17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 8 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping any information to give to the- Senate regarding the ban imposed by waterside workers at Fremantle on the Dutch vessel Bonaire? Can he say if it is one of the Dutch ships which was the subject of a. conference recently with the. General Officer Commanding South-east Asia Command, Lord Louis Mountbatten?
– I am not in a position to say whether Bonaire is one of the ships which was the subject of the recent conference wilh Lord Louis Mountbatten; it does not appear on the list of ships that has been supplied to me. A conference did take place last Friday afternoon in Sydney with Lord Louis Mountbatten. There were present also Hear Admiral Douglas Pennant, representatives of the Department -of Supply and Shipping, the DirectorGeneral of Shipping, union representatives, and myself. A discussion took place in regard to the ban on certain ships, and the reasons given for imposing it were the same as have been stated on other occasions, namely, that when the Indonesian crews declared certain vessels “black” the Australian waterside workers were not prepared to work on them. That position still obtains, but negotiations are still taking place. I am not yet in a position to disclose the results.
– In view of the recent announcement that the Commonwealth Government intends to proceed with its ship-building programme, involving the construction of 60 ships, can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether the estimate of the cost of such vessels is based on £68 a ton, which was the price of other vessels built in Australia? If so, does he expect that the freight 011 goods carried by such ships between Australian ports will be exorbitantly high?
– I presume that the honorable senator is aware of the position in regard to ship-building, and that he knows also the conditions which prevailed before the war, when ship- !uildin in this country was practically !:on-existent. That position had consumed for a number. of years, but during the war it wa.s changed. An excellent job has been performed by Australian workmen in providing urgently required shipping tonnage. Certainly Australian costs h7-(! higher than in the United Kingdom - £08 a ton dead weight in Australia as against £44 in the United Kingdom - but it must be remembered that Australia has not had the modern machinery and ship-building methods that exist in the United Kingdom. It is confidently hoped that, with the provision of modern appliances, Australian shipyards will’ be able to produce at a reduced .cost ships equal to those constructed in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Information been drawn to a report in the Melbourne Herald of an exhibition that is now taking place in Great Britain? Is he aware that that newspaper reported that the display indicated that. Victoria is noted for penguins, and Queensland for something similar, and that South Australia’s chief claim to notice is the’ existence of sharks and cicadas? As it is reported that the display has been presented with the aid of the Commonwealth Department of Information, will the Minister have inquiries made to ascertain whether the report is accurate, and, if so, will he take steps to correct the false impression that the display might give?
– If the honor- ‘ able senator will let me have a copy of the report to which he has referred, 3 shall have pleasure in referring it to the Minister for Information with a view to having matters placed in their proper perspective.
Losses Incurred by Evacuees.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware that among those who were evacuated from Darwin in 1942 were a number of small business people who, because of the urgent notice to quit Darwin, had to leave behind most of their household goods and chattels, as well as business stocks? Is the Minister aware of any provision by the Commonwealth War Damage Commission to recompense such persons by meeting the difference between the 1942 prices of goods and the 1946 or 1947 repurchase prices of business stocks and household effects, particularly in view of the fact that prices in the Northern Territory have increased from by 20 to 25 per cent. in the interval ? If he is not aware of any such provision in respect of citizens who wish to return to the Northern Territory, will he see that action is taken to enable them to meet the increased cost of renewing their household furniture and effects and business stocks?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator has not previously come to my notice. There appears to be some merit in the honorable senator’s suggestion, because business stocks and household effects, when replaced, will cost more. I shall consult with the Minister for the Interior with a view to giving effect to the honorable senator’s suggestion, if that is possible.
Re-establishment of Ex-servicemen.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping received any complaints from discharged servicemen who, prior to their enlistment were engaged in the building trades, that they are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining supplies of building materials? Will the Minister take steps to ensure that these men will be placed in as favorable a position as are others who remained in the building trades during the war and have been supplied with quotas of building materials?
– There is an acute shortage of building materials throughout Australia. Is it suggested that members of the forces who have been demobilized, and wish to re-enter the building trade shall be supplied with materials, even if the’ result would be that houses now in course of construction would, be left unfinished? The problem bristles with difficulties. I shall, however, have inquiries made, with a view to ascertaining what assistance can be given to these men. The honorable senator can rest assured that their interests are being protected by the departments responsible for the re-establishment of ex-servicemen in civil life.
School Radio Sets
– On the 14th March, Senator Sampson brought to notice a letter from the honorary secretary, Egg Lagoon Parents and Citizens Association regarding the price of radio sets. I am nowin a position to inform the honorable senator that the maximum price fixed under the National Security (Prices) Regulations for. the model radio quoted was increased in May, 1945, by £1 and in November, 1945, to £2011s. 5d. The price at which the set in question should be supplied would depend upon the terms of the contract entered into by the association and this is a matter upon which private legal advice should be sought.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior aware that, following the recent heavy rains in the Nullabor Plain area, the growth of herbage and grasses is again attracting rabbits to the area in millions? What steps have been taken by the Department of Commonwealth Railways to encourage rabbit trappers to go into the area with a view to the destruction of these pests?
– The honorable senator’s questionpresents a more or less difficult problem. I am surprised to know that the Nullabor Plain is sufficiently fruitful to encourage the hordes of rabbits to which the honorable senator has referred. There is no available pool of man-power for diversion to that area with a view to getting rid of the pest. However, I shall ask the Minister for the Interior to consider what can be done.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Has the Government given consideration to an early removal of the war postage tax; if not, will consideration be given thereto?
– The special charge of a halfpenny per postal article was prescribed by Parliament for the purpose of assisting the Commonwealth Government to meet the exceptional financial obligations resulting from Australia’s participation in the war. Unfortunately these obligations did not end with the cessation of hostilities and heavy commitments arising directly from the successful prosecution of the war have still to be met. Consideration has been given to the matter of discontinuing the surcharge referred to, but unfortunately it is not practicable to disturb the arrangements at this stage. The question will, however, be reviewed carefully immediately the financial conditions permit.
Mail Service to Rabaul
SenatorJ. B. HAYES asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answersto the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Treasurer give consideration to the abolition of the Sales Tax on materials used in the construction of homes for the people ?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
Fora considerable time a very large proportion - over90 per cent. - of the materials andfittingsused in the construction of homes has been entirely exempt from sales tax. As a result,the amount of sales tax included in the total cost of the average home is relatively very small. Consideration is being given to the exemption, where practicable, of those few materials used in building homes which remain subject to sales tax.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
In respect to the State of Western Australia -
How many applications for homes have been submitted to the War Service Homes Commission since the 1st July, 1944?
Of that number how many have been approved?
How many houses have been(a) built, or (b) acquired since the date mentioned?
How many houses are under construction ?
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers : -
The figures given in respect ofNos. 1 to 3 represent the period 1st July, 1944. to 31st March, 1946.
Safety Precautions for Air Crew. Senator COLLETT asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
Is it a fact that -
the overloading of Royal Australian Air Force aircraft is a not infrequent occurence;
air crews are permitted to smoke whilst flying;
wax matches are carried and used by air crews;
parachutes, if supplied, are not in handy, positions in the aircraft nor ready for use should they be required ;
the quality of the ground staff at inland stations has deteriorated with the result that aircraft are not being efficiently serviced;
the pilots and air crews on some routes or stations are suffering from overstrain as a result of inadequate arrangements for relief, rest and feeding?
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers : -
Tools of Trade
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– Th e Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers: -
Used hand tools received by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission from Army Salvage are, I am informed, made up into suitable kits by the Commonwealth Disposals Commission and are held by disposals centres for a period of approximately four weeks prior to the advertised date of sale. Such kits are available to ex-servicemen generally for cash purchase. Arrangements have been made for the Repatriation Commission to receive and determine applications from eligible exservicemen for the purchase of machine tools in the following manner: - (a) Where the tool required is available and the cost thereof is within the scope of assistance provided under the Re-establishment and Employment Act, such application is finalized by the Repatriation Commission; (b) Where the cost of the tool required is beyond the scope of assistance which may beprovided under the Reestablishment and Employment Act, the Repatriation Commission determines eligibility and has the proposal investigated for the purpose of providing the Directorate of machine tools and gauges with a report and recommendation. In such case it is necessary for the member to arrange finance through the industrial Advance Branch of the Commonwealth Bank in his State of residence. Applications should be submitted to the Repatriation Branch Offices in the variousStates.
By Cabinet decision on the 20th March, 1946 the Repatriation Commission is authorized to purchase from the Commonwealth Disposals Commission tools of trade, professional equipment and similar goods not readily available in the community. These goods will be made available by the Repatriation Commission to eligible ex-servicemen who wish to acquire them by way of gift, loan, or by outright purchase.
Debate resumed from the 2nd April (vide page 849), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The bill which I support proposes five amendments of the principal act. They involve very important principles, and represent a practical attempt to provide incentives to those responsible for primary and secondary production in this country. First, the bill allows an additional deduction for depreciation in respect of amenities provided by employers for employees. In respect of equipment and buildings provided for that purpose, special depreciation at the rate of 33 per cent. is provided. As no time limit isspecified, I assume that after the first three years the employer will escape taxation on the expenditure so incurred. A special depreciation allowance is also provided in respect of expenditure on equipment used in the preparation of meals supplied to employees. Concessions of this kind will undoubtedly improve the relationship between employers and employees. Indeed, our failure to tackle this problem has very largely been the pause of lack of harmony in many industries in this country. In this respect we have lagged behind other countries. I do not propose to retrace the history of relationships between employers and employee, but all of us are pleased to find to-day that large industrial concerns like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited realize fully that in order to obtain the best results from their employees the latter must be treated as human beings and be provided with decent working conditions. For that reason many large industrial and business concerns have already provided first-class amenities for their employees. In passing, I mention that I was disappointed on visiting some Government factories to find that employees did not make full use of the amenities provided for them. That was particularly the case with respect to the use of dining rooms on the premises. I am also pleased to note that in connexion with the establishment of new industries in South Australia arrangements are being made to enable employees to become shareholders, whilst in some cases provision is being made for the payment of liberal bonuses to employees. I recall that, unfortunately, a number of employers were prevented under legislation passed by this Government from establishing and expanding their superannuation scheme. I hope that in the near future the Government will amend such legislation in that respect, because superannuation schemes of the kind to which I refer are established solely in the interests of the employee and his family and do more than anything else to maintain good relationships between employers and “ employees. . I commend the Government on its decision to allow special depreciation in respect of expenditure on amenities.
Secondly, the bill provides for special depreciation at the rate of 20 per cent, in respect of expenditure on plant and machinery acquired during the post-war period. This concession, which will apply in both primary and secondary industry, will operate in the year’ in which the expenditure is incurred. The provision itself will come into force, as from the 1st July last and will operate for a period Of five years as from that date. I should like to ask the Minister the reason for allowing special depreciation for one year only at the rate of 20 per cent, in this case, whilst, at the same time, the Government proposes permanently to allow special depreciation at the rate of 33-J per cent, in respect of expenditure on amenities for those engaged in secondary industry. I realize that in addition to this special depreciation of 20 per cent., depreciation will be allowed at the normal annual rate. This concession will prove a great benefit to primary and secondary industry as a whole. The Minister for Supply and Shipping (‘Senator Ashley), in his second-reading speech, said that the Government realized that many industries requiring to purchase motor trucks, harvesters and other machines, would be obliged to effect purchase at inflated prices, and that this special depreciation was designed to ease their initial burden in that respect.
Thirdly, the bill provides an additional allowance in respect of expenditure on scientific research. All of us appreciate the valuable work which has already been done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the example set by that body can well be followed by private industries. Under this heading, special depreciation at the rate of 33-j per cent, will be allowed for a period of three years in respect of expenditure on buildings erected for scientific research and also expenditure incurred directly on such research.
Fourthly, the bill provides an allowance of a credit of income tax in relation to certain losses and expenses incurred prior to the 1st July,’ 1947, in reconverting businesses from war production to peace production. This means that any firm, or organization, which incurred expenditure from the outbreak of war up to the 1st July, 1947, will be allowed substantial reductions on such expenditure. When I was in the United States of America recently, I noticed the promptness with which concessions of this kind were made available to industry generally. In that country these concessions were granted to industrial and commercial organizations as from the day after the war in the Pacific ended. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, pointed out that the Government was following this example, which has also been followed in other countries. However, I believe that concessions of this kind could well have been made before this date. No mention has been made of any estimate of loss of revenue as the result of these concessions. I should not think that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) would approve of these concessions without haying some idea of the loss of revenue involved. I suggest that the Minister might give us information on that point.
The bill proposes a fifth concession which, although it will not affect a great number of people, it involves, nevertheless, a very important principle. It- is proposed to allow a rebate in respect of the tax previously payable by visiting industrial experts and technicians. That, point has bean discussed in this chamber on previous occasions. All of us are aware that many large industries overseas are now establishing branches in Australia, and in order to do so they find it essential to ?end their best technicians to this country This matter was brought to my notice when I was recently in the United States of America. Honorable sou n tors are aware that high executive officers of motor vehicle manufacturing firms, and other big organiaztions, who are paid very high salaries compared wilh those ruling in this country,, decline to fi-me to Australia to establish industries here whim ‘bey are liable to tax at the very high rates . prevailing in Australia. Consequently, only’ third and fourth grade technicians will come to A nf tralia. I commend the Government on ‘its decision to overcome that difficulty by providing that visiting exports and technicians will pay income tax while in Australia only at the rates at which they would have paid tax had they remained in their own country. That concession will be very helpful in establishing new industries in Australia.
In addition to the five matters to which I have referred, the bill also deals with the exemption of returned soldiers from income tax in certain circumstances. On this point the Minister in his secondreading speech said -
The exemption was applied to pay and allowances earned in Australia by members of the 0.cupation and Interim forces who volunteered for service with those forces on or he fi iri- the !«-<: of the announcement of the Government’s decision to modify the tax concession provided for members of the forces, that < the 13th February, 1940, but was not applied to members who volunteered to serve with thu forces after that date.
I ask the Minister to consider this matter with a view to ensuring that all men who have volunteered for service with the interim forces or with the occupation forces, shall be placed on the same footing. The position to-day is that many members of those forces, some of them returned soldiers, volunteered ‘before the 13th February, 1946 - the date on which this announcement was made, and will receive certain income tax concessions. In fact, they will enjoy the same concessions as were applicable to members of the fighting services during the war. I understand that all such concessions will be withdrawn on the 1st July, 1947. If the present anomaly be permitted to continue we shall find members of the. occupation or interim forces serving in the same units, performing the same duties, but being subject’ to discrimina.tion in regard to income tax. I am sure honorable senators will agree that the elimination of this anomaly is most desirable. If the concessions be extended to all members of these forces, the sum involved will not be very great, because as I have said, the concessions are to end on the 1st July, 1947. Many of the men who did not volunteer for service until after the date of announcement were prevented from enlisting earlier because they had not been repatriated from overseas. The principle involved is most important, and I trust that the Government will see its way clear to take the necessary action to remove the anomaly.
In expressing my wholehearted support of the proposals now under consideration, I have no wish to create the impression that I am making a lukewarm attempt to deal with one of the most important problems confronting this country to-day. An expansion of industry, and an increase of production are essential. Employers and employees alike must be offered an incentive to get on with the job. Production must be made efficient, and its cost must be reduced. For the next five years at least, Australia will bc able to sell all the ‘surplus commoditie that it can produce, provided the good” are of acceptable quality and are reason ably priced. The encouragement prnvided by these amendments of our income tax legislation affect only a small section of the community, and again I appeal f- . the Minister for Supply and Shipping m consider making an announcement to thi people of this country, and to people overseas, who may be anxious to establish new industries here, that the exorbitant and vicious taxes now being imposed will he reduced substantially during the next three years. A reduction of 6^ per cent, over a period of twelve months is of no significance. The Government is merely fiddling with the problem. I should like the Government to be bold -enough to state that there will be a 25 per cent, reduction in the next financial year, and to set a definite figure for the next three’ years. Individuals and “ organizations with capital to invest in this country want to know their taxation commitments well in advance so that they may plan accordingly. The general opinion at present, both here and overseas, is that caution must be exercised in investing in new undertakings until an assurance is given by the Government that taxation will be reasonable. That applies not only to undertakings which pay high salaries and make substantial profits, but also right down the scale to minor undertakings. We find, for instance, that in the coalmining industry, where wages cannot be regarded as high, there is no incentive to the miners to work overtime or to do special work. At present, the tax imposed upon the first fi of personal exertion income in excess of £300 is 8s. The Minister for Supply and Shipping knows the coal-mining industry better than T do. He knows all about the darg.
– I do not know how the Leader of the Opposition would get on in the coal-mining industry if he talked all the time.
– I shall continue to talk on this matter because it is of vital importance to Australia. The lack of incentive to increase production in the coal-mining industry is one of the major causes of industrial unrest, and the slowing down of industry generally. As I have said, even though the war has ended, the tax collected from the first £1 of persona] exertion income over £300 is 8s. The first £1 of personal exertion income over £1,000 is taxed to the amount of 9s. 2d.; and so the rate increases until we come to the few people in this country - few, but very important so far as the Treasury is concerned, because of their income tax contributions - who have reached the stage that out of every £1 they earn, the Treasury takes 18-s. 6d., less the reduction of 6^ per cent.
– How much have they left?
– That is a parrot cry which no doubt appeals to the Minister’s audience on the Yarra Bank. It is not the important point. The viva problem is the. fact that because of the present, high taxes, business men are not prepared to expand their undertakings. They realize that if they lose money on their -ventures, whether their losses be less than or more than £5,000, they will not receive any compensation, whereas, out of every £1 that they earn in excess of £5,000, they will be permitted to retain only a little more than ls. 6d. There are few people in this country earning really big incomes, but, according to figures supplied by the Treasury, they are contributing an enormous sum to revenue in income tax. Generally speaking, they are employers of considerable labour and have done much ‘ to develop this country. It is ludicrous that we should heed the parrot cry, What have they left?” and take the attitude that because they have sufficient money left to meet their immediate requirements, that is the only incentive that should be offered to them. If the Government will look at this matter fairly and squarely and appreciate, as it apparently does by the evidence of this bill, the importance of encouraging an expansion of industry, it will realize thatsubstantial reduction of taxes would do more than anything else to galvanize life into the industries of this country, and to encourage oversea investors to establish new undertakings here. That is the hest way to create full employment, and, in the long run, it is the only way to place the finances of the Commonwealth in a position to bear further taxation reductions. The Government must have the . courage to announce a policy of reduced taxes over a period of years. I trust that it will not persist with miserable 6-J per cent, reductions, but will realize immediately the seriousness of the position, and be bold enough to make a definite statement of its intentions. As I have said this proposal is only fiddling with the matter. The Government must continue and complete its job.
I shall refer to one other aspect of the * need for incentive in industry, and for increased production in the post-war period. In addition to reducing taxes, it is imperative that the Government should do everything possible immediately to prevent wasteful expenditure. I’ say, as a former Cabinet Minister, that, to date, I have seen only two kinds of Commonwealth Governments, namely, expensive ones, and very expensive ones. I wish to bring to the notice of honorable senators one or two trends that have become very marked since this Government assumed office. We are wasting millions of pounds a year by having too many departments, too many employees in departments, and a lack of discipline. A comparison reveals an extraordinary position. In spite of wage-pegging regulations, the total salary payments of many departments have increased considerably, indicating an increase of staff. The following figures show estimated government expenditure for the current financial year which includes ten months of peace compared with expenditure in the year 1944-45, which included a full twelve months of war: In the first year of the war, 1939-40, expenditure by the Department of Information totalled 22,000. In 1945, the figure had risen to £141,000, and the estimated expenditure for 1946 is £166,500. Last year, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction expended £316,000, and the estimate for this year is £404,000. In 1940-41, expenditure by .the Treasury totalled £4.22,000. Last year it was £1,750,000, and the estimate for this year is £2,053,000.
– That is the stuff.
– That is the stuff that pleases the mob, but it is improper so far as sound government is concerned. In 1939-40, the Attorney-General’s Department expended £160,000; in 1944-45 the expenditure was increased to £2S2,000; and this year.it is £324,000. I am mentioning these increased expenditures because salaries are pegged, and I wish to draw attention to the increase of the number of employees in those departments. I do not complain’ about the salaries, because all those who have been in receipt of fixed salaries during the war and have had to pay increased taxes and inflationary prices have suffered as much *a** any other section of the community. 1 make it perfectly clear that there has been a big increase of the number of people employed rather- than of the wages paid to them. In the department of Social Services, in 1939-40, the expenditure on salaries was £93,000, but last vear it increased to £246,000, and this year to £396,000. In the Department of Supply and Shipping, the expenditure in .1939-40 was £226,000. and, in 1944-45, £777,000, whilst this year thi. amount has increased to £S45,000. I cannot understand why the Minister for Supply and Shipping states it is necessary to retain so many employees, when the volume of work has decreased since the conclusion of the war. Since the first year of the war the expenditure on these five departments has increased by £2,860,925. I hope that the Minister will take steps to see that all unnecessary departments are abolished as quickly as possible. On the day after the war with Japan ended, five of the biggest departments in the United States of America were closed, yet we have the spectacle in Australia to which I have just drawn attention, whilst in some industries men cannot be found for necessary jobs.
Further, I draw attention to the set-up of some of the new departments, the number of people engaged in them, and . the “way in which they seem to be so cluttered up with red-tape methods that they cannot get on with their jobs. I shall refer first to the new and important Department of Post-war Reconstruction. On the Estimates, £4,500,000 was voted for training under the post-war reconstruction scheme. On the. 14th March, the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) revealed that of 83,277 applications received for full or part-time training, only 1,171 persons had so far completed their courses, and only 17,423 had undertaken training at that date. That is all due to lack of action, despite the big staff employed.
– The scheme is not yet in full operation.
– It seems to me that, while the present Ministers are in office, it will never be in full operation. It was announced this week that the total number of officers in the Department of Post-war Reconstruction receiving salaries of £400 or upwards a year was 304, that the total salary bill of the department amounted to £320,500, and that the office space leased by the Government, apart from government offices, amounted in all States to a total of over 105,000 square feet. There is urgent need for n combing out of all staffs, and a closing up of some of those departments. It has been reported from time to time by responsible officers that there are thousands of men still in the Army who, although they are drawing high salaries or wages, have nothing to do. Instances of this are brought to our notice day after day. Young servicemen who are anxious to get back to a university in order to complete their studies are still working in service departments in Adelaide. They confess that their only job is to sweep out the office. That is the kind of thing which happens under the dreadful system prevailing in the Army under which men are released on the points system. Throughout Australia we see defence equipment being wasted, yet the Government tells us that because of necessary expenditure income ta* cannot be reduced by more than 6j- per cent.
In 1945, the number of persons directly employed in Australia by governmental authorities, excluding the defence forces, was 493,000, and 1,413,200 were employed privately. In other words, almost 25 per cent, of the people on wages and salaries are in the employment of the Government. One. out of every four employees in Australia is a government servant. How long can a country continue to finance itself on sound lines when it is as top-heavy as that?
– Does the Leader of the Opposition refer exclusively to the Commonwealth Government?
– I refer to all governments, Commonwealth and .State, and also to government instrumentalities.
I direct attention to another aspect of wasteful expenditure. These matters cannot be treated lightly. If Australia is fo hold its markets overseas it cannot afford to slip any further in this way.
– The Government ni.u’t employ people.
– We have to ensure that they work when they are employed, and that we have a’ government which will ensure that the “ go-slow-ites “ are properly disciplined and that the decisions of the Arbitration Court are honoured by both sides. “We should not have Rafferty’s rules, and “the political interference which has been evident during the war. I have had a few extracts made from the report of the Commonwealth AuditorGenera1 on public accounts for the year ended the 30th June. 1944. I have tried to obtain’ a copy of the report for the following year, but have been unable to do so. But what has the Government done concerning the report for the year ended the 30th June, 1944? Concerning the Tea Control Board, which has expended £7,60S,512, the report of the Auditor-General states -
Tin; Boa nl lias not maintained satisfactory accounting records.
Referring to Food Control, the AuditorGeneral said -
Since the close of thi’ year losses have been revealed and further considerable losses are anticipated.
On the subject of egg marketing the report stated -
Regarding the Captain Cook Graving Dock, the Auditor-General’s report shows that the estimate of the cost of construction was £2,297,000, whilst the expenditure to the 28fh February, 1945. has totalled £S,44S,327. The estimate was approximately £3,000,000, and the cost will be about’ £9,000,000. Can a country continue to finance its activities on those lines?
– It cannot go on without a graving dock.
– A country cannot be governed on economic lines unless public works like a graving dock are constructed at something like a reasonable price. If the Minister knows anything about the “ go-slow “ workers who were under his control he will realize that it was impossible to get a fair day’s work from them for a fair day’s pay. Wasteful expenditure like that constitutes a disgraceful monument to any government prepared to allow it to continue. Certain Ministers are frightened of political repercussions, and therefore they do nothing in the matter. Referring to the Stevedoring Commission, the AuditorGeneral’s report states -
Audit of cash advanced . . . revealed unsatisfactory’ features in relation to the collection of public money and finance generally.
After reporting looses to the 30th. June, 1943. by the Flax Production Committee, the Auditor-General’s report, which is dated the 12th June, 1945, says -
Statements for the year ended June 30. 1 !*44. h-:vp not been received
Referring to the Salvage Commission, the report makes this comment -
The financial books of the board do not reflect the true position at June 30, 1944.
The Government proposes to perpetuate this wasteful expenditure, when income taxes are so high that they stifle enterprise and prevent outside people from establishing businesses in Australia. Referring to the munitions establishments, the Auditor-General remarked - . . statements presented do not show accurately the factories’ financial position.
His comment relating to the munition stores at Maribyrnong was as follows : - financial statements for the years ended lune 30. 1!>43 and June 30, 1944, have not been submitted. 1 hope that Ministers are doing something about it. Australia is missing a golden opportunity. During the next five years there will be opportunities for development greater than at any previous period in this country’s history. What is needed is sanity in the Parliament at Canberra, sanity in the Cabinet, and a general will ingness on the part of the community to do a fair day’s work- for a fair day’s pay. We hear repeatedly the parrot cry. “ Put a Labour government into office and keep it there, and there will be full employment for everybody and a high standard of living “, yet, on every hand, we have “ go-slowism “, strikes, and unemployment. I am astonished that the people of Australia do not rebel against the Administration which called forth the comments’ of the Auditor-General which I have quoted. . That officer is not biased. He has no reason to be biased, because he is unfettered and has nothing to lose by telling the truth. His report reveals a scandalous state of affairs. An important statement was made recently, by Mr. F. P. Walsh, economic adviser to the Government of New Zealand. Mr. Walsh is, I understand, one of that Government’s most influential advisers ; he is also a member of the Stabilization Commission. It is said that a political sensation was caused by the publication of his report in which he warned the New Zealand Government that the people of that dominion as a whole must work, harder. Referring to the necessity for improving conditions and raising the real standard of living, Mr. Walsh said -
He went on to refer to the enormous reservoir of purchasing power that had accumulated during and since the war. On the subject of the shortage of available goods, he said -
It is clear that the gap between money and goods should be adjusted from tine “opposite end - by more production. This is where workers can do a real job. Provided we can get raw materials it is within our power to produce more goods and bridge the gap between money and goods. If we do not close this gap by our own productive efforts, it will be closed for us. It will be closed perhaps by an inflation of prices, perhaps by a deflation of money and incomes. Both of these things a.re poison in the economic structure. No effort should be spared to avoid them and to adopt the only sensible way out - namely, increased production. And nothing should be allowed to interrupt the productive system. We cannot afford to have stoppages of production. Machinery exists for the settlement of industrial disputes. This machinery is adequate and is there to be used. The history of disputes shows that it must be used at some stage or other, and, therefore, the most effective way for our movement to use it is before the stoppage occurs. Every time a stoppage occurs not only are wages lost, but goods are lost which are essential to the attainment of a higher standard of living - our primary objective. … It is Labour’s responsibility to work for the maximum production of goods and services, and everything that stands in the way of this is contrary to the best interests. . . .
I emphasize that those are the views of the economic adviser to the Labour Government of New Zealand. Lt the “Minister for Supply and Shipping is interested, I shall be pleased to let him have a copy of the full report.
We are dealing with important principles. We can reduce taxes, but we must also have increased production, a steady flow of immigrants, and a better state of affairs in the industrial world. I commend the Government for going as far as .it has gone, but I urge it to take its courage in its hands and announce to the world that, it is prepared to reduce taxes, that it will see that decisions of the Arbitration Court are honoured, and that men shall be given a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work. Only by doing that can we get back to economic sanity.
– I am pleased that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is in agreement with the Government on this occasion, but that very fact causes me to wonder whether the Government is doing the correct thing. The honorable senator has set out to bid for the support of .the electors by offering a reduction of taxes. He says that there should be a reduction of 25 per cent, in the next year.
– The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives promised a 40 per cent, reduction.
– That reduction was to take place over a period of three years; the reduction for “next year was set at 25 per cent. The Government could go better than that, and make extravagant promises, which, if it followed the example of previous governments, would not be kept, but it recognizes its duty to be prac-tical and efficient. The Government, knows the position as well as does the Leader of the Opposition. It would be easy to go into the market and offer a considerable .reduction of taxes if we were prepared to let Australia “ go to pot “, but the Government has a proper sense of its obligations to the country. I do not say that some reduction of taxes is not possible, but I do’ say that the Government will not bid for the support of the electors by making extravagant offers; it desires to do the right thing. By way of illustration, the Leader of the Opposition mentioned the. case of a miner who normally earned £300 per year, but because he received an extra £.1 as overtime he had to pay an additional 8s. as tax on his income. There are many different classes into which nien with an income of £300 a year may be divided, as so much depends on their deductions in respect of dependants, and so on. It is not correct to say that every person whose normal income of £300 is increased by £1 pays an extra Ss. as tax. When, an honorable senator sets out to criticize the Government he should be accurate. The statement of the Leader of the Opposi tion to which I have referred is’ not accurate. On ihe face of it the statement seems to indicate that the Government taxes every person 8s. on every £1 that he earns above £300, but that is not so. At times, it may be all right to speak in general terms, but it is not right when the leader of a party is criticizing the Government of the day. In order that a wrong impression may not be created, such a critic should be accurate. What does, the honorable senator mean when he refers to a 25 per cent, reduction of taxes? On the subject of depreciation he said that varying rates are allowed. I shall leave the details of this aspect of the subject to other honorable senators, but .1 point out that any deduction in respect of depreciation is in fact a deduction. If it is not. then I do not know what a deduction is. Does the honorable senator suggest a reduction of 25 per cent, in every taxation field, or only in respect of income tax He did not make that, point clear in his general statement. In dealing with such an important subject as taxation the honorable senator should be more specific.
In his criticism of the costs of Government departments the Leader of the Opposition did not make any reference to annual increments payable to officers. In one breath he says that he does not complain of the salaries paid, and yet in the next breath he says that the bill for salaries is too ‘big. I remind him that a good many men have broken down in health because of the strain of the work undertaken by them for their country. In any case, despite wage pegging’ regulations, officers are entitled under the law to annual increments. The honorable senator did not mention that point; lie tried to create the impression that there had been an enormous expansion of government departments, with a consequently greater increased cost to the taxpayer. He knows that such a statement is not accurate. It is true that some departments have expanded. Departments such as the Department of Post-war Reconstruction must expand- because it has to deal with the re-establishment in civil life of service men and women, and that necessitates a great deal of work in various directions. The Treasury Department also is handling many more millions of pounds each year than before ibo war, and sonic expansion there is inevitable’. The honorable senator stressed the need for a flow of immigrants to Australia yet he objected to the increased cost of the Department of Information. If Australia is to attract immigrants this country must advertize what it has to offer to them. And so there is justification for some expansion of the Department of Information.
– There is room for some reduction of expenditure by the department.
– I repeat that if more people are to be attracted to Australia as immigrants, the expenditure by the Department of Information must increase. How can the true state of affairs in Australia be known in other countries without such a department?
– The department fulfilled its principal function during the war.
– Its function is a continuing one. The honorable senator objects to the expenditure of a few pounds on a department which places Australia prominently in the eyes of the world. Both the present, Government and its predecessor had a very .difficult task during the. war, the exigencies of which demanded the introduction of extreme measures. At the time Australia was in danger and it was not possible to examine closely principles and policies which were not directly related to the winning of the war. What had to be done had to be done quickly. I believe that this Government and its predecessor can justly claim credit for the effectiveness of their war legislation. Its effectiveness is borne out by the sound position in which Australia finds itself to-day. Whilst both Governments had to do things which were undoubtedly unpopular with their political supporters, they did them in a practical way. There is no question about the efficiency of the Commonwealth Public Service. I pay tribute to Commonwealth officials foi- the magnificent work which they performed during the longest period, of stress, trial and struggle that we have experienced in our history. I have found them uniformly efficient and courteous in my personal contacts with them. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken scathingly about the construction of the Captain Cook Graving Dock at Sydney. The honorable senator knows quite well that the first estimates for the dock were by no means final and covered only the first portion of its construction.
Senator McLeay. Does the honorable senator seek . to justify the expenditure of £9,000,000 on ‘that work?
– Yes, during the period of war I would justify an expenditure of £20,000,000 for such a purpose if it were considered necessary to save this country from invasion or to make it better able to do battle against its enemies. The honorable senator did not confine his criticism to the cost of the dock; he traduced good Australian workmen by his -unfair charge that they had deliberately prolonged its construction. I remind the honorable senator that many of the men who were employed on the dock had never done work of the k-ind before; many of them were “counter jumpers “ who were employed on the job because of the general shortage of manpower. And the fact that they did a good job is borne out by the testimony of people from other countries r.’ho have described it as a magnificent undertaking.
I come .now to -the question of the proposed amendments of the Income Tax Assessment Act. I realize thai; owing to the exigencies of the war it has been impossible for the Government to avoid a marked increase in taxes of all kinds, with the possible exception of the land tax. During the war it was impossible to explore new avenues and to devise new methods of raising taxes which would bear less heavily on small taxpayers. Although hostilities have ceased there remains a great deal to be done by our armed forces and in the rehabilitation of our servicemen and the change from war-time to peace-time production. This, however, has not prevented pressure groups from exerting their influence upon the Government to reduce taxes in the spheres in which they are particularly interested. The economic pressure exerted by these groups who. in general, are represented in this Parliament by members of the Opposition, has been so great that the Government has been forced to give way. In its consideration of the desirability of reducing taxes, the Government has had prominently before it the practicability of extending Australian production. The Leader of the Opposition even went so far as to comiii end the Government saying that its proposals would help to extend production in this country. I trust that, as soon as it is practicable, the Government will undertake a scientific investigation of the incidence of taxation generally. The formula now applied in assessing income tax is so complex as to need elucidation by experts. And even then it is quite likely that different interpretations will be placed upon it and endless disputations will arise. I mention that because it seems likely that there will be further reductions of taxes and unless the Government takes a firm stand these reductions will go largely into the pockets of those who can direct the strongest economic pressure. This applies in the spheres not only, of the Commonwealth, but also of the States. The Government is being forced to give way because of economic pressure being placed upon it. It. is for this reason that further consideration should be given to evolving new methods of tax assessment and collection. Outside the land tax, income tax is the only direct tax over which we have control. Indirect taxes absorb the great bulk of the wealth of the community. The present system of assessing and collecting income tax operates most unfairly, and should be reviewed, for this reason if for no other : If £9 is taxen in tax from a man on £250 a year his living standard is reduced below the general minimum standard. But a tax of £2,000 paid by a taxpayer in receipt of, say. £4,000 a year makes not one iota of difference to his standard of comfort, because he is well above the general standard of living. The principle’ of the tax is therefore wrong. In the assessment and collection of income tax a huge army of officials is employed. ‘ Taxpayers throughout the length and breadth of the country are indignant at the intrusions made into their private affairs by taxation officials. The income tax legislation i.= making us a nation of liars; men are evading the law by telling all sorts of tarra-diddles. I believe it was William
Gladstone who said that if a system of income tax were introduced it would make liars of all men. Taxpayers are indignant because of the voluminous details of their personal affairs required by the taxation officials. The honest man always pays and those who are inclined to dishonesty very often go scot free or pay much less than ‘they should. The Taxation Department very often sends officials to carry out personal investigations on the spot where a taxpayer is suspected of endeavouring to evade his obligations. Despite all these precautions, many people are still evading the- payment of income tax. I believe that no honorable senator will deny that. The Government should set up a committee of inquiry to devise scientific methods of imposing direct taxes. I am not now dealing with indirect taxation. Such a committee should give particular attention to the imposition of land tax. Until recently, it was generally believed that the Commonwealth’s power was restricted somewhat, but that impression has been dispelled by a recent decision of the High Court. Under the present system of land taxation the taxpayer, in this case the wealthy land-owner, retains the benefit of the full increment of land values. The point I make is that land values are created as the result of the activities of the community as a whole. Under the present system the benefits of those values are enjoyed solely by the person who is termed to be the owner of the land. I believe that it would be possible after a full inquiry to devise a method of imposing a tax upon land values, and in that way inappropriate those values to the community as a whole. Such a system would eliminate the evasions practised under the present system, and would obviate the necessity to pry into the private affairs of taxpayers. Basic standards of land values applicable throughout the Commonwealth could be fixed. That would not be a difficult task. If necessary, the Commonwealth could utilize the State governmental and local governmental machinery to establish uniformity in that respect. As I have said, I have no doubt as to whether the Commonwealth has power to tax land values.. On a. valuation of £200 for every person in the community, that is, on a population of ‘7,000,000, the Government could raise £70,000,000 from tax on land values at the rate of ls. in the £1. I emphasize that the increase of land values in capital cities is the result of the activities of the community as a whole, and cannot be attributed to efforts on the part of the owner of the land. We know of overseas companies which own land in Australia. Whilst they have not done anything to develop that land, and, indeed, in some cases none of their shareholders has seen the land, its value, as the result of the industry of the people as a whole, has increased enormously. -Yet wc allow the owners to reap all of the benefit of that increment in rentals. I shall content myself with citing onecase. A city block in Adelaide with a frontage of 33 feet, which was purchased at 2s. 6d. a foot, making a total purchase 1)rice of £4 2s. 6d., was sold just prior to the war for £33,000. The increased value of that land was created by the community as a whole, and was not attributable to the owner. _ I urge the Government to devise a scientific and uniform system of taxing land values. By doing so, it will’ obtain greater revenue, and abandon a system under which many honest taxpayers are made to appear as liars, lt will also obviate many cases of evasion of tax. At the same time, it will give a fairer deal all round by re-appropriating to the people those values which governments in the past have been in such a hurry to preserve foi” a privileged few. Therefore, I urge the Government to appoint a committee to inquire into all phases of direct taxation with a view to remedying injustices of the kind which T have mentioned.
– All of us, apparently, realize that if this nation is to progress we must overhaul our existing taxation machinery. Senator O’flaherty made some very remarkable statements. First, he boasted of the strength of the Government ; but, subsequently, he suspected that it was giving “ sops “ to pressure groups. Where is the vaunted strength of the Government? Any government worthy of the name formulates its policies, and carries them out regardless of the activities of any outside pressure groups, lt will be interesting to the people to know that this Government, in the eyes of its own supporters, is yielding to pressure groups. The honorable senator’s suggestion that’ the Government should levy tax at the rate of ls. in the £1 on land values is also remarkable. However, I leave him to “ carry that baby”. I know Adelaide very well; but 1 do not know of any block in that city the value of which has increased from 2s. 6d. a foot to £1,000 a foot as he honorable senator alleged. I take it that he was speaking of unimproved values.
I propose to consider in some detail the incidence of taxation on various groups of taxpayers. For this purpose, I take the figures for the financial year 1941-42, because in that year rates of income tax were not nearly so high as they are to-day, and when the amount of money left to taxpayers after the tax was paid was greater than it is to-day. The figures for the financial year 1941-42 were as follows: -
I ask honorable senators to study those figures closely. They show that 50,000 people had incomes of over £1,000 a year, with an aggregate income of £100,000,000 r.i’on which income tax paid amounted to £41,500,000 ; 320,000 enjoyed incomes .of over £400, their aggregate income amounting to £260,000,000, on which they paid £64,000,000; aud 2,S00,000 people had incomes below £400. their aggregate income being £590,000,000, on which the tax paid amounted to £18,000,000. The point I make is that if all incomes in Australia were limited to £400 - and of course I am not. advocating such a policy - £.132,000,000 would be available for distribution among the 2,S00,000 people who in 1942 had a.n income of less than £400. If the income of all people receiving over £400 were reduced to £400 that group would pay in income tax only £10,000,000 whereas to-day they pay ‘ £64,000,000. Therefore, in order to maintain the revenue which the Government received from income tax in 1942, the £2,800,000 people who received less than £400 a year would be required to pay an’ additional £54,000,000 in tax. Therefore, their net gain would be. £132,000,000 less £54,000,000, or £78,000,000; that is an average of £2S a year, or an average of Ils. a week to every person now earning under £400 a year. If all incomes over £1 ,000 were .confiscated - and, of course, I do not advocate that being done - and the surplus was distributed among other income earners the latter would receive a net gain of £20,000,000. Those earning under £200 a year would receive only 6s. a week and those earning under £400 would receive 3s. a week.’ These figures explode the fictitious notion that a privileged few take the cream off the national income, and that, if by some magical means we could distribute their surplus income among the people, Australia would be converted into the Promised Land about which honorable senators opposite talk so glibly. Honorable senators will see that by distributing all incomes in excess of £400 among all taxpayers each person would receive a net gain of only 3s. a week. On that basis, how do honorable senators opposite expect to be able to provide all the wonderful social service benefits which they advocate?
– The ‘persons’ on the lower ranges of income are contributing towards the cost of those benefits.
– I have already shown that the aggregate income tax paid by persons earning less than £400 in 1942 amounted to only £18,000.000. The figures I have given clearly demonstrate that if incomes were limited to £400, each individual in the community would have to pay much more than he now pays in order to maintain existing social services
The Government will have, to think very hard to devise means of obtaining from the 2,SOO,000 taxpayers receiving less than £400 a year, the many millions of pounds necessary to fulfil its promises. I have no desire to reduce incomes to j low level. That is the difference between the Government’s policy and policy of the parties to which we on this side of the chamber belong. Our desire is to raise the standard of living.
– l t will take the Opposition a long time to do that.
– That may be, but if honorable senators opposite remain in office it will take much longer, and the country will be thrown into a state of confusion much worse than it is in to-day. To increase our standard of living, we must first raise the productive efficiency of our industries,- and thereby increase the flow of goods and services to the community.
– Quite right.
– Perhaps ‘Senator Large, who says “ Quite right “ will explain to honorable senators how the flow of goods and services can bc increased if the people of this country are not prepared to work harder than they arc working to-day. Am I to understand that Ils. per week will provide everything that the Government believes sh.ould be provided?
– I hope that the honorable senator will not harp on that Ils. again.
– But it is very important, and cannot be laughed away. If ever conditions in this country were favorable to an era of prosperity they are favorable now. There is a large volume of purchasing power in the hands of the people, and, I am pleased to say, most people desire to expend their money to the best advantage. The Government has the means to provide useful employment to a degree hitherto unknown. I mix with practically every section of the community, and I find that in every strata of society the reaction to the present high taxation is the same. The men who work for me will not work on Saturday mornings because too much of their money is taken in taxes. Honorable senators opposite know as well as I do that that is typical of what is going on throughout the country. Employers and wageearners alike, are saying to .themselves “ Are my efforts receiving adequate recompense ‘”. Senator Courtice, who likemyself is a primary producer, knows that flip attitude of the man on the land todayis: “Why should I- work harder when I have to share my income with Ben Chifley”. It may be argued that that is not a patriotic outlook, but conceptions of patriotism vary.Some people believe that only when their country is in danger should they allow themselves to be influenced by a patriotism. My view is that it shouldbe the earnest endeavour of everybody to serve his country at all times. Many farmers served in the war of 1914-18, and their sons served inthe war just ended;but in every section of the community the predominanttheme is “ It does not pay us to work harder “. That is a sorry state of affairs, and that iswhy Ibelieve the Government has taken a step in the right direction by reducing taxes. But it could go much further, and the country expects it to go much further.
– More bank credit will : be required if it does.
– No. Let. us treat this matter on a business basis. In any business escapable losses must be cut. I realize that in war-time it is necessary for a country to incur huge debts, just as on occasionsit may be necessary for a business man to take risks and perhaps expend money in a manner which afterwards he may regard as unwise. But the war is over now. Let us have a complete overhaul of the premises. Is the Government satisfied that it is expending money to the best advantage? Throughout the country, taxpayers are saying that whilst they did not object to heavy taxation to meet war commitments, they do object to the imposition of high taxes to enable their own employees to enjoy a better standard of living than they themselves are able to achieve. This state of affairs obviously cannot last. I shall read to honorable senators an extract from a letter which I think has an important bearing upon this discussion. The letter states -
March 24th, 1946.
ByG. G. Pearson, Hon. Sec., CumminsYeelanna Sub Branch R.S.L.
Now that many of us have taken up the threads of civil life again, we are coming face to face with the problems of the rehabilitation of ourselves and others. And I wish to refer, not to the primary, but shall
I say the secondary aspect of rehabilitation - not the mere finding of jobs, but of making it possible for the men to make good in those jobs and careers entered upon. This surely is of equal or even greater importance than the former, if the future stability of the country, and the ex-servicemen in particular, is being considered.
It is recognized that many factors enter into this problem, and of course, that whatever measures are adopted, there will always be some who will fail. But every man who has been absent from his normal avocation for several years, has a good deal of leeway to make up, or if he is commencing a new career many difficulties to overcome in the shape of high capital costs, living and labour ensts, and the disadvantage of being obliged probably to compete with others well established during the years of his absence - years of good business, high profits, and considerable financial progress for those who remained at home.
Now most of us looked forward to our return to civil life, believing for some years at least after the war industry would be buoyant, employment plentiful and remunerative, prices in primary industry good, and that by being industrious and wise in those good years we would be able to catch up the leeway, and establish or re-establish ourselves fairly safely in the general scheme of things. While we have found that the level of opportunity and prices have proved fairly good and measured up to expectations reasonably well, the heavy imposts of income tax has entirely wrecked our hopes of making savings. One hears the same story from every section, from business executives, traders, farmers and employees. I speak with particular knowledge of primary producers, many of whom are paying away more than half their income in taxation, and for whom, by reason of the nature of their industry, this problem is particularly acute. It must be obvious from even a casual examination, that there is nothing left for reduction of mortgages, replacement of plant and machinery, or effecting urgent repairs or improvements. Not only is the. returning farmer faced with a serious problem because of this, but all our land settlement schemes are vitally threatened. Those who for various reasons did not join the services have been able in the years before the full weight of taxation was felt, to build up some reserves, and seem more prosperous than when we wentaway, but we havemissed those years.
We appreciate thatmuch is being, and has been done, to place men back intheir jobs, professions and occupations. We realize that the problems are colossal, and probably because of the human element incapable of a total solution. But it would seem that unless opportunity is made for those men to consolidate during the buoyant years, there willbe serious problems arising with the subsidence of prices and possibly depressions arriving. It will be poor gratitude to those whose direct efforts saved the country, if they are handicapped or possibly ruined in ten years time because they did the right: thing in the hour of need, or because we neglected to grant the help necessary to their economic safety.
We suggest therefore, that a prompt, effective and reasonable solution would be to exempt ex-servicemen from income tax for a period of years, say a period equivalent to his service, or five years, whichever is easiest to implement. We seriously suggest that this would enable most men to achieve a position on a level with those who stayed at home; it would provide them with incentive to hard work and savings during the years when the country needs full production, particularly of foodstuffs, and to accumulate reserves, or pay off indebtedness on homes, farms, businesses, &c, and to reduce their indebtedness to proportions which they could handle in the more difficult days, which will inevitably come.
We submit that the taxation the returned soldier is paying is new money to the Government - these men have paid no tax while they were away. The budget position is therefore in the present circumstance to benefit not only from the discharge of men from the services, but by bringing them into the taxation field as well. We must insist, therefore, Unit the remission asked for cannot be an impossible burden for the - Government. By making taxpayers of them, especially at the present rates, they are being prevented from achieving a safe and sound economic position, in other words, taxation is sabotaging their rehabilitation. 1 repeat that we feel this request to be just, and economically wise and sound. We believe it to be workable, simple, and have the dual advantages of encouraging men to help themselves and so ease the strain on departmental authorities, and also give them the chance they deserve. We believe that it will, to a. large extent prevent many of the future headaches of the public Treasurer, and heartaches for the men and their families, who to-day are’ trying to adjust themselves mentally, physically, and economically to the new conditions they aru finding back at home.
– I received it from a sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia on the west coast of South ‘ Australia, and honorable senators may see it if they wish. I commend the views that are expressed in it to the Government. Whatever administration may be in office, the taxation problem must, be tackled in a bold statesmanlike manner.
A reduction of taxes could cause no loss to the country, because it would place money in the hands of the taxpayers which they could expend to greater advantage than the Government, thus providing, more real employment than any govern ment could give. As this measure makes possible the first step towards providing real employment for our men and women, the Government is starting off in the right way. I hope that its action is not due to outside pressure groups, as suggested by Senator O’Flaherty, but is caused by a desire to act wisely.
– I commend the Government for having introduced this measure, and I agree with much that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Mattner have said. We hope that this is only the first of many bills for the reduction of taxes. I hope that, after a close examination of the profit and loss account of the nation, the Government will be able to reduce* taxes further, in the interests not only of members of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures, but also the general community, commencing with the lowest-paid workers. The Government realizes that by a reduction of the income tax it is possible to stimulate production. The peace, as was the war, will be won in the production field, and anything we can do to increase production must be done. The Government has accepted this practical method of helping manufacturers, and it may be said that ‘ this bill is the result of the acceptance of all of the recommendations of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures. This is an important step along the road to rehabilitation. .
The Government has derived no pleasure from the imposition of high taxes, but the exigencies of six years of war made their imposition necessary. It will not continue to impose them at the present rates for a greater period than necessary. The income tax reached an all-time high level in this country, because of war requirement;., and high’ taxes cannot disappear overnight. The war has proved that high taxes of themselves are not so damaging to industry as members of the Opposition have declared them to be. Despite the high rates of income tax imposed, we have seen a level of prosperity in this country not previously witnessed. Although many employees may not have worked so hard as they could have done, I find it difficult to agree with business executives in
Sydney who say that if the income tax were not so high they would increase production. I do not know whether they are telling the truth, because, as a matter of fact, industry has been expanded during the war to a degree unknown previously in Australia. We have only to examine the balance-sheets of public companies for the last six years to find that their internal assets, position is stronger than previously, and that they have not only maintained their rates of dividend with ease, but, in an extraordinarily large number of cases, have even increased them. That is why I wonder whether those men tell the truth when they say, “We are not going to work hard because of the income tax “. Many features operating in the last few years were subnormal. Owing ‘ to heavy governmental expenditure and full employment, all goods- manufactured had a ready sale, and so we experienced a level of prosperity- never previously enjoyed. That level will be maintained while there is full employment, irrespective of whether taxes are high or low. If it requires high taxes to maintain full ‘ employment I am in favour of such a policy.
The case presented by Senator Mattner in a two-page letter has been read in this chamber in order to provide political propaganda at. a later stage. He referred to a farmer having been ruined because he had to pay half of his income to meet, his taxes, but that is an extreme case. The case presented by the honorable senator presupposes that the farmer was in receipt of about £2,000 a year. The facts are known to members of the opposition, yet they paint a picture which does not reflect, the true position. I do not know whether the Leader of the Opposition smiled in order to avoid the wrath that might be expected to fall on him, but he tried to present a case which could be taken up by the- press for the purpose of attacking the Government. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the case of a man who earned £300 a year, and then, for the next £1 he earned, had to pay income tax at the rate of 8s. in the £1. The tax for a man in receipt of £301 a year, without deductions for a family and other concessional allowances, is 3s. 8d., :md not ‘Ss., in the £1.
– Why do the workers in the coal mines strike because of a high income tax?
– They read statements such as those “put over” by the Leader of the Opposition. They cannot afford to pay accountants to prepare their income tax returns, and % they are undoubtedly misled with regard to the matter. The greatest fallacy in industry to-day is that the coal miners strike because of the income tax they have to pay. Senator McLeay said that as soon a3 a farmer’s income reached £1,000 a year he paid tax at the rate of 9s. 2d. in the £1, but owing to the way in which the tax is spread the rate without deductions is only ‘7s. Id. in the £1.
The Leader of the Opposition has tried to make political capital out of a set of figures presented by him. He endeavoured to make the best ot them, and I suppose from that point of view we should not be over-critical. He referred to the increase of the number of persons employed in various government departments. Apparently he does not realize that under Labour rule Australia has grown up in the last four years. He referred to the Department of Information and I asked if that ‘ included the Department of Immigration, and he would not answer, because next year he will want to know why 1,000,000 immigrants are not being brought to Australia. He came back from his recent trip abroad with the outstanding impression that Australia must have a. large number of immigrants, yet he attacks the Minister for Information, whose job it is so to publicize Australia throughout the world that the work of obtaining immigrants will be facilitated. The present Government realizes the importance of immigration as well as does the Leader of the Opposition, and the increased expenditure on that department is well justified. The Government has sent representatives of the Department of Information to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Washington and London where they can be heard to the best advantage, but they were not there in 1939. Australia has a story to tell which bears repeating, and we must pay officers to tell that story throughout the world.
The Leader of the Opposition criticized the Department of Post-war Reconstruction for having increased its personnel, but the simple facts provide a complete answer to that criticism. The. honorable senator painted a general picture for political purposes. He attacked the Treasury. “We know the responsibilities which have devolved upon the Treasury in the last few years. Again I say that Australia is growing up, and the National Government is taking a part in that growth. The Treasury deals with, approximately, 2,000,000 taxpayers at present compared with 300,000 in 1939. That is the answer to the criticism of the Treasury expenditure. That department also deals with taxes which were not previously handled by it. These are the entertainments tax, the wartime company tax, and the pay-roll tax, apart .from the fact that uniform taxa tion is now the law of the land. Other departments were mentioned such as the Health and Social Services Department. The increased expenditure there also explains itself. The Government has not been idle. While making Australia safe from invasion, it has also tried to improve the position of the people of this country, and it has succeeded to an’ extraordinary degree. No doubt the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) will be happy to seize the opportunity to answer the Leader of the Opposition in his criticism of that department. I am wholeheartedly in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition regarding the need for increased production. There is no doubt that increased production is not only the key to the future of Australia, it is also the key to the solution to the problems of the world. The present Government has endeavoured to give social services to the people, but the best social service that anY government can give is so to improve its secondary industries that the things which are luxuries to-day will become part of the every day life of the people to-morrow. The standard of living can be truly lifted only by providing for all amenities which now are enjoyed only by the few. That can be done only by cheapening the costs of production.
– And by encouraging private enterprise.
– Yes. I have already shown what private enterprise has done in the last five years. That a magnificent effort has been achieved cannot be denied. Any financial digest of recent years will show that retail businesses have never enjoyed such prosperity. The fact that they have, made such tremendous profits shows that there must have been a big turnover. That, in turn, means that production must have been maintained to keep the shops supplied with goods.
– The big turnover was the result of. the expenditure of large sums of borrowed money.
– That is not so. curing the las’t few years the use of borrowed money, .especially for use in the expansion of business, has been closely controlled. It was not possible to expend money in expanding businesses without the consent of the Treasurer.
– Wageearners have had more money to expend because of the circulation of borrowed money.
– There, is no question about that. Wage-earners have had more money. That proves my case that high taxation of itself is not the deterrent to progress honorable senators opposite would have us believe. So long as there is full employment the position of the community generally will be satisfactory. During the last five years £60,000,000 has been added to the credit of Australia’s primary producers. That state of affairs must have its influence on the community generally. In some countries such as Great Britain, the battle for production had to be faced in very grave circumstances indeed. In February, 1.946, Great Britain achieved an all-time record for its exports, but that country still has its industrial problems just as we have them in Australia. On his return to Australia, the Leader of the Opposition says that unemployment is rife. That is not so. I know that that is a .popular thing to say, but I remind him that’ Mr. S. M. Bruce, a former Prime Minister, who until recently was Australia’s High Commissioner in London, said that Australia had come in out of the war i-n -a ‘better position than that of any other country which was engaged in thewar. Mr. Bruce had been an opponent of the Labour party for many years, but I believe that he has served his country well, and that when he spoke he had put aside party political considerations. Australia’s internal economy has been less impaired than that of most other countries because of the sound control of its finances by the Government. Moreover, this country’s reputation in other countries was never so high as it is to-day because, for the. firsttime in its history, it has had a definite foreign policy.
SenatorJames McLachlan. - Australia is fortunate in that it was scarcely touched by the war.
Sena tor ARMSTRONG . - Australia emerged from the war with great honour, and is in a position to plan for its future with every hope of success. There are, however, two sides to the question of production ; there is the view of the master and also the view of the man. Both employers and employees have faults, and attimes each section does things which justify criticism. Nevertheless, the general position of this country is sound. I have no doubt, that during the next few months the patience of all sections of the community - employers and employees, Government and people - will be sorelytried. If ever there was a time when each section should try to see the point of view ofothersections, it is now, becauseI believe that the next six months will be crucial in Australia’s history. We have come through the war safely, but we have still to win the battle of the peace. We shall emerge from the battle safely only if we learn to appreciate the other fellow’s point of view, and realize that the world has behind it six tragic years of war. We must bear in mind that men and women are tired, even to the point of exhaustion; that many who have returned from active service need a holiday; that large numbers of women in the community are sick and in ill health, because of the burdens that they have carried on the home front. And so I say that ahead of us there is a period of six or twelvemonths which will be most trying. We shall all need to exercise patience, but I am convinced that the good qualities in Australian men and women will come to the fore, and that the Government, with the help of the Opposition and of the people of Australia generally, will lead the country into a peace that will last for many years, during which the prosperity and security of the people of this landwill reach a state never previously attained. I commend the bill as a definite step along the road back to peace through industry.
– This bill is designed to assist industry in general over the difficult transition period from war to peace. It will go a long way towards the reestablishment of both primary and secondary industries, especially the latter. I note thatthe Government proposes to make special allowances for income tax purposes in respect of money expended in providing amenities for employees in industry. I am confident that that will have good results, as it will be an incentive to provide amenities which will lead to a better understanding between employers and employees. As a member of the Social Security Committee I have visited a number of large industrial concerns throughout Australia. Many establishments controlled by private enterprise have done much for their employees. I am sure that Government supporters will agree that private enterprise would not havebeen prepared to expend so much money in that direction if it did not pay good dividends. Primary producers are to be allowed until 1950 a deduction of 20per cent. of the cost of new plant, machinery. &c., purchased by them. That purchased by them until 1950. That provision will be of considerable benefit to them. During the war it was impossible to replace worn-out plant, such as bore casing, windmills and general farming machinery, and these will have to be replaced with new materials. The provision that the cost of replacements will be an allowable deduction is a wise one, particularly as replacements willbe costly. The increase of present prices over pre-war prices is probably more than 20 per cent. I am glad that the Government recognizes the disadvantages suffered by primary producers during the war and proposes to make an allowance in respect, of replacements.
I had hoped that the bill would provide for deductions in respect of money expended for the control and prevention of soil erosion. At a later stage I shall move an amendment to that effect. Soil erosion affects every State, and is a matter of prime importance to Australia. Every assistance should be given to land holders to prevent soil erosion, and to control it where it has already taken place. A deduction of such expenditure for income tax purposes would be an encoura’gement.
I advocate also an extension of the deduction now allowed in respect of the education of children attending school. The present deduction covers students to the age of only eighteen years, but many young men and women beyond that age are continuing their education to university standards. You, Mr. President, well know that parents paying fees for from four to six years while their children are at a university have to meet a very heavy expense, indeed. In order to assist those who cannot afford to pay the charges foi1 a university educa-
I ir 11 for their children, the Government’ in its wisdom has made provision for the fees to be paid from government grant; hut those who only by stinting themselves are able to meet the cost of university education for their children are given no concession whatever. I ask the Minister in charge of the bill to indicate whether at. some future date the Government is likely to make all fees paid to universities an allowable deduction for income tax purposes. The bill gives some encouragement to those who are carrying the burden of industry in this country. It will enable them to expand their activities and to equip their factories with machinery and plant of the latest type, and enable them to compete on a comparative basis of equality with industries established in other parts of the world.. To that extent the bill will go a long way towards placing Australian industry on its prewar footing.
Sitting suspended from 5.48 to 8 p.m.
– I need not tell you, Mr. President, that for a long while in this chamber I have, sometimes under great stress, and. in fact, continually since I have been a member of the Government, refrained from speaking in this chamber. It is the duty of Ministers to allow Government policy to proceed more or less uninterruptedly. It is, of course, in order that my colleagues should have full opportunity to express themselves. I make those introductory remarks because I had no intention whatever of intervening in this debate but for the speeches to which I listened with great attention this afternoon. We had three of them, ‘ one by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), another by Senator Mattner, and the third by roy genial comrade from Queensland, my political opponent, Senator Cooper. I say with all respect that for the two last-named honorable senators it is quite easy to find an excuse; but for the Leader of the Opposition no excuse is possible. He out-Heroded Herod. The Leader of the Opposition has been long enough in this chamber to have learnt those things which it is essential that all of us with any lengthy experience should have learned. It is quite true that Senator McLeay is the Leader of the Opposition. It is also true - and for this I am rather glad - that he is. politically opposed to the Government. But I_submit that it i? also true that, because of the high and responsible position which he holds in the Senate, he should weigh his word.?-; be should be certain of his facts and should be constructive in his criticism. But. when speaking this afternoon he exhibited none of those virtues. Without being disrespectful, I should like to say that while he was gyrating at the table I could see nothing more clearly before my eyes than the carefree abandon of the political playboy. He worked himself into a synthetic rage, and sat down with a pathetic look of self-satisfaction which no one who had listened to hi’could possibly have felt was justified. It. would be fair to take a. look at the political record of the party to which the Leader of the Opposition belongs. Let. us analyse the goings-on of these political “ Wizards of Oz who for a full quarter of a century, in both branches of the legislature, enjoyed complete power to display their qualities to a gaping world. Let us recall how they played at being a party. The present Government would not be in office if the Opposition parties had been able to continue as a government. That was utterly impossible to them. It has been said in days gone by that they were at all times a government of spare parts; and they have never been able to establish that cohesion and unity which would enable them to carry on as an effective party. They played at being a party; they played at being a government and they played at being a cabinet. And, to-day, they play pathetically and ineffectively at being an opposition. I hope to showthat these statements are in accordance with their record. I am almost inclined to sympathize with the Leader of the Opposition in view of the job confronting the Opposition in their task of being an effective opposition, of offering criticism which would be of some value to the Government and of saying things which the people of Australia would appreciate even though the people undoubtedly prefer, since 1943 at any rate, to be governed by the party to which I belong rather than to the Opposition parties which had 25 years of uninterrupted opportunity in this Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition pilloried a. number of government departments. He said that these departments were over-staffed, that they were tied, bound and gagged with red tape. While he was making that remark I could not help thinking of the housemaid in a. Sydney suburb who was found recently bound and gagged, by her mistress, who extended a good deal of sympathy towards her servant, only to find later that she was an accomplice of two burglars, who, she said, had bound and gagged her. And it is much the same story so far as the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition about government departments being bound with red tape are concerned. The Leader of the Opposition also said that the departments were over-staffed, and that it was well known that there were thousands of persons, somewhere in government departments not specified, who had nothing whatever to do. These persons, according to him, were evidently kept on thepay-roll for the sole purpose of drawing their pay once a fortnight, or once a month. If the Leader of the
Opposition really believed the story he told andhad any conscience at all he would not be able to sleep at night. Instead of wasting his time sitting on the Opposition benches in this chamber, taking little real interest in what he himself says, he would be out rousing the populace to a storm of indignation so that the people would sweep out of office the poltroons sitting on the treasury-bench. Let us have a look at the government departments which the Leader of the Opposition mentioned. Usually it is difficult to bind him to any specific statement, but on this occasion he has tied himself down a little. He referred at first to the Department of Information. I hate to say it, but there was a Minister of Information before the Labour Government assumed office; and that Minister travelled abroad in distant lands. He went to the East, where he travelled in oriental splendour; and the news was cabled to the Australian newspapers that he had been eating peanuts off a golden plate. That was the kind of gentleman who was head of the Department of Information in a government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member. It was high time that something was done about that department. Senator O’Flaherty alluded to a newspaper report in order to instance the kind of information which anti-Labour governments during 25 years of uninterrupted office allowed to be disseminated about Australia. Here is a sample of the story which the Department of Information under anti-Labour governments took great pains to disseminate in other countries -
Penguins, sheep, fruit, gum trees, coal, koalas, wombats, commerce, cypress, dairying, gold, parrots and winter sports in that order are the chief products of Victoria.
If Senator Leckie, who represents Victoria in this chamber, is satisfied with that kind of thing he has mysympathy. I should not have cited this article if it had not mentioned Queensland, the State which I represent in this chamber -
Oranges, sugar, jungle, wheat, peanuts, sheep, orchids, snakes, coal, surf, pineapples, bananas and ferns in that order represent the products of Queensland.
I notice that South Australia is not so fortunate a State; it is let off with the remark that the only things for which South Australia is notable are “ sharks and cicadas “. The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. Honorable senators opposite cannot know what they are saying when they talk about that department. It was created by the present Government, which they detest so much. I do not propose to deal in detail with the’ ramifications of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction. However, one of its most important duties has been the preparation of plans for the rehabilitation of ex-service’ men and women who have done such a wonderful job foi1 Australia, in every theatre of war. This department has been responsible also for a forward move in regard to education. It. is engaged now upon the task of administering the grant of £1,000,000 made by the Commonwealth Government to enable the sons and daughters of people in poor circumstances to attend universities free of charge, if their scholastic records are brilliant enough to warrant this privilege. Yet the Leader of the Opposition says that the Department of Post-war Reconstruction is not doing anything; that it is overstaffed; that it is bound with red tape; that it cannot function effectively, and that hundreds of its officers are doing nothing but drawing salaries. Incidentally, the education grant which I have referred has been increased this year to subsidize- technical training colleges and schools’ for returned service men and women who wish to be trained in new occupations, or to resume training in their former avocations. How the Leader of the Opposition could find it in his heart to say some of the things he said this afternoon about the alleged ineptitude of the present Government is beyond my comprehension. According to the honorable senator this Government has not done anything really worth while. He said that it is a top-heavy structure. Is he not aware that recently Lord Nuffield decided to establish a branch of his vast motor car manufacturing organization in South Australia? Surely Lord Nuffield would nor risk bis capital in this country if he believed that the Commonwealth Government was so worthless an administration as the Leader of the Opposition suggested this afternoon. At least honorable sena- tors opposite should endeavour to be . constructive in their criticism. Any one who has . capital to invest in this country would think twice about making a move after hearing the speech delivered by the “ Leader of the Opposition to-day. Is the honorable senator not aware that this Government, which he claims is employing ‘ thousands of people uselessly, has been able to persuade the great firm of Samuel Courtauld and Company (Australia) Proprietary. Limited to invest £5,000,000 on the establishment of the rayon industry in this country? All these things, which were never even envisaged by anti-Labour administrations, at least are being attempted by this Government. Then the honorable senator went on to talk about the Department of the Treasury. He read a list of figures relating to some year in the forgotten past, showing that some hundreds of men had been, employed, whereas according to the latest information available to him - the figuresfor 1944-45 - the number had ‘ been, increased by so many hundreds. Surely,, he could have’ obtained figures later than those for 1944-45. I could have given them to ‘him myself had he visited my office. If the honorable senator were towa.ke up, like Rip Van Winkle, he would realize that things had changed. To-day,, the Treasury is handling not hundreds of thousands of pounds, but astronomical millions.
– I gave the estimated figures for 1945-46.
– My impression was ‘.hat the honorable senator stated that the 1944-45 figures were the latest, available.
– 1 was referring tothe figures in the Auditor-General’s report.
– It is quite possible, of course, for anybody to place- bis own construction upon the figures shown in the Auditor-General’s report. I have no doubt that that was the coursefollowed by the Leader of the Opposition . ‘ in his endeavour to make an effective speech. I suggest that the honorablesenator should read those figures again without endeavouring to give them political colour. The Leader of the Opposition had something to say also about the Department of External Affairs.
– I never mentioned it.
– Well, that will not prevent me from doing so. At any rate, the honorable senator bunched, a lot of departments together, and claimed tha t they were overstaffed, and that Australia could no longer carry the load. I say that this nation will carry the load willingly, and that the more the policy of the Labour party is developed, the more willing will the people be to keep Labour administrations in office to do the job which honorable senators opposite failed so ignominiously to do whilst they occupied the treasury bench. If the honorable, senator did not include the Department of External Affairs in the group of departments which he alleged to be overstaffed, he should not have made the generalization which enables me to claim that in a free and airy manner he included the Department- of External Affairs. That department is busy building a nation. I can hardly expect the Leader of the Opposition to appreciate what that means, and perhaps 1 may he excused for telling him a little story. It will be recalled that some of the most beautiful cathedrals and other buildings in Great Britain were designed by that great architect Sir Christopher Wren. On one occasion a gentleman, greatly interested in beautiful buildings, strolling around a suburb of London, saw three men at work on the humble job of wielding picks or shovels. He approached one of them in a friendly manner, and said, “ Good morning. What are you doing there/’ and the man -said, “ I am digging a trench “. He walked a few yards farther, and .put the same question to the second man, who replied, “ I am just shovelling this muck.” But when he put the question to the third man, the reply was, “ I am helping Sir -Christopher Wren to build a lovely ‘ cathedral “. I should like the Leader of the Opposition to understand that the Government to-day is very busy building a nation, and will continue to build it. It has put its hand to the plough. lt has accepted a great .responsibility, and is endeavouring to live up to it; and if the people continue to deal with honorable senators opposite and their political friends as they were dealt with at the 1943 elections, we shall continue unimpeded with the work of building Australia into a great nation. The Department of External Affairs has the responsibility of selecting Australia’s diplomatic representatives and despatching them to various parts of the world.
– Some of them are not very diplomatic.
– That is a matter of opinion. If the honorable senator has any ambitions in that direction, I can assure him that after his outburst in this chamber to-day, I . think that he would be a most unsatisfactory candidate for a diplomatic post.
The Attorney-General’s Department which is administered by the same right honorable gentleman who controls the Department of External Affairs, has established a Legal Aid Department to protect returned service men .and women from the sharks to whom I referred earlier. The function of that department is, amongst other things, to acquaint exservice personnel with, their rights and privilege; under the legislation which the Labour Government has passed to safeguard their interests.
Of course, the Leader of the Opposition could not miss an opportunity to villify the workers. He said something about the Captain Cook Graving Dock, about the “ go-slow “ policy, about the Government being afraid to govern, and about the weaklings on this side of the chamber, who had the right, ideas but lacked the courage to tell their mates where they “ got off “. He did not use quite that inelegant language, but I hat is the nearest I can get to expressing my feelings adequately. The political gluttons opposite cannot have their cake and eat it too. They come into this chamber yelling for production and more production. It is quite easy to voice political catch-cries like that; but what is the actual position? I have here a publication issued by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. I received it only to-day, and no doubt other honorable senators have received copies. Glancing through it haphazardly I came across this passage -
Our directors and chief general manager are leading us in this direction. Already some of the 4,221 men who enlisted from this steel industry have returned, and we have been proud to welcome them and help them in settling down in their jobs.
I ask honorable senators to note that 4,221 men have returned to that undertaking. There are more to come. These men could not possibly have been engaged in production whilst they were away fighting on behalf of this country, yet with victory but barely won, and before there has been an opportunity for the country to settle down comfortably to the transition from war to peace, honorable members opposite are yelling “ Production and more production “.
The Leader of the Opposition also slandered the dock workers. I happened to be the ministerial head of the organization that built the Captain Cook Graving Dock and I shall tell the true story of that project. It is ail very well for well-fed members of the Opposition to ‘sit here and talk about what men did or did not do on that job. Honorable senators opposite could not have spent two hours a day on the work that the builders of the dock were called upon to perform for eight hours a day and more The dock was estimated to cost a certain sum, and when it was finished it had cost three times that amount. I know the reason for it and so do members of the Opposition, but in their anxiety to slander the workers they are prone to forget the facts.
– What are the reasons ?
– After the dock was two-thirds completed, it was necessary to increase its length by 100 feet, because ship’s of an increased size were being built on the other side of the world. That involved not only the increased cost of the additional 100 feet of dock, therefore the work already completed had to be strengthened because of the increased length. Tens of thousands of men, without being conscripted, volunteered to serve the nation during the war. They came from the factories and the farms, and from firms like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, which I have mentioned. They left the field of production, but before the nation has had timeto turn around the Opposition demands increased production. They are political gluttons, who wish to eat their cake and also have it left on their plates. There is another reason why the dock cost morethan was anticipated. Many of the men employed on the work were physically unfitted for service with the fighting forces, and at times it was necessary to employ men in the construction of the dock who admittedly could do only onethird of a day’s work. But three of them together could do a day’s work, and wewere mighty glad to have their services.
Very little industrial trouble was experienced in the construction of the dock. On one occasion some of the men stopped work for a fortnight. The then Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, knew what I was doing in an effort to obtain a resumption of work. He supported rae 100 per cent.., and after a fortnight the men were all back at work. Tt is surprising that throughout the whole period of construction only a few days were lost. At mfperiod the Allied Works Council employed 53,000 men and its varied activities had to be undertaken without precedents to guide it. We had to take men from their homes in Sydney and Melbourne and send them to Darwin. We had to put picks and shovels into the hands of men who had previously been accustomed to using only pens, but after a few months Australia was supplied from end to end with great storehouses and with ammunition and aeroplane factories, and we were manufacturing guns, aeroplanes and munitions and building air-strips throughout this continent capable of providing for the heaviest aircraft. All these things were done by means of labour forces from which the most healthy and capable men had been withdrawn for the fighting services. Knowing that this saved Australia from the despoiling hand of the. invader, I may surely be excused for saying that the Leader of the Opposition should be ashamed of the remarks which he made this afternoon.
The Department of Labour and National Service is one about which, the members of the Opposition appear to know very little. Its establishment was necessitated by the war, and it has accomplished excellent work, but it is part of the allegedly top-heavy structure about winch the Leader of the Opposition spoke. This is one of the departments which he said was over-staffed. I shall refer to a statement published in the Sydney Morning Herald. That is a journal from which I hesitate to quote, because of its pronounced political sympathies, but to-day it published an item of news from Canberra about a statement made by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holloway) in the House of Representatives yesterday. This will show that far from these departments being of no value they are at least doing some good. The statement reads -
The recently formed Commonwealth Employ- ment Service was intended to enable employers to engage the workers they need and the employees to obtain employment. These facilities will be available without charge.
That is something which the Government is doing for the employers. The Opposition says that the Government does not encourage private enterprise, but that is not true. Where it is possible for a government to engage in an undertaking profitably and well it should do so, but that does not imply that we object to private enterprise. As a matter of fact, no policy of .the present Government’ has ever shut out private enterprise when’ there was constructive work to be done. When war comes and the nation is faced with a common danger, important undertakings have to be removed from the control of pettifogging private enterprise and carried out under national control. Could we have saved Australia if the Government had stood idly by and waited for private enterprise to supply the ships and war materials so urgently needed when Japan entered the war?
I have a shock for Senator Leckie. I listened to the news broadcast over the air this evening, and apparently the somnambulists on the Opposition side are unaware of what is going on in the world. Their slandering of the Australian workers causes rather than prevents strikes. What is happening to-day in
Great Britain, the home of democracy and of the Mother of Parliaments? I heard this statement over the air -
In Great Britain 2,000,000 engineers have secured a 6s. a week increase in their wages and a 34-hour week.
The favourite groan of the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon was about high” taxes. Nobody likes the tax-gatherer, especially the unpatriotic. I admit that taxes are high at present, but for the sake of argument I shall put the Leader of the Opposition into the witness-box to justify his claim that taxes are too high. I shall place him under crossexamination and ask him where he will start to retrench. He is no wizard, so he cannot have his cake and eat it, too. If Australia is to be in a position to resist aggression in future, where would the Leader of the Opposition start to retrench ? He states that, because private enterprise is hampered by high income taxes, unpatriotic- men are asking why they should work to their full capacity when that would merely be providing increased revenue to the taxation department. If taxes are to be reduced it will be necessary to retrench somewhere, aud to close some government departments. Somebody will have to be sacked. Where shall we begin?
Shall we tell ex-servicemen that no more money is available for their rehabilitation, that the technical training colleges are to be closed, that we cannot provide more ‘buildings for training purposes, and that too many men are applying for those facilities. Shall we tell, the returning service men and women that the rehabilitation plans are extravagant and cannot be continued, and that, the promises made to them cannot be honoured because there must be a substantial reduction of taxes? Would the Opposition agree to the wiping out ofinvalid and old-age pensions, and, if so. are its members prepared to tell the people that they advocated it because they insisted that taxes should be reduced? The Leader -pf the Opposition said that thousands of men are idle in this country, but that is not so.
– Men are idle in South Australia.
– I know that there are men in the process of demobilization who are not working. The honorable senator said that some of them are employed merely sweeping rooms, and doing similar work. That is true, but there is a reason for it. I live next door to a large demobilization depot which contains thousands of men and women belonging to the services. They have to pass through various processes before they return to civilian life. I know that some of them are doing jobs not in conformity with their capacity, but they must be there for a given period.
– How long does it take to demobilize them?
– The process takes some weeks.
– Some of them have been there for months.
– That is so. Men like the honorable senator and others in this chamber have been urging the Government to get- men back into industry as quickly as possible, l t is not possible, however, to absorb them in industry just by saying that that should be done. It is useless to say to the men at Lae and Bougainville, “You are wanted for jobs in Australia “, because before they can take those jobs they have to pass through a demobilization depot. Before a serviceman is demobilized he has to be thoroughly examined medically and dentally and X-rayed if necessary. There is only a limited staff to do all the work that has to be done. During the period of demobilization the men are employed in various ways, including sweeping offices, serving in can: teens, and so on. If a man’s health is found to be unsatisfactory he is notallowed to be demobilized until the defect lias been made good. And so the story continues. Yet there are people who repeat the parrot cry “Bungling by the Government “ whenever they see men idle in a demobilization depot. The men who are responsible for their demobilization were themselves civilians - doctors, lawyers, builders and so on - before joining the Navy, the Army or the Air Force. I have talked to many of them, and I know that they want to get back to civilian life as soon as they can. But they will not do that until the job that the nation asked them to do has been completed. The demobilization of thousands of men cannot be effected by the mere waving of an arm. Nor can these men be turned, adrift in the streets. That would be inhuman, as well as proving a bad investment.
The. Leader of the Opposition called loudly for production and more production. I suggest that he should read Mr. Morrison’s speech in the House of Commons yesterday, or the day before. Mr. Morrison paid Australia one of the highest tributes that one country has ever paid to another. In the course of hia remarks he referred to the wonderful contribution that Australia had made to the “ Food for Britain “ appeal. That food was the result of production in this country; every ounce of it was produced by farmers and their employees, not by those of as who sit in this chamber. Workers on Australian farms and in Australian, factories produced the butter, the sugar, the fruit, and other foodstuffs that we have sent across the seas. Yet the Opposition has no kindly word for these men.
It has been said that taxes in Australia are too high, and that it is wrong to tax any man as much a-3 18s. 6d. in the £1. An honorable senator interjected at the time that it was not what was taken from a man but what he had left that really mattered. I agree with that view. There is no need for honorable senators opposite to shed crocodile tears over a man with an income of £5,000, having only £2,000 left after taxes have ‘ been deducted, because even £2,000 will pay for all the cigars, the champagne, the bridge parties and the golf club subscriptions which he thinks are essential to a wellordered life, but which the common people cannot have.
Reference has been made also to the heavy taxes imposed on companies. The Leader of the Opposition may know more about companies than I do, but I do read the financial columns of the daily press, and 1 have not yet seen there a record of any company which has not declared increased dividends during the war. What is true of big companies is true of companies and individuals right down the income scale. It is not true that either the man with an income of £50,000 or the man on the basic wage is being exploited..
The common people have more money in the savings banks to-day than we ever expected to be the case. I agree that the man on the bottom rung of the ladder should be given a better deal, and I hope that the basic wage will soon be more than just enough for a man and his family to live on without being hungry. There are all kinds of good things available in this country and we in this chamber enjoy many of them. I want all the people to be able to have them. At one stage of his speech Senator’ Mattner nearly drove me to distraction. That was when he said that it had been suggested that everyone should be reduced to a salary of £400 a year and the surplus distributed among the members of the community. The honorable senator must have had a night-mare to conjure up such ideas. Because of its wise administration, particularly in respect of price- fixing and the control of war expenditure, the Government has brought Australia out of the war in a more satisfactory condition than that of any other country which was at war. The Opposition knows that that is true, and therefore it is merely political pigheadedness for honorable senators opposite to say otherwise. I like to quote in this chamber what the Sydney Morning Herald prints because Senator Leckie believes firmly in the policy advocated by that journal. In n recent issue the following appeared: -
The. five-year programme of merchant shipbuilding adopted by the Commonwealth Government constitutes a major industrial venture, including as it does more than 00 vessels ranging up to 9,000 ton freighters.
Ships purchased by the Commonwealth during the war 19i4-lS were afterwards pra.ctica.lly given away by an anti-Labour government. The country has not yet been fully paid for them. The result of that action was that ships were not available when war broke out. Since then, however, other ships have been built in Australia, and they have done a good job. At the time of the opening of the Captain Cook ‘Graving Dock in Sydney I was the Minister whose privilege it was to hand over the dock to the then Minister foiSupply and Shipping, Mr. Beasley, who, in turn, asked the Duchess of Gloucester to name the dock. At the time that the ceremony was in progress there was a great aircraft carrier outside the dock awaiting the opportunity to be repaired. The necessary repairs were effected in the dock, yet honorable senators opposite talk about the price paid for the dock, and of the industrial disturbances that occurred while it was being- built. I remember telling the huge audience that the work of constructing the dock had been completed in the nick of time, because the next morning the aircraft carrier, the first na val casualty to come to Sydney, would move in for repairs. The extract from the Sydney Morning Herald v continues -
There are strong and convincing argumentsfor fostering an industry whose value was amply proved during the war. Our dockyards have coped successfully with a great variety of repair and construction work, and have shown their capacity for good craftsmanship as well as for resourcefulness in emergency. Considerations of future defence alone make it highly desirable that Australia should continue toexploit the techniques and experience thusgained quite apart from the theoretical benefits which shipbuilding should bring by diversify- 1 ing industry and providing employment.
When that job has been completed the Loader of the Opposition or some lineal political descendant of his will no doubt rise in this chamber and say that the cost was too great. I agree with the Sydney Morning Herald, that it is a major industrial venture. ‘ In conclusion I suggest in all humility that because of the high and responsible office that the Leader of the Opposition occupies he should in future choose his words better and ,be more certain of his facts, as well as less destructive in his criticism.
.- Had it not been for some of the extraordinary statements made by honorable senators opposite I probably should not have risen lo participate in the debate. This was the first feeble effort of a feeble Government to endeavour to relieve the people of Australia of some of the hardships that have been imposed upon them. I do not’ wish to discourage the Government in that laudable effort. The Government is obviously perturbed by some’ of the criticisms that have come from this side of the chamber and has decided that the Minister who has just concluded his speech should endeavour to reply to them. Taking the bit in his teeth and in a most excitable way, the
Minister jumped to the’ defence of this “ glorious “ Government whose magnum opus is a few shillings taken off the income tax. He had a grievance because the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) had referred to the Government as being top-heavy. I did not hear the whole of the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, but I feel sure that he would scarcely have described this Government as top-heavy. That, surely, is the last epithet one would, think of applying to such an inept Government; J. should rather describe it as leadenfooted. I was glad to hear the Minister conclude his speech by saying he would end where he began. That is exactly what he did - and there was nothing in the middle. He claimed that the Government has been busy building a nation. He also claimed, for some strange reason, that the Captain Cook Graving Dock was the’ product of the imagination, the farsightedness, and the forward planning of the present Government. Surely, he does not think that the people of Australia have forgotten that construction of the dock was well under way before the present Government took office. I was rather amazed to hear him acknowledge that this work cost three or four times as much as it was originally estimated to cost.
– Not three or four, but three times as much.
– To prove that he was right the Minister said, in effect-, that it took three men to do One man’s work.
– I did not say that; I said that we were glad to get some men even to do a third of a day’s work.
– Does that disprove my contention that the Minister agrees that three men were doing the work of one? Is that the way to go about building a nation? The honorable senator told us that some 4,000 men who had enlisted in the armed ‘ forces from the service of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited were now returning to work. He did not say, however, that the strike at the works of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and at that of its subsidiary company, Lysaghts Newcastle “Works Proprietary Limited, was brought about because the employers wished to give two returned soldiers a little lighter work than they had been performing previously. He then harangued- us as to what we should say to the returned soldiers. All that this Government can say to the returned soldiers is that there are no houses for them to live in. To-day, Senator Armstrong claimed that industry is expanding in an extraordinary way. If industry is expanding so extraordinarily it must be producing something. “Where are the goods it is producing?
– Bead what Lord Nuffield’s secretary had to say on that subject in to-day’s press.
–Where are the goods that industry is producing; the materials foi’ housing, the refrigerators and all the other consumer goods that are needed to meet the requirements of modern civilization ? They are not available. This Government and its supporters, and some others as well, seem to believe that this country can live on money alone. No country can do that ; its prosperity depends upon its production. It is of no use honorable senators opposite claiming that the country is in a stable position because the national income has risen to £1,250,000,000. Of what use is a high national income if there is nothing to buy? Honorable senators opposite would have us believe that in order to double the national income it is necessary only to double the wages and salaries df. all- employees. Honorable senators opposite should abandon their false ideas of what prosperity means. My concept of prosperity is the production of sufficient goods to meet the needs of the people, particularly of goods required to maintain us in the civilized state to which we have been accustomed. The Minister says that the objective of the Government is a full level of employment. Having said that he believes that that is the end of it. He scorned a suggestion by the Leader of the Opposition that there was a surplus of employees in the public departments. Of what use is full employment if all employees are not busily engaged in producing the things that we need ? Apparently he believes that as leng as people are in employment, even though they produce nothing, everything ie all right. In order to bolster his claim of prosperity the honorable senator quoted the words of Mr. Bruce, the former High Commissioner for Australia in London, making much of the fact that on his return to Australia Mr. Bruce was reported’ to have said that this country had come out of the war in a better position than it had ever been in before. I remind honorable senators that Mr. Bruce made only a brief visit to this country and, although he is a shrewd man,. I would hesitate to place, much weight on statements made by him after so short an acquaintance with Australia’s actual position. The Minister claims that our overall position is sound. That is a high sounding phrase which might mean anything Or nothing. He is satisfied that fie country is on the crest of the wave, that we are not offending our next door neighbours by our arrogance and pride, that we are not throwing away opportunities for trade’ with overseas customers whose business is vital to the success of our primary producers^ He would have us believe that we can live in this world without friends and without good customers; in fact, that we can live on our own fat. In a sort of « ay he apologized for the present Government by “ slang-wanging “ members of the Opposition. He took a lot of credit for the Government that really belongs te governments that were led by those now sitting in Opposition; but he took none of the blame for decisions that were unpopular but necessary in the interests of this country. He cries to the high heavens about the magnificent quantities of goods and foodstuffs sent to Great Britain; yet this Government has paid the farmers in Western Australia not to produce wheat. The Minister almost wrung my heart with his pathetic appreciation of the plight, of the people in Great Britain, and with his story of how, through the efforts of this Government, abundant food has been sent to feed the people of the Old Country. At the, same time, within the knowledge of every member of the Parliament, the Government is curtailing the production of essential goods. Yet the Minister in a “ hifalutin “ way pictured the great advance made in the ship-building industry. It is true that the Government has built some ships; but that truth is like the truth about the production for which this Government is responsible. The Minister has acknowledged that the cost of these ships average £68 a ton deadweight, and quite recently the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) complained about that cost. At the same time, the cost of constructing similar ships in Great Britain just before the war was- £23 a ton, and even during the war the cost was only a little in excess of £40 a ton. These ships were not war- ships. Possibly, if they had been war ships one could have excused the high cost; but they were cargo ships, and I fail to comprehend how the Government can expect to use them from a business point of view. But the Government’s attitude in this matter is typical of its attitude in respect of financial matters generally. The expenditure does not count. That is typical of everything the Government does. It is not concerned whether ships which it constructs cost, double what, they should cost. It takes the view that in any case the transaction will work out all right because the cost will eventually be written off. In the meantime, however, the Government eagerly claims the glory of having constructed ships. The Vice-President of the Executive Council claimed for the Government full credit for the fact that, the Nuffield organization and Samuel Courtauld and Company (Australia) Proprietary Limited intend to establish large factories in Australia. Surely, the Minister does not expect any intelligent, person to swallow that story. Can he tell us of any special inducement offered by the present Government to those organizations?
– The point that matters is that those organizations’ are going to establish factories in Australia.
– At first, the Nuffield organization proposed to establish its factory in New South Wales, but, owing to lack of co-operation on the part of the Government of that State, the organization now plans to build its factory in South Australia. Reverting to the bill, I sincerely hope that it represents only a first instalment of a policy designed to provide incentives to industry to expand. Although it is a small instalment it at. least indicates that the Government realizes^ that unless private enterprise is enabled to expand industry will not make very much progress in this .country, and will not be able to provide much ‘ additional employment. Having realized that fact at long last, the .Government is now prepared to ease to some degree the burden which has been borne by industry.
In respect of taxation, the difference between income from property and income from personal exertion is carried to extremes. There should be some method by which, say, the first £300, or £400, of income from property -should be treated as income from personal exerr lon. because thousands of elderly people have invested their savings in property in order to provide a small income for themselves during their declining years. These people should not be obliged to pay income tax at the very high rates applicable to income from property. I have always thought that the Government might at some time realize the necessity to treat the first £300 or £400 derived from property as income from personal exertion.
In any discussion of national income and production the main point to remember is that a country lives primarily on what it produces. The most that we can get out of life is determined by what we produce, and not in terms of money. Therefore,, we should endeavour to increase production to the greatest possible degree. As the result of my long experience in business and industry, I say advisedly that Australia will have no hope of competing with other nations unless it adopts the system of payment by results. I was st2”uck by a statement of a man who had a factory in Tasmania. He was asked by the Government to take over some extra jobs which involved the making of a number of cases. He was obliged to buy shooks. He had only a small factory and as he did not have the machinery to do the nailing mechanically he was forced to have it done by hand. However, the average output of his employees on this work was 164 cases a day. He. called them into a conference in a friendly way, and said to them, “ This cannot go on. If we cannot do better than we are doing at present we shall have to close down the factory. What about taking on a contract?” The men replied, “ All right, so long as the contract rate is satisfactory”: He said, ‘‘I will fix a rate, as I arn in duty bound to do, that will enable each of you to earn what you have been earning, plus 10 per cent.”. The men agreed to this arrangement. The employer fixed the rate at ls. 3d. a dozen. Whereas previously their production averaged 164 cases a clay their average output for the first week under contract was 480 cases a day. Men are not encouraged to do their best, and until the incentive of a full and adequate return for their labour is restored, it will not be possible to attain full production. Indeed I see no hope for this country or for anyother country in which the individual is not encouraged to put forward his best effort, whether manually or mentally.
– What happens when the worker over-produces ?
– When a person over-produces he cannot sell his goods. The particular worker to whom I referred is an employee. If he over-produces his employer will not be able to sell the goods, and the employee will have to find another job. Surely the honorable senators opposite do not expect all workers to remain in the same jobs, or even in the same, industries all their lives. Anybody with the slightest knowledge of economics and industry knows that fair competition between countries can exist only if conditions in those countries are similar, and labour is used to the best advantage. The cheerful admission by the Vice-President of the Executive Council that three men were doing the work of one, was something that one does not expect to hear from anybody occupying a responsible position.
My complaint about this measure is that it does not go far enough. However, the Ministry is showing some sign of a return to life and to reality. The first faint breath of common sense is discernible, and if the patient be given sufficient encouragement and perhaps put in an iron lung, there is hope that it will eventually attain a state of mind which will make it possible for production in this country to overtake the demand. The cry from the people to-day is for goods, goods and more goods, so that they may enjoy the full benefits of civilization, and return once again to a state of happiness and contentment which they have enjoyed so little during the last few years.
– I support the bill because I believe it is an essential measure designed iri the best interests of a large’ section of the community. However, I am somewhat disappointed that the Government has not been able to grant a remission of taxes to the majority of the people of. this country. Whilst it is glibly stated in this chamber that income tax should be reduced immediately by 25 per cent, or some such figure, my view is that the first approach to tax remissions should be in the direction of easing the burden now imposed upon those members of the community who have family responsibilities, and I hope that before long, the Government will see the wisdom of introducing legislation along those lines.
This bill is what might be termed a post-war proposition. We have heard quite a lot about post-war policies, but I am afraid that some people have not a true conception of the meaning of’ the word “ post-war ‘. This nation has passed a very severe test. It has emerged from difficult times successful so far as feat of arms is concerned, but we have still in front of us the problems of the transition from war to peace. It is nonsense for honorable senators opposite to say to the people of Australia, through the press, that the finances of this country arc now in a position to bear a 25 per cent, reduction of income tax. We have been told that the 6i per cent, reduction is a mere bagatelle, and has not meant any real relief to taxpayers. My opinion is that the reduction - it is actually 12£ per cent. - was an honest gesture by the Government at a time when it would have been possible to . adopt votecatching tactics, and to have said, Yes, we shall grant a bigger reduction “. The Government, realizing its enormous commitments in the near future, took a courageous stand and told the people of this country in no uncertain terms that a 12£ per cent, reduction of income tax was all that could be granted. That showed true courage, particularly when we know that a number of members ‘of this chamber, and all members of the House of Representatives, have to fact the electors in the very near future. I suppose it is good. politics to make pre-election speeches in this chamber, and to say that the time is nowripe for a substantial reduction of taxes, whereas in truth honorable senators opposite are well aware that if the parties of which they are members were returned to power at the next elections, they too would find a drastic reduction of income tax impossible.
This legislation has some practical value in the direction of rehabilitating industry, lt. provides for a depreciation deduction for taxation purposes in respect of amenities provided by employers for employees. Not very much has been said by honorable senators opposite about the provision of amenities. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), claimed that, amenities that had been provided by the Government in many of its own factories were not availed of by many workers. There may be a story behind that statement. My own experience is that in some industries amenities have not been used by workers because they found it difficult to get out of the rut to which they had been accustomed for most of their working lives. A man who has been accustomed to eating his “ crib “ -on the footpath is often not inclined to eat his meal in a dining room no matter how palatial it may be. That is a strange feature of human nature. On the other band, I believe that most workers appre- elate the modern amenities that have been provided for them, and accept them with grateful thanks. In this measure, the Government is expressing some meed of appreciation to those employers who have provided amenities for their workers. I have had a long experience in the indus.trial life of this country, and I know that many employers in Western Australia a.t least were not prone to provide any amenities at all. On the contrary it was most difficult to make them obey the Arbitration Court awards,, and frequently union secretaries had to launch prosecutions. Therefore, I commend the Government for its decision to reward employers who have been humanitarian enough to do something worth while for their employees.
Another feature of the legislation is the allowance of a special depreciation deduction in respect of plant and machinery acquired during the war. That also is a worthwhile concession, because had it not been for the war in most cases the plant and machinery would not have been installed. Honorable senators opposite should be reminded’ that it took this country three years to achieve a total war effort. It was not done overnight, or by the wave’ of a magic wand. The nation had to be geared up to full war production, and to this end the co-operation of all citizens, workers and employers, alike was required. Only in this manner were we able to implement the totalitarian measures that were required to fight totalitarian countries. It took three years to reach that stage. ‘ Is it now suggested that within seven months of the cessation of hostilities this nation should have returned to its pre-war basis? It would be preposterous for anybody to say that because the war is over large revenues are not now required to carry on the economy of the country. “Whatever government may bc returned after the next elections, it will have to complete the heavy task of rehabilitation. It is of no use to attempt to persuade the people that things can be done which in fact are impossible of accomplishment.
Criticism has been levelled at government departments. The Leader of the Opposition declared that although, since the termination of the war, overmanned government departments had been retained in Australia, similar departments in the United States of America had been closed down on the day after the cessation of hostilities. I suppose that unwittingly the Leader of the Opposition made a rash statement. Which departments in the United States of America were closed down on the day after the war ceased? It would be a physical impossibility to abolish any government department so rapidly. At the termination of the war with Germany, ;he Government of the United States of America immediately cancelled war contracts, and that affected the internal economy of that, country, despite the fact that it was still at war with Japan; but to say that ..iep art ments were closed down on the day after the termination of the war is so much hocus-pocus. The Leader of the Opposition has given us a disserta, . …M upon the alleged misdeeds of the Government. It would appear to anybody having no knowledge of the facts that the present Government has been able to talk but not act, whereas an unbiased examination of its activities since 1941 indicate- and I am sure that the historian will later tell us - that from December, 1941, this country began to realize its tremendous .danger and began to gear itself to meet the threatened onslaught. When the Labour Government came into power, Australia practically had -no defence. Was not a statement made by a former Minister for the Army, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Spender), that one division of the enemy could have taken Australia? Was it not a fact that we had no arms, aeroplanes, ships, or munitions with which to- defend ourselves? The stage bad been reached when Western Australia was to be defended along a certain line, and the rest of that State was to be left to the enemy.
– That is where the historian will correct the honorable senator.
– I think that I shall be proved to be right, when the facts are determined. The Moore River waa to be the line of defence in Western Australia, and I believe that the honorable senator knows it.
– Where would the Labour party have, had the line, in view of the fact that its policy was to prevent any Australian troops from leaving this country in order to meet the. enemy?
– The party with which- 1 am associated has never objected to any man leaving this country voluntarily. If any Australian desired to fight overseas he was not prevented from doing so. The Labour Government is the only Ministry that has had the courage to nut. the issue of conscription to the people. When the government which the honorable senator supported was in office it was not game enough to do what the present Government did, so it .is inaccurate to say that the present Ministry opposed the defence of this country. I am speaking the truth when I assert that at that time, as far as the defence of Western Australia -was concerned, the Moore River was to be the line that was to be defended, and the portion of the State to the north of it was to be left to the enemy. Fortunately, however, as the result of the tremendous driving force of the Curtin Government, the i outlook for Australia rapidly changed. We had. the assistance of the United States of America, and we thank God for it. In 1937, when the late Prime Minister, Mr. Curtin, was contesting the Fremantle seat, I have a vivid recollection of his statement to the electors of Fremantle, and to the people of Australia generally, that the only effective way to protect thi? country was by means of aerial defence.
– The honorable senator who interjects cannot see further than his nose. His remark is but an echo of a statement made in the House of Representatives that the only way to defend Australia was to rely on the British Navy. What contribution did the Opposition make to the production of war equipment an this country?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Courtice). - That matter is irrelevant.
– The matters to which I have referred have already been discussed in this debate. I bow to your ruling, Mr. Deputy President, but I consider it somewhat unfair to me. The Leader of the Opposition has referred to ia rep’ort . by the Auditor-General. Apparently he saw fit to select certain items in it which he thought could be used in this chamber as political propaganda. He suggested that a scandalous position had arisen with regard to government departments and certain semigovernmental undertakings. He began by referring to the Captain Cook Graving Dock, but the Vice-President of the Executive , Council (Senator Collings) replied effectively to his criticism. Irrespective of the high cost of the dock compared with the original estimate, Australia had to be defended. The Government cannot yet reduce taxes substantially, because. many heavy commitments arising out of the war still have to be met.
I take umbrage at the criticism by the ‘ Leader of the Opposition of the workers of this country. Had it not been for their valuable services, the fighting forces could never have succeeded. In the industrial field the workers did a magnificent job. They remained at their tasks for long hours and worked overtime, whilst they did not have the holidays to which they were entitled. They made concessions in respect of long established cus- toms. They allowed the infiltration into their ranks of unskilled labour to do work of a skilled character. Yet members of the Opposition declare that the workers have not done as well as they should have done. Of course industrial troubles have been experienced. It would be unfortunate for Australia, if there “were no industrial disputes. After all, troubles of this kind are an indication of progress. This Parliament would be of little use were it not ‘for the disputation which takes place within its walls. A worker has just as much right to say that his labour shall not be sold for less than it is worth as has another person to say that an article that he has for sale shall not be sold below a certain price. Australia lias a system of arbitration for the settlement of disputes. I believe in arbitration, and I want it to be employed in settling industrial disputes. I do not agree with many of the stoppages that have occurred in industry, but it is useless to blame this or that section of the community for. all the troubles that have occurred. We must try to find the root of the troubles, and then seek to remove them by conciliation and arbitration.
During the debate reference has been made to a number of matters, including the production of flax and the Salvage Commission. There have also been charges of reckless expenditure. In respect of flax production, I remind the Senate that early in the war ‘the British Government, asked Australia to produce flax. The result is that the production of that commodity is now a fairly big industry in Australia. In King’s Hall in this building there is an exhibit show- ing the various stages of production. T shall pass by the comments made in connexion with the Salvage Commission and the manufacture of munitions and shall content myself with saying that Australia’s achievements in the manufacture of munitions are remarkable.
The Leader of the Opposition charged the Government with having been reckless in its expenditude of public funds. Instead of using the word “ reckless “ he should have said that the expenditure was phenomenal; the circumstances certainly have been phenomenal. I remember when a previous Treasurer drew attention to the fact that, for the first time in Australia’s history, a budget for £100,000,000 was being introduced. Te day £100,000,000 seems a comparatively small amount, because since the war began expenditure has necessarily increased enormously. The Leader of the Opposition said that a scandalous position existed, but he submitted no evidence of scandalous recklessness. I can recall some scandals of the past. For instance, the action of a previous non-Labour government in disposing of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was scandalous, as was also the shackling of the Common wealth Bank. I am glad that recently those shackles were removed
We have been told during this debate that there must be more and more production, a steady flow of migrants to this country, and a reduction of taxes. Production is increasing in Australia. Only to-night I heard some one remark that in many shops shelves which a few months ago were either empty or contained only empty cartons, are now full. That is evidence of increased production. I agree that Australia is capable of absorbing 20,000,000 migrants, but if we are to attract them to this country money must be expended 11r advertising Australia’s potentialities. Yet honorable senators opposite complain of any increase of expenditure by the Department of Information. The Leader of the Opposition knows that the people of the United States of America generally know very little about Australia. There is, on the part of the American people, almost a complete lack of knowledge even of Australia’s achievements in the war. The ignorance of the people there -of social conditions in Australia is appalling. That state of affairs is due to the almost entire lack’-of publicity about Australia iri the United
States of America. If people are to be attracted to this country from the United States of .America and Canada, more money must be expended in informing them of Australia’s potentialities. It has been urged that large numbers of migrants from Great Britain should come to Australia, and I agree that that would be most desirable. But how much publicity is there in Great Britain about Australia? Mr. S. M. Bruce, who, until recently, occupied an important position as Australia’s representative in Great Britain, did some good- work, particularly in connexion with finance, but not a great deal was done during his term of office to make Australia’s attractions known to possible migrants. Press reports state that his successor,- Mr. Beasley, is getting things done, and that large numbers of people in Britain are inquiring at Australia House for information about Australia.
– Did not the Labour party oppose migration from Great Britain ?
– The Labour party has never opposed a sound system of immigration, but it does not want migrants to come here to be unemployed, or to drive Australians out of employment. We have a duty to ourselves in that respect. If some people in this country had their way, t]] ev would flood this country with people from across the seas in an attempt to break down our economic and living, standards. The Government will nOt stand for that kind of thing. In the south-western portion of Western’ Australia 1,000,000 people could be settled on land which is equal to that in any other part of Australia. Development in that portion of Western Australia, has lagged behind because of a dearth of settlers. Conditions have to be made sufficiently attractive to induce people to come here and engage in production.
The bill recognizes the value of scientific research, and with that aspect noone will disagree. In my -opinion, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has done a wonderful job, but many people occupying high executive positions in industry would prefer to have their own research laboratories. This bill will encourage them to go ahead with their own scientific research.
I agree with those who say that taxation in Australia is heavy, and I wish I could promise the electors, particularly those of Western Australia, that taxes will be reduced considerably in the near future. Unfortunately, that cannot be done. We are told that people generally have nothing left after they have paid their taxes, but that cannot be so because the savings banks of this country hold deposits totalling £600,000,000, on behalf of the people. Moreover, every trade journal which gives the balance sheets ofcompaniescontains indisputable evidence that, even after paying all taxes, many concerns this country have made considerableprofits. Even if taxation be high, the fact remains that there is more money in thehands of the people. Our greatest difficulty in the future willbe to guard against inflation, and therefore certain controls will have to be retained.
Senator Leckie said that in a country like Australia more refrigerators were required. Unfortunately, sufficient refrigerators to meet Australia’s needs arc not available. The honorable senator did not say that many munitions factories could be converted to the manufacture of refrigerators were it not for the objection to government factories competing with private enterprise.
THE PRESIDENT.- Order ! I fail to see what refrigerators have to do with this bill.
– Refrigerators were referred to by an Opposition senator, and therefore I thought that I would he in order in referring to them.
THE PRESIDENT.- The honorable member would not be in order in pursuing that line of argument.
– Reference has been made during the debate to the fact that farmers in Western Australia were paid by the Government not to produce wheat. The only areas where farmers were asked not to produce wore those where production was impossible without the use of superphosphate. Statistics compiled subsequentlyshow that in the areas where no restrictions were applied the landwas not fully sown.
– in reply - The debate on this bill has been very lengthy and certain matters have been raised to which I desire to reply. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act; - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 53.
National Security Act - National Security (Rationing) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 119-122.
Senate adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 April 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460404_senate_17_186/>.