18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and road prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether a soldier who returned from overseas service in April, 1944, after serving a number of years abroad and was discharged onthe 29th May of that year, wouldbe liable to pay income tax from the 1st July, 1944?
– A soldier who returns from active service overseas is as a general rule exempt from income tax for a period of three months on his service pay and all allowances. If the honorable senator will supply me with details of the case he has in mind, so thatthe particular circumstances may be investigated, I shall endeavour to secure the information and furnish him with a reply.
Used Motor Vehicles - Real Estate Transactions
– On the 13th November, in answer to a question upon notice by Senator Cooper, I stated that a report on the alleged black market in second-hand cars in Queensland would be furnished to the Senate. I have now received a report from the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner. He states that whilst his officers have been informed by reputed authorities in the car trade that there is an organized black market in second-hand cars in Queensland, the operators of which are known to them, they have declined to name those operators to assist investigators to eradicate the trade. Despite this refusal of assistance by leading critics of the prices administration, investigators have secured convictions in a number of cases. No fewer than 24 convictions have been secured in Queensland, with fines totalling £648 and refunds to purchasers totalling £644 18s. 9d. In one case the defendant was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. In two other cases fines of £85 and £70 were imposed, refunds being also secured in each case. A great deal more success would he obtained if the public and the trade would co-operate with the Prices Branch in bringing offenders tolight ; but we find instead that when action is taken by prices investigators to catch offenders red-handed, such action is frequently decried as provocative of law-breaking. It has also to be remembered that many of the critics of the present basis of used- car price control seek to eliminate the abuses of legalizing the excessive prices, thus enabling all sales to be made through commercial channels at those excessive prices. To adopt this policy generally would be to plunge into inflation, and there is no more reason why it should be adopted in regard to motor cars than any other commodity. The fact is that there is a serious shortage of cars, and legalized black-market prices would not increase the number of cars available. The same remarks apply to many goods. The fact that law-evaders have to resort to complicated subterfuge to achieve their ends is a clear indication thatprices officials are very much on their job, and it is certain that most citizens abide by the law and would not resort to such methods.
– Recently I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether consideration would be given to the raising of ceiling prices for second-hand motor cars and housing properties. The Minister promised that he would have inquiries made. I should like to know if an investigation has been carried out, and, if - so, what was the result?
– This matter is under consideration by myself and departmental officials, but At present I cannot say by what means the situation now obtaining, so far as second-hand motor cars are concerned, could be met. The answer that I gave to the honorable senator’s previous question indicated that the department was seriously concerned about the matter, but believed that, in the circumstances, the fixed prices now ruling are the best that can be allowed. However, I shall keep the matter constantly under review, with the object ultimately of endeavouring to bring present-day prices more into conformity with actual values.
– Is it a fact that, despite the assurance of the Minister for Supply and Shipping to the contrary, essential requirements such as glass, cast-iron, porcelain enamelware, lead and lead products, and- other builders’ hardware continue in short supply in “Western Australia, due largely to the scarcity of shipping from the eastern States? Is the Minister aware that 1,200 tons of galvanized-iron piping urgently required in Western Australia is awaiting shipment at the port of Newcastle? If so, will he take immediate steps to have that shipment loaded? Is it a fact that a shipping liaison office has been established in Sydney to expedite the consignment of the goods urgently required in Western Australia? If so, will he advise the Senate as to the progress being , made by that office towards easing the ‘ shortages of materials in Western Australia?
– It is a fact that a liaison has been established between the Western Australian Government and the Sydney Traffic Committee of the Australian Shipping Board and that preference is given to items sponsored by the Western Australian Government. Recently, a Western Australian Government officer visited Sydney for the purpose of reviewing the position. This officer, however, merely continued the liaison which had already been established. The liaison officer who functions normally is a member of the staff of the Secondary Industries Division of the Department of Postwar Reconstruction. The following ships are included in the immediate programme for Western Australia - River Burdekin, now .loading at Newcastle coal, steel and coke for - Fremantle ; River Fitzroy, now loading at Sydney, having completed Newcastle loading and taking steel and general cargo direct to Fremantle; River Loddon, now loading at Newcastle coal and steel for Fremantle direct; Koomilya, to load Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne, steel and general cargo for Esperance and Premantle; and Kooringa, to load Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne, steel and general cargo for Fremantle. In . addition, Momba, Arkaba and Mundala are either at, or en route to, Western Australia, and River Murray is fixed for an early loading ex Hobart, Melbourne and Adelaide for Western Australia. All these vessels are comprised within the programme to clear New .South Wales ports before the end of December and will clear everything offering at Newcastle. Additional fixtures are in mind for January. The capacity of berths in Western Australia limits the number of ships which can be sent to Fremantle. These details indicate that the Western Australian position is being closely watched and that considerable shipping resources are being devoted to services in Western Australia.
– Is the Minister for Health of the opinion that, as the result of the affirmative vote cast at the recent referendum in respect of the Government’s proposals regarding social services, the Department of Health can now control the sale of patent medicines? If so, is he prepared to assure the Senate that that department will take early action to investigate the manufacture and sale of patent medicine; and drugs in order that an end may be put to what is an undoubted racket?
– As soon as the Governor-General has assented to the bill, the Commonwealth Parliament will be able to legislate in the field referred to by the honorable senator. It will be able to confer pharmaceutical benefits on the people. Both the supply of free medicine and the standards of medicines will be reviewed and the inquiry will cover the. matter raised by the honorable senator.
– Last week I asked the Minister for Trade and Customs whether, in the new year, some relief would be afforded in respect of the number of ration coupons required in the purchase of suits and costumes. The newspapers this morning indicated that some relief is to be given. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say what that relief is to be and how many clothing coupons will be contained in the new ration book ?
SenatorCOURTICE. - I am not in a position to give that information at present.
SenatorCOURTICE.- On the 27th November, Senator Gibson asked that permanent licences to grow wheat rather than temporary licences be granted, so that preparation for the coming wheat crop could be made by growers. Temporary licences will be granted freely for next season and growers may make preparations on that basis. There will be no limit, except, of course, on marginal areas which the governments have decided are unsuitable for wheat-growing. As the registration of wheat farms is a matter for the States under the wheat stabilization plan, it is not practicable at this stage to give permanent registration for farms not covered by the regulations.
SenatorFOLL. - I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture arising from a statement which he has already made about the issue of temporary permits to grow wheat on account of serious drought conditions. Is the Minister aware that, owing to the devastating drought which has been raging in at least two States for some time past, many farmers would be glad to secure temporary permits to grow wheat, but are unable to buy seed wheat because their financial resources have been depleted as the result of drought conditions ? In such circumstances, is the Government prepared to make arrangements with the State governments to provide supplies of seed wheat to farmers, the cost of that wheat to he collected when the crops reach fruition ?
– I am aware that there is a devastating drought in Queensland, and I am sure that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will give favorable consideration to the honorable senator’s suggestion that his department should co-operate with other authorities, with a view to providing seed wheat for the wheat-growers of Queensland. I shall be pleased to bring the suggestion to the notice of the Minister.
Treatment op Tuberculosis.
-by leave - Dur ing recent months there have appeared numerous optimistic statements regarding the value of streptomycin in tuberculosis and other diseases. The value of this drug, which is very costly and difficult to manufacture, has been carefully investigated by a committee in America which has reported upon the effects of treatment with streptomycin in 1,500 cases of various diseases. The committee is moat cautious in its statements, and I would like to warn the public of Australia against undue optimism regarding the value of this drug for the treatment of tuberculosis. It is by no means a cure-all and it would appear that its value is limited. There are quite a number of disadvantages in using streptomycin, as patients frequently get various reactions, including pain and tenderness, headache and fever. One of the principal disadvantages in its use against tuberculosis is the inevitable development of vertigo of a permanent nature in patients who have long continued treatment. The immediate course of treatment recommended to have any value in tuberculosis is a period of three to four months, using 1.5 to 3 grams of streptomycin daily. When streptomycin is given hi this quantity, patients will develop vertigo, which is due to a disturbance in the labyrinth of the ear, and is permanent. It should be stressed that streptomycin will not replace any of the established forms of treatment and it should never be used as a substitute for any other form of therapy. From the information available, it is clear that further extensive trials of this drug are necessary before the final judgment can be made upon its place in medicine. At the present time it is thought that it will be of value in some conditions where penicillin fails to effect improvement.
– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether the report is correct that, in spite of the Cabinet decision to present a bill to Parliament during the present period of the session to ratify the Bretton Woods Agreement, caucus has now instructed Cabinet to refer this matter to an outside body known as the Australian Labour Party Conference? If that report be correct, does it mean the end of responsible government so far as this Administration is concerned?
– I do not know where the Leader of the Opposition heard the report to which he ‘refers. I have not seen it, and I am not in a position to comment upon it.
– Is the Minister for Supply and Shipping prepared to allow honorable senators an opportunity to discuss this important matter before Parliament rises for the Christmas recess, or is he prepared to make available to the Opposition the reports of the Australian representatives who attended the conferences? Is it a fact that the confidential reports of the delegates have already been made known to caucus, although -a similar privilege has been denied to members of the Opposition?
– The policy of the Government is entirely in its own hands. The Government will decide when the time is opportune for a discussion in this chamber of the Bretton Woods Agreement or any other matter of Government policy. In response to the honorable senator’s request for information on the Bretton Woods Agreement, I shall be pleased to secure any information that he desires so thai; members of the Opposition may inform their minds fully about the agreement before it comes before the Parliament.
– In accordance with regulations issued by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department in regard to the sending of parcels to Great Britain, it is necessary for the sender to state the contents of each parcel upon the wrapper. The result has been widespread pilfering. Will the Postmaster-General consider accepting a statutory declaration as to the contents of these parcels instead of insisting that the contents be listed on the parcels themselves?
– I am prepared to give consideration to the honorable senator’s suggestion, and will inform him as soon as possible of the result of the deliberations.
Commonwealth Grants to States
– In view of the confusion that has arisen regarding Commonwealth grants made available to the States for the treatment of tuberculosis, as a result of legislation enacted some time ago, will the Minister for Health inform the Senate of the purposes for which the money is proposed to be expended? I understood that some of the money was to be used for payments to tuberculosis sufferers, and that some of it was to be devoted to investigations of methods of combating the dreadful disease. I know that the money is intended to be expended in conjunction with the activities of the States in relation to tuberculosis. Only two States have applied for Commonwealth grants.
– Order! The honorable senator must ask a question, not make a statement.
– In view of the fact that the money allocated by this Parliament for assistance to the States has not yet been expended by them, will the Minister inform the Senate what steps the Government proposes to take to ensure that the money shall be disbursed as this Parliament intended? Will the allocation of funds apply retrospectively to the date when the legislation was passed by this Parliament?
– As honorable senators know, the Commonwealth Government made available an amount of £50,000 per annum for the provision of diagnostic facilities, subject to contributions being made by the States on a £1 for £1 basis. It also made available an amount of £50,000 per annum for the provision of after-care facilities for tuberculosis sufferers upon the same terms. In addition, by means of a recent amendment of the Tuberculosis Act, the Parliament provided for a grant of £250,000 per annum to the States for the relief of tuberculosis sufferers and their dependants. None of this money has yet been claimed by the States. There are difficulties in the way of the States establishing diagnostic and after-care facilities owing to shortages of buildings, labour and materials, but that is a matter which is entirely within the province of the States. The terms of the act authorize me as Minister to make available to the States this year the sum of £250,000 for the benefit’ of sufferers. As I indicated some time ago, the Commonwealth Government will take a much keener interest in tuberculosis in the future. I am not at liberty to disclose what it has in mind, hut I assure the Senate that the Government realizes the importance of attending to this matter from both the humanitarian and the economic aspects. At a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers for Health, which will be held in the near future, the whole subject will be discussed, but as certain States desire that there shall be a uniform basis for the distribution of Commonwealth moneys, some difficulties are likely to arise. That matter is now under discussion. If not settled in the near future, it will be dealt with at the conference to which I have referred.
– I do not know that there are at the moment as many strikes as the honorable senator’s question suggests. When the Leader of the Opposition has no excuse for maligning the miners, and waterside workers, who are now working, he tries to stir up trouble in other industries. The Government has given consideration to the cause of industrial disputes and is making every effort to avoid them in the future. There is no need for it to seek the assistance of the Opposition in the matter.
– In view of the hardship caused to parents who have to pay 17s. 6d. a pair for children’s shoes, which, because of the inferior quality of the leather in them, will wear for only five days, can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether the Government possesses any powers to control the quality of leather used in the manufacture of footwear, and, if so, what steps are being taken to enforce them? If no such power exists, has the Government any power to compel manufacturers and wholesale merchants to use leather of good quality, so that parents will not be robbed further?
– The Government still exercises control over the quality of footwear, and every endeavour is made to ensure that the leather used is reasonably good. The war-time order that all manufactured footwear must be stamped is still in operation. The policing of that order will be continued, but not so as to inflict undue hardship on manufacturers and others. The Government is concerned about the quality of the footwear offered to the public, and the honorable senator can rest assured that the policing of the regulations will be carried out efficiently and will leave no cause for complaint.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commence and Agriculture has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, upon notice -
– The Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Use of Darwin
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In regard to defence plans for the near future, is the Government yet in a position to state whether or not Darwin is to be developed and maintained as a secondary naval base with protection provided by adequate land and air forces 1
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer : -
The post-war defence plans have not yet been finalized but the honorable senator may be assured that the Government fully realizes the importance of Darwin in connexion with those plans.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following members had been appointed to serve on the Public Works Committee: - Mr. Conelan, Mr. Gullett, Mr. Howse, Mr. McLeod, Mr. Rankin and Mr. Russell.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
has always been considerate and courteous to the Opposition in this chamber; but it is time that honorable senators took action to ensure that the Senate shall not again be placed in the embarrassing position in which we now find ourselves. This measure must be passed through all stages to-day in order to enable the Government to pay the salaries of all government employees this week. It is a physical impossibility to give adequate consideration in the time available to us to this measure under which we are asked to appropriate a sum exceeding £400,000,000. Members of the House of Representatives also were not afforded adequate opportunity to consider these estimates. I hope that the Leader of the Senate will draw the attention of the Government to reports which have already appeared that collections of customs and excise duty for the first five months of the current financial year are £12,000,000 in excess of receipts for the corresponding period of last financial year ; and evidence is not wanting that the estimates of receipts will be exceeded in the same ratio in respect of many other departments.
– And expenditure may be proportionately greater.
– Expenditure will certainly increase, if the Government does not take its courage in its hands and dispense with war-time departments which it deliberately carried on until the elections were over in order to avoid losing support at the polls. When we know that at the beginning of the war the total revenue was approximately £100,000,000, it is clear, having regard to the magnitude of the present budget, that the Government has lost all sense of financial responsibility. What is worse, it is a waste of time for the Opposition to put forward suggestions for the reduction of direct and indirect taxes. Once the caucus dog has harked, that is the “ end of the section “ so far as ministerial supporters are concerned. They prefer to act like dumb driven cattle, refusing to discuss suggestions made by the Opposition on their merits. In these circumstances it is a waste of time f or the Opposition to deal as we should like with these matters. We have no alternative but to do the best we can, and submit to control of legislation by the caucus machine.
.- As I was not here to discuss the Estimates and budget papers when they were presented, there are a few matters that I should like to refer to briefly without unduly delaying the Senate. At the outset I must say that I am not one of those who has any really serious complaint to make about the budget. During “the electoral campaign the Government made clear to the people just what they would expect if they returned it to power. On platform after platform the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) told them that they need not look for any real tax relief if they returned the Labour party to office. Consequently, having returned it by almost as large a majority as it had before the general elections, the people have very little ground for complaint that taxes have not been reduced.
– The Government will have a much larger majority in the Senate.
– That is true. However, the Prime Minister and his followers and the Labour party publicity did promise a monthly review of taxes. They said that month by month Treasury officials would report to the Treasurer ways and means by which taxes, direct and indirect, might be reduced. I hope that that promise will be carried out and that the finances of the country will be sufficiently buoyant to enable relief to be given to the taxpayers. Recently I read that as the result of an onslaught by the Taxation Department it is anticipated that many millions of pounds more of taxes will be collected than was originally estimated. Surely that will provide an avenue whereby some relief might be given. I have also read that many millions of pounds will pour into the coffers of the Treasury as the result of the operations of the Commonwealth Disposals Commission. I do not think that that money has been allowed for in the Estimates to the full extent. That money too should provide means by which taxes might be “cut. I believe that the economy of this country will be greatly benefited if the Government carries out the promised monthly review of taxes and that, as revenues become more buoyant, as they seem likely to be, particularly in view of the high prices that many of our primary products, particularly wool, are fetching overseas, the people can look forward to relief from the tax burdens they carry. I have no quarrel with the proposed reduction of sales tax. I hope that from time to time, as the finances of the country permit, the sales tax on many items of everyday use will be reduced or abolished.
Undoubtedly, in the last six years or so the economy of this country has been maintained at a level which is probably better than that of any other country, and certainly better than that of any country I visited when overseas early this year. I do not want to take away from the Government the credit for that, but I do point out that because it followed the lead set by its predecessor in inaugurating price-fixing, low interest rates and other controls, the Australian economy is in its present sound condition. However, we look forward to far greater relief than a mere reduction by so much per cent, of the sales tax on a few items. Until, the Government makes a real reduction of income tax I do not think it will be able to avoid the tremendous industrial unrest that undoubtedly exists in this country to-day. The continuance of high rates of company tax and income tax is largely responsible for the clamour for the removal of wage-pegging and for much of the industrial unrest that prevails in Australia, notwithstanding the denial of the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) that there is a great deal of unrest. I think the Prime Minister is being unduly obstinate in refusing to lift or partially lift the wage-pegging regulations. What we need in Australia to-day is something between what has happened in the United States of America, where all controls have been completely abandoned, and the rigid controls that are being maintained here. There is a happy medium. Undoubtedly the Government does intend to relax wagepegging to a certain degree. I do not know why, especially as we approach the festive season, the Prime Minister so obstinately refuses to announce what the Government intends to do in the matter. I impress upon it that wage-pegging is not nearly so closely observed as Ministers may imagine. There is a black-market in labour just as there is in commodities. That is because the wage-pegging regulations are unduly severe. I hope that the Government will make an early announcement, as this matter affects not only the workers but also trade and commerce generally. I hope that the bill designed to carry Australia over the period of transition from war to peace, which I may not anticipate in detail now, will provide for the lifting of many of the controls that the people now suffer.
I am completely ,at a loss to know why petrol-rationing is being continued. The Minister may be able to throw some light on that subject, but he said some time ago that petrol-rationing was being continued in Australia because of overtures made to the Commonwealth Government by the Government of the United Kingdom. Speaking subject to correction by the Minister, I understand, however, that petrol-rationing no longer operates in the United Kingdom and New Zealand. If that is so, why is it necessary to maintain it in Australia, especially as the average motorist now gets more petrol than he really requires each month? I say that without qualification. There are few, if any, motorists who, if they want more petrol than they are getting, cannot satisfy their requirements on application to the liquid fuel authorities. If petrol-rationing were lifted, I do not think consumption of petrol iD Australia would be increased by a single gallon. On the contrary, I believe that consumption would drop, because the motorist whose coupons entitle him to, say, 35 gallons a month feels under an obligation to buy all the petrol he is entitled to in order to get rid of his coupons. That is a condition common to most rationed commodities. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) will remember that when the assignment system was first introduced in the sugar-growing industry in Queensland, every sugar-grower thought that because he had been assigned a certain acreage, he should utilize every acre. I understand that Australia’s entire requirements of motor spirit can be obtained from the sterling bloc without any necessity to call upon the dollar bloc Therefore there can be no objection in that respect to the removal of petrol rationing. It is a source of aggravation to motorists and to postal officials in country districts who have to , bear the burden of issuing tickets and licences. I repeat that not one additional gallon of petrol would be used in Australia if rationing were completely abolished now. I have not met anybody in recent months who has been short of ration tickets, or who has not had tickets to spare at the end of each rationing period. That may not have been the experience of other honorable senators, but it has been mine. If rationing is .being retained merely to keep the Liquid Fuel Board in existence, and to retain certain officials in jobs, I point out that with the present shortage of labour, there are jobs available in almost every walk of life. Anybody displaced from his employment by the abolition of petrol rationing would have no trouble in finding a job elsewhere. Again I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to this matter.
There is one other war-time control that I believe requires attention. I refer to the restrictions upon sales of land and properties. In past years, I have been a vigorous supporter of the maintenance of controls of this type. When I was in Great Britain, and the United States of America early this year, and saw the fabulous prices that were being paid, not only for housing land, but also for farm land, I was very grateful that Australia had wisely retained control over the prices of these essential commodities. However, in view of increased costs, present valuations of land and properties in this country are out of date and are unfair to both owners and prospective purchasers. Many people would .be prepared to pay a reasonable price for a home but are debarred from doing so because of the regulations.
– “What increase would the honorable senator permit?
– I would base the pegged prices on increased costs of production. I should say that an increase of 20 per cent, or 25 per cent, over the 1942 values would be reasonable to off-set the depreciation which undoubtedly has occurred in our currency. Many property owners would be prepared to sell their houses or land, because they are not such a good investment to-day as they were in years gone by; clue mainly to the rentpegging regulations about which I make no complaint. As increases of the ceiling prices for stocks and shares have been permitted, I see no reason why similar increases should not be allowed land and property values.
– Rents have been increasing too.
– No. The Minister well knows that rents can be increased, only by a decision of the fair rents courts, and that rentals for new houses are based upon their costs. There are scores of housing areas in which, owing to building that has taken place since 1939, the value of properties has increased, but the owners of these properties are not permitted to sell them at reasonable prices. Ou the other hand, a man who has built a new home on a block next door to an older property - perhaps a home of an inferior type - is able to sell it at a much higher price. It is of no use to pretend that there is not a black marketing racket in the sale of properties. These very regulations create a black market. Sale prices shown on contracts are very often not the real prices at all. An additional sum of money usually changes hands, otherwise, there would not be any sale at all. This racket should be stopped. The Land Sales Control Board should be given authority to increase its margins by 20 or 25 per cent. That would result in, a large number of people who at present are inadequately house,! being able to purchase better homes.
Travelling through the suburbs of the larger cities, one cannot help being impressed by the number of homes that are partly completed. One of the worst build ing material bottle-necks is the shortage of fibro cement. Last week-end, I motored through some of the outer suburbs of Sydney and I saw house after house standing with the timber framework erected, and perhaps the roof on, but without an outer wall covering which, in most cases, would be fibro cement. These structures are depreciating while covering materials are awaited.
At question time, to-day, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) asked the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) whether the Senate would have an opportunity to discuss the Bretton Woods Agreement before the Christmas recess. There are rumours that this matter has been shelved until next year. This would mean, of course, that even if we decided at a later stage to enter into the agreement with the rest of the nations, we would not be able to go in “ on the ground floor “, as an original member. If the Government decides to become a party to the agreement, after discussing the matter with the federal council of its party, it will be obliged to accept conditions of currency exchange dictated to it by those nations which agree to implement the agreement before the end of the year.
– “What is the honorable senator’s view of the agreement*
– My view is that Australia cannot avoid subscribing to it and, from the information I have been able to obtain, I consider that the Government should do so. Otherwise, Australia will find itself in financial isolation. I disagree with people who believe that the agreement has been drawn up for some sinister purpose by capitalists who wish to exercise their powers to the disadvantage of small nations or groups of individuals. I regard the Bretton Woods Agreement as a definite attempt by the nations of the world to achieve some stability in world finance.
– I understand that opinions within the honorable senator’s party are divided on this matter.
– I do not know what the honorable senator means when he refers to my party.
– The honorable senator’s former party.
– I regard myself now as having more political freedom than I have previously had during my whole political career. If I gave my real opinion of the Queensland branch of my former party, I am afraid that you, Mr. President, would rebuke me for using unparliamentary language. When 1. was overseas, I compared the purchasing power of the Australian £1 in Australia with that of the £1 sterling in Great Britain and the dollar in the United States of America. I was almost ashamed to learn that, in America, the value of the Australian £1 at the present rate of exchange was equivalent to about 7s. or 8s. I speak subject to correction, but I believe that to be a fair estimate. There is no justification whatever for the Australian £1 being at a discount against the £1 sterling in Great Britain. One of the first things that will be said to me in reply to that statement will be that the primary producers of Australia obtain a, 25 per cent, bonus on their sales in Great Britain as the result of the depreciated value of the Australian £1. Nevertheless, I consider that the rate of exchange should be adjusted and that, if necessary, primary producers should be guaranteed higher prices. We must stand up to that obligation. We are not justified in allowing the value of our currency to remain 25 per cent, below that of sterling currency for all time, merely on the ground that our primary producers benefit from that situation. What were the circumstances surrounding the depreciation of Australian currency overseas? The value of the Australian £1 was depreciated at a time of extreme stress in Australia, when thousands of people were out of work and the prices of our primary products were at their lowest levels. There were huge surpluses of primary products in the world, people had insufficient money to buy them, and, accordingly, prices fell to the lowest levels in recent history. The situation to-day is different. Prices are continually vising. Each new agreement between Australia and Great Britain or any other country which buys our exportable surpluses provides for better prices. At the recent wool sales, there was a general increase of prices by 20 per cent, or 25 per cent. Honorable senators will notice that I ignore the record high prices that were paid for “ star “ bales of wool. While the prices of primary products are soaring, our currency is allowed to remain at a depreciated value in relation to sterling. I consider that the value of the Australian £1 should be increased immediately to the equivalent of the £1 sterling. If we are to build up a profitable two-way trade with other countries - and we must have imports if we are to establish export markets - we cannot continue to allow the Australian £1 to be equal in value to only 16s. sterling.
I refer now to immigration. I have been privileged to speak on this subject many times in this chamber, and I may not often have the opportunity to do so again. I commend the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) for definitely setting out to implement an immigration policy. Several hundreds of British tradesmen are at present coming to Australia, and they are the forerunners of many thousands. I hope that, when they arrive to help us in our housing programme, they will receive the right royal welcome that they deserve as new settlers. I hope that they will not find themselves on a “sticky wicket” in this country, and I do not belive that they will do so, because we can provide sufficient work for many thousands of their kind. I deplore the fact that an attitude of hostility to foreign immigrants has arisen amongst certain public men and sections of the press in Australia. We in this country are not in a position to engage in anti-Semitic campaigns. As a. Gentile, I do not favour a great influx of Jewish people into Australia to form separate colonies. I do not like to see any foreign immigrants forming themselves into national groups. They should mix freely and become assimilated by our population. A. previous government entered into an agreement at a conference in Paris to give sanctuary to 15,000 foreigners. When I was Minister for the Interior. I saw numbers of these new settlers. Many of them had outstanding qualifications, and many of them caine here to establish new industries. They were valuable immigrants. I repeat my objection to any anti-Semitic outcry. A man’s religion is his own affair, and nobody is entitled to interfere with him on that ground. I refer people who decry foreigners to the history of the United States of America. Where would that great nation be to-day had it not carried out a fearless policy of migration two or three generations ago? I recall, as a boy, seeing photographs of crowds of people pouring out of Europe to migrate to America. Unkind people described them as the “ scum of Europe “, but they developed the United States of America and became the fathers and mothers of the men who afterwards won the battles for democracy alongside our own soldiers in World War I. and W orIc War II.
We cannot obtain all the immigrants that we need from Great Britain. That country cannot afford any great depletion of its present population. Our immigrants must be drawn from white races. What is happening to-day in the countries which surround Australia? In Indonesia, a treaty was recently completed between the Netherlands Government and the Indonesians. That gives to the Indonesians a form of selfgovernment which they have not previously enjoyed. The result will be the provision of greater educational facilities and means for their own defence, so that we can expect them before long to be armed like the people of Japan and China. Australia, with its white population of only a little over 7,000,000, is surrounded, not by primitive people as in the past, but by coloured peoples whose educational standards will, within a generation, be equal to our own. They will want to know why this great continent is practically empty. I fear that unless a vigorous policy to bring white immigrants to Australia is pursued, we shall be lucky if Australia is a white country 35 years from now. Without the help of allies we could not hold this country against any reasonably strong power. It, therefore, behoves us not to be shortsighted and parochial in our immigration policy. I believe that we could obtain from, the continent of Europe large numbers of immigrants who would be willing to work on the land ; and if we can get them, we should welcome them in their thousands. I recently returned from a visit to the most drought-stricken area of
New South Wales, where a member of my family has been struggling against the most adverse climatic conditions. But that is not all. I found that it is almost impossible to obtain labour of any kind in that district; no men are available to assist in fencing, scrub-cutting and the other work necessary for the development of holdings. Yet in Europe there are thousands upon thousands of strong, able-bodied men on the verge of starvation who would welcome an opportunity to work even in those outback parts of Australia. Wherever one goes in Australia one hears from primary producers and those engaged in secondary industries the same story - “We cannot get Labour “. That is a new cry, and I admit that it is a better cry than the old one, “ We cannot get work “. Australia offers employment to many thousands of men and women, if they can be brought here.
I stress the need for an immigration policy to cover women. One of the things that are tending to destroy family life and retard the birth-rate is the inability to get domestic help in the homes. Hospitals, too, are greatly in need of women workers. In Europe there are many thousands of women who would gladly accept such jobs in Australia. I know that it will be said that shipping is not available to bring them, here, but recently I saw ships engaged in the Atlantic trade carrying thousands of passengers. Even aircraft carriers are being fitted to carry passengers. Australia should make a determined effort to obtain immigrants before other countries take the cream of those offering and leave the less desirable people to us. I again stress the need to welcome immigrants, -and not treat them as foreigners as has been too often the case in the past. We should extend the hand of friendship to them when they come. We should offer every inducement to them to become Australian citizens actuated by a desire to build up this country and ensure for it a great destiny. I have mentioned again views which I hold strongly. As honorable senators know, I am deeply interested in this subject, and have never hesitated to say what I think should be done.
This is probably the last budget that I shall be privileged to discuss in this chamber. It seems only a few years ago that the then Treasurer (Mr. Menzies) introduced the first Australian budget providing for an expenditure of £100,000,000. At that time, we were warned that we must proceed carefully or Australia would be ruined. But we have lived to see the introduction of a budget providing for an expenditure of £404,000,000. I admit that that increase is largely the result of the war. That there is a corresponding increase of revenue is a healthy sign. It is good to know that the savings of the people have increased by about 200 per cent, and that few people in Australia are out of work. These and other things convince me that many of my old ideas and theories were wrong. I am ready to accept new ideas which will be for the benefit of Australia. 1 hope that the troubles which Australia is now facing will rapidly disappear, and that in years to come this country will make progress and enjoy great prosperity.
.- I should not have spoken except to point out that it is becoming increasingly evident that the “ big guns “ on the Government benches are making a habit of reserving their fire until every one on this side has spoken. That enables Ministers to make statements which often are grossly inaccurate, and to express views which may be quite unwarranted. After Opposition senators had addressed the chamber, the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) delivered a speech in which he used a lot of carefully prepared figures and repeated the same old canard which proved so profitable to the Government in the recent campaign. Later, the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) repeated the same, or similar statements, and advanced the same arguments. An attempt was made by those Ministers to prove that industry did not lack incentive, and that there was no lag in production. The Minister for Supply and Shipping said -
Honorable senators opposite dealt at length with the effect of present rates of taxes on private enterprise. They said that present taxes were retarding the development of industry. The facts do not support their arguments; because the collections of company tax increased from £80,000,000 in 1938-39 to £130.000.000 in 1945-46, whilst tax on profits and similar earnings by persons increased from £165,000,000 in 1938-39 to £225,000,000 in 1945-46.
I do not know where the Minister obtained his information, but his statement that the revenue from income tax alone was £364,000,000 was palpably wrong. Unfortunately, no one on this side had an opportunity to combat his statements, or correct his figures. An examination of the Consolidated Revenue Fund reveals that the tax on the incomes of individuals yielded £139,329,000, whilst from companies £55,000,000 was obtained. The social service contribution accounted for another £20,000,000. Either the Minister’s figures are wrong, or those in the budget papers are wrong. The inference to be drawn from the Minister’s figures was meant to be that because Australia is prosperous there is no diminution of incentive to produce. _ The Minister pointed to the greatly increased yield from income tax compared with 1938-39. It is difficult to make a comparison with that year because uniform income tax was not in operation in 1938-39, but I emphasize that in the intervening years the rate of tax has increased bv 37 per cent. It is all very well for candidates on an election platform to say these things, but it is another matter to repeat them in a deliberative assembly in which there are other men who know the facts. They cannot be convinced that if the rates of tax are much higher the yield from the same turnover will not be much greater. The arguments advanced by the Government and its supporters do not mean anything.
– Then why is the honorable senator so disturbed about them?
– I am pointing out that these statements were made after honorable senators on this side had spoken and there was no opportunity to contradict what Ministers said.
– Some of the statements and figures to which Senator Leckie has referred were made by the Minister for Supply and Shipping when closing the budget debate.
– That is so, but I am concerned about the implications of some of those statements and figures. The
Minister endeavoured to create the impression that the effect of the proposals of the Opposition would be to increase the tax paid by lower-paid workers by from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a week. The Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Menzies,) never said anything which would justify that interpretation. If such statements can be made in this chamber, with the Senate as at present constituted, I hesitate to think what will happen after the 30th June next, when there will be only three senators sitting in opposition. In 1942 the rate of tax on an income of £600 was 45.58d. in the £1, .and 72d. in the £1 on incomes in excess of £600. But in 1944 an income of £300 was assessed at the rate of 44d. in the £1, and incomes in excess of £300 at the rate of 96d. in the £1, or an increase of approximately 37 per cent. The Minister for Supply and Shipping and the Minister for Health and Social Services went to a lot of trouble to emphasize that a reduction of 20 per cent, would be of negligible benefit to taxpayers in the lower income groups, but, at the same time, would give a very appreciable benefit to taxpayers in the higher income groups. However, those Ministers based their arguments upon the erroneous assumption that the Opposition proposed to reduce all rates by 20 per cent. When the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) announced his tax reduction proposals during the recent election campaign, he made the qualification that, taken all in all, the Commonwealth could well afford to make a reduction of 20 per cent, all round, and added that details of the application of the Opposition’s proposed reductions would be announced by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden). The latter did so in his policy speech, and the details lie gave were published not only in the press, hut also in pamphlet form. Those details give the lie to all this “ guiver “ that the Opposition’s tax reduction proposals would be of negligible benefit to taxpayers in the lower income ranges but of considerable benefit to taxpayers in the higher income ranges. It was made clear that under the Opposition’s proposal every taxpayer would benefit by a reduction of not less than 20 per cent. The L ader of the Australian Country party detailed how the proposed reductions would apply to taxpayers in the respective income groups. The Minister .for Health and Social Services illustrated his arguments in respect of a taxpayer with a wife and two children, whilst the Minister for Supply and Shipping dealt with a single taxpayer without dependants. Let us have a look at the figures which were published by the Leader of the Australian Country party in detailing the Opposition’s tax reduction proposals. The manipulation of those figures by Government supporters contributed very largely to the success of the Ministry at the recent elections. However, I shall give the correct figures. On a taxable income of £125 a taxpayer without dependants now pays £3 4s. tax a year, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would be relieved of all tax: That is a reduction of 100 per cent. On a taxable income of £150 he pays £5 16s. a year, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would be relieved of all tax: That is a reduction of 100 per cent. Those reductions are quite appreciable benefits for taxpayers in the lower ranges of income. On a taxable income of £175 a taxpayer without dependants pays £9, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would pay 16s., or a reduction of 91.1 per cent.
– Plus his social service contribution, which the Opposition would have fixed at its own figure.
– The Minister is up to his old game again. He is assuming that the Opposition, had it been returned to office, would have imposed upon taxpayers in the lower ranges of income a social service contribution at the rate which would apply to taxpayers in the higher ranges of income. That assumption is not warranted on any ground whatever. On a taxable income of £200 a year a taxpayer without dependants pays £12 18s. ‘ tax, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would pay £S 14s., thus saving £4 4s., or a reduction of 32.6 per cent. On a taxable income of £250 he pays £26 17s., whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would pay £19 19s., or a saving of £6 18s., a reduction of 25.7 per cent. On a taxable income of £300 a year - and I have no doubt that a taxpayer with such an income would be classified as a worker - the tax levied under the Chifley Government is £40, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals the tax would be reduced to £27 10s. or a saving of £12 10s. ; that is a reduction of 31.3 per cent. On a taxable income of £350 a worker now pays £53 19s. under the Chifley Government, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would pay £34 3s., or a saving of £19 16s. That is a reduction of 36.7 per cent. All of these figures were published during the election campaign. Ministers and Government supporters have no excuse whatever for misrepresenting the Opposition’s tax reduction proposals. On a taxable income of £400 a year a taxpayer without dependants pays £68 7s. tax, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would pay only £41 15s. That is a. saving of £26 12s., or 3S.9 per cent. On a taxable income of £500 a year he would pay £9S 7s. tax, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would pay only £59 5s., or a saving of £39 2s.; that is, a reduction of 38.5 per cent. Do I need to go further through the list in order to show the absurdity of the arguments advanced by the Minister for Supply and Shipping and the Minister for Health and Social Services? The percentage reductions of tax under the Opposition’s proposals on higher taxable incomes would be 28 per cent, on an income of £1,000, 23.2 per cent, on an income of £1,250, 21 per cent, on an income of £1,500 and 20 per cent, on an income of £2,000. Therefore the assumptions made by the two Ministers are not warranted.
– But they served their purpose.
– Yes; the manipulation of the figures propounded by the Opposition during the election campaign accounted very largely for the return of the Government. Opponents of the Government had little opportunity to expose such misrepresentation during the election campaign ; and when we were dealing with the budget papers honorable senators on this side did not have an opportunity to contradict the Minister for Supply and Shipping and the Minister for Health and Social Services when they produced their figures. The latter referred to the social service contribution. We read in the budget papers that whereas the social service contribution for 1945-46 totalled £20,000,000, it is set out at £51,000,000 for the year 1.946-47.
– I referred to the social service contributory tax which was involved in the Opposition parties’ tax reduction proposals placed before the electors; but the honorable senator has ignored that factor in making his comparisons.
– The Minister is working on a false .assumption in that respect. No member of the Opposition parties made any statement which would justify that assumption. I am still at a loss to know how the Minister accounts for it. The statement on which he bases his assumption was a pure invention which was circulated to the detriment of the Opposition parties during the election campaign. It is now being canvassed in the Senate. Where will the Government obtain £51,000,000 which ii estimates will be required to finance social service benefits in 1946-47? That money will be derived from taxes imposed upon the workers.- It is evident from the budget papers that a person with an income of £125 is to pay £3 4s. tax a year, and a person with an income of £150 will pay £5 16s. a year, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals those incomes would be completely exempt from tax. A taxpayer with a wife and two children with an income of £250 will pay £2 2s. a year, whereas under the Opposition’s proposals he would pay £1 4s. a year. My speech is more of a protest against the Government’s methods than anything else. I do not say that the Minister for Health deliberately waited till the finish of the debate so that no one on this side should be able to answer him, because, as a rule, he is quite willing to stand up to what he says, nor do I blame the Minister for Supply and Shipping, because he had to close the debate, but I do point out that, we had no opportunity of rebutting some of their extravagant statements. I am taking the earliest opportunity I have had of telling the whole truth about the matter so that there shall be no mistake about it. It must be realized that statements like those of both honorable gentlemen do not stop within these four walls. They are printed in Hansard. I do not know whether the Senate was on the air at that time.
– It was not.
– Anyway, such statements take a lot of catching up with. I have made a perfect answer to their statements. The figures that I have given were prepared before the general elections, and they demonstrate clearly that their claims are unwarranted.
– Let us be clear. The honorable senator has not given any details of the Opposition’s proposed contributory tax in his speech to-day.
– The policy on which we appealed to the people was that there should be an overall reduction of income tax by 20 per cent. That promise was amplified by the Leader of the Australian Country party, “ who was authorized by the Leader of the Opposition to show how the proposed income tax reductions would operate in detail.
– But the people did not believe them.
– I know they did not. That was because of the persuasive ways of the Prime Minister.
– Does the honorable senator deny that his party intimated that there would be a new contributory tax?
– Of course I deny it. My party said that all social services would be better provided for by a social services levy.
– The honorable senator has told us nothing about that to-day.
– I know, but the Minister has told us a lot - something that he inferred, but not something that we said. It is all very well for Ministers to rise in this chamber and say in answer to pertinent questions, “ You ought to know that we do not answer questions relating to policy; when the Government has a policy it will present it to the Senate”, and twenty or so minutes later, have the infernal cheek to rise and say to me, “What is your party’s policy on social services ? “ When we are in power we shall have a policy which we will present to the Parliament and the people. It is useless for honorable senators opposite to harp on the theme, “ What did you do ? “ When we were in power we made this country prosperous. Every one could buy what he wanted at cheap prices, and no one went short. In spite of all the talk to-day about Australia’s prosperity, all we have is lots of money and nothing to buy. Yet the Minister for Supply and Shipping boasts “ We are prosperous. Every one is in employment “. I suppose that it is true that every one is employed; but it is easy to employ every one if three men are put on one man’s job. That does not produce anything. That is the way to bankruptcy. Until the Government can show that the average output of the worker in Australia is better than what it was, its Ministers ought to keep quiet about full employment. There is no excuse for the persistent misrepresentation of the figures that were presented to the people by the Opposition parties during the election campaign. The figures were published in the newspapers, mentioned in speeches from the public platforms, and set out in pamphlets. I should have thought that, after having won so easily, Ministers would have found room in their hearts to be chivalrous towards their political opponents.
– Charity !
– Charity if the honorable senator likes, but I prefer chivalry. I am surprised that honorable senators opposite, instead of being chivalrous to their opponents, persist in repeating the canards that they used against them in the campaign. Now that I have shown that their claims are false, I hope that they will not persist in them. I hope, too, that Ministers will speak early in future debates, and not leave it to “ back-seat drivers “ to state the policy of the Government.
– There were Opposition speakers after I spoke. Senator Gibson followed me. There were several others.
– The” honorable senator must know that the figures that he presented in his speech were contained in a statement that had been prepared for him in advance. I think Senator James McLachlan was the only Opposition senator to speak after Senator McKenna spoke, although I may be wrong about Senator Gibson.
– Yes, I did follow Senator McKenna.
– But what opportunity would Senator Gibson have, on the spur of the moment, to examine and answer the Minister’s figures?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should supply the Opposition with advance copies of our speeches?
– In excusing himself the honorable senator accuses himself. He knows as well as I do that he had a carefully-prepared speech. One had only to look at it to see that it was carefully typewritten. Everything the honorable senator does is carefully calculated and prepared. I do not think the Minister for Supply and Shipping was in the chamber when his colleague spoke, but he very largely repeated what his colleague had said.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in reviving a previous debate. The honorable senator is referring to matters dealt with last week.
– I only say that the Minister for Supply and Shipping repeated exactly what was said by his colleague, and that in doing so he repeated his fallacies, inaccuracies and misrepresentations.
Sitting suspended from 4.57 to 8 p.m.
– In an endeavour to bolster up his statement regarding the prosperity of this country, the Minister for Supply and Shipping cited income tax figures, but I point out that whereas in 1942-43 the income tax was £20 a head of the population, it is now £27 a head.
I understand that in accordance with a caucus decision, the proposal that Australia should ratify the Bretton Woods Agreement is to be buried without the benefit of the clergy, and that there is very little legislation left for consideration before Parliament goes into recess. I had intended to refer to several other matters, but as I understand certain honorable members and honorable senators are anxious to get away, I shall defer my remarks until a later occasion.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the document quoted from by Senator Leckie during his speech be laid on the table.
– I lay on the table the following document: -
Policy speech delivered by the Right Honorable A. W. Fadden during the recent elections.
– There is an urgent need for this Government to give priority to water conservation schemes, and more attention might have been devoted to this matter in the budget speech. It is of prime importance to this country if .a successful migration scheme is to be carried out. We shall not be able to bring many migrants here until we do something about improving our water supply, which, it is generally recognized, is inadequate for the population that we consider to be essential to safeguard us against invasion. The great lesson that the war taught us was that Australia is most vulnerable. The old idea of safety because of our geographical isolation has been dissipated by our war experiences. I support wholeheartedly the statement that long before the close of the present century Australia must double its present population if it is to achieve any degree of security. In spite of the development of atomic bombs and other modern weapons, in the final analysis this country can be defended only by the individual. To attain our population objective as hurriedly as possible, whilst at the same time observing adequate precautions in regard to the types of people that we desire to bring to Australia, we must speed up our migration schemes and, concurrently, provide for large-scale water conservation. I regret that in the allocation of portfolios, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) did not charge a young and vigorous Minister with the responsibility of spurring on and co-ordinating the water conservation schemes of the various States. For that task I had in mind our young friend, Senator Armstrong, but I notice that he has been made Minister for Munitions - a dying ministry in view of the fact that we are now in our second year of peace, and a portfolio which I consider does not warrant the full time of any Minister. Many of us have seen or read of the Tennessee Valley scheme in the United States of America, which was brought to fruition only after drastic steps had been taken by the American Federal authorities. Like Australia, America has a multiplicity of State governments, and the Tennessee Valley scheme would never have been undertaken had it been left to the various States concerned. Therefore, now that there is clear evidence that the Commonwealth proposes to hang on to the purse strings of the States by means of uniform taxation, the Government is under an obligation to bring the water conservation schemes of the States into line. Australia must look ahead if it hopes to pursue an active migration policy, and the importance of water conservation to the success of such a policy cannot be overemphasized.
I join with other honorable senators on this side of the chamber in deprecating the fact that little relief has been given in the budget to the over-burdened taxpayers of this country. I believe that a substantial reduction of income tax should have been allowed. The Minister for Supply and Shipping has referred to that famous colt “ Incentive “ that has been saddled many times in this paddock; but the fact remains that incentive is sadly lacking to-day, and for that I blame excessive taxes. Until the Government takes drastic action to ease this burden, I am afraid that citizens in all walk.* of life will not give of their best. I join with other honorable senators in urging the Minister to make renewed efforts to bring about a reduction of the income tax at the earliest possible moment, in conformity with the promise given by the Prime Minister that taxes would be reviewed from time to time. I believe that now is the time for a reduction.
– in reply - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) deplored the short time allowed to this cham ber for the discussion of this measure, but I remind him that the present state of affairs is not peculiar to this Administration At the end of every sitting period the position has been the same. I recall the time when I was one of only four members of the Opposition, and the “gag” was applied so that certain legislation could be passed speedily. Bills were put through the Senate like sausages through a machine, and little consideration was shown then by honorable senators opposite who were in occupation of the treasury bench, to members of the Opposition. “What is the remedy for this state of affairs? It is not suggested, I assume, that the procedure followed over the years should have been changed during the war; but I agree that more consideration should be given to this chamber in regard to the passage of important measures. We have not been treated fairly.
Senator Foll referred to petrol rationing, and claimed that rationing had been abandoned in Great Britain and in New Zealand. I am not aware that Great Britain has abandoned petrol rationing.
– It was reported in the press.
– The only press report I saw indicated that rationing would be abolished early next year. I point out too, that a form of petrol rationing has been retained in New Zealand, when the Petrol Controller allocates supplies to the major oil companies and the companies themselves carry out the rationing. Six months ago, I considered the abolition of petrol rationing, but inquiries which I directed to the British Government and the oil companies showed that it would not be possible to guarantee the supply of sufficient petrol to warrant the termination of the scheme. The object of keeping the scheme in operation is to assure an equitable distribution of available petrol to all consumers. I do not suggest for a. moment that petrol stocks in Australia are seriously depleted. In fact, the position now is satisfactory, but the Government would appear very foolish if, three months hence, stocks had diminished so greatly as to necessitate the re-imposition of rationing.
Senator Foll referred to the pegging of land and house values at the levels which applied in 1939. The honorable senator also said deliberately that he took no exception to wage-pegging. I point out to him that the Government could not continue wage and other controls while exempting land and house values. Nothing could have a more adverse effect upon the national economy and the cost of living index figures than the abolition of controls on land and house values. I can find no better example of the folly of the honorable senator’s suggestion than the events which occurred in America when such controls were removed. Rents soared by 100 per cent, overnight. The same thing would happen in Australia if the controls were removed. I agree with the honorable senator’s suggestion that consideration should be given to allowing an increase of values proportionate to increases of the prices of building materials and other commodities. That would be reasonable, and the Government will consider the proposal. However, the removal of all controls on property values during the present acute housing shortage would be disastrous to the national economy.
Both the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator Foll referred to the Bretton Woods Agreement, and criticized the Government for not ratifying it immediately. My answer to the honorable gentlemen will he brief. Without wishing to offend them, I remind them that the people of Australia recently expressed their confidence in this Government at the elections. That is an indication to the Opposition, whose candidates for the Senate were severely rebuffed, that the people believe that the handling of international agreements, whether financial or otherwise, can safely be left to this Government. I was asked in this House to-day whether a decision in regard to the Bretton Woods Agreement had been made by the Government party. A decision was made by the party to-day. I have no desire to evade my share of responsibility regarding that decision. It will be carried out.
– What was the decision ?
– It was to refer the matter to a conference of the Labour party.
– What conference ?
– 1 shall not go into details. The information will be published in the newspapers to-morrow morning. Honorable senators will be able to read about it then. They need not worry about that. Senator Foll also commented on the Government’s immigration policy. I agree with what he said, and I am particularly pleased by his references to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). It is refreshing to hear a member of the Opposition express approval of what a Minister has done. The Minister is undoubtedly doing a great job, despite all the impediments and restrictions consequent upon the war. He has many difficulties to overcome in relation to the shortage of shipping and other matters. Senator Leckie complained that all the “ big guns “ of the Government were brought into action at the end of the debate. I remind him that I could not have spoken at any other stage without closing the debate. Nobody should understand that more clearly than the honorable senator. On the subject of company tax. Senator Leckie quoted from a report of a speech that. I made in this chamber recently. I think he obtained his authority from an unrevised Hansard proof, which is confidential and not supposed to be quoted. I had not corrected that proof. In fairness to the honorable senator, I say that, having read that report, he was justified in making the charge which he levelled against me. The statement from which he quoted referred to company income, not tax. I said that, prior to the deduction of taxes, company income in .1938-39 totalled £S9,000,000 and that company income in 1945-46 totalled £139,000,000. I am prepared to accept the blame for any misunderstanding, because I had not corrected the Hansard proof of my speech. I also said that, in 193S-39, profits and similar earnings by persons totalled £165,000,000 and that. in 1945-46. the total was £225,000.000.
– Do those figures represent all the profits that were made by individuals?
– No. I did not say that at all.
– Then, what did the Minister say?
– I said that, before taxes were deducted, company income in 193S-39 amounted to £89,000,000, and in 1945-46 it amounted to £139,000,000.
– There is some mistake.
– If there were any mistake, it would be on the part of the Treasury officials who supplied me with this information. If Senator Leckie were in my position and were supplied with the same information, I believe that he would be prepared to vouch for the accuracy of it. I vouch for the accuracy of it.
– That may represent some group of companies. Those figures could not be the total company income for Australia.
– I repeat that profits and similar earnings by persons in 1938-39 totalled £165,000,000, and in 1945-46 totalled £225,000,000. That was the statement I made.
– That must be ludicrously wrong.
– Much stress was laid by Senator Leckie on certain statements that I made during the election campaign. During the budget debate, I replied to charges by honorable senators opposite that statements I had made during the election campaign were false. I admitted making certain statements, and endeavoured to explain my reasons for making them. One statement was that social services were costing Australia £53,000,000 a year, compared with £17,000,000 a year when the Labour party took office in 1941. I also said that, with the additional costs of dental, medical and other services, the cost in 1946-47 would be approximately £66,000,000. I made that statement on a public platform. I also said that the abolition of the means test would cost the Government £46,000,000 a year. My statement was based on information supplied to me by the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna). The figure has since been amended, and I now understand that the extra cost would be £42,000,000. Another statement which I made was that the cost of providing endowment in respect of the first child in each family would be £20,000,000 a year. The revised figures give a total cost of £62,000,000 a year for the abolition of the means test and the extension of child endowment as advocated by the Opposition, compared with an amount of £66,000,000 which I mentioned during the election campaign.
– We do not mind a difference of £1,000,000 or so.
– No, not when the honorable senator is making statements. I also asked on public platforms the question which I , asked in the Senate a few days ago. How would the Opposition find the huge sums of money which would be needed to finance itssocial services plans? The implementation of its proposals would add £62,000,000 a year to the £66,000,000 for which provision is already made by thisGovernment, making a total of approximately £130,000,000. How would this huge increase be financed? The only indication given by the leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Menzies), was his declaration that social services should be financed on a contributory basis. Hia words on this subject were reported by the Sydney Morning Herald as follows : -
We therefore say that in future incomeearners should each contribute to a contributory social insurance scheme; and that every contributor will have the right to his benefit without means test at all.
Senator Leckie said this afternoon that persons in certain income groups were exempt from income tax. He referred to people receiving £125 a year. Under the Opposition’s social services scheme, a person earning only 10s. a week would have to contribute to a social services fund if he wanted to qualify for benefits. Consider how the New Zealand, contributory social service scheme is financed. Contributions are levied at the rate of ls. 6d. in the £1 and it will be seen that a man earning £5 a week would be compelled to contribute 7s. 6d. a week to a social services fund. Honorable senators opposite may call such a levy by any name they like, but the fact remains that it would be an additional tax.
– The taxpayers are paying that tax now.
– They are not paying it. I wish to make that point clear because Senator Leckie took exception to :my statement. He realized that a mistake had been made by the Opposition parties during the election campaign when they advocated a contributory scheme. When the leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Menzies) discovered at Perth what the public reaction to his party’s proposals was he said that the matter could be dealt with by adjusting the basic wage. No social service scheme has ever been taken into consideration in compiling the basic wage. The late Judge O’Mara, referring to this matter, said that there would be a truer basic wage if it were related to the needs of a man and his wife. Those comments bore out my statement that if endowment were provided for the first child there would ultimately be an application to the court for a reduction of the basic wage by 12s. 6d. a week, because that sum had been allowed for the first child in computing the basic wage.
Senator Allan MacDonald referred to the need for the conservation of water in Australia, but I point out that that is primarily a. matter for the State Governments. As honorable senators know, the power of the Commonwealth in this matter is merely that of making money available. I agree that a comprehensive scheme of water conservation is necessary, and that such a scheme would do more to encourage immigrants to come to Australia than almost anything else that might be done. Conferences have been held on this subject, and surveys will be undertaken in the near future. I remind honorable senators opposite who say that the present Government should do something in -this matter, that the need has existed for a century, but little to meet it was done by previous governments. Already surveys have been undertaken in Victoria and New South Wales, and only last week an agreement was entered into providing for a water conservation scheme for the northern part of New South Wales. Action has been taken in Queensland also. I assure, the ‘Senate that anything that the Commonwealth Government can do to assist in conserving water will be done. One cause of delay is that there is disputation between the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria as to the rights of the respective States in respect of certain waters. I am confident, however, that the difficulties will be overcome in the near future. Should the negotiations be successful, .proposals will have to be submitted, to the Parliament of New South Wales and Victoria as well as to the Commonwealth Parliament within a definite period. The Government has not been neglectful in this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bil] read a first time.
Senator ASHLEY (New South WalesMinister for Supply and Shipping) 108.37].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for the appropriation of revenue for the ordinary services of the various departments. The expenditure proposals of the Government have already been covered in the budget debate and it is not proposed to deal now with the various items in detail. Any explanations that may be desired by honorable senators will be furnished at the committee stage. The bill provides for an appropriation of £79,393,000 for the services of the year 1946-47, to which should be added the amount already granted under Supply Acts Nos. 17 and 53 of 1946, namely, £89,S56,000, making the total amount £169,249,000, which is the estimated expenditure from annual apropriations for ordinary services for the year 1946-47, as set out in detail in the second schedule to the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed t’o.
First schedule agreed to.
Second schedule -
Proposed vote, £235,400.
– Prior to the war it was found that the demand for copies of Hansard was greater than the number of copies made available to members of the Parliament, and there was some talk of increasing the issue. When w.ar broke out the staff of the Government Printing Office was kept fully engaged on war work, and nothing was done in the matter. I should like to know whether the Estimates provide for the issue of a greater number of copies of Hansard to senators and members of the House of Representatives.
[S.40’. - There is no provision in the appropriation for the supply of extra numbers of Hansard to members of the Parliament, but I shall bring the request of the honorable senator to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley), with a view to his request being complied with.
.- The estimated’ expenditure for the Joint House Department is £30,200. As the parliamentary refreshment-rooms are under the control of the Joint House Department, I wish to refer to the deterioration of the service, which must be apparent to all honorable senators. I should like to know whether the increased vote this year is likely to increase the amenities made available to members. There was a time when the Parliament was regarded as the best club in the Commonwealth, but now it is probably one of the worst clubs.
– As it would be advisable for the President of the Senate to deal with the matter raised by the honorable senator, I ask that consideration of the pro-‘ posed vote be postponed until he can. be present.
Proposed vote postponed.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vole, £1,868,200.
.- T. wish to refer to the vote for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It is not my intention to deal with the recent appointment of Mr. Mountjoy to the executive of that body, but to the research work which it carries out. The sum of £600,000, derived from a levy of 2s. a bale on wool, is available to the council, and, in addition, £6,000,000 has been filched from the wool-growers of this country and put into Consolidated Revenue. Not sufficient research work is carried out in connexion with animal diseases, because the staff is not nearly sufficient to do the work that is required. Losses of stock from animal diseases are enormous. Diseases among dairy cattle are reducing the value of the herds, whilst losses in sheep from entrotoxema and toxema jaundice and other unknown diseases are reaching enormous proportions in Victoria, and probably in the other States also. Research work in connexion with animal diseases cannot be carried out effectively in a laboratory. Most of the work must be undertaken at field stations, where scientists can deal with diseases as they arise, so that its earlier stages can be diagnosed and early treatment begun. At present a stock-owner simply sends the affected part of the intestines of sheep to the laboratory, where a test is made. There the attendants endeavour to diagnose the disease; but, invariably, the stock-owner receives a reply some weeks later that there are no signs of disease in the parts supplied, or that it is a case of jaundice for which there is no cure. Experts should be obtained to establish treatment stations. Then, we could reduce the present heavy losses of dairy cows and sheep. Such stations could also deal effectively with diseases in sheep, such as dermatitis, which has caused serious loss to the wool industry. The losses from animal diseases are much greater than is generally believed. I sincerely hope that the Minister in charge of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will establish effective machinery to solve the problems confronting the man on the land, and reduce present losses by providing research stations as I suggest.
– I point out to Senator Gibson that the appropriation in respect of the division of animal health and production last year was £76,466, whereas it is now proposed to appropriate £133,590 under this heading. This division must give attention to two developmental phases : First, the development of the biological work for the wool and sheep industry ; and, secondly, the development of the work in respect of animal production, which has been hampered in the past mainly by the lack of suitably trained scientific workers. There is a need for vast improvement of the standards of animal production, and intensive research is necessary into the control of bacterial and parasitic diseases in the sheep pastoral industry. The investigations of the control of live-stock diseases have been continued with considerable success. The demand for pleuropneumonia vaccine from northern Australia has continued unabated, and penicillin is being used on an increasing scale for the control of mastitis. Animal breeding and production investigations have been expanded, and in addition to more intensive work on wool-producing sheep, now embrace research on beef, cattle and poultry.
– For several years past I have inquired what progress has been made in the cultivation of tea seedlings for the production of tea hushes. I have done so not as a critic, but because I am anxious to see tea production undertaken on a large scale in Australia. 1 believe that we have favorable climatic conditions for the cultivation of tea. I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) to obtain the latest report dealing with the cultivation of tea seedlings. I should also like to know what steps the Government proposes to take to carry on scientific investigations on this subject.
We are asked to appropriate the sum of £45,550 in respect of fisheries investigations. I should like the Minister to supply to me at his earliest convenience the latest report dealing with pelagic surveys of our southern ocean, especially along that part of the coast-line from Esperance to Albany. I understand that these surveys have been conducted for a considerable time; and people interested in the expansion of the industry would like to he informed of the results of the survey. They also wish to know whether they can obtain assistance in the expansion of our fisheries.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Supply and Shipping)
MacDonald that the appropriation in respect of the division of plant industry has been increased this year to £112,590, compared with £82,000 appropriated under this heading last year. The programme of work for this division embraces investigations into management and improvement of pastures for wool production, studies of native vegetation for sheep and cattle feed, investigations into pasture and fodder cropproduction under irrigation and the management of irrigated pastures andcrops, and examination of problems of dairy pastures. The programme also includes a survey of northern Australia with respect to herbage pasture and other vegetation with relation to their utilization and development, the introduction and trials of plants to determine their work in sown pastures or as crops, &c, examination of weeds problems, particularly with a view to the control of noxious plants such as skeleton weed, hoary cress, nut grass, &c., surveys of selected areas such as north Queensland to determine the presence of medicinal plants or other useful plants, and many other aspects. In reply to the honorable senator’s inquiries with respect to the fisheries industry, I point out that the appropriation under this heading has been increased from £31,336 last year to £49,550 this year. I shallbe glad to make the report on the latest pelagic surveys available to him.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Postponed vote -
Proposed vote, £235,400.
.- Now that Mr. President has returned to the chamber, I should like to repeat what 1 said earlier with respect to the management of the parliamentary refreshmentrooms and the provision of comforts generally to honorable members and honorable senators. The standard of these comforts has deteriorated during the last two years. I was wondering whether under the new regime there was any possibility of regaining the standard which we enjoyed previously, and which is now enjoyed by members of State parliaments. I know that certain difficulties with respect to staffing exist; but it must be apparent to all honorable members and honorable senators that the general service given by the Joint House Committee in the refreshment-rooms has distinctly deteriorated. Very often, our rooms have been invaded by strangers. Are such conditions to be allowed to continue ? Is the new regime permitted to flout the wishes and interfere with privacy of honorable members and honorable senators? I contrast the standard of the general services provided for members with the much higher standard which prevailed when I was elected to the Senate twelve years ago. There is not the slightest doubt that there has been a distinct deterioration of the standard of comforts and conveniences accorded to honorable members and honorable senators, with the result that our club, instead of being hailed, as it once was, as the best in Australia, has now deteriorated to the standard of a secondclass country “ pub “.
– Reference has been made in a recent report of the Auditor-General with regard to the accounting methods employed in the parliamentary refreshmentrooms, and several reports have been published in the press dealing with staff troubles. Whilst I endorse Senator Leckie’s remarks, I suggest that the Joint House Committee, when reorganizing the refreshment-rooms, should also consider the provision of certain amenities and privileges for honorable members who are obliged to spend their week-ends in Canberra. At present, Canberra offers few, if any, amenities to honorable members o.nd honorable senators from distant States when they are obliged to spend their week-ends here. I am not asking that the bar should be opened over the week-end, or anything of that kind. But the means are at hand, and with proper organization the necessary staff could be obtained, to provide reasonable amenities for honorable members and honorable senators during the week-ends.
– I have always regarded Senator Leckie as a man of sound judgment, and also as a humorist. He has the gift of humour highly developed, possibly be cause he has Scotch blood in his veins. But he is also possessed of a vivid imagination. I have not previously heard so stupid a remark from a so-called reasonable honorable member, or honorablesenator, than the statement by Senator Leckie that the amenities provided in Parliament House are on the level of a second-class country “ pub “. That remark is absolutely stupid and silly ; and I could apply other adjectives to it were 1 not speaking in this chamber. I notice that when elections take place there is a distinct effort on the part of honorable members and honorable senators to secure re-election.
– And some fail.
– Possibly that may be the explanation for Senator Leckie’s outburst, and the attitude of one, or two, other honorable senators who seem to have become soured by their defeat at the recent elections. That may be the explanation. On the other hand, having been here for a number of years, their tastes may have developed to a high degree. When they were first elected to the Parliament they were humble people ; but, after enjoying the amenities of Parliament House for a number of years, their tastes have possibly become ‘highly developed, and they now want something very much better than they enjoyed originally. I say definitely that the amenities provided in Parliament House are of a very high standard. During my regime as President I have done everything in my power to improve them. Through certain action that I took, an office has been provided for each honorable senator. There was a time when honorable senators did not have a room- in Parliament House, and, indeed, very often could not get a bed in any hotel, or hostel. On several occasions just after I was elected to the Senate I was obliged to wait until civilians were turned out of their beds in order that 1 might be accommodated. Every honorable member and honorable senator should be treated in a proper manner, and every member of the Parliament should be provided with an office in which to do his work. I have achieved that objective for honorable senators, and I have urged members of the House of Representatives to continue fighting for the provision of a room for each, honorable member. Every tin-pot capitalist employing two, three, or four employees supplies himself with an office and a typiste. The Labour Government has provided a secretary for every member of the Parliament who requires the services of one. That is no mean achievement; and Senator Leckie was grossly unfair in the strain of his remarks, because he gave excuse to the press to continue its attacks on the institution of Parliament.
For a period grave deterioration occurred in the refreshment-rooms until we appointed a new manager and took certain steps. There was deterioration in many ways. I do not want to say too much about that. Senator Leckie knows about it. Every one must admit that since Mr. Johnson has been in charge there has been a vast improvement in the general condition in the refreshment rooms. I think that it is entirely wrong, and that it is hitting below the belt, for an honorable senator to make such an attack as Senator Leckie has made. We have reserved practically all the floor space of the refreshment-rooms for members. The principle which I have observed is that this building is first of all a parliament house and that members of Parliament should be considered first. They must come first. No club would stand what we have stood for many years. We have taken certain action in order that members shall have privacy. I do not know any strangers who go into the club rooms. If they are pointed out to me, they will be put out, neck and crop. Senator Leckie knows what we have done at the bar. Previously, strangers could, and did, go there. Certain men - I will not mention names - used to go there for their own purposes. But Mr. Speaker and I have made the refreshmentrooms more private than they were. How can Senator Leckie say that conditions have deteriorated, in view of the action that we have taken, and of which Senator Leckie himself is aware? If members of the public could see what we have done, they would say that this is the finest club in- Australia. I do not want to leave it. I want to stay here for many years. Senator Leckie does not want to leave it either, but the people, of course, have said that he must. I am sorry that he is going, because he is smart and humorous He is usually cool, calm and collected, and he generally talks common sense. If he can show me where strangers enter to disturb the privacy of members, I will take action, and so will Mr. Speaker. Who are they? Where are they? What are they? As a matter of fact, we have gone so far under the new regime, if Senator Leckie likes to term it so, to stop every one but members from using the dining-room, the bar, or the tea lounge. Senator Leckie knows that. He knows the improvements that we have made.
As far as amenities are concerned, we have been handicapped because we could not get money to improve them. We have asked for funds for this purpose on many occasions. Plans were drawn for certain improvements and submitted in a certain quarter. A certain sum was offered to us. We took it And used it, and we have improved, conditions to the limit allowed by that expenditure. We should, like to do more, but housing comes first, and rightly so. When houses are wanted it would ill-become me or the Speaker to insist on the expenditure of more money on this building. Housing first, certainly; but, if we can get money to improve the conditions in this building, they will be improved.
The food served in the dining-room is indeed good. I know that many people want to dine there. I say to Senator Leckie and to all other honorable senators, to the people in the galleries and to the public that members of Parliament are grossly maligned. They are abused and accused time after time of wasting public funds in order to give themselves good meals and splendid amenities at the expense of the people. Let me say that to the public, if the press will use it. I know that the press is not kindly disposed towards me or Mr. Speaker. Because of the peculiarities of Canberra and because there are no refreshment-rooms nearby, Parliament House has become almost a cafe or a hotel. We have had to accept that. Forty per cent, of the business done is with members and the rest is with the press, the staff and strangers who come to Canberra. This Parliament is losing money on every meal it provides. We lose money because this place has been turned into a hotel or a cafe. That is the position. When the Auditor-General criticizes the management of this place, it goes out to the public that members are using public funds in order to give themselves good meals. Yet 60 per cent, of the meals are for other than members. I arn getting hot under the collar ! I must keep cool. Let us deal with the matter calmly.
– You created facilities for those who were excluded from the bar.
– Yes, in order to preserve, shall I say, the privileges of members. In order to preserve the privacy of members, we divided the bar into two. We made another bar below within the precincts of this House, and there the press can have their amber liquor and buy cigarettes, if there are any to buy. The staff of this House can go to that bar. That is an amenity not previously provided. We thought of the workers. They can go to that bar. Of course, the men associated with the press did not like going down there; but we had to do it, because we believe in privacy for members. After all, this is a parliament house. Members of Parliament come from every part of Australia, and their comfort and convenience should be considered. When they come here there should be accommodation for them. If I had my way, this Parliament House would accommodate every man and woman member of Parliament. There would be rooms for all of them, including bedrooms. They would be supplied with board and lodging right here in the House, without having to run around Canberra looking for rooms. The refreshment-room should be for members. We should not be serving meals to every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes along. If I had my way, I would restrict the use of Parliament House to members of Parliament. It would not be a secretariat. That has been one of my biggest problems in my three years as President. Continually Ministers and members are asking me and Mr. Speaker for rooms. Continually officials, who should be accommodated in a secretariat, are encroaching upon this House. On occasions they have gone into the rooms of honorable senators. One honorable senator complained that his room had been broken into and some of his papers disturbed. Such is the demand of officials for accommodation that on one occasion, on the House of Representatives side, one man broke into an office and said he was going to stay there. Mr. Speaker said, “You are not ! “, and lie was turned out. The next day he was back again. The table and chair were taken out in an attempt to “ fix “ him, but he brought his own table and chair and locked himself in the room. Do honorable senators know what had to be done to beat this persistent official - this squatter? The lock on the door had to be changed. Those are the things we have to put up with. Have you raised your voices as honorable senators and said, “ We must have fit and proper accommodation for members of this Parliament ? “ Have Ministries formed from the parties on either side been called upon to satisfy your needs? You have come squealing to the President and gone moaning to Mr. Speaker, but very little has been done in Cabinets to give fit and proper accommodation to every member.
I am no snob. I have walked the roads of Australia carrying my swag. I have been a mill man, a factory hand, a sailor, and I have sold pianos and insurance. 1 have been a “ spruiker “ outside a picture show. I have worked down a mine. I have had many different jobs. I say with that wealth of experience covering 62 years of life that the Parliament House of the Commonwealth .as a club is still the best in Australia. I know thousands of men and women anxious to come here. The conditions can and will be improved if, instead of niggardly, foolish criticism, we get the assistance of honorable members to make this place what it should be, the best of clubs. That is my answer to the stupid cheap gibe of Senator Leckie that. Parliament House is like a second-rate country “ pub “. That is futile and it only gives food to the people who are continually decrying the Parliament and parliamentarians.
.- I regret very much having raised the ire of the President (Senator Brown), although it was rather refreshing to hear him break three years of silence. But his statements that my remarks are stupid, and uncalled for are a different matter. I direct his attention to the fact that he talked too long. He started off very well. His abuse was immense, and up to his old standard, when he was spruiking outside a picture show; but he talked too long. He acknowledged that there was some force in what I said, because he remarked. “ I have tried to improve the position “.
– Certainly. .
– How can you improve something perfect?
– I did not say it was perfect.
– The honorable senator said that he and Mr. Speaker had asked for money - what for, except to improve things here? Well, that is the answer to everything he has said, except his abuse. I do not care much for his cheap gibe that I am complaining because I am disappointed at the result of the general elections and must go away from here next June. That is unchivalrous.
– I said that I am sorry that the honorable senator is going. Is that not chivalrous?
– Well, we both agree. I was not attacking the President. I was talking about the management of the Joint House Committee, of which, I assume, he was only one. He 3aid that for a while the service did go off, but that it got back to its high standard again. All I say is that it is not up to the standard of five years ago or even less. If instead of abusing me when 1 call attention to something with the intention of benefiting us all, he said, “ In the circumstances we will try to improve things”, it. would be sufficient. T do not desire to indulge in a “ slang-whanging “ of the President just because he happens to be in the chamber at the moment. I need not go further into the matter except to emphasize that there is a great deal in what I have said. If the House Committee wishes to look after the convenience of honorable senators and honorable members, there are still many improvements to which it could give consideration.
– I am glad that Senator Leckie concluded his remarks in a more subdued tone. Apparently he has calmed down somewhat. Naturally, one is inclined to become rather upset, and to show anger when an honorable senator occupying the position of Deputy Leader of the Opposition makes the utterly stupid remark that, the parliamentary refreshment-rooms are on a par with a second-class country “ pub “. If that is not a stupid statement I do not know the English language. I am sure that every honorable senator will agree that Parliament House, as a club, is one of the best in Australia. I do not deny that there is room for improvement. We asked for a certain sum of money, but we met with a refusal, so we used the money that we had in what we regarded as the best possible manner. 1 admit that there is room for improvement in the accommodation of members and officers of the Parliament. Improvements could also be made in the kitchen and in other parts of the building, but that does not warrant, the statement that the parliamentary refreshment-rooms are on a par with a second-class country “ pub “. I realize that members of Parliament probably have somewhat higher tastes than the average worker on the roads or on the railways, who carries his lunch of bread, butter, cheese and an onion, with him; but so far as the menu is concerned, I say candidly to Senator Leckie, that he would have to pay a lot more for similar meals in any private establishment. In fairness to the manager of the refreshmentrooms, I should like to make it clear that both Mr. Speaker and I hold him in the highest regard. Nobody has worked harder to restore the refreshment-rooms to their former standard than has Mr. Johnson. He has been “ up against it “. During the war, women were employed as waitresses. The then President, the late Senator Cunningham, gave way reluctantly on that point, and only on the understanding that when the war was over ex-servicemen would take the place of the women. That undertaking has been carried out to the letter. Unfortunately, many ex-servicemen who have been given jobs in the refreshment-rooms and elsewhere in the building have not been up to standard. To others, a course of training has been given, and upon the completion of that training, some of them have gone to Sydney, Melbourne, and’ other places where they can get higher wages. The Parliament, of course, pays award rates of wages, although it is not bound by the terms of any award. Private enterprise, however, not only pay3 award wages, but also a little more, on the quiet, to outstanding employees. I know of one employee in Canberra, who, in addition to the award rate prescribed for his job, is guaranteed so much a week for overtime. Whether or not he actually works the overtime I do not know, but I know that he gets the extra money. We cannot do that. In the new year, when wage-pegging i3 lifted, there will .be a full investigation of wages and classifications in this building.
– Another handicap is that continuity of employment cannot be guaranteed to the refreshment-room employees.
– That is true. Parliament meets for a few months, and then goes into recess. When Parliament is in session, provision has to be made in the refreshment-rooms for 76 members of the House of Representatives and 36 senators, as well as their wives and friends. The result is that the staff of the refreshmentrooms works at high pressure. Then Parliament adjourns, and few members remain in Canberra. There may be an occasional Cabinet meeting or a conference, but the business of the refreshmentrooms during recess is never so extensive as when Parliament is sitting. In that way, the parliamentary refreshmentrooms are totally different from an hotel. When the rush period is over men have to be put off. Our endeavour now is to form a nucleus of employees in the refreshmentrooms so that a small trained staff will be in readiness when Parliament meets. The difficulties are tremendous. Everywhere there is a demand for increased wages. To some degree, the Parliament is bound by Public Service Board awards and conditions, and has not the liberty that private enterprise enjoys.
To Senator Collett, I wish to state that continually I have fought to have the amenities of this building made available to any honorable member who wishes to use them at week-ends. Senator Tangney has also brought this matter up before the House Committee. We fought to have the Library kept open, and a man was stationed there one week-end; but I think only one member used it. Although very few members remain in Canberra at week-ends, I am in favour of paying employees to look after them. I believe that if the amenities were improved, some members instead of flying to Sydney or Melbourne at week-ends would remain in Canberra. Every service should be given to those who come from all parts of Australia to live in Canberra for a few months of the year while Parliament is meeting. I assure Senator Collett that my voice will always be raised in support of the improvements to which he has referred.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of External Affairs, £756,000; Department of the Treasury, £2,742,400 and AttorneyGeneral’s Department, £488,000 - agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £1,075,200.
– I should like to know if any financial provision has been made for preparation of plans for a new Parliament House in Canberra. I ask this question because there has been some discussion about a proposal to increase the membership of the Parliament. As the construction of a new building would take a considerable time, I should like to know if any money has been set aside for preparatory work.
– No money has been appropriated for that purpose.
– The proposed expenditure on the rental by the Commonwealth of buildings in various parts in Australia is £439,000. I should like to know whether the Government has an active policy in regard to the completion of the original plans for the erection of Commonwealth buildings in the Australian Capital Territory so that this recurring expense may be avoided.
– The Government’s policy is to provide its own office accommodation in Canberra as quickly as possible.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Works and Housing, £1,705,000; Department of Civil Aviation, £2,0S5,000; Department of Trade and Customs, £1,164,000; Department of Health, £237,500; Department of Commerce and Agriculture, £512,700 ; Department of Social Services, £701,000; Department of Supply and Shipping, £307,000; Department of External Territories, £52,000; Department of Immigration, £7S5,000; Department of Labour and National Service, £1,209,000; Department of Transport, £69,000; Department of Information, £324,600; and Department of Post-war Reconstruction, £611,000 - agreed to.
Defence and Post-war (1939-45) Charges.
Proposed vote, £104,540,000.
.- I am pleased to note that provision, is made this year for the resuscitation of rifle clubs. Many people looked upon members of rifle clubs 18 8 being too old for military service, but this view was not borne out during “World War II., when about 8,000 members enlisted for overseas service and 24,300 enlisted for home service with the Australian Military Forces and the Volunteer Defence Corps. It is true that rifle clubs have a small percentage of elderly members, but their value lies in the splendid work that they do in coaching younger men and performing necessary administrative duties. Many infantry commanders spoke highly of the part played by riflemen in certain phases of action before and during an engagement. Jungle warfare proved the value of snipers. A man cannot become an expert sniper after a few weeks’ training in camp. Months, or even years, of practice are required to make a man proficient. Herein lies the advantage of resuscitating the rifle-club movement. It can provide a reserve of skilled men who can be called upon to assist in instructing recruits in training camps during a national emergency. Like skill in swimming or horse-riding, the knowledge acquired in the effective use of a rifle is never forgotten. When the history of military operations in Crete is written, the toll taken by the 2nd/7th Battalion riflemen against the Nazi parachutists will justify their commanding officers’ insistence that they should be thoroughly familiar with the weapons with which they were armed. Saturday afternoon rifle shooting is looked upon by some people as a sport, which should not be subsidized. It is a national pastime, rather than, a sport, which costs the Government about £1 annually for each rifle-club member, exclusive of periodical grants for the purchase of ammunition. To become a marksman, a rifle-club member must take much more money from his own purse than from the public purse. The rifle-club movement is democratic, and should be encouraged. I commend the Government for increasing the proposed vote so that this movement may make progress in future.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Miscellaneous Services, £2,196,000; Refunds of Revenue, £7,000,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £10,000,000; War (1914-18) Services, £700,000 ; Commonwealth Railways, £1,437,000- agreed to.
Postmaster-Genera l’s Department.
Proposed vote, £23,329,000.
.- Will the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) inform the committee of the department’s proposals regarding the construction of telephone exchanges? Has the department prepared any plans for the erection of buildings and, if so, what progress has been made with those plans? I notice that land has been acquired for the purpose of building telephone exchanges, and I know that the need for new exchanges is acute all over Australia. Hundreds of people are anxious to have telephone services connected to their homes, but there are not sufficient lines and exchange facilities to meet the demand. Existing exchanges are overloaded with work, and subscribers frequently receive the engaged signal when they dial numbers. The position is serious.
Another matter which calls for urgent attention is the layout of telephone directories. My sight is not perfect and I have great difficulty in reading the type in these books. X shall soon have to buy new spectacles, and I attribute the deterioration of my vision to the reading of telephone directories and some news items in the Sydney Morning Herald. I ask the Postmaster-General to ensure that new directories are printed in larger type and with fewer columns on each page. Lights frequently fail in public telephone booths, and globes are often smashed by vandals. Even when people strike matches they are unable to read the small type in the directories and frequently, through no fault of their own, dial wrong numbers. The innovation which I suggest would not cost a great deal of money, and the expense could easily be borne by the department, which will have millions of pounds at its disposal.
– The honorable senator’s complaint is justified, and I am fully prepared to admit the fact. However, I remind him that this Government inherited enormous arrears of work in connexion with the Postal Department from governments which held office during the depression. There were no shortages of man-power or materials in those days, but unfortunately the .governments in power lacked imagination, foresight, initiative, and the capacity to get essential work done, with the result that arrears were allowed to accumulate. Then followed the war, and the arrears further increased. My personal opinion is that telephone services are out of date in many respects and are not equal to the demands that are made upon them. Nevertheless, that is not the fault of this Government. Most country post offices are pre-federation buildings. The accommodation in them is inadequate, and the staff amenities are disgraceful and should have been brought up to date long ago. The honorable senator referred to the need for additional telephone exchanges. We have both manual and automatic exchanges. Manual exchanges in cities and country centres could have been replaced many years ago by automatic exchanges, but this was not done. The Government is prepared to do everything necessary to bring telephone services up to date subject to the limitations of man-power and materials. Some equipment has been on order for years but has not yet been delivered.
– Why not make the equipment in Australia?
– I am obliged to the honorable senator for the interjection. The equipment was not made in Australia because governments which he supported years ago did not have the initiative or the desire to have it manufactured here. Fortunately, in one sense, the war caused industrial acceleration, and to-day I am glad to inform the Senate that the Postal Department is manufacturing more equipment than in previous years. This is being done because of sheer necessity and because employees in the department have been able to rise to the occasion and prove their ability to do work which has hitherto been regarded as impossible of accomplishment in Australia. I refer particularly to the manufacture of handset telephones and component parts. I hope that as time passes, if I am privileged to continue in office, the department will become almost 100 per cent, self-contained instead of being dependent on overseas and Australian private contractors for supplies of equipment.
Many people have made complaints about telephone directories. The present form of the directories was inherited by this Government from previous administrations. However, in this instance governments were not to blame. Supplies of paper were reduced because of the war, and the government of the day had no alternative but to have the books printed in their present form. There still is a shortage of paper, but the department is investigating the matter and will endeavour to modernize and improve its telephone directories. This may seem incredible, but we are considering the use of phosphorus in the ink used to print the directories so that the entries may be read in the dark. >I assure honorable senators that there is no lack of inventive capacity amongst the employees of the department. I hope that, at this time next year, the situation in the department will be considerably improved. We have arranged for the installation of at least 400 automatic telephone exchanges in country centres. These will provide subscribers with a 24- hour service instead of the present limited service provided by manual exchanges. We have liberalized the subsidizing of private telephone .lines, and we hope to do a great deal more in that direction. We are also endeavouring to install radiotelephones in outback districts where the ordinary system cannot be used, and this service will be of great benefit to the persons concerned. The complaints are justified, but the present Government is not to blame. It recognizes the inadequacy of the service, and consistent with the availability of man-power and materials it will bring the service up to date. Already trunk line business between Sydney and Melbourne and between Melbourne and Adelaide has doubled. The department is installing the 17-carrier system which enables seventeen messages to be carried over one pair of lines simultaneously, and it hopes to do more in that direction in the future. Visiting experts have paid high tributes to the remarkable work performed by the engineers of the department.
– Has provision been made in these Estimates for a substantial increase of the wages of employees and the effect of a 40-hour working week?
– In many country towns post offices are deficient in ordinary amenities; numbers of them are not sewered and are without even septic tanks. Another complaint is the lack of privacy. A girl receiving and sending telegrams does her work in the full view of the public, and people at the counter can hear the messages being received and sent. Is it intended that such post offices shall be given priority in the department’s building programme? I am delighted that many new automatic exchanges are to be provided in country districts, and I hope that the need to provide better facilities for employees will not be lost sight of when the exchanges are being built.
– The present Government inherited the system under which the fixation of wages and working conditions for postal employees is entrusted to arbitration courts and other wage-fixing tribunals. These matters are, therefore, outside the scope of my jurisdiction as Postmaster-General.
– Did the present Government inherit wage-pegging?
– Former administrations made wage-pegging an economic necessity. The present Government followed a government which lacked imagination and capacity to do the things that were necessary, as well as a sense of justice to its employees. During the war the present Government preferred to take some risks with the enemy within Australia rather than take chances with an outside enemy. Among those risks was an economy which made wagepegging inevitable. I hope that wagepegging will be abolished, and I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition (Senato McLeay) has seen fit to direct attention to the existing state of affairs. I recall that when I entered the Senate in 1938 many thousands of workers were forced to accept the dole, but when the then Opposition drew attention to the fact, governments of which the honorable senator was a member did not grant any assistance to them. I shall do all that I can to ensure that postal workers receive the wages to which they are entitled and also a reduction of working hours. I hope that further reductions in addition to those already made by a Labour Government will be made, and I believe that that would not impair the efficiency of the department.
I agree with Senator Aylett as to the lack of amenities at many country post offices. The Government will do its best to remedy that state of affairs. I have already given instructions that septic tanks shall be installed wherever possible. I am aware of the needs, and as soon as possible the Government will attend to them. Priority will be given to those post offices where the need is greatest. Departmental officials in every State are preparing reports as to the buildings which’ should be demolished, and where new buildings or amenities should be provided.
– The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) did not answer my question. I asked whether in preparing these Estimates the Government had taken into account the prospect of higher wages and shorter working hours, or whether the Estimates were based on existing wages and conditions.
. - The Government has taken into consideration a reduction of the working hours- each week and the improvement of conditions generally for postal employees. Consistent with its resources^ the Government will make improvements wherever possible.
– I am not satisfied with the answer given to my inquiry by the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). Can he say how much of the vote for this department is for higher wages and a shorter working week?
– I am not in a position to give precise figures to the honorable senator, but the number of employees in the department is approximately 66,000, which will probably be increased in the near future by 5,000 or 6,000. “When that has been done, the Government will take into consideration the amount of money at its disposal. Whatever can be done in the meantime along the lines indicated by the honorable gentleman will be done, provided that it is consistent with decisions of wagefixing tribunals.
– The remarks of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) relate to official post offices, but I should like to know what is intended in connexion with unofficial postal officers, who form a considerable percentage of postal workers throughout the Commonwealth. The Postmaster-General seems to be deeply concerned about employees of the department who come under awards, but he has been silent about unofficial postmasters.
I have no criticism to offer concerning the Minister’s statement regarding working hours and conditions of employment in official post offices, but I remind him that in many country districts unofficial postal officers work from 9 a.m. till 8 p.m., and that while on duty they attend to a variety of matters, including telephone and savings bank business, invalid and old-age pensions, service pensions, and so on. I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral does not wish to overlook the good work accomplished by unofficial postmasters over and above what is usually regarded as their official duty. They attend to the despatch of telegrams, and make arrangements for the delivery of other messages by school children. They work for long hours, and carry out their duties in the interests of the community in which they live. For this reason, their period of work is not limited to normal post office hours. Can the Postmaster-General- indicate what he proposes to do to improve the conditions under which employees in non-official post offices work, and thus recognize the great service which they render to the community in most difficult circumstances?
– I am obliged to Senator Herbert Hays for drawing my attention to the position of employees in the non-official post offices. There are approximately 10,000 post offices in Australia, of which 2,000 are official and the remaining 8,000 non-official post offices. For the first time in 25 years, the rates of pay and conditions- of employment in non-official post offices were improved when the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) was postmaster-General Previous governments never extended to those employees the consideration to which they are entitled. Recently, a conference was held in Melbourne between representatives of non-official postmasters and representatives of the Postal Department, and as the result the rates of pay, based on what is known as the unit system, and conditions of employment were still further improved. I reiterate that for a quarter of a- century prior to the advent of the Labour ‘ Government nothing was done to improve the conditions of these hardworking officers. I endorse what Senator
Herbert Hays has said about the value of the work they perform, and their wholehearted co-operation with the people among whom they live. I am hopeful that in the near future, their conditions of employment will be still further improved.
.- I. expected to hear the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) make- some epochmaking announcement that the Postal Department with its huge revenue would reduce postage rates as a means of relieving the people of their present heavy burden. The Postmaster-General knows that the -id. surcharge was imposed to offset huge war-time expenditure. The war is now over. Is that impost to remain permanently? Does the Postal Department intend to cling ‘to its ill-gotten gains in that respect? The appropriation in respect of the Postal Department this year is to bc increased by approximately £2,000,000. That is in’ respect of ordinary departmental expenditure. Whilst its expenditure last year was £24,774,000. on which it showed a profit of £3,6S0,000, the appropriation for this year has been increased to £26,627,000. As I have said, the PostmasterGeneral has disappointed me. I expected to hear him announce that a concession was to be made to the taxpayers through the Postal Department, which, having a monopoly, is making more money than any other department, or business organization, could expect to make. But the Postmaster-General has given no indication that the Government intends to relieve the people of the burden of the id. postage surcharge. We have a keen recollection of the penny postage. To-day, the basic postage rate is 2-id. a letter, the -Jd., as 1 have said, having been imposed specifically to help finance our huge war expenditure. In a previous debate the Postmaster-General showed reluctance to believe that the war is over. Apparently, he still labours under that misapprehension. It may bc said that the postage rate of 2-Jd. does not represent a big charge to individuals. But it is too great. On an average posting of halfadozen letters a week it represents a charge of ls. 3d. to most individuals. Of course, many firms spend very large sums in postage. It will be evident, even to the Postmaster-General, that with tho present high postage rate, business firms would do handsomely by delivering their own letters. The present state of affairs should not be tolerated. The primary object of the Postal Department should be to render service to the community; but the Government is using it primarily as a taxing machine. Is there any hope that in the near future the people of Australia will be relieved of the id. surcharge? When can we expect the Postal Department to function as was primarily intended, by giving service to the people instead of being used as a taxing machine?
– I remind Senator Leckie that the present Government inherited the Postal Department as a taxing machine. Previous governments were notorious for the degree to which they taxed the people through the department in order to increase the department’s profits in the interest of wealthy taxpayers. The department has always been a taxing machine, due to the policy of previous governments. I make that explanation so that the impression will not be created that it is a taxing machine as the result of any action taken by this Government. It has always been a taxing machine, and its profits have been used in the interests of wealthy taxpayers. Previous governments starved the postal services and, at the same time, underpaid employees of the department. Senator Leckie said that that -Jd. postage surcharge was imposed during the war mainly for the purpose of helping the Government meet its huge war expenditure. The revenue derived from that additional impost totalled approximately £1,250,000. The Government has given consideration to the removal of tho surcharge; but, in view of its enormous commitments, it has decided to retain the impost for the time being. However, the Government has under consideration the abolition of the surcharge on letters carried by air, and I am hopeful that we may be able to abolish it. If that be done, a person may, for the cost of 2£d., post a letter in Melbourne and have it delivered in Sydney, or Brisbane, on the same day. That would be a very valuable concession. Responsible, officers are now considering that matter, and, if it be possible to do so, the surcharge on airmail will be removed. The service rendered in that connexion will amply compensate the public for the retention of the present postage rate of 2£d.
I am not impressed by Senator Leckie’s argument that business firms might be tempted to deliver their own letters, because we all know that any cost incurred by business firms in respect of postage, the entertainment of their friends, or anything else of that kind, is passed on to their customers in the prices which they charge for their goods and services. Business firms do not carry any such charge at all. They are a taxing machine in themselves. I believe that, even if the ordinary postage rate were 6d. a letter, business firms would collect all of that impost through the prices which they would charge for their. goods and services. Senator Leckie also said that I appeal- to forget that the war is over. I have not forgotten that hostilities ‘have ceased. Neither have I forgotten, as the honorable senator seems to have done, that the Government is still faced with huge war-time liabilities which must be liquidated. Ex-service personnel willing and able to work must be rehabilitated. Those disabled through war service must be provided for, and provision must be made also for those who lost their breadwinner owing to war causes. The Government is taking that aspect fully into consideration, and the Postal Department, having regard to its resources, intends to give the best service to the people at the lowest possible cost.
.- I arn not impressed by the reply of the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron). He said plainly that the reason why the Government is using the Postal Department as a taxing machine is because previous governments did so. Certainly, the id. surcharge was imposed in order to help the Government finance its war expenditure; but no justification remains for this Government, . after being five years in office, to retain that impost in peace-time and to continue to use the Postal Department primarily as a taxing machine. I object to the department being used for that purpose. The
Postmaster-General, apparently failing to realize the full implication of his remarks, also said that any business firm which had to pay postage at the rate of 6d. a letter would pass on that charge to their customers in the price of their goods. Fancy a Minister in a government which professes to operate a price-fixing authority making such a statement! Yet, the Postmaster-General has the cheek to tell ‘me that the Prices Commissioner would agree to the price of goods being increased in order to enable business firms to pass on the whole of that, charge to their customers as a legitimate item of expenditure. The PostmasterGeneral has a poorer opinion of the Prices Commissioner than I have, because I do not believe that any pricefixing authority would do anything of the kind. The Postmaster-General has over-explained himself. He should not be so anxious to score, at the expense of some mythical business firm which he says has been making a fortune. He is a member of a government which has been in office for five years, and limits the amount of profit which firms shall be allowed to make. If they are making the fabulous profits that he, as a responsible Minister, says they are making, the Government of which he is a member is grossly in the wrong and has not been carrying out its proper functions. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways. I merely rose to ask the simple question whether there is any chance of the extra $d. postage being removed. It was imposed as a war measure. The war is over, but the tax continues. The Minister, in his explanation, gets himself further into the mud by throwing insinuations at honorable senators on this side and members of the general public. In trying to rebut some of my statements, he said that if business firms desired to pay 6d. and, I assume, ls. a letter for the private delivery of their letters, all they had to do wa$ to add it to the price of goods and everything in the garden would be lovely. If that is the way the prices control is being administered by the Government, the people of Australia will be gravely disappointed.
– I am sure that there will be keen disappointment amongst the people who are looking to the Government for a reduction of postal charges. I think some indication was given by the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron), or some of the postal officials, that in the near future the extra id. postage would be removed. The Postmaster-General, in reply to Senator Leckie, now says that the only relief that the people can look forward to is a reduction of the postage on airmail. I am sure that he must know that the bulk of the letters will carry 2^-d. stamps and that the reduction of the airmail postage would be of small benefit compared with the abolition of the id. surcharge on postage. I should like the Minister to make it clear that the people can expect no reduction of the ordinary postage from 21/2d. to 2d.
– Replying to Senator Leckie first, I say that, although hostilities have ceased, war-time liabilities are still to be liquidated. Am I to assume that Senator Leckie suggests that those war-time liabilities should be repudiated ? Does he imply that the Government should not continue to pay its way in respect of commitments for exservicemen, or where other costs are incurred? If so, I assure him, in the name of the Government, that that is not what we intend to do. Although he may not be satisfied with my answer, I do not undertake to satisfy him at all. All I undertake to do is to supply him with the facts as I understand them. If he is not satisfied, it is no responsibility of mine. I remind him that business men are not altruists. They are in business for profits, and, where they cannot be controlled to the extent I consider necessary, they add to their profits to the greatest extent possible wherever opportunities offer.
– The PostmasterGeneral would have made a good business man.
– So it is said. All I know is that the balance-sheets of the major business concerns are showing increased profits in every direction. The war was a tragedy, but to them it offered a great opportunity to make greater profits. They have capitalized, as I have said, the sacrifices that men have made and the suffering that they have endured, not only in this country but in practically all allied countries.
– In spite of the fact that the Labour party has been in office to deal with it for five years. Honorable senators opposite must have been asleep.
– We could not do two things at once. We could not prepare for war to the extent we did and undertake to change the internal economy of this country overnight. We took a risk with the enemies inside rather than with the enemies outside. At the moment I am directing attention to what the enemies inside did during the war while men were sacrificing their lives. They built up bank balances to the greatest extent possible. I can speak authoritatively in connexion with aircraft production because I was for a long time Minister in charge of that aspect of our war effort. During my term we recovered £1,000,000 from contractors who had debited to the Government costs that properly should have been debited to themselves. Had we had the assistance of more costing experts, possibly the amount would have been £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. That was the extent of their patriotism. That was all they were prepared to do for the men fighting for them in the front-lines and sweating in the workshops and in the mines. However, that is beside the point.
– The Minister must have been asleep to let them get away with it.
– No ; I was not asleep at .all. I was very wide-awake. All I lacked was sufficient staff to keep them under control.
– Could the Minister not have done it himself?
– I did everything that was humanly possible for me to do. Another story to be told, probably in the near future, will reveal the names of many business men who held the gun at the Government’s head and demanded thousands of pounds, and who, when they were challenged, saw fit not to persist in their demands. So much for the altruism and the patriotism of the business men to whom Senator Leckie has made reference.
I say to Senator Herbert Hays that the Government has taken into consideration the proposed abolition of the postal surcharge, but, viewing the position as we have done, particularly in connexion with the enormous accumulated arrears of work that has to be done and our war-time liabilities, we have decided that for the time being the surcharge will remain. I assure the honorable senator that as soon as possible it will be abolished. It may be in the remote future, but people may eventually be able to post all of their letters free of cost, the whole cost coming out of the Consolidated Revenue. Then the people who pay most of the Consolidated Revenue will pay most of the postage.
.- I do not want to continue this controversy with the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), but when he accuses rae of wanting to repudiate certain obligations to ex-servicemen, deriving ground for that argument from the fact that I asked him why the Government does not reduce the postage by a £d., I confess that I am quite unable to follow the convolutions of his mind. I made no suggestion that any governmental commitment should be repudiated. I point out to him that his department made a profit of £3,680,000 last year. He said that the additional revenue collected as the result of the extra -Jd. postage was £1,250,000. So, by cutting the profits of his own department by £1,250,000 he could remove this tax from the people. The relief would be felt, not by the business people at all, but by the workers who feel the burden of the extra id. The Government will not remove this surcharge. It will continue to use the Post Office as a taxing machine. It will continue to take from the people of Australia £1,250,000 a year that it can well afford to give back to them. When he gave a little sop by talking about taking off the surcharge on airmail he must have known that the number of letters sent by airmail would not be more than 10 per cent, of all the letters handled by the Post Office.
– The Government proposes to take the surcharge off postage on letters sent by people who can most afford to pay.
– Of course. I do not want to continue the controversy. The Postmaster-General has shown that he is quite out of sympathy with the ordinary people of this country who use the Post Office to a large extent. He has shown clearly that he and the Government intend to use the Post Office as a taxing machine and that they will hang on to every penny they can get.
– Senator Leckie is entitled to place any construction he wishes on my remarks. I am not bound to admit what he has alleged, nor do I intend to do so. The plain fact is that he would have the profits of the Post Office reduced in his way rather than have increased wages paid to the postal employees. He has implied, if he has not said so directly, that he would continue to pay low wages. That is the substance of his remarks.
– I did not mention wages.
– No. That is what I am saying. The honorable senator is not interested in wages. He is only interested in profits. I say that wages should be increased. I should expect the honorable senator to object to wages being increased, judging by thetenor of his remarks. In my opinion, at least 50 per cent, of the postal employees are not paid what they are entitled to. I think the majority of the members of the public would agree that before we reduce postage we should pay the postal employees the wages to which they are entitled in return for the valuable service they render. Throughout his remarks the honorable senator has overlooked the important fact that whatever profits the Postmaster-General’s Department has made could be usefully and advantageously used in increasing the wages of its employees. If the honorable senator were to show the same enthusiasm for increasing the wages of postal employees as they could be and should be increased, as he is showing for a reduction of the profits of the Postmaster-General’s Department, I could see some logic and usefulness in his argument.
Proposed: vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £797,900.
SenatorCOOPER (Queensland) [10.31]. - I should like to know if this vote includes any provision for irrigation schemes in the Northern Territory.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Australian Capital Territory, £632,100 ; Papua-New Guinea, £1,685,000; and Norfolk Island, £4,000- agreed to.
Second Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department-
Civil Aviation- W. E. V. Boud, G. P. Brown, A. C. Heintz, D. J. Medley, R. M. Seymour, C. E. Sladen, J. W. Stone.
Interior - K. P. McGrath.
Labour and National Service - S. Holman, K. F. Walker.
Supply and Shipping - N. H. Fisher.
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways operations for year 1945-46.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes - Geraldton, Western Australia.
Postal purposes - Cremorne, New South Wales.
National Security Act-
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (41).
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Order - Prisoners of war camp (No. 17).
National Security (Rationing) RegulationsOrders - Nos. 132-134.
Northorn Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act- Regulations - No. 4 of 1946 - (Medical Benefits and Hospital Ordinance).
Re-establishment and Employment Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1946, No. 167.
Senate adjourned at 10.37 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 December 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19461204_senate_18_189/>.