18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs read the report of a statement by Mr. J. M. Vicars, of John Vicars Proprietary Limited, woollen mills, published in to-day’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald, that wool now being bought will be sufficient to meet the production needs of woollen mills for about four months? Is it a fact that the date of any increase of the prices of woollen goods arising from the termination of Commonwealth subsidies will depend on whether subsidies are paid on wool now being bought? If so, will subsidies be paid on wool now being bought ?
– Subsidy has already been paid on wool used in the manufacture of materials now on the shelves of retail traders, and eight or nine months will elapse before there should be any need to increase the prices of woollen clothing. I understand that somebody has contended that the period will be only four months. My information is that stocks upon which subsidy has been paid will not be exhausted in less than eight or nine months.
– The spinners claim that stocks will he exhausted in four months.
– I shall have inquiries made and will give a further answer to the honorable senator tomorrow.
– In view of the hostility of the British Medical Association to the free medicine scheme, I ask the Minister for Health whether he has received any reply to the letter which he wrote to the Federal Council of the association on the 26th May with reference to the desire of the Government to secure the co-operation of the medical profession in the scheme?
– I received a letter from Sir Henry Newland, the president of the Federal Council of the British Medical Association, this morning. He advised me that he intended to hand copies of the letter to the press to-day, presumably for publication to-morrow. As a matter of courtesy, I do not propose to anticipate him by making it public to-day. I shall reply to it to-day and, again as a matter of courtesy to Sir Henry, I do not propose to give any publicity to the contents of my reply until it has reached him. However, I may inform the Senate that there is now a likelihood that a conference will take place between the Federal Council of the British Medical Association and the Government in the near future.
– In view of the Government’s intention to abolish meat rationing can the Minister for Trade and Customs give an assurance to the Senate that the supply of meat to the United Kingdom will be maintained at the present level?
– The Government has been assured from time to time by the meat industry that the abolition of meat rationing would make no difference whatever to the supply of meat to the United Kingdom.
– I ask the Minister for Health what progress has been made at the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories in the production of streptomycin.
– In a recent speech to the Senate I referred to this subject and mentioned that certain dangers were associated with the use of streptomycin in the hands of people who may not be aware of all its dangers. A pilot plant was established at the Serum Laboratories at Royal Park some time ago. Great difficulty is experienced in getting the strain completely pure, and danger arises from the presence of foreign elements in the finished product. I have obtained approval for the allocation of a considerable sum of money to establish a permanent plant for the manufacture of streptomycin. However, it is not yet certain that that drug will take a permanent place in medical use ; and I hesitate to authorize a programme for its production until its safety is established, and until it is proved to be really wise from a medical view-point to embark on large-scale production.
– I lay on the table the following papers: -
United Nations Conference on Trade and Employment - Havana, November, 1947 - - March, 1948 - Final Act and Belated Documents.
These documents include a charter for an international trade organization, the text of which was authenticated by the signing, at Havana, of the final act of the conference.
The United Nations Conference was preceded by two sessions of a Preparatory Committee which met in London in October, 1946, and in Geneva from April to October, 1947. Australia participated actively in the work of the Preparatory Committee and at the Havana Conference.
The charter, which has been substantially re-drafted, is similar in its general structure to the Geneva draft which has been laid before the Parliament and was debated earlier this year.
– On the 30th April I advised the Leader of the Opposition that I would obtain information from the Prime Minister in regard to investments by British firms in Australian industries. I have looked into the matter and am now able to inform the honorable senator that, according to information collected by the Division of Industrial Development for the period between September, 1945, and December, 1947, expansion programmes which were either commenced or proposed by established manufacturing businesses in Australia were estimated to involve ultimately capital expenditure of nearly £9S,000,000. Businesses in which there were United Kingdom interests were estimated to account for nearly £6,500,000 of this total, businesses with United States interests over £11,000,000. and businesses with other overseas interests nearly £1,000,000. In resp’ect of new companies which commenced manufacture in Australia between September, 1945, and December, 1947, or which were known to be considering entering that field, it is not possible to state precisely the capital expenditure which has been undertaken or is likely to be undertaken in the near future. However, based on forecasts which have been made, company registrations and other sources of information, it is believed that such new companies may provide for an ultimate investment of approximately £50,000,000 in Australia. Of that amount it is estimated that undertakings in which there will be United Kingdom interests will account for £18,000,000; undertakings with United States interests over £6,000,000; and those with other interests overseas over £1,500,000.
The establishment of the ventures in which there will be overseas interests, has resulted, or will result, in the production of a variety of goods, including medical equipment, textiles, plastic fabrics, invalid foods, carpets, industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical goods, dressed and dyed furs, flexible steel shafting and other machinery, assembled motor vehicles, paper, cranes, docking and harbour equipment, garage equipment, refined oil products, internal combustion engines, paint and pigment, toilet preparations, fluid measuring instruments, rubber products, elastic, metal alloys, vacuum cleaners and fractional horse-power motors, clothing and footwear, razor blades, rubber products, batteries, tools and gauges, clocks, and thermostatic controls.
It is not possible to state the amount of capital being invested from overseas in each case.
Debate resumed from the 15th June (vide page 1962), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill he now read a second time.
.- This bill provides for the appropriation of £19,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions in the ensuing year. In his second-reading speech the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) explained that the appropriation would be divided almost equally between pensioners of “World War I. and those of World War II. Taking an interest in war pensions, I endeavoured to ascertain the exact figures for the two wars. To my amazement I found that the latest report of the Repatriation Commission was for the year 1944!-45. For that year the liability in respect of pensions arising from World War I. was £8,000,000, and World War II. £3,500,000. The statistics which have now been furnished by the Minister for Repatriation disclose that at the 31st May, 1948, the liability of the Repatriation Commission in respect of pensioners of World War I. and World. War II. is £8,445,618 and £7,591,007 respectively. Those liabilities do not include service pensions, which amount to an annual total of £1,206,575. In contrast with the present liabilities of the commission, the last available report of the Repatriation Commission in respect of the year 1.944-45, shows the annual liability of the commission to be £8,298,185 and £3,430,679 in respect of pensioners of World War I. and World War II. respectively. The latter sum is less than half the amount now required to be appropriated.
On a number of occasions I have referred to the delay which occurs in the publication of the annual reports of the Repatriation Commission. Although we are now approaching the end of the financial year 1947-48, the latest official statistics made available by the commision relate to the financial year 1944-45. Many ex-servicemen’s organizations are interested in the statistics furnished by the Repatriation Commission in respect of its activities because those reports contain valuable data, but their value is greatly diminished because they are out of date. As an example I mention that the present Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has not issued an annual report since taking office, and I appeal to the Government to expedite publication of the commission’s annual reports.
Members of the Opposition have no desire to obstruct the passage of the bill, the purpose of which is to authorize the appropriation of money for the payment of war pensions.
. - in reply - I did not anticipate any opposition to the measure, which is of a purely machinery character, and I appreciate the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). The greater number of ex-servicemen now entitled to war pensions accounts for the increased amount which is required to be appropriated.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 15th June (vide page 1995), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a first time.
Senator COOKE (Western Australia) 3.20]. - In continuing the debate on the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) of 1947-48, 1 desire to make certain observations which have been rendered necessary by statements made by honorable senators of the Opposition, when speaking on this bill. It was claimed that the amount of social service contributions paid by workers was not returned to them in a sufficient degree in the form of social services, and that, as a consequence, many people were dissatisfied. I point out, however, that the position is quite different in the case of workers who are paying taxes on incomes above the basic wage, which is the rate applicable to a man, his wife and two children.
In 1939 the expenditure of the Commonwealth was £94,000,000; this year it will be approximately £400,000,000. The greater proportion of that amount is returned to the people in the form of war pensions, gratuities, social service payments, wages, and subsidies. Yet today, taxation payments are smaller, particularly in the case of a man with a dependent family. In many instances persons who do not pay tax receive substantial cash benefits as social services. Let us consider the case of a married man with one dependent child, with an income of £318 a year, which is approximately the present basic wage in Western Australia. In 1939, he paid combined Federal and State taxes amounting to £8 18s. 5d. per annum; to-day he pays £2 5s. per annum. Persons in that group now receive a reduction of £6 13s. 5d. from the pre-war dual Federal and State tax. A man with a wife and. two children, who receives an income of £318 per annum, pays no tax or social services contribution. Before the war, under the Commonwealth and State dual taxation system, he was called upon to pay £S 2s. 6d. He is, therefore, better off from a taxation point of view to-day, and in addition he receives 7s. 6d. per week for the second child as a child endowment payment. He no longer has to pay £8 2s. 6d. in taxes, but receives a rebate of £19 15s. Persons in this group are, therefore, better off by £27 17s. 6d. per annum compared with the position in 1939. In addition, they enjoy the very liberal social services which have been introduced during the term of office of the present Government.
Federal and State Treasurers have always contended that if taxes are to be reduced, the lower income groups should be the first to receive some relief. Up to a point, that objective has been achieved. I consider it is necessary to trace the avenues of expenditure of the Australian Government, to see where the money goes. I claim that a big proportion of it is returned, in various forms, to the people who provide it. If it were not for social service payments, many people who are potential spender.’ would be in sub-economic strata. When they receive this money they contribute towards the prosperity of this country, because they are buyers of goods which have been manufactured. They therefore assist in maintaining buoyancy in the community. I claim that the Government’s social services policy is good, not only for the individual, who enjoys a better standard of living as a result of it, but also for the whole commercial and economic structure of the country. Business undertakings of all kinds benefit from this policy. The budget for 1947-48 made provision for the payment of £39,500,000 for invalid and age pensions, £4,150,000 for widows’ pensions. £260,000 for funeral .benefits for age and invalid pensioners, £3,400,000 for maternity allowances, £20,000,000 for child endowment, £4,250,000 for unemployment and sickness benefits, and £4,550,000 for hospital benefits. In the face of thos, figures, how can the Opposition claim that the Government is not paying back to the people the money which it collects from them in taxes, and that the workers are dissatisfied with the returns from their contributions? The Government set aside an amount of £370,000 thi? financial year for payment to the State? for the relief of tuberculosis sufferers It is encouraging the State government? to attack the tuberculosis scourge because it is debarred by the Constitution from doing so directly. I believe that the States have not fulfilled their obligation to match the Commonwealth grant on a £.1 for £1 basis in the campaign against tuberculosis, but the Commonwealth Government has done an excellent job in that field within the limits prescribed b the Constitution. Provision was made this year for the payment of rental rebates under the Commonwealth-Stater Housing Agreement amounting to £20,000. Who benefits from that disbursement other than the persons whose incomes prevent them from paying economic rentals? The people who archelped by these contributions are those who, in spite of the claims of the Opposition, are not required to pay tax. If their incomes brought them into the taxation field, they could afford to pay economic rentals and would not require this form of assistance. That money is distributed for economic purposes as well as for the purpose of increasing the standard of living of the recipients to the basic level which this Government hopes to maintain.
The Government committed itself to the payment of subsidies amounting to £40,000,000 this year. All of that money is distributed to the people and is added to their spending power. Some of it is returned to the Government in the form of taxes, but it all serves the purpose of creating a healthy circulation of currency and credit in the community. The pensions mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) required an expenditure of £19,000,000 in 1947-48.
An examination of all these figures reveals that about 95 per cent, of the Government’s revenue from taxes is paid back into the community through various channels to benefit the national economy and improve the standard of living of the people. It appears that the Opposition is not concerned about the situation of the low wage-earners and the people in sub-economic strata when it complains about the burden of taxation, because the truth is that such people are not handicapped by taxation. If production in Australia has been reduced as the result of taxation, as the Opposition claims, then the fault is that of the masters of industry, the people who find that they can earn plenty of money without increasing production and refuse to accelerate the wheels of industry for. the benefit of the nation unless they can secure more than a reasonable margin of profit from their operations. Every properly conducted business in Australia to-day is providing adequate financial returns. The values of shares and stocks are at a high level, and reports of company dividends published in the newspapers from time to time show that private industry is flourishing. The fact is that the owners of big businesses refuse to extend their operations for the benefit of the nation, [f the Government reduced the rates of tax applied to big business undertakings as an incentive to increase production, it would be forced to do what the Opposition parties did when they were in power and impose crippling taxes on low wageearners in a much wider field in order to secure the revenue necessary for the purposes of government. In an effort to bolster its assertion that production is below normal, the Opposition groped about and picked upon the housing situation. It could not have made a more unfortunate choice.
The building programme of this Government has been highly successful. Under the Commonwealth-State Housing scheme and other private schemes introduced since the cessation of hostilities, house’ construction has forged ahead in spite of the fact that Australia, like most countries, still requires increased production of building materials and components. Over 3S,000 houses were completed in 1947, compared with 25,000 in 1946. The annual completion rate during the final quarter of 1947 represented 45,000 houses per annum, 12 per cent, above the rate for 1939, when an all-time pre-war record was established. If the Opposition wishes to substantiate its claim that house construction is lagging, it will have to discredit those figures, which have been compiled by the Commonwealth Statistician. The average annual rate of house construction during the period from 1930 to 1940 was 27,000 units. The rate of construction this year exceeds that figure by 11,000 units. The Opposition has deliberately attempted to mislead the Senate and the public by declaring that the rate of construction has not increased. Over 14,000 houses have been completed under the CommonwealthState Housing Agreement since the inception of the scheme. About 10,000 houses are now under construction. Probably those are the roofless buildings which the Leader of the Opposition saw. Apparently he overlooked the total of 14,000 completed houses. Advances made to the States by the Commonwealth under the agreement amount to more than £25,000,000. Apart from operations under this agreement, State governments have completed over 3,000 permanent houses and 6,600 temporary dwellings, such as converted military huts which, though not satisfactory, at least provide accommodation for families. No achievements of this kind were made in pre-war years by anti-Labour administrations, “which had at their disposal ample reserves of man-power and materials, particularly during the years of the depression when thousands of men were out of work. Honorable senators opposite forget these facts and broadcast wild statements without examining the figures. Their statements are in line with a great deal of other propaganda broadcast from this Parliament and disseminated through the press which has done great disservice to the people. Those falsehoods were condemned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in his speech at the recent conference of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales. In all, State housing authorities have provided accommodation for nearly 25,000 families in permanent and temporary dwellings. I could give further details, but I have already supplied sufficient information to prove that the Opposition’s criticism of the Government’s house construction programme is completely unfounded. The fact is that the situation is highly creditable to the Government.
I refer now to the superannuation funds which were mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition in his criticism of the Government’s social services programme. The Opposition claims that some social services are not ‘ necessary because various superannuation schemes provide retiring allowances for many of our people. I have been closely associated with the Western Australian superannuation and family benefits scheme, about which the Opposition is probably completely ignorant. A vast majority of the people eligible to participate in that scheme cannot afford to contribute for more than four of the concession units permitted under the State legislation. A person contributing for that number of units with the object of retiring at the age of 60 years is required to pay at the rate of 10s. 4d. a week. If he wishes to retire at the age of 65 years, he pays at the rate of 6s. 5d. per week, the greatest number for which they could afford to contribute. Four units would entitle the contributor to a benefit ‘ of £2 a week. The Government has treated that benefit as allowable income in addition to social service benefits and it will gradually remove the means test entirely. That is one of the objectives of the Labour party, and I hardly need to say that our party usually gains its objectives. I can understand the views expressed by honorable senators opposite because they do not associate so closely as do members of the Labour party with that great section of the community who are obliged to expend all their income in order to subsist. Honorable senators opposite speak without a knowledge of the facts when they claim that our people are overburdened with taxes. They should associate more closely with the great majority whose toil’ enables, the country to progress. The Government has made many concessions to that well-deserving section of the community. I have already referred to the subsidy provided to enable tenants to pay the economic rent of their homes.
With respect to social services generally one cannot but notice the vast improvement that has been effected in their liberalization and administration by the present Government. Whilst the qualifications for age pension have not been altered substantially, the general administration of that benefit and similar benefits is much more sympathetic now than it was under previous governments, and any one with a knowledge of the subject, realizes that sympathetic administration in itself is of immense advantage to recipients of such a ‘benefit. All of us can recall the time when applicants for the old-age pension were not only submitted to a means test, but were also obliged to disclose all details of their property, and the department took a lien over that property to the value of the pension paid. That condition has now been abolished. To-day, a man and his wife, if they are living together, can qualify for social service benefits amounting to £5 15s. a week, which, with the exception of the gold-fields in Western Australia, is in excess of the basic wage. At the same’ time, no lien is taken over the homes, or property, of recipients of benefits. The Government believes that recipients of benefits are entitled to retain full possession of whatever assets they have been able to build up during their working years. However, honorable senators opposite who have much to say about socialism are prepared to deprive recipients of their homes as a condition of eligibility for benefit, although it is not sufficient to provide them with a livelihood but is simply a measure of assistance to help them in their declining years. Therefore, when we take into account the wide range of the social service benefits made available to people on low incomes who pay very little tax, if any at all, the claim made by honorable senators opposite that the community is being crippled by the taxes, is groundless. An examination of the position reveals a state of affairs which reflects great credit upon the Government and reveals the arguments advanced by honorable senators as dishonest propaganda.
The Government has also liberalized the widows’ pension. Honorable senators opposite claim that most of the social service benefits now provided could be made available under superannuation schemes. However, the great majority of people on low wages do not contribute to any superannuation fund. Those privileges are confined to employees of governments, banks, insurance companies and financial institutions, most of which, as a rule, have contributory schemes for the provision of retirement benefits to their employees. The great majority of wage-earners cannot afford to contribute to such funds, or even to assure their lives. That is the section of the people which the Government’s social service programme benefits most.
With respect to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, which is often described as a free-medicine scheme, honorable senators opposite contend that no medicine will he provided free because the people will pay for it in the form of taxes. Nobody is so simple as to suggest that the medicine made available under that scheme is free in the sense that it is taken out of the air. However, it is provided free to the big section of the community to which I have referred, namely, persons on low wages who do not pay any taxes at all. In any case, under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme any person who wishes, and can afford to do so, can obtain medical attention from the doctor of his own choice. In many families, when the breadwinner, earning the basic wage, or, perhaps, a small margin above the basic wage, takes ill he does not even think of consulting a doc tor because he is afraid to incur the expense involved. Most persons in that class are usually content to take a headache powder in order to get temporary relief, and then continue to carry on. The Government regards people in that class as a special responsibility from a health point of view. They are the people who will benefit most under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme; and no one will deny that they are entitled to that benefit. Any person who can afford other medical attention is free to select a doctor outside the scheme. No means test will be applied under the pharmaceutical benefits scheme, and the freedom of individuals will not be interfered with in any way. The primary object of thescheme is to remove the terror to which, many people in the middle and lower wage-earning classes are now subject. They are fully entitled to that protection,
I urge the people to study the statement made by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) dealing with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. In that statement, which I understand is available in printed form, the Minister has set out the position clearly. I agree with him that the doctors individually are not opposing the scheme. The great majority of doctors attend many necessitous cases in respect of which, very often, they do not render an account or do not receive any payment whatever for their services. Those people, because they cannot afford to do so, fail to seek medical advice until their complaint has reached an advanced stage. No decent Australian desires to incur a debt, whether it -be in respect of medical treatment or for goods, if he cannot see has way clear to pay it. For that reason a great number of people who are in need of medical attention refuse to seek it. The average general practitioner is anxious to render service to those people. Under the Government’s scheme that service will be made readily available to the class of people to whom I refer, and the debt incurred will be paid by the Government. That is in the interests of the general health of the community. I believe that ultimately the doctors will co-operate in the Government scheme. All great reforms meet with some degree of opposition. I can see no major difficulties in the matter. I hope that the press will give full publicity to the Minister’s explanation of the scheme.
– The honorable senator is an optimist.
– I am an optimist. As an Australian, I believe that this country has great potentialities and possesses the best stock in the world to help this nation enjoy to the full its great heritage. If the Government maintains in peace the outlook it exhibited in the recent war, we shall continue to prosper, and I believe that honorable senators opposite will be proud to live in Australia under the present Administration. I support the bill.
– Undoubtedly in this measure provision is made to cover the cost of inquiring into the delineation of the boundaries of the new federal electorates in Queensland. No one will welcome the increased Queensland membership of the Australian Parliament more than I shall, because it will give added strength to honorable senators on both sides of this chamber with which to voice Queensland’s needs and to protest against the injustices that are inflicted upon that State. There can be no doubt about the feelings of Queenslanders on this subject. They believe, and have believed for many years, that they are neglected and forgotten. The fact that at the last general election, Queensland returned three anti-Labour senators to office in this Parliament, and at the recent referendum registered such an emphatic “No” vote indicates the antagonism of its forgotten people. They have expressed in the only manner possible, their protest against the manner in which they have, been neglected by Canberra. I do not think that the attitude of the people of. Queensland is unreasonable or unjust. They know only too well what they are enduring. They have a justifiable suspicion that many of their present troubles are unnecessary and they cannot see any signs that the Australian Government is bothering itself sufficiently to inquire into their protests or their needs. They feel that they are out of sight and out of mind. I assure the Senate that Queensland’s grievances are very real. They are not imaginary.. The people of Queens land are pressing for urgent action, and I agree that such action is warranted.
Queensland is still short of many essential supplies, but it is no use blaming the railwaymen’s strike or the seamen’s strike. The dislocation of transport services no doubt caused temporary shortages but the people of Queensland believe that, when the strike was over, remedial action should have been taken immediately. 3 also hold that view. Let us consider some of the goods of which Queensland is in urgent need to-day. A box of matches seems to be a simple little thing, but the shortage is serious and is causing unnecessary difficulties to housewives. It is most difficult to buy a box of matches in Queensland. The manner in which this scarcity accentuates the problems of the housewife is noi hard to visualize. The necessity to search for matches adds more work to her already busy life. It is possible that the shortage of labour is a contributing factor to the scarcity of matches, but if so, who was it that piled industry after industry into the southern States, thus accentuating labour problems? Who was it that established war-time production in the south of this continent, and so laid the foundation of the great drift of population from the other States? Responsibility for these actions lies with the present Government, so if the housewife has to go from shop to shop to buy matches she knows whom to blame. Another matter which is causing considerable inconvenience to Queensland housewives is the shortage of white sewing cotton. This, too, is an essential commodity. Recently I visited many centres in Queensland and at each of them I tried to buy a reel of white cotton. When I was lucky enough to obtain two reels from some friends, I felt like a wealthy woman. I was able to present one of them to somebody else whose need was even greater than mine. These shortages are serious and very real to the people of Queensland. There is no need for me to stress the necessity to have in every home the simple reel of white cotton. Without it the children’s clothes cannot be mended. Cotton is required also for babies’ layettes, and to repair household linen which, in many homes after the years of shortages, is in urgent need of repair.
Mothers are acutely aware of the manner in which their needs are ‘being neglected, and they know only too well the difficulty of searching for these items. There is also a shortage of babies’ clothing as well as of children’s clothing generally. I repeat that these are serious matters to the housewives of Queensland, who are forced to go from centre to centre and from shop to shop, in many cases taking with them two or three children. The effects that this must have upon their physical well-being are obvious. Queensland should not be neglected in this way.
Then there is the matter of tinned fruit. Thanks to co-operative industry, Queensland has a big new pineapple cannery. It is even exporting canned pineapples. Indeed, canned pineapples are easier to obtain in the southern States than canned peaches are in Queensland. I could go on marshalling instance after instance, and fact after fact, in regard to the neglect of Queensland’s needs. The Senate is aware that the Queensland Minister for Housing had to come south to obtain supplies of galvanized iron. Honorable senators know, too, the story about barbed wire of which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) spoke. Any one can guess what happens when a Queensland manufacturer wants supplies of deep-drawing steel for ice chests, and [ am sure that honorable senators are aware of the reason why sales tax is imposed upon refrigerators. Queensland is possibly the only ,State in which refrigerators are not a luxury but a necessity; yet sales tax is levied upon them. Queensland has a hot climate for most of the year, particularly in the north-western districts, and refrigerators are essential to preserve food and thus ease the daily task of the housewife. The people of Queensland have to struggle on in the face of all these difficulties which have existed not just for a short period, but for many years. The position shows no sign of improving. Whenever questions are asked in the Parliament in regard to these matters, Ministers flourish long compilations of figures, sometimes based on pre-war consumption, sometimes on population, and at other times on tonnages and so on; but figures can be twisted and turned to give all sorts of results. None of the statements has been based upon needs, which after all should be the prime consideration. A fast developing State like Queensland may actually need more supplies than it would be entitled to on a population basis, or on the basis of prewar consumption or available transport tonnage. Undoubtedly, Queensland’s quota of goods should be based upon its needs.
I am sure that when the Parliament is enlarged, the new representatives of Queensland will speak as I have spoken, and will support my claims for a better deal for that State. Queensland to-day is suffering from neglect; from failure to understand and appreciate its problems; from the absence of fair treatment in regard to supplies; and from straightout indifference on the part of the Australian Government. I hope that the results of the recent referendum will make Ministers take notice of Queensland’s requirements, and that they will take steps to ensure that supplies shall be forwarded to that State in accordance with its needs.
– I extend my congratulations to the Minister for Heatlh (Senator McKenna) on the very able exposition which he gave of the circumstances surrounding the vitally important matter of pharmaceutical benefits. The Minister must have been gratified at the encomiums showered upon him by members of the Opposition. I join with them in the hope that the British Medical Association in Australia, which has delayed the implementation of the scheme, will recognize the paramount importance of the public welfare and will co-operate with the Government in administering the scheme. According to a statement in the press, the Minister hopes to convene in the near future, a conference of the parties concerned. I hope that it will be successful. .
I commend Senator Rankin, who is a vigorous “ State-righter “, for advocating that more adequate supplies of essential commodities should be made available to Queensland. Nevertheless, the honorable senator must realize that other States are confronted with similar difficulties. As a matter of fact, one of my colleagues has scarcely spoken to me for a few days, because he has been unable to obtain matches and has had to purchase a cigarette lighter.
Members of the Opposition had plenty to say about the result of the recent referendum, and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), with characteristic political opportunism, seized the opportunity to express his profound conviction that the decisive negative vote constituted a rebuke to the Government, which, he contended, had lost the confidence of the people. I certainly do not share that view, because our experience teaches us that referendum proposals which are opposed by the parties in opposition are invariably defeated. The tendency of the voters to ;negative all such proposals submitted to :them has reacted to the disadvantage of the nation. As an example, had the people approved the grant of power to the Commonwealth to introduce orderly marketing of primary produce, I do not think that we should be confronted with many of the difficulties which now beset us. Moreover, the grant of such powers would have enabled the Parliament to devise machinery to stabilize the prices of primary produce, which would have removed many doubts and anxieties from the minds of primary producers and contributed to the maintenance of stability in international economy. It is only in times of war that the Australian people become nationally minded, and whilst I have no objection to State representatives doing their utmost to advance the interests of their particular State - indeed, it is their constitutional duty to do so - I deplore the tendency to sacrifice the national welfare to purely State considerations. If Australia is to capitalize the extraordinary opportunities now available to it and retain its prestige amongst the nations of the world, we must put the national interest before any other.
The need for increased production was never greater, and the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) has appealed to the people at every opportunity to increase their output. However, because of the extraordinary conditions prevailing as the result of the recent war, I am afraid that until our ingenuity can devise some new method ‘ to overcome shortages and other disabilities we must continue to experience some inconveniences. However, in the present Government the people have a sheet anchor on which they can rely and which they can trust to do the right and honest thing. “We should remember that many of the commodities which are badly needed in Australia are even more urgently required in “ other countries which are in much worse condition. One has only to think of the plight of the unfortunate people of the United Kingdom. In order to supply them with the maximum amount of food which we can export it is necessary to deprive ourselves of certain advantages which we possess in a time of general want. I deplore the attitude of those who would have the Government exploit the starving peoples of Europe by demanding a price of 17s. or 18s. a bushel for our wheat, and then make the hypocritical demand that we should supply more “food for Britain”.
Members of the Opposition continually taunt the Government with having failed to prevent industrial upheavals. Unfortunately, industrial disputes occur all too frequently, but the people responsible for them do not receive any particular sympathy from the Government. Because of the nature of their employment men employed on ships, on the waterfront and in coal mines frequently ventilate their grievances in an irregular manner. That as always been characteristic of them, and industrial disputes and stoppages have occurred regardless of the political party in power. Critics of the Government forget that fact when they accuse the present Government of abetting Communists. Some years ago the present Communist party was known as the “I.W.W.”, and the Australian Labour party was denounced because it was alleged to favour that body. Such tactics have been consistently employed by the opponents of Labour, and I remember very vividly a cartoon depicting a Labour Minister with a dagger between his teeth and blood dripping from his mouth, which appeared in a consecutive newspaper some years ago. According to the cartoon, the Minister was vehemently expressing his conviction that the Australian Labour party was about to enter the ranks of Communism. However, the appreciation shown by the community of the excellent humanitarian legislation introduced by Labour governments from time to time proves that mendacious publicity of that kind does not deceive any one.
At the conclusion of hostilities in the recent war the Government announced its. firm determination to ensure full employment. That has been accomplished; never in the history of the country have there been so few unemployed in the community. The Government at least deserves commendation for the steadfast manner in which it has pursued that policy. In every section of industry the workers who produce goods by the sweat of their brow, are being told that they are not producing enough. It is galling to listen to suggestions that the coal-miners are not hewing enough coal, when the people making the complaints would be very cold at nights if they had to depend on their own efforts to gain the coal required for heating purposes.
I shall refer now to the oft-made statements of Opposition senators in condemnation of public servants. As long at 1 have breath in my body I shall challenge those statements and defend the public servants, wherever I may be. In tha Public Service of this country, as in all walks of life, there are, undoubtedly, misfits, but I contend, without fear of contradiction, that an overwhelming percentage of those engaged in the Public Service in Australia are citizens who are an asset to the country, and second to none in qualities of citizenship.
During the war years, as all honorable senators doubtless will agree, men were selected from all walks of life to perform public service in the administration of controls such as rationing, which are absolutely foreign to the ideals of the Australian citizen. Those people, who rendered service to Australia in time of war in administering controls thought to be necessary by the Government, performed a most unpleasant task. In almost every department they met with insults from members of the public, who should have known better than to allow the selfishness which is an inherit trait in human nature to assert itself. I hope the time is not far distant when that much-maligned section of the Australian community will at least receive, not praise - they are not looking for praise - but a just recognition of ‘the services they are performing in the interests of Australia. Whether the opponents of the Australian Government like it or not the trend in governments the world over during the past twenty years has been to bring the national welfare under government control. That fact in itself tends to increase, ‘ not decrease, the number of public servants. That trend will necessitate the employment of larger numbers in the Public Service of this country.’ The time is long overdue when the public servants of Australia should receive the assistance and encouragement that is their due, because they are endeavouring to serve the best interests of this great country.
I come now to references that have been made to the achievements of this Government. Time and time again the accusation has been made that this Government has done nothing since the last general election to alleviate the taxation burden. The facts are that since the 1946 general election income tax and social service contributions have been reduced by £34,000,000, sales tax by almost £20,000,000; war-time company tax of £3,500,000 has been removed; customs and excise duties have been reduced by more than £4,000,000; and reductions to the amount of £700,000 have been effected in the amount of estate duty, gold tax and gift duty. In view of the figures that I have cited, even the most bitter critics of this Government should refrain from accusing the Government of unjust and inequitable handling of taxation. Senator Cooke pointed out, in his very able address, what has been done by the Government to assist, not only the workers in the lower income groups, but those in every section of the community, and I support his remarks.
Those of us with long memories can recall the financial problems which confronted successive governments during World War I., and, indeed, during and after World War II. until 1946. They. were forced to go cap in hand to the trading hanks and seek loans. I can well understand and conceive the disappointment of our opponents at the outstanding success achieved by this Government in floating loans. Since it assumed the reins of government, every loan floated has been over-subscribed. I invite honorable senators to compare that with the fact that, prior to “World “War LT., the government of the day had to seek assistance of the private banks, at high rates of interest. In the early part of World War II., 6 per cent, interest was charged on treasury-bills, and governments were forced to plead with the trading .banks for help. Opposition senators have not given the Government credit for the manner in which the money subscribed to the last loan has been allotted. Never once has the Opposition given this Government credit for its handling of that money. A little over £100,000,000 was subscribed and of that amount, £46,000,000 was for the purposes of State governments. In other words, £46,000,000 of the proceeds of that loan was given back to the State governments to be used in any manner they thought fit, for the development of their respective States. An additional £11,000,000 was for housing loans in connexion with the Commonwealth and State housing agreements. Therefore, I say that the manner in which the Government has handled the finances of this country is commendable. In spite of bitter opposition from our political opponents, aided and abetted by organizations of wheat-growers and other producing sections of the community, the Government is determined to bring into being some scheme which will save them from their own folly. Apart from the political advantages which may be gained from the Opposition adopting that attitude, I contend that in all fairness credit must be given to the Government - even by the most bitter of its lifelong opponents - for its attempt to advance the interests of every section of the people of this country. As the result of this Government’s actions, people in every walk of life throughout Australia are enjoying conditions that are the envy of the world in spite of the fact that we have just emerged from a disastrous war which followed close upon a depression unparalled in the nation’s history. It may seem boastful to speak in this vein, but we of the Labour party have no means of expounding our policies and reminding the people of their debt to this Government other than that afforded to us in this Parliament and to our colleagues in the State parliaments.
I agree with Senator Rankin’s comments about the welfare of people living in remote parts of this continent, though 1 do not want my listeners to assume that I am an out-and-out “ State righter “. This Government would be well advised to continue its activities in the interest* of citizens who live far away from our capital cities. I sincerely hope that, in the near future, the Government will produce further tangible evidence of its interest in our rural communities. It i.1 assisting the State governments by means of grants for the purpose of road maintenance and is encouraging water conservation and irrigation schemes and other activities which tend to make life easier and more enjoyable for people who are pioneering and developing our outback areas. The preservation of our natural forests is another subject of national importance which, I am sure, commands the interest of representatives of all States. Journeying through this broad land, one cannot fail to observe the diminution of natural growth with the advancing years. This is a matter of very grave concern to the whole nation, and I hope that, in the not distant future, laws will he passed prescribing that, whenever a tree is destroyed, another must be planted in its place. In this respect, we can take advantage of the knowledge and experience of the officers of our forestry service, another organization created by a Labour government. J hope that future generations will see a sound afforestation policy in operation all over Australia. We should plant trees suitable to our climatic conditions in order to make good the serious inroad? that have been made upon our virgin forests.
No criticism .by any section of the community of this Government’s administrative record can be substantiated. Anybody who considers the achievements of the Government honestly must realize that they have been in the best interests of the people. Those who declare that the result of the referendum indicated a vote of “No more power for Chifley”, are unfair. The people were simply asked’ to decide whether the Australian Government should continue to control prices and rents. They decided against continuance of Commonwealth control. That decision had no reference to politics. Their action was in accordance with the tradition in this country, that the people generally oppose any amendment of the Constitution. However, in the light of the international situation, I am sure that the people will eventually realize the absolute necessity of having a national government in complete control of their affairs, irrespective of its political colour. God forbid that we should ever have an anti-Labour government in office again ! The granting of undivided power to a central government is essential to progress and the welfare of every section of the community.
– The debate on this appropriation measure provides us with an opportunity to review the accomplishments of the Government during the last twelve months. An examination of the Government’s record reveals the necessity for a continuation of its policy, which is designed for the welfare of the whole Australian community. Some of the expenditure incurred by the Government has been subjected to unmerciful criticism by the Opposition in this Parliament and by the press. For those who are not charged with the responsibility of governing the nation during the difficult period of transition from war to peace it is easy to be critical, but they have no reason to be proud of the petty and vindictive attacks made on this Government merely for political purposes. In reviewing governmental activities during 1947-48, I pay a special tribute to the departments concerned with the welfare of ex-servicemen. It is an interesting fact that, at exservicemen’s conferences throughout Australia, there has been very little criticism of the work of those departments. Much of the time at these conferences is unfortunately occupied with political discussions and criticism of the Government, which has nothing to do with the objects of such organizations. However, despite . this political atmosphere, there has been little complaint about the Government’s reestablishment programme. This reflects great credit on the departments responsible for that programme. Up to 1947-48, an amount of £3,133,695 has been expended on university training under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme. When one meet3 some of the students who have taken advantage of that scheme, one realizes what wonderful opportunities it has given them and how well they are responding to its benefits.
The scheme has passed almost completely out of public notice because, after the initial period in which anomalies became apparent and were removed, it has worked smoothly and efficiently. The Government’s opponents seized upon the early mistakes in an effort to discredit it, but now that the scheme is operating successfully they are strangely silent about it. They no longer talk about its alleged disadvantages. The Government deserves high commendation for having introduced the scheme and carried it into full operation. Expenditure on technical and vocational training under the scheme this year has amounted to approximately £8,000,000. Critics who complain about high rates of tax ignore the fact that undertakings of this nature, which are of great value to the nation, require heavy governmental expenditure. They ask whether the Government’s revenue is being used to maintain an enlarged Public Service, and they talk about “ Canberra control “. People who were fortunate enough not to have their lives disturbed by war service, and to remain at home and make large sums of money, are betraying their responsibilities to exservicemen when they complain about such expenditure. I remind these constant critics of the Government that these large sums of money are being used for a valuable purpose in the discharge of a national obligation. I have met many ex-servicemen who have taken advantage of the reconstruction training scheme and have now obtained skilled employment. It is gratifying to hear the reports of the foremen and overseers who are in charge of these trainees. They declare unanimously that ex-servicemen have proved themselves to be conscientious workers and that they have taken full advantage of the opportunities afforded to them by the Government. After World War I., we witnessed the sorry spectacle of ex-servicemen trying to re-establish themselves in civil life without any assistance. The situation to-day is vastly different. The files of employment offices and ex-servicemen’s organizations show that very few of the men who served during World War II. are out of work and that very few of those who were eligible for reestablishment training failed to take advantage of their opportunities. Public attention should be drawn to the successful working of the reconstruction training scheme in order to discredit the persistent critics of the Government.
During the present uneasy period in world history, it is gratifying to realize that Australia, notwithstanding the comments of Opposition senators, has established itself as one of the most stable and sane countries. This is entirely due to the long-range planning and practical legislation of this Government. We often hear the word “plan” used in a critical sense, but a Government without a plan in modern’ society is in a hopeless situation. Those people who would return to old conditions rather than carry out reforms progressively hold society back. Unless we progress, we shall revert to the undesirable conditions of former years. We must not stagnate. I compliment the Government upon its achievements during 1947-48, particularly in relation to the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen,
I refer now to the important subject of immigration. We must never forget the lesson that we learned in the early days of World War II., that Australia is sadly under-populated in comparison with neighouring countries in the Pacific region. One of our main objectives must be the progressive increase of our population. I pay a tribute to the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) for his forthright and determined efforts to encourage people of other countries to come to Australia. His plan to attract 70,000 people annually indicates a noble ambition, and we must not forget that, at the same time, we are taking action to ensure that our new citizens shall not become surplus units on the labour market. Fortunately, due to the foresight of the Government, full employment exists and no difficulty will be experienced in absorbing migrants in industry. A study of vital statistics emphasizes our need to attract an increasing number of migrants to Australia. Whereas, in 1940, the number of boys and girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen years totalled 644,100, it is estimated that the number in that age group in 1951 will have declined to 516,400, or a decrease of 127,700. That is a legacy from the economic conditions which existed in this country between the two world wars, due mainly to the failure of the governments of the day to evolve plans for the development of this country. During that period we experienced the greatest depression in our history. For that reason, I again compliment the Government on its longrange planning for the development of Australia and the improvement of the standard of living of our (people. The expected decline of the number of persons in the age group to which I have referred is a sign of decadence. While we are losing so many young Australians, the numbers in older age groups are continuing to increase. That decadence is one result of the shortsightedness of past governments, which, although they existed under various names, were all anti-Labour. Another legacy of their bad administration 19 the present serious shortage of man-power in Australia. So bad were the economic conditions prevailing under those governments that our people were prepared to commit race suicide. We cannot expect to increase our population unless our people enjoy economic security. That principle is the basis . of the Government’s economic policy. When honorable senators opposite talk about returning to the old days, they are defeatists. Their policies are dictated by vested interests. In those circumstances, the work being done by the Department of Immigration is vital to the nation’s welfare.
I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the work being done by the Repatriation Department. Although we have a full realization of the disabilities being suffered by our soldiers who were disabled on war service, it is some consolation to note that inmates of repatriation hospitals to-day are satisfied with the treatment being meted out to them. Recently, [ spoke to several men who were disabled in the first world war and they informed me that a different atmosphere now exists in the hospitals in which they are inmates than was the case under previous governments. They have undergone a complete- change of mind because of the knowledge that, should they recover sufficiently to be discharged, they shall be assured of economic security as the result of the Government’s social service programme. Last year, the cost of medical treatment rendered to exservice personnel and their dependants amounted to £2,800,000. Many people who complain about high taxes would not be so loud in their protests if they realized the magnitude of the Government’s commitments in respect of the re-establishment of ex-service personnel. Last year, re-employment allowances provided under the Government’s rehabilitation scheme amounted to £408,000, whilst a sura of £800,000 was expended in the provision of tools of trade to reconstruction trainees. That expenditure was fully justified because the Government must discharge its responsibility to those who made such great sacrifices in the defence of this country. The appropriation proposed under the measure now before us represents the last financial act in a year in which the Government has achieved remarkable progress.
I regret that the Government has not obtained a greater measure of cooperation on the part of the British Medical Association in the implementation of its pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I was pleased to hear the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) say earlier to-day that there is a likelihood that the differences which have arisen will be composed. In Tasmania, the great majority of doctors has not yet co-operated, in the scheme, but they will be prepared to do so when they get the necessary permission from the Federal Council of their association. The scheme will confer a great boon on people who cannot afford adequate medical attention. I believe that when the scheme is fully implemented we shall gradually reach a state of affairs under which doctors and chemists will find it more profitable to help to maintain the health of the community rather than merely treat those who fall ill.
During the recent referendum campaign I visited several remote areas in Tasmania. I refer to this subject in order to illustrate the effect of the propaganda disseminated by opponents of the Government’s proposals. Much of that propaganda was circulated by organizations which claimed to be’ neutral, but it was obvious that they were in league with the Opposition parties. That propaganda reminded me of the things I heard when I was a prisoner of war in Germany. German propaganda was based on the technique expounded in Mein Kampf that if one tells a big enough lie often enough people will eventually accept it as truth. T deplore the fact that such powerful mediums of propaganda as the press and the radio can be abused to such a degree. On one occasion when I was driving along a country road with a referendum placard displayed at the side of my car a child of five called out to me “Vote No ‘ “. Even tiny children absorbed the propaganda disseminated by opponents of the Government’s proposals. The time is opportune to ensure that powerful mediums of publicity shall not be abused in that way. It is significant that supporters of the Government’s proposals could not arrange broadcasts from commercial stations except at the least favorable times. I again commend the Government on its record during the financial year now drawing to a close.’ The Government is striving for the betterment of the nation as a whole. It is doing its utmost to improve the standard of living of the community. It must continue to plan for the future, because Australia is a land where coming generations should find a society in which man can live in peace with his brother.
– Under this bill we are asked to appropriate the sum of £40,000,000 to meet governmental expenditure for a period of seven months. I compliment the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) on the very dignified and fair manner in which he dealt with the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. He was restrained in his criticism of the British Medical Association because of its failure to co-operate in the scheme. He placed the facts carefully before the Senate, and there is no doubt that he stated the position truthfully, supporting his assertions with documentary evidence. The attitude adopted by the British Medical Association makes one wonder that any section of the community should be able, virtually, to say to the Government of the country that its laws cannot be implemented. The Minister informed us that the British Medical Association had been given every opportunity to shape the formulary. What more could the doctors ask for in their desire to protect their own interests, particularly when the majority of members of the formulary committee are medical men? Therefore, whatever complaint medical men may have in regard to the formulary, the fact remains that they had majority representation on the body which considered it. I remind honorable senators also that the formulary is not static. It can be reviewed from time to time. If a new drug comes on the market and its worth has been proved there is nothing to prevent its inclusion in the formulary so that medical men may prescribe it if they so desire. Once again, therefore, the arguments adduced by the British Medical Association against this scheme fall to the ground, and generally speaking it would appear that the case .advanced by the British Medical Association is not valid. It is worthy of note that not only has the National Government of this country sought to implement a pharmaceutical benefits scheme, but also that the people of Australia themselves, by referendum, have indicated their support for such a project. Therefore this powerful organization of medical men, the British Medical Association, is opposing the express desires of the people by endeavour ing to frustrate the efforts of this Government to provide a very necessary service. The scheme has been slightingly described as “ a bottle of free medicine “. the implication being that the benefit is of. little account; but when one examines the long list of medicines set out in the formulary and the purposes for which they may be required, one can only come to the conclusion that those medicines must be of some value in the treatment of disease. What is actually happening at present? Because of the decision of a majority of doctors to abide .by the instruction issued by their organization, the benefits of this legislation are being denied to the Australian people. This is imposing a severe hardship upon people in the lower income groups, and particularly upon those whose only income is a pension. Because of their refusal to write prescriptions on the prescribed form, doctors are denying to indigent people the right to receive free of charge medicines which may otherwise cost them 10s. or 15s.
We are informed that medical men fear that the implementation of the pharmaceutical Benefits Act is hut a prelude to the nationalization of medicine and the regimentation of doctors. This argument has been emphasized by Opposition senators. I remind them, however, that the Minister for Health has assured the Senate that the Government has no intention to introduce a nationalized medical service under the terms of this act. In regard to the regimentation of doctors, it may be opportune for me to refer honorable senators to the terms in which certain powers were sought by the Commonwealth at the referendum held in 1946. On that occasion the people of Australia were asked to empower the Commonwealth Parliament to make laws with respect to maternity allowances, widows’ pensions, child endowment, unemployment, pharmaceutical, sickness and hospital benefits, mental and dental services, but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription, benefits to students and family allowances. On that question, a large majority of the people voted in the affirmative, thus establishing for all time the right of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of the matters enumerated. I emphasize the very important words “ but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription”. The meaning of that proviso is clear, yet officials of the British Medical Association suggest that if they co-operate with the Government in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme they may, at some future date, be told where they are to work, how much they are to be paid, and so on. Obviously, doctors cannot be compelled to work for this Government, or any other government. They have the right to work wherever they desire, and they may, if thy wish, become employees of the Australian Government. The claim that the writing of prescriptions on certain forms may mean regimentation is just another of the absurd arguments that have been advanced against this Government’s administration, particularly in recent months. The only result of the British Medical Association’s attitude to the pharmaceutical benefits scheme will be that thousands of sick people, many of them indigent, will be deprived of free medicine. Much has been made of the amount of work involved in using the prescribed forms, but I suggest that it would be no greater than that necessary to make out a receipt in triplicate. All chat a doctor need do is quote the formulary reference number of the medicine that he is prescribing. The Minister for Health has also pointed out that under the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, which has been in force since the conclusion of World War I., hundreds of medical men in this country have been using forms similar to those prescribed by the Pharmaceutical Benefits A.ct; yet this flimsy argument is being used as a reason for non-co-operation by medical men with the Australian Government in its effort to benefit the people of Australia by providing -medicine free of charge. Obviously the argument is quite without foundation. It is apparent that a majority of the medical men in this country have allowed themselves to be influenced by the Federal Council of the British Medical Association and by erroneous propaganda, or have lost their individual initiative as citizens of this country. The evidence before us is that the majority of doctors are not eve a willing to give the scheme a trial. That attitude is indefensible.
Another argument is that this measure is another step in the realization of the socialistic ambitions of this Government. The proponents of that theory are careful to avoid pointing out that the Commonwealth Constitution, in accordance with which all the laws ‘of the Commonwealth are made, contains no provision which would allow the Government to socialize anything. Therefore, when people make these allegations, they do so either deliberately knowing that they are untrue, or in total ignorance of the facts. It has been argued that the socialistic policy of the Labour Government is exemplified in the Commonwealth Bank; but is that bank a socialistic undertaking ? The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers and the Commonwealth Railways have also been mentioned as socialistic undertakings. Admittedly those instrumentalities are controlled so far as they can be by the Commonwealth Government. What did the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank accomplish, and what has it done for the people of Australia? How many millions of pounds has it saved the people of Australia in reduced interest rates? How many millions of pounds did it save the Government during the recent war? The very fact that the Commonwealth Bank exists prevents the commercial banks from exploiting the Government and the people of Australia, and if the bank is one of the manifestations of “ socialism “, then I am quite prepared to accept socialism.
Another example of the substantial benefits conferred on the people of the country by government control of activities was supplied by the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. That line operated for a number of years before it was virtually given away by an antiLabour government, and during the period of its operation it saved the primary producers of this country many hundreds of thousands of pounds in freight charges alone. We have only to think of the present fares and freights charged by shipping lines to realize the degree to which they exploit passengers and consignors. Immediately prior to the outbreak of World War I. it was possible to travel from this country to the United Kingdom for approximately £40, but to-day the fare is about £150. Can such an increase be justified? Had the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers continued to operate fares and freights would not have reached the present fantastic levels. Another example of “ socialism “ is supplied by the Commonwealth Railways. The principal railway line operated by the Commonwealth extends from Kalgoorlie, in Western Australia, to Port Pirie in South Australia, a distance of more than 1,000 miles. That transcontinental line does not serve any large intermediate towns, if we expect Tarcoola, so that its construction has not presented to investors any prospect of financial gain.
I remind honorable senators that a Labour government was responsible for the construction of that line. Because of the competition provided by the Commonwealth railways interstate shipping companies and airlines are prevented from exploiting the community by charging exorbitant fares. What would happen if the transcontinental railway were sold by the Government? I think that we all know what the result would be. There is similar justification for the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines. The creation and operation of that enterprise has been consistently criticized by members of the Opposition, but it cannot be denied that TransAustralia Airlines has exercised a decisive influence in reducing fares and freights for air travel. I have mentioned those matters in order to illustrate my understanding of the term “ socialism “ ; it embraces enterprises which are owned and controlled by the people and function in the interests of the people. Production for service is a much better motive than production for profit, and it is only because the profit motive is absent from State enterprises that they attract so much criticism.
Senator O’sullivan said that the operation of the pharmaceutical benefits scheme will not, in reality, result in the supply of free medicine. Admittedly medicine provided under the scheme will not be “ free “, because it will be paid for by the community, which will contribute the money in taxes, but the fact remains that even those who do not pay taxes will be able to obtain medicine free. The whole purpose of the scheme is to distribute an important social benefit to all members of the community regardless of their economic position.
Senator O’sullivan also suggested that taxes raised by the Government to provide free medicine would be diverted to the promotion of other “socialist” schemes. However, all taxes raised for social services must be paid into the National Welfare Fund, and the AuditorGeneral would quickly draw the attention of the public to any departure from that procedure. I think that the mere fact that moneys raised by all forms of taxation are subject to examination by the Auditor-General should dispose of Senator O’Sullivan’s contention.
Members of the Opposition have continually referred to the need for increased production and a reduction of taxes. However, as Senator Critchley pointed out, a substantial reduction of taxation has already been made. The Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) recently announced in the House of Representatives that since the 1946 elections income tax and social service contributions had been reduced by £34,000,000, sales tax by £20,000,000, war-time company tax by £3,500,000j duties of customs and excise by more than £4,000,000, and estate duty, gold tax and gift duty by £700,000. When he made that statement the right honorable gentleman commented that he considered that it was “not a bad performance”, and J agree with his comment. From the foregoing statistics it is obvious that the Government has substantially reduced taxes, but we never- hear a single word of appreciation from the Opposition, whose members continually clamour for further reductions. I believe that the Treasurer was sincere when he stated some time ago that the economic circumstances of the country would be reviewed from time to time to ascertain whether further reductions of taxation could be made. I accept the Minister’s . assurance, and because of it I expect that before long taxes will be still further reduced.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) referred to the number of strikes and industrial disturbances which have occurred. He is constantly complaining that the Government has not taken a firm stand, but he has omitted to tell us what he means by “ a firm stand “. Many of the industrial troubles which have occurred are entirely outside the control of the Australian Government, and if the Government attempted to intervene in disputes the settlement of which is regarded by the States as a matter for themselves, I can imagine the reception that it would receive. The Constitution itself, according to my interpretation, prevents the Commonwealth from exercising its powers of industrial conciliation and arbitration unless a particular dispute extends beyond the bounds of any one State. A good example was supplied by the recent industrial disturbance in Queensland, which was confined to that State. Settlement of that dispute was regarded by the Queensland Government as a matter for itself, and although the Commonwealth Government was anxious to restore industrial peace in that State, it was powerless to intervene. Members of the Opposition are quite aware of this limitation of the powers of the Commonwealth, and we ask ourselves why they continue to suggest that the Government has been weak in the attitude which it has adopted in regard to industrial disputes. At other times, they seek to make political capital of “ State rights “, and the absurd lengths to which they went in their advocacy of “ State rights “ during the recent referendum campaign proves their lack of sincerity.
While dealing with the subject of the recent referendum, I propose to say something in regard to the conduct of the campaign waged by the Opposition parties. I noticed particularly the glee evidenced by Senator O’sullivan when he adverted in this chamber to the result of that campaign and suggested that it supplied an indication of the fate which awaits the Government. He was most jubilant, of course, but he forgot to tell the Senate that, during the campaign, members of the Opposition did their utmost to undermine the authority of the National Parliament, of which they, themselves, are members, by suggesting that it was not to be trusted. They deliberately sought to create the psychology that “ Canberra control “ is a bad thing for the com munity, and that “ Canberra “ cannot be trusted. They did not assert that “ the Government “, or “ the Public Service “ or “ the Opposition “ was not to be trusted; they concentrated on the theme “’ Canberra cannot be trusted “. Of course, use of the word “ Canberra “ in that context includes every one associated with the government of the country, including the members of the Opposition in the Parliament. However, Opposition members completely disregarded that fact in their endeavour to exploit the situation to the maximum, and they ignored entirely the real interest of the people of Australia. I propose now to refer to a circular which was issued in Western Australia during the campaign by a body which called itself the “ Citizens’ Rights Association”. That circular contained a photograph of the Premier of Western Australia and gave prominence to a statement which he made. The circular stated -
The Citizens’ Rights Association is a strictly non-party organization-
I have my doubts as to the truth of that assertion - but considers it a duty to bring before you the announcement by the Premier of Western Australia : “ I say this to you now ! A ‘ No ‘ vote will not end price and rent control. The State Government has always controlled rents and will control prices when Canberra’s control ceases.”
That is the statement that they asked us to have a look at. It continues -
We will have Price and Kent controls no matter which way we vote but the catch is who is to control them . . . our own State or the extremists and bureaucrats in Canberra ?
With Canberra turning into a Socialistic Dictatorship, to give Canberra such vital powers for ever would be highly dangerous not only to ourselves but to our children and our children’s children.
That pamphlet was issued to every household in Western Australia on the eve of the referendum, and the sentiments expressed in it are upheld and supported by the Opposition in this Parliament. I say without hesitation that they have gone all the way towards creating the idea in the minds of the people of this country that members of the Parliament are not to be trusted. One may be pardoned for asking where we are going to finish, as a National Parliament, and how we are to do a job of a national character and expect the people to trust the members of the Parliament or the Government of the country - irrespective of the party in power - if members of the Parliament brand themselves as persons who cannot be trusted.
I shall now refer to the gold industry of Western Australia. The time is opportune for the Australian Government to give assistance to that industry. I do not know whether it would be better to do so by making available a gold bonus, or by arranging through the sterling bloc to have the world parity price of gold increased, but I believe there is a necessity for consideration to be given in one or the other of those directions. The facts, as I understand them, are that in the goldmining industry there is a desire to trade on the open market; that it, that the people engagd in the indusry should be permitted to sell their gold in places like India or China, where the price obtaining is from £15 to £20 per oz. - much better than the world parity price in the sterling bloc. In Western Australia to-day the gold-mining industry is faced with the problem of a very high cost of production. I know for instance, that the cost of firewood has increased nearly 100 per cent. The gold-mining concerns have to meet very high costs in regard to fracture, and for commodities required in the industry. In addition there is an increased cost arising out of the higher wage levels now obtaining. I consider that the importance of the gold-mining industry, not only in Western Australia, but throughout Australia, merits very favorable consideration being given to it by the Government. Gold is always available for export, and the more gold that is produced, the more quickly shall we overcome the problems we are experiencing, particularly in respect of the dollar position.
The Australian Government should also give some consideration to assisting the State of Western Australia in the development of the north-west of that State. It is simply ridiculous for a little more than 500,000 people in Western Australia to be expected to develop those enormous areas. I think a North Australia Development Committee is doing good work, but it functions more in connexion with the Northern Territory. I believe that the time has arrived when this Government should give every possible consideration, financially and physically, to the development of the tremendous area of land in the north of Western Australia, because I understand we have mineral, pastoral, and other resources in that part of the country, which could be the means of attracting many thousands of people to settle in Western Australia.
The Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) made an excellent statement the other day when he told honorable senators of the progress being made in regard to post office facilities in Australia. I have long had a desire to express an opinion in respect of telephone charges insofar as they relate to trunk line telephone calls in country districts. I think that the position right throughout Australia is that if a person wishes to make a trunk line telephone call, he is allowed three’ minutes; if he wishes to speak for a longer time he must ask for an extension - and must keep on asking for extensions of time. Let us compare that state of affairs with the practice in the cities. In a metropolitan public telephone booth, if a person desires to make a call he has merely to place 2d. in the slot, and he may talk over the telephone for half an hour; there is no additional charge if his conversation exceeds the prescribed period of three minutes. I believe that some consideration should be given by the PostmasterGeneral to the extension of the initial period of time allowed for trunk line calls in country districts, and I suggest that the allowable initial period should be increased by one or two minutes, as thought desirable. ‘Such an extension would be of great benefit to many people in this country.
Senator Rankin suggested that the people of Queensland had been forgotten in Canberra. .Such a statement may have some connexion with the idea that members of the Parliament cannot be trusted. The fact is that if the Parliament is not made aware of the difficulties experienced in the various States, it cannot ‘be expected to remedy them. The honorable senator said that an increase of the numerical strength of the Parliament would provide for greater representation, and she referred particularly to the position in relation to Queensland. The items mentioned by the honorable senator as being in short supply in that State, are in short supply throughout the Commonwealth. Fortunately for Western Australia, there is a match factory in that State and, therefore, it is not experiencing difficulty with regard to matches. Whilst the honorable senator blames the Australian Government’ for the general shortage of matches, I cannot concede that this Government is at all responsible, because it exercises control over neither the production nor the distribution of matches. Distribution is in the hands of the trade.
Senator Rankin also made reference to the shortage of white cotton. This Government has done everything possible to arrange for the importation of white cotton into this country, but I remind honorable senators that there has been a world shortage of that commodity. Had it not been for the action of the Commonwealth Government in this respect, possibly the honorable senator would not have been able to procure the two reels of cotton that she did.
I particularly wish to refer to refrigerators, which are urgently required in Western Australia. The price to purchasers of these essential household items is very high; in my opinion the cost is inflated and out of all proportion to the value of the articles. But neither the Parliament nor the Australian Government has the right to manufacture such articles. I well remember the time that I told the people of Australia that if they agreed to certain referendum proposals the Australian Government would be able to convert to the production of civilian requirements some of the war establishments that we have since had to hand over to private enterprise. The Government would have been able to manufacture refrigerators for the people at a cost very much lower than is being charged by private enterprise in this country to-day. If there is any blame to be laid at all, I suggest to the honorable senator that she should make sure where the blame should lie.
– I welcome the opportunity to say a few words in connexion with some very important matters which I think should occupy the attention of the Government in the near future. Some of them, I know, are receiving earnest consideration. We have just decided to-day to send a delegation representing the Parliament to London, and another delegation to Japan. When I returned from abroad some time ago I made reference in this chamber to the accommodation that is provided by this Government as a head-quarters for the Australian delegation in Washington. I again emphasize that the time is long overdue when provision should be made by the Government in its estimates for the rebuilding of the premises mentioned. The existing building was built many years ago, and is a timber structure. It has very small antiquated rooms, . in which the staff work under cramped conditions. I said at the time, and I repeat now, that I thought it was the very narrow and almost perpendicular staircase in that building, which the late Senator Keane had to climb in order to reach the offices, that hastened his death.
In Washington we have in front of the building I have mentioned a valuable piece of land which could be utilized for building appropriate offices, that would do justice to the Commonwealth of Australia. I point out that every other nation which is represented in Washington has offices in keeping with the importance of the work performed by its representatives there, and it is high time that the Australian Government took steps to provide its officers with suitable accommodation. That would only be common justice to the staff which is retained there for the purpose of entering into negotiations between this country and the. United States of America. Whilst we are doing quite a lot in this country in the matter of establishing new industries, and spending a considerable amount of money on the erection of new buildings, I consider that some thought and atttention should be paid in the very near future, to the provision of appropriate accommodation for our representatives in the United States of America.
This Government has done a great deal to promote home-building in Australia. Under the terms of the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement, it has arranged for the States to build houses to be let to working people at rents appropriate to their financial circumstances, even when they have large families. ‘Unfortunately, the States have not co-operated with this Government as much as they should have done. South Australia, the State which I represent in this Parliament, is particularly blameworthy. Not one home has been built in that State under the Commonwealth and States agreement. This scheme enables people in distressed circumstances to rent homes at- a base rate of 8s. a week; the maximum rental that may be charged is the economic rent of the house, or onefifth of the family income of the tenants, whichever is the lower. Over 1,400 of these homes have been built in Western Australia, and 500 more are in course of erection. The Government of South Australia, whilst neglecting the agreement, is permitting its own housing trust to erect homes to be let at the ordinary economic rent or sold at an interest charge of 4 per cent, on the capital outlay The Australian. Government should take action to enforce the adoption of the system provided for in the agreement. Under most housing schemes in operation to-day, only people who have security of employment and a fairly high wage are permitted to rent houses because the tenants are hand-picked. Family men, who earn low incomes, have little opportunity to secure the tenancy of such homes. The Commonwealth and States housing scheme should be extended in order to cater for their needs. Under our immigration programme, almost every ship that comes to Australia brings new citizens. We must provide homes for them, too. We have been able to provide subsidies for all sorts of commodities in this country at a cost of millions of pounds annually, but we have failed to provide funds to build houses for working men at rates of interest equivalent to the cost of issuance of the capital, or 1 per cent., whichever may be the lower.
Hundreds of people are undertaking crippling financial commitments to-day, because State governments are not cooperating as they should with the Commonwealth Government to implement the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement. The scheme provided for in that agreement is immeasurably better than any other housing scheme in Australia. The occupiers of houses built under it enjoy security because they are not required to pay more than one-fifth of the family income, or the economic rent of the building, whichever is the lower, and, in the event of unemployment or sickness, the charge can be reduced to 8s. a week. A man in regular employment can afford to pay a rental of 30s. or 32s. 6d. a week. Furthermore, he need have no fears of sickness or unemployment because, in such an event, his commitments are reduced in order to meet his straitened circumstances. It is a crying shame that the States have not co-operated fully with the Commonwealth Government in order to extend this scheme. Until we can make money available to the people almost free of interest for the purpose of building homes, this scheme, which enables people to rent homes even when they are suffering from adversity, should be greeted with open arms by every State Government. I urge this Government to make every endeavour to secure more enthusiastic co-operation from the States.
Much has been said about industrial disputes in Australia, and this Government has been charged over and over again with failure to minimize such disturbances. Accusations of neglect have been made so frequently that the subject has now become rather threadbare and the people are taking very little notice of them. Nevertheless, they still call for some comment. I had the very pleasant experience, some days ago, of speaking to one of the conciliation commissioners appointed under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act for the purpose of dealing with disputes on the job. When I asked him how he liked his duties, he replied, “ It is one of the most interesting jobs I have ever undertaken. If the Government does nothing else, it has done a remarkably good job under its arbitration legislation, because it has enabled ns to intervene before a dispute actually takes place. In many cases we have been able to persuade the men to remain at work, because we have been able to deal with the core of disputes practically at the moment they arise “.
I am of opinion that the conciliation commissioners, have kept industrial disputes to a minimum. As the workers become accustomed to the new set-up and realize the purpose for which these commissioners have been appointed, we shall establish industrial peace.
Honorable senators opposite claim that the Government has failed to solve the problem of industrial unrest, but the fact is that no previous government has done more to keep the wheels of industry moving. Had a government composed of the Opposition parties .been in office during the last few years it would not Lave received the sympathetic consideration from the trade union movement that the present Government has received. The reason why we now hear so many complaints that States dependent upon New South Wales coal cannot obtain adequate supplies is that the demand for coal has increased greatly as the result of increasing production. In these circumstances, we shall never be .able to build up reserve stocks. Coal-mining is not an attractive occupation to young men. However, the rate of production of coal per man at present is greater than at any previous period. Our problem arises because the consumption of coal has increased so greatly as the result of the development of industries. Regardless of the political colour of the government which happens to be in office, I do not believe that it will be able to do much better than we are doing at present.
We must look to other sources of industrial energy in order to develop our industries to their fullest capacity. Unfortunately, very few waterways in Australia are suitable for the generation of hydro7 electric power. The shortage of coal, which is a problem in many other countries also, can be overcome only when the nations approach the development of atomic energy not as a means of destruction but as a means of increasing the welfare of mankind. We could solve the problem if the nations would co-operate in the development of atomic energy for industrial purposes. Unfortunately, however, there now exists in the world a psychology of fear. Nations which have not kept abreast of atomic development live in fear of those which are more advanced in that field. Hope was held Out to us that after the cessation of hostilities the nations of the world would endeavour to live up to the ideals of the Atlantic Charter. We hoped that when peace came the peoples of the world would truly enjoy freedom from fear and freedom from want. However, when the world looked like attaining that goal Great Britain and America uncovered the secrets of atomic energy, and when they kept their discoveries to themselves, other nations developed a fear psychology. The result is that to-day, three years after the end of the recent war, the nations have failed 1o solve the most urgent problems of the peace. The “have not” nations are afraid of the “ haves “. So long as Great Britain and the United States of America retain the secrets of atomic energy, nations like Russia will continue to be afraid of what might happen to them. The only solution of that problem is for the nations to come together and allow all of them to share in the secret of atomic energy and to apply it for industrial purposes. Even should we be so fortunate to achieve that goal we shall still require to produce coal for many purposes. However, I believe that should we increase our population to 20,000,000 and be unable to solve the problem of the shortage of coal, chaotic conditions will result in this country. Therefore, I urge that Australia should approach all international problems on the basis that all nations have a right to share in developments in the scientific sphere.
I propose now to deal with the subject of tariff protection. For many years 1 have been associated with the motor body building industry which is one of the biggest in Australia. It has made rapid strides towards the construction of a complete car in this country. In its early days the industry found it necessary to approach the then Minister for Trade and Customs for tariff protection in order to enable it to become firmly established. The manufacturers assured the government of the day that given such protection they would be able to produce motor bodies in this country at the rate of 1,000 a year. At the time that seemed to be an unattainable objective for an Australian enterprize, and, naturally, the then Minister was sceptical. However, the protection sought was given to the industry with the result that it rapidly reached the stage when one firm alone produced 1,000 motor bodies in a week. I emphasize that the industry must still be jealously guarded against overseas competition.
Sitting suspended from 5.55 to 8 p.m.
– I have outlined to the Senate the origin of the tariff upon imported motor bodies and traced the growth of the motor car industry since the imposition of the original, tariff. Today that industry is one of our largest, ft is second to none in productivity, and ranks high in the employment of Australian workmen. It is noteworthy that since the original tariff was imposed to protect the Australian motor car industry, there has been no need to seek an increase of the duties then imposed. The industry has been able to work within the figures set at its inception. The war, of course, made it necessary for the motor industry to turn to the production of war materials. Since the war, due to the lack of materials and trained man-power, it has been necessary to grant some tariff relief to importers of motor car parts, but I am pleased to say that the motor car industry in this country has now reached such a state of development that an all-Australian car will shortly be produced. Certain other firms are also seeking to produce a motor car in this country. If that is to be done, it will be necessary for whatever government holds office. in this Parliament to ensure that there shall not be any reduction of the tariff protection which has made the development of the motor car industry in this country possible. However sympathetic we may feel to the importers of motor vehicles, every precaution must be taken to avoid upsetting seriously the equilibrium of the Australian motor car industry. I understand that the Tariff Board embarked upon an inquiry into this industry recently, and I am particularly anxious to hear its findings. Again I emphasize that we as Australians must ensure that the motor car industry shall be permitted to continue its development without interruption. By that I mean that there should be no lowering of the present tariff protection. With the maintenance of these duties, all of us here to-night will see produced in Australia by Australian workmen, a motor car second to none in the world. It is expected that the first vehicles will be off the production line in October or November of this year, and I have no doubt that their appearance on our highways will make all of us feel proud of this great Aus tralian industry, and the standard of workmanship in it.
– We also built aeroplanes during the war.
– That is so. The war taught us just how competent we were to produce these things. We found that we could make many things which previously we thought to be beyond our capacity. We must not do anything now to impair the further development of Australian industries.
The shortage of materials in this country to-day is due to causes over which, I contend, the Government has had no control, or at the most, very little control. The main reason for these shortages was the conversion of our industries from war-time production to peace-time production. The necessity to effect this change, caught many manufacturers napping. One of the most serious shortages affecting primary producers of this country to-day is that of 10-gauge wire. I do not know how much of this wire is being produced at present in this country or what percentage of our production is allocated to South Australia, but when I visited Renmark and other fruit-growing areas during the recent referendum campaign I was approached by many fruit-growers who asked me to urge upon the Government the necessity to have as much of this wire as possible sent to them. The reason is that many acres of young vines have now reached the stage at which they must be trellised. Because the necessary 10-gauge wire’ cannot be procured for this purpose, the vines are lying on the ground, their growth is being retarded, and they are likely to be damaged seriously. If the Australian Government has any responsibility for the allocation of wire I ask that something he done to ensure that the requirements of these fruitgrowers shall be met. In view of the present shortage it would be far better to let houses remain unfenced than to permit thousands of acres of young vines to be ruined because of the lack of wire for trellising. This matter is of vital importance to the fruit-growers at Renmark, and in other parts of the Murray River irrigation areas, and I am confident that if there is anything that the
Australian Government can do to improve the position, it will he done. We may well be proud that the Government has been able to maintain the finances of the nation in the healthy state indicated by this measure. I support the bill, and I hope that it will be passed unanimously.
– I wish to deal first with the mining industry in the Northern Territory. During the war, every endeavour was made to secure the maximum production of minerals required for war purposes, but since the war ended there has been a regrettable lack of assistance to mining organizations in the Northern Territory. This indicates a deplorable ignorance of the potentialities of the Northern Territory. For instance, along the Finnis River there is a huge deposit of tin which, when analysed over an area of some square miles showed approximately 6 lb. to the square yard, [n Malaya, tin-mining organizations prior to the war were paying dividends on a yield of three-fifths of a pound of tin a square yard. The leases to which [ refer in the Northern Territory are owned by the Northern Territory Tin and Tantalite Company, and I am informed that although this organization has paid the necessary fees, it has been unable to have its leases surveyed and, therefore, cannot start production. Whether the failure to carry out the survey has been due to man-power shortage, T do not know, but I consider that every endeavour should be made to have this work done so that production may be undertaken. I understand that quite a number of other mining organizations in the Northern Territory are in a similar position. The leases to which I have referred also contain valuable deposits of tantalite which during the war was eagerly sought for radar equipment and other purposes. There is a huge deposit of tantalite over an area of approximately half a square mile. That too could be surveyed as the first step- towards the production of that valuable mineral. I mention this matter because the company to which I have referred has for a long time been endeavouring to obtain the machinery necessary for the treatment of the ore. The machinery is now ready, but operations cannot proceed because, the leases have not been surveyed, although, as I have already pointed out, the department has accepted the fees. Again 1 urge that speedy action be taken to have these surveys made and thus accelerate the development of the mineral resources of the Northern Territory which are huge and cover a vast area.
In my opinion a serious anomaly exists in regard to the income tax concessions operating in the Northern Territory. As the law stands at present, a primary producer in the Northern Territory receives a certain exemption from income tax. This, however, does not apply to his employees who enjoy only the limited exemption of £140 applying throughout the Northern Territory. After all, the workman is the one who actually produces the wealth. I see no reason why he should not enjoy the exemption from income tax that applies to his employer. If exemptions are to be granted then let them apply to everybody. Quite a number of workmen in the Northern Territory change their vocations. For instance, a man may leave a cattle-raising area and go to live in a mining area or in a town. That too, is a matter that should be considered in relation to the income tax exemption. In my own opinion the exemption should apply to every one in the Territory, or alternatively, every one should be restricted to the limited exemption of £140.
This afternoon I heard some moaning and wailing about shortages in Queensland from the representatives of that State in this chamber. Ever since 1 have been a member of this chamber, I have been accustomed to hearing the most glowing accounts of conditions in that State and its prospects; in fact, some of its representatives made me feel that I should go and live there. However, this afternoon I heard quite a different story. Senator Rankin told us a pitiful tale of the hardship caused in Queensland by the shortage of matches, cotton and other household articles. After listening to the honorable senator, I wondered whether Queensland was the only State that was suffering inconvenience because of shortage of supplies, and I remind the honorable senator that I have even heard of shortages in the remote State of South Australia, which I represent.
– We are short of sugar in South Australia.
– I hope the people of Queensland are not short of sugar. Senator Rankin said that some one, as a special favour, presented her with two reels of cotton. 1 can assure the honorable senator that in South Australia no one gives cotton away. As cotton is produced in Queensland, it is most remarkable that the people of that State should be experiencing such a grave shortage, and I think that it indicates that there is something radically wrong with the State. To return to Senator Rankin’s remarks, it seemed to me that their real “ sting “ was contained in the conclusion of her speech, when she told us, with a beautiful smile, that the Commonwealth was responsible for the shortages. Of course, the honorable senator did not go so far as to say that she wanted the Australian Government to acquire the goods which are in short supply and distribute them; she contented herself with implying that the Government was lacking in its duty because it had not arranged for a sufficient supply of the articles which she mentioned. Senator Rankin is a member of an anti-Labour party, and it is astounding that she should advocate, by implication, the adoption of such a socialist doctrine. Of course, the views which the honorable senator holds do not prevent her from criticizing the Government on other occasions because it is alleged to be “socializing” Australia. The plain fact is that neither the Government nor the Parliament has any constitutional right to procure or distribute goods of the type which she mentioned. The production and distribution of those goods is controlled by private enterprise. The Australian Labour party has advocated for years that the Government should assume control of the production and distribution of goods, not merely when particular items are in short supply, but as a permanent feature of our economy.
With regard to the honorable senator’s complaint that matches are in short supply in Queensland, I consider that the people of Queensland have the remedy in their own hands. I have worked the magnificent timbers grown in that State, and I know that huge quantities of timber are wasted. Off-cuts and other waste timber could be used for the manufacture of match sticks, the scarcity of which is responsible for the lack of matches. Instead of “ moaning “ about the Commonwealth Government, the honorable senator should direct her strictures at the controllers of private enterprise in that. State, who are wasting such huge quantities of valuable timber. During the recent referendum campaign, State antiLabour governments and vested interests repeatedly claimed that the present shortage of goods would he overcome if control of rents and prices reverted to the States. As the result of the referendum, the States are about to resume control of prices and rents and they will have every opportunity to show the people what they can do. Although Senator Rankin complained bitterly of the shortage of matches in Queensland, she completely overlooked the fact that they have been almost unprocurable in the southern States. In South Australia matches are so scarce that smokers have had to purchase expensive cigarette lighters. The performance of Senator Rankin recalled the ancient legend of the sirens who attempted to lure Ulysses and his crew to their doom by bewitching them with beautiful smiles. If the honorable senator cannot understand why Queensland has to endure shortages of commodities, why should she smile when she seeks to fix the blame on the Commonwealth ?
As I said previously, the people of Queensland are always telling us what they can do. Now it appears that they can even produce coal, of which the rest of Australia is desperately in need to-day. Private enterprise is to be permitted to develop the mining of coal in Queensland, and the coal is to be exported while the rest of Australia goes in want. Senator Rankin complained that the residents of Queensland have been treated as a “forgotten people “ ; but why should Queensland not correct, this tendency in the people of the southern States by setting them an example by selling their coal in Australia ?
– The southern States could obtain Queensland coal if they ordered it. The market is open.
– I understand that a private company is mining coal in Queensland, and that it intends to export the coal, because the overseas price is higher than the Australian price. Of course, for all it cares, any of its overseas customers may be potential enemies of this country. If Queensland can produce more than sufficient coal for its own needs, why should not the surplus be sold in Australia? More coal than ever before is being produced in the States other than Queensland, but they are demanding more and more to expand their industries. It cannot be denied that coal is the life-blood of industry, and Queensland is not the only State that is suffering because of a shortage. We have had some bitter experiences in South Australia, but we did not blame the Commonwealth for the shortage of coal.
– Has South Australia ever tried to place orders for Queensland coal?
– I understand that it has.
– Is the honorable senator sure?
– No, I cannot be certain.
– The honorable senator should make sure of his facts before he makes allegations.
– I was pointing out that if the people of Queensland do not wish to continue posing as a “ forgotten people “ they could put themselves “on the map” by supplying coal to the southern States. Industries, including public utilities and transport, have been brought to a stand-still because of the shortage of coal, and emergency supplies of petrol have had to be made available. Honorable senators realize that the use of petrol for such purposes is wasteful and harmful to the national economy. It is all very well for Senator Rankin to complain of the shortage of cotton in Queensland, but for lengthy periods people, in South Australia have had no gas with which to cook their meals and no electric power with which to illuminate their homes at night. I do not care what instrumentality develops the coal deposits of Queensland. If private enterprise is able to, then by all means let it do so; but it is important that surplus Queensland coal should not be sent overseas while it is urgently needed in other States. I do not think there was anything in that statement about Queensland being the State of forgotten people. All the Queenslanders who have spoken in this chamber this afternoon have let it be known that Queensland is. on the map. and that when the products of that State are sent to the southern States, there is no complaint about the quality. The southern States buy the commodities and use them. Nobody quarrels about the quantity of the sugar, bananas, or pineapples which come from Queensland, and right throughout the length and breadth of Australia the quality of the timber which is produced in Queensland is legend. Some of it has been used in England. Queensland is undoubtedly renowned for its timber, whilst its mineral resources have only just been tapped. Many minerals are being mined to-day by the Mount Isa Mines Limited, but there are other minerals in that State yet to be mined. Large quantities of gold, also, are being won in Queensland. Reference has been made to the establishment of industries in the southern States during the war. It would not have been of any use establishing industries in the north of Queensland during the war period to produce commodities that were required during the war. Th.> obvious place to establish those industries was out of range of battle. In any event it is of no use blaming this Government for that . .action, because many of those industries were established by a previous government, not a Labour government. In the establishment of industries in the southern States, particularly those established during and immediately before the war, the main consideration was the protection of Australia. Industries which were established in other States could not have been established in Queensland at that particular period. 1 see no reason why the people of Queensland cannot establish industries in thai State if they wish to do so. There i.nothing to stop them.
Another misstatement by Senator Rankin was that because the southern
States had forgotten about the Queensland people, ‘there was a drift of population from Queensland to other States. Lf we refer to the figures established by the last census and disregard the redistribution and reallocation of the seats for all of the States we learn that Queensland would have been entitled to another representative in the House of Representatives, That does not show that there ‘is a drift away from Queensland, but rather that the population of that State is increasing.
Because of the industries established in South Australia, that State would have just held its own. Indeed, there can be no argument when we have these statistics to prove that the increase of the population of Queensland ‘ is such that that State would have been entitled to an extra representative in the House of Representatives. Some of the southern States would not have become entitled to any extra representation at all and retained its present representation in this Parliament. I hope the honorable senator will stop moaning and grizzling about the few shortages .which are occurring in this country. Those shortages exist right throughout the world at the present time, and, because of that, it behoves us to try to find a way out of the difficulty, instead of blaming others.
Many years ago an agreement was made between the South Australian and Australian Governments and an act of Parliament was passed for the purpose of giving effect to it. The act authorized the building of a railway line in a north and south direction from Oodnadatta in South Australia to connect with a line running south from Darwin. Portion of that line has been built, at the southern end, as far as Alice Springs. Portion also, has been constructed at the northern end, but there is a break of about 600 miles in between. Earthworks have been erected and certain engineering work has been carried out, but no rails have been laid. Recently there have been several missions to Australia for the purpose of studying the development of food supplies in this country, so that aid may be given to Great Britain and the British Empire generally. On two or three occasions members of those missions have made suggestions about the transport of live-stock and other products of the Northern Territory, and have explained that they would effect a considerable expansion of its industries. Suggestions have been made, also, for the construction of new railways in the Northern Territory. In connexion with the uniform gauge proposals it has been suggested that a railway should be constructed from Daly -Waters across to Camooweal thus ignoring altogether the agreement made between South Australia and the Commonwealth. No provision has been made for bridging the gap between Alice Springs and the line extending south from Darwin. Members of visiting missions have suggested that additional railways be built from the Northern Territory to both Queensland and New South Wales; also that transport facilities should be provided through the western side of the Northern Territory into Western Australia. I am very much concerned that the Australian Government should honour the agreement with South Australia and ensure that the line shall be constructed right through from north to south as agreed upon. I have travelled in that part of Australia, not only by motor car, but also by horse and camel, and I have been across some of the stock country and mining country and on to the Duchess country in Queensland. I have seen some wonderful country there, and also arid desert land, unsuitable for producing any of the necessaries of life. The shortest distance to the seaboard, other than the northern seaboard, is the direct route from Darwin to Adelaide. There is a difference of nearly 1,000 miles in the distance between the shortest route and the other proposed routes to the seaboard. By extending the line from Alice Springs to link up with the line from Darwin we could open up an enormous area of country which could supply large quantities of meal At present a wait at Darwin of six or seven weeks is frequently involved when meat is to be shipped to the other States. Much time would be saved if meat and other products could be forwarded south without delay, as was suggested when tinmatter of peanut production at the Adelaide and Katherine rivers was discussed. Such a line would provide « direct route and would enable the commodities produced in the Northern Territory to reach consumers more quickly than is possible at present. Delivery would be much quicker than if they were sent to the eastern seaboard. That fact was recognized at the time that the agreement was made. I am very much concerned about the suggestions that the railway should follow any other route than that set out in the agreement, and I hope that the Government will soon make some preliminary arrangements to complete the link of the two rail heads by the direct north and. south route.
I come now to the allocation of certain moneys which are obtained from the petrol tax. This year I understand there was made available to the States some millions of pounds for the purpose of road work within their boundaries. A sum. was also made available to the States to be used, at their discretion, for the construction of harbours for fishing
Craft.. This has an important bearing on transport services, because such havens are needed to protect the craft which bring, food from the seas, and to enable their cargoes to be unloaded expeditiously for transport to the markets. However, the Government of South Australia asserts- that it made no provision to use for such a purpose any portion of the grant, made to it by the Commonwealth Government from, the petrol tax fund. Therefore, I hope that, when the next distribution is made to the States, the Commonwealth Government will specify the purposes for which the money shall be used. That would prevent the States from evading their responsibility to the fishing industry. The expenditure of only a relatively small amount of money in each State could provide safe anchorages for fishing vessels which at present have little or no protection from storms. Each State should be obliged to expend a specified proportion of its allocation for the construction and maintenance of .boat havens.
– I have interposed in this debate foi- the special purpose of drawing attention to subtle advertising and filthy campaigning carried out. by the Liberal party and organizations associated with it. such as the Constitutional Club,, the
Chamber of Manufactures and the Chamber of Commerce,, against the Government during the recent referendum campaign. In order to show to what depths the Liberal party is prepared to stoop in pursuit of its objectives,, it is necessary to refer honorable senators to events which occurred during the election campaign of 1943. In that year, station 3DB in Melbourne broadcast on behalf of the Liberal party certain records, purporting to report the conversations of a German family group about the best way to vote at the forthcoming election. The characters declared that they would support the Labour par<ty. So filthy was this series of propaganda broadcasts that the management of the radio station determined to discontinue it. The Parliamentary Broadcasting Committee decided to examine the records and proposed to have them played in this Parliament for the information of members. However,, before it could obtain possession of them, the records were destroyed. Following that election, the Parliament amended its wireless broadcasting legislation in. order to ban the broadcasting of similar dramatizations during election campaigns. The sponsors of this form of propaganda realized that the amendment referred only to election campaigns,, not to referendum campaigns. Consequently, they employed the same sort of propaganda during the recent prices referendum campaign. The broadcasts made on behalf of the Liberal party were intended to represent debates in this Parliament, including speeches by the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Leader of the Opposition in that House.
The commercial broadcasting stations which, disseminated that propaganda were granted licences to broadcast programmes suited to the needs of the community. Their programmes should be balanced so as to satisfy, at some time during each day, the tastes of every member of the listening public. Nevertheless, the owners of the stations are prepared, for the sake of profit, to neglect their obligation to the people and become the tools of big business interests, to the discredit of the entire broadcasting industry.. During the referendum campaign, my attention: was drawn to recorded broadcasts purporting to dramatize scenes in this Parliament. However, when I made an approach to the management of station 2GB. Sydney, as chairman of the broadcasting committee, I was informed that it considered the broadcasts to be unsuitable and had eliminated the passages to which I have referred. Throughout the campaign, a series of lies was broadcast on behalf of the Liberal party by a man named Garrick, and others. The broadcasts were supported by the newspapers, which, of course, are prepared to publish any advertisement, no matter how scurrilous or untruthful it may be, if they are paid for it. Lies were presented to the people through the medium of leading articles, reports- of statements made by various individuals, and advertisements covering whole pages in nearly every important newspaper in Australia. They confused the people and persuaded them to vote against the proposal to grant power to this Parliament control prices so as to protect the wages f the workers. Having succeeded in deluding the people in that campaign, the newspapers and the Liberal party are now determined to convince them, by means of similar propaganda, that this Government must be held responsible for the price increases which must occur as the result of the defeat of the referendum proposal.
The newspapers constantly protest vigorously that there must be freedom <>f the press, that they must not be shackled. They seek licence to publish anything they wish, however untruthful t might be, against the interests of this Government. They have attacked not only this Government but also other governments which, have failed to satisfy Their wishes. Their persistent use of such propaganda calls for action by the Government. The newspapers are dependent upon it for supplies of newsprint because it could ban the importation of /aper on account of dollar restrictions, r do not want such drastic action to be taken, but I want the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into this untrammelled freedom of the press. I want to know who owns the newspapers. I also want to know what power, if any, the owners have to enforce publication of scurrilous advertisements.
I am sure that, if the Government does as I suggest, the public of Australia will be greatly enlightened. I do not object to the principle of freedom of the press, but I object strongly to the freedom which permits a newspaper to publish a heading such as the Sydney Daily Telegraph pu>>lished to-day, “ Caucus lifts controls - and hopes that the worst will happen “. “What sort of a mind could have conceived such a heading? Caucus met yesterday as the parliamentary Labour party, not as an oligarchy, for the purpose of preparing plans to carry out the will of the people as expressed on the 29th May. On that day the people decided, by an overwhelming majority in every State, that the Commonwealth must surrender certain controls to the States. The Government very reluctantly decided to give effect to the will of the people. Its reluctance was dup to its knowledge of the consequences that must follow. A man with a mentality so low that he could declare to the people of Australia that members of the Labour party hoped that the worst would happen to them-
– Is without shame!
– Yes. Such people have no shame. That is the reason why there should be an investigation of the newspaper industry. Who are the people who write such things, and what right have they to publish them? The Sydney Morning Herald also has taken part in this virulent campaign against the Government. Recently its leading articles criticized the Government for seeking to retain control over prices. To-day it published comment about a “ sham war “ bv the Australian Labour party against the Communist party. I say emphatically that the Australian Labour party is the only political organization in this country that resists the disruptive policies of the Communist party, the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. Members of the Labour party have formed special groups in the trade unions to counteract the influence of Communists and ultimately rid the trade union movement as a whole of that influence. But the press of this country never publishes one word about that activity.
It never ceases to urge the Government to ban the Communist party. That attitude reminds me that Hitler banned the Communists in Germany. He put them into concentration camps. “What was the result? To-day, the people of Germany have been maimed and their nation destroyed, and Hitler and all his satellites have suffered an ignominious death; but the Communists now control the greater part of Germany. That has been the bitter result of Hitler’s policy of throwing men and women into concentration camps because they held political views of which he did not approve. If we cake this press campaign to its logical conclusion and ban the Communist party, the day may come when the Australian Country party or the Liberal party will be banned. The Communist party was banned in Czechoslovakia, and the Sydney Morning Herald, in the very issue in which the statement to which I have just referred is published, presents a cartoon dealing with recent actions of the government of that country. The cartoon depicts members of the opposition parties herded together in a gaol. Yet that journal continues to urge the Government to ban the Communist party in this country, and, thereby, be guilty of an action similar to that which it holds up to scorn in that cartoon. The Labour party does not believe in doing things that way. It has taken’ positive action through its membership in the trade unions to rid them of Communist influence by combating the Communists on their own ground.
During the recent referendum campaign the Opposition parties alined themselves with the press and radio interests, racketeers and black marketeers in order to defeat the Government’s proposals. Yet, only to-day, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) complained about the decision of the Government to withdraw the subsidy in respect of wool. Ee is fearful that that subsidy will not be continued.
– I asked whether the Minister could indicate how long it would be before the withdrawal of the subsidy would have the effect of increasing the prices of woollen goods.
– The Leader of the Opposition is worried about the matter; but his party opposed the Government’s request to the people at the recent referendum that it should retain control over prices. He is also concerned about, the discontinuance of the rationing of meat, and the lifting of other controls. He said that the Government was acting too hastily in that respect; yet ‘he stumped the country at the recent referendum, urging the people not to grant permanent control of prices to the Government ! The Liberal party and the Australian Country party alined themselves with the newspapers and radio stations in a campaign of vilification of the Government. I warn the people .that what those interests are now endeavouring to do was done in other countries, and in each country in which similar lying campaigns were conducted against democratic governments the Communist party is now in control. Should the Labour Government be defeated, a fascist government will certainly be followed by a Communist government. The only party that stands between the people of this country and the Communists is the Labour party. It believes that the democratic thing to do is to treat the Communist party as a political party. “We know that at general elections the Communist party never nominates candidates in blue ribbon anti-Labour seats, but allies itself with Liberal party and Australian Country party candidates in an endeavour to defeat Labour party candidates. The Communist candidate works cheek by jowl with the candidates nominated by anti-Labour parties, and arranges for the distribution of preference votes on that basis. The Government, therefore, is justified in regarding the Communist party as a political party. I sincerely trust that it will never ban any political party. We live in a democracy, and we must maintain our democratic freedom. Any section of the people is free to organize a new political party if it wishes to do so. I urge the Government to institute a royal commission to inquire into the freedom and ownership of the press and it* ramifications. Indeed, I believe that the Government must expose the real interests behind the press of this country if it is to survive. I also suggest that the person who wrote the article to which I have referred should be called to the bar of the Senate and that the Parliament should do something about the offence. We know that working press men are obliged to write according to instructions. This is a most urgent matter, and I sincerely trust that the Government will thoroughly consider it.
Honorable senators opposite have had much to say about the conciliation commissioners. The Government made those appointments in its desire to establish peace in industry, particularly during the transition period from war to peacetime conditions. We must not forget that not so long ago 800,000 of our people were engaged in the defence services. Their transition to civilian life had to be effected in an orderly fashion; and it is to the credit of the Government that during the transition period no unemployment arose in this country. However, after those hundreds of thousands had been rehabilitated in industry, unrest arose mainly because promises made to them were not always honoured. The Government appointed conciliation commissioners in order to obviate petty stoppages. During the debate on this measure in the House of Representatives last week, members of the Opposition parties attacked the conciliation commissioners, collectively and individually. It was said that most of the appointees were unfitted, to carry out the duties of their office. A despicable attack was made upon’ Mr. Donovan, one of the commissioners, who was alleged to have given biased decisions when dealing with a matter affecting the Australian Workers Union and the pastoral industry. How- ever, when Mr. Donovan’s tribunal resumed its hearing the following morning, the secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Mr. Doherty, referred to the criticism made in the House of Representatives and said he entirely disagreed with it. He stated that Mr. Donovan had always acted with fairness in arriving at his decisions, and his statement was unequivocally supported by the representative of the Graziers Association, Mr. Allan. It is clear that the Opposition parties desire to discredit the conciliation commissioners with a view to shaking the confidence of the workers in the present conciliation system. The Opposition parties do not want that system to succeed because it promises to bring about permanent peace in industry. I mention this matter because I have known Mr. Donovan personally for many years. At one time he was- a member of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales. I am confident that any decision he would give would be fair and unbiased.
. - I congratulate the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) upon his clear exposition of the Government’s pharmaceutical benefits scheme. In my view, he told the British Medical Association just where it “ get9 off “. It is often said that the Communists are the worst enemies of the Labour Government; I believe that our worst enemies are members of the British Medical Association, which is the strongest organization of its kind in the world, with the legal profession running a good second. Members of those professions object to the workers having organizations of their own. I have received many messages from persons in Western Australia expressing admiration of the statement made by the Minister for Health. Regardless of party politics, I have always been ready to give credit where credit is due. I do not approve the practice of waiting until a man dies before one expresses admiration of his achievements. In passing, I pay tribute also to the outstanding work being done in this chamber by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Ashley), and also by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who, I consider, is second to none among present-day world leaders. That is a bold claim, but I have reasons for making it. Australia is one of the few countries that have managed to maintain an even financial keel in the post-war years. For that our thanks are due largely to the Prime Minister. Overseas borrowing which characterized the financial policies of anti-Labour governments in the prewar years with the result that Australia always carried a heavy burden of overseas indebtedness has ceased. Under the Labour Government, all loans have been fully subscribed by the people of this country themselves. I believe that while we have the good fortune to have our present leader, we shall continue to render excellent service to the people of this country and particularly to coming generations. As the result of Labour’s planning, when the children of to-day grow up they will have many avenues of employment open to them.
Senator Nash has dealt adequately with the gold-mining industry in Western Australia and I have no wish to add to his remarks, except to say that the more gold we can produce in this country the easier will our dollar problem become.
We have heard a lot about the necessity for the people of this country to work harder and to produce more wealth; but the labour available in Australia to-day falls far short of our needs. The deficiency can be made up only by immigration. Almost every industry to-day is starved for labour, both male and female. All our public hospitals are short of nurses. Recent immigrants to this country included a number of nurses, and it was not long before they were all placed in employment. Undoubtedly, we should endeavour so far as possible to obtain our migrants from the United Kingdom, but that source is limited, and since we must look to other countries, I urge upon the Government the wisdom of bringing young men from Germany. Many years ago, as a young fellow, I lived near a little German town in Queensland called Coorparoo and I recall that during World War I. many sons of German families in the district fought with the Australian forces. As a rule, German immigrants are good citizens and good workers. I understand that an investigation is being made at present of the possibility of obtaining young German migrants, and that an Australian official is in Germany for that purpose. I wish him success. However, I should like to see more immigrants from the United Kingdom because, to my mind our kinsfolk in Great Britain are the people that we require for this country. We do not want immigrants who seek an easy living ; we want workers who will do an honest day’s work for a fair day’s pay, and will not cheat their fellow workers. Incidentally, Australian politicians might well consider putting their heads down and doing more work. I knew politicians in the State Parliament of Western Australia who endeavoured to dodge work, but I must’ say that I have not found any indication of a similar tendency in this Parliament. We are all workers here.
One frequently hears criticism of the Government’s financial policy and particularly of its economic controls, but a perusal of the balance-sheets of commercial and industrial organizations consistently shows big profits. Strangely enough these organizations are usually the first to squeal. For this reason, they cannot be trusted.
I come now to a matter affecting Canberra. On Tuesday night I had occasion to ring from my office for a taxi. I rang four taxi proprietors. Three of them were engaged, and the fourth said that he could not make his services available until 12 o’clock. There are too few taxis in Canberra and the present holders of licences have made so much money that they do not care a “ continental “. They go to bed at 9 o’clock, because they can. earn enough money in the day-time. At least that was the position twelvemonths ago, according to information given to me. The time has arrived for the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Johnson) to issue more taxi licences. J understand that there are 200 applicants waiting for taxi licences in Canberra.
Senator Finlay spoke at length about homes for workers. In my last speech in this chamber, I dealt fully with that matter. Houses to-day are too dear by at least £200 or £300. It is almost impossible to ascertain the reason for this. The stock reply is that the increase is due to higher labour costs. Working people to-day are being asked to pay 30s., 35s. or £2 a week rent for their homes, but in my opinion it should be possible for any one to purchase a house for the payment of one day’s wages each week.
Next year, Australia, is to be visited by the King and Queen. In this connexion, there is a matter that is causing some concern to Western Australians. In all other States, the Royal visitors will be received .by the State Governors, but in Western Australia there is no .State Governor. The office of LieutenantGovernor has been held for the last thirteen years by a very distinguished former Premier, Sir James Mitchell. I urge the Commonwealth Government to suggest to the Government of Western Australia that Sir James Mitchell be made
Governor, so that he may meet the King and Queen on equal terms with the representatives of the other States. He has performed the duties of LieutenantGovernor with distinction, and his elevation to the post of Governor would he welcomed by Western Australian people.
Sufficient has been said about the rents and prices referendum, and I shall be content to say that the rejection of the Government’s proposals was an unwise decision which will be regretted by the people before long.
The need for greater production in this country has already been emphasized ; but increased production will also necessitate better transport facilities. One of this country’s outstanding needs is for a standard gauge railway line across the continent. This would enable Western Australian producers of foodstuffs to market their products readily in the eastern States. At present, tomatoes are being sent from Western Australia to the eastern markets by air. Queensland primary producers are earning big money on the Sydney and Melbourne markets. This applies particularly to bean-growers, some of whom have done so well that they have been able to buy expensive utility trucks. Western Australia, of course, is further from the big centres of population and the time taken by the present train journey across the continent makes it impossible for Western Australian growers to market perishable goods in the eastern States. A standard gauge line would reduce the trip to one and a half nl- two days.
I take this opportunity to deal once again with one of my favorite subjects, timber. There is a pressing need for the development of re-afforestation schemes throughout the Commonwealth to-day. Our timber resources are being drawn upon heavily. In addition, potential supplies are being wasted because when large trees are felled they very often smash down many young saplings. Also the establishment of paper mills in this country has increased the drain upon our softwoods. However, our main problem is the rapid depletion of our hardwoods including jarrah. There should be a law compelling the planting of two trees to replace every one that is felled. So far, re-afforestation has been confined mainly to pine softwoods. It is time that steps were taken to ensure a continuance of supplies of our hard timbers.
Increased production is the only solution of our present economic problems. A man who does not do a fair day’s work is cheating his fellow workers. Unless every Australian is prepared to pull his weight, not only will it be impossible to establish new industries in this country but also the expansion of existing undertakings will be seriously retarded.
– in reply - I join with other honorable senators in congratulating the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) upon his excellent speech on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme. I am sure that the people of this country learned a great deal that was new to them. I am glad that the address has been given the publicity that it merited.
I propose to deal now with certain matters referred to in the course of this debate by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). The honorable senator suggested that a medical officer should be given an opportunity to reply over the national broadcasting system to the Minister’s speech. The Prime Minister lias dealt with that suggestion in response to a question asked in the House of Representatives. The right honorable gentleman pointed out that the request could not be met, because if the Government were to allow a representative of r lie British Medical Association to reply to the Minister’s speech, any organization that might be affected by future Commonwealth legislation could claim the same right.
The Leader of the Opposition also said that the people of Australia were paying a social services contribution of ls. 6d. in the £1 but that up to the present they had received, very little in return. I do not think that the honorable senator could have been serious when he made that criticism. One has only to recall .the generous social services provided by the present and the preceding Labour Governments. Age pensions have been increased from £1 ls. 6d. to £1 17s. 6d. a week, which represents an increase of 16s. Provision has been made for payment of a funeral benefit of £10, which, is an entirely new provision. An allowance of £1 a week is paid to incapacitated pensioners’ wives, whilst the amount of the invalid pension has been raised from £1 ls. 6d. to £1 17s. 6d. a week. In addition to the allowance of £1 a week paid to the wives of invalid pensioners an allowance of 5s. a week is made for each child. I remind honorable senators that widows’ pensions were first provided by a Labour government. The Government pays a pension of £2 2s. 6d. a week to a widow with a dependent child. Widows of 50 years of age receive £1 12s. a week, and £1 17s. 6d. a week is paid to those in necessitous circumstances. During the same period child endowment has been increased from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a week. The scale of unemployed and social benefits has been increased, and an unemployed man with a wife and child ,to support now receives £2 10s. a week. Generous hospital benefits are also provided, and provision is made for free treatment in public hospitals. In addition, the Commonwealth pays to public hospitals, towards the upkeep of those institutions, an amount of 6s. a day in respect of each bed occupied. Contributions to States for the treatment and relief of sufferers from tuberculosis and their dependants have been increased since 1941, and I am informed by the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) that he is convening a conference of State Ministers of Health to consider a scheme for the relief of tuberculosis sufferers which will involve the expenditure of £40,000,000. When the contributory principle was first introduced in social service legislation members of the Opposition expressed great jubilation because they had always claimed that wage-earners should he compelled to contribute. The Government adopted that view, but it also decided that “ big business “ should make its contribution too, and members of the Opposition, who represent those interests, were quite downcast at the suggestion.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) endeavoured to fix the blame on the Government for every disability suffered by any section of the community. He said that the drift of population from the country to the cities was most disturbing, and asserted that at the begin- ning of the century only 36 per cent, of the population was located in the capital cities and the remaining 74 per cent, in the country. I do .not know whether those statistics are correct, but I do know that the introduction of a protective tariff by the Scullin Government led to the establishment of many important secondary industries in Australia. Those industries are supplying goods which we previously had to import, and are providing employment for an increasing number of Australians. The Scullin Government has not yet received proper recognition for its magnificent accomplishment. 1 know something of the distribution of population at the beginning of this century, because at that time I was “ knocking around “ the inland areas of New South Wales, and thousands of men were carrying their swags in search of employment. To-day, one can travel through hundreds of miles of country without meeting a single swagman. The conditions provided by employers of labour in the country were a substantial factor in inducing the people to migrate to the cities. At that time wages for rural labour were very low and conditions of employment were ‘appalling. Men who worked long hours in other seasonal occupations, including shearing assistance, received only £1 a week and their keep. Shearers slept in bunks of solid timber arranged in tiers of three, and they were lucky if they were able to obtain a few leaves on which to sleep. About that time factories were erected in increasing numbers in metropolitan areas, and it is easy to understand why rural workers flocked to the cities.
The Leader of the Opposition advocated the adoption of a policy of decentralization, but I challenge him to show that any previous government took practical action of the kind taken by the present Government to decentralize industries. During the war hundreds of factories were erected by the government in provincial centres to manufacture munitions of war, and nearly all those factories have been turned over to private enterprise and are now manufacturing goods for consumption in Australia. During the recent referendum campaign I visited Parkes and saw a factory which was erected by the Government during the war to manufacture munitions. That factory is now operated by a private concern which manufactures gloves, and is affording employment to a large number of young girls. Had that factory not been erected those girls would have had to leave Parkes to seek employment in the cities. Throughout the country areas there is abundant evidence of the practical nature of the policy of decentralization pursued by the Government. During the war 224 factories were erected in various country centres, and they now employ 41,998 people. To-day those factories are manufacturing electrical equipment, textiles, plastics, aluminium and metal goods, rayon goods, builders’ hardware and building materials, furniture, motor car parts, agricultural implements and chemicals. The parties represented by honorable senators opposite cannot point to any similar achievement during the lengthy period when they were in power.
I thought that the Leader of the Opposition adopted a somewhat parochial attitude when he complained that transport was inadequate in remote parts of the country. Of course, he overlooked nothing in his catalogue of the shortcomings of the Government. He wanted to know why such a small proportion of the sum of £16,000,000 which is derived from the petrol tax is allocated for the construction and maintenance of State highways. That is the kind of complaint which one would expect to be made at a meeting of a shire or municipal council, but certainly not in the National Parliament. Complaints are repeatedly made in this chamber of goods being in short supply in particular States, and Senators Rankin and O’Flaherty made similar complaints to-night. As honorable senators are aware, all that the Commonwealth is empowered to do is to determine States’ quotas; the allocation and distribution of goods within a State is entirely a matter for State authorities. Adverting to the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition with regard to the allocation of revenue derived from the petrol tax, I propose to trace briefly the history of that allocation. From every 7£d. a gallon received from customs duty and primage during the years 1931 to 1937, 2£d. was allocated to the States for expenditure on roads. In 1937, the grant to the ‘States was increased to 3d. a gallon, although the duty still remained at 7½d. a gallon. In May, 1940, the duty was increased to 11½d. a gallon in order to obtain additional revenue for the prosecution of the -war, but the States continued to receive only 3d. a gallon. I remind honorable senators that at that time an anti-Labour government was in office, but no suggestion was made then that the Commonwealth should make a more generous contribution to the States. The Leader of the Opposition never said that in 1937-38 a greater contribution should have been made to the States to build roads. It is only since he has been Leader of the Opposition that any such suggestion has been made by him. In November, 1946, the petrol tax was reduced to 10-Jd. a gallon. The Commonwealth Aid Roads and “Works Act 1947 provided 3d. a gallon for all States, plus £1,000,000 a year for roads in rural areas. Provision was also made for Commonwealth expenditure of £500,000 a year on strategic roads and roads to provide access to Commonwealth properties. Funds thus allocated for roads totalled about £6,000,000 in 1947-48, equal to approximately 4d. a gallon on petrol for civil consumption. The total estimated collection from petrol tax in 1947-48 was approximately £15,500,000. During the war years the States were unable to provide the labour, for road construction and maintenance because it was not available. I am not blaming the States for it. They could not spend the money which was allocated to them, and yet the Leader of the Opposition moans and wants more money allocated.
– I will still moan for more.
– Commonwealth grants continued meanwhile, excepting to New South Wales. On two occasions that State waived the grant, because it could not spend the money. At the end of June, 1947, there was a total of £7,500,000 still remaining in the funds, unspent. Any one who understands the position in Australia in respect of the availability of labour, machinery and materials realizes that it was physically impossible to spend the money. There may have been some complaint in regard to the allocation of money in the fund, but it was a matter for the State government concerned. If some outback shire is not getting a fair allocation from that revenue, surely the Leader of the Opposition cannot blame the Australian Government. The matter of allocation is entirely one for the State government concerned. There are ample funds. When we analyse the matter further we find that the Commonwealth payments over the two years 1947-48 and 194S-49 will be £12,000,000, and proceeds of State motor taxes and other revenue, £15,000,000, which, with the £7,500,000 remaining in the fund, makes a total of £34,500,000. Instead of the £12,000,000 previously referred to, there will be available for expenditure, £17,250,000 a year. During 1946-47, expenditure for roads amounted to £12,500,000 - almost an additional £5,000,000 in the two years I have mentioned. I hope I have made it clear that any responsibility in regard to the provision of money for roads is not a matter for this Parliament, but for the State governments, and any discrepancy in regard to the allocation to particular shires or municipal councils is a matter entirely for the State government.
The Leader of the Opposition also claimed that the Government was responsible for the decline in production. He said there were shortages of wheat, metals, wool, butter and other dairy products. Surely every one in this Parliament will appreciate the fact that the production of wheat in the Commonwealth, or in any other country in the world, is dependent upon the seasons. I know there are other incidentals, such as the provision of fertilizers. Last season was a record season of wheat production in Australia. It is not so long ago that the Leader of the Opposition could possibly have forgotten about it. .Wheat is one of the products he mentioned specifically. His remarks furnish some indication of how the Opposition endeavours to defame the Government and blame it for everything that is wrong. He said there is a lag in the production pf wheat - immediately after a record season.
– Did I say that?
– The honorable senator did say that.
– I cannot recall saying it, but I -will take the Minister’s word for it.
– There has always been a moan about the production of coal. In 1947, more coal was produced than during 1944, when the war was .at its height, even though there were 383 fewer men employed in the industry in 1947. The point always made by the Leader of the Opposition is that there is a loss of production, and the Opposition is continuously emphasizing the fact that there are more people working in the industry now. He implies that the people in the industry are loafing.
Statistics show that in 1944 there were 23,503 men engaged in mining, and that the production for that year was 13,756,0S9 tons, whereas in 1947 the position was that 23,120 men - 383 fewer than in 1944 - produced 14,800,000 tons. Those figures are in the Year-Booh. It will be seen that in 1947 there was mined 1,043,911 tons in excess of the 1944 production. More significant still are the figures for 1924, the year in which the greatest number of men worked in the industry. In that year there were engaged in that industry 29,105 men, and the production was 13,757,500 tons. That shows an increased production of 1,042,500 tons in 1947 compared with 1924. Surely the Leader of the Opposition must be convinced that the statements made by him were incorrectHe has been badly advised in regard to these matters. I invite honorable senators to check the figures I have cited. Whatever may be our political thoughts, we shall not improve production in this country if we allow the workers in industry to be maligned continuously. When the Leader of the Opposition referred to the early part of the century, I recalled that the most militant city of the Commonwealth then was Broken Hill, where there used to be riots, fights, and strikes, and train loads of police were required to keep order. To-day Broken Hill is one of the most orderly cities in the Commonwealth.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
I wish to bring to the notice of honorable senators an article which appeared recently in the Sydney Daily Telegraph. It reads -
Broken- Hilt., Tuesday. - Members of the Workers’ Industrial Union of Australia, who went on strike yesterday, returned to work this afternoon.
A meeting of 3,000 men this morning voted to end the strike at Broken Hill’s four mines.
They were only out one day. The article continues -
A poorly attended meeting on Saturday had decided on the strike, the first in Broken Hill since 1920. tt was their first strike in Broken Hill in 28 years. Let us consider that position and ask ourselves why harmony prevailed there for so long.
– Why is it that a city that early in this century was so militant that there were almost continuous industrial upheavals and stoppages, had not experienced a strike in 28 years? That state of affairs has resulted from the improvement of conditions of work in the mines and the provision of amenities for the miners. When such good conditions become commonplace in the coal-mining and other heavy industries elsewhere in Australia, there will be an immediate and continued improvement of production and industrial relationships. In the lead mines of Broken Hill to-day, where the dust menace was once just as dangerous as it is in some of our coal mines, conditions are almost ideal. In fact, there are dining-rooms at certain levels in the mines where one can eat without being troubled by dust. The industrial workers of Australia, who are so often maligned by the Opposition, will respond to the demand for increased production as soon as they are provided with the conditions of work which they deserve.
When the budget was presented to Parliament in September last, it was estimated that the total revenue would be £397,000,000 and the total expenditure £427,000,000. Defence and post-war charges aggregated £168,000,000 and, of that amount, £138,000,000 was to be charged to revenue and the balance of £30,000,000, representing the gap between total revenue and total expenditure, was to be financed from Loan Fund. Since the budget was adopted, various factors have combined to increase by £46,000,000 the amount of revenue which it is now estimated will te available for the services of the year. Total expenditure will be increased by approximately £16,000,000 to £443.000,000, of which defence and postwar charges will absorb £178,000,000. In consequence of this favorable position, it will be practicable to meet from the Consolidated Revenue Fund not only the increase of £10,000,000 in defence and post-war charges, but also the proportion of £30,000,000 which was to be financed from Loan Fund. The purpose of this bill, therefore, is to obtain the necessary additional’ revenue appropriation of £40,000,000. The estimated position, which forecasts a balanced budget, is summarized as follows: -
High wages, full employment and an accelerated rate in the issue of assessments have materially contributed to an anticipated increase of £25,000,000 in the yield from income tax, including social services contributions. Customs and excise duties may provide an additional £12,000,000, and the sales tax estimate suggests an additional £5,000,000, these collections continuing to reflect prosperous business conditions. Increases in other miscellaneous items may total £4,000,000. It is expected that the estimated expenditure of £168,000,000 on services for which provision was made in the budget will be closely realized. Increased expenditure for price stabilization subsidies will be offset by savings on other items. An amount of £10,000,000 has been expended this year in connexion with our obligations under the international monetary agreements. The payment was met temporarily from trust fund balances which were, for the time being, in excess of requirements. This expenditure will now be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and has been included in the defence and post-war charges section of the Estimates. The National Welfare Fund Act requires that collections from social services contribution and pay-roll tax be appropriated to the National Welfare Fund for expenditure on social services. Accordingly, £C9,000,000 was included in the budget for payment to this fund. The rapid acceleration in the issue of assessments in the salary and wage group is the principal cause of the earlier crediting of receipts to social services contribution, under the “ pay-as-you-earn “ scheme. As a consequence, the amount due for transfer to the fund will be increased by £13,000,000. This increase of expenditure is offset by an amount of £10,000,000 which, mainly due to shortages of labour and material, will not be expended from the £32,000,000 programme for additions, new works, buildings, &c. Under other heads of expenditure there will be a net increase of £3,000,000, of which £2,000,000 has been absorbed by the post office. I commend the bill to the Senate.
– This measure has already been debated at some length on the motion for the first reading. Nevertheless, I take this opportunity to urge the Government, in the light of the buoyant financial situation that has been disclosed by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), to reduce taxation. The £4’6,000,000 excess of revuene over the budget estimate shows that the Government can well afford to remit a proportion of the heavy tax imposition upon a large section of the community. I urge the Government to investigate its finan cial position carefully before introducing its budget proposals for 1948-49 with a view to lightening the burden borne by the taxpayers.
– in reply - I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that the Government will give careful consideration to the reduction of taxation when it is preparing the budget for 1948- 49. It fully appreciates the importance of reducing taxes whenever possible, and it accepts full responsibility for its actions in this regard. Due consideration will be given to the honorable senator’s remarks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Courtice) rend a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to validate the collection of duties of customs in accordance with the tariff amendments contained in Customs Tariff Proposals No. 5, which were introduced into the Parliament on the 2nd June last. The period of validation is limited to the six months ending on the 17th December, 1948. As the Parliament will be rising at an early date, it will not be possible to afford honorable senators an opportunity to debate the individual items during the present sitting. For the information of honorable senators, I shall briefly outline the amendments contained in the Customs Tariff Proposal which is covered by the validation bill. The principal tariff amendment concerned is that relating to vacuum cleaners under tariff item 380 (u). Following a tariff board inquiry and report, this item was amended so as to grant protection to all domestic-type electrical vacuum cleaners. Protection was previously limited to a restricted group of barrel type cleaners. Recent developments in the industry make this change desirable, and the acceptance of this validation bill will ensure continuance of the protective rates until the Parliament has an opportunity to examine them in detail. Another amendment involved relates to item 373, which provides for duty-free admission of goods for specified officials of the United Nations organization and associated organizations. These privileges have been granted in accordance with the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations. The remaining amendments are of a minor nature and do not effect any actual changes in tariff rates. The wording of item 122 (c) covering polishing cloths has been amended to include a wider range of polishing cloths to overcome tariff classification difficulties. The proposed amendment of item 269 (d) extends dutyfree admission under that item to all rotenone spraying preparations. It was previously limited to derris preparations. There was considerable difficulty in distinguishing derris preparations from others containing rotenone, and the amendment removes this difficulty. The amendments of item175(x) (45) and 319 (a) (3) simplify the tariff classification of matrices for talking machine records without affecting the rates in any way. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion bySenator Courtice) read a first time.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland -
Minister for Trade and Customs)
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is associated with the Customs Tariff Validation Bill, and validates the collection of excise duties in accordance with the amendments contained in the Excise Tariff Proposals introduced into the Parliament on the 2nd June last. The period of validation is the same, namely, the six months to the 17th December, 1948. As the Parliament will be rising at an early date there will not be any opportunity to debate the proposals during this sitting.
The amendments which the bill would validate do not involve any important changes in excise rates. The item covering liqueurs is proposed to be changed to enable a more effective control over the manufacture of liqueurs to be imposed in the interests of both consumers and legitimate manufacturers. This change will come into effect by proclamation when the necessary administrative arrangements have been made. The remaining amendments relate to the exemption from excise duty of certain goods for the United Nations organization and associated agencies, and correspond to the customs concessions provided in the Customs Tariff Proposals referred to in the previous bill.
Debate (on motion by SenatorCooper) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 10 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 10.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 June 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19480617_senate_18_197/>.