17 October 1947

18th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Son. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.

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– In view of the difficulty experienced by contractors in procuring oregon, which is the most suitable timber for some house-building purposes, will the Minister for Trade and Customs cause inquiries to be made in order to ascertain whether a reduction of the duty on this most essential commodity would be warranted?

Minister for Trade and Customs · QUEENSLAND · ALP

– The duty on Oregon has been the subject of considerable thought for some time. In comparison with the present high price of Oregon the duty on this material is low.

Some supplies of this timber are available in Australia, as the quantity of Oregon imported has been about equal to the demand for it. Numerous representations have been made to the Government with a view to increasing Oregon imports in order to assist in home building. These have been fully considered and I undertake, that consideration shall also be given to the honorable senator’s request. In view, however, of the serious dollar situation I hold out little hope of any substantial reduction of the duty on oregon.

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Miss Daveney Proprietary Limited

QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs · ALP

by leave. - Information has been received that the Privy Council has decided not to grant leave to appeal in the action known as “ The Miss Daveney Case “. Now that the Privy Council has made its decision and the case is no longer sub judice, I wish to make a statement in answer to criticisms that have been levelled against the Prices Commissioner, and in answer to certain allegations regarding price control policy.

Miss Daveney Pty. Ltd. is a company engaged in the manufacture of confectionery. A review of the company’s trading operations in 1945 showed substantial increases in profits resulting from many factors including increased turnover, the elimination of unprofitable lines, lower packing costs and the operation of the Government’s price stabilization plan. The Prices Commissioner made an order requiring the company to reduce prices. The company did not do so and it was prosecuted and fined. The company appealed to the High Court and the appeal was disallowed. Leave to appeal to the Privy Council has now been refused.

There has been an endeavour to make political capital out of certain allegations that were made when the case was before the Australian courts. The most important of these was an allegation that a Prices Branch official had told a representative of the company that because profits were high it should reduce its turnover. The records of the Prices

Branch disclose that no such statement was ever made by a prices official. Unfortunately, the allegation was not repudiated when it was first made, and as the question whether a prices official did or did not say such a thing was claimed by the prosecution to be irrevelant and inadmissible, evidence was not called to refute it. The allegation is also mentioned in the High Court judgment; it was apparently accepted by the High Court as a fact, probably for the reason that it had not been denied. These circumstances gave rise to a certain amount of criticism of the Prices Commissioner and the Prices Branch because it has been generally accepted that the allegation was a statement of fact. A full report of discussions with the company’s officials is on record in the Prices Branch and the officers concerned have given a flat denial to the allegation that the company was asked to reduce turnover in order to get its profits down.

The company was required to reduce prices for the reasons I have already given. The lower prices gave the company ample opportunity to earn reasonable profits. The policy followed by the Prices Commissioner in this case was the policy that had been adopted in thousands of cases since the inception of price control. It introduced no new features.

The judgment of the High Court was a decision in favour of the Prices Commissioner and declared that his action in taking profits into consideration when fixing prices was valid. The decision of the Privy Council refusing leave to appeal leaves the judgment of the High Court as the final judicial decision on the validity of the Prices Commissioner’s action.

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– I ask the Minister for Supply and Shipping whether the Government intends to use the reserves of first-grade Maitland coal for the express purpose of the production of iron and steel and also the production of gas? Is there any possibility in the near future that first-grade Maitland coal will be supplied to the railway systems throughout the Commonwealth, particularly that of South Australia? Is the high grade coal mined from the Greta seam kept separate, or does it go into the common pool for distribution among the railways and industries in the various States ?

Senator ASHLEY:
Minister for Supply and Shipping · NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– No control was exercised in respect of the use of the various grades of coal prior to the setting up of the Joint Coal Board by the Com- monwealth Government. I am not in a position to say to what degree this control is exercised to-day, but I understand that one of the functions of theboard is to ensure that high-grade coal required for essential undertakings shall not beused in back-yard industries where it would be wasted. If the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper I shall make inquiries and provide him with the information that he seeks.

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Tally Clerks Dispute

Senator TANGNEY:

– I understand that the tally clerks’ dispute at Fremantle was to be brought before a conciliation commissioner yesterday. In view of the urgent need for a settlement of this trouble, will the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate what decision was reached ?

Senator ASHLEY:

– I am not in a position to announce the finding of the conciliation commissioner, but I can say that the ban imposed by the tally clerks has been lifted and that shipping at Fremantle has been freed.

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Motions (by Senator Ashley) - by leave - agreed to -

Standingorders Committee. that Senators Cameron, Lamp and Sheehan be discharged from attendance on the Standing Orders Committee, and that Senators Cooper, Critchley, Harris,O’Sullivan, Rankin and Sandford be appointed to fill the vacancies on thecommittee.

Library Committee

That Senator Lamp be discharged from attendance on the Library Committee, and that Senators Cooke, Cooper,O’Sullivan and Rankin be appointed to fill the vacancies on thecommittee.

House Committee

That Senator Arnold be discharged from attendance on the Souse Committee, and that Senators Aylett,O’Sullivan and Rankin be appointed to fill the vacancies on the committee.

Printing Committee

That Senators Arnold and Tangney be dis charged from attendance on the Printing Committee, and that Senators O’Byrne, O’Sullivan, Rankin, Sandford and Ward be appointed to fill the vacancies on the committee.

Broadcasting Committee

That, in accordance with the provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Act 1942-1946, Senator Rankin be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Broadcasting.

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Debate resumed from the 16th October (vide page 865), on motion by Senator Ashley) -

That the following papers be printed: -

Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending the 30th June, 1948.

National Income and Expenditure 1946-47.

The Budget 1947-48 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1947-48.

South Australia

– I take this opportunity first to extend to you, Mr. President, my personal congratulations upon your reelection to your high office. Although I am’ a newcomer to this chamber, it has been my privilege on many occasions to read of the deliberations of the Senate, and it is gratifying to find in this chamber a universal regard for the high standard of conduct that has characterized your work. “Whilst I assure you that, so far as it is humanly possible, I shall not tempt you to depart from that standard, I trust that for any sin of omission on my part I shall receive generous treatment from you. I desire also to congratulatemy fellow South Australian, Senator Nicholls, upon his re-election to the important postof Chairman of Committees. South Australians are naturally proud that such a distinction has been earned by a representative of their State. Senator Nicholls has brought upon himself the encomiums of his colleagues for the impartial and able manner in which he has discharged his duties. I trust that you, Mr. President, and Senator Nicholls will retain the confidence and approval of a majority of honorable senators for many years to come, as you deserve- to do.,

I shall discuss several important matters that were dealt with in the Treasurer’s budget speech. One of these is repatriation generally, with particular reference to land settlement. The Australian Government is providing the finance necessary for re-establishing exservicemen on the land, but the State Governments have the responsibility of doing the practical work associated with the scheme. Unfortunately, events in South Australia up to date indicate that unnecessary delay is being caused against the best interests of ex-servicemen. A Land Settlement Committee has been appointed by the South Australian Parliament for the purpose of inquiring into and reporting upon the suitability of land in various parts of the State for settlement by ex-servicemen. I believe that the game of politics has been played to excess in South Australia, and I want: the Senate to take particular note of the. circumstances. The Australian Government realizes its duty to the men who offered everything they had for their country in its hour of trial and it has decided that they shall receive greater consideration than was extended to men who served in “World War I.. I do not quarrel with that decision. In fact, I commend the Australian Government for the sincerity of its endeavours to do the right thing. I am perturbed by events in South Australia. The Land Settlement Committee consists of men who know their State well, and no fault can befound with it on that account. However, there have, been frequent differences of opinion amongst its members, with the result that numerous minority . reports, have been made.. Some members of the committee, hold the view that, the charges proposed to he’ made for certain settlement blocks are. too high. They believe that the areas which have been selected can be.’ developed successfully if the initial costs are. not too great. One of theseareas; is- at Loxton, on the-. River Murray.

The Land Settlement Committee found itself so much at disagreement with the State Government recently that one of its members moved in the Parliament to obtain greater powers for the committee and a better understanding with the Government. I am very concerned about this state of affairs. I hope that the Australian Government will heed my representations in the spirit in which I give them. I am moved only by an honest desire to help ex-servicemen. I hope that the Government will examine very carefully all land settlement proposals which, involve costs to the taxpayers. If appropriate- precautions are taken in- the early stages of the scheme - and I remind honorable senators that time is passing - very few of the projects which are under consideration by the Land Settlement Committee of South Australia will fail. In fact, I believe that all of them will be successful eventually. The people of South Australia view with increasing concern the delay in making land available to ex-servicemen. Some time ago a statement appeared in the South Australian press which, resulted in the publication of a long letter from the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) explaining the position regarding the settlement of exservicemen on Kangaroo Island. However, the statements contained in that letter have not been refuted, and I trust that the Government will satisfy itself that everything possible is done to protect not only ex-service settlers but also the taxpayers.

I listened carefully to the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) in regard to the necessity to secure maximum production as the surest means of providing a balanced economy, which is vital to the continued progress of this country, and I am certain that all honorable senators agree with him in his contention. I took note also of his remarks regarding the serious losses of sheep due to drought conditions and the dingo pest. Any one with any knowledge of conditions iii the back country during the last few years knows- that drought has resulted in the loss of great numbers of stock. It is inevitable that good seasons and drought conditions- should alternate in1 regular cycles, but the existence of such a -cycle makes it imperative that we should concentrate on the conservation of water. Conservation is practised in the coastal areas, hut not in some of the areas where it is most needed. I have in mind particularly the country on the border between South Australia and Victoria. The only attempt made in this direction has been the construction of a pipe-line from Morgan to Whyalla. If honorable senators could have witnessed r.he remarkable improvement which has taken place, not only in the large industrial centres but also in the agricultural areas which that pipe-line serves, they would obtain a new conception of the value of water conservation. Much of the country through which that pipe-line passes was considered worthless a few years ago, but the improvement which has been effected should be sufficient to arouse the enthusiasm of all Australians for water conservation. The prosperity of all sections of the community depends very largely on the efforts of the people in. remote areas. They have to wage a hard fight to exist, and the provision of a permanent supply of water for them would not only improve their prospects immeasurably but would remove many of the anxieties under which they labour. [ trust that during the life of this Parliament the Government will show itself alive to its responsibilities in this .regard and that it will take some positive steps to implement conservation schemes.

I realize that the shortage of manpower presents a serious problem in any schemes for national development, and serves to emphasize our need for increased population. That is something which has been realized for a long time, but the Government is endeavouring to achieve something by the implementation of a policy of immigration. The kind of immigrant which should be attracted to this country is one who will assimilate our ideas and adapt himself to Australian conditions. Notwithstanding the sarcastic innuendoes levelled at the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) I believe that even his bitterest opponents believe in their hearts that he is sincere. We all hope that conditions in overseas countries will improve, and that the Minister’s eff orts to secure suitable immi- grants will be crowned with success. We must realize, however, that the governments of overseas countries whose populations have been denuded by the war and malnutrition are naturally disinclined to lose their people. In this matter, as in others, we should endeavour to see the other fellow’s point of view. The present Government has done more than any of its predecessors to give practical evidence of its belief that the child is the best immigrant, and that the best way to build up the nation is by the natural increase of its population. I commend the Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) for the way in which he is administering his department, and particularly for his human touch when dealing with applicants for maternity allowances and health services generally. His administration is a clear demonstration to the Australian people that the Labour party regards human values as the most important in the community. Any administration which does not value the human element as of prime importance and worthy of the first consideration is not worthy of the name of government.

I stress the importance of land settlement and the danger of soil erosion. Unless something is done soon, the next generation of men and women who will sit in the legislative halls of Australia will ask, “What did our predecessors do ? “ As a layman, I am. unable to decide whether wind erosion or water erosion causes the greater damage to the Australian countryside. It is pleasing to note that the Government has expended a good deal of money on research in this field, and that land holders are being educated in the means of preventing erosion. In saying that, I do not wish it to be thought that I blame all land-holders for the erosion that has taken place. I know that most of them are alive to their responsibilities in this connexion. However, as I travel through Australia and observe the type of country through which I pass, it is impossible not to be concerned at the possibilities of loss through soil erosion unless prompt steps are taken to check it. I sincerely hope that the Government will pay more attention to this matter and be most active in assisting landholders to combat both -wind and water erosion.

Another matter which I hope will receive the practical attention of the Government is the improvement of our transport systems. There are many people in the community who say that the time is not opportune for this to be done, but in this scientific age, when the inventive genius of man is applied to making conditions more comfortable for his fellow human beings, we can no longer postpone the standardization of railway gauges. The numerous breaks of gauge which now exist are not only irritating to travellers but are also uneconomic from a national point of view. It is astonishing that the people of Australia have put up with such conditions for so long. Therefore, I am pleased to know that the Minister for Transport (Mr. “Ward) is going ahead with the proposal to standardize the railway gauges and generally to improve transport services throughout the Commonwealth. Although I believe that it is impossible to hold back scientific progress and inventive genius indefinitely, we must progress with the times. I refuse to admit that the days of railways and roads are past. Next to water conservation, I doubt whether any matter is more important than a good system of road and railway transport. The Government is to be commended on the steps that it has taken to improve matters in this respect.

Recently, I asked the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) a question relating to non-registered hospitals in South Australia, and I appreciate the reply that he. gave to me. The few hospitals which are not registered are controlled by people violently opposed to the Government’s policy in regard to hospitals. They have no sympathy whatever with the ideals of the Government in health matters, and they fail to realize that it would be in the interest of the community if they were to fall into line with other hospitals. Unfortunately, some of the hospitals outside the scheme in South Australia are among the biggest hospitals in that State. The result is that many hundreds of South Australian people who, through no fault of their own, are forced to enter hospitals derive no benefit from the” legislation passed by this Parliament. I wish the

Minister every success in his efforts to solve this difficulty. Throughout the length and breadth of Australia, a continued personal attack has been made upon members of this Government. During my long association with politic* I have not known attacks to be so persistent or virulent. Many years ago I heard Senator Collings, when making a speech in the northern part of South Australia, answer in no uncertain manner the propaganda which was then being circulated against the Labour party. He said, in effect, that that propaganda was designed to create an hysteria of fear among the people, and that it had been going on since the birth of the Labour movement. All honorable senators from South Australia know that we have not escaped our share of this universal denunciation of the Labour party; and as much as we should like to forget the past, I am impelled to indulge in a little retrospection on this matter. It is clear to me that the continued attacks now being made upon the Labour party are just as virulent as any launched against it in the past. All persons of middle age will remember the time when a prominent member of the anti-Labour government warned the Australian people against the “socialistic tiger”. These attack* are not new, and the majority of our middle-aged people will treat them with the contempt they deserve. However, many of our citizens obtained their first job when they offered their lives in defence of this country. I refer principally to the young working men and women of Australia whose first job was in the fighting services. Now that they have returned to civil life they will recall the flag waving and the promises that were made to them; and they will realize that only a Labour government can honour those promises. On the other hand, there are many people in this country who have, all their lives, enjoyed more fortunate circumstances. Good luck to them! They have never been denied the necessaries of life; and I can imagine that now, as in years gone bv. such people will be prone to listen to anti-Labour propaganda and to give way to fear of the terrible things which the propagandists claim will happen if this Government continues in office.

I remind honorable senators of the circumstances which led up to the assumption ofoffice by the government which was led by our late lamented Prime Minister, John Curtin ; and I shall compare the achievements of that government and its successors with those of anti-Labour governments which preceded them. The Opposition parties were then entrenched in both Houses of Parliament, in each of which they had a substantial majority. It cannot be denied that the collapse of their government was due to personal disagreements among themselves. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) declared that dingoes kill for blood. The scramble of members of the Opposition parties to gain ministerial rank in those days was political dingoing of the worst kind; so much so that in Australia’s darkest hour those parties walked out on Australia. A Labour government was called upon to take over the reins of office. We are not concerned with the personal quarrels which then took place among members of the Opposition parties, although at that time they would nave the people believe that Labour was a disunited party. I repeat that in Australia’s darkest hour the Opposition parties walked out on the nation. Although they had a majority in each House, they were not competent, because of their internal squabbles, to discharge the great responsibilities which are the lot of the Government of any nation engaged in war. The Labour Government carried on, and at the 1943 general elections was returned with an overwhelming majority. During the following years, Australian servicemen lost their lives on every battle front in stemming the onrush of the enemy. The Motherland was sorely pressed, ; and Australia did not escape severe losses.

One of our great losses was the death of John Curtin, when he was Prime Minister. Digressing for a moment, it is interesting to note that to-day, now that John Curtin has passed to his reward, the people who showered encomiums upon his memory are the very people, who, year after year, attempted to disembowel him politically. They now speak of him as one of Nature’s gentlemen. Members of the Labour party are familiar with the hypocrisy of the oppo- sition parties, who cannot feel proud of themselves in that respect. Later, at the 1946 elections, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) was returned with another overwhelming majority. We know what has happened in the interim. Inmy long political experience I have notknown a party to be so united as the Labour party in this Parliament is to-day. We are justly proud of the achievements of our Government. I speak in this strain simply in order to warn the Australian people not to be misled by the propaganda against the Government which is now flooding the country. The record of the Labour Government during the last few years is unparalleled by that of any government in the world. Apart from changes caused by death, the personnel in the present Ministry is, with only two exceptions, the same as it was when the Labour Government took office. We are proud of that record. I assure honorable senators that never in my long experience have I seen a party so united. This is all the more remarkable when we remember that the Government has had to face conditions which demanded the imposition of restrictions and controls foreign to the ideals of the average Australian. Yet the Government unhesitatingly imposed such controls, in spite of attempts, sometimes successful, made by a selfish section of the community to circumvent those laws, because as individuals they had no regard whatever for the welfare of any’ but themselves. The great majority of our people still have confidence in this Government. Because of its honesty of purpose and its determination to legislate in the interests of all the sections of the community, it still stands high in the estimation of the nation. The unity of the Government can aptly be described in the following lines ofRudyard Kipling -

When Crew and Captain understand each other to the core.

It takes a gale and more than a galeto put their ship ashore.

Senator WARD:
Minister for External Territories · South Australia · ALP

– I congratulate you, Mr. President, and also Senator Nicholls, who has been elected Chairman of Committees, upon your assumption of your high unices. I have known both of you for a considerable time, .and I have .not the slightest doubt of your ability and impartiality. I have been a member of the Labour .party /since its inception 57 .years ago .and /for .most -oi that time I have held secretarial positions. For 21 years I was secretary .of the Port Adelaide .branch, and for a similar period, I was .secretary of the South Australian branch. I have always been convinced ‘that Labour’s policy is the best. 1 once heard of a Scotchman who, when asked if le were not a Scotchman what he would be, replied Ashamed of myself “. Knowing the difference between the policies of the Labour party and the Liberal party, 1 should certainly be ashamed of myself if T were not a member of the Labour party. T have had 36 years’ experience in the timber trade, not only as an ordinary worker, but also as the holder, of responsible positions, including those of accountant and manager, so I’ can claim to know something of the ‘timber trade and of business matters generally. While I was manager of a timber concern, I was in charge of “150 men, and I am sure that every one of them did an honest day’s work for his wages. In fact, I do not know of any industrial ‘undertaking in which the men do not ‘give a fair return for their wages. One often hears the charge that the workers generally do less than they should do, but while there may be a few exceptions, I am confident that generally speaking the charge is without foundation.

Most of the great political achievements in this country are attributable to the Labour party. As Senator Critchley has just reminded honorable senators, the anti-Labour forces in this Parliament proved themselves quite incapable of preparing this country for war. In marked contrast was the magnificent war effort of the Labour party when it assumed office. I have no doubt that Labour’s war-time achievements will remain long in the memories of the people.

I have been a socialist since .1 first read Robert Blatchford’s book on socialism when I was twenty years of age. That book convinced .me that socialism was far better than unrestricted private enterprise. I have .since read many other socialist books, of course, including the works of the founder of socialism in England, Robert Owen, a great philantrophist and educationalist. I am convinced that private control of industry is wrong, .and that businesses .are best run on socialist lines. We are told that the competitive element in private industry is essential to efficient service, but most of us are well aware that there is not very much .real competition to-day. All the big businesses have their associations which meet regularly and fix prices, wages and conditions of employment - always, of course, in their own interests. I remember that on one occasion in South Australia a number of customers objected to paying ls. 6d. a ton cartage on timber supplied by “the millers. ‘Ultimately the merchants .gave way, but of course they did not carry the charge themselves ; they increased their prices for almost all lines of timber and for every shilling that they paid out on cartage, they took a pound from, their customers.

Senator Large:

– The honorable senator should not give too many secrets away.

Senator WARD:

– These things are true, and I do not mind repeating them. In my view, private enterprise may be likened to the feeding of pigs at a trough. All the “big strong greedy pigs get the food and the weaker one3 are pushed aside. !N”o efficient pig-breeder allows the spirit of private enterprise to rule in his pens. Be takes good care to ensure that each animal shall have its fair share. We “believe that socialism can ensure equality of opportunity throughout the community. In the past, there has always been great difficulty in having Labour men elected to local government authorities; yet instrumentalities such as .municipal councils and public corporations are entirely socialistic in their construction. They have their own machinery for carrying out works and they do their jobs well. Most members of these organizations, however, would object strongly to being called socialists. One can readily imagine the state of affairs that would exist in any community if the laying of footpaths, kerbing and guttering, and the making of roads, were left to each householder. There would be no uniformity.

As a socialist and a member of the Labour party, I am of course a democrat, and. for a definition of that term I take Abraham Lincoln’s words - “ Government of the people by the people for the people “. The Liberal party, on the other hand, believes in government of the people in the interests of one particular section of the community.

Senator Grant:

– Government by Sir Frank Clarke.

Senator WARD:

– Yes. The most effective barriers to true democracy in this country are the State legislative councils. We are all aware of what happened recently in Victoria where the anti-Labour forces wanted a referendum on one question but were opposed to a referendum on the reform of the Legislative Council. I am a firm believer in the Labour party’s policy of unification, which I have no doubt would be to the ultimate benefit of this country. Unification has operated in South Africa for many years and, so far as I am aware, the system is working to the satisfaction of all concerned. Unification was introduced into South Africa largely as a result of the efforts of Labour men. The Labour party’s plan of unification for this country provides for the abolition of the present States and the division of the Commonwealth into 32 provinces. In effect, there would be a great scheme of decentralization, and the remote districts would he much more highly developed than they are to-day. Each district would have its own regional authority, members of which would have a thorough knowledge of local requirements. In these provincial parliaments there would be no room for legislative councils. I cannot imagine any more effective way of getting rid of our legislative councils than by introducing a scheme of unification

I have already spoken of the weakness of private enterprise. A man who commits burgulary or house-breaking is an example of private enterprise. We all object strongly to such practices, and the law provides heavy penalties for individuals who are found guilty of them. But business dealings are often far worse than burglary or house-breaking. There are few individuals who are prepared to risk the penalties of the law by engaging in unlawful acts, but under a system of private enterprise unscrupulous businessmen are permitted to prey upon the community at large. There are huge trusts and combines in the United States of America, but the Government of that country, under its constitution, can do nothing about them.

I refer now to the various political parties in Australia. The Labour party, of course, has always been the Labour party. Its name has never been changed. My own view is that it should have been named the Democratic party in the first place, but that was not done and I see no need to change the name that was selected. Carlisle once said that work is worship, and there can he no question about the Labour party’s view in that regard. The Liberal party as we know it in Australia cannot be regarded as a liberal party. It should be called the Conservative party. That distinction is made in Great Britain, where Winston Churchill is the most famous member of the Conservative party. He is undoubtedly a strong conservative. It is remarkablethat there should be any connexion between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. The interests of the farmers and other producers are entirely opposed to those of the men who conduct the affairs of the Liberal party. The most prominent members of the Liberal party are wealthy merchants, not producers. When these merchants sell goods to the farmers, they charge the highest possible prices. There is no competition between them, and they fix profitable prices by agreement. However, when they buy goods from the farmers, they pay the lowest possible prices. Therefore, it is strange indeed that the Australian Country party should ever link itself with the Liberal party. If these merchants sell goods to the farmers on time payment they also charge exceedingly high rates of interest. I know of one wheat merchant in Adelaide who, at his death, had an estate worth £875,000. I have never heard of any farmer succeeding so well in terms of material possessions. In order to illustrate the way in which some merchants treat the farmers, I refer to two cases which have been mentioned previously in this chamber. One farmer who was in the habit of sending eggs to a big produce firm in Adelaide continually received notifications that some of the eggs consigned by him had been broken. He was not paid for those eggs. On one occasion he went to a wharf at Port Adelaide and saw his eggs being shipped there for another port. The consignment was intact. Nevertheless, the produce firm again debited his account with a number of “ broken “ eggs from that consignment. He threatened to take legal action against the firm unless it paid him for all eggs which had been reported as broken, and it paid in full. Another poultry-farmer watched the sale of a consignment of turkeys which he had forwarded to the same firm. He had been notified frequently that turkeys forwarded by him had died, and the firm had not paid for those birds. He saw all of his turkeys sold on this occasion, and all of them were alive. Nevertheless, his next account stated that some of the turkeys had died. He also brought pressure to bear on the firm and was paid in full for all turkeys which had been written off as dead. I do not claim that such practices are general, but the company which I have in mind was fairly highly regarded. In fact, a member of the firm was also a member of the Legislative Council in South Australia and, ironically, was entitled to the prefix “honorable”.

Probably the chief reason why farmers and other primary producers are not entirely sympathetic with the Labour party is that many of them do not like to pay decent wages to their employees. Farmers have always wanted to pay low wages. There is no justification for this, because the Labour party is prepared to ensure that fanners shall receive fair prices for their goods so that they will be able to pay fair wages. I have always been a strong protectionist. I believe that Australia should grow and manufacture everything that can be produced here. Many years -ago, when large numbers of harvesters and other farm implements were being imported from the United States of America and Canada made by the International Harvester Company Proprietary Limited, and Massey Harris Proprietary Limited, Australian manu facturers of similar machinery were anxious to secure the imposition of protective duties. At that time I attended a meeting at Adelaide which was addressed by Mr. Trenwith. After he had addressed ‘the meeting, he asked somebody to move that an association be formed in Adelaide. I did so and, naturally, the motion was carried-. I was the only person nominated for the office of president of the association, and although I was mot engaged in primary production, I accepted the position. Later, the secretary of the association married, and I became honorary secretary also. The association succeeded in having a duty of £16 each levied on imported harvesters. By that time a new protective law had been passed providing that local manufacturers should sell their machinery at reasonable prices and pay fair wages to their employees. Most South Australian firms complied with it, but one big firm, Bagshaw and Sons, failed to do so and the association had to take action against it. This firm favoured the protective duties on imported machinery, but it refused to give fair and reasonable wages to its workers. I am pleased to say that the court then presided over by Mr. Justice O’Connor granted everything that the association asked for in its log of claims. I recall the days when drivers and labourers received a Wage of 35s. a week. Many people then lived in small crowded houses. However, it did not take the Labour party long to improve the conditions of the workers, and great advances have been made in relation to wages and hours of work since that time. The Labour party has also secured compensation rights for injured and retired workers. It would be a good thing to place a limitation .upon profits. Many organizations, such as those controlled by Lord Nuffield, make exceedingly large profits. Lord Nuffield has made many generous gifts for charitable purposes, but nevertheless I contend that it should not be possible for individuals to receive such enormous incomes.

I refer now to the price of oregon timber. When I was engaged in the timber industry, the average price of Oregon was 3¾d. a foot for the standard size of 9 by 3. That worked out at 13s. lOd. per 100 super, feet. The price now is 1378., which is almost ten times greater, and I cannot imagine any justification for such a tremendous increase. I do not know whether it would be possible for the Government to import Oregon and sell it to the public, but if it were I certainly think that the Government should do so. For one thing, it would reduce considerably- the cost of house construction. I know that one firm is selling oregon at a price of 101s. per 100’ super, feet, and that it has sold some to the South Australian Government and to contractors in that State. That is a considerable saving,, and it should be possible for a government to import large quantities- of it at an even lower price.

Senator NASH:
Western Australia

– I congratulate Senator Nicholls on his re-election to the office of Chairman of Committees, and I believe that he will continue to display the same impartiality which has always characterized his conduct in that office. I also offer my congratulations to the new members of the- Senate, and particularly to those who have already spoken. I think that their speeches -reveal a high quality of mind, and I believe that they will provethemselves capable protagonists in the debates which take place in, this chamber. The electors who have chosen men of such high calibre to represent their respective States have shown commendable judgment. I also congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) on his appointment to that responsible position, .and I believe that members of the Liberal party acted wisely in appointing him to be their leader. At the same time I am, in common with other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, at a loss to understand how he, who is a- member of the Australian Country party, can aline, himself with members’, of the Liberal party. It is difficult toperceive any real similarity in. the professions of the Australian Country party and the. platform of the Liberal party -

Senator LARGE:

– Politics is a profession with members of those parties;

Senator NASH:

– I am inclined to believe that it must he a profession with them, But nevertheless I take real pleasure in congratulating the Leader of the Opposition on his appointment. Al the same time I must say that the speech which he delivered yesterday,, and which occupied one and a half hours of our time, was a very laboured effort, and he failed to convince me that the Government’s budgetary proposals were unsound. The successive budgets- presented since a Labour Government took office in October, 1941, have reflected the progress of the country and the constructive nature of Labour’s proposals. Many of those proposals have already been implemented by statutory enactments and the Government is going ahead, vigorously with its proposals.

A great deal was said during- the course of this debate of the respective achievements of Labour and anti-Labour parties in this Parliament. I do not propose to traverse ground already covered, but T think some further mention is justified’ of the important subject of employment. The budget statement, which we are now considering shows that . in June last, 3,212,000 people were employed. That is a truly remarkable achievement and’ one which is quite unparalleled, in our history. Perhaps its significance is best illustrated by a comparison of the present position with that obtaining in June, 1939, which shows that to-day there are 480,000 more people in employment. It is also of interest to contrast the present position with that obtaining in 1938) when Mr. Casey was Treasurer. In thebudget statement which he presented in respect of the year 1938 he was obliged to prefix the syllable “ un “’ to the word “ employment “. That statement showed that the percentage of persons unemployed in 1938 was 8.6, whilst in 1936-37 the position was even worse. The percentage of unemployed in that year was as high as 10.6. To-day there is- full employment” in this country, and if the Government is to maintain that very satisfactory position it must have the power to control the nation’s credit. The national credit is a matter of outstanding importance and is one to which the people should give the utmost consideration. Eminent authorities have assured1 us that those who control finance, control government, and it is because governments failed to control finance in the past that we have had wars.

Under the heading of “ revenue “, the statements before us show that for the year 1946-47 the sum of £412,000,000 was received compared with an estimate of £385,000,000. Amounts contributing to that excess over the estimate include £6,000,000 from income tax £5,000,000 from sales tax and £13,000,000 from customs and excise revenue. Despite all that has been said by the Leader of the Opposition, that result is understandable because of better seasons and the higher prices that have been paid to primary producers, especially for wheat and wool. The primary producers of Australia have never had a better deal than under the regime of Labour governments; they enjoy a stability which they never previously knew. This morning Senator Ward showed how primary producers arc at the mercy of those to whom they entrust, their products for sale. The present Government has done a magnificient job in ensuring stability to all engaged in primary production, and, despite lack of labour to meet their requirements, the output of secondary industries has increased. We have been told that workers in industry are “ going slow “, but no facts in support of that general charge have been presented. Those who level that charge at the workers have not attempted to explain why the output from our secondary industries has increased. I remind opponents of the Government that people overseas are investing capital in Australia and that new manufacturing enterprises are springing up in different parts of the Commonwealth.

The Leader of the Opposition referred to Australia’s national income, and endeavoured to show that the position is not so satisfactory as the figures appear to indicate, because of the reduced value of the £1. I shall not attempt to discuss the relative merits of the currencies of different countries, but I assume that Australia’s national income is based on the Australian £1. Our national income in 1946-47 was £1,265,000,000 compared with £803,000,000 in 1938-39. It will be seen that there has been an increase of about 50 per cent, in eight years. The personal incomes of the people of Australia show a similar result; in 1938-39 they totalled £746,000,000, whereas in 1946-47 they had grown to £1,261,000,000. Those figures are an indication that the economic policy of the present Government has been to the advantage of ‘the people, and that the country is in a. better financial position than ever previously. The figures in respect of personal savings tell the same story. The personal savings of the Australian people in 1938-39 averaged £50, but in 1946-47 the average was £122. Those figures show not only that personal savings have increased, but also that the wealth in the hands of the people is now more equitably distributed. The figures in respect of gross productivity are a good indication of progress. An increase from £938,000,000 in 193S-39 to £1,497,000,000 in 1946-47 surely is evidence of progress.

It will be seen, therefore, that in whatever way we look at these figures, they supply evidence that Australia is progressing. The same is told by the figures in relation to wages and salaries. They show that there has been an increase from £432,000,000 in 193S-39 to £725,000,000 in 1946-47. We have heard a good deal about the incomes of companies, and of the profits made by them and’, therefore, the figures in respect of company incomes are of interest to honorable senators. The income of companies in 1938-39 totalled £S9,000,000. By 1946-47 they had risen to £140,000,000. In considering those figures we must bear in mind that company income includes income after payment of indirect taxes, but not direct taxes of all companies liable to pay income tax, less dividends received from other countries; dividends paid to residents, undistributed” profits accumulating to residents; dividends and undistributed profits payable overseas, and direct taxes on companies. The total income of nonincorporated businesses in 1938-39 amounted to £165,000,000 compared with £260,000,000 in 1946-47. In respect of non-incorporated businesses, income includes the net income or earnings of ali persons engaged in private business, farming and professions. The figures which I have presented to the Senate clearly indicate that Australia is in a sound condition and that the efforts of the Leader of the Opposition to prove otherwise must he unavailing.

In respect of defence and post-war charges we expended in 1946-47, £232,000,000 compared with an expenditure of £544,000,000 in 1943-44, £459,000,000 in 1944-45, and £377,000,000 in 1945-46. Those figures indicate the the Government is gradually reducing expenditure under that heading, consistent with its policy of tapering it without interfering with the country’s economy. In 1938, the then Treasurer, Mr. Casey, when presenting his budget said -

Last financial year the total provision for defence from all sources was £11,531,000. The total estimated defence expenditure this year from all sources is £16,790,000. That is a formidable figure.

It may have been a. formidable figure in 193S; but it certainly indicates that the then government-did not worry very much about providing for the future defence of Australia. Unfortunately, that fact was proved to the hilt in October, 1941, when the Labour Government was obliged to assume office in order to pull the country out of the mess in which preceding governments had left it. It is gratifying to note that in the budget now before us the Parliament is concerned, not with an amount of £16,000,000 for defence, but an estimate of £75,000,000 for expenditure by service and production departments, whereas actual expenditure under that heading last year amounted to £131,000,000. Of the sum of £75,000,000 it is estimated that £40,000,000 will be expended in respect of our post-war defence plan, which envisages an expenditure over a period of five years of £250,000,000 on the development of a comprehensive system of modern defences. I again stress the comparison between these proposals and the provision made in respect of defence in 1938, when the average person in the community knew that something was boiling in the international sphere and was aware of the imminent possibility of war. Despite those facts, the government of the day was satisfied to appropriate only £16,000,000 for the defence of this country with the result, as has been emphasized in this debate, that many of our men who fought in the last war and gave their lives to defend this country were trained with broomsticks and were not adequately supplied with munitions. I commend the Government upon its proposal to implement a five-year plan for the development of adequate defences. I do not know what the plan entails; but I do know that it was the Australian Labour party that made the first practical contribution to the defence of this country by establishing the Royal Australian Navy.

A Labour government also established the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, which was the means of saving millions of pounds in freight to the primary producers of this country ; and those vessels were designed as auxiliary naval vessels. I also know that a government composed of the Opposition parties gave away those vessels, and that this country has not yet been paid for them. Consequently, the people will ignore the propaganda now being disseminated throughout the length and breadth of Australia about this terrible Socialistic Government, and will base their judgment not on promises of anti-Labour governments, but on the actual achievements of Labour governments. Over the years anti-Labour governments have made promises ad lib. The opposition parties made many promises during the last general election campaign. They promised that if they were returned to office they would reduce taxes. However, the people preferred to trust the Labour party, although it made no promise at all to reduce taxes. Although this Government had to find not merely £16,000,000 but hundreds of millions of pounds for the defence of this country, Australia has come through the last war better than any other country in the world. It is now generally recognized that, economically, Australia is in a better position than any other country. I have no doubt that that fact will weigh most with the people of Australia when they come to judge this Government. I have no doubt that they will brush aside all specious propaganda against this Government, and will arrive at their decisions solely on results.

I now propose to deal with the social service policy of the Government. No government in the history of the world has made such tremendous progress in uplifting the standard of comfort of the average citizen. We know what has been done in this sphere in other countries. Great Britain has a system of national insurance and New Zealand has a system of social services which is very good. However, since 1941, no government in any other country has done a job comparable with that achieved by this Government in developing social services. In 1946-47, social service contributions totalled £51,000,000 and pay-roll tax amounted to £13,000,000, making a total under the two headings of £64,000,000. An amount of £62,000,000 was expended to meet commitments under those headings in 1946-47, and for the current financial year it is estimated that an amount of £77,000,000 will be expended to meet social service commitments. That is £8,000,000 more than the estimated receipts from the social service contribution and pay-roll tax. It simply means that £77,000,000 is to be distributed amongst the people of this country, thus assisting the maintenance of full employment. If that money were not allocated for these services, what would become of it? If it can be raised by means of equitable taxes, without interfering with the economy of the individual in society, then, if it were not collected for this purpose, it would represent idle funds. Under the present proposal this money is to be distributed amongst individuals, who, generally speaking, do not earn very much, so, instead of being a frozen asset, it will be kept in circulation.

I wish to refer now to certain aspects of our social services. In 1938-39, expenditure on. age and invalid pensions was approximately £15,000,000, whereas the figures for 1946-47 was £29,000,000. In 1945-46 £26,000,000 was appropriated for this purpose, and in each of the years 1944-45 and 1943-44, the sum was” £21,000,000. So, the Commonwealth’s commitment in respect of these pensions has risen from £15,000,000 in 1938-39 to £29,000,000 last year, and the Treasurer estimates that an additional £10,000,000 will be required in the current financial year, due mainly to the increase of 5s. a week applicable from the 1st July last, and to the increasing number of pensioners. In 1938-39, 232,000 people received the age pension, and 88,000 the invalid pension, making a total of 321,000. In 1945-46, the figures were 264,000 and 62,000, respectively, a total of 326,000. There is an indication, therefore, that, as the years go by, the number of elderly and invalid people tends to increase. This leads to a consideration of the national birth-rate, because it seems that we are getting dangerously close to a situation in which there will be a preponderance of elderly and infirm people in the community. This growing disparity between those who pay and those who receive is an important factor when considering pension payments. Clearly, there is 3 need for a comprehensive scheme for migration to this country to restore the balance of age groups. The Western Australian division of the Pensioners’ League has suggested that the invalid and age pension should be 40 per cent, of the male basic wage. I understand that the male basic wage in Western Australia is approximately £5 10s. a week, so this would mean a pension of approximately £2 4s. a week in that State. The secretary of the division has pointed out that, although pensions were increased by 5s. a week on the 1st July last, the cost of living has increased to such a degree that pensioners are really no better off. We are all aware that the cost of living in this country has increased considerably, but the fact that the overall increase has not yet exceeded 25 per cent, is a creditable achievement. By means of price-fixing, and certain other controls about which many people bitterly complain, Australia has maintained a sound economy, particularly in comparison with other countries such as the United States of America, in which a substantial measure of inflation has occurred. The Pensioners’ League, as I have stated, seeks an age pension of £2. 4s. a week in Western Australia.

I suggest that it is inevitable that pensions, like wages, must lag behind increasing costs. Under the arbitration laws of Western Australia the Arbitration Court makes a quarterly determination of wages, according to cost of living variations. Whilst I do not know whether it will be possible for the Government to fix the pension rate at 40 per cent, of the basic wage, I do believe that more frequent reviews of this rate could be made. in the light of rising costs. Although invalid and age pensions to-day are out of all proportion to what they were under previous governments, I hope that it will be possible to give further consideration to assisting these elderly and infirm members of our community. Widows’ pensions, of course, were not even thought of by previous governments, or, at the most, they were given scant consideration. It remained for a Labour government to introduce a widows’ pension scheme. In 1946-47, the Australian Government had to find an amount of £3,366,000 for widows’ pensions. The estimate for this financial year is £4,150,000. In1944-45, the amount required was £2,800,000, and this had risen by 1946-47 to £3,247,000. Those figures show a steady increase of the number of widow pensioners. The figures in respect of maternity allowance payments are most striking. In 1946-47, the Australian Government had to find an amount of £3,026,000 for this item. The estimate for 1947-48 is £3,400,000. Expenditure on maternity allowances in 1938-39 was only £400,000. The comparison is staggering. When legislation was first enacted to provide for the payment of maternity allowances, the proposal was that every woman who became a mother, irrespective of class or income, would be entitled to the allowance. However, the provision was whittled down during the years by anti-Labour governments until, as I said, the total commitment in1938 was a mere £400,000. The figures that I have quoted show that this Government is the only one that has endeavoured to give fair treatment to the women of Australia and to increase the birth-rate. In view of the need to increase Australia’s population, the Government should give favorable consideration to the payment of marriage loans. A marriage loan scheme would have a great beneficial effect on the future of this nation. I repeat a suggestion which I have made previously, namely, that marriage loans be introduced, with provision for a proportionate discharge of liability upon the birth of each child.

I am pleased that the Government proposes to continue the uniform income tax system. This will be to the advantage of citizens of Western Australia, if not those of other States. Under the dual tax sys tem, with income tax levied by both the Australian Government and the State governments, Western Australians paid more than they do to-day. In 1938-39 Commonwealth income tax amounted to £20,000,000 and State income taxes amounted to £49,000,000. In 1939-40, the Commonwealth levied £26,000,000 and the States £50,000,000. Those figures show that the State governments required more for their purposes than was levied by the Australian Government. The Commonwealth levy in 1938-39 represented £3 0s. 5d. per head of the population, whereas the States’ charges represented £7 5s.1d. on the same basis. In 1939-40, the relevant figures were £3 16s. 6d. and £7 6s. respectively. In 1940-41 they had increased to £5 3s. 9d. and £7 15s.11d. respectively. I make clear that the figures showing State taxes refer to all States, not to any particular State government. I refer now to the figures of tax paid under the uniform system. They are as follows: -

That table shows that the amounts that had to be paid to the State governments per head of the population were less after the introduction of uniform tax than previously. Under the terms of the States Grants (Tax Reimbursement) Act 1946, the Australian Government undertook to pay to the State governments an aggregate amount of £40,000,000 for each of the years 1946-47 and 1947-48. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

page 936


The following paper was presented: -

National Debt Sinking Fund Act - National Debt Commission - Twenty-fourth Annual Report, for year 1946-47.

Senate adjourned at 12.23 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 October 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.