the Opposition. 1 do not know whether honourable members on this side of the House read newspapers such as the ‘Australian* - I expect that honourable members opposite read them - but 12 months ago when the glamour boy of Australian politics made a statement on the Budget it was headlined across the ‘Australian’. How much coverage did he get in this morning’s ‘Australian’? There was one very small paragraph. That is how the Leader of the Opposition has sunk in 12 months. It is regretted by some of us who think that he is a good bloke. Are we responsible for this? I do not believe we are. Honourable members opposite have done it themselves.
– They are all asleep.
– Perhaps they are too much asleep to help him. Unfortunately, one must assume that the Leader of the Opposition is on the skids. For some time I have been saying to the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron): ‘Why do you not move him over if you have the numbers? You are not retaining very much by keeping him there because as soon as we go to the people we will say that you are keeping him there for expediency purposes,” and that is the truth. The honourable member has answers to a great many questions, but he does not seem to have an answer to this one. It seems to be a confusing matter in his mind. However, I now wish to touch on some of the matters contained in the Budget.
Before I do so I should like to comment on some remarks made by my friend the honourable member for Isaacs (Mr Haworth) who, unfortunately, has left the chamber. He offended me a Little when he spoke of the decreasing rate of external aid to developing nations. I am afraid that I cannot agree with him. It may be that he was looking at the total figures relating to external aid. I do not think he took into consideration the falling rate of externa] aid to Papua and New Guinea and the consequent increasing rate of aid to the more normally defined underdeveloped nations. The meeting of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development which was held in India recently unfortunately quite plainly conveyed the fact to the world at large that the United States of America, which was providing more than 50% of external aid, would not be approaching its normal totals for this year.
In spite of a comparison with other countries of the free world and with affluent countries which are adopting the same line as the United States, I believe that Australia’s effort in the field of direct help to developing nations has been of a very high order, i think that over the years, until trends alter, we will be able to claim some credit for this aid. 1 am reminded that depending on whether the aid is measured as a proportion of the gross national product or a proportion of total expenditure, Australia is second or third among countries providing external aid. If one assesses it as being entirely a grant from this country, I think it is undeniable that our effort pro rata is top in the world today. If it is said that this is primarily because of our responsibility for Papua and New Guinea, to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, one could counter that argument by saying that the only other country which gets anywhere near to our performance is France, and most of its aid goes to the old colonial empire. Because this Budget is made against the background of highly unusual factors members who wish to take their positions seriously in this debate should not necessarily talk about the industries in their own electorate or indeed of electoral matters. This Budget is framed against conditions which are unrivalled in their importance to the nation of Australia. I believe there will be more discussion of industry and electoral matters during the Estimates debate and possibly more fitting concentration on the objectives - the philosophy of the Budget, the thinking behind it. and the imponderables I have mentioned.
Whether I am right or wrong I intend now to touch on the complex and difficult situations against which this Budget was evolved. I refer primarily to the problems of other nations, other economies, over which this Government and this country have no control. Internationally our principal difficulties revolve around capital inflow for a variety of investment purposes from the United States and the United
Kingdom, and to a lesser extent from other countries such as Japan. It is therefore necessary to have a generalised look at the economics of these nations. Firstly, the position in the United States continues to be one of fairly grave concern. America’s balance of payments gap is not narrowing.
The attempt to control capital outflow voluntarily has proved difficult to achieve. The recent UNCTAD conference to which I referred a few moments ago envisaged what is now a fact - the slowing down of the rate of American aid to developing nations. This is important to Australia when we consider the demand we hope, and anticipate, will come from these areas for some of our surplus production. The reduction of aid to developing countries is significant of the worry within America over its balance of payments. Furthermore, I think honourable members will agree that the President’s attempt to get legislation through Congress to raise more governmental revenue has had as its counterpoise a guarantee from the President that he will not retract American help and personnel from many overseas missions and United Nations agencies.
The old principle of external aid to developing nations coming back to a reserve currency in due course seems not to have the credibility that it had at one time. Therefore the problems that the Treasurer has had to assess include not only the fact that America may see fit to decrease capital flow into Australia and other developing nations but also the fact that America’s financial position might well mean in the future a surcharge on imports from other nations. Country Party members, many members on this side of the House, and some on the other side will be well aware of the problems that can beset Australia if our high currency earning industries are hit by a surcharge on exports to a country such as America. This is not the full magnitude of the problem, because today we see this peculiar triangular relationship between America, Japan and Australia based on composite interests and a level of production that is in many cases ancillary as between one country and another. If surcharges were to be placed on American imports one could expect the economy of japan to suffer immediately. If the economy of Japan were to suffer, naturally there would be a decrease in demand for Au-,tralian goods. I refer particularly to such goods as minerals, primary products and many other categories in relation to which we trade on a much more minute scale with Japan.
The economy of the United Kingdom is perhaps not so inter-dependent as are those of the nations to which I have referred but it is just as important to the future economic position and health of Australia. Apart from the United Kingdom demand for Australian goods such as dried fruit, canned fruit, wool, wheat and wines, the importance of the United Kingdom is primarily in the realm of capital inflow. I remind honourable members that although we experience a deficit on current account of more than Si, 000m the capital inflow during the last 12 months produced a surplus of S78m on our overall balance of payments. This position highlights the tremendous importance to the economy of this imponderable of capital inflow. If we were to analyse this position further perhaps it would be useful to have a look at table No. 5, covering the second quarter, of the Australian Economic Review 1968. With the concurrence of honourable members I incorporate in Hansard the following summary chart:
This table, which sets out a breakdown of capital flow into this country during the last financial year, demonstrates the tremendous increase in portfolio and institutional loan investment. I have been unable to find from the sources available to me a breakdown between portfolio investment and institutional loan funds. It is undoubted that portfolio investment - in other words money from private individuals purely poured into the Australian share market and called by some funk money, by others funny money - is a volatile type of capital inflow. It would introduce a problem if the Australian share market were to continue to rise to very high levels. It is probably that profit taking would occur if the share market were to rise. If this were so, the outflow, which could be quite massive, could seriously affect our balance of payments during another financial year.
Here is another imponderable, another difficulty, which the Treasurer and the Cabinet have had to face in preparing their Budget for this year. The honourable member for Scullin (Mr Peters) could be interested in the origin of much of the portfolio investment that is coming into the nation. Being an expert in this matter, he would be aware that it is coming in, as one is led to believe from the newspapers, primarily from the United Kingdom but some from Switzerland and other European countries. It is just as important to remember that the implications of the American business dollar are probably pretty important within the framework of this capital flow. In other words, the industrial might of the United States within Europe and England is such today that a lot of this private investment has America as its source rather than the United Kingdom itself. We are apt to believe that this private investment capital flows from the United Kingdom. This is another imponderable, another difficulty, in the light of which the Budget had to be framed and because of which, quite obviously, undue expenditure could not be incurred.
I want also to comment on the speech of the honourable member for East Sydney (Mr Devine), to a lesser extent on that of the honourable member for Wilmot, and to a major extent on that of the Leader of the Opposition. I suggest, in passing, that they were fruit salad speeches on a gigantic scale. The speakers wanted to give a little bit more to every sector of the community but at the same time they suggested that the Government did the wrong thing in increasing taxation, either directly or indirectly. The honourable members concerned were chasing their tails.
– Do you think that they were election speeches?
-I must admit that anyone who thought that speeches of that sort would make any impression on the more intelligent sections of the Australian population would need to have another look at the facts. I say that because increasingly the people of Australia are looking to the Federal Government for a lead in many ways. I noted that in my own State of South Australia great cognisance was taken of the fact that the Federal Government this year had slowed down its rate of increase of public expenditure. It seems vitally important to me that, if State governments do not get as much money as they imagine they need and that if demands from other sectors continue to occur, a responsible attitude has to be taken towards public sector expenditure by this Government. For 2 years running the Treasurer has demonstrated just this fact.
I note that throughout the evening there has been no mention whatsoever by Opposition members of the tremendous growth of Australia under a free market system and under Liberal leadership. There was absolutely no mention of this. On second thought, there was one mention. The Leader of the Opposition had a very interesting argument. He said that in spite of more scholarships at university level being given by this Government, there had continued to be a lower percentage of university students holding scholarships than there had been in some past year or some base year. What he said, of course, was that under this Government education at, that level had expanded to such a remarkable extent that the percentage had shifted.
Speakers on the Opposition side today tried hard to find an argument with which to attack the Government. They did not succeed. They were always forced to refer to matters which acted entirely to the credit of the Treasurer and the Cabinet at this time and matters which have acted to the credit of the Liberal-Country Party team over many years. I found this fantastic to listen to. In some ways, frankly, I deprecated the fact that their imagination was not slightly better and that they could not find a better field in which properly to attack and belabour the Government.I suppose that with the redistribution of electoral boundaries arising they have their worries. Even the honourable member for Scullin made remarks in his speech tonight which he might not have made if times had been different. Recently, when discussing alternate sites for the new and permanent parliament house, the honourable member could not agree with either site mentioned. However, one can understand his motives and difficulties.
The Treasurer has mentioned the high ingredient of capital equipment consequent upon investment in growth industries such as iron ore. bauxite and many others. The necessity for additional capital equipment is. of course, one of the facts of life that Australia must recognise and encourage over the years if our economy is to effect the desirable growth that we mentioned earlier and which the Opposition seems to have forgotten. This can mean over the years a decline in imports in relation to any decline in direct investment. An indicator would he the relative decline in funds from financial institutions overseas to finance mineral development in the year 1965-66. I think it is worthy of note that the principle docs not hold for portfolio investment which is only the purchase of Australian shares and is rather volatile in its makeup. That is as far as I have time to go at this stage on the subject of capital inflow. I have not dealt with any form of outflow.
I think it is important that the House recognises that difficulties in the economies el other nations have a direct effect on how far this Government has been able to go with expenditure. In the time remaining to me it is obvious that 1 must refer to the repeated requests we have heard from the Opposition tonight for increased expenditure in different areas. All honourable members have their own hobby horses that they feel should be recognised. I have listened to all except, 1 think, two speeches that have been made today and last night and as far as I can recall not one member of the Opposition has remembered the plight of those on a fixed income - those on rates that cannot move or bc adjusted easily - and the necessity to keep some check on inflationary pressures in this country.
This Budget, as well as intending to slow down the rate of development compared with last year’s Budget, nevertheless has a lot of inflationary factors in its makeup. T was fascinated last night to hear the Leader of the Opposition talk of budget programming and the necessity to look ahead, forgetting the inflationary tendencies that one could plot through last year’s Budget, for example in relation to the remarkable increase in retail sales. He looked at only this one Budget.
– That is a very good point.
– The honourable member seems to know a good deal about this subject, lt seems to me to be the height of illogicality to talk about long term planning and Budget programming and to criticise the Government within the framework of only one Budget without paying attention to the increase in retail sales and other very significant indicators, very significant from the point of view that with a deficit Budget last year there was an increase in the liquidity of the economy. But the Opposition has shown no recognition of that situation or of the importance to primary producing export earning industries of keeping inflationary pressures in check.
I should like to conclude my remarks by mentioning a totally unrelated matter which is put forward as a suggestion for future Budgets or for consideration on another occasion by Cabinet and the Ministry. I refer to paintings, sculptures and original prints and their position in Australia in relation to their position in other countries. If Australian galleries want to bring in artistic shows or exhibitions by prominent overseas artists they must put up a bond in advance to cover the sales tax which would be levied on those articles if they were sold in this country. In other words, they have to put down a surety or in some cases a bank guarantee. As long as the work is valued at more than $50 it can be imported free of duty but sales tax still applies. This refers to works by overseas artists.
If an Australian lives overseas for more than 7 years and paints there, when he brings his works back and sells them here they are subject to 12i% sales tax. With f.o.b. charges this can, in effect, be about 1 5% . Thi.-, applies not only to current works but even to artistic works and the like dating back to B.C. times. May I add that this is contrary to the practice with antique furniture which enters under an antique seal and is free of these duties. I notice that Mr Greenburg, a visiting American artist, was appalled to hear that this regulation still applies in a civilised country. In America duty is charged on frames but not on the artistic work within those frames. I believe that the requirement that applies in Australia was repealed in America in 1905.
Why has this provisionremained in this country and why should ii not be removed? If we look on Australia as a mature nation we should open up our Australian artto competition from art from overseas. We should not encourage the purchaser in Australia today to purchase an Australian painting simply because it is an Australian painting when it does not match up to the overseas equivalent. I believe that we are hoodwinking the purchasers within this country if we adopt this practice and that we would be doing Australia a lot of good if the sales tax were lifted.
In the few seconds remaining to me 1 would like to congratulate the Treasurer once again and to say how much I noticed the personality of the Prime Minister within the framework of this Budget.I congratulate him for this Budget andI have no doubt that over the years we will have from him more imaginative ideas and more constructive approaches to our economic problems.
Debate (on motion by Dr Patterson) adjourned.
Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Lucock)I have received a message from the Senate acquainting the House that Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood has been discharged from the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. I have received a further message from the Leader of the Government in the Senate that he has appointed Senator Withers to be a member of the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory.
Motion (by Mr Freeth) proposed:
That the House do now adjourn.
– I rise to direct the attention of the House to a matter of very serious concern in my electorate. Yesterday the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) made a statement on drought relief. He said that some forms of drought relief will be continued and that the relief which is used for the employment of persons affected by the drought will be continued to the end of September. In areas where drought relief money is being expended for employment there is considerable concern that this relief is to be cut off at such an early date. I think the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) will agree that there is considerable unrest in the rural areas of Victoria in the discontinuance of assistance to municipal authorities to provide employment for persons whose incomes have been reduced because of the drought.
I wish, however, to raise what I consider to be a far more serious aspect of the disposition of these funds. 1 refer to the position in the cities of Geelong, Geelong West and Newtown, which form part of the urban complex generally known as the City of Geelong. In all, three cities and four shires make up that urban complex. Some 66,000 persons live in the shires completely surrounding, except for a small part of the sea coast, three cities in which 46,000 persons reside. Because of the actions of the Prime Minister, which have been conveyed to me in a letter, and which are mentioned also in a letter forwarded by the Treasurer (Mr McMahon), drought relief funds provided for the purpose of assisting in relieving unemployment may not be used to relieve unemployment in those three cities.
This has meant that persons living in brick veneer housing commission homes in Newcomb, Corio or Belmont may seek and obtain employment on projects being carried out by their local government authorities whereas persons living in similar houses, and most likely employed in the same industries, but who live in the cities of Geelong, Geelong West and Newtown, merely because of the name given to the municipal area in which they live, are not entitled to these relief jobs. It is my opinion, and I think it is a proper one, that this is an instance of discrimination of the worst type. It makes no difference to the person who depends on his wage to feed, clothe and educate his family, whether he lives in an urban area called a city or an urban area called a shire.
In the first letter which was received from the then Acting Prime Minister (Mr McEwen) the reason given for the exclusion of the three cities I have mentioned was stated as follows:
I should point out that if there were such an extension of drought assistance arrangements in Victoria, it would be difficult to avoid similar extension of the arrangements with the other drought affected States.
What does it matter if it would be difficult to avoid similar extensions? If people in other States are similarly affected, they are just as much entitled to relief as are people in Victoria. The people of South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, or any other State are entitled to expect at least equal opportunities to relief from the effects of drought to those enjoyed by people in Victoria. The Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Deputy Prime Minister, who was Acting Prime Minister at the time, have all indicated that the Commonwealth Government did in fact refuse to allow drought relief money to be used for the relief of unemployment in the cities in the inner Geelong area.
On perusing Hansard of another place, however, 1 find that a Minister in that place, when replying to similar complaints there by Senator Poyser, made this rather interesting statement:
I point out to the honourable senator that normally when the Commonwealth decides to make a grant it provides funds to the State and it is then a matter for the State to decide where the money is to be apportioned. I am quite sure that is what has happened in this case. The honourable senator pointed out that Victoria received Slim as a grant for drought relief, but having received that amount it would be a matter for the Victorian Government to decide where the money was to be spent. If the Government of Victoria decided that Geelong was not to receive a fair share, as the honourable senator suggested has happened, then it remains a matter for that State. I cannot see how the Commonwealth Government can come into the matter.
Quite definitely the Prime Minister and his more senior Cabinet colleagues have found a way to exclude relief from an area containing 46.000 persons living in the middle of an urban area where 66,000 persons are in fact entitled to relief.
Geelong this year has had an extremely high ratio of unemployment caused by the drought because its major industries are dependent on rural industries. I will give the figures for the 3 months in the middle of the year to show how severe unemployment has been in the area. Before doing so, I point out that in the shires which make up the greater part of urban Geelong some 400 persons were employed on drought relief projects. So the seriousness of the situation can be seen. In April of this year 971 persons in the Geelong employment district were in receipt of unemployment benefit. There were 266 in Ballarat, which is about half the Geelong area, and 241 in Bendigo, which is about one-third of the Geelong area. Both Ballarat and Bendigo were allowed funds for drought relief. There were 2,631 people on unemployment relief in the Melbourne urban area. This meant that Geelong with one-thirtieth of the popuation of Melbourne had one-third of the number of persons receiving unemployment benefit. In the following month, May, 1,131 persons in Geelong and 2,982 in the Melbourne area were receiving unemployment benefit. Again Geelong had more than onethird of the number in the Melbourne area. In June, the last month for which figures are available, 1,093 people in the Geelong area and 3,348 in the Melbourne area were receiving unemployment benefit. Again Geelong had about one-third of the number of people receiving this benefit that Melbourne had.
This is a serious situation and should be viewed with a little more sympathy and a little more humanity by those who make the decisions. I do not believe that it is reasonable to decide who should and who should not be allowed to work on the basis of a description given to an urban area in a local government Act. The real basis should be whether a person is affected by drought and needs employment. That is the only consideration and 1 hope the Government will remove this anomaly before it becomes a precedent that is followed whenever a situation such as this arises in the future.
– I too have a problem in the neighbouring electorate of Lalor. Briefly 1 should like to mention the problem of decentralisation. Decentralisation has been described as everyone’s policy but no-one’s programme. Statistics reveal that the trend to centralisation is continuing. The proportion of people living in the huge cities continues to increase. Australia is now a more urbanised country than are most others. This is shown by the following table, which gives the percentage of people living within locations of more than 100,000 people:
Many words have been spoken, many miles have been travelled, many committees have met on this problem, but we make little progress. Young people are faced with the alternative of travelling up to 50 miles each day to work or leaving home to board in the city. Great opportunities exist in the cities. Opportunities do not exist in country areas unless one’s father owns a property or a business or one is able to obtain one of the few jobs offering. Today the problem is much the same as it was 30 or 40 years ago. Very little progress has been made. Many country parents have to face the prospect of losing their children to the city, unless the children are prepared to accept dead end occupations or are lucky enough to obtain one of the few jobs offering. This position should not arise in a country such as Australia where so many opportunities are offering and where so much progress is taking place.
Sometimes I travel by train from the country to Melbourne, and I ta k to some of these youngsters on the train. Some have been travelling to Melbourne each day for years. Most of the towns from which they travel have good streets, ample water supply and power and a good community atmosphere in which to grow up. But the towns are lacking in industrial opportunities. Wartime factories made good use of the local labour force in some of these towns, but mostly the factories were annexes to city factories. Some have closed up and their activities have been transferred back to the cities. 1 ask honourable members whether any real progress will ever be made in attempting to solve the problem. Do we ask ourselves why, despite incentives, country towns have great difficulty in attracting industry? Would the rural community prefer to maintain the status quo? Thinking people in country towns and parents of children who will be on the labour market soon are asking why more and more factories are being built in the new, outer, industrial suburbs and why developers are able to dispose of factory sites in large industrial subdivisions while the country towns drift further into obscurity. It - is wise planning to permit Melbourne and Sydney to have populations of 5 million at the turn of the century? Where does the answer lie? Will the cities continue to grow like Topsy?
Every year water and- sewerage problems increase. Smog and traffic problems also are increasing. The Victorian Government, with (he help of a committee, inquired into some of these matters. The committee recommended special treatment for the centres of Ballarat and Bendigo and the Latrobe Valley. A positive step in the right direction would be to put into effect the committee’s plan, but such a step will not solve the problems of the smaller country towns. I believe that the main factor in the solution lies with the local community in the smaller towns. I believe that the Government should sponsor local committees and attention should be- directed towards products which can be manufactured more efficiently in towns than in the city. The raw materials available on the spot and the capital available should be the main criteria. Perhaps the Commonwealth- Development Bank could assist here.
We have seen what has been done at Shepparton, where fruit is canned on the spot; at Camperdown and Colac, where dairy products are manufactured; at Morwell, where wood pulp is made into paper; and at Whyalla,, where iron and steel are produced. Why cannot more use be made of the facilities’ in towns near the forests so that timber can be milled cheaply? For instance, there is a tremendous demand for mouldings, scantlings, kiln dried timbers, pallets for the transport industry, etc. Why are most flour mills located in the .cities?. Very good reasons can be advanced for establishing industries, particularly industries requiring water, north of the Great Dividing Range in Victoria.
I wish to say something about the small towns on the periphery of Melbourne. As I said earlier, I am surprised that the young people are prepared to travel to the city, day in day out, to work. Winter or summer, hot or cold, they are up early to catch trains from as far afield as Seymour in the north east, Kyneton, Bacchus Marsh and Werribee. Towns along these lines are badly in need of industry. Towns that I know well are Whittlesea, Broadford, Kilmore and Gisborne. These towns are well situated on good roads, some of them on the railway line, and are less than 50 miles from Melbourne. Yet they are languishing for the want of an undertaking which could gainfully employ the labour which is available. The same is happening around other State capitals.
The town of Broadford is fortunate that the Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd has one of its mills located there. But with the increased capacity of new machines and the introduction of automation there have been staff redundancy, dismissals and early retirements. I think it can be said that the remaining staff feel insecure and people are wondering about the future. True, there has been a statement that this mill will be productive for some years. But when will the company come out with a bold statement that this mil) will take a major step forward? I believe that Australian companies, particularly those protected by tariffs, have an obligation to the community. I would request the Chairman of Directors of Australian Paper Manufacturers Ltd to come forward and say something that will give this district some confidence. Water could be a problem. If it is, why could it not be brought from the Goulburn River or some of the streams flowing to the north?
Small communities are inclined to ask what the Government is doing about these problems. Much more drive must be generated by the local community. Local committees should be formed to examine the potential of the area - raw materials, transport, markets, capital and management and labour requirements. I believe that governments could do a lot more to promote such committees. Strong effective industries could be built within the local concept if people had the drive, finance, imagination and more government backing. Governments must help by bringing together interested people and required resources, particularly where local councils and local communities show some interest. There must be some form of forced growth for a start until the centre can generate some growth of its own. Urgent action is necessary. Large sums of money may be needed, but this must surely be provided. Why not conduct an experiment at any rate? I appeal to the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) to try a pilot scheme during the next financial year. Surely S50m would not be too much for a pilot scheme to develop one or two strategic areas. We could then assess the results. Wisely spent, this could be a good investment in national development. I commend these proposals to the Treasurer and to the Government.
– Brevity is beautiful and even excellent in these circumstances so I do not intend to take more than a few minutes on this occasion. Earlier today we all were rather anguished at the news of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops and other troops of the Warsaw Pact countries. A number of questions were asked in this House concerning this matter and appropriate answers were given. A little later tonight a statement was released to the Press which could do nothing but fill one with anguish. This statement was released to the Press and apparently to the other newmedia by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Some of the salient points of that statement deserve analysis both for what they contain and for the reasons that caused other extraneous events to be included in what should have been a clear denunciation of the events that occurred in Czechoslovakia. I shall read the appropriate points of this statement to the House. The second paragraph reads:
Twelve years after Hungary, an eastern European nation is again victim of Soviet intervention-
To go a little further - while the democracies have been pro-occupied and prejudiced by their actions outside Europe.
The statement then contains a reiteration of the decision of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party made last week - a fair enough decision and a clear decision - that outside pressure against Czechoslovakia was not to be supported. The Leader of the Opposition went on: lt would be tragic if, by continuing her intervention, Russia were to precipitate a return to the Cold War of the 1950s. The most hopeful development in post-war history has been the detente between Russia and the United States since the Cuban crisis of 1962. Further improvement in their relations has been hindered by their involvement on opposing sides in Vietnam.
Russia has been emboldened to affront world opinion because America’s influence has been eroded in Vietnam. . .
The suspression of liberalism in Czechoslovakia would not have been attempted if peace had been secured earlier in Vietnam.
One would have thought that the statement by the Leader of the Opposition would have contained a clear denunciation of Russia’s actions without importing references to the United States in relation to circumstances in Czechoslovakia today. A clear attempt should have been made to denounce Russian and Warsaw Pact Communist aggression. The opportunity was passed by. He has preferred to seize the opportunity to bring the United States into the conflict in Czechoslovakia by laying on that country a degree of blame for the events that have occurred there. No other interpretation can fairly be placed on the statement, lt was obviously designed to hurl the United States and can have no other effect. Why should such a hedging statement be made about Czechoslovakia? Why should there be such equivocation? Why should the leader of the Opposition seek to justify events in Czechoslovakia by reference to the United States? His statement appears to me to be simply an attempt to bring anti-Americanism in;0 the Czechoslovakian situation.
The statement contains several points of view which should be considered, lt shows thai the Leader of the Opposition has taken up a most equivocal position concerning Czechoslovakia. He has clearly seized the opportunity to denigrate ihe United States in relation to current events in Czechoslovakia. If one followed through the line of thought of ihe honourable gentleman one would say: ‘After all, one could halfreasonably expect these events in Czechoslovakia, as the United States is involved in other parts of the world’. It is certainly an artificial exercise in logic. It is rather tragic that such a philosophy has been expressed in a statement which has been given to the Press.
Adopting the logic of the gentleman it could be said that events in eastern Europe could always be ascribed somehow or other to a post World War II decision by the United States to abandon her traditional isolationist policy. Why not blame Russian domination of eastern European countries since World War II on the United States? Why not place the blame for that situation on the United States’ decision to implement the Marshall Aid plan? Why not blame the East Berlin and East German riots of 1953 on American intervention in Korea in that year? That would be just as logical as to ascribe events in Czechoslovakia in 1968 to American involvement in Vietnam in 1968. Yet just that is what has been attempted. One could hardly be more distressed by a statement of the Leader of the Opposition. It is to be condemned for a host of reasons. Why involve the United States at all in a condemnation of Russia? Why single out the United States for criticism? In his statement the Leader of the Opposition has said: . . an Eastern European nation is again victim of Soviet, intervention while the democracies have been preoccupied and prejudiced by their actions outside Europe.
There is no democracy in Europe that is concerned in actions outside Europe. Europe has become isolationist; the United Kingdom has become isolationist. This statement clearly is intended to refer to the United States. I pose this final question: If blame is going to be directed at America, why not blame other democracies, and democracies that live in rather close proximity to Czechoslovakia? lt is the philosophy of this statement that is to bc deplored and one regrets very much that it has been made by the Leader of the Opposition. He has done a grave disservice to his party, lo his colleagues and to Australia.
– lt is true, as the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) said, that the Australian Labor Party made a decision last week, but 1 think he has misunderstood, or has deliberately tried to misinterpret, the meaning of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). For example, just because a man believes in peace in Vietnam a lot of people are willing to criticise him as being anti-American. 1 would remind the honourable member that one of the candidates for Democratic selection for President of the United Stales of America. Mr Eugene McCarthy, also believes in peace in Vietnam. The honourable member for Lilley who, I believe, is a practising Catholic, should remember that His Holiness the Pope has the same belief.
– Who does not believe in peace in Vietnam?
– That is just what I am saying. The honourable member for Lilley has misinterpreted the statement. He has spoken about anti-democratic institutions. I am just as much opposed to the ideology of Communism as I am to fascism. I oppose the regimes in Spain and Portugal but have we ever heard the honourable member for Lilley protest about the situation in those countries? Of course not. 1 criticise all totalitarian regimes whether they be Fascist or Communist. 1 believe that as people read the statement by the Leader of the Opposition, other interpretations, and more correct interpretations, will be placed on it.
I remember events that took place before I became a member of this Parliament. Prior to the 1949 election, some people, by malicious innuendoes, went so far as to sa that Ben Chifley was pro-Communist. A lot of members on the Government side who spoke about Ben Chifley in that manner were not fit to clean his shoes, let alone say that he was pro-Communist. We have had similar experiences extending over many years. We have had malicious innuendoes and back-stabbing. What I have said about what happened before the 1949 election cannot be denied. The rumour was spread everywhere that Chifley was pro-Communist. I can recall that just before a by-election in Wagga, following on Eddie Graham’s death, it was said that Joe Cahill was the leader of the pro-Communist Labor Party in New South Wales. Imagine anyone saying that the late Joe Cahill was a pro-Communist.
But these are the sorts of rumours that are spread just before an election. The honourable member for Lilley thinks that an election is pending and he is fearful for his seat. I think that part of my seat is to be abolished but I will not go around back-stabbing people in an effort to save it. The honourable member is afraid and he wants DLP preferences. A member should not stab a man in the back to get a few votes but that is what a lot of people did to Chifley prior to the 1949 election and that cannot be denied. If honourable members opposite sling a little bit of mud they must expect a little bit of it to splash back occasionally. If I wanted to indulge in personalities regarding what members opposite say inside and outside of the House I could do so, but I have no intention of doing so because I am not in the habit of trying to smear people or blackguard their personalities. People should wait until they see the statement by the honourable member for Lilley. They can then judge for themselves whether he was trying to make out that the Labor Party is anti-American. His suggestion was complete rubbish. Millions of people in the United States, including leaders of industry and politics, have the same views as the Australian Labor Party and are opposed to the war in Vietnam. Is it suggested that they are pro-Communist? Of course they are not. The honourable member for Lilley was trying to make out by innuendo that we are anti-American and that we are pro-Communist. So far as 1 am concerned, he can go to hell.
– I. too, heard with anguish the news that troops from Russia and countries under her hegemony had entered Czechoslovakia today, abruptly ending any dreams of future freedom the Czechoslovak people might have had. Like many people who live in the free world, I value in the highest possible degree individuality and the freedom of the individual to express his views and aspirations and, more than this, to endeavour to implement them, provided he does so in a socially acceptable manner. Let us not fool ourselves by calling these desirable things rights. We are ignorant of the course of human history and its underlying forces if we do.
Freedom and human dignity are so desirable that we should do all things possible - even fight - to secure or retain them. But they are basically the product of an enlightened political system. They emerge when man becomes really civilised and the political system is such that its exponents are confident that it is not necessarily efficient but is effective. It is only when a society has developed this sense of security that the real criteria of civilisation appear - liberty of the individual and freedom of individual self-expression, whether it be in art, politics, work or just living our daily lives. Cultural activities go on even under conditions of oppression, but do not let us mistake this for civilisation, because it is not. Consequently, Sir, I viewed with great interest, though somewhat incredulously, the recent stirrings within Czechoslovakia.
My heart went out to the Czeck people and their leaders as they endeavoured to restore freedom and civilisation to their country. The experiment was encouraging from many points of view; it showed that the human spirit was such that even after 30 years of totalitarian oppression - I draw no fundamental distinction between Fascist oppressors of the right and those of the left - after a generation of oppression, man will still strive towards the dignity of freedom. But more than this, in Czechoslovakia he was striving to do so within a framework of Communism. If the experiment was a success it would not only tend to bring a previously antipathetic country more into communication with the free world but it might also act as a bridge for freer communication between all the Communist countries and the democracies. Perhaps it would lead to a progressive lessening of world tension and even the civilisation of the Communist countries. But this was not to be.
The grim masters in the Kremlin have no illusions. They know that freedom and Communism cannot mix. They know that Communism and civilisation are incompatible. They are the exponents of the new barbarism, born of Marx’s brilliant but hate distorted mind. They are evangelists, too, committed to the eventual barbarisation of the whole world, t« the eclipse of civilisation and the mutiliation of the human spirit so that it conforms to a narrow and unnatural mould, which has already been shown to be cruel and unsuited to human needs. Their instruments are a highly developed system of semantics, subversion, threats and, when the time comes, fores. The achievements of Marxist states, once established, are always of the grimmest kind. Freedom is extinguished and fear rules. Oppression, persecution and wholesale and continuing murder are inevitable and invariable.
And so freedom has been snuffed out again in Czechoslovakia, a country which blossomed brightly as a democracy between the two great World Wars. The murders have no doubt already begun. I do not know whether or not Mr Dubcek is still alive or whether or not he will be preserved for a time so that from the depths of a tortured and drugged body he may denouce his efforts in accepted semantics. It is very telling that even a faithful Communist like Dubcek can cause his country to be raped by foreign troops just because be is not cast in a completely orthodox mould; because he dreams of freedom, even though it may be freedom of a very limited kind. And when his country was raped he did not raise a finger. He did not fight because he had the grim example of Hungary before him. He knew that the free world would not risk itself over fewer than 20 million people. So he hoped to lessen the destruction and murder by asking his people to accept passively this intolerable act of aggression.
What else could a wise man do? If one were naive one might think that Czechoslovakia’s interests might be looked after by the United Nations and especially its Security Council. A realist is not in the least surprised to learn that it is doubtful whether there will even be a special meeting of the Security Council. A country is raped and its people enslaved, yet the Security Council, which is supposed to be in existence for just such a contingency, does not even bother to meet. This is but one more proof of the miserable record of ineffectual and partisan behaviour of the United Nations. An act of aggression has occurred against Czechoslovakia and Australians have a bounden duty to do something about it. But what can we do? We cannot use force because we are not strong enough. Looking about us we see a possible solution. Rhodesia has recently been subjected to the imposition of the strictest sanctions. I do not intend to canvass the rights or wrongs of Rhodesia but it is obvious that any failings Rhodesia may have are negative ones and her crime, if any, cannot be any worse than that of the active invasion and subjugation, coupled with actual loss of lives, of Czechoslovakia by Russia and her satellites.
Now is the time, if ever there was a time, to insist before the world on a single standard of judgment and action in these matters. Let us forget expediency, perhaps even self-interest. Let us now be courageous and decent and insist on the introduction of ethics into international behaviour. If we do not do these things there is the very grave risk that small countries. Australia amongst them, will be swallowed one by one. Here is an opportunity not to be missed. If we act with courage we may favourably influence the course of history and incidentally Win international respect by setting an example. We are faced with evil, diabolical, naked aggression. As an Australian citizen and a member of this Parliament I demand that Australia protest as strongly as possible in the United Nations and insist on the application of the strictest economic sanctions against the aggressor nations. If we value decency at all this is what we mus.t do. If we fail to act in this way we ourselves are accessories to the rape of Czechoslovakia.
The honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) has read a very carefully prepared speech, with some of which 1 agree. He and the honourable member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) have arrived somewhat late on the scene. The honourable member for Lilley took the Australian Labor Party to task for its attitude in this matter. I have said that the honourable member is late on the scene because early last week the Labor Party discussed this matter. As we are not the government - we do not have the numbers in this or the other place - we decided to do what we could in a limited way to express our dissatisfaction with and our objection to the things that had happened in Czechoslovakia. We resolved:
That the Party welcome the extension by the Government of Czechoslovakia of civil and political rights to the people of Czechoslovakia and deplore outside pressure against the extension of those rights.
A week or so ago it was a matter of outside pressure; it was not armed might with a gun.
– Why did the Leader of the Opposition qualify his statement?
– This was in his statement. The honourable gentleman will have the opportunity to read it. On Tuesday of last week - that is, on 13th August - the Executive of the Parliamentary Labor Party resolved that this resolution should be sent to the ambassadors of Russia and Yugoslavia and to the consuls-general for Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland and Rumania. I ask honourable members on the other side of the House what they did. We at least expressed our concern about this pressure. We made out objections known to the people concerned in the only way in which we could, by sending this resolution to the representatives in Australia of the countries that 1 have mentioned. I am not aware of any action which the Australian Government took last week, the week before or, for that matter, at any time respecting this matter.
We have heard today a few words spoken by the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). As I said before, we in the Australian Labor Party were a bit in front of the Government. It arrived a little late. Respecting the question that the honourable member for Lilley raised, we say that the democracies have been preoccupied and prejudiced by their actions outside Europe.
– What do honourable members opposite object, to? ls it the word preoccupied’? Have they not been preoccupied? Would honourable members opposite say that America is anything else but preoccupied with Asia and Vietnam in particular? How could honourable members opposite say anything else but that? What about the word ‘prejudiced’? Of course, these actions have prejudiced America’s position in the world. The great mass of world opinion is against American involvement in Vietnam. Anyone can see that if he looks at the situation. Honourable members opposite can line up all of the countries on one side or the other. The great mass of countries are opposed to the American involvement in Vietnam as, indeed, is the Australian Labor Party. We are friendly with the United States of America. I have the greatest admiration for that country, but I believe that at times, like every other country, it can make mistakes. Indeed, it differed with us over the matter of West Irian.
– Not on the matter of Czechoslovakia.
-Order! The honourable member for Bowman has already spoken. He will cease interjecting.
– The problem with the Government is that it believes that the United States cannot make mistakes. Of course it can. Indeed, a few years ago, the policies of the United States and Australia over the future of West New Guinea differed. Who will deny that? Of course the United States can make mistakes. We on this side of the House feel that it made a mistake respecting its involvement in Vietnam. We have that belief and we know that a very powerful body of opinion in the United States believes this, too. Regrettably, in my view, one of the unfortunate consequences of the involvement of the United States in Vietnam will be the very opposite of what the Government expected: The United States of America will shy away from involvement in Asia for many years to come after its bitter experience in Vietnam. By allowing America to be involved in Vietnam - indeed, by encouraging United States involvement - the Australian Government has helped to bring about the present situation. This is very unfortunate indeed.
The statement made today by the Leader of the Opposition made it quite clear that on two occasions in the last decade, or a few years more, the Russians have used armed force to achieve their ends.
– Two? What about the others?
– The occasions came in Hungary in 19S6 and this morning our time in Czechoslovakia. On both of these occasions the Russians have taken advantage of the fact that Western democracies have themselves been involved in conflict on the soil of some other country. I refer to the involvement in the Suez crisis in 1956 and to the Vietnam conflict in 1968. No doubt exists in my mind that the Russians have taken this opportunity because they feel that the position of the democracies has been prejudiced.
I wish to state, in the last moment or two that I have, that the Australian Labor Party objects strongly to the action taken by Russia and the other nations of Eastern Europe today. We strongly object and we have done more than the Government has done. A week or more ago we indicated to the representatives in Australia of the countries that I mentioned earlier our objections to the pressure applied to Czechoslovakia.
– I had decided to bring up a certain matter before the debate on Czechoslovakia began and I will not be deterred from doing so because that subject has been raised. 1 received a letter today from a constituent of mine which is self explanatory and which I shall read to the House. The subject of the letter is one that I have not heard discussed in this Parliament; I certainly have not discussed it before. The letter states:
Dear Mr Turnbull,
As you are our government representative and one who has always been known to do his best for his electors, I am taking the liberty of writing to you regarding the high cost of legal fees for the adopting of children and the lack of any reimbursement from the government through taxation or any other means.
We have recently adopted a little boy and the legal fees were $250. This was a straightforward adoption done privately through a solicitor and the welfare. However we cannot even claim this amount as a taxation deduction.
We know the childrens homes are heavily subsidised by the government and, of course indirectly by us as taxpayers. We are now told the number of children becoming available for adoption is exceeding the number of parents willing to take them. Surely if this is the case the government could make it a little easier for us to take these little ones into our homes.
We have to prove to the welfare that we are suitable people to have these children in our care and also that we are able to support them financially; but many parents have the necessary assets but still find it hard to pay out such large fees.
If parents have a child of their own they are able to claim HBA and the balance of any amount owing is deductible from taxation. Then, of course, they are also paid a maternity allowance to help meet other expenses. And yet, parents who, through no fault of their own cannot have children, have to meet all expenses of adoption without any help.
We ourselves, have three boys of our own and two adopted boys.
Thank you for being interested in our problems and I know you will give this matter your serious consideration.
Let me explain to the House that the lady who wrote this letter came to me at a town in the Mallee electorate when I was visiting different centres recently. She discussed the matter with me and I asked her to put it in writing. This concerns more than one Minister, lt concerns the Treasurer (Mr McMahon) and to some extent the Minister for Social Services (Mr Wentworth), who
I am pleased to see in the House. Something should be done about this matter, because if we can put adopted children into good homes it is a splendid thing for Australia. I would like the Minister for Social Services to regard this as a representation made by me to him. I would like the Treasurer to do likewise.
– I wish to detain the house for only a very short time. I listened with interest to the debate on the rape of Czechoslovakia. I heard honourable members opposite speak of acting in a forthright and determined manner to express their opposition to the pressure brought to bear on the people of Czechoslovakia. Yet, as has been pointed out this evening, when the situation worsened today and it was apparent that what occurred was not merely pressure but armed entry into that country by Warsaw Pact countries led by Russia, the forthrightness was weakened and Opposition speakers qualified their statement in a manner in which is quite unacceptable. None of the speakers from the Opposition has indicated or given any sound reason why last week’s alleged forthright opposition to the pressure should this week be qualified and weakened by introducing into their statement matters relating to the United States’ involvement in Vietnam. The issues are quite separate and quite different. The issue of pressure and armed entry into Czechoslovakia should be examined by itself. The question which I ask of members of the Opposition and which has not been answered by them is: Why, when they were forthright last week, have they weakened their stand today by introducing extraneous issues into the matter? This debate will probably conclude now, and that question remains unanswered.
– 1 will speak for about as long as the previous speaker, the honourable member for Sturt (Mr Wilson). Tonight I am utterly amazed to hear speakers bringing up the subject of Vietnam. I should think that it would be indicated very clearly that, because of the present situation in Czechoslovakia, Vietnam is one subject that should be avoided very religiously. If ever there was a clear indication that the Communists recognise only one thing, and that is strength, we have that indication now. and that when one says to them: ‘You have gone so far and and you will not be permitted to go any further’, that is the only time they will ever stop. I always remember an Australian Workers Union organiser at Mount Isa who once told me: There is only one way to deal with these Corns, and that is to stand up to them and show them a bit of strength’.
How utterly illogical it is for honourable members to stand up tonight and bring up the fallacious argument that because the Americans are involved in Vietnam the Russians were left free to move into Czechoslovakia. If ever there was an indication of the correctness of, and a clear case for, our attitude in Vietnam, it is in the very incident that has occurred in Czechoslovakia. I am not much concerned by the fact that many nations have disowned America. 1 would say that they have not the necessary guts and that at this moment they are beginning to re-evaluate the situation in which they have sat on the fence and let the unity of the Western nations crumble away to a point al which we are pretty well at the mercy of Russia and ils satellites. That is (he position. They have welshed on us. I do not care that Great Britain. France and other nations have declared against the United States and us. We are right and they are entirely wrong. The tragic events of the last 24 or 48 hours have clearly indicated that. We now have a comparison with the situation that existed 10 years ago, when people spoke of the Western nations, the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty and so on. Now where are we because they just stepped aside and did not have the guts to stand up to the Communists? God bless America. That is all I can say.
– A great and tragic event has occurred. The full enormity and full implications of that event have nol yet unfolded. They will unfold and we will realise just what is involved in the future as a result of thom. At this point of time I do not want to say anything other than this - and I give my full heart to it: Anybody who seeks to place the blame for this event on the United States forgets the realities of the Second World War: forgets the threats to peace and liberty that have existed in the last 2 decades; and forgets that it is the troops of monolithic Communism who have perpetrated the events that have occurred. Any statement that in any way minimises or detracts from that basic truth will not help the cause of freedom throughout the world. 1 would hope that those people who may be tempted to find an exculpation for what has been termed the rape of Czechoslovakia will forget that idea. The blame - whether it be moral or criminal in an international sense - will be ascribed by the world and by world opinion to those who have committed the crime.
– I did not propose to speak iti this debate, but when the Leader of the House (Mr Snedden) saw fit to enter it and make a very brief statement 1 thought it was time that someone had a look at this question. I ask the Leader of the House: Did his party make any clear declaration on this question when pressure was first applied by the Soviet Union and the other satellite nations and when the first threat was levelled against Czechoslovakia?
– Or did the Country Party do so?
– I include the Country Party. When did the Government parties make any statement in this Parliament of any statement to the Press or to any other news media in Australia? They have been conspicuous by their silence. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party in another place, Senator Murphy, made a public statement commending the Czechoslovakian people for the movement towards freedom that was under way in their country. There was no comment from the Government parties. As I have said they were all conspicuous by their silence. Recently a meeting of the Parliamentary Labor Party carried a resolution in which it officially commended the Czechoslovakian people, pledged the Labor Party’s full support for what they were doing and condemned the Soviet Union and its satellites for their attitude towards Czechoslovakia. But we did not let the matter rest there. The statement of the policy and attitude of the Labor Party was circulated to all embassies and consulates in Australia. Yet we have continued to receive only stony silence from the Government parties. They have given no indication to the Czechoslovakian people that they support them. They have not condemned the Soviet Union or its satellites for what they are doing in Czechoslovakia. It is in such times that the support of friends is needed, but the Government parties have continued to remain silent. Now, after the Leader of the Labor Party (Mr Whitlam) has made a statement indicating our attitude on this question, honourable members opposite pick out one paragraph in which attention is drawn to what happened in the rape of Hungary when Britain and France were otherwise involved. Is the same thing not happening now when the United States is otherwise involved?
A vast majority of the American people support the policy that the Labor Party here supports. Any honourable member who takes the trouble to read the debates that took place in the United Nations last year will see that the majority of countries represented at the United Nations condemned and criticised the United States for its stand. I want to be quite clear on this point: I am not anti-American. I think that America is a great country. I would be delighted to have the opportunity of spending another 3i months there, as I did last year. What I am pointing out is that on this question of Czechoslovakia the Government parties have been conspicuous by their silence. The Leader of the Australian Labor Party rose in this place and asked the first question today, with the full approval of a special meeting of the Parliamentary Labor Party executive. We were prepared and anxious to have the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) make a ministerial statement in this place today so that honourable members would be acquainted with the Government’s policy - not the backbenchers’ policy - on this subject. We wanted to know what the Government had to say. But once again the Prime Minister was silent so far as a statement is concerned.
When the Leader of the House comes in here and makes an attack on the sincerity of the Australian Labor Party, I am prepared to accept his challenge. I challenge him now to have the Government bring on a debate on this subject. Let us have a statement from the Prime Minister as to the Government’s policy and then throw it open for debate - not some time next week. Let us hear what the Government has to say about the subject tomorrow.
The Labor Party has made two statements on where it stands and the Government has been stonily silent. Let us hear what it has to say. I ask the Leader of the House whether this matter will be debated tomorrow. He has had a lot to say tonight. Are we to get a statement by the Prime Minister or the Minister for External Affairs (Mr Hasluck)? Come on now; give us an answer. Are you going to give us an answer?
– We do not go off half cocked.
– Do not make me laugh. All of the backbench lunatic fringe group come in here and make 5- minute or 2-minute speeches on this subject and try to needle the Labor Party. I ask the Leader of the House: Is the Government to make a statement tomorrow? Is the Prime Minister to make a statement tomorrow after question time and will there be a debate following it? Are you continuing to be silent, as in the past, on this subject? You have had several weeks to come out and make a statement of your policy on Czechoslovakia. Where is your condemnation of Russian, Polish, East German and Bulgarian intervention? Are you still trying to make up your minds? We are not. We made up our minds several days ago and we made our statement. This is the second one on the subject.
So, Mr Speaker, I take it from the silence of the Leader of the House that this subject will not be debated and that the Government is still struggling through the process of trying to make up its mind. We are not. We support the Czechoslovakians and we condemn in the strongest possible terms those governments and those countries which have intervened and have moved in to take over that country. Just as we condemned their takeover and rape of Hungary, we condemn the rape of Czechoslovakia.
Only in the last 10 minutes have I heard of the statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). It was put in my hands just a few minutes ago. I can only say that I felt absolutely ashamed to be associated with any people in this country who would issue such a statement.
– Tell us the old, old story.
– This is the old, old story of the Australian Labor Parry. I am afraid. The Leader of the Opposition said:
Russia has been emboldened to affront world opinion because America’s influence has been eroded in Vietnam.
This to me is entirely offensive. I can see no connection whatsoever between what is happening in Vietnam and what is happening in Czechoslovakia, and I cannot see any reason at all for bringing America into this. I just picked up this document asI came from my office. It is the Soviet News Bulletin’, which is sent to me every week or fortnight. It is really a fantastic waste of postage as far as I am concerned. It dealt with Czechoslovakia andI quote the following passage:
Only Communists, true Socialists and all who hold dear Socialism can take really clos e to heart the joys and sorrows, victories and setbacks, mistakes and achievements of a people tackling the complicated tasks of building a new society. Only here among the genuine friends of Czechoslovakia can the people get full support for the positive programme drawn up by its Communists. Only here can they get the necessary protection in the face of an unheard of and unprecedented psychological and political pressure on the part of the anti-Socialist world, which is called’noninterference’ by official hypocrites.
That is to me a classic piece of Communist dialectics and I reject it out of hand. It was sent to me on 9th August from the Russian Embassy here in Canberra. I rose very briefly to say thatI am terribly offended by the Leader of the Opposition, who is an Australian and who presumably was in the last war, getting up and making a statement in the name of his Party in this way, and I reject it out of hand. I do not think there is any excuse for bringing the Americans into this whatsoever. I think one of my colleagues said it is the rape of Czechoslovakia. In no way can the Americans be hooked up with this rape. I reject the suggestion out of hand and I do not wish to be associated in any way with the statement of the Leader of the Opposition.
– The problem as I see it is that honourable members opposite see all foreign policy questions in isolation. The facts are of course that in recent years there have been a series of aggressions by all sorts of people who are great moralisers when it comes to somebody else’s offences. For instance.I think of the Indian occupation of Goa, the
Chinese occupation of Tibet, the North Vietnamese occupation of Laos, the general attitudes on Suez, the British and French attack on Suez, and the American approach to many of the problems in Vietnam and particularly to Cuba. The questions of Russia and Czechoslovakia and its neighbours arc all allied to the policies of the past which we as Australians and people of this generation in this century ought to attempt to stop no matter what sort of government implements them. I am offended in this particular instance because on an occasion such as this a senior member of the Australian Government thinks here is a question for a little bit of political gimmickry, opportunism or whatever it is. The fact is that we as a people and part of a democratic community in the world have somehow to establish in the world principles. While there is great difficulty in getting any kind of general principle accepted, it ought to be a well established principle that any army shall not cross frontiers. I do not care what sort of armies they are or whose armies they are. That is an act of aggression against all humanity and somehow we have to get the world at large to stand up and say so. I do not have any great affection or admiration for most of the governments of the world, and that goes for most of the American governments most of the time and it goes for a good many of the British governments. The facts are that the large countries of the world and some of the small ones still live in a world of the past where military aggression is the solution for military problems. The honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) is an estimable character, or so he says on his election leaflets. What has he ever said about the position in the Suez Canal? The facts are as I see them that for 10 years the world has said the Israelis are entitled to use the Suez Canal but never a sound has come from the people opposite on this subject. The facts are that Israel is one of the democratic societies of the Middle East.It may well be, being intransigant at this point, beyond reason, although I doubt it. I am very much inclined towards the Israeli side in their conflicts in this matter. Nine Arab countries in conferences have said what they are going to do to the Israelis. We hear very little from the opposite side. One can go into Tel Aviv and see most of the airlines of the world landing aircraft there. Why not Qantas? I say it is because the Government has surrendered to the blackmail, as it might be termed, to the pressures, commercial or political, of the Arab states.
All I ask at this stage of world history is that Australia, as a particular sort of nation, forget about the merits or demerits of the governments involved. I would not like to live under the present or the past Czechoslovakian Government, but I feel deeply sorrowful for the Czechoslovakian people at the moment. I visited that country a couple of years ago and 1 sensed something of the trials and tribulations of those people in that country who have a liberal spirit. I think that the present conflict is a great tragedy.It is not a question of political opportunism.Is it not possible for Australia to try to mobilise the liberal and democratic forces of the world in order to establish some international rapport about these matters? Let all the armies go home, no matter which country they belong to. Let us try to get some sense of national sovereignty and some recognition of the integrity of borders. Until this is achieved these events will be continually inflicted on humanity. What I cannot understand is why the people of Australia put up with the kind of nonsense which is often bruited abroad by honourable members opposite.
I did not intend to take part in this debate, but I have been led to do so by remarks made by members of the Opposition about what has been said, what should have been said and what has not been said. I emphasise very strongly the old proverb: ‘Actions speak louder than words’. The action of this Government in constantly opposing Communist aggression shows clearly where it stands in relation to this matter. It is easy for an honourable member to stand up and talk. We have heard the foreign policy of the Australian Labor Party expounded since the time when the situation in Vietnam first began causing concern to the free peoples of the world. There was a division of views among members of the Labor Party. I think the members of that Party have now become a little more united because events have turned against those people who are trying to preserve freedom in that sorely afflicted country, Czechoslovakia. I want to read an extract from a copy of a statement that has been given to me. lt states:
Russia has been emboldened to affront world opinion because America’s influence has been eroded in Vietnam.
– Who said that?
– This statement is attributed to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). If that statement is true the Labor Party can take no credit from the fact that it has not strongly supported the action of the United States of America in Vietnam, if the free countries of the world had given to the United States the support she was entitled to receive her influence would not have been eroded. Those people who stood aside and watched Vietnam overrun are the people who deserve condemnation for the events in Czechoslovakia, not the Americans. 1 submit that history will recognise that on this occasion few countries deserve greater commendation than America for her efforts to stop the expansion of Communism. If those efforts have not been as successful as we would have liked, this is not the fault of this Government. If there is fault anywhere it rests with those countries that have not supported the American efforts to stop the advance of Communism in Vietnam. The Leader of the Opposition also said:
The suppression of freedom in Hungary would not have been possible except for the folly of Britain and France in the Suez. The suppression of liberalism in Czechoslovakia would not have been attempted if peace had been secured earlier in Vietnam.
Possibly, that statement could bc true, but at the same time who is at fault because peace was not secured earlier? There is no guarantee - although honourable members opposite might suggest there is - that had an easier line been taken there would have been peace in Vietnam. This is just a suggestion that has been made to cover up what has been perhaps a lack of positive action designed to stop the advance of Communism. The philosophy of Communism remains the same today. It is highlighted by this invasion of Czechoslovakia. That philosophy is that Communism wilt expand unless and until it is opposed by a strength which will deter it. This statement admits that. This statement itself is justification of the American attempt to stop that expansion in Vietnam. The fact remains that if the free countries of the world are to preserve their freedom they will have to unite and meet Communist aggression with whatever power they can bring to bear. The fact that there has been some disappointment with American policy in Vietnam does not mean that America has not tried very sincerely to bring about peace.
I want to refer to a statement that was made with great vigour. It was said that Labor’s policy has some support in the United States. That may be right, but the policy of this Government also has a lot of support in the United States. It is supported by President Johnson, it is supported by Mr Nixon, and it is supported by the people who want to see freedom preserved in the world.
– 1 think the more responsible members on both sides of the House will be disappointed at the tone of the debate tonight on this subject. At a time when this nation needs unity more than ever before, at a time when, for all we know, the whole world might be marching towards a third world war in which Australia as a nation could be deeply involved, we see efforts by honourable members on the Government side to sow the seeds of dissension. Oppositions are sometimes accused of irresponsibility. However, there can be no excuse for a government, at this critical period, to set out to cause disunity simply to gain some dubious and highly technical debating point from one sentence in a foolscap page statement that was issued by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam).
– Does that statement imply unity between us and the United States?
– This statement does not imply disunity between us and the United States. It depends on the voice in the United States to which one refers. There is a very loud and evergrowing voice in the United States which agrees wholeheartedly with the last sentence of the statement issued by the Leader of the Opposition. There is an ever-increasing number of people in the United , States who recognise all too clearly the fact that the power of the United States is being eroded by her involvement in useless, senseless, unwinnable wars in Asia. More and more people in the United States lament the fact that United States strength, its power, its money and its manpower are being squandered in this useless conflict in Vietnam.
They would prefer to see American power and strength exerted in Europe rather than in Asia because it is in Europe more than in any other part of the world that the white races should be striving to secure stability. If Europe is to go up in flames because the United States is so fully preoccupied in other parts of the world, to wit Asia, then what a fatal policy it is for the Americans to be bogged down in Asia. How right it is that the Leader of the Opposition should have directed attention to it and how wrong it is that honourable members on the Government side should be pinpricking for petty political advantage on the statement that we are now debating.
We know why the Russians are invading Czechoslovakia. They are doing it because they believe in the doctrine of fighting wars of defence in someone else’s territory. They believe that it is better to fight the West Germans in Czechoslovakia or in Poland than in Russia. They are not alone in holding to this theory. There are other nations which believe it is better to fight their enemies in somebody else’s territory. Although the Russians are not alone in this, they are completely wrong in wanting to fight their enemies in other people’s territories and to defend themselves in other people’s territories. They cannot morally justify their involvement in Czechoslovakia because of the fear of a thrust from Western Germany. Every other country that tries to justify military intervention in a country outside its borders for these reasons is equally wrong. The standard justification is: ‘It is better to fight them there than here.’ It sounds quite all right until somebody else follows the same principle. It sounds quite all right until, for instance, the Russians start following this practice in Czechoslovakia. Then we see the stark horror and injustice and brutality of the theory of forward defence.
Let us not be hypocrites in this. Let us condemn the Russians roundly for what they have done. But let us not continue to do the same thing ourselves - and that is how the Government justifies its military presence in Asia today. Let the Country
Party members declare now that they are going to call on their Leader to ban immediately the export of wheat and wool to Russia. Let them declare that not a single bale of wool will be sold to Russia while that country occupies Czechoslovakia. Until they are prepared to stand up and declare on behalf of the squatters of this country that not one bale of wool will be sold to Russia while Russia occupies Czechoslovakia, the Country Party interests stand branded as hypocrites of the very worst order.
There is no use trying to have things both ways. This is a time when we need unity in the nation. It is a time when the petty political sniping that we have heard tonight should cease. We -have to unite as a nation io meet the terrible crisis that could be just around the corner. Here we have ground upon which we could be united. For the first time for 19 years we could have unity on foreign policy. The Leader of the Opposition issued a declaration long before these things happened to the effect that the Opposition welcomed the extension by the Government of Czechoslovakia of civil and political rights to the people of that country, and that we deplored outside intervention to prevent the extension of those rights. That message was sent to all the governments concerned. We were declaring a statement of policy that should have left no difference between the Opposition and the Government. But ho, the Government seized on one sentence and tried to read into it something that is not there.
It is quite true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) has said, that 12 years ago Hungary was raped and Soviet intervention in that country could not bc prevented because the other powers were so pre-occupied in the Suez area. Everybody knows that the people of Hungary expected support from the United States and did not get it. Everybody knows that they were encouraged by the United States to revolt and then were left to their own devices. This was because the United States involvement in other parts of the world was such that she felt unable to give the support that the people who followed her advice thought that she would give.
It is perfectly true, and regrettably so, that the power of the United States is badly eroded. If the American strength that is now located in South Vietnam were in Western Germany do honourable members think that the Russians would have marched into Czechoslovakia as they did? Of course they would not because it could have meant a global nuclear war. But they marched with impunity because they knew, as the statement so correctly states, that the United States forces were so involved elsewhere that they could not come to the aid of the Czechoslovakians. Again I say: Let us not be hypocritical.’ We must condemn the Russian use of Czechoslovakia n soil to prevent a thrust to Soviet territory by Western Germany, but at the same time we must condemn the same tactics, the same arguments and the same principles which we ourselves use to justify our military involvement in other people’s territory in order to prevent the southward thrust of Communist China. Let us stand foursquare for what is right and say: ‘Let the Russians get out of Czechoslovakia and let all foreign troops get out of South Vietnam’.
– I will not keep the House for long because the honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) has not given us very much to comment on. I was interested to hear him espouse the cause of American military commitment in Germany, although I do not agree with the conclusion he came to. I rise only because of the, shall I say, restrained effort of the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Jones). He made a point that he felt, quite sincerely, was valid. I cannot agree with it. He asked whether a debate could be put on in this House so that he could put his views. I accept his assurance that he is not anti-American personally. But this leads to only one thing.
I have had a chance to look only for one brief minute at the statement by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). One can differ with it, paragraph by paragraph, but one paragraph is unique. It is not in context with the rest of the statement. Obviously it has been put in at the insistence of someone. One can only guess at this point of time that it was added at the insistence of the left wing of the Australian Labor Party. I repeat that it is not in context with the rest of the statement, lt ties in Vietnam with this situation, which is illogical and stupid. Let me say quite sincerely in answer to the honourable member for Newcastle that we on this side of the House had no reason to make statements - certainly not incorrect or wild statements - before Czechoslovakia was attacked. Our attitude is not in doubt. If honourable members opposite feel that theirs is and that therefore they have to make a statement to the House, it is their own business.
– I shall detain the House only for a moment. The honourable member for Hindmarsh (Mr Clyde Cameron) said that the allied forces in Vietnam are in the same position as the Russians are in going into Czechoslovakia. A couple of things have emerged in this debate. One is that Labor speakers have made much of having made a statement List week, but they have not answered the question put to them from this side of the House as to why they have weakened the statement they have made this week.
They have not made clear what their position is with regard to Vietnam in comparison with Czechoslovakia. Almost every second speaker on the other side opened with the covering phrase: ‘I am not antiAmerican’, and then proceeded to make a completely anti-American speech. They have completely failed to explain their own position or to acknowledge the fact that the allied forces in South Vietnam are there by invitation. They have completely failed to explain their own position with regard to who is invading whom in Vietnam. Nor have they sought to explain the North Vietnamese claim that there are no North Vietnamese in South Vietnam. Unless they are prepared to explain these things, then they must all agree with the honourable member for Hindmarsh who states quite bluntly that we and the Americans are doing the same in South Vietnam as the Russians are doing in Czechoslovakia. If that is not an antiAmerican statement, I have never heard one.
– I wish to make three short points in reply to honourable members who have taken part in this debate. The honourable member for Bowman (Dr Gibbs) asks for Australian sanctions on Russia and her allies and he bitterly disparaged the United Nations for its inaction. Now we have heard apologists for the inaction of the Australian Government. If these excuses are valid, I would like to know how the United Nations can act. If honourable members opposite want the United Nations to act, they will have to act first. If they are not ready to act, then they cannot expect the United Nations to be ready to act either. The policy of the Australian Labor Party is to act through the United Nations and according to international law on all matters in dispute between nations.
– That is what I suggested.
– If that is so, I support the honourable member for Bowman and I give that answer to the honourable member for Boothby (Mr McLeay) who asked what the Australian Labor Party would do. We would do what bis own back bench colleague, the honourable member for Bowman, has suggested. The Government has given no indication that it will move through the United Nations or otherwise to deter or to prevent any other totalitarian or unilateral military actions by Russia and her allies. In other words, it will wait and see.
A lot of statements have condemned the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) because he said that America had prejudiced her position of strength. This has been interpreted by honourable members opposite as meaning that we blame America for the whole show. This may be a pleasant exercise in semantics, but the people of Australia are not being taken in by this shallow sort of argument. The honourable member for Maranoa . (Mr Corbett) agreed wilh the statement of the Leader of the Opposition when he said that it may be true that United States influence has been eroded but it would not have been if other nations had stuck with the United Nations. I suggest that this is admitting the very point to which honourable members opposite have objected and have ridiculed in the statement of the Leader of the Opposition. That statement needs no defence because it is not condemning anybody. It points out the facts of life, and these are most unpleasant to the people who are saying that we arc finding scapegoats. We are not finding scapegoats. We are being realistic and we are looking for a solution. We are looking for a lead from the Government of this country and from other governments who want to condemn aggression and military means of solving problems, for these means only make the situation worse.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 12.59 a.m. (Thursday)
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
Office Accommodation (Question No. 344)
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows:
asked the Minister for External Territories, upon notice:
How many companies were registered in Norfolk Island at the end of each of the last five financial years?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
The number of companies registered in Norfolk Island at the end of the last five financial years is:
asked the Minister for External Territories upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable member’s questions are as follows: 1.. The decisions reached regarding construction of the Cockburn to Broken Hill standard gauge railway were announced on behalf of the South Australian, New South Wales and Commonwealth Governments on 17th November 1967. The three governments agreed that a new line would be constructed, and operated by the South Australian Railways, on a more direct route than that at present operated by The Silverton Tramway Company Ltd.
Royal Australian Navy (Question No. 404)
asked the Minister for the
Navy, upon notice:
What is the re-engagement rate for Navy servicemen at the end of (a) first engagement, (b) a second engagement, (c) a third engagement and (d) subsequent engagements?
– The answer to the honourable member’s question is as follows:
In general terms, the present engagement and re-engagement pattern in the RAN is:
Initial engagement- 9 or 12 years;
Re-engagement- 3 year periods to retiring age, with provision to re-engage to complete time for pension (20 years over the age of 20).
During the first six months of 1968, the reengagement percentages of sailors due for discharge within this pattern were:
Initial engagement 9 years- 19% re-engaged;
Initial engagement 12 years - 56% re-engaged.
During the same period, the overall percentage of sailors re-engaging after completing a first reengagement (that is, those re-engaging for a second, third or subsequent re-engagement) was 41%. A breakdown of re-engagement percentages after a second or third or further re-engagements is not currently maintained.’
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1968, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1968/19680821_reps_26_hor60/>.