17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
GENERAL DOUGLAS MacARTHUR
– I desire to inform the Senate that I have received from the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) a letter conveying the following message from General Douglas MacArthur: -
Please convey to President of Australias Senate my respectful thanks and appreciation for resolution. It was a heartwarming actios for which I am deeply grateful.
Fats op Rabaul GARRISON
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Army whether he can give an assurance that everything possible is being done to tram the’ whereabouts of 700 members of the 2/22nd Battalion Australian Imperial Force who left Rabaul in Jane, 194S, for a prisoner-of-war camp on Hainan Island off the coast of Indo-China?
– Yesterday the honorable member for Bendigo asked » similar question of the Minister for the Army,- and in reply the Minister made the following statement this moraine; -
The most urgent prisoner-of-war inquiry at the moment is to ascertain the whereabouts of men of the Rabaul garrison who were captured in early 1942. The anxiety of next of kin of members of these unite is fully realized and as some officers of the garrison have been recovered from various areas, it is desirable to make public the information obtained from them. This .indicates that between 700 and 1,000 Australian prisoners of war were evacuated from Rabaul by sea in about June, 1042, by the Japanese’ and it was rumoured that their destination was Hainan. Prior to this evacaution officers, ‘ nurses and female missionaries were separated by the Japanese from the troops and they were evacuated separately several’ days later to Japan. It has not been possible to trace the movement of the vessel carrying the troops after ite departure from Rabaul, and apprehension is felt that it failed to reach its destination. Urgent instructions have gone forward to advanced field formations to moke full inquiries from all possible sources and also to interrogate, when located, Japanese personnel named by recovered prisoners of war and suspected of being in possession of information concerning the fate of the Rabaul garrison. Interrogation of Japanese prisoners of war, camp commanders, guards and interpreters from Rabaul is also proceeding and it is hoped that this source may also divulge information as to the fate of the missing troopship. Any information gathered by forward units will be reported promptly direct to Land Forces Head-quarters in Melbourne, and as soonasI am in a position to do so, I will make a public announcement as to the result. AH definite information that is available to the present date has been advised to the next of kin, who will be informed from time to time as any further definite information comes to hand.
Strike at Collie Coal-field - Watebfront Unrest: Indonesian Seamen - Deterioration of Foodstuffs.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping give to the Senate the details of the settlement of the recent dispute on the Collie coal-field in Western Australia?
– I have not the details of the settlement of that dispute. Last week the Premier of Western Australia, Mr. Wise, made representations to me on the matter, and as the result of consultations with the Coal Commissioner, Mr. Willis was sent to Western Australia. I understand that he arrived there on Monday evening last. As the result of his visit a settlement of the dispute was effected and work was resumed yesterday morning. So soon as I receive details of the settlement I shall supply the information to the honorable senator.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping aware that because of the holdup on the waterfront at Sydney cargoes of foodstuffs are rotting in the holds of several ships, and that these foodstuffs are urgently required in South Pacific areas? Can the Minister say what steps are being taken by the Government to ensure, that cargoes will be unloaded in Australia, and cargoes consigned to destinations outside Australia will be loaded?
– The ships to which the honorable senator refersare mainly ships controlled by the Netherlands authorities, and the trouble in which they are involved has arisen from certain developments which have occurred in Java. The crews of those ships have walked off the vessels and declared them “black”. In one instance, a vessel in
Melbourne was fully loaded by Australian wharf labourers, hut because of the refusal of the crew to man it, a new crew of lascars was recruited. I do not know whether that vessel has yet sailed from Melbourne. However, I had discussions to-day with the Netherlands authorities, and I anticipate that as the result of those discussions, no difficulty will be experienced in obtaining labour to load vessels provided they are “mercy” ships or ships whose cargoes do not include arms or munitions.
– In view of the delicate state of international affairs at the moment, and the undesirability of Australia causing an incident with a friendly nation, can the Acting Leader of the Senate say that the Government’ will take all steps necessary to ensure that no complications shall occur in our friendly relations with the Netherlands East Indies? Does he not consider that in these matters the government of the day should rule and that no outside organization should be allowed to dictate Australia’s policy towards a friendly nation ?
– I am not aware that the position is so serious as the Acting Leader of the Opposition implies. However, the Government has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the ships shall be loaded. At the same time, I, personally, am of opinion that no action should be taken which would have the effect of embroiling the whole of the waterfront of Australia in a dispute arising out of trouble which has occurred in another country.
– Is the report correct that at least 50,000 bags of potatoes consigned to eastern States are now rotting in the holds of vessels in Sydney harbour because of the refusal of waterside workers to unload such vessels?’ What steps is the Government taking to ensure that these vessels, apart from the Netherlands ships already referred to, are unloaded expeditiously?
– I am not aware that 50,000 bags of potatoes are awaiting discharge at Sydney wharfs. That may not be a fact, but I shall have inquiries made. Difficulty is now being experienced on the wharfs as the result of the introduction of the fork lift. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber will agree that, when new machinery is installed, it invariably requires a certain amount of oiling and adjustment. Similar attention is also called for in respect of human factors. Owing to the introduction of this mechanized method of dealing with cargo, a divergence of opinion has arisen as to the number of men who should be employed in the gangs. The wharf authorities claim that seventeen nien are sufficient, but the wharf labourers, on the other hand, contend that 22 are required. Until these matters have been adjusted on a fair basis, there will necessarily be friction and some dislocation on the wharfs. I hope that the difficulty will be straightened out in the course of a few days. According to the latest information that I have received, it is hoped that a settlement will be reached to-morrow.
Ex-servicemen’s Needs - A Acquisition of Property ot Servicemen.
– In view of the present acute shortage of houses, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing what steps the ‘Government proposes to take, or has already taken, to expedite the building of homes for discharged servicemen? Has the Government made any arrangements for the immediate release from the services of men connected with the building industry and allied trades in order to relieve the shortage?
– The shortage of homes and housing accommodation is not peculiar to Australia at present; this problem exists in all countries. However, steps are being taken by the Government to expedite the release from the services of men skilled in the building industry and associated industries. I am confident that the provision of housing for ex-service personnel will be adequately dealt with.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
Will the Minister confer with the AttorneyGeneral with the object of removing misunderstanding »nd confusion in the minds of the Victorian and New South Wales Housing Commissions in relation to regulation 15a of the
National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations designed for the protection of the property of servicemen whose building blocks of land have been compulsorily acquired, and for which low compensation has been in is about to be paid?
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answer: -
I am informed by the Housing Commissions of New South Wales and Victoria that no misunderstanding exists in their minda in relation to regulation 15a of the National Security (War Service Moratorium) Regulations.
This matter was discussed at the recent Premiers’ Conference and it was made plain that servicemen’s interests would be reasonably protected.
Both commissions are perfectly clear about the requirements of this regulation, which prohibits the use of a compulsory process in the acquisition of property owned by servicemen or their female dependants, unlessthe consent of the Attorney-General has first been obtained.
A great deal of misinformed criticism ha* appeared on this matter, but the commission!! have done their best in a difficult situation where some people, including servicemen, must be affected whatever action is taken. To carry out the large-scale house construction programme under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, it is necessary for the various State housing authorities to acquire land by negotiation and if need be, by resumption, because they have to prepare plans for many months or even years ahead. Feature surveys have to bc made, sub-divisions redesigned, survey computations undertaken, and arrangements made for feeder and disposal mains for water, sewer, gas, electricity and stormwater, and the subsequent reticulation of the land in detail. Most of the land in the cities and large towns has been subdivided into allotments. In order that the State housing authorities can re-design and subdivide on a broad and far-sighted plan, entire control of the whole of the land in these areas is essential.
Consequently the States -made representations to the Commonwealth Government to be released from the provisions of regulation 15a on the ground that it would be impossible to make any concrete plans or to carry them out effectively unless they were relieved from the operation of this regulation.
Nevertheless, extreme care is taken to avoid prejudicing the rights of servicemen. Although it is usually impossible to know in advance if land to be acquired is owned by servicemen, both commissions make every effort to avoid compulsorily acquiring such land unless failure to do so would jeopardize the housing programme.
In Victoria, for instance, if land owned by a serviceman is situated in an area which is not to be re-subdivided, and the serviceman satisfies the commission that he intends to build a house on the land at the earliest opportunity, the commission will not compulsorily resume the laud. However, where it becomes vital to the success of a planning scheme that a block of land owned by a serviceman be acquired, the commission makes available another block, to be selected by the serviceman by way of exchange, with adjustments either way where the two blocks are of unequal value. If such an offer is not acceptable, the commission will give preference in the allocation of a house to be built by the commission, while in addition, a serviceman gets special .preference in the allocation of dwellings under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement.
Most servicemen who have come personally to this commission have been satisfied with their policy.
The law in both States provides for an appeal to a constituted authority if the compensation is considered inadequate. I am assured that all claims for compensation aru dealt with promptly. Compensation paid in nil eases is current market value, and there is no reason to say that the commissions are paying low compensation. In some cases the payment will be lower than the owner paid for the land, and in others higher; but it is clear that current value is the only fair basis for compensation.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– -The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
1936-37, 80,717: 1937-38, 154,179; 1938-39, 201,011; 1939-40, 135,475; 1940-41, 12,245.
Reference to Parliament
– Have you, Mr. President, read an insulting article published in to-day’s Sydney Daily Telegraph which libels members of Parliament in general? If so, will you give consideration to the expulsion of the representatives of that newspaper from the Senate chamber?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) . - I have not seen the article to which the honorable senator refers, but I shall read it and acquaint the Senate of my considered opinion later.
– On the 12th September, Senator Herbert Hays referred to the delay which had occurred in the delivery at Burnie of mails brought to Devonport two days earlier by cargo vessel from Melbourne. I now inform the honorable senator that it has been ascertained that, although the vessel referred to reached Devonport on Sunday evening, unloading was not commenced until the following Tuesday morning and the mails were not discharged until 12 noon that day. The delay in unloading the mails is regrettable and an explanation is being sought from the shipping company concerned.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers : -
Production at Glen Davis.
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice- -
– The replies to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following answers: -
Cessation of Hostilities
asked the Minis ter representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as’ follows: -
Which represents a total area of 75,500 acres. The above acreages include substantial areas which either failed completely shortly after sowing or were destroyed by caterpillars approaching harvest time.
asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers -
Debate resumed from the 21st September (vide page 5774), on motion by Senator Keane -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates’ of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending the 30th June, 1946.
The Budget 1945-46 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the budget of 1945-46.
– Once again we have a colossal’ budget before us, but as the proposed expenditure will be in the hands of a capable Treasurer I am not afraid of the result. In planning for the future it is impossible to foresee all that will happen and consequently the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) must have money available to meet our heavy post-war expenditure and emergencies, such as damage caused by floods and bush fires. The war expenditure of the Commonwealth has reached the colossal total of £2,111,000,000. Unfortunately, that does not represent the cost of the war to the people of Australia, for, in addition, we must have in mind the great loss of life that has occurred. Australia’s casualties in the war total 92,211, including 21,415 killed. It is interesting to note how the expenditure of the Commonwealth has risen during recent years. I well remember when for the first time a budget in excess of £100,000,000 was presented to the Parliament. In 1939-40 a total expenditure of £129,000,000 was budgeted for. In the following year £255,000,000 was provided, for 1941-42 the amount was £421,000,000, for 1942-43 it was £670,000,000, and for 1943-44 the Parliament authorized the expenditure of £6S 6,000,000. Last year the Treasurer submitted a budget totalling £609,000,000 and for the current financial year the Parliament is asked to authorize the expenditure of nearly £493,000,000. Before the present Labour Government came into office, £225,000,000 had been expended for war purposes and had a United Australia party government remained in office it would have been obliged to raise as much as the present Treasurer has budgeted for. Since Labour has been in office £1,185,000,000 has been raised. That is not a bad record for a little over 7,000,000 people. Now that the war has ended, we must do something for the young men and young women who helped to win it. In referring to those to whom we are indebted for a magnificent war effort I include the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, and General MacArthur. We do not know what burdens they had to bear. Recently, General MacArthur has been criticized for his “soft” treatment of the Japanese. Senator Foll adopted o, right attitude when he said that he intended to remain silent on that sub- ject until after all prisoners of war had been liberated. Were General MacArthur to act unwisely, I would not hold out much hope for prisoners still remaining in Japanese hands. I am convinced that when all Allied persons still under Japanese control have been liberated, General MacArthur will adopt a firmer attitude. I have sufficient confidence in him to leave the matter to him.
The Treasurer has announced the Government’s decision to reduce taxation by 12£ per cent, and also that sales tax will be removed or reduced on a number of commodities, including building materials. That is a start m the right direction. The Treasurer has done a good job. In his budget speech he said -
It is my privilege, after six years of war during which the very existence of Australia was threatened, to bring down the present budget covering the transition from war to peace.
When hostilities ceased, our first thoughts were for our prisoners of war and every effort was made in Europe, and is being made in the Pacific, to provide for their speedy repatriation.
Our second thoughts were for those on active service. About 450,000 Australians went overseas and more than 240,000 are still there. The responsibility of the Government for the speedy repatriation and rehabilitation of members of the forces will be faithfully met.
At home we have the job of converting our economy to peace-time purposes. This will take time.
It is true that many people expected greater relief from the burden of taxation, but I believe that the Treasurer is acting wisely. Greater reductions may be possible after he has seen the trend of expenditure later in the year.
As a great believer in the principle of superannuation, I am of the opinion that the means test should be abolished. When a man pays into a superannuation fund he does so in order to receive a pension when he reaches the retiring age. He is, however, at a disadvantage compared with others who have made no provision for the future and yet are paid a full pension on attaining the age of 65 years. I have in mind two men in Western Australia, one of whom saved his money and contributed to a superannuation fund. The other man who lived three or four doors from my place did not save a penny in his life. He lived as he thought he should live, and then drew a full pension. That is unfair. Some consideration should he given to thrifty individuals who do their best in their younger years to make provision for their old-age.
An anomaly exists in our pensions legislation in respect of invalid children. I know of one family in Canberra in which there is an invalid child thirteen or fourteen years of age, who was born a cripple. The mother has to look after that child for all time and the father is on the basic wage. That child is not entitled to receive an invalid pension until it reaches the age of sixteen years. If a pension were payable now, the mother would be able to pay some one to look after the child at least for a couple of days a week to give her some relief. Various doctors in Canberra have approached this Gove ram ent and its predecessors in an endeavour to secure a. pension for the child, but without success. I urge that the payment of a pension to invalid children under sixteen years of age be considered.
I compliment the Minister for Information (Mr. Calwell) on the efforts he is making to advertise Australia overseas. Australian representatives overseas who are charged with the responsibility of publicising this country, should have adequate funds for this work. Films provide an excellent medium for advertising the attractions of this country. On Monday night at the Hotel Kurrajong a film on Australia, particularly Canberra, was shown by the Minister for Air (Mr. Drakeford). I have yet to see a better publicity film. Everybody admired it and I suggest that, it be shown all over the Commonwealth.
Much has been said in this chamber and the House of Representatives abouthousing. There has been a scarcity of homes in this country for as long as I can remember. Even when adequate supplies of building materials were available, our housing was inadequate. I deplore the attempt to solve the housing problem by the erection of large blocks of flat3, which I consider to be the shims of the future. I notice that even in Canberra flats have been erected. In this city the housing problem is acute. Even when building materials were available the anti-Labour administrations then in office did not make any real attempt to alleviate the position. To-day the shortage in Canberra totals 300 or 400 homes. Houses that are being built throughout the Commonwealth to-day for working men are far too costly. No working man should have to pay more than three times his annual salary for a house, and it should be purchaseable at that figure by the payment of one day’s wages weekly. It is no use building houses for workmen if the occupants have to spend their lives paying them off. I believe also that legislation could bo passed to prevent the erection of homes on small blocks of land. There is plenty of land in this country, and there is no reason why every house should not have a reasonable area. In Western Australia, where suitable land is almost unlimited, homes are still being built on blocks with 33-ft. and 40-ft. frontages. That is not right.
Recently the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) criticized (he increase of £100,000 in the vote for the Prices Commission. I wish it were £200,000. I was associated with the rehabilitation and re-establishment of ex-servicemen after the last war, and I should not like to see a repetition of what happened then. Those men returned with large sums of money in deferred pay and war gratuities, and they immediately became the victims of snide business men who made fortunes. The activities of the Prices Commissioner should be extended to prevent recurrence of that state of affairs. The price of home fittings at present, is far too high. For instance, baths which before the war cost £3 10s., ave now £9, and bath heaters which were £4 ,are now £11. The Government should exercise control over the manufacture and sale of these fittings, or if necessary, undertake their manufacture so that they can be sold at reasonable prices. In this regard, the less populous States ‘are at a considerable disadvantage, because most house fittings are manufactured in Sydney and Melbourne. Those goods have to be transported to Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania, and their retail price is very high. Unless an adequate check is imposed upon the manufacture and sale of house components and fittings it will not. be possible for workers to obtain homes at a reasonable figure. I suggest’ also the introduction of a system of housing loans under which the capital cost would be reduced by say ‘£25 upon the birth of the first child, £50 for the second child, £75 for the third, £100 for the fourth and so on. Such schemes have been implemented successfully overseas, and I see no reason why they would not be successful here. This country needs population, and that would be one method of encouraging an increase of the birth-rate. After the last war many returned soldiers paid £50 or £75 deposit on homes, but when the depression came, owing to the slump in housing values, most of them lost their equity. That must not occur again.
Recently, I asked the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) a question with reference to the establishment of a post office at Inglewood, Western Australia. Prior to the war, Senator Collett and I worked in conjunction on this matter and the proposal actually reached the stage of preparing pLans and specifications. Unfortunately, the outbreak of war caused the temporary abandonment of the work. The office, for which i site has been chosen, would serve an area in which there are 12,000 or 14,000 and would provide an urgently required service.
The need for the standardization of our railway gauges cannot be overemphasized. The journey from Perth to Canberra involves six changes of trains. That is beyond all reason. I give credit to the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward) for going so far as he has gone in an endeavour to secure the cooperation of the States in this work. It is true that air travel is preferred by many people, but others find that they cannot travel by air. Unfortunately, I am one of those, with the result that I have to make the long tedious journey bv train, involving as I have said six changes.
I support the people of Canberra in their claim for a representative in this Parliament. I have always known that Canberra residents did not have a vote at general elections, but I did not know until comparatively recently that they did not have a vote at the recent referendum, and I hope that it will not be long before they have a representative in this Parliament.
After the last war, there was a considerable body of public opinion in favour of’ the wiping out of all international debts. The time for such action is even more opportune now. Why not wipe out all debts, and let each country meet its own internal financial obligations? Also, I have yet to learn why 5s. in this country should not be worth 5s. in Great Britain or anywhere else. I strongly favour the elimination of exchange rates. Senator Aylett has mentioned the danger of atomic bombing in the future. We might just as well be the victims of an atomic bomb as continue with our present system. I am satisfied with the present system of control of the wheat and wool industries. We have a Commonwealth Wool Realization Commission and an Australian Wheat Board which, in conjunction with the Government, are doing valuable work. If they fail to continue to serve the best interests of the producers and the nation as a whole, we can disband them and form other organizations to do their job.
I am a strong supporter of the Minister for External Territories (Mr. Ward), who has taken a keen interest in the welfare of the natives of Australiancontrolled territories. He visited New Guinea and saw the work that the native population was doing to assist our fighting services. He saw evidence of the bad treatment of the natives in previous years, and I myself have obtained corroborative evidence from missionaries who worked in that area for many years. The Minister for External Territories is taking action to give a fair deal to the natives, and I am sure that, if he works in conjunction with missionaries of all denominations, he will be eminently successful. We have seen evidence in pictures published in the newspapers and in the newsreels of the magnificent work done by New Guinea natives for our armed forces. They carried large quantities of equipment and food through the jungle, and brought out many wounded men. Hundreds of lives were saved as the result of their untiring efforts. In gratitude to thom, we should ensure that they arc gwen better treatment than was accorded to .them before the war.
I hope that the Government will help and encourage ex-servicemen to take up farming. One means of doing so would be to grant concessions to them in respect of improvements effected to properties on which they are settled under the Governmentcontrolled scheme. The land for this scheme should be carefully selected by men who have experience of primary production. After the war of 1914-18, settlements were often established in areas where it would scarcely be possible to grow a turnip. . From my knowledge of soldier settlements in “Western Australia, I know that the land selected was frequently sandy and unproductive. The ex-soldiers who settled there were faced with ruin from the start. Of course, the Government has benefited from the mistakes of its predecessors, and I am satisfied that only good land will be offered to our ex-servicemen. The size of the blocks allotted will be of great importance. In my view, an area of 1,500 acres would be appropriate for one man. A smaller area would not allow a settler to operate profitably and at the same time enjoy living conditions comparable with those of residents of metropolitan areas. The Government should also help ex-service settlers by giving them all possible technical assistance. Ex-soldier3 who went on the land after the war of 1914-18 received no such assistance, and many of them came to grief as a result. We have agricultural colleges in many parts of Australia to-day where prospective settlers could be given adequate basic training. Such assistance is of particular importance to prospective dairy-farmers. Western Australia, possesses some of the finest agricultural land in the country. I have in mind the south-western portion of the State, which is very rarely stricken by droughts. It is eminently suitable for the production of fruit, fat lambs and beef. It should be a national responsibility to allot that land to ex-service settlers. Far too much property is held in large blocks ‘by companies and private individuals seeking to profit from the labour of individual farmers. I know an area in Western Australia of 20,000 or 30,000 acres, which is held by a group of com panies and -private individuals. It should be sub-divided into blocks of 2,000 or 3,000 acres on which ex-servicemen could raise sheep. It has adequate water supplies, and its development would be of advantage to the nation as a whole. The Crown Lands Department in Western Australia also holds large areas of unused land in a healthy climate which ought to be developed for primary production.
A great deal has been said about a new order in the post-war world. The main objectives of this new order should be full employment and improved social conditions for everybody. I commend those objectives to the Government and recommend that it pursue them to the exclusion of less important details. I now pay tribute to Australian women, who have done magnificent work in the auxiliary services and in war-time industries. They have been no less successful than our fighting men in their war-time occupations, and their efforts are beyond all praise. We must never forget, the Australian nurses who faced captivity rather than desert our wounded men. I have the greatest admiration for them and for their sisters who went overseas with our sailors, soldiers and airmen. Before the war, I would not have thought our young women capable of the magnificent service which they have rendered in many avenues of employment. No reward can be too good for these women. I was distressed when I read a passage in the Canberra Times of the 22nd September setting out the Government’s allocation of funds for the continuation of its shipbuilding programme. The article stated that, ‘in addition to £7,428,000 which had been expended on the construction of standard ships since 1940, a further £3,000,000 was to be expended in 1945-46 as follows: - Queensland, £600,000; New South Wales, £780,000; Victoria, £700,000; South Australia, £700,000; Tasmania, £22,000: the- United Kingdom, £215,000; and the United States of America, £3,000. Is there no such place as Western Australia? What have we done-
– It seems that that is to be the case in future. I brought this matter to the notice of the appropriate Minister and said that some of the expenditure allocated to the eastern States should be diverted to Western Australian industries. I am pleased that Tasmania is to receive a little of the money allocated, but it is disgraceful that Western Australia should be completely overlooked. The Government has as much responsibility to Western Australia as to any other State.
I refer now to the citizens’ responsibility towards ex-servicemen, lt is not always the duty of the Government to safeguard the welfare of our returning fighting men. Industrialists and local government bodies are competing for the services of these men now, and I hope that, in the years to come, they will not forget the debt which they owe to them. We must endeavour to cultivate a spirit of tolerance and understanding toward.? ex-servicemen. We must appreciate that they are returning to strange and unfamiliar ways of life after years of danger, discipline, and privation. They were trained to kill or be killed. -Their lives have been at the opposite pole to that of normal peace-time living. We must be patient with them and realize that they saved Australia. Millions of men and women have striven for a new world, and hundreds of thousands have given their lives in doing so. We must not dishonour the promises which we gave to them before they left to face the enemy. The Commonwealth, the States, and local government bodies should play their part in guaranteeing a prosperous and happy future for these men and women who saved us from a cruel enemy.
.- I shall not examine the financial proposals of the Government in detail, but I shall refer to some matters that affectprimary production. Senator Clothier skimmed over the subject of primary production as a swallow skims over a pool. He touched the subject at one or two points but said practically nothing of consequence about it. I am very alarmed at the position of primary industries at the present time. With regard to the budget generally, I am disappointed that the reduction of taxation for the current year represents only 6^- per cent. Most people to-day are working three days for the
Government and three days for themselves, and, on the seventh day, they have time to brood over the three days in which they work for the Government. The Government could have reduced ite estimated expenditure for the present year by more than £100,000,000 without affecting the position of Australia in the slightest. I visited a factory a week ago and was amazed to see a number of men making machinery for war purposes. I asked the foreman what was to be done with the machinery. He told me that it was destined for New Guinea, and when 1 asked him if it would ever be used, he said, “ No, it will go straight to the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and be sold “. I have no doubt that thousands of factories are engaged in the same sort of wasteful production.
– Does the honorable senator believe that?
– I saw it happening with my own eyes.
– No such thing is happening.
– It has happened, and it is still happening.’ The Government should have approached firms engaged on war contracts and told them that, as their products would be of no further use for war purposes, their contracts would be cancelled and they would be compensated. It is wrong that such work should be continued. Scores of men engaged on such work could be diverted immediately to peace-time work in order to produce commodities which are badly needed in the community. I hope that the Government will closely investigate this position.
I am sorry for men who propose to settle on the land while taxes are at their present high levels. From my knowledge of existing conditions, I know that any farmer with a mortgage. on his property has not the slightest chance of paying it, off. The present position of primary production generally, is reflected in two items in the budget speech. The first is the provision of £12,500,000 to stabilize prices of goods to consumers. Can any honorable senator say that prices of goods have been stabilized to the consumers? No. Prices generally have risen by leaps and bounds. For instance, we are now being charged ls. per lb. for apples; and the position is much the same in respect of all essential goods. The second item to which I refer, reveals that primary production in Australia is subsidized to (he amount of £30,000,000 annually If the dairying industry must be subsidized tr> an amount of nearly £6,000,000 a year, there must be something radically wrong with the industry. The present price of ls. 7-Jd. a lb. for butter is farcical. The price should be at least 2s. a lb.; ;ind until it is fixed at that figure the dairy-farmer will not be able to earn the basic wage. I defy any one to prove that the dairy-farmer to-day is receiving the basic wage. Those two items reflect the serious position in primary production at present.
In view of the facts I have just given I greatly deplore the prospect that 54,000 new settlers will shortly apply for land, f take that estimate from the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission which in its second report states -
The estimation of the actual number of men from the fighting forces who will want to go on the land is a most difficult matter. The (“Commonwealth understands that, roughly 80,000 of the men leaving the land went into the forces, and about 50,000 went into munitions . . . The commission has no adequate data for an estima.te, but the proportion nf the first Australian Imperial Force which went on the land was about 0 per cent, and, if we are to expect that a similar percentage of the services has the same desire after this war, the number for consideration for land settlement will be of the order of 54,000.
The position is aggravated by the fact that the Government has done absolutely nothing up to date with respect to soldier land settlement. It has not yet passed the requisite legislation to enable the States to purchase land for soldier settlement. The Commonwealth, of course, will finance the scheme. That is only to be expected because under uniform taxation the States are excluded from the income tax field. In any case, no State can resume land for soldier land settlement until the Commonwealth Government passes the necessary legislation. Consequently, although several estates may have been selected for this purpose, not one estate has actually been purchased. Scores of men living in the district in which I reside have been advised that their properties are to be taken over, but not one of those properties Iia.’ actually been taken over. Victoria has passed its legislation, but is still waiting for the Commonwealth to pass the necessary supplementary legislation to implement the agreement with the States in this matter. Surely the Government must recognize that the present occupants of land which it is proposed to resume cannot be moved ofl their properties within a few months. In the case of properties of areas up to 10,000 acres, occupants will require months in order to dispose of their stock and months will be involved in subdividing the land after it is resumed. In addition, the Commonwealth is duplicating the system, of land settlement, because it stipulates under its arrangement with the States that it must ‘first approve of estates before they can bo purchased. Surely, the States have trained men who are capable of doing this work. The crux of the problem of soldier land settlement is the provision of payable markets. We have now reached saturation point in the marketing of all commodities which we do not export. I challenge any honorable senator to name one of these commodities which does not come into that category. Provision has been made for the payment of £2,500,000 for waste potatoes; and potatoes are a perishable commodity. The same observation applies to other commodities. I repeat that the crux of the problem is marketing. This is what the Rural Reconstruction Commission, which wa3 appointed by this Government, says on this matter, in its third report -
Unfortunately, our people too frequently have short memories or else too frequently think in terms of the present generation oi present desires. If we tura back to the immediate pre-war years we can find little reason for optimism as to the prospects of further settlement promotion. The productive capacity of existing settlement had already outstripped requirements at payable prices.;
What hope will the settler have in the future if he has not a payable market for his products? I should like to know what the Government has done, or is doing, to find, markets. It has not made the semblance of an effort in that direction. The Rural Reconstruction Commission points out that we can see daylight in respect of only two commodities, namely, wool and mutton. That statement is in accordance with facts. Later, I shall deal fully with the position of the wool industry; but for” many years the price of wool was just a fraction over 8i: per lb., and no one could possibly afford to grow wool at that price. The present price is 151/2d. per lb. Just prior to1 the war we had reached saturation point On the British market in the supply of fat lambs. Had we had a few hundred thousand more’ lambs for export at that time, Britain would not have been able to take’ them from- us, and no other market exists overseas for our fat Iambs. In these circumstances’ we cannot go on increasing our fat lamb production. If 04,000 additional men are settled on the land, not only will they fail, but those already on the land will also fail if markets are not available. I urge the Government tff make a realistic approach to these problems. It is clear, as I have said on previous occasions, that the point has been reached in the sugar industry where if a grower produces more sugar he will receive less money, for the simple reason that the local consumer is charged’ 4d-. or 41/2d a lb. for sugar and all’ production in excess of requirements for the home market is sold abroad at 2d. a lb. The same observation applies to butter and dried’ fruits, and’ all those commodities which we now’ produce in excess of the requirement’s of our home market. If we store millions of acre feet of water and extend our present irrigation schemes in order to increase our production of primary commodities, which must be exported because the needs of the homemarket are already fully met, the prices which we shall receive for that excess’ production must’ inevitably decrease. The’ Rural Industries ‘Commission in its. third’ report also states -
The way of development iS’ not through thepromotion of land settlement for agriculture or, as we refer t’o i’t in » preceding chapter “by blind pursuit of a policy, of colonization by land settlement’”, with its attendant dis1 illusionment when prices collapse through lack’ of markets. The proper way is through thepromotion of those things which give rise to increased requirements, e.g., greater population …
Until’ we increase our population, it is useless to increase our primary productions, because it will’ be uneconomic to do so. After the war of 1914-18, farms were purchased on a 30-cow basis for dairying. It is impossible for any farmer to work oil that basis. The basis should be at least 50 cows. A dairy-farmer must have at least seventeen cows milked a day in order to be able to pay the Wage of £5 ls. a week prescribed under the rural workers award. Thus, the farmer himself does not receive the basie wage on a 30-cow basis. I have always advocated that’ the best basis of successful land settlement is the 1,000 sheep proposition. Such a’ proposition will return £1,000 a’ year gross, but a careful and efficient manager can frequently net £1,000 a year on that basis. However, we never cease to hear the argument that ex-service personnel’ must be settled on small areas. The Wool’ cheque received by owners of a 10,000- s’heep property near my property amounts- to £10,000 annually, but that property has been rejected as unsuitable for soldier land settlement. Almost any land in Australia is suitable’ for closer settlement provided that it is subdivided on the basis’ of 1.000-sheer properties. The” property to which I have referred could have been sub-divided’ into, ten properties from each of which the settler would have earned £1,000 a year gross without the necessity of ‘looking for new markets for wool or mutton. Possibly, on such a basis the area of one man’s property would be 500 acres- and that df another man 3,000: Acres. The important point’ is that each property would be a 1,000-sheep1 proposition.
-Why was that property rejected for soldier settlement? “.Senator GIBSON.- That is what I should like to know. The fact is that it was” rejected along with an adjoining property which is a still better proposition.
– I Suppose that the price asked for it was tod high.
– No; the value of that land would be’ about £6 10s. an acre, and the owners, who are absentees, wanted to sell’. Possibly, it was rejected because the officials who inspected it were incompetent. When 1 see estates of that kind being rejected I cannot be optimistic about the Government’s plans for soldier land settlement. The Commonwealth stipulates that every estate proposed to be resumed by a State for this purpose must be approved by it; it must approve the valuation and size of each block. Surely, the States’ officers are capable of handling such matters because they have been doing so over a very long period, and are more familiar with local conditions and values than Commonwealth officials. No settler should be called upon during the first five years to pay interest or repayments of principal. If those payments were cancelled or deferred, the settler would then have five years in which to erect fences and farm buildings, purchase stock and make necessary preparations for the carrying on of his property, but it would be fatal to require him to make payments in respect of principal and interest for the first year.
– He would still have to find a market for his produce.
– Markets are already available for wool and mutton.
– “We still have the wool clip of the last two years to dispose of.
– I shall deal with that point later. Owing to the high taxes now operating, the settler would have great difficulty in getting a start on a mew property, and every consideration should be shown to him for the first five years.
The dairying industry should be completely mechanized. After the first world war, when ex-servicemen took up land for dairying, the price of butter was 2s. 6d. per lb., but to-day it is only ls. 7d. per lb. A dairy farm with 50 cows could he operated by two men, if the farm were completely mechanized. In New South Wales, dairy cows give 114 gallons of milk annually less than is obtained from cows in Victoria. In other words, two cows in Victoria are better than three in New South Wales. Dairying should not he regarded as a family occupation. Children should not be treated1 as slaves to ‘ their parents and be called upon to’ milk four- or five cows’ every morning before they leave for school’. We do- not’ desire to build up a peasant class in Australia. People- working on the land should’ have all the amenities that can’ he given- to them. A dairyman is’ entitled to a hot water service, sewerage, electric light and all the other comforts that help to make a good home.
– Did the honorable senator support the proposals submitted at the last referendum?
– That has nothing to do with the matter which I am discussing. If a man takes up a small area for wheat farming, he has to compete with the world in the marketing of his crop. The present system by which subsidies are granted to primary producers to the amount of £40,000,000 a year cannot continue. A settler taking up a small area for mixed farming or for wheat growing requires a tractor which will cost, say, £700. He also needs a motor car and a truck, a plough and stock. He cannot avoid an initial expenditure of about £2,000, and he is immediately confronted with the problem of over-capitalization. That was the fault which ruined many a settler under the scheme introduced after the first world war.
– ‘Inflated price* were paid for land.
– That has nothing to do with my argument.
– In many cases -big prices were paid for land in marginal areas.
– Nobody can tell the real value of land. I once bought a block of 400 acres, and all it had on it was a ring fence. I put the land under wheat, and it paid for itself in the first year. The barley crop which I planted in the second year paid for the land again. A settler might be fortunate enough to experience a good season and find his feet financially at the outset. Senator Aylett referred to the sum of up to £1,000 which the Government proposes to advance to soldier settlers taking up land. I entirely agree with the honorable senator that no young man could avail himself of the Government’s offer unless he had had previous experience” on the land. I hope that the Government will rectify that fault, so that a person who desires to engage in share-farming, and has had no previous experience of it, will not be debarred from receiving an advance. In New
Zealand, when a settler begins sheepfarming, the Government advances £6,000, and to a dairyman it loans £5,000. That is a wise policy. We should avoid making peasants of those who work on the land. The previous land settlement scheme provided for the establishment of dairy-farms on a 30-cow basis, but that was worse than a failure. In some States, 30 acres of land was purchased at a cost of £60 an acre. A settler would require the temperament of >a Chinaman to make a living on that basis. According to Mr. Justice Pike’s report only 14,000 of the 37,000 settlers who were placed on the land after the first world war remained in rural industries. The area of h, nd purchased for settlement was 23,000,000 acres, and the losses, according to the Pike report, amounted to £23,000,000: but, according to the report of the Rural Reconstruction Commission, the losses to date amount to £45,000,000. I hope that the Government will immediately introduce the legislation required to enable the States to purchase the land that will be needed for the settlement of ex-servicemen. Scores of men are making application for land, but there is not a single block available. The States have passed the necessary legislation, but they are waiting for the Commonwealth Government to provide the money needed and to approve the purchase of the land. I repeat that the secret of successful soldier settlement lies in the provision of the necessary markets, but no markets have been sought by the Government up to the present.
– That is not quite accurate.
– Can the honorable senator give me one instance of the Government having searched for markets?
– It has sent officers overseas.
– I have not previously heard of it having done so. The wool industry is the backbone of Australia.
– There was no market for wool after the first great war. The inner ring manipulated it.
– That is quite wrong. I am in favour of the Empire wool agreement, because the producers have accepted it, but it does not fix a permanent price for wool. The price is ls. 3£d. for this year, but the price will be revised from year to year. II wool is not selling freely at auction, a considerable reduction of the price will probably occur. The Government has already purchased back 5,000,000 bales out of the 10,000,000 bales which is stacked in the stores. Wool to the amount of 5,500,000 bales is stored in Australia, and the balance is held in South Africa, United States of America, Great Britain and New Zealand, but further clips are still coming to hand. It was said by officials who went abroad that thirteen years would be occupied in clearing the accumulated stocks, but I do not hold that view. When Bawra was established, it put 2,000,000 bales on the market, but it did not sell a single bale. It simply took over the surplus of 2,000,000 bales and fed the market with it for two and a half years. In 1920-21 the price was 113/4d per lb., and in the next year when Bawra started to feed the surplus to the market the price was 121/2d per lb. In 1922-23, the price rose to ls. ‘6£d. per lb., and in 1923-24 it averaged ls. 11.7d. per lb. I believe that the top price of 2s. 3d. per lb., reached in 1&24 constituted a world’s record, and that was the year when Bawra ceased to operate. There was then a tremendous demand for wool, and I am convinced that in the post-war period millions of people will require woollen clothing.
In my opinion, the period needed for the sale of the accumulated stocks is more likely to be five years than ten years. The United States of America purchased 1,000,000 bales of wool last year, but had never done that previously. I venture to say that that quantity is half of the present Australian clip. Our average clip is 3,000,000 bales, but last year the production decreased by 480,000 bales. Competent authorities say that this year’s clip will fall to 2,000,000 bales- Of that quantity, the United States of America will take 1,000,000 bales and Australia will consume about 500,000 bales. Great Britain will have to obtain its requirements from the pool of 10,000,000 bales now held in stock. Our local consumption is now about 400,000 bales a year, but it should be 500,000 bales. It fell by 58,000 bales last year, but I am confident that that reduction will be overcome this year and will again reach 500,000 hales. Only a small quantity of the Australian wool clip is treated in this country.
I desire some clarification of the wool agreement. Australian manufacturers have been able to obtain Australian wool at the appraised price. That is not 15id. per lb. ; the price has ranged from 11 per cent, to 13 per cent, below that price. When I sell mv wool it is appraised at, say, 16d., 18d., or 20d. per lb. When the season is over, a valuation of the total wool of Australia is made, and it may be 11 per cent, or 12 per cent, below la-id. per lb. Australian manufacturers by their purchasers at appraised prices, have been subsidized by wool-growers to an amount of approximately £711,000. I want to know whether that amount is to bo provided by the general community and paid to the wool-growers of this country so that they will get the full 15$d. per lb. for their wool, or whether the wearers of woollen cloth in various countries are to reap the benefit. Surely that £711,000 belongs to the wool-growers of Australia. I should like the Minister to clarify that point. The wool in stock is held by South Africa, New Zealand and the United States of America. Although the agreement is a good one, I am. sure that we must accept a reduction of the price to below 15$d. per lb. A determination will be made when we know the result of the first sales to take place after the existing clip goes on the market.
In my opinion, the Government has been slow with its housing programme as well a3 with its farm settlement proposals. That is unfortunate. I believe in giving to a man a block of land big enough for cultivation as a garden. Within ten miles of Melbourne there is a large area of farm land which should be cut up and & train or tram service to the city provided. Some years ago Sir Thomas Bent provided free railway passes for a number of years to men who built homes in the Brighton, Oakleigh and other districts. That is why the southern districts of Melbourne have expanded more than have the northern districts. Senator Clothier said that people should be pro vided with houses costing about £800 each. Some time ago the Allied Works Council built five cottages near to my property. For a building of three rooms without a. chimney £850 was charged. A house of three rooms without a chimney is not good enough for any family. The cost of building is far too high. In Victoria, 200 homes were destroyed by bushfires a year or two ago. Homes built to replace them at a. cost of £700 or £800 each were. not worth more than £200 or £300 on a pre-war basis. I know of a widow who was called upon to pay £650 for a house which in pre-war days would not have cost more than £200. I hope that the Government will see that cheap materials, including timber, and cheaper labour will be made available for home construction. I say cheaper labour advisedly. Recently, I wanted 1,500 bricks laid on my property. Two men laid them in a day, and were paid £12 for the job. That is the position which obtains to-day; men make excessive demands and the person who wants the joh done has to pay the price demanded or not have it done.
– I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on an excellent budget. Indeed, the budget that he presented to the House of Representatives was so perfect that, in spite of the most intense combing to which it has been subjected. Opposition members were not able to find any peg on which to hang a sound argument. The budget for 1945-46 will go down in history as the budget upon which there was the shortest debate on record. That is an indication that the Treasurer must have pleased almost every one, and therefore he deserves our congratulations. In his speech on the budget the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) struck a pessimistic note. That is understandable because the honorable senator had a task which was too difficult for his confreres in the House of Representatives. It is not to he wondered at that the honorable senator made heavy weather of it.
– He did very well.
– Yes, in the circumstances. Senator Gibson also struck a pessimistic note. The Acting Leader of the Opposition complained that the cost of the staff of the Prices Commission was more than for the previous year. The honorable senator would have been more honest if he had admitted that the task of that commission will be more difficult during the transition period from war to peace than it was previously. He used a tiny peg on which to hang an argument when he said that he could congratulate the Labour party on coming round to his way of thinking, in that it had at last adopted a contributory system of social services. Nearly two years ago I pointed out that the Labour party accepted a contributory system of social services in 1943 when it decided to tax incomes as low as £104 per annum. I said then that that course was justified because social benefits were to be provided to the people whose incomes were being taxed. “With the future so uncertain, the average man with a family ought to have been a member of a friendly society. However, when his children reached the age of sixteen years, and began their industrial careers they were no longer covered by their father’s contribution’s to a friendly society and if they were wise, joined such a society on their own account, and probably also contributed to some hospital fund. Payments for those benefits would have totalled about 22s. or 23s. a quarter. Under the Government’s taxation measures, incomes of £2 a week were subjected to a tax of about 3d. a week, and for that payment <a youth was entitled to certain social welfare benefits. In the circumstances the taxing of his income was justified. A contributory scheme is justified when the contributor is entitled to free hospital treatment and free sickness benefits. At that time it was thought that the friendly societies might offer serious opposition to the introduction of this social welfare legislation. I am pleased to say that the pessimism of honorable senators opposite was not justified, and that the friendly societies have accepted the Government’s social service schemes in the spirit in which they have been introduced. Frankly, I have always believed that it was the responsibility of governments to care for the health of the people, and that friendly societies only existed because people were not being cared for by governments. In effect, the1 friendly societies were “ scabbing “ on governments by doing work that should have been undertaken by the governments’ themselves. This Administration has recognized its responsibility, so there virtually is no need for friendly societies to continue their operations. When the transition period - possibly twenty years - has expired, the work that the friendly societies have been doing will be the sole obligation of the Government. Therefore, I consider that the Government’s action is amply justified.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition referred pessimistically to Australia’s chances of becoming a country in which secondary industries would flourish, and spoke of engineering establishments in America in which as many as five machines were tended by one employee; but in the Old Country 30 years ago, three multiple automatic machines were tended by one individual. TheUnited States of America, of course, isrunning true to form. It is an intensely capitalistic country, and I believe that it will be the last stronghold of commercialism. However, it is a sad commentary that as the result of America’scommercialism, it has an unemployment’ problem greater than that of any othercountry. For a country which is rich in all natural resources to be in that, state,, shows either a lack of organization or a faulty economy. In condemning: American commercialism, I am reminded of what Edward Bellamy visualized in 1880 in his well known book Equality, in which he predicted television and described it perfectly. He said that America would revolt. and,, singularly enough, we are now approaching the period when, accordingto Bellamy, that revolution would takeplace. I trust that American captainsof industry will realize the error of their ways and appreciate that there must bea fairer distribution of the world’s goods, because if they do not rise from their sordid commercialism events may bevery unpleasant. I suggest that thediscovery of the atomic bomb should do quite a lot to convince them that the world has changed whether they like it or not - the revolution may be a forceful one. I have been greatly impressed by the events of the last few weeks in America, and I am inclined to believe that what Mr. Bellamy said as far back as 1880 . may come true. Let us hope, however, that the revolution will be a peaceful one.
Senator Gibson spoke about £6,000,000 being paid to the dairying industry in subsidies, but I recall that when the dairymen were on strike in New South Wales not long ago because their demand for an increased subsidy had not been granted, honorable senators opposite supported them. Senator Gibson also urged that the people in country districts should be given electric light, refrigeration, sewerage, hot water services, and other amenities. I asked the honorable senator whether he supported the Government’s referendum proposals and his reply was that the referendum did not have anything to do with the matter. One object of the Government in holding the referendum was to obtain power to decentralize and expand industry. It wanted power to engage in industry, and to utilize the projects that had been established in various country towns during the war, to do just the very thing that Senator Gibson says should be done, namely, to carry the amenities of city life to country people and so preserve the country unit. I have expressed those, sentiments in this chamber frequently, -and I am pleased that Senator Gibson at last is seeing some things from our point of view.
– He will not admit it.
– No, but gradually he may find his way over to this side of the chamber, and we shall welcome him “because of his sincerity. The honorable senator struck a pessimistic note when dealing with the future of the wool industry. Apparently he fears that there will be some- difficulty in disposing of our wool.
– No, but I said that the price would probably be reduced when we returned to the auction system next year.
– I believe that there is a great future for Australian wool. I know of several huge organizations in Europe to-day which are endeavouring to capture with wool the market which previously was held by synthetic fibres. There is an excellent opportunity to-day for the building up of Australia’s wool export trade. Large quantities of machinery were destroyed in Europe during the war and quite a lot was taken from countries such as Czechoslovakia and Poland to Russia. Unfortunately tens of thousands of people who would normally operate these machines have been “ liquidated “ in the course of the war. An excellent opportunity presents itself now to push Australian wool products on the European markets in the place of synthetics. In Switzerland there is a great demand for Australian wool products. In fact, practically all European countries are anxious to buy our wool. The people of some of them have never had an opportunity to wear woollen garments, because they have been forced to accept synthetics. Vigorous action now may achieve for Australia a stabilized European market for wool in the future.
Replying to Senator Clothier’s remarks in regard to housing, Senator Gibson drew attention to what had been done in Victoria by Sir Thomas Bent, who, he said, provided free railway passes to persons who built houses 8 or 10 miles out of Melbourne. I know of some people in New South Wales who went one better than that: Knowing that a railway line was to be built in a certain direction, they bought up large areas of land, built a few dozen houses, and made them available for purchase at the nominal figure of 2s. 6d. a week, the purchase to be completed in 30 years. Having established these settlements, these “ gogetters “ were able to go to the railway authorities and say, “Here is a residential area which should have a railway service “. With the provision of a train service, of course, the value of the land rose by as much as 500 per cent., and they made a big haul. I do not know whether Sir Thomas Bent was on that racket or not.
– No. He was the Premier of the State.
– I am pleased to hear that. I refer now to a subject which appears to be agitating the public mind, namely, the means test. We should abolish the means test, if possible, and I believe that the Government will do so in the not distant future. Public servants and thousands of others who contribute to various superannuation funds find, when they reach the retiring age, that by reason of their thrift they are debarred from taking advantage of the Government’s social security schemes.
– Is the honorable senator referring to the old-age pension?
– Yes, and to other social benefits.
– Would the honorable senator abolish the means test for the old-age pensions?
– It would be difficult to police. I am speaking of the principle of the means test. Public servants and other contributors to superannuation funds complain that although the profligate, the drunkard who is careless of his money and who spends his spare time in public houses and gambling institutions, is eligible for benefits to which they have contributed by means of indirect taxation. They pay twice for the same purpose by means of superannuation and taxation, but are ineligible for government pensions. Recently, a man said to mo that, if he had wasted his money as others had done, he would be entitled to an old-age pension. He complained that, although he had paid his taxes, he was entitled to no assistance from the Government in the evening of his life. I told him that at least by his respectable, decent, clean living he had saved his selfrespect, which he would not sacrifice even at the cost of the taxes which he had paid. He agreed with me on that point. However, if we can evolve a scheme to abolish the means test we shall help to build a better world. I am opposed to superannuation schemes. I have contributed to such funds on various occasions, but I have never collected anything from them when my contributions ceased. I consider that they are an evil, a weapon of the commercial, or capitalist, class.
– What is wrong with them?
– They tie a man to his job. Consider what happens in a railway workshop, for instance. Employees find themselves in a groove, which becomes deeper and deeper. They travel from their homes to work, and from work to their homes, until their outlook is hounded by that routine. That is an awful thing. I was in such a groove, but I refused to wear it too deep and escaped from it. Superannuation, generally, is bad. Nevertheless, I do not believe in repudiating the liabilities to people who have contributed to such schemes. I hope that some system will be evolved by which obligations to them can be honoured.
– The honorable senator is coming over to our side.
– No. I believe that the Government should be prepared to safeguard the welfare of people in the evening of their lives. Any man who has lived a decent life as a law-abiding citizen has conferred a benefit upon the community and is entitled to be provided by the community with peace, comfort, and security in his old age. I do not expect honorable senators opposite to support my view; I must look for support to this side of the chamber. I do not worry about the means of financing social security schemes. People to-day have not the same narrow outlook as they had many years ago. During the depression, men employed on relief work were keenly interested in public finance and held many discussions about it. They knew that they were victims of some evil system and they studied everything that they could in order to learn about it. That is why the advocates of the Douglas Credit system made so much progress during the depression years. By the time the depression ended, the average man could afford to blow on his hand when the lack of money was mentioned.
– Why was there no money ?
– There was money, although honorable senators opposite and their friends claimed that there was none. The average worker learned much more about public finance than his bosses had learned prior to the depression. Mr. Montagu Norman, as he was known after he had changed his name, said when the Bank of England made £210,000,000 additional capital available to the British Government, that the bank’s action must not be regarded as being in any way inflationary.
– Neither it was.
– I agree with, the honorable senator. However, Mr. Montagu Norman, Sir Otto Niemeyer and others of their kind held up their hands in horror when an Australian Labour government sought to obtain an £18,000,000 fiduciary note issue to ease the rigours of the depression. That proposal was not inflationary either. It is to the everlasting discredit of the Senate at that time that the move was blocked.
– Mr. Theodore, the then Treasurer, obtained the £18,000,000 by the issue of Treasury bills.
– That amount was not secured. He was told that he had already obtained too much money. Before the depression, workers regarded the handling of public finance as some sort of wizardry. However, when they read Mr. Montagu Norman’s statement about the release of £210,000,000 to the British Government they could afford to smile. That amount has since been increased to over £5,000,000,000.
– About all they could afford to do at that time was to smile.
– It was difficult for anybody on relief work to smile. I have never Been so many Australians with hang-dog expressions as I saw during the depression period.
We should take every opportunity to advertise Australia with a view to the nation’s development. I believe that the present Labour Government will do so. Because the people realize that their hope for development lies in the able administration of a Labour government, they will continue to elect a majority of Labour representatives for many years to come. Australia, covering a huge area which embraces almost every climate, should become self-contained as readily as any country in the world. The Australian Journalists Association has recently issued a pamphlet entitled The Case for Australian Authors and Artists, in which it advocates assistance for Australian writers. I hope that the request made in the pamphlet for the appointment of a parliamentary committee to inquire into and report on. the book-publishing industry will be granted, in the interests of Australian. authors who can make this continent more widely known in other countries. The association considers that the proposed committee should have regard to the need for legislation to prevent the importation into Australia of cheap American literature. I have no doubt that that view will be endorsed by a majority of the Australian people. The association does not object to the importation of good American literature. We have authors in Australia capable of producing books which, in addition to being as good as the average imported production, will be typically Australian and therefore valuable in making this country better known to the peoples of other lands. We should help these people in every way. The case made out in the pamphlet should receive the support of everybody, and I am sure that the Government will assist in the direction suggested by the association.
Sitting suspended from 5JiO to 8 p.m.
– Senator Large referred to Edward Bellamy who wrote Looking Backward, and the honorable senator seemed to enjoy himself in similar vein. This is a general debate upon such subjects as may, for the moment, be exercising our minds. I propose to confine my remarks to demobilization and related subjects. After the termination of the war of 1914-18, I worked under Sir John Monash at the intermediate stage and have, therefore, some appreciation of the associated problems. In the first place we have, since 1939, completely converted our economy to wai’ purposes. World War TI. has been a total war - all in - and has lasted for six years. Fortunately the waste of human life has been less than in the war of 1914-18 but, on the other hand, the dissipation of our material resources has been enormous. It will take us from ar least ten to twelve years to recover our economic poise and the process of recovery needs to be marked by the maximum exercise of foresight and wisdom on the part of the Parliament and the Government, and great courage and patience on the part of the people. The first step is, as the Government well know,s, to get the people hack to their normal habitats and occupations. This will involve an exodus from the capital cities of that huge aggregation of people who have gathered there as a result of the demands of war industries and the large number who have sought company and diversion whilst awaiting the return of their men-folk from the services. As regards the services, I have no doubt that the staffs can be depended upon, once Government policy is determined, to perform their tasks efficiently. Some regard must be had to the commitments of the nation with respect to the forces which our international obligations ‘ bind us to provide in order to police the terms of surrender imposed upon the Axis allies. These forces should be maintained largely by fresh drafts of men who have not yet served abroad and without regard to “ the Curtin Line “. The training they will thus receive will be a valuable asset against future contingencies in that it will assist to build up a body of efficient reserve forces. As to who should be the first to be released, I think that the men with five and more years’ service should have first consideration.
But on a broad basis the soundest process of demobilization should be conducted in the following order: - -First. to provide men to assist in the immediate production of raw materials, and manufactured articles, required for the construction and furnishing of houses; secondly, the release of men who can return to guaranteed employment associated with the normal services of society, namely, transport, manufacture and the distribution of household commodities and clothing; thirdly, release of men of the forces concerned with primary production; and fourthly, release of petrol and motor vehicle tyres so as to facilitate movements of population and distribution of goods.
– The honorable senator has not mentioned prisoners of war. What priority would he give to them?
– I understand that the policy of the Army is that repatriated prisoners of war shall be released from the services immediately.
– Would the honorable senator give them No. 1 priority?
– I understand that prisoners of war are treated as a special priority. The points -system can be worked within these categories, but it is imperative that method be observed so that we may be spared the spectacle and disturbing influence of numbers of men wandering about without prospect of immediate absorption by industry.
We have read reports, listened to statements, had discussions, and been advised of plans to provide housing for the people. We have everything but the houses and the materials with which to build them. I only propose to say, at the moment, that I look upon the provision of housing as the most vital requisite of to-day. All of us agree on this and would urge the Government to early action. There is merit in a long-range plan such as was proposed for England after the close of the war of 1914-18. The basis of this was electrical energy generated at the mouth of the coal pit and installed in every house so as to provide power, heat and light. In Australia we would need to add refrigeration. The recent rise in the cost of construction is a calamityHow we are to counter it I do not know. Some examination of the basic prices seems to be indicated. I should hesitate to endorse a system of government subsidies, although government building for rental purposes may commend itself. Subsidies for rent on privately owned properties only mean increased taxation and create a vicious circle. Senator Finlay made an interesting contribution to this debate, but, in reply to one of his arguments, I would say that a man who borrows money, at a reasonable rate of interest, for the purpose of building a home for himself and family is makingan investment. When he has regularly and fully met his obligations he owns the house - he can do as he will with it. whereas, if he rents a building he probably pays a greater sum weekly, and in the aggregate, and never will own a brick of the structure. Home-making is a thing to be encouraged. In this respect the War Service Homes Commission has been a valued help towards the satisfactory rehabilitation of the veterans of the war of 1914-18, and I hope that nothing will be done to limit its scope and” activities in the immediate future.
The process of demobilization will again bring into relief, as needing assistance, many people of mature age or impaired health who have, since 1940, been able to find remunerative employment in some branches of war industries. Their cases, and others, will command attention and, with the acceptance of the principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter, we are reminded, too, of many other obligations. The Treasurer estimates that for the current financial year the expenditure on social services will total nearly £65,000,000, made up as follows : -
To this total must be added a sum of approximately £14,000,000 for war pensions. We can see, therefore, that before providing for the ordinary services of the country, and the payment of interest on, and amortization of, the public debt, we must provide about £80,000,000 annually from a revenue which in 1938-39 was on the £96,000,000 mark. The magnitude of the commitment is apparent and yet no one can move about in the community without being sensible of the ever-growing need for some practicable and comprehensive scheme of social relief, security, insurance - or whatever we like to term it. A visit to any paying office on pension day, or any public hospital on any day, is a revelation and stresses the urgency of the situation. Outside of these two factors, every person who moves about, and particularly members of this Parliament, becomes .aware of many cases of real distress which innate pride compels the individual to attempt to conceal and which the best effort of relatives, if any, are not able to alleviate. Here is where the weakness of out system obtrudes, the means test, which subjects the very needy individual to the indignity of an inquisi tion into his or her affairs, and others to a penalty on foresight and frugal care. Only the other day 1 instanced theanomalous position of the retired public servant who finds himself, after contributing for years to a superannuation fund, worse off than the individual who has made no provision at all.
The Social Security Committee has done good work in exploring avenues for achieving social security, but has not yet evolved a concrete and comprehensive plan to meet present needs, let alone future contingencies. We need a fresh and untrammelled mind to study this subject from all aspects. Our present system is inefficient, costly and wasteful. Commonwealth and State Governments and local governing authorities pay out public moneys to this end, and these efforts are supplemented by those of insurance companies, friendly societies, trade unions, religious bodies, the Freemasons, ex-servicemen’s organizations and philanthropic societies, by bequests, benefactions and endowments, and by the promotion of entertainments, street collections, lotteries, bazaars, raffles and even tarpaulin musters. Yet the need still remains. One can appreciate that this dispersion of effort, and the cost to the people engaged, might bc better directed. I was talking recently to & churchman who :said that the abolition of such activities would do away with charity. On the other hand, I contend that the need for charity may well be abolished, although we shall always have scope for its spirit. I am sure that we all desire to see real social security which will provide for the efficient care of the sick, -protection against want, and a comfortable leisured period, beginning when a man or woman attains the age of 60 years.
As ia related subject I shall touch briefly on public health. One gains encouragement from the increased attention which is being given to this matter. It is an important phase of any scheme of social security and should Tse stressed. There is :still room for great development in our methods of providing medical attention and hospital treatment. I have earlier - referred to the revelation which results from -a visit to any public hospital in a capital city. The need is even greater in the region of preventive medicine, and this involves a disciplining of the people, in their best interests, in such matters as pre-natal care, diet, clothing, housing and general hygiene. The move to secure physical fitness is to be encouraged, and there is something to be said in favour of the organization of youth, as advocated by Senator Arnold, provided that this is not overdone, and does not result, as happened in Europe, in the creation of breeding grounds for fascism and other obnoxious “ isms “. I have heard mothers complain that the regimentation of children results in the suppression of many desirable human qualities and the restriction of genius. Further hope in this direction can be gathered from the obvious increase of the need for liberalizing our systems of education. Reforms should begin with the teachers by making the profession more attractive and exacting a higher standard of qualification and professional skill, as well as by including in the curriculum instruction in the privileges and duties of citizenship.
There is another phase of public health or national well-being in respect of which Australia is at present far below par. I refer to the industrial unrest which is pervading the community. Whatever the causes, the results are disastrous in every direction and the mounting ills are increasing in severity. It is a curious reflection on our make-up that at the close of a great war, during which we displayed a satisfactory united effort, the coming of peace should bring about so rapid a disintegration. The situation is undoubtedly serious. In my own State, Western Australia, which is seldom disturbed by industrial disputes, the people in the metropolitan area have recently been afflicted with a cessation of certain . public utilities and a reduction of their electricity supply. Thousands of people have been thrown out of work and there hasalso been a grave reduction of the output of necessary commodities and essential services. At this stage it is idle to speculate about the causes. The Government is elected to govern for the benefit of the whole of the people, and continued inaction in this direction will only bring it into contempt. Trade union executives appear to have gone into cool storage. Is it too much to expect that the Leader of the Senate, (Senator Keane), speaking on behalf of his colleagues, will makea clear statement of an intention to take definite action to stop the rot and return the administration of the country’s affairs to the responsible authority - this Parliament. These matters which I have mentioned are all related, and, unless they are effectively dealt with and co-ordinated, we must expect failure in the post-war period.
– It has been rightly said that the budget provides for the transition from a long period of war to a period of peace. The peace period has not been lengthy. The ink was hardly dry on the document relating to the surrender of Japan when the budget had to be presented, yet honorable senators have criticized the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) on the ground that the proposed expenditure in respect of war services is too great, despite the fact that war expenditure has been reduced by £100,000,000. I consider that any government which provides for a reduction of that amount incurs considerable risk. The expenditure of a war character still to be authorized includes sums of considerable magnitude, one being a payment of £54,000,000 in respect of ex-service personnel. I shall indicate as I proceed, one or two other items of expenditure concerning which no honorable senator can give a reliable forecast as to whether the payments will be wholly justified. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie) said that, apart from this being a transition budget, Australia has been, financially, drifting with the tide, and must now readjust its affairs and give . full consideration to the vast financial problems awaiting solution. I do not agree that we have been drifting with the tide. Owing to the enormous war commitments that have had to be met by the present and preceding governments, the bald assertion by the Acting Leader of the Opposition is unjustified.
From 1939 to 1941, when a United Australia party government waa in power, the expenditure incurred was £225,000,000, but from 1941, when a Labour government was in office, the expenditure for war purposes alone amounted to £1,885,000,000. The necessity for that outlay has arisen because of a set of circumstances over which no government could exercise control.
– There were reasons for it.
– Yes. The war was the primary cause, and it was impossible to assess what expenditure would be required. The Government had to save Australia from a plight which would have been terrible, had the enemy succeeded. Despite the vast expenditure incurred in the prosecution of the war, the result has been to keep Australia safe for present and future generations. From the outbreak of war to the 30th June last, tie pay of the armed forces amounted to £604,000,000. Is that an unjustified expense, one which indicates that the country is drifting? The maintenance of the forces and incidental services lias necessitated the expenditure of £252’,000,000, aircraft and war-like stores and equipment £555,000,000, whilst works and buildings necessitated by the war have called for the expenditure of £145,000,000. The six years of war ineluded a period during which non-Labour governments were in office. It is not fair for any representative of the people to say that the budget indicates that the finances of the country are drifting. I emphasize that the first consideration of the Government must he the repatriation of Australian prisoners of war. I do not know what the total expenditure under that heading will be, but whatever sum may be involved, the people of Australia desire that, at the earliest possible moment, the whole of our service men and women, particularly those who have been the victims of Japanese cruelty in “ hell “ camps, shall be repatriated. Since the Japanese surrender a magnificent job has been done in bringing prisoners of war home to Australia. At the conclusion of the war of 1914-18 no fleets of aeroplanes were used to bring back to Australia men who had been prisoners of war.
– We did not have transport aeroplanes in those days.
– The Government has done its utmost to bring men back, and for that purpose it has used the most modern methods of transport.
– The distancethat the men have to be brought is not so great as it was after the war of” 1914-1S.
– Distance is of little moment. I travelled by aeroplane from Australia to the United States of America in about 3S hours. My point is that the present Government has made available the most rapid means of transport to bring prisoners of war and injured service personnel home to Australia.
– It could not doless.
– The men could havebeen brought back by sea, but the Government is handicapped through lack of sca transport. Complaints are frequently made of the paucity of shipping - between Tasmania and the mainland of” Australia. Western Australia also hasserious shipping problems: Honorablesenators know that shipping is still under the control of the British Ministry of Shipping. A good job is being done, but the demand on shipping is heavy. Not.” only do we want our fighting men to be brought home to Australia, but also the people of the United States of America want their men to be repatriated asquickly as possible. That is true also of the people of Great Britain.
A reduction of £100,000,000 in connexion with war expenditure is contemplated in the budget. In existing circumstances that is a substantial reduction.. It has been said that the budget represents an attempt on the part of the Government to build up a surplus, so that substantial reductions of taxes may beannounced before the next elections. That is unfair criticism. The Government has still heavy commitments in connexion with the war. Among them is thenecessity to provide £54,000,000 for deferred pay to members of the forces. Moreover the Government may have tomeet claims amounting to hundreds of” thousands of pounds for undrawn activeservice pay. particularly on account of* prisoners of war.
Senator- Collett. - Probably about £70,000,000 will be required for all deferred pay.
– That liability must be met.. In addition, war service leave of fifteen days has to be provided, for in respect of each year of service overseas. That is a big commitment. Wc have also to provide for re-establishment leave of 30 days. The war expenditure contemplated in the budget is not excessive. I hope that it will not be an under estimate. The accusation that the Government proposes to make a big reduction of taxation as an election, bait has a party-political flavour.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition complained that more money was being expended this year on the Department of Information than was expended during the war. That criticism does not carry much weight when we remember that the cost of the department grew year by year when non-labour governments were in office.. Now the present .Government is taken to task because it proposes to expend on this department more than was expended during the war. The Acting Leader of the Opposition is not so much concerned about the cost of the- department as he is with the fact that it will continue in existence. The Army publication, Salt, has been criticized on the ground that it has been used by the Government for partypolitical propaganda. Every honest person knows that that is not so. The Government has nothing to do with, the publication of Salt, except to provide the money. The Army authorities determine the policy of the publication and what shall be published.
– I have never heard it said that Salt is being used to disseminate propaganda on behalf of the Government.
– It has been reported in tho press. The Department of Information is doing a good job, but it has a still bigger job ahead if Australia is to be given sufficient publicity overseas. I found that the people of the United States of America and Canada know very little about Australia and its magnificent war effort, or of the restrictions .which have been imposed on the people. In the New York office of the- Australian Government there was a table with copies of a- number of Australian publications, but they appeared to me not .to have been read-. I made some inquiries as to the distribution of Australian publications, and was told that only one copy of each publication was sent from Australia. It was thought that the best way to advertise Australia was to display those publications where visitors could see them. I was also informed that there was another office in New York which arranged for the display and distribution of literature from. Australia. I did’, not call at that office, but I am concerned as to Australia’s publicity methods, particularly in the United States of America and Canada. The only way this Government or any government of the Commonwealth can advertise Australia adequately overseas is by having its own publications distributed in other countries, and the distribution should be carried, out in a better manner than is adopted at present. I believe that, the accomplishments: of this Government, not only in respect of the war effort, but also in respect of social legislation, are not widely enough known. The people of Australia, have a right to know what this Government has done foi’ them. How can they obtain that knowledge? They are not getting it at present, and, in that direction, I believe that the Department of Information could do a much better job than it is doing at present. Without wishing to be over critical of the press of this country, I believe that Australian newspapers do not give sufficient prominence to the. achievements of this Government. They announce from time to time that certain legislation is being passed through Parliament, and that this matter or that matter is being decided, but there is no progressive review of the Government’s achievements. On the other hand, plenty of space is devoted to criticism of the Government and to suggestions of what should have been done. One also sees frequent references to industrial unrest. When Parliament is in session, quite a good resume of what has taken place during the day in the House of Representatives is broadcast- at 10.50 p.m., but usually only one sentence is devoted to the work of this chamber - “ The .Senate discussed the budget during the afternoon “. What a wonderful tribute to this chamber! In America the .Senate is looked upon as the leading legislative body; what it does, particularly in regard to foreign affairs, is of the utmost importance. The very destiny of the United States of America rests with the Senate. In this country however there seems to be a campaign in the press and over the air, io give as little publicity to the Senate as possible.
– If more legislation were initiated in this chamber the Senate would receive more publicity.
– I agree. Thi3 chamber should initiate more legislation than it does at present, and I am hopeful thai the Government will take steps to ensure that that shall be the case in the future. I believe that the Senate, despite the constitutional limitations placed upon it, has as much right to initiate legislation as the House of Representatives. What concerns me is the Senate may deal with all manner of important subjects without receiving any publicity in the press unless there has been some unusual incident. The press is doing an injustice, not only to members of this chamber, but also to the people of this country by not giving publicity to the proceedings of the Senate. For that reason, if for no other, the Department of Information should be kept in existence by this Government and by succeeding governments whatever may be their political complexion.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition expressed concern because the estimated expenditure of the Prices Commission for the current year is £520,000 compared with £490,794 actually expended last year. There must be some reason for that increase. It has been suggested by certain honorable senators that price fixation in this country has not accomplished all that could be desired. Senator Arnold drew attention to ihe fact that apples were being sold in Tasmania at 6s. a case, and retailed in New South Wales at 30s. a case. Whether or not that matter is within the jurisdiction of the Prices Commissioner I cannot say, but the point I wish to make is thi: No matter what administration is set up, some anomalies arc bound to exist. In the course of this debate, we have been told by more than one honorable senator that the cost of building materials has risen by at least 20 or 30 per cent, since pre-war days; but there are ways of overcoming these difficulties. My solution of the problem would be for the Government to start .immediately manufacturing building materials and selling them as cheaply as possible. I remind the Senate that when the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was in operation freights between Australia and Great Britain were kept at a low figure, and primary producers of this country were saved many millions of pounds. At a recent conference of Commonwealth -and State Ministers at Canberra, it was agreed that control of prices should continue to be exercised by th-s Commonwealth for another three years. Apparently the various governments of this country are satisfied that the maintenance of prices control for the next three years at least is an economic necessity. I remind honorable senators that after the war of 1914-18 when servicemen had large sums of money in deferred pay and war gratuities, they were deliberately defrauded. Unscrupulous individuals cashed the war gratuity bonds at substantial discounts. That, of course, was regarded by some people as good business. It is of the essence of the capitalist, system, the main principle of which is to take the other fellow down wherever possible. Many thousands of men are now returning from this war, and the Government is endeavouring to ensure that there will not be a repetition of what happened after the war of 19i4-18. On this occasion, of course, war gratuity bonds cannot be cashed for five years, but there will still be ample scope for rapacious individuals to defraud ex-servicemen of their deferred pay, and, in the case of former prisoners of war, of their back pay. Effective policing of this matter can be carried out only under an effective system of prices control. I point out also that without control of prices we should be faced with a grave danger of inflation. Already inflation exists to a small degree, but it is controlled. Under the heading of “ Prices “, the following interesting statement appears in the June issue of *Facts and Figures, issued by the Department of Information : -
Retail prices continue stable at their level when the price ceiling was imposed. For the March quarter, 1943, the Commonwealth Statistician’s index for retail prices for all household expenditure stood at the figure of 1,123 (on a base of 1323-7 equals 1,000 ) . This represented an increase in retail prices since the beginning of war by about 224 per cent.
For the March quarter, 1945, after two years of price stabilization in the face of persistently increasing costs, the retail price index was again at 1,123. This result has not been bettered anywhere in the world. There have been seasonal fluctuations of prices during this period, but in general the price level it. now no higher than it was two years ago.
If prices had continued to rise at the rate they rose during 1942 (that is, at about 10 per cent, a year) prices would now be nearly 50 per cent, above their pre-war level, instead nf 22 J per cent., as they are now. Five and a half years after the beginning of the last war prices had risen by about 60 per cent.
That is a statement of fact. In Western Australia there is a system of basic wage fluctuation decisions. At the end of every quarter it is incumbent upon the Arbitration Court of that State to declare a variation of the basic wage, provided that there has been a rise of ls. or more a week in the cost of living. In the last four declarations there has been no variation of the basic wage.
– What items of the regimen were taken into account?
– The regimen on which the basic wage is fixed is most unsatisfactory as far as the workers are concerned.
The Acting Leader of the Opposition also said that he was opposed to subsidies. From June, 1939, to June, 1945, subsidies to primary producers amounted to £30,000,000 and prices stabilization subsidies amounted to £18,000,000. Where would the primary producers have been had those amounts not been paid by this and previous governments.
– The public pays for all of these subsidies.
– I do not dispute that. The public pays for everything. But where would the primary industries have been had those subsidies not been paid ? Where were their markets ? How could they have obtained a living wage by the sale of their products? The Acting Leader of the Opposition, who professes to represent the commercial interests, tells us deliberately that he is opposed to subsidies.
– The Government, cannot maintain them indefinitely.
– Never mind whether the Government can maintain them or not. Is the honorable senator opposed to subsidies? He will not answer the question. He uses “ if s “ and “ buts “, and nobody knows where he stands. Why were price stabilization subsidies paid? Because it was ascertained that costs of production had increased to such a degree that, unless subsidies were paid by the Government, producers would have to pass the - costs on through the prices charged to the buying public. Eather than do that and bring about rapid inflation, the Government decided to maintain prices at reasonable levels to conform with pegged wage rates. Therefore it decided to pay to producers the difference between costs of production and selling prices. Honorable senators’ opposite argue that this is uneconomic. I do not know what the primary producers will say about the declaration by the Acting Leader of the Opposition of his opposition to subsidies. All the talk in the world will not change my opinion that the economic condition of Australia throughout the war years compared more than favorably with that of any other nation. In the United States of America, where there is no system of rigid price control, prices are sky-rocketing, and the time is not far distant when that country will be faced with tremendous economic difficulties, not only from the point of view of a loose system of price control but also from the point of view of growing unemployment.
It is interesting to consider the Labour party’s agricultural policy. When the Labour party took over the reins of office, it had ‘a definite policy to work upon instead of some ephemeral plan hashed up to suit the needs of the moment and tickle the fancy of the public Labour’s policy is to stabilize primary industries find place them on a sound economic basis.
– That is a good one !
– It is a good one, because primary industries have been stabilized during the war.
– With what result?
– With the result that the primary producers have assured prices for their products.
– For how long?
– Until the Government can provide overseas markets. Country storekeepers know whether the primary producers are prospering, and to-day they say that the farmers have wiped off their indebtedness to them. In addition, the producers have wiped off millions of pounds of other debts that they had to carry for years. The Labour party believes that there should be assured markets for primary products, and it is endeavouring to provide such markets by guaranteeing prices in the absence of overseas markets. Where would the fruit-growers of Tasmania be without control by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board?
– Does the honorable senator say that ls. a lb. is a fair price for apples?
– I will not argue the economics of the case. The fact is that there was no export market for apples and pears during the war and if the Government had not done something to enable growers to carry on, their orchards would have gone to ruin and the whole industry would have been destroyed. These primary producers have been placed in a position to continue production until better times return. It is estimated that, as the result of assured markets and profitable prices, the financial returns of primary producers are now about £40,000.000 a year higher than before the war. Perhaps honorable senators opposite will doubt that statement.
Senator -Tames McLachlan. - Enumerate the details.
Spu a tor NASH. - That would take too much time. At the same time the bank indebtedness of primary producers has been reduced by about £60.000,000 as compared n’ith pre-war figure.1!. It is estimated that, the ‘wheat industry has benefited bv £4,000,000 a year in increased returns
I refer now to the social service’s programme of this Government. Provision is made in the budget for increased expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions this year of £5,298,S73. That indicates not only that there is an increasing number of pensioners but also that the amount made available to individual pensioners is greater than previously. In this connexion, it is interesting to study ancient history. When the Labour party was in opposition in this Parliament, it had to compel the Government of the day to grant an increase of invalid and old-age pensions by ls. a week, bringing the rate to 21s. a week. It also compelled the Government to increase pensions in accordance with the rising cost of living in steps of 6d. a week. Since the Labour party has assumed office, it has increased invalid and old-age pensions on three occasions. The pension now amounts to £1 12s. 6d. a week, and pensioners are entitled to receive in addition from other sources an amount of 12s. 6d. a. week. Therefore, since the Labour party took office in 1941, it has increased payments to invalid and old-age pensioners by lis. 6d. a week. A married couple drawing the old-age pension to-day may receive £3 5s. a week in pensions, and £1 5s. from other sources, makins: a total of £4 10s. a week. As the result of the provision of social services by this Government, our old people will he enabled to enjoy a degree of comfort in the evening of their lives, and will not be left to their own resources to eke out a mere existence.
– That increase has been made as the result of the increased cost of living.
– The cost of living argument of honorable senators opposite is fallacious. I believe that in spite of the higher cast of living a country benefits in the long run from higher standards of wages. An additional sum of £6,163,752 is to be provided in respect of child endowment to meet the increase of the rate of child endowment from 5s. to 7s. 6d. for each child under sixteen years of age excluding one child under that age. That is another indication that the Government is doing something in the interests of the people. When dealing with the subject of social service one cannot help but recall the days of the depression which, with its penury, difficulties and tribulations for many thousands of people, has left an indelible impression upon the nation. What a godsend it would have been to parents had a system of child endowment been in existence in 1929 ! It would have enabled them to have obtained at least some assistance from the Government in their difficulties.
– Does the honorable senator claim that a Labour Government introduced child endowment?
– No. I give credit to the Menzies Government which was responsible for initiating child endowment, but this Government has liberalized the benefits provided under the original Child Endowment Act. Provision is also to be made this year for an additional expenditure of £5,500,000 in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. All of the money to be appropriated in respect of all social services will, no doubt, go into immediate circulation, and do what money is intended to do, thus helping to keep the country solvent. If this money were not in circulation, our economic position to-day would be entirely different. The present Government initiated widows’ pensions. This year it is proposed to increase the expenditure of £2,965,446 under that heading last year by £134,654. I fail to comprehend how widows made ends meet before this assistance was given to them. From my association with the trade union movement I know that hundreds of widows were just managing to eke out an existence before the introduction of widows’ pensions. At the same time, they were endeavouring to rear children. With no breadwinner, a widow was obliged to go out to work, with the result that her children were very often left unattended. Lack of adequate parental control was responsible for much child delinquency. To-day, the position is different. It is interesting to note that 30,000 widows and 21,000 children are benefiting under the widow’s pension scheme. Dealing with this subject the Treasurer in his budget speech said -
These health and social services impose a new and heavy cost on the budget. In 1938-39, the total outlay was fi 7,000,000. It is ex pected to reach £65,000,000 in the current year and £77,000,000 in the following year, as compared with £39,000,000 in the year just ended.
From these facts it is clear that our people generally stood in dire need of social service benefits. Expenditure this year in respect of unemployment and sickness benefits is estimated to amount to £9,500,000. I sincerely hope that it will not be necessary to expend all of that amount under that heading. However, we must realize that in the transition period from war to peace there will always be a considerable number of unemployed, due to the fact that in the short time that has elapsed since the cessation of production for war purposes it has not been possible to rehabilitate many people in other occupations. Even in normal times a certain degree of unemployment is unavoidable. Pharmaceutical benefits are estimated to cost £1,000,000, and tuberculosis benefits £300,000. Hitherto, adequate consideration has not been given to the provision of tuberculosis benefits. The present Government, however, realizes that a large proportion of our people unfortunately suffer from tuberculosis and that steps must be taken in an endeavour to eradicate this scourge. [Extension of time granted.] The budget makes provision for a reduction of the rate of income tax by 12£ per cent, in the current financial year. This is evidence of the Government’s intention to relieve the burden of tax on our people as rapidly as circumstances permit. I regard this action as a guarantee that the Government will effect further substantial reductions as our expenditure on war requirements diminishes. Some honorable senators opposite have said that the reduction of 12^ per cent, is merely window dressing on the part of the Government. I believe that the Government has sufficient vision to realize that it would be suicidal to make a greater reduction under existing conditions. Senator Cooper said that income tax rates in Australia were higher than those in Great Britain. I challenged him on that point, and as I doubted his statement I examined the matter further. I have since ascertained that the honorable senator was incorrect. The fact is that income tax rates on big incomes earned in
Australia are higher than those on corresponding incomes in Great Britain, which, of course, is entirely different from what the honorable senator said. The budget also envisages a system under which taxpayers in receipt of incomes above a certain level will contribute indirectly to social services. I know that honorable senators opposite will comment on that provision somewhat in this vein, “ There you are ; we told you that you must have a contributory system. Now you have come round to our way of thinking and have found it necessary to establish a contributory system”.
– That was not our way of thinking.
– Did not the honorable senator say that the Beveridge plan was the only plan which this Government should adopt?
– I seem to recall that the honorable senator said something to (hat effect. At all events, honorable senators opposite have no ground for their contention that the Government’s proposal represents a contributory scheme when compared with the Beveridge plan or the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act passed by the Lyons Government. This proposal does not mean that every man and woman shall pay a certain amount in respect of social service benefits. It means that portion of the income tax payable by taxpayers with incomes above certain levels will be used for social services.
No contribution will be made in respect of social service benefits by a taxpayer without dependants who is earning up to £104 a year, a taxpayer with a dependent wife who earns less than £156 u year, a taxpayer with a dependent wife and one child who earns £175 a year, a taxpayer with a dependent wife and two children whose income is £211 a year, a taxpayer with a dependent wife and three children whose income is £257 a year, or a taxpayer with a dependent wife and four children whose income is £277 a year. A taxpayer with a wife and two children who receives approximately £6 a week will pay a social service tax amounting to £15 4s., but,will not pay income tax. Whilst his income tax will a verage 6s. a week, he will receive 7st. 6d. a week child endowment in respect of his second child under sixteen years of age. He will pay £15 4s. in income tax compared with £17 8s. last year. Therefore, one can summarize the Government’s proposal as a scheme whereby contributions in respect of social service benefits will be made indirectly by persons in accordance with their ability to pay such imposts. Such provision is essential in order to finance social service benefits. Income tax exemptions for persons without dependants will increase from £104 to £20.0, and they will increase progressively in respect of persons with dependants. A taxpayer without dependants earning £250 a year will make a social service contribution of £18 15s., and will contribute £H lis. in income tax, or a total of £30 6s., as compared with £36 15s. under the present tax. A taxpayer with a wife and two children, and earning £350 a year, will pay £26 5s. as his social service contribution and 10s. in income tax, or a total of £26 15s., as compared with £31 2s. under the present tax.
Reference has been made to strikes and industrial unrest. Senator Collett remarked that the workers had made a satisfactory united effort during the war, and he indicated that the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) should furnish a definite statement, with a view to “ stopping the rot “. It is easy for any honorable senator to say that to the Leader of the Senate, but I do not agree that there is any “ rot “. In any case, how could it be stopped? During the regime of previous governments there was greater industrial unrest, more time and wages lost and more dislocation of industry than during the period that this Government has been in power.
– The Opposition does not believe that.
– Figures relating to the coal-mining industry prove the correctness of my assertion. There are two sides to all industrial disputes. Australia has as good a record as any other country with regard to industrial matters, whether we take the war period or the pre-war years. I am in favour of arbitration. T regard it as a stable means for effecting the, settlement of industrial disputes, and for the determination of the wages and conditions of the workers in industry ; but my difficulty is to determine in my own mind whether arbitration has proved entirely satisfactory. Trade unions in Australia have spent many thousands of pounds in preparing claims, for presentation to the court, but they have frequently obtained very little satisfaction from the court. A Commonwealth committee should be appointed to make an inquiry with a view to ascertaining what should be a standard working week and a basic wage for workers generally, and whether .the pay of the workers should be the same, irrespective of their sex.
I understand that under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act it is not competent for the court to make any decision for an alteration of the standard hours in any industry, or to alter the principles on which that standard is computed, unless the court comprises the chief judge and two other judges. I am not arguing for or against that provision of the law, but it is essential that, if the workers in industry are to retain confidence in the arbitration system, the court should be so composed that the workers, as well as the em ployers, shall be represented on the bench. For many years the State Arbitration Court in Western Australia has consisted of a president, an employers’ representative and an employees’ representative. These three determine all cases that come before the court, and, speaking generally, they have given a great deal of satisfaction in that State. Very little industrial unrest has occurred in Western Australia. Workers may be altering their view as to whether they should favour the arbitration system or take direct action, but, personally, I believe that in the long run arbitration would give to the workers better results than any other method. That, however, is a matter for the people themselves to determine. Dissatisfaction arises amongst the workers because of the delay experienced in having their claims heard. Claims are filed for many months prior to hearings being obtained, and long delays frequently occur before awards are issued When an award is given long after the hearing, it has often been out-moded by some happening in the economic sphere. There should be a speeding-up of the arbitration system if it is to be favoured by the workers. Immediately a dispute arises, it should be the duty of a responsible person to call the parties together as quickly as possible, in order to ascertain the cause of the trouble and avoid the practice of saying to the workers, “ Go back to your jobs or else the court will not do anything in the matter “. It is all very well to talk about law and order, but when we find a body of workers restive and dissatisfied the best course is to summon a conference between the parties without delay. If they have decided to take direct action, it is useless to say to them, “ We will not do anything before you return to work “. As to the request by Senator Collett that a ministerial statement should be made “ to stop the rot “, we cannot expect the Leader of the Senate to do something which no other Minister in Australia has ever done.
I hope that as the result of the frank discussions between Commonwealth Ministers and the Premiers of the States definite action will soon be taken to implement the scheme for the standardization of railway gauges. The provision of the necessary finance does not present an insuperable difficulty, because the scheme is of a national character and could be financed by national credit. I believe that it would be competent for the. Commonwealth Bank to make available at the cost of issuance, and at an interest rate of not more than 1 per cent., the money required for the work. The scheme has the added advantage that it would provide work of a reproductive nature. I have frequently referred to the necessity for a decentralization policy and the desirability of regarding Esperance as the port to serve the gold-fields of Western Australia. Esperance is the natural port for those gold-fields, and if vessels called there a considerable economic saving would be made in the interests of not only the mining industry but also many thousands of residents on the gold-fields.
We have been told that there is urgent need for the maximum production of tobacco in Australia. Growers in Western Australia have decided not to grow any more tobacco, and as the result of investigationsmade by me I am of the opinion that the trouble there arises solely from dissatisfaction over the appraised price received by the growers. The difficulty has been largely brought about by an unfair classification of the leaf. On one occasion, a grower showed me the prices which he had received for his tobacco. He said that he was growing exactly the same grades as previously, but under the present system he now receives a lower price for all grades compared with previous prices. The growers have a right to a reasonable livelihood, and action should be taken to ensure that they shall get at least a fair return for their labour.
I hope that the Government will make every effort, to bring to this country as many English children as possible, because if they are brought here during their most impressionable years they will grow up with an Australian outlook and will make good Australian citizens. I hope also that we shall get as many war orphans from Europe as possible in addition to adults of the right kind. The population outlook for this country is serious ; the proportion of old people to the total population is growing every year. No country can continue indefinitely under those conditions. Each year our commitments in respect of old-age pensions are increasing, and if the process continues the time will come when there will be no young people to provide the pensions of the older members of the community. The declining birth-rate is a serious problem.
I am pleased that the Government has appointed Professor Mills as Director of Education. Although education is not constitutionally a function of the Commonwealth, the appointment is a step in the right direction, as it will focus attention on the necessity for the Commonwealth taking over the responsibility for the education of the people of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator Lamp) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I bring to the notice of the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture a matter which affects seriously the Tasmanian producers of vegetables. The primary producers of Tasmania are delighted that the war has ended, but the cessation of hostilities has caused anomalies which the Government is under a moral obligation to rectify. In response to an appeal by the Government to grow more vegetables, they undertook to do so, but now, having grown the vegetables, they find that the Government does not require all that they have grown. Consequently, many acres of vegetables have been allowed to go to wasteand have not been marketed. Some time ago, growers in certain districts of Tasmania informed the Department of Agriculture that it would be necessary to get all carrots out of the ground by the end of June, but because of the receipt of supplies from other districts the “ cease digging “ order was given in May. The result was that many carrots remained in the paddocks for three or four weeks before they were removed. The growers appealed to the Government to take the crop and assess its value. Having responded to the Government’s call, and having incurred considerable expense in growing the vegetables, they consider that they are entitled to compensation, even if the Government did not take delivery of their vegetables. So far, no compensation has been granted to them. In order to show their readiness to help the Government, I mention that on one occasion they provided 5,000 bags of vegetables in four days, and a few days later another 6,000 bags were provided in three days. Since then the demand for their products has fallen, and many acres of vegetables have been wasted. Even if there be no legal obligation on the part of the Government to compensate these growers, they believe that the Government has a moral obligation to compensate them for the loss of a crop which the Government could not take. Tasmanian growers are at a disadvantage compared with those on the mainland who are able to market all their vegetables. As the Tasmanian crop was sown in a later district, they were left till last, and now further trouble has overtaken the growers because vegetable contracts for the coming season have been cancelled. In earlier districts where planting had taken place the contracts have not been cancelled and the growers will be compensated. These Tasmanian growers have suffered through no fault of their own, and, therefore, the Government should honour its moral obligation to compensate them for the loss of their use of their land and for the expenses incurred by them.
– in reply - I shall refer to the Acting Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Forde) the manner mentioned by Senator Aylett and will let the honorable senator know the result.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Canned Fruits Export Control Act - RegulationsStatutory Rules 1945, No. 140.
Customs Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 144.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired forCommonwealth purposes -
Fremantle, Western Australia.
Penrith, New South Wales.
Victor Harbour, South Australia.
Postal purposes -
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders -
Control of -
Boot nails and boot nailing machines - Revocation.
Cane rattan (No. 1 ) - Revocation.
Motor cycle spare parts - Revocation.
Screw wire - Revocation.
Restriction of pastrycooks’ goods (New South Wales) - Revocation
Subterranean clover seed (Return of stocks) (No. 2).
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (109).
National Security (Prices) Regulations- - Declarations - Nos.156, 157.
Orders- N os. 2113-2106.
National Security (Supplementary) Regu lations - Order by State Premier - Tasmania (dated 29th August, 1945).
National Security (Timber Control) Regulations - Order - Control of timber (No. 2) - Revocation.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 145.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance - No. 7 of 1945- Inspection of Machinery.
Senate adjourned at 9.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450926_senate_17_185/>.