18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Friendly Societies Dispensaries
– Can the Minister for Health and Social Services inform the Senate what limitation, if any, is to he placed on friendly societies dispensaries in supplying free medicine to the general public under the proposed free medicine scheme? Will the Minister give favorable consideration to a proposal to permit friendly societies dispensaries an unlimited field for expansion of branch dispensaries to assist in the dispensing of free medicine for the general public, instead of limiting their activities to members of their dispensaries?
– As the honorable senator will know, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act is not in operation at present. It was the subject of proceedings in the High Court when, on a demurrer, it was held that the act was beyond the powers oi the Commonwealth. Steps have not yet been taken _ by the Government to validate that legislation, following the successful issue of the social services question at the recent referendum. In view of comments by His Honour, the Chief Justice of the
High Court, it will be necessary for the Government to make alterations to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act at the same time as it puts through the validating legislation. The limitations referred to by the honorable senator are not, I think, set up by the Commonwealth Government. In 1945, an amendment was made to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act 1944, and extra scope was provided for friendly societies to deal with the public. The Pharmaceutical Guild, comprising the chemists of Australia, had certain objections to what was done on that occasion. The Government in its legislation has not limited the operations of friendly societies; it has left to the States the power to determine how far the societies may deal with the public. That is not a matter in which the Commonwealth is exercising any restrictive control. On the second question asked by the honorable senator, as to whether favorable consideration will be given to allowing friendly societies unlimited scope to deal with the public, I would say that he is touching on a highly controversial matter. It is necessary for the implementation of this scheme to have the co-operation of chemists as well as friendly societies. The matter will be reviewed when the validating legislation is about to be undertaken. As to whether favorable consideration will be given to the honorable senator’s proposal, I am not yet in a position to make a pronouncement. That will be considered by the Government when it is about to introduce the new legislation.
Joint Control Board - Production
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping give the reason for the delay in appointing the Joint Control Board in connexion with the coal-mining industry ?
– There has been some delay in the appointment of the authority to control the coal-mining industry, but that is not entirely the fault of the Commonwealth Government because complementary legislation had to be passed by the Parliament of New SouthWales. The Leader of the Opposition was incorrect when he said in this chamber a few days ago that four months had elapsed without any appointment having been made under the authority of the legislation passed by the Parliament as the complementary State legislation was not placed on the statute-book until some time later. The Government desires that the authority, when appointed, shall consist of the best qualified persons available. Only this week I have discussed this matter with the Prime Minister. I remind the honorable senator that the appointment of the proposed authority is not a matter which concerns only the Commonwealth Government; the selection must be made in conjunction with the Government of New South Wales. As ninety per cent. of the coal mines of Australia are situated in New South Wales it is reasonable that the Government of that State should have a say in the appointment of the authority to control the industry.
– As the general elections are now over, will the Leader of the Senate do his best to keep the coalminers on full-time production in order to avoid rationing of power for household cooking and lighting during the Christmas and New Year period?
– I fail to understand why the Leader of the Opposition takes so melancholy a view of the coalmining industry. He never misses an opportunity in this chamber to criticize the coal-miners and the waterside workers. Despite the criticism of the Opposition in this respect, only two mines were idle yesterday. All of the mines of the northern coal-fields were working. The Leader of the Opposition, in his speech on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, referred to continued strikes and stoppages in the coalmining industry. He attributes every stoppage to strikes. I repeat that not all stoppages are caused by strikes. The Government approaches this problem in a realistic manner because of the necessity to produce sufficient coal in order to keep the wheels of industry going; but the Opposition attacks the coal-miners for propaganda purposes. Recently, I conferred with the representatives of the Miners Federation, dealing particularly with the industry in New South Wales. At that conference it was agreed that miners and others engaged in the industry would work back on Saturdays in an endeavour to provide sufficient reserves to meet the requirements of the community during the Christmas and New Year period. Although one hears considerable criticism of the coal-miners by honorable senators opposite and their friends, reference is seldom made to the fact that the consumption of coal in this country has increased by more than 50 per cent. since the pre-war period. As honorable senators are aware, the Government has taken steps to appoint a special authority in the coal-mining industry with the object of increasing production and, at the same time, facilitating improved conditions for coal-miners.
– On the 13th November, Senator Leckie asked me whether the Tariff Board was proceeding to inquire into the question of costs and cost-factors in Australian industry. I now inform the honorable senator that the Tariff Board has completed its inquiries and has issued its report on this subject. The report, No. 1027, which is entitled “ The Efficiency and Cost of Production of Australian Industries “, was tabled in the Senate on the 24th July and has been circulated for the information of honorable senators.
Wage-pegging Regulations - Party Telephone Lines.
– In view of the serious discontent among employees in the Postmaster-General’s Department, I ask the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral whether the Government proposes to remove the wage-pegging restrictions in order that the properly constituted authority may determine forthwith what are reasonable rates of pay for such employees, having regard to the increased cost of living.
– My colleague, the Postmaster-General, would be in a better position than I am to reply to the suggestion that there is serious discontent among employees of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department. So far as I know, that may or may not be the position. As I understand the situation with respect to wage-pegging regulations, it would be possible for the Public Service organizations to apply to the Arbitrator who, in turn, could approach the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for a certificate to enable him to deal with wage conditions. Talks with regard to wage-pegging regulations generally are now proceeding with parties in industry, and the question of some modification, or relaxation, of wage-pegging is under consideration. The Senate will have an opportunity to consider that matter when a measure relating to the continuance of certain war-time controls comes before it.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether in the department’s programme for the installation of telephones in country districts he will institute a selective system on country party lines in order to give users privacy in their conversations?
– The matter raised by the honorable senator is now under consideration. The policy of the department is to provide all facilities possible, particularly for residents in country districts. So soon as the necessary arrangements are made in that direction I shall supply full information on the matter to the Senate.
– Does the PostmasterGeneral support the view that employees of the Postal Department are the poorest paid and the hardest worked of all Commonwealth employees? Will he give an assurance to do his best to see that the position of such employees is remedied as soon as possible?
– I have already stated that I believe that 50 per cent. of the employees in the Postal Department are not receiving wages as high as those to which they are entitled. I assure the Senate that the Government and I, personally, shall do all that is possible to ensure that these employees receive remuneration commensurate with the services they render.
– Last week, I asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether in view of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court’s declaration in favour of the principle of a 40-hour week, the Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator would be able to proceed with a hearing of the 40-hour week application by Commonwealth railway employees. In reply, I was informed that the position of the Arbitrator in relation to the hearing of this case had not been altered by the Arbitration Court’s declaration, but that the best way to test this, would be for die Arbitrator to request the Acting Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court to permit him to consider the claim. I should like to know now whether the acting Chief Judge has power to give his approval to the hearing by the Public Service Arbitrator of this application before National Security Regulation 18b has been withdrawn or amended?
– I have not in my mind at the moment the exact wording of regulation 18B or its purport; but my general impression is that the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court is empowered to authorize subsidiary tribunals to investigate claims relating to wages and conditions in cases where an anomaly or changed circumstances have been shown.
– But that would not get over the wage-pegging.
– The existence of changed circumstances or an anomaly opens up the whole question of conditions and wages and I believe that it would be practicable for the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court to give a certificate that would enable the appropriate tribunal to deal with the claim to which Senator Finlay has referred. On the 28th March last, the Government amended the National Security Regulations to enable the Arbitration Court to deal with the question of hours in industry as well as that of wages. However, I undertake to obtain exact information in regard to the regulation to which the honorable senator has referred, and to give him a considered opinion on it at a later date.
– Does the Minister for Health and Social Services believe that a basic wage of £4 18s. a week is sufficient, in view of the present high cost of living, to provide for a. man, wife and one child? As Judge Drake-Brockman has stated recently that in fixing the basic wage he will have no regard whatever to the number of children in a family, will the Government again review the question of paying child endowment in respect of the first child of a family.
– I suggest to the Leader of the Opposition that my opinion as to the adequacy of the basic wage is not of any great importance because, despite my opinion, the basic wage will be determined ultimately by the industrial tribunals of the country, in particular the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. However, I offer the comment that there are not many men in this country on the bare needs basic wage, or even on the needs basic wage with the prosperity loading and the war loadings that are applicable to it. I am not familiar with what the honorable senator says was the comment of- the Chief Judge. I should be surprised if the report were accurate, because, when the last application relating to the basic wage was before the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, the court for the first time adverted particularly to the fact that the basic wage was at least adequate for a man, wife and one child. Despite the fact that the honorable senator is not a member of the legal fraternity, he must know that the courts are notoriously bound by precedent and have regard to their earlier judgments.
– Did Judge DrakeBrockman sit on the bench when that judgment was given ?
– I do not know. I cannot help the honorable senator on that point.
– He did not.
– The fact remains that the Court pronounced very definitely for the first time upon the adequacy of” the wage determined by it for a family unit of a specified size. The court ruled that the basic wage as then fixed was adequate for the purposes of a man, wife and one child, that it went part of the way towards the fourth member of the family unit but that real hardship would be encountered beyond that. Those are almost exactly the words used by the court. The court has never determined what is the average family unit in Australia, and has never purported to fix the basic wage having regard to the needs of a family unit of any particular size. The main factor that has influenced it in all its determinations has been the capacity of industry to pay. With regard to the payment of endowment for the first child in a family unit, I dealt with that matter at some length when the Leader of the Opposition raised it In the Senate just before the recent elections. The Government is concerned about child endowment. It has not considered the subject since the elections. I express my own view when I say that, in view of the pronouncement of the court on the last basic wage application in 1941, I consider that the provision of endowment by the Government for the first child in a family unit would automatically be taken into account by the court and would involve a reduction of the basic wage. It would be more in the national interest if, when the Government is able to do something in the field of child endowment, it increased endowment for the third child and subsequent children in each family. I do not believe that any vital national purpose would be served by endowing the numerous families which include only one child. Speaking from memory, I believe there are 475,700 families in Australia with only one child. It is a fairly safe assumption that many of those families will not have any more children. In those circumstances, I favour promoting larger families and helping families with heavier responsibilities and more diverse obligations by paying endowment at higher rates for the third and subsequent children of each family.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether any protest has been received from representatives of the Government of Great Britain because of the action of the Division of Import Procurement in refusing permits to British exporters, which in their opinion is a violation of the Ottawa Agreement?
– I am not aware of any such protest.
– In view of the importance to Australia of retaining tariff preference on our exports to the United Kingdom, will the Minister give an assurance that he will ascertain whether any protest has been lodged directly or indirectly, and make a statement to the Senate on the matter, which in my opinion is of great importance?
– I shall certainly do so.
– I present the third report of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee which reads as follows: -
The Joint Committee cm the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings submits the Third Report for presentation to each House of the Parliament and recommends its adoption.
The Joint Committee has further considered the general principles upon which there should be determined the days upon which, and the periods during which, the proceedings of the Senate and theHouse of Representatives shall be broadcast, which were specified in the First and Second Reports adopted by hoth Houses on the 5th and the 17th July, 1946, respectively. In accordance with section 12 (1.) of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, the Joint Committee has now resolved that paragraph (4) of the general principles set out in the First and Second Reports, viz.: - “ (4) Re-broadcast of Questions Without Notice and Answers : Within the limits of time available, questions without notice and answers in each House shall be re-broadcast between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. on each sitting day.”, be omitted and the following paragraph inserted in place thereof: - “(4) Re-broadcast of Questions and Answers: Within the limits of time available, the following parliamentary proceedings shall be rebroadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. on each sitting day: -
Senate proceedings - Questions without notice and on notice and answers thereto;
House of Representatives proceedings - Questions without notice and answers thereto.”.
S. Rosevear, Chairman. 14th November, 1946.
The effect of this recommendation will be that the re-broadcast of Senate questions and answers between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. may include questions on notice and answers read out in the Senate after the conclusion of questions without notice and answers. It has been found that, owing to the small number of
Ministers in the Senate and the consequent difficulty which they experience in answering immediately questions without notice directed to them on matters under the administration of Ministers in the House of Representatives, the limitation of the re-broadcast of Senate questions to questions without notice makes it difficult to present an adequate re-broadcast session. The committee’s proposal is designed to overcomethis difficulty, and the adoption of the report is recommended.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -
That the report be adopted.
– Asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture - upon notice -
If thesale of wool that has been accumulated during the appraisement years produces a surplus over the appraisement value, will the Minister, for the information of growers, make a statement showing how and when such surplus will he paid?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer: -
The former Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, the Honorable W. J. Scully, made a full statement on this matter on the 8th August, 1840. The statement is recorded in Hansard, No. 21, pages 3950 and 3951.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Land Settlement of ex-Servicemen.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
Debate resumed from the 14th November(vide page 233), on motion by Senator Tangney -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to: -
To His Royal Highness the GovernorGeneral -
May itplease Your Royal Highness:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliamentassembled, desire to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Royal Highness for theSpeech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
SenatorLECKIE (Victoria) [11.8].- When I obtained leave last night to continue my remarks, I was painting a rather doleful picture of the Senate after the 30th June next, when there will be 33 honorable senators supporting the Government and only three in opposition. I said that in a Senate so constituted there would be little criticism of government proposals and that, therefore, the Senate would be practically moribund. I added that with an increase of Government senators from 22 to 33, more fallacies would go unrevealed than is the case at present, because there would be a greater number of fallacies expressed and fewer honorable senators to point them out. Since I spoke, the budget has been presented and new problems are now before the Parliament. Some of the matters referred to in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech will be debated when the
Estimates and Budget Papers are under discussion, and so some of the rather lengthy comments which I intended to make on the motion for the adoption for the Address-in-Reply will be shortened, and I shall deal with those subjects when discussing the Estimates and Budget Papers. However, some of the things said during this debate should be answered now. For instance, the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) referred to what he described as the enormous profits made by those engaged in industry. According to the Minister, those profits were almost beyond his imagination. I remind him that the Government of which he is a member has been in power for nearly five years, and that during that period it has proclaimed to the world how well its system of prices control has worked. Either the Minister’s statement is incorrect or it constitutes a serious indictment of the Government’s administration. The Minister is so delighted when his claptrap outside the chamber is greeted with applause that he indulges in clap-trap within these walls. For that reason, he spoke of the immense profits said to be made by monopolists and others, forgetting that he is a member of a ministry which claims to have controlled prices and profits. After the 30th June next such inconsistencies will not be revealed. On the contrary, they will be applauded by most of the 33 Labour senators who will then occupy seats in this chamber. Senator Tangney caused a ripple of applause when she said that the wheels of progress could not be turned back for even one day, bnt we have had evidence recently that in one day the progress of Australia has been turned back for three years. That great master of pathos, Senator Amour, whose cure for all the ills of mankind is frequency modulation, objected to Senator Sampson and others advocating compulsory military training. The honorable senator complained of young men undergoing training on Saturday afternoons, but, apparently, he would not object to the training taking place in the bosses’ time. In his view, Saturday afternoon training would upset their mothers, who would be fearful of their sons being drawn into some future world holocaust. But Senator Amour has no objection to their being trained on Wednesdays, or
Thursdays, in the bosses’ time, and at the bosses’ expense. He inveighed against honorable senators on this side because, he said, a previous anti-Labour administration allowed a gentleman by the name of Wackett, who endeavoured to establish the manufacture of aircraft in this country, to go out of business. All these illustrations, of course, are drawn from the d im and distant past. The honorable senator cited the “Wackett story to illustrate the ignorance, neglect and incompetence of past administrations. But he forgot to tell the people to whom he was speaking over the la lr that the same Mr. Wackett was set up at Fisherman’s Bend by private enterprise and in conjunction with the Government engaged in the manufacture of aircraft. That industry turned out aircraft before the war broke out. It produced aircraft in great quantities during the war, and the same factory is still operating. It was set up by private enterprise with the aid of the Government of the day, and Mr. Wackett was put in charge of the factory.
– Yes. I am citing only one, or two matters in order to show that there are two sides to these questions, and that in a debating assembly of this kind it is necessary to let the public know the facts. In reply to a question, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) informed me this morning that the Tariff Board’s report on Efficiency and Costs of Production in Australian Industries, dated the 24th May last, had been circulated to honorable senators. I was well aware of that fact; and it was because I had received the report that I asked my question. The report is most inconclusive, but it raises such grave questions which mustbe Attended to by the Government that I was wondering whether the board had concluded its inquiry on that matter. I draw the attention of the Minister to the following remarks which appear on page 5 of the board’s report, dealing with the difference between the initial cost of raw material and the cost of manufactured products in Australia and the United States of America: -
Price comparisons relating to three types of this material have been reduced to per centages of the Australian raw material costs -
– To what did the Board attribute the discrepancy?
– It did not attribute it to anything. The board stopped at that point; and that is why I asked my question. I wanted to know whether the board intends to continue its investigations of this subject; because, having regard to the costs in Australia disclosed in the report the prospects for manufacturing in this countrty are very poor indeed.
– Yet, the cost of labour is higher in the United States of America than in Australia.
– Yes; and the cost of the raw material also is higher in the United States of America. Dealing with industrial development the GovernorGeneral’s Speech ignores this vital aspect. The Speech makes some vague statements about industrial controls. Only a few minutes ago, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) said that the Opposition makes too much of the troubles in the coal-mining industry. Unrest exists throughout industry as a whole in this country. That is one of the reasons why costs are rising. This fact is not indicated when we are told that the national income of Australia is approximately £1,45(5,000,000. The fact that manufacturing costs in this country are 200 per cent, in excess of those in other countries is entirely ignored when we are simply told that the national income is such and such a figure. When the prices of goods are double what they should be the reference to the national income in mere figures means nothing at all. If the national income gave some idea of the volume of production we should have something to go on. The fact is that if prices of goods are treble what they should be, the national income is increased accordingly. However, as this fact is not pointed out, mere reference to the national income figures is misleading to the people. I do not need at this juncture to deal at length with the problem of industrial unrest. In passing, I point out that honorable senators opposite and their supporters outside claim that nationalization will cure industrial unrest. However, w« find that the big strikes which are going on at present are in industries which have already been nationalized. But the Government and its supporters try to create the impression in the minds of the people that strikes are part of a fight between the workers and the bosses. They are endeavouring to create the impression that the bosses are some private people who, as the PostmasterGeneral alleges, are making immense profits. Who are the bosses? We are told that the workers are striking against the bosses; but we find that they are actually striking against the Governments of States which are controlled by the Labour party. I shall not venture to suggest what the cure for these ills may be. but when transport workers chose to throw the nation into turmoil, rather than have their grievance brought before the appropriate tribunals, they are treading on very unsafe ground. Railways for instance, are not essential, and if the present state of affairs persists, it is probable that some other means of transport will be used. Railway men and tramway men are assuming, quite wrongly, that they are vital to our national lives. They are not. When dislocation of our transport undertakings occurs, Labour ministeries, led by the Commonwealth Ministry, cannot sa.y, “ It is not our f a’ult “. They are the bosses.
One hears considerable criticism of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court because of the protraction of the hearing of the 40-hour week case which now has been in progress for many months; but 95 per cent, of the time has been taken up in the presentation of the case for the unions. Evidence has been given by a host of union witnesses and, according to the
Chief Judge, at least 90 per cent, of that evidence has been altogether irrelevant and useless. How can honorable senators opposite and their union friends have the impertinence to tell us that the fault for the delay in concluding the hearing lies with the bosses or with the court itself? In some extraordinary way, the bosses are being blamed also for the inadequacy of the basic wage. Many people conveniently forget that wage-pegging was introduced by this Government. The Government has deliberately kept the basic wage at a low figure. On the other hand, by some queer process of reasoning, we on this side of the chamber are being blamed because taxes are high. To me it was extraordinary that the people of this country should have decided at the lastelections against a reduction of taxes. For months, and even years, we listened to the argument that the cause of industrial unrest was the fact- that men and women were working too much for “ Ben Chifley” and too little for themselves; but strangely enough, the Opposition’s policy of tax reduction was rejected at the elections, and now, in accordance with the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mi’. Chifley), the budget makes no provision for tax reductions.
Senator Sheehan claimed that one of the causes of war was trouble between the “ haves “ and the “ have-nots “. I should like to know what his remedy for this would be. Australia, as an individual country, was involved in World War II. against its will. It was attacked, presumably because it was one of the “ haves “ and Japan was one of the “have-nots”. What is the remedy? If Australia is a “ have “ country, and that is a potential cause of war, we must give up having something that we have. What should we give up? Portion of Australia ? Should we send some of our products overseas without receiving payment for them ? This is typical of the confused thinking of some honorable senators opposite. Senator Sheehan also said that the workers in industry must have a share of the increased wealth that is being produced by the utilization of labour-saving appliances. One would think that production had increased as the result of the introduction of laboursaving appliances. In fact, it has done nothing of the sort. Although many labour-saving machines were installed in factories during the war, the output per man in those factories has decreased by 25 or 30 per cent. That is why we are not getting the goods that we need. That is why housing materials are in short supply and why houses are not being built in sufficient numbers. In Tasmania, a bricklayer lays between 800 and 1,000 bricks daily, but in New South Wales the limit is 300 bricks a day. That is why the cost of houses is increasing and why the construction programme is lagging. All of these facts are ignored by the Government’s supporters. They gravely rise and say that the workers should participate in the profits arising from the increased productivity of their labour. I do not knowhow they arrive at the view that there i.3 increased productivity when a New South Wales bricklayer does considerably less than half the daily volume of work done by a Tasmanian bricklayer. How much more money should the 300-bricks a day man receive? This is economy in reverse. It is an “ Alice in Wonderland “ argument.
There were one or two notable omissions from the Governor-General’s Speech. Every body knows that the Government is still undecided about the Bretton Woods Agreement. That agreement must be endorsed by Australia before the 31st December, if it is to be endorsed at all. Nevertheless, the Government has not yet given any indication of its intentions. I do not intend to express my views on the matter; that is a job for the Government. This international agreement was designed to bring about some very desirable results. Foi one thing, it seeks to obviate the falsification of currency exchange rates. At present, we have the anomalous position of the Australian £1 being worth about 7s. 6d. or 8s. in -terms of American dollar currency although the costs of ordinary commodities in the United States of America are very much higher than they are here. There is something wrong in this manipulation of exchange rates, and the Bretton Woods Agreement, with its international bank and other proposals, is designed to put exchange rates on a proper basis. The Government should state its policy on this vital matter.
– We shall have to wait, until the Australian Labour party makes a decision.
– That may be so. Apparently the communication system between the Government and its source of inspiration seems to be out of order. Probably there has been a strike.
Australia cannot afford to remain in splendid isolation. For its own safety, it must endeavour to establish closer understanding between nations. One of the cures suggested by Senator Amour for the present ills of the world was the training of hundreds of young Australian diplomats. Apparently, under the tutelage of Senator Amour or some of his friends, these young people would become persuasive emissaries who would talk other nations into agreement on matters of discord. He pictured a state of affairs in which our universities would send young men and women all over the world like ants on an ant-hill. Apparently they would convince the other nations that words, and words alone, were sufficient to resolve their differences. I dp not believe that. Any country that is not prepared to defend itself by force is doomed. The Government also should indicate its policy on international trading and financial relations. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech was strangely silent on these points, probably because the Government has no answers to the questions which I have put. Of course, the speech was drafted before the Government received a body blow from the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) in the House of Representatives from which it has not yet recovered and which may change its attitude considerably. I want to know the answer to the questions which the honorable member for Reid reiterated, and which I repeat after reading the GovernorGeneral’s Speech : Where is the Labour party ?
– The contributions to this debate by honorable senators opposite have been consistent with their usual wail about industrial discontent. Particular reference has been made to stoppages of work in the coal-mining and shipping industries. I au not Know whether members of the Opposition derive pleasure from discussion of matters of that kind, but it certainly is qf no value to the community. Judging by the contributions of honorable senators opposite, one would imagine that industrial troubles are confined to Australia, whereas in fact they are being experienced throughout the world. This is a natural result of the recent world war. Similar conditions arose after World War I., and after a further six years of war, during which men have been kept up to the collar and have worked a great deal of overtime in order to do their best to assist in the defence of their country, industrial unrest is a natural sequence.
Senator Leckie made reference to a “ body blow “ delivered in the House of Representatives which, he claimed, has stunned the present Ministry; but that is nothing in comparison with the atomic ‘bomb thrown at the Opposition by the people of this country at the recent general elections. I refer particularly to the Senate election. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) pointed out that the Australian Labour party had received 2,133,273 formal votes as against 1,774,922 formal votes cast in favour of the Liberal party and the Australian Country party candidates. He claimed that the anti-Labour voters were entitled to have their views expressed in this Parliament. With that I thoroughly agree. After next June, consideration might well be given to the present disproportionate representation, but that is not a matter for which the Government can be blamed.
– It is not a new feature.
– No. If we go back a few years, we find that the position was much worse than it will be after June next, when the Opposition in this chamber will consist of only three senators from Queensland. At one period the Opposition consisted of only one representative of the Australian Labour party. I refer to ex-Senator Gardiner. During the many years when the Nationalist party, which now masquerades as the Liberal party, was in power no attempt was made to rectify that unequal representation.
Therefore, I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that consideration should be given to this matter. Over 1,700,000 electors have practically no voice in this chamber.
Honorable senators opposite are beginning to show solicitude for the welfare of the workers. The Government is receiving surprising support from the Opposition in the matter of industrial unrest. To-day the Leader of the Opposition asked questions regarding the basic wage, although his interest in the welfare of the workers is somewhat belated. The general elections having been held, there is agreement that consideration must be given to the improvement of the conditions of the workers in industry. I draw attention to a statement which appeared in the press this morning by Mr. Casey, who, although he was not a Liberal party candidate for any seat, did his best to secure the return of the candidates of that party. Portion of his statement reads -
Probably the greatest challenge to industry to-day iii Australia or elsewhere was the working out of fair, reasonable and appropriate methods whereby the individual worker in iudustry got an adequate reward for his work. ‘ He thought that in the end profit-sharing and co-partnership would turn out to be the answer.
Mr. Casey said he believed that good employer-employee relations would not exist until employers accepted a much higher standard of responsibility to their men and to the Australian public. The employers had to accept responsibility for everything that concerned the welfare, in its widest sense, of their employees. Their responsibility could not end with the pay envelope and at the factory gates.
I am thoroughly in accord with that statement. It is refreshing to find that men who opposed the Australian Labour party at the recent elections have changed to that degree.
Continual reference is made to the unrest in the coal-mining industry. The Leader of the Opposition drew attention to the fact that the miners had been working back on Saturdays. He said they are getting increased pay for it, and they do not work on some other days during the following week. I have already pointed out this morning that only two mines were idle in New South Wales yesterday. I have received another report this morning which shows that three mines are idle to-day. When mines are not being worked, it is considered by the people, and particularly by members of the Opposition and others who desire to criticize the Government, that the stoppages are entirely due to strikes, but, that is not the position. To-day’s report states -
Southern District. - South Clifton - 209 men, 450 tons, second day. This mine is idle for the funeral of the employee who died yesterday morning.
Nobody can reasonably complain about that stoppage. The report continues -
Northern District. - Cessnock No. 1 - 191 men, 540 tons. This mine is idle following a dispute which occurred yesterday over ventilation. The lodge complained that the ventilation is insufficient and demand that a new fan he installed to replace the existing fan.
That report refers to a safety matter and the complaint is justified. It is agreed that where safety matters are involved, no objection will be taken to the cessation of work. No benefit whatever will accrue from the criticism offered by the Opposition on the subject of industrial unrest. The present Government has taken the only steps ever taken to appoint an authority to control the coal-mining ind nal ry in New South Wales in cooperation with the Government of that State.
– I thought the Ministor said that no conclusive steps had been taken.
– Tfe hope to appoint a board to control the industry. Coal mines in New South Wales and other States have been developed under conditions which do not reflect credit on those responsible. Many ‘oF the mines have been worked in such a way that much coal has been wasted and will remain lost to the nation. No consideration whatever ha3 been given by the Opposition to the increased consumption of coal, which to-day is 50 per cent, greater than it was before World War II. If all mines in New South Wales and Victoria and in every other State were kept in full operation, there would not he sufficient coal to meet the country’s requirements.
– Is that a hopeless position ?
– 1 do not say that it is. The present position is aggravated by reason of the many stoppages which occurred when anti-Labour governments were in office. In one stoppage alone during the regime of the government of which Senator Leckie was a member, nearly 1,000,000 tons of coal was lost on the northern fields of New South Wales. Had that coal been available to-day, Australia would have been in a much happier position than at present.
– The government with which I was associated left big stockpiles of coal.
– The Labour Government received many legacies from that administration, and one was the loss of coal due to the fact that on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales 10,000 miners were not working for ten weeks. I admit that there has been some delay in the appointment of the board, but that is because the Commonwealth Government and the Government of New South Wales wish to obtain the best men possible to control the industry. I shall be happy when the board has beer appointed and is functioning; the sooner the better.
– The trouble is that the Government does not stand behind the boards that it appoints.
– I am confident that steps which will be taken by the two governments will result in an increased production of coal and will ensure better conditions for those engaged in coalmining.
The Leader of the Opposition said that lying statements were made as to the effect on the basic wage of child endowment for the first child. I accept my share of the responsibility for what was said on behalf of the Government in that connexion. Honorable senators, especially those with an industrial background, will remember that when the minimum wage was first established in this country it was based on the requirements of a man his wife and three children. Later, it was altered to provide for the requirements of a man his wife and two children, and, still later, the needs of a man his wife and one child. In the computation of the basic wage an allowance of 12s. 6d. a week was made for that child. During the recent election campaign the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) said that Australia would have a truer basic wage if it were divorced from child endowment. I argued that, as 12s. 6d. a week was allowed in the basic wage for the first child, his proposal might mean a reduction of the basic wage by 12s. 6d. a week. That opinion was based on sound ground, because the late Judge O’Mara, in a judgment delivered on the 22nd August, 1946, said-
When fixing wages, the Arbitration Court takes into consideration all the influences on the basic family. A truer basic wage would be arrived at if endowment took care of the children and the wage itself was based on the requirements of a man and wife.
It is a well-known fact that, over the years, industry has complained that it could not bear the burden of providing for the children of workers in industry. [ admit that there is some justification for that view. Employers claim that, in some instances, the wage is related to persons who have no children. As the object of industry is to have the wage determined on the basis of a man and his wife, there was justification for my assumption that a reduction of the basic wage would follow the provision of endowment for -the first child, because, a.s I have said, in computing the basic wage 12s. 6d. was allowed for the first child. After the attention of Mr. Menzies had been drawn to that fact, he said that the court could give consideration to the contribution made to an insurance policy, or a social security scheme, and that there need be no reduction of the basic wage. That is not consistent with what took place in 1938, when the then Commonwealth Government introduced legislation to provide for a National Health and Pensions Insurance Scheme. When the bill was before the House of Representatives the then Treasurer, Mr. Casey, moved the following amendment to clause 185- “ Any authority, having power under any law of the Commonwealth, of a State or of a Territory to fix rates of salary, wages, pay or allowances, which, in fixing the rate of salary, wages, pay or allowances of any persons who are or may become contributors under this Act, takes into account the payment of contributions by those persons under this Act, shall also take into account the provision of benefits for those persons by this Act”.
That definitely confirmed what I have said, namely, that the contributions would be nullified by the benefits received. I was, therefore, justified in assuming that consideration would be given by the Court to such contributions. I used that argument in the recent election campaign and I believed that I had every justification for so doing. I take the same stand to-day because I still believe what I said then. The explanation given by Mr. Casey will not help the Opposition.
– What Mr. Casey said or did does not affect what the present Government may do.
– On the occasion referred to Mr. Casey said -
All that this clause states is that when a wage-fixing tribunal or authority takes into account the contributions made to the insurance fund, it shall also consider the benefits received.
The Leader of the Opposition will understand why, in the light of those statements, I object to his remark that lying statements were made. The evidence that I have produced this morning is sufficient justification for all that I said.
– As the Minister still believes what he said, I withdraw my statement.
– Referring to the wheat stabilization scheme, Senator James McLachlan said that, under it, the Government was robbing the wheatgrowers of Australia. I remind the honorable senator that that scheme was introduced at the request of the Wheat Growers Federation. In 1945 there was a conference of representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments and the Wheat Growers Federation at which wheat prices were discussed. I understand that the Commonwealth Government first offered 4s. Sd. a bushel, but, after discussion, raised its offer to 5s. 2d. a bushel, which was agreed to. There was some discussion as to the amount which should be chargeable for export. At first it was suggested that the basis should be 60 per cent, of the excess price above the fixed price but, later, agreement was reached on the basis of 50 per cent. Whatever may be the merits or demerits of the scheme, the responsibility for it rests not on the Commonwealth Government alone, but also on the State governments and the Wheat Growers Federation of Australia. I do not know from what body the Governments concerned would have been more justified in seeking advice. I am aware that some individual in the community are not satisfied with the wheat stabilization scheme. Yesterday, doubt was expressed as to whether the complementary legislation required to be passed by the State parliaments would be enacted. That remains to be seen. In view of the position in Europe, and the fact that contracts have been entered into with Canada and the United Kingdom under which millions of bushels of wheat will be supplied, it would be wise on the part of all the States and the Wheat Growers Federation to accept the scheme.
The only other comments which, I think, call for answer related to housing. I have endeavoured to secure some information on this subject. The target for the year ended the 30th June, 1946, was 24,000 dwellings either completed or under construction. That objective was reached. The Commonwealth Statistician’s figures show that during that year 13,000 dwellings were completed and 15,500 were under construction on the 30th June. Those figures include a carryover of 4,000 dwellings which were under construction at the beginning of the year. The housing programme for the current financial year contemplates the construction of 42,000 dwellings, accelerating to 50,000 dwellings a year after twelve months. The Government has never promised to reach in one leap a rate of 70,000 dwellings a year. Obviously, we must build up by stages to a higher level of production, particularly in an industry which. was largely disintegrated by the war. All Governments, State and Commonwealth, however, have united to assist the building industry in reconstruction and expanding production, and to maintain and stabilize it over the next ten years. Men must be trained for this programme, and it will take at least another two years to train the 33,000 additional men needed for the building industry. Even then the trainees will not reach full efficiency on the job before 1950.
The Leader of the Opposition asked for details of the Government’s defence proposals. His inquiry is answered by paragraph 7 of the Governor-General’s Speech, which reads -
The whole question of post- war defence policy is affected by the impact of scientific development on the types of weapons and armament for the various services. As a first step, my Government has approved of the creation of scientific and technical bodies to maintain the closest liaison for Empire co-operation in research, design, development and production of munitions and aircraft.
– Will the Minister amplify paragraph 9 of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech?
– That paragraphreads -
My Government will make full and adequate provision for pos.t-war defence. The size of each service will he determined by the blending of the Navy, Army, Air Force and supply services in a balanced scheme which provides in the most effective manner for our selfdefence, for our co-operation in Empire and regional defence, and for the fulfilment of our obligations under the Charter of the United Nations.
– What are our obligations under that Charter?
– Investigations are taking place on a scientific basis, and Australia is participating in that work. I am not in a position to give more detailed information. Honorable senators will realize that it is impossible for any government to deal in detail with progressive scientific defence developments. For instance, we do not know whether certain proposals will be outlawed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of ADDRESS-IN-REPLY
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Address-in-Reply be presented -.to His Royal Highness the Governor-General by the President and such senators as may desire to accompany him.
– I shall ascertain when His Royal Highness will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply, and when a time is fixed, I shall notify the Senate.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 27th November, a,t 3 p.m.
C hild Endowment - Reestablishment: Land Settlement of exServicemen.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– In view of the statement made by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) in reply to my remarks dealing with child endowment, I point out that on the 13th November, Acting Chief Judge DrakeBrockman said -
The basic wage, in the court’s opinion, should he decided on what the community could afford to pay and not on how many children, or wives, a man had.
As the Minister for Health is absent from the chamber, I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to refer that statement to his colleague, and request him to inquire whether the report of the Acting Chief Judge’s remarks is correct; and, if so, whether he will make a statement to the Senate with respect to the Government’s child endowment policy?
.- This morning I asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, a. question, the first paragraph of which read -
The answer supplied by the Prime Minister was -
The statement that of the number of Western Australian ex-member approved applicants for farms under the war service land settlement scheme only 50 per cent. might be successfully accommodated within three years, if made at all, was not made by the Commonwealth Director of Land Settlement in Western Australia nor by any Commonwealth officer.
I was present at the conference mentioned in my question, and I heard that statement made. In confirmation of my assertion I quote the following from the report of the conference which appeared in the West Australian of the 1st October last : -
War Service Scheme.
DelayExplainedatReturnedSoldiersLeague Conference “ It does not appear probable that more than half of the prospective demand for 1,800 farms will be met within three years”, said the Director of Land Settlement (Mr. W. V. Fyfe) at the annual land conference of the Returned Servicemen’s League, which opened: at Anzac House yesterday morning.
That report, which confirms the statement I myself heard made at the conference, offers complete justification for my question. I know that Ministers are anxiousto ensure that correct answers shall be supplied to questions asked by honorable senators. Therefore, I ask the Leader of the Senate to re-submit my question to the Prime Minister, with a view to verification of my statement.
– in reply - I shall bring the matter raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) to the notice of the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna). Senator Collett, as an ex-Minister, is aware of the procedure followed in obtaining replies to questions asked upon notice. I am confident, that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) would not question the honorable senator’s veracity. Apparently the Director of Land Settlement in Western Australia has denied that he made the statement attributed to him. However, I shall take up the matter again with the Prime Minister.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946. No. 160.
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 2738- 2767.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinances -
No. 4 of 1946- Trading with Natives.
No. 5 of 1946 - Native Labour.
No.6 of 1946 -Judiciary.
No. 7 of 1946 - Barristers and Solicitors Admission.
Senate adjourned at 12.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 November 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19461115_senate_18_189/>.