17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from the 27th September (vide page 6022), 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, 1940.
The Budget 1945-46 - Papers presented by the Bight Honorable J. B. Chifley, for the year ending the 30th June, 1946.
– As other honorable senators have dealt with the figures contained in the budget I shall not discuss them in detail. Nevertheless the budget before us covers the transition period from war to peace and is therefore of more than ordinary importance. Since last I addressed the Senate peace has returned to the world. I join with other honorable senators who have already placed on record their appreciation of the services rendered by the members of the fighting forces, the women of the auxiliary services, and workers in industry. But mere words will not suffice to express our gratitude to those who have helped to keep Australia free. This budget does not make provision for a very appreciable decrease of expenditure. Other honorable senators have already given the reason for this, namely, the necessity to meet the payment of war gratuities, the cost of implementing the Government’s demobilization policy, and continuing liabilities in respect of war commitments. There is also the necessity to compensate many contractors whose war contracts have necessarily been curtailed or cancelled, owing to the sudden advent of peace with which we have been blessed. I propose to deal, first, with two matters which concern the Department of the ‘Interior. First, I express my gratitude to the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator
Collings) for the great advancement that was made under his direction as Minister for the Interior with the erection of decent homes at sidings along the Trans-Australian railway. Some time ago I drew attention to the shanties in which employees on this line were compelled to live, and for which they paid rent, and, in fact, had contributed more in rental than it cost to build the shacks in which they lived. Those structures provided few comforts. However, while returning to Canberra last week, I left the train at Zanthus, and inspected the new homes which the department is erecting there. They are of a high standard, much more suited to the climate of that part of Australia than the shacks in which these employees previously lived. The new buildings consist of five rooms with verandahs on all sides, including provision for sleep-outs, whereas the old buildings were completely without verandahs. That was ridiculous having regard to the fact that temperatures in those parts exceed 100 degrees in the shade for many months of the year. I hope that the new Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) will continue the good work until decent’ cottages are erected at every siding along the line.
Secondly, I refer to a matter which 1 raised in the Senate yesterday, namely, the position of workers who have to live in hostels at Canberra. I refer to not only government, but also private hostels. I have been informed on good authority that a medical officer in Canberra has prescribed vitamin “B” pills to girl patients because the food being supplied to these girls in various hostels was so poor that they were suffering from malnutrition. The present budget is of sufficient magnitude to include provision for the appointment of a welfare officer to act as a liaison officer between boarders at Canberra hostels and the authorities, and thus provide a means of the boarders placing their grievances before the proper authorities. I have been told by some members of Parliament that this matter is none of my business seeing that I represent Western Australia in this chamber. However, this is a matter of national importance, because these girls are drawn from all States of the Commonwealth. They have been brought to Canberra because they are capable of doing their jobs. Most of them come from good homes. They have merited the positions which they occupy here. During the war the Government found it necessary to attach welfare officers to industrial establishments and the various services, particularly women’s services. It is equally important that a welfare officer be appointed to attend to the welfare of government employees who reside in hostels. Canberra does not offer very much in the way of diversion to these girls after working hours, and many of them who are obliged to expend their own money in providing extra food for themselves find it difficult to save sufficient to join tennis clubs and social clubs. Therefore, I respectfully suggest that the Minister for the Interior appoint a welfare officer to supervise the food that is served in hotels and hostels in Canberra, and also to attend to matters affecting the welfare generally of girl employees here. There is much talk to-day of what is known as the Oslo lunch. I believe that a lunch of this type is most necessary in Canberra where girls are unable to supplement their lunch from shops as can be done in the cities. . The appointment of a dietitian or welfare officer in Canberra would be of great value. I brought this matter up when I was elected to the Senate a couple of years ago and the former Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) did appoint at dietitian to inspect these institutions, but everybody knew when the inspections were to be made and for a couple of days the girls had quite a party. They did not know what had happened, the meals had so improved, but after the inspections had been made the meals reverted to their former type. ~No notice should be given of inspections so that the real standard of living at these hostels may be gauged. A budget which envisages the expenditure of many hundreds of millions of pounds could surely provide an additional few hundreds for the appointment of a welfare officer so that Canberra girls, who, generally speaking, are engaged in very important government work, may be assured of adequate housing, a nutritious diet and entertainment in their leisure hours.
The housing position throughout the Commonwealth is acute. Returning servicemen find it most difficult to take their place in the community unless they are adequately housed. However, all the blame for the present conditions cannot be laid at the door of this Government. I recall that ten or twelve years ago many homes were vacant, but families were forced to live in tents and other makeshift dwellings because they could not afford to pay rent. ~Now that most people have more money, houses are unobtainable. In Western Australia, restrictions are placed by certain local authorities upon the construction of timber houses in what are known as “ brick areas “. That is ridiculous, because Western Australia has some very fine building timbers. When I was in New Zealand a few years ago I was amazed at the number of timber dwellings in that country. To my -surprise, quite a number of them were built of Western Australian timber. I believe that the Commonwealth should co-operate with the States in an endeavour to have local building restrictions removed, so that the task of housing the people of this country may be carried out much more rapidly than at present. I know that the Government is prepared to sanction the release from the- services of men who are skilled in the building industry and I will say that whenever I have made an application for the release of a tradesman for thu building industry, that release has been effected speedily.
I hope that in our housing plans we shall realize that Australia does not consist only of six capital cities. There aTe vast areas in which homes could be built. I was amazed to hear one honorable senator opposite decry what has been done by the Victorian Housing Commission. In company with Senator Cooper and other members of the Social Security Committee I visited one of the commission’s settlements at Fisherman’s Bend only last Monday. We found a very happy community living in attractive homes for which the rent was 17s. 6d. to 22s. 6d. a week. These people had their own community centre and kindergarten. Social workers informed us that they had nothing but praise for the members of the community, who were doing everything possible to help themselves. Mothers of six and seven children were able to engage in folk dancing, and other pastimes, which had not been possible for them when they lived in the slums of Carlton and Fitzroy. They were proud of their gardens and held gardening competitions, and every woman did her share of kindergarten work. On special afternoons, officers of the National Fitness Council helped them to keep physically fit. It was proved to the committee that settlements of this kind could be carried on successfully, and that, when people are removed from slum environments, they respond well to their new conditions. Such settlements can he established in all parts of Australia. In “Western Australia the Workers’ Homes Board has done a magnificent job and has set an example to the other States by building homes which are not replicas of each other like a lot of dog-boxes. Its houses are built on J-acre blocks which provide space for gardens and playgrounds for children. I hope that similar plans will be adopted elsewhere. We do not want to see houses jumbled together on 30-ft. frontages. In Hobart I saw the smallest house in Australia cramped on a 10-ft. frontage. That is a relic of the “ good old days “ about which so many people speak with pride. We must face the housing problem realistically. There are many big estates which can be subdivided in order to provide good homes for the people.
A great deal has been said during this debate about the settlement of exservicemen on the land. Western Australia has large areas of land suitable for settlement. In the south-western area, the rainfall is more reliable than anywhere else in Australia. Many big estates there are still undeveloped, although the soil and climate are eminently suited to the production of apples and pears and dairy products. I hope the Government will not overlook that region in its plans for the settlement of ex-servicemen, even if it has to acquire land from those who have never used it properly. Large holdings close to train-lines and rivers, where rainfall is regular and ample, are lying idle. Within 50 miles of Perth there are vast estates which have never been pro perly cultivated, although settlers have been forced to go to outback areas, where they try to make two blades of grass grow where none grew before. I hope that the Government will not revive the groupsettlement system which was adopted after the war of 1914-18. That was one of the most unsuccessful experiments in land settlement ever .made in Australia. It resulted in a number of British immigrants coming to Australia and being settled on sandy country which had lain idle for hundreds of years, and which was incapable of yielding a decent livelihood. Under those conditions, only the fittest could survive, and it is saddening to visit those settlements and see only a few of the hardier souls who have withstood the ravages of the years but have become prematurely old in the process and are able to earn only a meagre living even now. When the Government makes its land settlement plans, which I hope it will do very soon, it must take into consideration climatic factors and soil conditions. It should not overlook the merits of the south-western area of Western Australia and the Kimberley district, where there are many important mineral deposits and a great deal of good cattle-raising country. I would resent very much the establishment of separate colonies of foreign nationals in that district. . Such a scheme would he unworkable. We have seen what happened in Europe as the result of small minorities of different nationalities being grouped together. We do not want that sort of thing to happen in Australia. If people migrate here, they must mix with the community, become good Australians and help us to win the peace, which will be no less difficult than the task of winning the war.
One of the chief industries of Western Australia is mining. No other part of the continent is as rich in mineral deposits as Western Australia. Various mineral deposits in the north-western parts of the State are now being developed. On two occasions, the settlement of Western Australia would have ceased, had it not been for the development of the gold-mining industry. In the ‘eighties it was on the verge of being abandoned, until gold was discovered «nd there was an influx of settlers from the eastern States.
The spirit of the pioneers still lives. A few months ago I made a trip in the back-blocks of Kalgoorlie, hundreds of miles from civilization. I saw many men living in the old, frugal way, and fossicking for gold. The gold mining industry has suffered from the war perhaps more than any other, because man-power was not regarded as essential to it, and thousands of men left the gold-fields. Gold-mining is essential, if Australia is to continue to trade with the United States of America, now that the lendlease agreement has ceased. As soon as possible, men should be released from the armed forces to enable them to return to the gold-mining industry.
– In years gone by, the industry has saved Australia.
– Yes. During the depression years, miners in receipt of the dole continued to search for gold, and the Wiluna field was discovered. Norseman has rich mineral deposits, including gold, but the man-power position there is acute. Many men now in the armed forces would willingly return to mining, if they could obtain release. Valuable mining machinery is lying idle.
A visit to the south-eastern division of Western Australia shows that the outer harbours of that State should be developed. I am glad that ian assurance has been given by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) that encouragement will be given to the development of Esperance and other
Outer ports. ,The district between Esperance and Norseman was once regarded as a non-man’s land, but farming operations are now being carried on there. One of the drawbacks suffered by the settlers is that their produce has to be conveyed to Fremantle, although there is a good natural harbour at Esperance. If shipping facilities were available at the latter port, the farmers would be able to develop their holdings more advantageously than at present.
During the last two years I have been engaged as a member of the Social Security Committee in visiting hospitals throughout Australia. The committee has investigated’ all activities associated with the health of the people, and
I feel impelled to pay a tribute of admiration to Queensland upon the fact that it has made further progress than the other States in caring for the health of the community. The committee has been interested in, not only the methods adopted in curing the sick, but also the steps taken with a view to the prevention of disease. Associated with the committee’s inquiries into health matters, such problems as those of housing and delinquency have come under attention. Excellent work is being accomplished at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in Melbourne. The value of its services is not widely appreciated among the people generally, and even among honorable senators. During the war years, much of its important work was of a secret nature. It has produced blood plasma, penicillin, and other important drugs for use in the South-East Asia Command. Blood plasma from Australia has been sent to all areas under Lord Louis Mountbatten’s command as well as to troops under General Douglas MacArthur. The men and women working in those laboratories do their work quietly ; there is no blare of trumpets for them. Nothing that can be done to improve the conditions, as well as the remuneration, of the scientists working there would be too much. I congratulate the Commonwealth Government on this important instrumentality. Much ‘has been done also in connexion with cancer research and the treatment of cancer. These are things for which the Commonwealth Government seldom is given credit. The treatment of cancer throughout the Commonwealth really depends on the laboratories under the control of the Commonwealth Government. Before I entered the Senate I had no idea of what had been done in these spheres of activity, and since I have told other people about it I have found that they, too, have been astonished. Many who previously did not hold the Commonwealth Government in particularly high regard now appreciate what it is doing for the health of the people.
I am sorry that the Government’s proposals for free treatment of people in hospitals and for free medicine will not be-made retrospective. There are many who say that medicine does not represent a heavy expenditure, and that free medicine is not of much value, but as I have recently received a bill for £15 for medicine I wish that legislation providing for free medicine was already on the statute-book. In my opinion, only those hospitals which .provide service of a recognized standard should receive the benefits of the legislation which is to be introduced. Our big public hospitals and most of the denominational hospitals are doing excellent work, but many private hospitals, with accommodation for from 10 to 30 patients, are death traps rather than places for the curing of disease. I do not blame the Government for the existing state of affairs, as these private hospitals are conducted for profit. It is ridiculous to say that they are not paying concerns. The salaries paid by them to nurses are altogether too small. In the hospital where I was a patient recently a fully trained sister was paid only £2 2s. 4d. a week and her keep. The keep does not represent a heavy charge on the hospital’s finances. Nurses have often to supplement their food supplies by the purchase of food elsewhere. In to-day’s Canberra Times reference is made to living conditions in some of the hostels of Canberra, but the conditions in many private hospitals are even worse. A payment of £2 2s. 4d. a week and keep is not sufficient for a woman who has undergone long training and has the lives of patients in her hands.
The treatment of nurses throughout Australia is far from satisfactory. That is due largely to the fact that they are so overworked that they have no time to organize for better conditions. We would not tolerate a spread of fifteen or sixteen hours a day for workers on trains, trams and buses; we have passed that stage in industry, yet many nurses begin work before 7 a.m. and are still working at 10 o’clock at night. The time that they are supposed to have off in the afternoon is frequently spent doing odd jobs about the place. I realize that conditions in hospitals is a matter more for State governments than for the Commonwealth Government, but I urge the Commonwealth Government to negotiate with the States with a view to improving the conditions for nurses. Most of the civilian nurses are wonderful women. During the war they have had to bear a heavy responsibility, and because of staff shortages, trained nurses have had to do all sorts of work besides nursing. I hope that something will be done to improve their conditions, particularly their living conditions. I know of a private hospital in Fremantle where three nurses have to sleep in a garage, and of another where their sleeping quarters consist of a wired-in sleep-out, about 6 feet by S feet, which opens off the kitchen. In a hospital where I was a patient three nurses shared a room. Such conditions are not satisfactory, and should not be allowed to continue. I hope that only those hospitals which provide reasonably comfortable living conditions for nurses, as well as amenities for their patients, shall receive the benefits of the legislation to be introduced. Many small hospitals cannot provide X-ray equipment and other equipment. They should not be allowed to carry on unless they have facilities for the proper treatment of the sick.
Senator Collett referred to industrial stoppages, particularly at Collie, in Western Australia.
– I did not mention Collie.
– The honorable senator referred to Western Australian disputes, and I took it that Collie was included. I do not uphold industrial stoppages for unimportant reasons. Last May I was at Collie, where I found conditions so appalling that I am confident no honorable senator would work there for 24 hours. It was winter-time, and I saw men working in mud, slush and manure. Shelters were provided for horses, but there was no shelter for’ the men who shod them. Probably that was because horses cost money. There was no room in which the men could eat their lunch, and no place for their tools. They had to provide their own tools. Sanitary conditions were most primitive. Yet the Collie community has a wonderful record of industrial achievement. Only during the last few months has there been industrial unrest there. I knew that it would arise sooner or later, because men are more than animals and will not endure such unsatisfactory conditions indefinitely without protest.
I was struck with, the fact that there were only a few young men among the miners. Most of the men there are either veterans of the 1914-18 war, or are fathers of young men who fought in the war that has just ended. Until manpower restrictions were placed on the industry, many young men from the district enlisted with the armed forces. Collie is a patriotic centre and the people there are noted for their civic sense. They have made considerable improvements to the local hospital; they have instituted scholarships for their children ; they have a good health centre, and a wonderful Red Cross record. “When Collie miners go on strike there are sound reasons for their action. During the war they continued to work under conditions which ought not to exist in any civilized community. It has been said that Australia is being starved for coal. Amalgamated Collieries of “Western Australia, who control va3t, undeveloped measures at Collie which could be easily mined, has made no attempt to develop them. Two other companies which also have interests at Collie, although they are much poorer financially, have at least tried to give better working conditions to their miners. At Collie, there are seams up to a distance of 15 miles; but nothing is being done to develop them. If big companies which have options over tracts of land which contain coal, the life-blood of Australian industry, do not attempt to develop those measures, it is time that the Government stepped in and did something to extend the field. We have come to realize how important the coal-miner is to the community. Last week, a stoppage occurred at the Collie field. I do not know the merits of the dispute, but it resulted in the holding up of all transport in the metropolitan area, because of lack of coal supplies. Realizing the importance of the coal-miner in the scheme of things, we should ensure to him a decent return for his labour. Last year, with Senator Cooper and other members of the Social Security Committee, I visited Mount Lyell and Queenstown. At the latter place, where it rains for practically the whole year round, we saw the miners working in slush and rain. The manager informed me that the average amount earned by the miners there was £5 3s. a week. The miners purchase most of their supplies through the company’s store, and also rent houses owned by the company, with the result that they see very little of their wage on pay-day. If one were to tell any one in Australia that coalminers in this country are working for £5 3s. a week, one would not be believed. But that is the position at Queenstown.
– And those miners have been loyal workers.
– Yes. I pay tribute to their loyalty. “We who come from “Western Australia know how loyally the miners at Collie have worked under almost impossible conditions. But it is not to be expected that they will tolerate a continuance of such conditions. I hold no brief for strikers; but we should approach these problems in a common-sense way. The coal-miners in Western Australia have done a very good war job, and we should give a little attention to the improvement of their working conditions. I have seen the conditions under which they work. I prayed that when Judge DrakeBrockman, of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, visited Western Australia to inspect the coal-fields he would see the miners there working under- conditions approximating those under which I saw them working. Fortunately, my prayer was answered; and the judge said that he had never seen such mud and slush even in Flanders in the war of 1914-18.
– The State mining laws must be defective.
– Our mining laws as a whole ,need to be revised. As coal has been proved to be the life-blood of the nation, the Commonwealth should improve the lot of the miners. I am talking particularly with respect to conditions in Western Australia. I do not know of conditions in other States. I pay tribute to the Zinc Corporation Limited, at Broken Hill, which has shown what a company can do for its employees when it has their welfare at heart. I have not seen elsewhere a better set-up than I saw at the corporation’s mines at Broken Hill. I was so struck by the conditions there, that T obtained a dozen copies of the company’s brochure describing them, and I sent those copies to Collie. I do not know whether my action contributed to the dispute at Collie. Perhaps, the miners compared their conditions with those of employees at Broken Hill. The provision of proper working conditions is, in fact, a good business investment because under proper conditions the workers will make greater efforts. However, the conditions under which coal-miners in Australia generally are now obliged to work are far from good.
I support the representations made by Senator Nash with respect to the provision of greater publicity to proceedings in the Senate. Recently, I was in Western Australia for a period of nearly three months, and I looked in vain in the daily press for any report of debates in the Senate. So far as the press in Western Australia was concerned, the Senate was non-existent. I could not even discover from press reports whether the Senate was sitting. The Government should be able to provide in some form accurate reports of debates in this chamber, and supply them to the press generally in order to enable the people of Australia to know at least that the Senate is functioning. For this reason, I support the proposal to broadcast parliamentary debates in Parliament. A few years ago I visited New Zealand, and found the people of that country much more politically conscious than Australians. In trams and trains one heard people ta]king politics. One would hear such remarks, “Did you hear Savage last night?”, “Did you hear so-and-so last night?”, “ What do you think of their speeches ? “. Even in remote villages one found the people listening in to parliamentary debates, and while they were being broadcast a visitor would not dare open his, or her, mouth. There can be no doubt that the broadcasting of debates in Parliament in New Zealand has awakened the political conscience of New Zealanders. I have no doubt that a similar system would prove successful in Australia. ‘
– There may be catches in it.
– I am quite willing to try the experiment. Much has been said in this debate regarding the high prices now charged for fruit in retail shops. It has been pointed out that whilst the retail price is very high, growers receive only a very small proportion of that price. Much criticism has been levelled against the Apple and Pear Marketing Board. Western Australia is one of the States in which the board has been retained. It was the means of keeping producers on their orchards during the war, whereas in the war of 1914-18 many were forced to walk off their orchards because they could not obtain adequate labour. That problem has not occurred in Western Australia. In that State, present retail prices are not high, but whatever the price the growers receive a fair proportion of it. In Western Australia the growers wish the board to continue. I am not saying this merely to defend the Government. I visited the fruit-growing districts in the south-west portion of Western Australia, and talked with growers. Politics were not mentioned. I met womenfolk in their homes and conversed with them over a cup of tea. I had not met these people previously, but they told me how much they owed to this Government. Therefore I hope that in the transition period, the board will be kept in operation in Western Australia. It is significant ‘ that in those States where the board. has been abolished, complaints are most numerous regarding the present prices of apples and pears to consumers.
One honorable senator opposite said that nothing had yet been done by the Government to establish vocational training centres for ex-service personnel. That honorable senator must go round the country with his eyes shut. In Western Australia, and the same is true of other States, technical schools are going night and day to cope with ex-service personnel who are training for special vocations for which they had no opportunity to train before they went into the maelstrom of war. Even before I was elected to the Senate two years ago, students in my classes at the technical college at which I was teaching included many ex-service personnel who were taking special courses which they had no opportunity to enter upon before they enlisted. Already, the
Government has done much in this matter in order to enable ex-service personnel to fit themselves to become better citizens. In my view the great problem in demobilization will not- be whether the Commonwealth provides preference in employment for ex-service personnel, but whether we shall equip them to enable them to take their place in civil life. Nothing we can do in the way of granting preference in employment will ever efface from the minds and memories, and even the bodies of these men, the sufferings they endured whilst they were the victims of Japanese cruelty and barbarity. I hope that vocational training of exservicemen will be extended, even if it means the exclusion of other members of the community who have not had to endure the horrors of warfare. Already a great deal has been done by our universities and technical colleges to place ex-servicemen back into the community, fit to stand up to competition. At the meeting of the Senate of the University of Western Australia last Monday week, provision was made for an extension of the university courses to cope with the demand by ex-servicemen for vocational training. The vice-chancellor of the university, Dr. Currie, expressed appreciation of the assistance aud co-operation of the Commonwealth Government which had made this possible.
Returning for a moment to the subject of migration, my work as a member of the Social Security Committee has brought me into contact with various instrumentalities which already are dealing with child migrants. Child migration must be a most important part of our migration policy. In Tasmania there are area schools quite well equipped to take children who come to this country from the desolated regions of Europe. In Western Australia also, institutions such as the Fairbridge and Bindoon Farm Schools and the Tardun Farm are willing and ready to take child migrants, who after all will be the best migrants, because they will be reared in an Australian environment and receive Australian education. Any committee that is set up to deal with migration should make a study of child migration, and investigate the facilities of the big instrumentalities which already exist for this work. Quite a number of former Fairbridge Farm School boys gave their lives for Australia during the war. Others have married and become excellent settlers, willing to stay on the land. In each State there is a committee already in existence dealing with child migrants, and I suggest that before we consider the introduction to this country of other migrants, first consideration should be given to children. However, we should not be considering migration at all unless we are sure that we can make provision for large numbers of migrants in our national economy. We must have some definite plans. If thousands of migrants come to this country during a period of false prosperity, and then a sudden depression occurs, there will be that many more mouths to feed, probably by means of the dole, as was the case after the last war. We realize that a population of 7,000,000 is not sufficient to defend this country ; but we must be certain that there is adequate subsistence for those 7,000,000 people before we consider inviting migrants to Australia.
This country has vast potentialities especially in its undeveloped northern and north-western areas. It is gratifying that we should have as Minister for the Interior a man who has a personal knowledge of those remote parts of the continent. He has lived and worked in those areas, and after his forthcoming trip to Darwin and the north-western districts he should be able to give us an excellent idea of the potentialities of those districts for settlement and migration.
I return for a moment to the question of public health and public hospitals. There is an urgent need for the removal from the entrances of some of our great hospitals of notices reading, “For the sick poor “ and “ For the indigent sick “. To have notices of this description in front of these institutions is a crime. Any one who seeks treatment in them immediately is branded with the mark of poverty and charity.
– It is >a gratuitous insinuation.
– Why not get the State Government to remove the notices?
– I am raising the matter in the Parliament of which 1 am a member. In talks with the State governments on public health matters the Commonwealth Government should raise this question and seek the removal of these notices. In these institutions medical men, some of them leading specialists, give their services gratuitously, but only the indigent sick can take advantage of their skill. That should be altered. I bring this matter to the notice of the Senate because this system prevents many people from receiving adequate medical attention, even if they are able to pay for it.
My attention has been drawn to the fact that already quite a number of exservicemen have been cheated by unscrupulous businessmen, particularly in the sale of businesses. I have in mind particularly a dry-cleaning business in Sydney which was sold to a returned soldier for a fabulous amount. The books showed a considerable turnover, but when the man bought the business he found that he had been cheated. I hope that legislation will be introduced to protect servicemen who, returning to civil life with considerable sums of money in accumulated savings and deferred pay, provide a good target for unscrupulous businessmen.
The estimated war expenditure for the current financial year represents a decrease of approximately £100,000,000 compared with last year. This may not appear to be very much in view of the fact that hostilities have ceased, but in the transition period government expenditure must remain high. Already taxation is being reduced by a small amount and I have no doubt that once this country returns to a peace-time footing a substantial reduction will be possible, not to give immunity to certain sections of the community whilst hundreds of thousands of people are in need of the necessaries of life, but so that everybody shall be given a fair deal.
– Like many others, I was under the impression that, with the cessation of hostilities, we had finished with the word “ austerity “, but this peace-time budget is austerity in excelsis so far as giving relief to the taxpaying public is concerned. We all naturally thought - and with some justification - that having borne oppressive taxes for five and a half years, the relief would be considerably greater than that provided in this budget. The estimated revenue for this financial year is approximately £340,000,000, which represents a decrease of the revenue for last year, when we were still in the throes of war, of only about £3,000,000. That is a very small concession to offer to the taxpayers who have borne the heavy costs of war over the last five and a half years. This heavy burden of taxes has a serious effect on the whole community, and on the industrial community in particular. It bears down on the initiative and industry of people who are in a position, as the result of their own- energy and ability, to create wealth and thereby to provide employment in the production of that wealth. The depressed feeling from which many of us suffer as the result of severe taxes does not augur well for the future development of the nation. We all have visions of a roseate future, but oppressive taxes deter us in our efforts to reach the goal. The miserable pittance which the Government has granted to the people by way of tax reductions will do nothing to promote the development of industry and encourage thrift. Probably it is intended as a sort of hors d’auvre in preparation for the meal which will be offered to them immediately preceding the elections next year. However, like other tidbits which the Government has thrown to the people in recent years, it is no more satisfying than a salted sardine and it bears no resemblance to a full meal.
The actual remission of taxation provided in the budget will amount to nothing at all, because it will be offset by increased indirect taxes. I am sure that, when the remission comes into effect on the 1st January next, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), in his usual suave way, will come to the assistance of his colleague, the Treasurer, by easing restrictions on the production of many commodities which are subject to high excise duties. The loss of revenue from such commodities has had an important effect on Treasury accounts during the war years. The restricted supply of tobacco to the civilian population must have caused a colossal reduction of excise revenue. The reduction of beer production for civilian consumption by 33$ per cent, also must have caused a loss of at least between £15,000,000 and £20,000,000 over the war years.
– There was no such reduction.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.The instruction was to reduce malting by 33$ per cent.
– It was not done.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.It was done. We in Western Australia, particularly, are aware of the fact. The increased civilian use of petrol, which is highly excisable, will probably compensate by itself for the budgetary loss due to the remission of income tax. I cannot see how the taxpayers will obtain the relief mentioned by the Treasurer in his budget speech.
This budget represents the opening gambit in the Government’s campaign for the elections next year. Therefore, we can hope for greater remissions, or promises of remissions, next year. Generally, the budget is disappointing. I and many others would have liked the Treasurer to have been more generous. I realize that the items of war expenditure provided for must be continued. The Government has a satisfactory answer to complaints about this expenditure, and I am prepared to support it, although I should like to hear its reply to the many accusations which have been made regarding increased wastage of defence funds. No doubt the Leader of the Senate (Senator Keane) will have something to say about those charges before this debate ends. The frequency with which such charges have been made is causing concern to many people, and their minds should be set at rest. This being the first peacetime budget, it is proper for us to pay tribute to those whose efforts and sacrifices made peace possible. Nobody will deny that the spirit of our fighting men has upheld the old traditions of the Australian fighting forces. None of us will deny that the leadership we have received from the ex-Prime Minister of the
United Kingdom, Mr. Winston Spencer Churchill, has been one of the outstanding British features in this world-wide holocaust. His inspiration and leadership have, I think, even excelled that of many of the famous British leaders of the past, who have rallied to keep our British Empire in the proud position which it, occupies to-day. The name of Churchill, already honoured by his great ancestor, has even acquired a greater glory, and, 1 think, proper recognition should be given to him for the way in which he, by his example and encouragement, helped the people of Great Britain through the stress and strain of the great war now happily concluded. To some of us, who were given the privilege of meeting him in the middle of Britain’s agony, it was an inspiration to see and hear him. Although the people of Great Britain, in their freedom through the ballot-box. have pronounced against his political faith - and they, of course, are the better judges of the situation - many of us had the feeling that a better fate should have been designed for the culmination of his excellent service, not only to the British Empire, but also to. the freedom-loving peoples of the whole world. I hope that some expression of our faith in this great man will be made, and will be exercised, too, by the Government of the United Kingdom, as a fitting recognition of his services. Notice of a motion of congratulation to Mr. Churchill has been placed on the notice-paper in the House of Representatives by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) and I should have liked a similar motion to have been pased by the Senate. As the motion makes no reference to requesting the Senate to adopt it, I hope that the Leader of the Australian Country party will correct that omission, because I think that both Houses of this national Parliament should express their real gratitude for what that great Englishman has done before the eyes of the whole world.
To our American allies, who came to our rescue when we were about to perish, our gratitude should also go out, as .1 know it does. Although we may have had some disagreement, either at San Francisco or London, with regard to pinpricking details, the fact remains that.
Australia will long be under a debt of gratitude to the United States of America for the help it gave us in our dire extremity. Unfortunately, we are such a comparatively small nation that we are inclined to be overlooked by the nations representing larger populations. I am afraid that the “ bucking the tiger “ indulged in at San Francisco has not enhanced Australia’s stocks among the larger powers represented at the conference. The whole effort reminded me greatly of the biblical story of David and Goliath, but in this case the Lord was on the side of the giant. This baiting of the larger and more powerful nations, even at the behest of a number of the smaller and less consequential peoples, will not achieve the prominence for Australia that such a policy might encourage the perpetrator to believe. There is one steadfast bulwark right down the ages as regards world peace, and that is the British-speaking peoples. They have had to take hard knocks and I think they will continue to have to take a leading role with regard to the future peace of the world. Without the prop of the British Empire, any world peace organization must crumble. So peace in the future is dependent on the unity of the British Empire and the United States of America, commonly referred to as the Englishspeaking peoples. That community will be one, at least, of the major factors in the control of world harmony. To do anything at all which would tend to show a disruption of that thought is detrimental to the future of, not only Australia, but the whole world.
I recognize the capacity, ability, and energy of the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt), but I fear that he has not yet grasped the fact that the preservation of peace depends largely on a united British Empire working in co-operation with other English-speaking peoples. An Australian delegate to any conference of world leaders who has not that fundamental outlook may endanger the future peace of the world. Australian service men and women have lived up to the Anzac tradition. It is pleasing to see the sons and. daughters of old comrades in the war of 1914-18 making names for themselves, winning decorations and adding to the lustre of the nation. Unfortunately, many of them have made the supreme sacrifice. Nothing that a grateful people can do for these young men and women, and also some middle-aged men and women, who rallied to the defence of the country, is too much. The wonderful heritage bequeathed to them has been preserved, and it is our duty to ensure that never again will the people of Australia have reason to fear that that heritage will be threatened by an enemy. The only way to preserve that heritage is to develop the country and increase its population, so that Australia will be able to defend itself. That necessitates a vigorous policy of immigration and development, which must be put into operation immediately. It will not be easy to obtain sufficient immigrants to fill the vacant spaces of Australia. Heavy expenditure and considerable energy on our part will be necessary.
I was pleased to hear Senator Armstrong, in a well-reasoned speech last night, advocate a vigorous policy of immigration, because unless our population be increased sufficiently to enable us to defend ourselves, we shall again have to appeal for help to the United States of America because it may not be possible for the Mother Country to come to our aid. The defence of this country is a matter which transcends all other considerations at the moment. We have been taught a salutary lesson, and the time to profit from it is now. If we wait, the fears of a Japanese invasion, which have been real during recent years, will have gone, and the need to prepare for the future may not then appear so urgent as it is to-day. The Government should see that there is an organization in good working order to absorb the immigrants who will come here. If our population is to be increased by the addition of large numbers of immigrants, those who come to this country from overseas will have to be given a warmer welcome than was extended to many immigrants in the past. Those who come here should not be regarded as workers to displace Australian workmen, nor should they be referred to as “ Pommies “ or subjected to other insults, as happened only too frequently in the past. As an instance of the contribution which immigrants may make to the land of their adoption, I point out that of the men who constituted the 1st Division of the Australian Imperial Force, which landed on Gallipoli Peninsula on the 25th April, 1915, with their New Zealand mates, and started the Anzac tradition, 46 per cent, were born in the Old Country. Those who sneer at migrants, as well as those who regard them as rivals of Australian working men, should remember that. We must accept immigrants as future Australian citizens. That is the only immigration policy which will give satisfactory results. I hope the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) and his Cabinet colleagues will realize that a sound immigration policy means not only bringing immigrants to this country, but also their speedy absorption into the life of the community.
I endorse what Senator Armstrong said regarding Polish servicemen who served with the Allied forces. When in the Old Country, I saw a number of these fine young Poles who had rendered valuable service, particularly with the Royal Air Force. They would make excellent Australian citizens, especially those who, after their escape from Poland, married English and Scottish lasses. I have no fear that they would not soon become part of the community. Many of them will not wish to go back to war-torn Poland. The same may be said of many Dutch nationals, especially those living close to the eastern frontier of Holland. Many Dutch servicemen have come in close contact with British and American troops, and Englishspeaking people in different parts of the world, and I believe that they, too, would make excellent Australian citizens. I believe that we shall have great difficulty in obtaining large numbers of British people as immigrants, and therefore we must look to other nationals to swell our population. Industrial and living conditions in the Old Country have improved considerably during the last 30 years. During my recent visit to England I was astounded in going round different industrial centres to ascertain wages and working conditions as compared with those existing even after demobilization after the war of 1914-18, when T had an oppor- tunity to make a similar investigation. The result of this development, of course, will be that the British workers and farmers, and their sons, will think twice before leaving conditions which they understand to come out to Australia. One of the first inquiries addressed to me among people of this class was what would happen to their accumulated rights under the British national insurance scheme if they migrated to Australia. Unfortunately, we have no national insurance scheme in respect of which we could offer reciprocity to British migrants. Were we able to do so, it would be an inducement to many British people to migrate to Australia. I regret the absence of a scheme which would enable this to be done. However, it is not yet too late for the Government to introduce a scheme along the lines of that contemplated under the National Health and Pensions Insurance Act passed by the Lyons Government. It is significant that this Government is gradually coming round to that way of thinking in the provision of social services. This is evidenced by the Government’s proposal to ear-mark a fraction of income tax as a social services tax in order to finance social services. But that is not enough; the Government should as early as possible introduce a comprehensive act to cover the whole field of social benefits. The provision of such a scheme is not merely linked with future migration policy in so far as we should provide reciprocal benefits for future British migrants. Involved in such reorganization is the contributory principle, which is not only desirable but also necessary, in order that all citizens shall be treated alike in respect of social benefits. In those circumstances we should have no more agitation for the abolition of the means test.
– Everybody is now provided for except members of Parliament.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Members of Parliament would participate as ordinary citizens in the benefits provided under such a scheme. But any scheme of social services should be Australiawide, embracing all aspects of the matters which have from time to time been inquired into by the Social Security Committee. That would be far preferable to the method now employed by the Government of biting here and there at the problem. Sufficient data with respect to such a scheme was collected in respect of the national health and pensions insurance scheme to provide all the information required concerning all
S bases of the problem. I urge the Government to introduce at an early date a comprehensive measure along the lines I have indicated.
The next problem to which I refer is that of rehabilitating former residents in the northern parts of Australia who were evacuated from those areas as a defence precaution. Honorable senators now receive quite a number of inquiries from former residents of those parts of the Commonwealth as to what steps are being taken to rehabilitate them. I am glad to learn that the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) proposes shortly to make a tour of the northern portion of Australia, and I sincerely hope that results will emerge from his visit. However, the Minister’s investigations will take a considerable time, and further time will be absorbed in implementing his recommendations. Such delay, of course, will not be fair to those people who are anxious to return to their former homes. Many of these people do not now possess the wherewithal to return, whilst, at the same time, adequate transport facilities are not available to enable the majority of them to do so. I know of many cases of the kind to which I refer, but shall content myself by mentioning the case of a person now temporarily employed by me who is anxious to return with his family to Darwin where he formerly conducted a successful business. So long as the rehabilitation of these people is delayed they will be obliged to go on merely earning a crust here, there, and everywhere. It is most desirable that these people be returned as soon as possible, because we do not meet too many people resident in the southern States who would relish living under the conditions existing in the northern parts of Australia. That is all the more reason why those who are anxious to return should be given every encouragement and assistance to do so.
The development of the northern portion of Australia will, I believe, long remain a great problem. It may be that certain areas there could be allocated for the settlement of migrants, but I have grave doubts regarding the prospects of such schemes. Investigations along these lines have been made in Western Australia, but I still regard the future settlement of those lonely areas with scepticism. Senator Armstrong is very enthusiastic that something should be attempted along those lines, but I should first like to see more research undertaken into possible living conditions, and, more important still, the possibility of providing markets for products produced by new settlers in those parts. Of course, far horizons meant nothing to the intrepid pioneers, particularly those who discovered our inland gold-fields; but they were a very hardy breed, whereas not too many people, after being coddled under modern conditions, would be prepared to stand the rigours which were borne by the pioneers from 1850 onwards in the search for gold in very lonely places. Whilst I support Senator Armstrong’s suggestion in principle in order to encourage migration, T believe that more research should be undertaken into the conditions which migrants settling in those areas would have to face.
I understand that applications for permits to land in Australia are being made on behalf of all kinds of people, who- desire to come to this country, including British subjects from Malaya and aliens from European countries. I have been approached in this matter by persons who desire to arrange for the entry into Australia of relatives now in those countries. I understand that at the moment this problem is exercising the minds of departmental officers. The Government does not seem to have any definite policy regarding the admission of these people, many of whom would make very desirable citizens, particularly those whose wives and children are already in Australia. Children who were evacuated from various war zones have been going to our schools. No barriers should be placed in the way of issuing landing permits to these people, provided, of course, they have the necessary qualifications, I urge the
Department of Immigration to facilitate the admission of these people who want to come here at their own expense and entirely on their own initiative. The present hold-up in this matter should be overcome as soon as possible.
Much has been said about the proposal to broadcast the proceedings of this Parliament. At first, I thought that this would be a good idea, but I am now beginning to waver in that view because of the great difficulties involved. I had the privilege _ of listening to the expert evidence given before the Broadcasting Committee by technical officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and I can say without hesitation that the difficulties are immense. It is not simply a matter of wiring the Senate and House of Representatives chambers, installing a control box, and flooding the ether with the musical - and other - voices of members of the National Parliament. For instance, if the broadcasts are to be made through special stations, it will first be necessary to secure a wave-length, and. already all wave-lengths on the medium band, with the exception of several held in reserve by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for the expansion of the national broadcasting system, are occupied by either national or commercial stations. Alternatively, of course, there is the short-wave band, and I was astounded to hear in evidence that almost 50 per cent, of wireless licence holders in this country have either short-wave or dual-wave sets. I had no idea the percentage was so high, because my experience has been that in nine cases out of ten, short-wave reception is most unsatisfactory, and consists largely of a conglomeration of hectic noises which render impossible the enjoyment of entertaining programmes, let alone rather uninteresting speeches delivered in the Parliament. How this difficulty can be overcome I do not know. It is possible of course that additional national stations will be established to broadcast parliamentary proceedings, but the cost of such an undertaking would be about £500,000 - an expenditure which I do not think would be warranted. I have some personal knowledge of the broadcasting of parliamentary debates in New Zealand, and the experience is not exactly one to be envied. On several occasions I tried to ascertain the popularity or unpopularity of these broadcasts, and on this point I differ with previous speakers, because the people with whom I conversed showed very little interest in the matter. In some homes which I visited, even people .who were politically minded did not have their radios on at all. They could not be bothered with the broadcasts. How then can we expect disinterested citizens in this country to tune into parliamentary broadcasts from Canberra? Interest in politics in this country is no greater than it is in New Zealand. If anything it is less. How could Parliament possibly stand public criticism of a proposal to spend £500,000 upon the provision of adequate medium wave coverage for the broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings ?
– Does the honorable senator not agree that the broadcasts would make the people more politically minded ?
– I do not.
– That has been the experience in New Zealand.
– I rather doubt that. There is another aspect of this matter which is of some importance, namely, the position occupied by the Senate in this legislature. I do not take second place to anybody in my desire to see the Senate take its proper place in the opinion of the people of this country. We have a distinct and important function to perform and it is performed very well, but unfortunately knowledge of that performance does not reach the public. One of my first impressions of the proposal to broadcast parliamentary proceedings was that the Senate’s position might be improved, but I am afraid now that the reverse would be the case, because I cannot imagine the Senate taking precedence over the House of Representatives. When both Houses were sitting simultaneously it would not be possible to have broadcasts from both chambers. Therefore, time would be an important factor and I am afraid that the poor old Senate would finish a very bad second in the allocation of broadcasting times. Then there is the question of the most suitable hour for speaking. In the New Zealand House of Parliament at Wellington I noticed that there was some intriguing and jockeying for an opportunity to speak either just before or immediately afterthe suspension of the sitting for dinner, these times being regarded as the best so far as the number of listeners was concerned. There are a number of other difficulties in the way of the proposal, but I do not propose to elaborate them now. However, they are very real and will require some thought before a workable scheme can be implemented.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- No doubt the budget is disappointing to some honorable senators and to many citizens of this country, but we must bear in mind the fact that its preparation was commenced whilst we were still at war and it seemed likely that the war would continue well into another financial year. “With the unexpected termination of hostilities, the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) no doubt regarded the time as appropriate for a small reduction of taxation. The flatrate reduction, although small, is an acknowledgment of the Government’s opinion that taxes are too high. The question that arises is whether in view of the altered circumstances, due to the end of the war, the introduction of the budget should have been postponed with a view to recasting it completely. However, in view of the circumstances in which the budget was prepared, perhaps we should not cavil too much about it, although there are certain items which seem to warrant some explanation when the Appropriation Bill reaches the committee stage.
Much has been said in this chamber regarding the record of the Labour Government and , some government supporters are inclined to complain when criticism is levelled at its administration, but I say confidently that, measured against the conduct of honorable senators opposite, when we on this
Bide of the chamber held the reins of office, our attitude as an opposition stands as an example of assistance and co-operation. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by SenatorKeane) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Keane) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Tuesday, the 2nd October, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were pre- senated : -
Defence Act and Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 151.
National Security Act -
National Security (Medical Co-ordination and Equipment) Regulations - Order - Emergency Medical Services (Army Medical Officers J.
National Security (Shipping Coordination) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 103, 105.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 153.
Norfolk Island Act - Regulations - No. 2 of 1945 (Public Service Ordinance).
Wool Use Promotion Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1945, No. 150.
Senate adjourned at 12.34 pm.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 September 1945, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1945/19450928_senate_17_185/>.