18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at $ p.m., and road prayers.
Senator FINLAY- Will the Minister representing the Minister -for Repatriation say what is the total amount of pension a week payable to . a single totally-disabled ex-serviceman? Will he also inform the Senate what is the total amount of pension a week payable to a totally-disabled ex-serviceman with a wife and two children under sixteen years of age?
Senator CAMERON. - A single returned totally disabled ex-serviceman receives a pension of £5 ls. a week. A married ex-serviceman similary incapacitated receives an additional £1 2s. a week in respect of his wife, an additional 9s. a week for the first child, and a further 9s. a week for the second child.
South Australian Supplies - INTERUNION DISPUTE in New South Waxes.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel say whether he has read the statement which appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser of the 5th October that because the collier Geddington Court was diverted from Adelaide to Port Lincoln to discharge a portion of her cargo to enable the carrying on of essential industries at Port Lincoln, her subsequent late arrival at Port Adelaide was responsible for a greatly restricted transport service in South Australia? Can the Minister furnish any information regarding’ coal supplies for South Australia?
– I have seen the report in the Adelaide press of this morning, and have made inquiries into the matter. Particulars of coal shipments to Adelaide for the week ended the 2nd October, 1948, are -
Corio, 4,700 tons, for Osborne (Port of Adelaide), South Australia. This vessel left Newcastle on Thursday, the 30th September, and should have reached Osborne on Tuesday, the 5th, or Wednesday, the 6th October, respectively.
Aroona, 4,200 tons, for Osborne. Left Newcastle Saturday, the 2nd October.
Inchkeith, 6,800 tons, for Port Lincoln and Osborne. The Inchkeith was at Port Kembla and was delayed in leaving for Newcastle, but eventually got away and started to load at Newcastle at 10 a.m. on Friday, the 1st October. When work waa stopped at 8 a.m. on Saturday, the 2nd October, only 3,000 tons had been loaded. The loading was completed this week and the vessel left Newcastle at 9.45 a.m. on the 0th October.
Geddington Court, 9,500 tons, for Osborne. Left Newcastle on Thursday, the 30th September. At Port Lincoln several wheat ships would have benn held up if coal had not been diverted to this port, as the stocks of coal at Port Lincoln were very low. Reference to this was made by the Australian Shipping Board, who asked the Joint Coal Board if the deddington Court’s coal was suitable for use at Port Lincoln; on being advised in the affirmative the Australian Shipping Board arranged for the Geddington Court to call iii at Port Lincoln and off-load 2,000 tons of her coa.1 cargo. A berth was available immediately and the (teddington Court should be in Adelaide on Thursday morning, the 7th October, at the latest. Because of the above arrangements the vessel Inchkeith’s schedule has now been altered and instead of going to Port Lincoln it will go to Osborne and should arrive there next Monday morning, the 11th October.
For some considerable time there has not been any complaint in regard to the availability of coal for, or despatch of coal to, South Australia, but I point out that once coal has reached that State, its distribution and use is a matter entirely for the State Government. I am unable to say whether the report of the effect on the railway services is correct. The railway authorities sometimes err on the conservative side, and in the past there have been occasions when train services were curtailed, allegedly owing to the shortage of coal, when there was no necessity for the service to bc restricted.
– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether it is a fact that a. general strike of coal- miners in New South Wales is imminent as the result of a dispute between the miners’ federation and the Australian Workers Union regarding men employed driving a rock tunnel connecting the Mount Kembla and Mount Kemeira collieries? What action is being taken by the Government to bring about a settlement of the dispute ?
– There is a dispute on the south coast coal-field with regard to the tunnelling of a new mine. The dispute is between two unions, the miners’ federation and the Australian Workers Union. I am not conversant with the merits of the dispute, and I am at a loss to know what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition requires the Government to do in the matter. Only last week he castigated the Government when, speaking in the budget debate, he said that it. interfered with the Arbitration Court and the tribunals which it had appointed to deal with matters of this kind. He cannot have it both ways. I do not know whether he is suggesting that I should take some action to “ frustrate “, as he said, the tribunal that should deal with such a matter. I do not intend to alter the attitude which I have adopted with respect to disputes in the past. At all times I shall endavour to keep the wheels of industry going, regardless of the industry involved; but I do not propose to accept any suggestion from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in that respect in view of the attitude he adopted last week.
– -Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel say whether his attention has been directed to the recent report of the State Electricity Commission of Queensland, and particularly to the threat of electricity rationing in that State, due, amongst other things, to the nonavailability of certain essential parts such as insulators, which are normally manufactured in Australia? Will the Minister look into the situation regarding the shortage of insulators to see if anything can be done to stimulate greater production ?
– I have not seen the report mentioned by the honorable senator. I point out, however, that the
Australian Government now has no control whatever over the manufacture or distribution of insulators. I shall be glad to assist in any way possible to secure a greater production of insulators. If any are at present available, I shall endeavour to have them allocated to Queensland.
– The Australian Government, through the PostmasterGeneral, is the employer of approximately 73,000 workers in the Postal Department. Can the Acting AttorneyGeneral say whether, having regard to the Constitution, the Postmaster-General has authority independently of the Public Service Arbitrator to fix the rates of salaries and wages and hours and conditions of employment of employees of the Postal Department?
– In the present state of the law the Postmaster-General has no power to fix the terms and conditions of employment of employees of the Postal Department. As the honorable senator will know, the Public Service Board attends to appointments to the Public Service, and if there is a disagreement between the workers on the one side and the Public Service Board on the other the matter is referred to the Public Service Arbitrator who delivers an adjudication which binds both the Postmaster-General and the employees’ organizations concerned. It is true that under its bare constitutional power the Commonwealth itself may determine the terms and conditions of employment of persons in its service. However, it is quite obvious that the Parliament is not the proper body to embark upon a determination of that kind. For very good reasons, which will readily be apparent to the Senate, the Government has entrusted the duty of making appointments and deciding, the conditions of employment of public servants to an independent body, the Public Service Board. The Government acknowledges the need for arbitration in the settlement of differences. So, under the present legislative machinery the Postmaster-General himself has no power to intervene to determine the rates and conditions of employment in his department.
– Last week I asked the Postmaster-General what progress had been made in the establishment of a post office and residence in the township of Tullah, Tasmania. Has he yet obtained that information ?
– Preliminary work in connexion with the erection of a combined post office and residence for the postmistress is being proceeded with. Working drawings are now being prepared by the Department of Works and Housing and it is expected that tenders will be called within the next two weeks. Every endeavour will be made to complete the new building at the earliest possible date, but some delay may occur by factors such as shortages of material and dearth of suitable labour in the locality.
– Can the Postmaster-General say whether his department is experiencing difficulty in obtaining staff for telephone exchange work? If so, can he give any reason for this difficulty? Do salaries paid to telephonists in the Postal Department compare favorably with those paid for this class of work in other undertakings where very often shift work is not necessary?
– It is true that my department has experienced somedifficulty in obtaining staff to carry out its work. The department is expanding rapidly. It is doing much more work now tha.n it has ever done since federation. We could employ an additional 500 or 600 labourers, and 200 or 3001 engineers if they were available. There is a dearth of all labour required for building, but the department is doing everything possible to overcome that difficulty. I undertake to ascertain for the honorable senator how the rates paid totelephonists in my department compare with those paid for similar work by outside organizations. I shall advise thehonorable senator of the result of my inquiries as soon as possible.
– In view of the difficulty that the Postal Department is encountering in obtaining staff, will the Postmaster-General take up with the Public Service Board the question of increasing the remuneration of officers- of his department to bring them more into line with other workers as a means of providing greater incentive to prospective postal employees?
– .Speaking from memory, since the Labour Government assumed office the salaries and wages of official and non-official postal employees have been increased by a total of approximately £2,500,000. Quite recently the matter was again considered, and I expect that further increases will be granted at a cost of another £920,000. I assure the honorable senator that this matter is constantly under consideration, and that, consistent with our powers and resources, we shall do our very best for employees of the Postal Department. The salary and wage increases to which I have referred have been made without prejudice or expense to the employees. They still have the right, if they so desire, to apply in the usual way for salary increases, and I am sure that any such application would be considered sympathetically by the board and by the Public Service Arbitrator.
– In view of the fact ‘that Lysaght’s Newcastle works have been closed down for the last ten days, resulting in a loss of production of 3,000 tons of galvanized iron, can the Minister for Supply and Development give an assurance that adequate supplies of zinc will be made available to that company in order to enable it to keep its works going ?
– I deplore the situation which has arisen at Lysaght’s works. It is, indeed, unfortunate that in these days of shortages of building essentials such as galvanized iron, the works of one of the main producers should be closed down. Before I left on my journey overseas recently, I was furnished with a statement of Lysaght’s requirements of zinc in order to enable that company to continue in production, and the suppliers of zinc undertook to make such supplies available. Similar information was given to me in respect of other users of zinc. However, because of the fact that the price ruling overseas for zinc is so much greater than the domestic price, the suppliers, Electrolytic Zinc Company of
Australasia Limited, have taken the stand that they will not allow users to build up stock piles.
– They are on strike.
– I am not, critical of the company’s attitude, because the zinc is sold overseas and constitutes an important part of our export trade, much of it being sold for dollars. That trade must be encouraged, but, at the same time, the company should realize that domestic industry must be kept going. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is closely examining the matter, and I am sure that as the result of his investigations a position similar to that existing at present will not be allowed to recur.
– I ask the Acting Attorney-General whether it is a fact that New South Wales is the only State in which the divorce law does not recognize lunacy as a ground for divorce?
– I .must confess that I am not aware of the position in all States.
– I am informed that what I have said is a fact.
– That may well be the position. I know that that is not true of Tasmania and Victoria, with whose laws I am familiar. It may well be that New South Wales is the only exception. In Tasmania, lunacy is a ground for divorce after seven years in cases in which there is no prospect of the patient recovering. I intimated to the Senate some weeks ago that the Commonwealth was considering introducing a uniform divorce law under the power it enjoys in that field-. When in due course that matter receives mature consideration the fact that differences exist in the various States with respect to grounds of divorce is one of the primary reasons why a uniform divorce law is required, and the particular ground mentioned by the honorable senator will be given consideration.
Report of PUBLIC Works Committee.
– As Chairman, I present the report of the Public
Works Committee on the following subject : -
The proposed erection of an office building to house Commonwealth departments in Brisbane, Queensland.
Ordered that the report he printed.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual Report for year 1947-48, together with summary of recommendations.
Ordered that the report only he printed.
– I lay on the table the following paper : -
Commonwealth Electoral Act - Report, with maps, by the commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the State of Western Australia into electoral divisions.
Ordered to be printed.
– On the 15th September, Senator O’Sullivan asked what action, if any, the United Nations was taking towards a settlement of the difficulties between India and Hyderabad. I have now obtained the following information : -
The position is thatthis matter is before the Security Council, where it is now under discussion. The Government has been kept informed on the subject. I am informed that, since the honorable senator asked the question, Hyderabad has capitulated and the Nizam has ordered the representatives of the old ministry, who are now prosecuting Hyderabad’s appeal to the Security Council, not to press the case. After hearing the representatives of India and Hyderabad on Thursday, the 16th September, the Security Council decided by eight votes to nil to put the question on its agenda. The matter is still before that body.
– An article pub lished in to-day’s press advised that the Liquid Fuel Control Board of Victoria is prepared to allot additional petrol to tradespeople who will make home deliveries. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether the policy of granting special quotas to business establishments which will deliver meat, bread, greengroceries and other household requirements will be general throughout Australia?
– The Liquid Fuel boards of all States will make available sufficient petrol to provide for deliveries of goods and the provision of essential services. The shortage of petrol has been used unfairly by some business people as an excuse for failure to deliver goods. I am not able to say whether tradesmen are in a position to deliver to homes, but I can say definitely that petrol will be made available in every State for deliveries of meat, groceries and other household requirements, and for the provision of essential services.
– In view of the recently promulgated regulation regarding the transport of racehorses between States and within a radius of 50 miles in any part of a State, will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform me of the position of stud breeders in relation to the transport of brood mares or stud horses from one State to another or within a radius of 50 miles in any State and also in relation to the transport of yearling bloodstock to the yearling sales in the capital cities?
– The regulation applies specifically to race horses. Where no rail or water transport facilities arc available, the Liquid Fuel Board of the State concerned will consider applications for the movement of stud stock by road from one State to another or from town to town within a State. That applies also to yearlings.
– In view of the fact that public subscriptions are being collected in order to obtain treatment for two “ blue babies “ in the Newcastle area, will the Minister for Health ascertain whether suitable treatment is available in Australia? If proper treatment cannot be obtained here, will the Government be prepared to make a contribution towards the cost of sending the children overseas for treatment?
– There is no legislation that would enable the Government to give any financial assistance in these cases. However, there is a thoracic surgery unit at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, and operations upon “ blue babies “ are undertaken there. Operations of a minor nature have been performed in Sydney and in Adelaide. Activity of this kind in Sydney has been discontinued for some time but is likely to be renewed soon. In the meantime, facilities are available in Melbourne under Doctor Brown. The Royal Prince Alfred Hospital is classed as a public hospital. Accordingly, pursuant to the Commonwealth and State hospital benefits agreement, no charge is made there for patients in public wards. Patients in intermediate or private wards, or in private hospitals, can at present obtain a benefit of 6s. a day, which will shortly be increased to 8s. a day.
– Will the Minis ter for Shipping and Fuel discuss with the Joint House Committee the problem of improving the lighting facilities in the Senate chamber? If experts capable of improving the lighting of this chamber cannot be found, will he recommend the free supply of electric torches to honorable senators who wish to read in the chamber?
-I shall discuss the honorable senator’s complaint with the responsible authorities. This is the first time I have heard a complaint of inadequate lighting, although there have been some complaints about the atmosphere in this chamber, which becomes very heated at times. I shall bring them to the notice of the authorities.
– Can the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether any progress has been made towards having pharmaceutical benefits made available for pensioners and persons in indigent circumstances, irrespective of the attitude of the British Medical Association towards the supply of such benefits ?
– The matter of attending to out-patients at public hospitals or in private wards is still under consideration. Patients occupying beds in public wards of public hospitals are not charged for medicine, accommodation or treatment, and representatives of the Commonwealth are at present negotiating with the States to ensure that there shall be no charge for medicines supplied to intermediate and private patients and to out-patients.. These negotiations, being purely financial, are not in my hands but are being carried on by the Treasury.I have kept in touch with developments, and I hope that the negotiations will be concluded soon so that persons who are unable to find doctors to accommodate them with pharmaceutical benefits will be able to obtain the benefit at the outpatient departments of public hospitals.
– Earlier this ses sion, I asked the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs whether he would make a statement to the Senate on the present position of the Four Powers in Berlin. The Minister agreed to discuss my request with the Prime Minister and I should like to know now whether the matter has been given consideration, and, if so, whether a statement will bemad e?
– As the honorable senator is no doubt aware, the Berlin dispute is now before the United Nations. I did refer the honorable senator’s question to the Prime Minister, who is acting for the Minister for External Affairs, but he is not yet in a position to supply me with a statement. I shall approach him again on the subject.
– Will the Minister have a statement prepared indicating to the Senate what effect Britain’s long-term agreement with certain western European powers is likely to have on Australia’s commitments to the United Kingdom, and our allegiance in any defence alliance?
– I shall comply with the honorable senator’s request by referring his question to the Minister acting for the Minister for External Affairs. I shall inform the Senate of the result as soon as I am in a position todo so.
President: Election of Dr. H. V. Evatt, M.P
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether any congratulatory message has been sent on belair1 of the Senate to. the Australian Minister for External Affairs on the occasion of his- election as President of the. General Assembly of the United Nations, organization.? If not,, will the Leader, of” tha Senate send such a message.conveying the. good wishes of the Senate for. a. successful term of office T
– I appreciate- the manner- m which- the Deputy Leader o£ the Opposition has brought this matter forward’: I shall be delighted1 to- carry out his request:
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Tie. answers to the honorable senator’s, questions, are as follows.:: -
The Austraiian. Broadcasting Commission, has; been consulted and it states that no report was broadcast in: its news services to the effect that Dr. Evatt was- unlikely to be- elected President, of the. United Nations: organization.. The commission has indicated that the: following news: item., broadcast, on 21st September,, T9’48, was typical of the coverage given to the likelihood of Dr. Evatt’s election- as President o;( the: United. Nations organization-: -
According to Reuter, the AustralianMinister for External Affairs, Dr. Evatt, is considered the most likely candidate for the Presidency of the United Nations General Assembly. He is assured of the support of Britain, America, and France, but the views of the Latin-American countries are doubtful. The Arab Nations will certainly oppose him because of his support of the Palestine; partition. defence:
–The Sydney Morning, Herald, of the. 28th August, quoted the Prime Minister as. having said that the. Minister for Supply and Development would’ return to- Australia via, the United States .of America, to, enable, him to discuss, defence, and supply matters, with the American- authorities*. I. ask the Minister, whether he. has, any comment, to offer to the Senate- as. a result, of his. discussions.?.
– I. did what the Prime- Minister said that- 1 should d’o> but I have no statement to make on the1 results of my tajiks’.
Sena-tea AYLETT asked, the; Minister: representing- tha Minister.- £m» Repatriation,,, upon, notice -
How much is being* paid, through*, the Repatriation. Department in. respect of. wm pensions, service, pensions, returned soldiers’ widows’- allowances- for soldiers’ children, including- education and- other facilities’ allowed’, amd amy other special benefits,, to; soldiers or their dependants in Tasmania, for. the years 1940-47 and. 1.9.47.-4S.?
-The Minister for Repatriation, has. supplied, the,- following answer:1 -
asked the Minister for Social Services the following question, upon notice : -
What amount has been, or will be, paid back to Tasmania in the form of social services for the years 1.946-47 and 194.7-48?
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon, notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Australians in Japan.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice^
Is it a fact, as reported in the Sydney Sun recently by its Tokio correspondent, Mr. Richard Hughes, that a large proportion of the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces in Japan is being returned to Australia in order to provide ceremonial guards for the Royal visit next year?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following information
No. Proposals for reductions in the strength of the Australian contingent of the British Commonwealth Occupation Force which are under consideration as a matter of Government policy are hot related to the Royal visit.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice - -
What progress has been made in the matter of providing an all-weather aerodrome in the vicinity of Bordertown, South Australia?
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
The District Council of Tatiara has been advised of the chief requirements for an aerodrome meeting present-day standards and a departmental officer is to be made available as soon as possible to report on suitable sites. Actual developmental work must be the responsibility of the local authorities.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
What is the position with regard to the supply of cornsacks for the coming harvest?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
Adequate supplies of cornsacks have been ordered for the coming harvest. These are being shipped in the normal manner and a considerable quantity has still to come forward. Supplies in Australia are decidedly higher than they were this time last season, and unless unforseen interruptions to the programme occur supplies will be adequate for all purposes. In view of the importance of cornsacks the position is under constant review and the Jute Controller is now in India for the purpose of ensuring smooth delivery of our needs.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Debate resumed from the 22nd September (vide page 687), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the following papers be printed: -
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending the 30th June, 1949.
The Budget 1948-49 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1948-49.
– Prior to the adjournment of this debate on the 22nd September, I had spoken at some length, and therefore I do not propose to take up a great deal of the time of the Senate to-day. I had quoted a letter that had been circulated to the employees of the banks, ostensibly by the Bank Employees Protest Committee, but more likely by the bankers themselves, urging their employees to become active in politics, with the object of defeating the present Labour Government at the next general election. That was a distinct reversal of form on the part of the private banks because previously they had forbidden their employees to take any active part in politics. It is an indication of the depths to which the anti-Labour forces will descend in their desire to defeat the Government. However, as I have said before, I have sufficient faith in the political sagacity of the people of Australia to be assured that this Government will continue in office for many years to come. It is very noticeable that the criticism of the budget made by anti-Labour parties, both in this chamber and. in another place, is merely destructive. No constructive criticism has been offered. During the debate, honorable senators have heard quite a lot about the alleged absence of any incentive to produce. Recently we heard no less a person than the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) state that there is no incentive to the workers at the present time. How strange that is, coming from the right honorable gentleman who, in 1924, in conjunction with Mr. S. M. Bruce, was instrumental in handing over the control of the Commonwealth Bank to the private hanking interests in Australia. How strange it is, coming from men who, at every turn, have opposed all the claims of the workers for betterment of their conditions and wages. What hypocrisy it is, coming from those who had control of the government of this country for many years prior to 1941. Let us consider what incentive was given to the workers during those years when the anti-Labour parties were in office in this country. In 1932 there was a great deal of unemployment in Australia, with attendant starvation and misery. But what concern did those people then have for the workers of this country? They opposed helpful measures and refused to acqiesce in the making available of a few million pounds to alleviate the stress of that time. Honorable senators have heard of the statement made by the Leader of the Opposition Mr. Menzies. In 1938 Mr. Menzies, after returning from his tour overseas, said: “ There is nothing wrong with poverty, provided that it is equally shared “. He also at that time eulogized the nazi system. Now, in an endeavour to gain publicity for their efforts, the Opposition is expressing concern and suggesting that workers lack incentive and offering only nebulous abuse, and destructive criticism of a budget which must be regarded by all .right thinking, unbiased, people, as very beneficial to the people of Australia. How much were members of the Opposition concerned about the workers in 1932, which was a depression year? E shall quote an extract from a report of the Bank of New South Wales in May, 1932, which gives some indication of the conccern for the workers by the private banks, the industrial monopolists, and their political representatives in this Parliament at that time. lt is evident that no proposal for further borrowing will be approved unless it is accompanied by definite indications that the governments are doing all things necessary to reduce their expenditures in keeping with the condition of the time. This would involve a reduction in their establishments, with consequent additions to unemployment, hut the problem of resultant unemployment is secondary, and should not deter governments from taking necessary action towards balancing their budgets.
That shows the concern that those people then had for the workers. Now because they have no honest, constructive criticism of this budget to offer, they revert to irrelevancies, and deal with extraneous matters. Senator Rankin claimed that the budget in vindictive, but she did not quote anything to substantiate her contention. She just made that bold, sweeping statement, and referredto what she termed the long-suffering Australian people. The honorable sena tor made the amazing statement that the standard of living in Australia was declining when, in fact, everybody knows the position is quite the reverse. We have the unsolicited testimony of people from overseas, that conditions in this country are incomparably better than those obtaining in any other country in the world. To satisfy the honorable senator, I shall cite figures showing the position in 1935. They refer only to Victoria, and relate to about 900,000 breadwinners in that State -
Those figures give an indication of the conditions which existed in Australia in 1935 under an anti-Labour government. Yet, the honorable senator claimed that the standard of living in this country is declining. Senator Rankin also said, that under the present Government, taxation had reached its peak, but she failed to point out that, in order to meet war expenditure and expenditure in respect of rehabilitation and repatriation of ex-service personnel, the Government had no alternative but to increase taxes to an unprecedented degree, and that since the war taxation has been considerably reduced. High taxation is an aftermath of six years of war. Nevertheless, companies in all spheres of business and industry are continuing to make record profits after providing for tax and depreciation. The honorable senator omitted to mention those facts. It is perfectly evident that, as the assets of Australian big business as well as the skins of the wealthy in this country are now safe, those interests are anxious to get back to the. old order under which there was a permanent pool of unemployed. The Opposition parties have said that they do not favour the Government’s full employment policy. They contend that there must always be in the community a percentage of unemployed who can be used to the economic advantage of those who control industry.
Australia has been under a Labour government since 1941, and every unbiased person has nothing but praise for its administration. Further justification for that praise is provided in the following statement by Professor Copland, which was reported in the Melbourne Herald, on the 30th September last: -
Australia, during the war, was the envy of other countries because of the low level at which she was able to maintain prices. . . . As it is, Australia seems now to have deliberately chosen the course of rising prices right up to the limit of the high export prices ruling, and in this way to have exposed her economy to the full blast of a fall in export prices. . . . It is an unfortunate end to a great experiment in price control which could have, been used to protect the community from this difficulty - anti-Labour is to blame for this state of affairs.
Professor Copland is an eminent economist. The Opposition .parties must take full blame for the conditions prevailing to-day, which, as Professor Copland has indicated, threaten to become worse in the future. The anti-Labour forces supported by the banks and other interests which they represent did everything in their power ‘to bring about the defeat of the Government’s referendum proposal for the continuance qf prices control on an Australia-wide basis, although they knew that to be the only effective method pf controlling prices. In opposing the referendum., they indicated that they were prepared to expose the country to all the horrors of uncontrolled inflation merely in order to gain some party political advantage. However, since the referendum was held it has become clear -that the people have changed their minds. This was made evident in the result of the State elections in Tasmania, and, more recently, in the election of a Labour party candidate to the undemocratic upper chamber in the Parliament of that State. Having regard to the Government’s huge defence commitments and expenditure involved in post-war reconstruction, this budget represents a wonderful achievement of which the Government and the majority of the people are proud. The Government seeks to guarantee economic and social security to all sections of the community. That is in accordance with the aim .of the Labour party to provide for the happiness and contentment of our people as a whole. This budget represents a step towards the establishment of the brotherhood of man, the aim of the Labour party, which can be epitomized in the following verse : -
Two babes were born one Christmas morn,
They came with love divine,
A mother sighed on the river Thames,
And a mother sighed on the Rhine.
The river Thames and the river Rhine,
They flow into the same great sea,
As they kiss the spray they seem to say
If men were as wise as we.
I again congratulate the Government upon the achievements represented by this budget I am certain that the people will welcome the proposals embodied in it, and, consequently, will ensure the return of Labour administrations in this Parliament for many years to come.
. -I compliment the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) upon the presentation of this budget. It is certainly a proud day in Australia’s history when a Commonwealth Treasurer is able to bring down a budget providing for an expenditure of over £500,000,000. That is a great achievement for a country with a population of only 7,500,000. The Opposition parties have not seriously criticized, the budget proposals which are in every way constructive. However, Senator Rankin referred to the long-suffering Australian people to whom she said the budget offers no relief. I remind her that our people have been long suffering because the party of which she is a member wa3 in office for a long time and this Government has only been in power for seven years, five of which were war years. The objective of the present Government is to grant relief to those unfortunate people as soon as possible. That objective will not be achieved by the criticism of the Opposition parties. It will be attained by the implementation of the Government’s longrange policy in the interests of the people whose welfare it has so closely at heart. Recently, we saw the amazing spectacle of the Sydney Morning Herald calling to task the Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), for his inaccuracies in his criticism of this budget. Such criticism speaks volumes for the merits of the budget.
The Treasurer is making provision in respect of every sphere of activity in the country. Particularly, he is planning to improve the standard of living of our people as a whole. One of the worst features of life in this country before the war under anti-Labour governments was that capitalism gave to the rich an excessive proportion of the wealth produced. Having regard to that fact one might describe this budget as a “ Robin Hood “ budget, because it takes from those who are best able to bear the heaviest burdens in order to give concessions and assistance to the less fortunate sections of the community. Capitalism, with its principle of laissez faire, each one for himself and the Devil take the hindmost, relied for its continuance upon a policy of low wages and the maintenance bf a pool of unemployed. It also encouraged the idea that low wages mean higher profits for those who control industry. This budget confers the greatest benefits upon those in the lower ranges of income, and will tend to increase the purchasing power of those sections of the community. It has been well said that the average worker on the basic wage in ‘ his daily routine “works hard to earn enough money to buy food and clothing to keep himself strong to work hard to earn enough money to buy food and clothing to keep himself strong”. That was the old vicious circle. Recently when I was a patient in the Repatriation Hospital at Heidelberg I and other patients listened with interest to the speech made in this chamber by Senator Morrow, particularly when he was dealing with the compilation of the cost of living regimen. He pointed out that that regimen allows to the wage-earner the following needs each week, 5 lb. of flour, 2-J ounces of tea, 1 lb. of sago or tapioca, and the equivalent of nine pennyweights of loose currants and raisins per week. Is it any wonder that Senator Rankin . was able to refer to the longsuffering Australian people? The concessions made by the Government under this budget and previous budgets will do much to improve the standard of living of the community. It has made the following concessions: Income tax and social services contributions £74,300,000, sales tax £28,350,000, customs and excise duties £4,000,000, Estate duty £100,000-, gift duty £50,000, gold tax £550,000, and war-time company tax £3,500,000. Remissions of direct and indirect taxes since the 1st July, 1947, represent a reduction of 26 per cent., or in the aggregate £33,000,000, which on a relative basis is equivalent to a reduction of £100,000,000 in terms of pre-war tax rates. In the field of indirect taxation, sales tax concessions will cost £28,350,000. These reductions will be of particular benefit to those people who expend most of their incomes upon the purchase of necessities. Customs and excise concessions representing £4,000,000 a year have been planned to reduce costs and encourage enterprise as well as to assist taxpayers in the lower income groups. The total tax reduction will be £111,000,000 a year, but Commonwealth expenditure will continue to be at least five times as great as that of pre-war years because of certain commitments which the Government must honour. For instance, heavy re-establishment and repatriation costs are continuous. “Whether we like it or not, we must continue to bear that burden. Our responsibility to ex-servicemen is unavoidable. War debt charges, including interest on loans, amount to £50,000,000 a year. Post-war defence is costing between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000 a year, and our enlightened social services programme now requires an expenditure of £70,000,000 a year. The facts which I have mentioned prove that this is a creditable budget, for which the Treasurer deserves high commendation. *
Another objective which the Government had in mind in drafting the budget, an objective which is very important in the light of economic conditions in other countries, is the curbing of inflation. Since 1938-39, our national income has increased by £800,000,000 and the cash resources held by the public have increased by £900,000,000. Supplies of goods were reduced drastically during the war and can only improve gradually as civil production revives and imports begin to flow again. The main tax concessions planned by the Government will benefit the people in the lower income groups. Higher income groups, including companies and big combinations of capital, are establishing reserves which, if they were suddenly launched into the general economy, would have spiralling inflationary effects. For this reason, it is easy to justify the maintenance of high tax rates on large incomes. Apart from this important economic factor, a lightening of the burden upon the lower income groups is desirable. Members of the Labour party are extremely proud to be associated with this Government which has produced a budget providing for so much direct assistance to the mass of the people. We are able to paint a very good picture of conditions in Australia to-day. There is prosperity everywhere. Employment is at its maximum, and people are enjoying an improving standard of living. The complaints of people who talk about lack of production are discounted by the reports which appear daily in our newspapers. Financial reports show that company profits throughout Australia are at a peak. Business concerns are transferring huge amounts to reserves and are paying dividends up to the rate of 25 per cent. Employers who complain that the 40-hour week is crippling production and that the Australian working man is going slow, speak with their tongues in their cheeks. The fact is that they are able to earn substantial profits and, at the same time, to accumulate large reserves of funds. Critics of the Government declare that private enterprise is being stifled, but, from Cooktown in Queensland, to Hobart in Tasmania, and from east to west of the continent, new businesses are being established and applications for permits to build new factories are being lodged in great numbers. The whole of the Commonwealth is in a very prosperous condition. This budget scarcely needs my commendation ; it speaks for itself.
I shall refer now to the activities of individual departments. I pay a special tribute to the activities of the Repatriation Commission. Ex-servicemen who had the misfortune to be maimed or to become chronically ill as the result of the service which they voluntarily gave in defence of their country deserve our first consideration. As I said previously, I was an inmate of the repatriation hospital at Heidelberg in Victoria recently and I came in very close contact with many “ sick diggers “. I was very interested to hear their opinions about the treatment given to them. Many ex-servicemen of World War I. contrasted their conditions after 1919 with present conditions in repatriation hospitals. They have very few complaints to-day. I made personal contact, with many patients and asked whether they had any criticisms, but they all seemed to be of the opinion that their interests are being well looked after by this Government, even to the smallest detail. I was in one of the plastic ‘ surgery wards at Heidelberg, and I pay a special tribute to the work that is being done there by Mr. Rank and Mr. Wakefield. Many ex-servicemen suffered frightful injuries from shrapnel and bullets and lost large pieces of flesh and skin. The work that is being done by Mr. Rank and Mr. Wakefield in repairing those wounds is remarkable. Mr. Rank has dealt with 2,700 cases of plastic surgery amongst casualties of World War II. I cannot do less than praise the work which he is doing. One incident which occurred while I was at the hospital was illustrative of the general attitude of patients. I met a man who had lost a limb. I helped to wheel his chair into the elevator and asked him where he was going. He replied, “ To Heaven “. I looked closely at him, wondering whether he belonged to ward 15a or was joking, and asked, “ Where is heaven ? “ He replied, “Ward West 2 is the nearest approach to heaven I know. The food is good and the sisters are good, and I do not want to leave there “. That indicates the general attitude of patients. This budget provides for the continued good treatment of our ex-servicemen and there is no room for criticism of this Government on the ground that it has not honoured the promises which were made to our fighting men when they were defending their country.
The work of the Department of Postwar Reconstruction also calls for a high tribute. I have had personal contact with the department, and I know a great deal about its activities in Tasmania. Special records should be made of some of the wonderful work that it is doing in the field of re-establishment training, in conjunction, of course, with the Department of Labour and National Service. About 285,000 ex-service men and women have been accepted for benefits under the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme throughout Australia. No fewer than 227,000 of them are actually in training or have completed their training courses. At present, 170,000 men and women are in training, 24,000 having completed their courses. The community is crying out for doctors, nurses and teachers, and the vast developmental works that are being planned for the future will require technically trained men and women. The inadequate supply of professionally trained citizens is a national problem, and the reconstruction training scheme will be of inestimable value to the nation in filling many vacancies. Nearly 2,000 reconstruction trainees are studying medicine, and 2,000 others are training as nurses. The Department of Post-war Reconstruction has shown wonderful foresight in providing for the training of doctors and nurses to meet the needs of this growing, virile country. Its programme will help to provide better standards’ of health and social security, not only for Australians who will be born in the future, but also for the thousands of immigrants whom we hope to attract to Australia. No fewer than 1,100 students have been enrolled for the reconstruction course in dentistry, and 2,500 others are studying to become teachers. One of our great needs to-day is a higher standard of education. We know what terrible sins have been committed in the past because of ignorance, and we should do everything that we can to assist education authorities throughout Australia, who are tackling their problems with a will. I pay a high tribute to school teachers for the great work which they are doing in very difficult circumstances. Class-rooms are overcrowded, and they have to contend with many problems, but they are facing their task magnificently. I.’ say from the depth of my heart that we should be proud of their efforts. I hope that their burden will soon be lightened. Engineering and architecture courses under the reconstruction training scheme have been undertaken by approximately 3,400 students. This Government is not just making navvies of our ex-servicemen.
It is giving them the opportunities that they deserve. This country is a land of opportunity, and the first priority should be given to our young ex-servicemen.
– Returned soldiers had no priority after World War I.
– The situation to-day is different. This Government is providing for the care of the wounded and the sick and for the physical and intellectual development of all ex-service men and women. This state of affairs contrasts vividly with that which prevailed immediately after World War I. The reconstruction training scheme provides opportunities also in the fields of theology, law, economics, arts, veterinary science and agriculture. Every branch of education of importance to this young country is covered. I speak on this matter with some personal knowledge because I have a brother who is doing a veterinary science course at the Sydney University. It is a wonderful opportunity for him. He was unable to take the course before the war, but now he is in his third year and is getting along very well. Australia is primarily an agricultural country and veterinary officers are required urgently. They can be of great benefit to our primary industries.
Turning to the industrial field, probably the most vital shortage in Australia to-day is that of housing, but we must remember that a similar problem exists throughout the world. This is due in a large measure to a general upward trend in standards of living. The realization that the basic requirements of a community are food, clothing and shelter, and the movement towards improved housing standards is quite understandable. Approximately 18,000 building tradesmen have been trained, or are undergoing training, under the re-establishment scheme. What a valuable contribution these men will be to the solution of the housing problem. In addition, 2,700 ex-servicemen have been trained in engineering trades, 1,500 in food trades, and 1,900 in the clothing and footwear trades. AH these young fellows are being given the opportunities that were promised to them when they were on war service, and this Government is proud not only that those opportunities are available, but also that they are being availed of so readily. This training is part of a general pattern and plan. “When trainees have completed their courses, they are absorbed in the fabric of our society, and into industry where they assist to bring about greater production, which is probably our greatest need at present. “We must build on a solid groundwork. The policy that is being implemented by the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction and the Department of Labour and National Service in the training of these young men is magnificent. So far, the reconstruction training scheme has cost this country £23,000,000, and the ultimate cost is expected to be £80,000,000; but in making comparisons we should remember that the important thing is not the value in pounds. People often tell me that the £1 to-day is worth only 6s. I can only reply that I should be prepared to buy for 6s. as many pounds as they care to offer to me. I repeat that the value of the reconstruction training scheme cannot be measured in pounds. The Government must honour its undertakings regardless of the cost. It has a clear responsibility to these young men, who are the cream of the Australian manhood. Those who clamour for bigger tax reductions, and claim that the Government is expending money wastefully, should remember that the reconstruction training scheme alone has already cost this country £23,000,000 and will cost another £57,000,000. That money must be obtained from somewhere; we cannot get it from thin air. The training scheme is only part of the Government’s post-war plan. On top of that, other charges, including the cost of subsidized employment, must be met. I repeat that members of the community who are best able to bear the burden must be prepared to do so, whether they like it or not. We have a long way to go before the reconstruction training scheme will be completed. Many young men are still waiting to start their courses. I commiserate with them because of the long wait that they have had, but I urge them to hold on because the ‘ training is well worth while. They will learn something that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. It is an enormous job, but it is progressing satisfactorily, and we are proud indeed that our young men are making the most of their opportunities.
While on this subject I should like to say a word in commendation of the work of the industrial committees that are looking after the welfare of reconstruction trainees. Under the chairmanship of officers of the Re-establishment Division of the Ministry of Post-war Reconstruction, regional training committees composed of representatives of employers, employees and ex-servicemen operate in all States. This broad basis ensures that the interests of ex-servicemen shall be fully protected. Within this general framework more than 300 industrial committees are actively associated with the training scheme. Each consists of a representative of the employers and a representative of the employees in the particular trade concerned, with a departmental chairman and executive officer. Members of those committees are making available their wide experience and knowledge for the guidance of the trainees. After six months of intensive training at a technical college, a trainee is placed in subsidized employment, not with just any employer, but with one who has been approved by the industrial committee as having sufficient qualified tradesmen to instruct the trainee in all phases of his trade, and to offer him reasonable prospects of continued employment. During this period, the progress of the trainee is closely watched by the industrial committee, which is able to give him whatever guidance he may require. It is that individual contact and care that marks the reconstruction training scheme as an outstanding achievement. The Australian community owes a debt of gratitude to members of the industrial committees. They give their time generously and voluntarily, and their work speaks for itself. They are deserving of the highest praise, and I congratulate them upon the excellent work that they are performing.
By establishing Trans-Australia Airlines about three years ago, this Government rendered a great service to the people of Australia in the field of civil aviation. It is interesting to note that the revenue derived by Trans-Australia
Airlines from traffic increased by nearly 300 per cent, last year- from £1,038,072 in 1946-47 to £2,963,145. The object of the Australian National Airlines Commission in operating Trans-Australia Airlines is to provide a service of national importance sustained by its own earnings and the commission is confident that in the coming year Trans-Australia Airlines will pay its own way. It has had enormous costs to meet in its teething stages, but despite all the criticism that has been directed at government institutions and enterprises, I challenge the Opposition to point to any organization in the world that has so quickly reached as high a standard of efficiency over such a wide field, and at such a small cost, as Trans-Australia Airlines has done. Its achievement has been magnificent, and reflects great credit upon the Australian National Airlines Commission and all those capable and efficient people who staff Trans-Australia Airlines.
– It has succeeded despite a deliberate boycott.
– That is true. There was a boycott during the latter part of last year, as the figures show. All sorts of rumours were spread about Trans-Australia Airlines in an endeavour to crush the organization in its early stages. Its opponents knew quite well that once it became established there would be no chance of destroying it. Today it is a strong organization, and we can look back and smile at some of the puny efforts of its competitors. TransAustralia Airlines has developed into something of which Australia, and particularly the Labour Government, can be justifiably proud. Another point about Trans-Australia Airlines is that it is building up a valuable organization of highly-trained efficient officers, who will form a nucleus for the development of civil aviation. These men are a national asset and this in itself to some degree justifies the existence of Trans-Australia Airlines. These young fellows are engaged upon constructive work to-day, but should the need ever arise, they could be employed on similar types of aircraft in a different field. I hope that that will never be necessary but it is a point that I stress when speaking of the value of Trans-Australia Airlines.
– Trans-Australia Airlines is guaranteeing reasonable charges for transport.
– That is true and it is giving a service second to none in value anywhere in the world. I remind the Senate also that although the other airline operators made an agreement with the Minister for Civil Aviation in regard to charges, one company broke the agreement, reduced its charges, and claimed; that the Australian National Airlines Commission was trying to keep prices up. The -consequence is that that company has had to carry 27 passengers on its aircraft instead of 21, and all sorts of things are happening. The allegation that the Australian National Airlines Commission was forcing the other airline operators to keep fares up wa3 a part of the plan to crush TransAustralia Airlines in its infancy.
I propose now to deal with something a little more constructive. The Minister for Civil Aviation has submitted a works programme for 1948-49 totalling £5,179,000, of which, it is estimated, £1,151,000 will be expended during the current financial year, the balance being carried over to 1949-50 or subsequent financial years. The estimates provide for additions, modifications and modernization of the Australian airways system. This work comes under three main headings, namely, communications, radio and radar navigation, and airport lighting and power supply. The main provisions include the extension of the internal and international point-to-point communication network and the improvement of the international ground-to-air network by the provision of additional equipment, especially at Sydney, Brisbane, Cloncurry and Darwin. The extension of the ground-to-air communication network commenced during 1947-48. In view of the recent tragic accident in the north of New South “Wales, it is believed that this work should be proceeded with as quickly as possible. I am quite certain that the provision of adequate equipment will minimize the risk of any repetition of such an unfortunate accident. Progress has been made towards the completion of international radio transmitters in Sydney and Darwin. The principal item of expenditure involved is the purchase of 180 radio transmitters at a cost of £264,000, of which £50,000 will be spent on material and £50,000 on installations during 1948-49. That equipment -will be used to replace low-power equipment at some locations, to extend the internal point-to-point network, to complete the transmitter complement for a number of stations, to duplicate homing beacons at important centres, and to replace unsuitable types of equipment. The provision of new and more suitable equipment will be a great aid to navigators who have to fly in all kinds of weather. The difficulties of all-weather flying are not generally appreciated by those who have not flown aircraft, but I can assure them that the provision of every possible aid is necessary for safe navigation. When -I was being trained as a pilot, I remember being told by an Air Force instructor that in the early days of flying the only two navigational aids in use were the “ Sperry cat “ and a bird which was a cross between a cockatoo and a homing pigeon. The “Sperry cat” was carried in primitive aircraft so that the pilot, when he was out of sight of land and uncertain of the stability of his aircraft, could throw the cat up in the cockpit, and if the animal landed on its feet he would know that the aircraft was flying the right side up. The bird was used when a flier became lost, and the method of employing it was to fling it out of the plane, wait for it to “ home “ its way to the point of departure, where it would be given a verbal message to direct the pilot to his destination, and return and repeat the ground directions! Although I have come a long way since then, I know that pilots need the most modern navigational aids, particularly in routine civil flying.
The works programme of the Department of Civil Aviation provides for the installation of instrument landing systems at thirteen locations at a cost of £455,000, of which £27,000 will be expended during the current financial year: The locations chosen are places where it is most important to ensure safe landing for international aircraft at the end of long trans-ocean flights. At present, bad and indifferent weather conditions and low ceiling visibility at some locations make landing difficult, whilst at others waste is incurred through excessive consumption of petrol and decreased aircraft usability factors. Provision is also made for the installation of new equipment to improve the low intensity airport lighting facilities, and for high intensity runway and approach lighting equipment as part of an integrated approach and landing system, along with the radio landing system. The estimates include provision for aircraft, engines, vehicles and equipment for departmental purposes and for maintenance of flying boat bases. In international civil aviation, our national prestige is second to none. Nevertheless, we must obtain and install the latest scientific devices if we are to maintain our pre-eminent position. Sufficient funds are provided in the budget, and adequate reserves are in hand, so that as the need arises for further improvements of civil aviation to be made the Government will be able to make them.
I turn now to the generous provision made by the Government in the fields of public -health and social services. Although on several occasions during the past seven years the Australian Labour party has invited the people to confer greater constitutional powers on the National Parliament it is to be regretted that the people have not taken advantage of the opportunities given to them. Many industrial problems and most of the social unrest which now confront us could be overcome if the Government had adequate constitutional powers. The Opposition parties and the press, which have consistently opposed any extension of constitutional powers, stand condemned for all time by their attitude. Although members of the Australian Labour party were actuated by humanitarian motives in proposing that constitutional powers should be extended, it was easy for our political opponents to confuse the issues. Regardless of the results of the various referendums held, the fact remains that nothing in this world which is static- can survive and social dogma and political constitutions are no exception to the general rule. Whilst I admire the ability and foresight of the framers of our Constitution, it must be obvious to any one that they could not possibly have foreseen the conditions which would prevail 50 years later, and the fact that we are still governed by a Constitution which was drafted before .1.900 does not reflect much credit on those who have so consistently opposed alteration of the Constitution. Fortunately, members of the Australian Labour party were successful, after strenuous efforts, in persuading the people to confer adequate constitutional powers on the Parliament to legislate in regard to the improvement of our social services.
The Minister for Social Services (Senator McKenna) has undoubtedly done a great job. Whilst I may appear to be throwing a lot of bouquets at members of the Government, I feel that the Minister is particularly deserving of commendation. He has reviewed and revolutionized the entire field of pensions for infirmity, unemployment and social distress. On behalf of the Government he has produced concrete proposals for the improvement of the lot of many thousands of our less fortunate brothers. In the past such people did not receive any special consideration from the Government or from the community, and their plight was regarded as being no more than the sad lot of the human race. The general attitude of the community was expressed in the words: “Ye have the poor always with you.” Fortunately we have reached such a stage of enlightenment that we are not prepared any longer to permit unfortunate members of the community to suffer through no fault of their own. The humanitarian legislation passed by Labour in the last few years ensures that every member of the community shall have at least the minimum needs of subsistence. No one need fear that through misfortune he will be permitted to sink into a mire of degradation. It has been said that the present Government cares for the individual from the cradle to the grave, and, undoubtedly, the result of the referendum held some time ago, which conferred power on the National Parliament to legislate to improve social services, has enabled the Government to give a new meaning to the term “democracy”. No member of the community need continue to suffer illhealth because he cannot afford medical treatment. The Government has gone further and has ventured into entirely new fields. One example is the establishment of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. Recently I had personal experience of the beneficent effects of the administration of the serum drug penicillin. “Wounds which were formerly regarded as impossible of cure are now being cured in a few days or in a few weeks by the administration of that drug. The Government has introduced legislation to provide for the establishment of acoustic laboratories to inquire into the causes and prevention of occupational deafness. It will obtain the services of highly qualified scientists and medical practitioners to conduct intensive research into the incidence of deafness amongst persons engaged in industrial undertakings. The establishment and operation of the Commonwealth X-ray and Radium Laboratory, the Bureau of Dental Standards, the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, the Industrial Division of the Medical Research Council, and the Bureau of Child Health represent entirely new essays in the field of humanitarian legislation and preventive medicine. The Government’s action is more than humanitarian; it is democracy in action. Members and supporters of the Government are convinced that they are doing something worth while, and that they are achieving something of lasting benefit to the whole community. The successful attempts made by the Government to provide improved social conditions furnish ample evidence that if wider constitutional powers are conferred on the National Parliament the present Government will provide even greater social benefits on the community. We shall certainly not misuse any larger powers conferred on us, but, on the contrary, the people will reap the reward. The benefits will be evident in a living, virile democracy.
The Government has encouraged restarch in many important fields, but not the least of its achievements are the attempts which it has made to prevent the occurrence of disease. We must specialize in preventive medicine. I have often heard it said in this chamber that members of the Parliament are more concerned with effects than with causes, and that observation applies particularly to the field of medicine. If we can improve the general health of members of the community, and particularly of children, by providing adequate nutrition and other necessaries, we shall have accomplished a great deal more than we can by the mere treatment of those who are already suffering ill health. A few days ago I attended a meeting of people who were interested in the provision of playgrounds for children, and it was a joy to witness the enthusiasm of those people for their work. Healthy -children who can spend their playtime in suitable surroundings under proper supervision will need a minimum of medical treatment and will tend to obviate the necessity for hospitals and gaols. I realize that the attempts made bv the Government in the field of preventive medicine represent only a beginning, and that a great deal remains to be done. However, I commend the Departments of Health and Social Services for the splendid work which they have already accomplished, and I am sure that under the vigorous leadership of the present Minister for Health, those departments will accomplish a great deal more. We are right behind him, and we consider that he is doing a very good job. I am quite certain that this generation and succeeding generations of Australians will benefit from the increased authority this Government has as a result of the successful appeal to the people for additional powers in respect of social services in 1946.
A matter which has recently received a lot of publicity was the attack on the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research in this Parliament. That illfounded criticism will, I consider, have a very detrimental effect on Australia’s prestige. The members of this Government should state unequivocally that they are in no way sympathetic with the views that were expressed against individual members of the council. I refer to the leading scientist, Sir David Rivett, to whom, I consider, a grave injustice has been done. I dissociate myself from anything derogatory that has been said about him in this Parliament. When a member o’f the Parliament makes such an attack, the people frequently associate all members of the Parliament with the attack. The Australian Government has come in for a certain amount of criticism, for not having taken action to ban the Communist party in this counry. In the last eight years I have had a great opportunity to study political organizations. During the war I was in close contact with the Germans as a prisoner of war. I gained a fairly good insight into the workings of fascism and national socialism, and I saw in Germany things which gave me an indication of the general policy that was followed in Germany before the war, and which that country attempted to foist on the rest of the world. Since my release I have been able to view this matter in its correct perspective. Whilst we are directing a lot of our attention to the wisdom or otherwise of banning the Communist party I am afraid that we are forgetting that we have a “ nigger in the woodpile “. Fascism is on the march in the world to-day as strongly as is communism. I say this with a certain amount of feeling. With thousands of others I went away from this country to fight to destroy a certain evil influence. When the war finished we thought we had destroyed that influence, but we see it growing up again throughout the world. If I did not raise my voice against this growth I should be recreant to my responsibility to the men with whom I went away, many of whom, unfortunately, did not return. I was liberated by the Russians on the eastern front in Germany, and when I came back across the river Elbe which is. now the “Iron Curtain” I brought several fellows back with me. They were interested to see how democracy worked, and I was anxious to show them. The reason why we failed in western Germany is that the people there have no idea of what democracy is because the occupation forces did not teach them. When the war was over, a lot of Americans wanted to return to their wives -and families. I do not know how those who remained were selected, but they were very interested in the black market, the German frauleins, and in a lot of things which were not democratic. They did not make adequate provision to supply the people in the west of
Europe with food. I know what it is to be hungry, and I understand the feelings of the people in western- Europe; they expected to get food oil liberation, but they are still on- the verge- of starvation. Unfortunately; we have not created a very good impression in the western zone, and it is up to the English-speaking peoples to provide the alternative for the scourges which are threatening civilization to-day. If we want to get people away from communism, or from fascism, we must offer them a system which really works, and has some substance in it. Little is being done in the United States of America to prove that a good democratic system is operating in that country. In 1939, one-fifth of the total labour’ forces in the United States of America was unemployed - no less than 10,400,000 people. When the United States came into the war at the end of 1941, after Britain had been engaged in hostilities for two years, there did not exist a very stable foundation for American society. [Extension of time granted.”] The only way that the United States of America can show the world that the economy of that country is sound is by feeding Europe. Unfortunately, that has not been done; the assistance has been too late. Consequently, the people of western Europe are bewildered and confused, and they are seeking some means to deliver themselves from the abyss into which they have fallen. The United States of America, which is now regarded as the leading nation in the world, has not shown up in a very good light in bearing the responsibilities which have been thrust on to it. Whilst’ it is all very well for the people of the United States of America £o criticize Australian domestic actions, I think that criticism can rightly be directed against them for the way in which they have handled international affairs, such as the supply of food, without which people are not receptive to high-sounding phrases. They do not want the United Nations organization or anything else if they have no food. That is where the United States of America has fallen down badly. On the other hand, Great Britain has done a magnificent job. The people there are living on rations. As soon as the Labour Govern ment was elected to office in Great Britain:, the United States of America discontinued the lend-lease arrangement, but the British people, who carried the burden alone two years before the Americans, came into the war - they were late coming into the first world war also - merely pulled their belts in tighter. Mr. Clement Attlee and Sir Stafford Cripps then organized the people, who were determined to win through. When the United States of America agreed to make a loan, it did so grudgingly and imposed a number of qualifications with the result that prices were immediately inflated. All the time the Americans have been driving, these magnificent people to their knees. T.hey have not been given the leadership which is necessary to enable them to recover from the holocaust into which they were thrown between 1939 and 1945. The economic system which is still being sustained in the United States of America was the cause. -
– That is what a lot of people want here, too.
– Of course they do. I can “ smell “ collaborators, and I saw them come in the countries of Europe. The history of the “Brisbane line “ shows that in this country, some people were ready to collaborate, and one does not have to go far from this chamber to find people who would have been ready to collaborate.
– There were some not very far from Canberra.
– There are fascist-minded people in Australia who would sell this country for the proverbial mess of potage. I believe that Australia has a great future and I do not think we deserve the criticism that has been levelled against us. The Government has the situation well in hand, and is embarking on a course that will breed a true democracy in this country. It will be an example to other so-called “ demarcracies “ which are not, in my opinion, on the right track. They have to make tremendous alterations in their methods before they will be true democracies.
One of our noted economists - so noted, in fact, that there’ have .been rumours that be will be invited to stand as a Liberal candidate for Parliament at the next general election - at a meeting recently held in Sydney expressed the view -
Undue social security was the main explanation of Australia’s failure to attain economic rehabilitation after the war at a rate at which she had .planned and anticipated.
That statement was publicized under the beading “ Social Security Delays Recovery “. It is typical of t a man entwined in the gossamer of Adam Smith ro speak of recovery when the people of the world fear recovery. They fear that we will get back to the conditions of 1930 or 1931 or even those of 1939. We do not want recovery. We want reforms and improvements in the system. Who wants to go back to the conditions of the ‘thirties?
– We want progress.
– Tes. Unless the Australian Labour party stays in office we will have some of the reactionaries or revolutionaries gaining power in this country, and then we will have something ro complain about. Those who call for recovery are hopelessly restricted in their mental outlook, by the “blinkers” of orthodox economic laws. Try as they might, they cannot adapt themselves to the needs of to-day. They want to revert to a state of affairs which more enlightened people know showed the economic system up in its true light. It had a hundred years to reach maturity, but it failed miserably. All that it could do was to throw us into the two worst wars, and the worst depression, in the history of the world. It was a grim failure and we of the Australian Labour party are not sorry to see it passing out, and it is pleasing that others have taken steps to eliminate the great evils which existed before the war. I find it difficult to understand the attitude of American Labour men when they associated themselves with political parties in the United States of America which at one period permitted the unemployment of over 12,000,000 people in that country. American Labour would be well advised to organize itself along the lines followed by Labour in this country. It is all very fine for American spokesmen to criticize Australian Labour, but in respect of its social legislation Australia can teach much to the United States of America. Even in England, 25 per cent, of the young men who rushed to the colours in 1939 were found to be suffering from malnutrition and could not be immediately assigned to active units.
– And some Australian young men also were found to be suffering from malnutrition when they volunteered for service in the armed forces
– That is so. That was because in their infancy and adolescence their parents did not have the wherewithal to provide them with proper food. Labour has not yet gone very far along the road to its main objectives. But I have no doubt that while the present Government continues in office it will give faith and hope to the people. ‘ Labour’s main objective is to raise the standard of living of the community as a whole to the highest possible level. I again commend the Treasurer for introducing this budget, which can be described in every sense as a record budget. The Prime Minister has the loyal support of every member of the party that he so ably leads. I and all of my colleagues are proud of him personally. Indeed, Australia is fortunate to have a man of such great character for its leader during the difficult post-war period. I am certain that when the history of this nation is written the name of “ Ben “ Chifley will enjoy honoured prominence in is pages.
Senator beeew0eth (South Australia) “5.23”. - I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this budget, which is the best that has yet been presented in the history of the Parliament. It reflects primarily the keen interest which the Government is taking in the welfare of the people as a whole. The Government’s proposals embody remissions of taxes and the liberalization of social services, and are designed to raise the standard of living of the community to the greatest possible degree. The Opposition parties are critical of those proposals, but I believe that -in their hearts they admit that thu budget will do much to maintain the present prosperity of the nation. As Senator O’Byrne said, the Government is applying the principle of granting the greatest measure of relief and assistance to those who are least able to bear the burden of taxation.
I commend the Government for making a gift of £10,000,000 to the Mother Country to help it to face the severe economic problems confronting it as part of the aftermath of the recent war. That action proves that the Government has the welfare of the Empire at heart, and gives the lie to the Opposition parties when they raise the bogy of communism in an endeavour to prove that the Labour party is not loyal to the Empire. I note with pleasure the proposals to liberalize invalid, age and widows pensions as well as repatriation benefits.
The Government intends to proceed with the standardization of railway gauges. Although South Australia is rapidly becoming one of the leading industrial ‘States of the Commonwealth, its industrial future will be endangered so long as it is obliged to depend upon other States for supplies of coal which is the chief source of industrial power. I urge the Government to embark upon its project for the standardization of railway gauges in South Australia as soon as possible. By that means that State will be enabled to develop its rich coal deposits at Leigh Creek.
In view of the unsettled state of the world, I commend the Government for allocating the sum of £250,000,000 to be expended over a period of five years in the preparation of our defences. That provision will ensure that the people of Australia shall not again find themselves as they did in 1939 unprepared to resist aggression. Honorable senators opposite have had much to lay about the alleged spread of communism in this country. Blame for the existence of communism in Australia must be laid at the door of past anti-Labour governments. Their neglect of the interests of the workers caused considerable unemployment. In those days thousands of workers were on the verge of starvation. Many of our people have the bitterest memories of those conditions which robbed them of their faith in constitu tional government. Proposals of the kind embodies in the budget guarantee to the people a continuance of our present prosperity and, therefore, spells the doom of communism in this country.
The sum of £6,750,000 is being provided tentatively in respect of special grants to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania pending tha report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission for the current financial year. Total payments to the States in all forms this year will amount to £78,000,000, or an increase of £11,300,000 over the corresponding figure for last year. This additional assistance will be of great benefit to the States whose expenditure is rapidly increasing. The Government also proposes to increase by £1,000,000 the payments to be made to the. States under the Commonwealth Aid Roads and Works Act for the construction of roads in sparsely settled districts. The future of South Australia will depend largely upon the development of the outback areas in that State, and that development can be assured only by the construction and maintenance of firstclass roads. I again congratulate the Treasurer upon the introduction of this budget which I repeat, is one of th, best yet presented to the Parliament.
Senator o’flaherty (South Australia) [5.30]. - Usually, in a budget debate all sorts of . complaintsabout the administration of thigovernment of the day are raised and opposition is expressed to all proposals involving increased expenditure of public money. That is customary not only in this Parliament but also in all State Parliaments. However, the remarkable feature of this debate is that members of the Opposition parties have offered practically no criticism of the budget itself. They have hardly dealt with items of expenditure or revenue, but have concentrated their criticism upon the actions of individual supporters and members of the Government. Indeed, not content with impugning the honesty of members of the Government they have on this occasion attempted to impugn the honesty of public servants. Although I have no doubt that the public servants concerned hold political views which differ from my own, I say emphatically that it is wrong for any one whether he is an opponent or supporter of the Government to impugn the honesty of public servants who are endeavouring to carry out their duties to the best of their ability. Recently, the Opposition parties have taken a “ set “ on certain public servants, and tha object of such attacks has been to attempt to lead the people to believe that the Government itself cannot be trusted.
Statements have been made in this debate that the Labour Government has been in power in this Parliament for seven years. Some of my colleagues made that statement, but it is not correct. The Labour Government has not been in power for the last seven years. It has had a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives only since the 1st July, 1944. It has bean in power for only four years and a few months. It assumed office in 1941 but did not obtain an absolute majority in the House of Representatives until 1943, and it was not until 1944 that it obtained an absolute majority in the Senate as well. During those four years it has achieved a remarkable record. On this occasion, I repeat, the Opposition parties being unable to fault that record have indulged in personal attacks upon individual members and. supporters of the Government with the object of trying to lead the people to believe that the Government cannot be trusted. They say that members of this Government are not capable of governing and have no control over the Public Service. They even go further than that. Senator O’Byrne has mentioned their attack upon the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. They have picked out that instrumentality from among many others dealt with in the Estimates, but they have not discussed its expenditure or its duties. They have tried another approach and have linked with it the security of defence projects. Notwithstanding repeated denials by Ministers that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has had anything to do with defence projects, they persist in their statement, which was a lie in the first place, and build upon it continually in an attempt to discredit the Government. Anybody who has studied the Government’s achievements since 1944 knows that the Opposition has no just grounds for its attack. It can secure little advantage by criticizing the Government’s expenditure, or even its tax proposals. I am a student of human nature, and I have never yet met a man who would agree that any tax reduction, however large, was adequate. Even so, the Opposition has gained little support for its claims that the Government’s tax concessions have been inequitably distributed. Acknowledging failure on this ground, it has now developed a whispering campaign. For instance, it has started a rumour in country areas that the social services provided by this Government do not benefit primary producers. Nowadays, one often hears talk like this - “ It is all very well to talk about social services, but they are of no use to people in the country. We primary producers have no interest in them, although we are taxed to pay for them. What is the Government doing for the primary producers? “
As the result of the Opposition’s campaign, many farmers believe that social service benefits do not apply to them. I investigated this matter, and I found that social services apply to country and city residents alike. The wife of a farmer is eligible for maternity benefit equally with the wife of a worker in secondary industry. At one time, the amount of benefit was £4, and certain strings were attached to it. In those days, very few primary producers’ wives received the maternity allowance because the conditions of payment excluded them from benefit. Later, the amount was increased to £5, and the restrictions were removed. To-day, the amount has been increased to £15 for the first child, £16 for the second child, and £17 10s. for each succeeding child. The means test no longer applies to this benefit. This is part and parcel of the social services scheme developed by the Labour Government. Before the Labour party assumed office, the maternity allowance was a separate item instead of only one part of a big scheme. In those days there was no overall social services plan. A Labour government was responsible for introducing the present comprehensive general plan. Primary producers are also entitled to child endowment, and no strings are attached to that benefit. Originally, child endowment was paid at the rate of 5s. a week for the second and each succeeding child under the age of sixteen years in any family. It was introduced by an anti-Labour government, but, as I have said before, that was only a subterfuge to protect the purses of the employers of Australia. The employees had applied to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for an increase of the basic wage. After the court had heard evidence from employees and employers, it appeared likely that the basic wage would be increased by about 7s. a week. However, at that stage, somebody suggested that the employers might be saved some millions of pounds if the Menzies Government would introduce child endowment instead. I give that Government credit for establishing child endowment, but not for its motive in doing so. Having fixed child endowment at the rate of 5s. a week, it applied a pay-roll tax for the purpose of recouping as much as possible of the cost of the endowment. That was cheaper for industry than a basic wage increase of 7s. or more a week would have been. Endowment was not part of any comprehensive social services scheme. It was merely intended to be a “ saver “ for the employers, particularly those engaged in secondary industries, who operated under awards of the Arbitration Court. Incidentally, the court never gave a decision upon that application for an increase of the basic wage.
The Labour Government has increased the rate of child endowment to 7s. 6d. a week and, under this budget, will increase it again to 10s. a week. People in all walks of life qualify for this benefit provided they have a family of two or more. These things have never been properly explained to the primary producers, who have been gulled into believing that the Government’s progressive legislation does not help them. The hospital benefits scheme also applies to country residents as well as to workers in industry. Under this scheme, an amount of 6s. a day is now paid in respect of patients occupying beds in approved hospitals. The budget which we are now considering proposes that the rate shall be increased to 8s. a day. I confess that there are very few public hospitals in country areas, but many country residents come to the cities for the purpose of obtaining treatment in public hospitals. If they occupy beds in public wards, they are not required to pay hospital fees. Even if they enter approved hospitals in the country - and there are few hospitals in South Australia that have not been approved - they are recouped the amount of the hospital benefit, which will he paid at the rate of 8s. a day when the present budget proposals become effective. I do not know of any limitation upon the amount that may be paid in this way. If a man is injured so badly as to be confined to hospital for three or four months, the hospital benefit will be payable for the whole of that period.
The whispering campaign being carried on against the Government is based on entirely fake arguments. Opponents of the Government are trying to prove that the Labour party is inexperienced and incapable of governing. They cannot find fault with the Government’s administration of the affairs of the nation during the last four years, and therefore they have engaged in a campaign which has culminated in this Parliament recently with the impugning of individual Ministers and public servants. The object of this campaign is to prove to the people of this country that the Government is not doing the things that it ought to be doing, and claims to be doing. During my recent visit to country areas, I heard all sorts of little whispers. That is what has prompted me to speak on the matter in the Senate to-day. I have no doubt that a similar state of affairs exists in the other States, particularly in country districts. One of the untruths that is being whispered is that the Labour Government does not care a tinker’s cuss about the welfare of primary producers, and that all its promises to them are so much “hooey”. Those who- indulge in this propaganda claim that the prices of our primary products on the overseas markets would be high to-day regardless of the political colour of the government in power. I refute that suggestion, and I shall point to some of the things that this Government has done to make Australian primary producers secure. First, it is paying substantial subsidies. During the war there was a serious shortage of many of the materials required in rural areas. They included superphosphate and jute goods. The Labour Government arranged to buy those commodities in bulk overseas, and paid substantial subsidies upon them to keep prices down. In fact, the prices altered very little throughout the war. It was not until the war had ended that they began to rise. The payment of subsidies has benefited, not only primary producers, but also Australian consumers, and has had a stabilizing effect on the economy of this country. Another feature of the Government’s policy has been its insistence upon producer representation en the various authorities administering organized marketing schemes. The Government has constituted boards to handle almost every primary product, including even blue peas of which we heard so much from a former member of this chamber, ex-Senator Herbert Hays. On those boards the primary producers have been represented, not in the meagre fashion that was customary before the war, but generously. In some instances their representatives are elected and in others, panels are nominated. For instance, on the Australian Wheat Board to-day. growers’ representatives are in the majority. That was not so in the past. Another progressive step taken by the Labour Government has been the holding of inquiries with growers’ representatives on the Committee of Inquiry to ascertain the production cost of various primary products. Those inquiries have been made by committees which have investigated various industries throughout the Commonwealth. The Government has accepted the recommendations of those committees, and has given effect to them in legislation. Admittedly, in the case of the wheat industry, the recommendation of the inquiring authority was adjusted slightly because the Government considered that certain interest payments should not be included in the calculation, but I think that the adjustment was only a matter of 2d. a bushel. The result of this policy has been the establishment of what may be called stabilized basic prices, representing what the primary producers themselves agree to be the cost of production. As costs rise, so those basic prices are increased. That has never been done before. All this has been accomplished in accordance with Labour’s policy of organizing the marketing of primary products. Hundreds of thousands of primary producers have benefited, and despite the whispering campaign launched by the Opposition, I am confident that throughout the Commonwealth there is a general appreciation of what the Government has clone. There may be some minor arguments about the manner in which thiprinciples established by the Labour Government should be applied. In fact, such arguments are going on now because in the absence of absolute, constitutional authority to implement stabilization schemes, the Commonwealth is dependent upon the co-operation of the States. That is particularly true of the wheat industry in which a controversy is raging to-day. The wheat-growers seem to be unable to decide whether they should take this plan, that plan, or any plan at all. Few of them, however, prefer no plan at all. Probably the only ones who support the complete abandonment of stabilization are those associated with selling organizations whose speculating activities are frequently financed, by the private banks. I recall that a few years ago in South Australia, a bank-financed organization, Verco Brothers, bought wheat from hundreds of farmers. The bank which had been financing the firm, foreclosed, and the wheat-farmers lost their money. Under the law, although the farmers had not been paid for their wheat, it was regarded as the property of Verco Brothers.
– More than 1,100 farmers in South Australia lost their money that year.
– Yes. As .1 have said, only the wheat speculators are against stabilization. There are usually various subsidiary organizations. I do not know whether those people have copied the Communists, or the Communists have copied them, but they have a common plan.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– I have said that the only objection to the proposals of the Australian Labour party for the orderly marketing of wheat conies from people who in times gone by handled th« sale and export of wheat outside the schemes inaugurated by previous governments, and particularly those inaugurated by Labour governments. Those people are now resorting to all sorts of whispering campaigns in an effort to undermine the confidence of wheat-growers in the National Government. State governments have submitted ballot-papers to the wheat-growers to enable wheat-growers to decide whether they desire the stabilization scheme to continue. Subsidiary bodies of all kinds are being exploited by the interests which formerly delighted in buying farmers’ wheat at low prices and selling it at high prices. They are trying to persuade farmers to reject the stabilization plan. Before stabilization was introduced, farmers were compelled to sell their wheat at any price offered to them by the wheat dealers, because they had to meet their commitments and they did not possess large capital. When high prices were obtained in Australia, and overseas for wheat it was not the farmers but the manipulators who obtained the benefit of those prices. In order to avoid exploitation, some farmers consigned their wheat io agents and left it to the agents to decide when the wheat should be sold. Most nf the agents were dependent for funds on banks and financial institutions a number of which became bankrupt. When they failed the farmers were ruined. We hoar a great deal now about world parity prices, but I emphasize that those who ure most anxious to take advantage of the present situation are those who formerly exploited the farmers. If wheatfarmers desire to retain a guaranteed minimum price based on production costs for wheat they must continue to support the stabilization plan introduced by Labour, because no other political party will introduce a practical plan that will benefit them. Unless the present plan is continued in operation, wheat-growers will revert to the chaotic situation which existed before stabilization. No State government has sufficient finance or sufficient control over the wheat harvest of the nation to enable it to implement a satisfactory plan of stabilization, and therefore any practical scheme must be a national one. Under the present scheme farmers get the benefit of the prices realized for the sale of Australian wheat overseas, but they certainly did not do so when they were in the hands of the wheat exporters.
The Opposition can find no real ground for criticizing the legislation introduced by the present Government, and it has had to resort to whispering campaigns and attacks on the reputations of members and supporters of the Government. First of all, it accused individual Ministers and supporters of the Government of being infected with all kinds of “ isms “ in the hope that it would produce a split in the Labour movement. When it failed to achieve its objective, it concentrated on attacks on the reputations of individual members of the Australian Labour party and officials of the Public Service. As an example of the whispering campaigns in which critics of the Government are indulging, I mention the suggestion which is being made to farmers and rural workers that they do not receive social service benefits comparable with those received by city dwellers. Of course, that is not true. Although country residents are unable, because of distance, to avail themselves of all the services provided for city residents, they avail themselves of their right to participate in the benefits of maternity allowances, child endowment and hospital payments equally with city residents. In order to offset the harmful effects which might follow the dissemination of misleading propaganda amongst rural workers, I have arranged to broadcast answers to questions submitted to country residents by the whisperers, and I shall speak over radio stations 5KA and 5AU every Saturday. In conclusion, I express the confident belief that in the near future the Government will be able to rally a greater number of supporters than ever before.
Senator Ti AM? (Tasmania) [8.7]. - I congratulate the Government on the excellence of its budget, and I express my appreciation of the clear manner in which it was presented and also of the information given to honorable senators. I also desire to congratulate Senator O’Byrne on the excellent speech which he delivered this afternoon; it was one of the finest heard in this chamber for a long time. I have very little criticism to offer of the budget, but I desire to mention a few matters in the interests of the State which I represent. Before doing so I shall refer to one or two matters which concern this beautiful city of Canberra. The first is the necessity to provide railway connexion with Melbourne through Yass. I understand that when the federal compact was made an. undertaking was given by the New South Wales Government that it would construct a railway line from the border of the- Australian Capital Territory to Yass,, but although more than, twenty years have elapsed nothing has. been done. I recently perused a report submitted’ by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner on this subject. In the course of his report he stated that the traffic from the south did not” warrant the construction, of a railway from Canberra, to the New South Wales border, but how does he know the volume of the traffic which might be expected from the south? At present, all traffic from the south must first go north of Canberra before it can reach this city. That is a ridiculous situation, and I want to know what the Government is doing to implement the agreement made when Canberra was selected as the Seat of Government. I left Melbourne by train yesterday with a number of honorable senators, and after travelling all night we did not arrive in Canberra until after eleven o’clock this morning. The inordinate length of time taken for the journey from Melbourne to Canberra is undoubtedly one of the reasons why not many people desire to travel by rail from Melbourne to Canberra. Before the institution of air services members of the Parliament were privileged to use a fast train which ran between Melbourne and Canberra once a week, and I want to know why that service was discontinued. Many people still prefer to travel between the two cities by rail, and I consider that the Government should take early action to provide proper facilities’ for them.
The other matter concerning Canberra to which I refer is the outrageous cost of living in the National Capital. I pro- pose to quote from the foreword of Gooperative Communities at Work, which was written by Henrik E. Infield, executive director, Rural Settlement Institute, in the course of which he states -
From time immemorial men have dreamed of establishing a society in. which every warm human heart could take joy - a community of peace, brotherhood, and new liberty of expression. Great intellectual leaders and social reformers foresaw the hope of a co-operative rather than a competitive society. They were not idle dreamers but set forth realistic plane and programmes for the realization of their ideals.
Nor have such programmes remained in the realm of theory. Every now and then the dream has been taken literally and has led groups of people into working co-operative units. The leaders, among them Owen, Fourier, Cabet, have been practical-minded theorists who held that a people without, vision must perish and that only a “ new way of life” can save men from their own miriness. In recent times we have seen established the modern co-operative community, wherein the dream has hardened into sober reality.
In Soviet Russia, in Mexico, in Palestine, the co-operative has been effective in introducing the most advanced farming methods into formerly backward rural areas. By pooling of resources peasants have’ availed themselves of. the advantages of large-scale farming and have thereby increased^ production and raised their standards of living. The co-operative has brought medical care, improvement in diet, and more decent and sanitary housing, to people who formerly lived in dirt and squalor, suffering from, malnutrition or other diseases of poverty. Destitute farm folk, as full-fledged members of a cooperating group, have acquired, often for the first time in their lives, a sense of economic and social security.
Those statements are based on observations made by a number of qualified social investigators, who have studied the good work performed by co-operative communities throughout the world. The policy of co-operation has been endorsed by all churches, Catholic and Protestant, and by Socialist and Labour parties. The trade unions have also endorsed it. Yet in Melbourne only a fortnight ago I attended a demonstration of trade unionists, who were seeking an increase of 30s. a week in the basic wage, at which not one word was said about the increased cost of living. An increase of 30s. a week in the basic wage, without any adjustment of the cost of living, would simply force up prices and stultify any benefit which it might confer on the workers. I was most disappointed with the speeches made by the trade union leaders because they did not show any realization of the necessity for stabilizing the cost of living so that the workers would obtain some real benefit from an increase of their wages. I propose now to examine the situation in Canberra. I have taken out the latest “ C “ series figures for all of the capital cities in Australia. They are as follows: -
In Whyalla, in South Australia, a town which has been built up practically out of the desert, the cost-of-living index figure is only 12.40, that is, 40 decimal points lower than the figures for Canberra. The Canberra figure is ten decimal points higher than that for Sydney and 31 decimal points higher than that for Melbourne. It is higher than the figures for Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and Hobart by 87, 34, 59 and 40 decimal points respectively.
What are we going to do about it ? The head-quarters of the Public Service is located in Canberra and that body is skilled in the art of government. Some time ago my friend, Senator O’Flaherty took my wife and me for a drive through the Barossa Valley in South Australia so that we could observe the activities of the co-operative societies there. The work that they are doing is truly marvellous. Why should not something of that kind be done in Canberra? If the public servants here cannot run a co-operative society which is the best in Australia, then they cannot administer properly the various departments. Before we can have a successful co-operative society we must have suitable premises in which to serve the public. I suggest, in all seriousness, that the Government should erect two substantial buildings, one in the southern portion of the city, and the other in the northern portion, and lease them to co-operative societies at a nominal rental, I contend that all the hotels in Canberra should be handed over to the co-operative societies to conduct. The profits of the liquor trade should be returned to the people. By doing that the price of the goods could be reduced, and the cost of living in Canberra correspondingly lowered. The only body which would benefit, apart from the citizens themselves, would be the Australian Government. Almost 100 per cent. of the people in Canberra are either government servants, or gain their living from governmental activities. Generally, profits from co-operative societies are returned to the people to provide for the establishment of parks, gardens and other amenities. As the parks and recreation facilities in Canberra are maintained by the Government, that avenue is not open to the co-operative societies or to the community-owned hotels. I suggest that the Government should hand over to co-operative societies the liquor trading of the community and thus bring down the cost of living. There is no reason whatever why it should not he done. I suggest that the Government should control the cost of living in Canberra by subsidizing the co-operative societies. I know that, the Government is erecting community stores in the different parts of Canberra, and I hope that these will be handed over to the co-operative societies to conduct. I know that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) is very sympathetic to this proposal. He said to me recently, “I hope you will see that these new stores we are erecting are conducted by co-operative societies “. I hope that they will be so conducted.
Price stabilization subsidies this year are expected to cost £10,300,000, as compared with £35,000,000 last year. It is expected that subsidies to primary producers will cost about £9,400,000 as compared with £10,800,000 last year. Total subsidy payments are expected to cost £19,700,000, which is £26,100,000 lower than the actual expenditure under this heading in 1947-48. There is nothing wrong with the Government expending part of that £26,100,000 to establish in Canberra a co-operative society, or a system of co-operative societies, which would mean Christianity in action.
I point out that co-operative retail sosocieties are no longer experimental. The Canberra Co-operative Society has been inspired by the success of similar societies in other parts of Australia, just as those derived inspiration from the co-operative society movement in Great Britain, which was founded over 100 years ago. It; is undoubtedly British in origin, and its success in the Mother Country is rivalled only by its phenomenal expansion throughout the world. It is appropriate to give some facts which clearly show the value of co-operative principles in enabling a community to stabilize the cost of living. The 9,730,000 members of the British co-operative societies, with their families, constitute 25 per cent, of the population of Great Britain. Sales by the British societies in 1945 exceeded £350,000,000, whilst the surplus now distributed as rebates exceeds £30,000,000 a year. The savings of the British societies aggregate more than £500,000,000. Co-operative productive works in Great Britain manufacture approximately £1,000,000 worth of goods every week. The Co-operative Bank is the fourth largest bank in Britain, involving transactions of more than £1,000,000,000 annually. The bank’s trading surplus in 1945 was £33,000,000. That surplus did not create another thirty-three millionaires, but reverted to 9,000,000 members of cooperative societies and their families in the form of dividends, which those people re-spent and consequently re-circulated. T,n Australia, co-operative retail sales now exceed £9,000,000 a year. In Sweden, at the end of 1943, there were 704 societies, with a membership of 789,608 people. Those societies had 5,902 shops and 24,183 employees. In Ceylon, the membership of co-operative societies is 600,000 and the membership of such societies in China is 11,000,000. f stress the effectiveness of co-operative societies in keeping down prices, thus increasing the real value of production, because when a man sells his labour to an employer, or a farmer markets his crop, the amount of money he receives can be measured only by what that money will buy. Is it any wonder, that the cooperative movement has been so successful? Whilst millions have blessed the name “ co-operative “ for its solid achievements, the co-operative movement stands for something besides shopkeeping and banking ; it is a way of life which has won the approval of all of the great religious denominations, as I have said. On that aspect, I shall content myself with one reference: The late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. William Temple, was proud of being a member of the co-operative movement, and when he was asked why, he said, “Because I see in co-operation the economic expression of my Christian beliefs “.
With, the transfer of prices control from the Commonwealth to the States, the minds of the great majority of Australians have now turned, not without anxiety, to the problem of the cost of living. They want to know how much it will rise, and whether the States will be able to control prices as effectively as the Commonwealth did during and since the war. The answers to these questions must be left to the future. However, the success of control measures will depend largely upon the co-operation of the citizens generally with the authorities administering them. I stress one phase of community effort which can play an iiinpo.rt.ant part, in solving this problem. I urge the Government to encourage the establishment of a co-operative movement in Canberra.
Any activity that is designed to stabilize the cost of living in a community should win the ready and open approval of governments. In Canberra, the Government can give material assistance, as I have already stated, because in the National Capital a co-operative society is already in existence. Confronted by the greatest difficulties, chiefly that of obtaining adequate trading premises, it has succeeded in opening one shop which has been in operation for about fifteen months. The society is winning increasing support from local residents, its present membership being 593, having increased by 126 members since the shop was opened. However, the society will not be able to progress at a rate commensurate with the growing support being accorded to it unless it is able to obtain adequate trading premises. Here we have a society which is willing to do the job, but cannot, expand because it cannot get suitable premises to cope with the necessary expansion. As honorable senators are aware, the shortage of business premises in Canberra has been most pronounced for many years. It has lagged far behind the growth of population. To-day there are 16,000 people in Canberra who are being served by the same number of shops and businesses as were in existence when the population of Canberra was about 10,000. Having regard to the more pressing demand for housing, the people of Canberra cannot expect any amelioration of this situation without special action on the part of the Government. I submit that this emergency calls for drastic measures on behalf of the Government, and I ask the Government to think seriously of providing the Canberra Co-operative Society with suitable premises to carry on its good work.
I desire to point out what has been <lone in Britain in regard to co-operative societies. In the Co-operative News, which is. the official journal of the Australian co-operative movement, under the heading “ Momentous Policy Change “ this appears -
Price cuts on six staple food items by British and Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Societies have Britain buzzing. Bread, butter, margarine, bacon, cheese and sugar are being reduced more than 10 per cent, by the Co-op. in a bold break from ancient tradition of charging the market price. Estimate is saving of £8.000,000 per year for housewife. Step is taken in response to appeal from Sir Stafford Cripps and on recommendation of National Co-operative Authority, a business policy forum made up of a representative of the wholesale and big retail Co-ops. Traders everywhere will have to follow suit.
That means that when a co-operative society is firmly entrenched in the community, it can do a marvellous amount of good. I believe that the policy that I have enunciated, if put into operation, would result only in good to the people of Canberra. I hope that the Government will do something to give effect to such a policy. .
I claim to be the first member of this chamber to bring forward the suggestion that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should conduct a national eisteddfod. I cannot see any reason why the Australian Broadcasting Commission should not conduct grand championships in music, singing and literature. There are in Australia persons qualified to act as judges in music - such people as Mr. Eugene Goossens and Professor Bernard Heinze. The institution of an annual grand national championship would give a fillip to music of every kind in this country. The commission could arrange elimination tests to choose half a dozen contestants from each State to compete for the national championship. I cannot see any reason why such a competition cannot be inaugurated. I understand that the idea is being tried out to a limited degree, but the institution of a championship of Australia would itself provide the publicity necessary for the success of the competition.
A number of residents of Launceston recently complained to me about the activities of a firm in Queen-street Melbourne, being conducted under the name of Power Fuel Industries of Australia. That company has published a prospectus setting out that it proposes to mine shale at Capertee and other places in New South Wales, to produce petrol by retorting- the shale, and to put such petrol on the market and to distribute profits to the shareholders. All honorable senators know that that is an impossible proposition. As chairman of the Public Works Committee, I have gained considerable knowledge of the production of petrol from shale oil. That committee conducted an investigation of the production of petrol which lasted twelve months. It inspected operations at Glen Davis and Berami and other fields in New South Wales, and came to the conclusion that under no conditions could petrol he produced from shale oil and sold in competition with ordinary petrol. I understand that at present the cost of producing petrol at Glen Davis is 3s. a gallon. I am also informed that certain persons in New South Wales are producing petrol from shale oil and selling it at 8s. a gallon to oil companies which cannot obtain sufficient supplies through the normal channels. Cannot something be done to protect the people of Australia from being swindled by the company I have mentioned ? That company ‘has no possible chance of making a profit. The Public Works Committee, following its inquiry into the production of petrol from shale oil, came to the conclusion that in order to be successful such a projection would involve the expenditure of millions of pounds in the purchase of the latest retorts and other machinery. It is a crying shame that this company should be allowed to sell shares to the Australian public. I point out that whilst it intends to mine shale in New South Wales it is registered in Victoria. That fact alone makes the company suspect. I am sorry to learn that the Australian Government has no power to prevent that company from hawking its shares around the country. However, I sincerely trust that the State authorities concerned will take action to protect the public from exploitation by that company.
I congratulate the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) upon the excellent work being done by the Postal Department. I do not think that we have had a more sympathetic Postmaster-General than the present occupant of that office. I have made dozens of requests to him and in every instance where it was possible to accede to a request he did so and the work involved was expeditiously carried out. However, I am seriously perturbed about the turnover of staff in the Commonwealth Public Service at present. I believe that public servants generally, and more particularly postal employees, are not being paid adequate salaries and wages. Otherwise, the turnover of staff would not be so great as it is to-day. I know that employees of the Postal Department in Tasmania are working under most unsatisfactory conditions despite the fact that the Postmaster-General is doing his best to cope with that problem. However, the fact remains that those conditions are most unsatisfactory. In those circumstances it becomes more necessary to do something to retain employees in the service, and the best way to do so is to increase their wages. I trust that the Postmaster-General will act in that direction, because he must realize that the department cannot carry on, efficiently unless it retains its staffs.
Some time ago the Minister for Supply and Development (Senator Armstrong) emphasized1 the need1 to develop the tourist trade in this country. Muchcould be done to attract Americans and other visitors from overseas. That proposition is increasingly attractive today when we need to earn as many dollars as we possibly can. Australia does not lack attractions for the tourist. I need mention only a few, such as, the Barrier Beef and the far north of Queensland, as well as the better known tourist attractions in the other States.. The Government should take up with the State governments the possibility of publishing a booklet, quarterly or monthly, with the object of advertising Australian tourist attractions overseas.. In many countries the tourist industry is most important. I have reason to appreciate the value of the South West Pacific, a magazine being published by the Department of Information mainly for circulation overseas. I have sent a number of issues of that magazine abroad and I have received many appreciative references to the production from therecipients.
In Tasmania, at present, a person is not able to purchase more than 2 lb. of sugar at a time. I understand that under the Sugar Agreement the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited undertakes to maintain substantial stocks of sugar in Tasmania. The company is not observing -that condition. It is very distressing for housewives who have an abundance of fruit to be unable to obtain sugar to preserve the fruit or to use it. for making jam. The people of Tasmania have been unjustly treated in thedistribution of sugar, and when the agreement is again reviewed by the Parliament I shall enter a strong protest on that ground. I shall endeavour to ensure that the Colonial Sugar Refining CompanyLimited shall carry out its obligationsunder the agreement. With the approachof the fruit-picking season in Tasmania, housewives in that State will be able toobtain unlimited quantities of fruit, but owing to the shortage of sugar supplies they will not be able to make use of it.. That is a sad state of affairs becauselarge quantities of fruit will be wasted. That position arises solely because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited is not forced to honour its obligations under the agreement. I trust that the Government will give seriousconsideration to; this matter:.
As the result of representations by senators from Tasmania, the western part of that State has been included in Zone B for purposes of income tax concessions. I urge the Government to provide similar concessions for residents of King Island and Flinders Island. Those people are completely isolated and something should be done to compensate them for the conditions under which they are obliged to live. I also urge the Postmaster-General to establish an additional broadcasting station in northern Tasmania. Whilst two-thirds of the population of that State reside in that area, it has only one broadcasting station whereas two national stations operate in the southern portion of the State. Consequently, listeners in the north who wish to hear an alternative programme are obliged to tune in to mainland stations from which, however, reception is generally unsatisfactory due to static. In any event the increase of the population of Tasmania justifies the establishment of another broadcasting station in that State, and I sincerely trust that the PostmasterGeneral will expedite its establishment.
I protest against the unsatisfactory accommodation provided for members of Parliament at the federal members’ rooms in Melbourne. Honorable senators and honorable members from Tasmania do considerable work at those rooms when passing through Melbourne. The building in which the rooms are situated is dilapidated, whilst they always appear dirty although, actually, they are not. At all events, they are most uncomfortable and the accommodation is most unsatisfactory. The Government should, rectify that position.
I express my pleasure at the action of the Government in increasing the hospital benefit from 6s. to 8s. a day for each occupied bed. The provision of that benefit is the greatest thing that the Government has yet done. The Hospital Benefits Act is one of the most humane pieces of legislation yet passed by the Parliament. When I was a young man any worker who was injured and had to go to hospital was concerned because while he was an inmate his wife and family had to be maintained, but with no income coming into the home his rental and housekeeping payments fell into arrears. While in hospital the worker worried about his liabilities and wondered how he would meet them when he was discharged from hospital. Naturally such worry retarded his recovery. To-day, in Tasmania, any person who is injured can obtain the best medical and hospital attention free of charge. While he is an inmate of a hospital he is eligible for hospital benefit and upon discharge he becomes eligible for unemployment benefit. Thus everything is now plain sailing for anyone who may be injured or fall sick. That is a great reform, and I am proud to be a supporter of the Government which introduced such humane legislation. I also commend the Government for its efforts to eliminate tuberculosis. I have always held the view that the first line of attack upon this disease must be the provision of hygienic housing conditions. Women and young people must also be taught to wear proper clothing. The provision of unemployment and sickness benefits helps to counteract the disease by relieving sufferers from undue anxiety. The Government is doing a good job in attacking this disease, which I trust will ultimately be eradicated.
Some time ago I suggested in all seriousness that the Government should make arrangements for the production of a film depicting the great game of Australian rules football. It is the greatest ball game in the world to-day. If the Government would pay £5,000 for a suitable script and subsidize the producing company to a similar amount,_the resultant film would, I believe, be the greatest advertisement that Australia has ever had. I have here a letter from the secretary of the Australian National Football Council. It was quite unsolicited. I did not even know the name of the secretary previously. I shall quote from it in order to show how much interest would be taken in such a scheme -
Apropos to your recent statement in the chamber reference the production of a film on Australian football - incidentally, I did not hear the statement - I have pleasure in advising that the Australian National Football Council would be delighted to receive the co-operation and assistance of the Government in any direction, having as its objective the advancement of the game.
It is interesting to record that it is just 80 years since the game was first founded - and it can safely be said that it is Australia’s only truly national game.
Carl Dellmuth, of Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. - who is at the moment staying with me - be travelled to Melbourne specially to see the finals - contends that Australia received more newspaper and radio publicity over a certain period due to his efforts to introduce the game there - than all other Australian news information put together. Mr. Dunbabin, of the Department of Information, assisted him in a magnificent manner. Unfortunately he has now been transferred to Canada.
We have produced two films during the year - one for American use - one for instructional purposes in the schools, and contemplate additions to the library. It is for purposes such as this that we approached the Cabinet - through the Honorable A. Calwell and Senator McKenna - for entertainment tax relief for all sports in which humans were the participants. Would dearly love you to meet Curl Dellmuth before his return to America. He is firmly of the opinion that the Government should be wholeheartedly behind his efforts to introduce Australia’s only national game into the States. He himself has been a first flighter in American sport, has excellent credentials, so much so that he held the position of adviser to the American Army of occupation in Europe on matters of physical education - and claims our game to be the finest “ball “ game he has witnessed anywhere throughout the world.
That shows how worthwhile it would be to promote the Australian national game of football in other countries. There is no reason why the Government should not give serious consideration to my suggestion. T repeat that I am very proud to be associated with this budget. The Government has done a great job, and its excellence will be reflected in the good that will be done in the community.
Senator large (New South Wales) [8.49]. - I take great pleasure in supporting this, the most magnificent and most comprehensive budget that has ever been presented to the Parliament of any English-speaking nation. So much has been said in its favour and so little has been said against it that I shall direct my attention to arguments that have been adduced, both here and in the House of Representatives, in an attempt to sidetrack the people from the issues that are. presented to them. I listened very intently to Senator Rankin. It is not usual for me to attack a lady. I think that is well known.
– She can look after herself.
– I am hoping that Senator O’sullivan will bc gallant enough to look after her. I had an idea that, as Senator O’sullivan had shown a tend.dency to come our way, that same tend.dency might be revealed in his colleague. I would not attack the honorable senator in any circumstances, but she has apparently become so selfhypnotised as to have convinced herself, by auto-suggestion, that certain things which she has said are true.1 She could not have spoken as enthusiastically as she did had she not believed in what she saidShe made great play upon her claim that taxes in Australia fall far too heavily upon the working people. Unfortunately, she could not have seen a newspaper which I had read a few days previously, I do not usually quote from newspapers.. I regard most of them as being rather unclean.
– Quite right, too.
– I know that I am right, but I hope that my audience will bear with me while I quote a few figures from this newspaper. Figures cannot lie, although I know that liars often figure. I commend to Senator Rankin the facts that were published in the Sunday Sun of the 12th September, under the heading “Your Taxes- Then and Now”. A table included in that article compared the amounts of income tax payable on various incomes by a man with a dependent wife and two children in the pre-war year of 1938-39, in the peak years of war-time taxation of 1943-44 and 1944-45, and under the new schedule recently announced by the Government. Uniform taxation had not been introduced in 1938-39, and therefore the figures cited for that year represent the combined amounts of Commonwealth and New South Wales taxes. No account was taken in the newspaper’s calculations of the increase of child endowment, which is to be raised from 7s. 6d. to 10s. a week, bringing income from that source to £26 a year. The figures include social services, contributions. In 1938-39, the taxpayer paid £4 23. tax upon an income of £300. Under the Government’s new schedule he will pay nothing. In addition, he will receive £26 as child endowment. Thus, a worker, earning £300 a year with three dependants, will be approximately £30 better off this year than in 1938-39. That comparison applies to taxation. I know that the cost of living has increased. In 1938-39, the tax on £350 was £6 18s. This year it will be £3 15s., and the taxpayer will receive £26 in child endowment. In 1938-39, the tax on £400 was £8 12s. . This year it will be £8 Ils., leaving the taxpayer £26 ls. better off after accounting for child endowment. In 1938-39, the tax on £500 was £17 6s. This year the amount will be £21 9s. but, of course, the increase will be more than compensated for by child endowment. In 1938-39, the tax on £600 was £27 8s. This year it will be £38 Ils., which represents only £12 lis., comparatively, after allowing for child endowment. In 1938-39, the tax on £2,000 was £250 2s. This year it will be £504 ls. In 1938-39, the tax on £5,000 was £1,107 12s. This year it will be £2,300 10s. If those figures do not disclose a sincere attempt by the Government to ease the burden of taxation on the workers and transfer it to the shoulders of those well able to bear it, then I cannot understand figures. The facts are available in the newspaper for the benefit of any honorable senator who wishes to study them.
Senator Rankin also spoke about the housing shortage. “We all deplore that shortage very much. The honorable senator overlooked the fact that threefourths of that shortage already existed in 1.039. Naturally, very little house construction was done during the war because materials and labour were needed for other purposes. A lag in production waa unavoidable then, but the fact is that it accounted for only one-fourth of the present shortage of houses. It is to the everlasting shame of the parties now in opposition that they rejected the Scullin Government’s plan for an £18,000,000 fiduciary note issue by defeating the bill in this chamber after it had been passed by the House of Representatives. That scheme could have been used for the relief of distress during the depression. It would have provided the government of the day with an excellent opportunity to overtake the housing shortage, even if it had served no other purpose. The money would have circulated through industry, like a circulating sovereign, and would have returned again and again, doing a tremendous amount of good. It would have prevented the unemployment, misery and malnutrition of the depression. That economic disaster caused more deaths and suffering in the community than did either World War I. or World War II. It was the cause of many suicides, and was responsible for the undernourishment of thousands of children, the effect of which became evident upon the outbreak of World War II.. when we learned that the physical standard of outvoting men. was far below what it. should have been and, indeed, would have been but for the depression. The shortage of houses about which the Opposition howls so much to-day existed then. I contend that the States and the Commonwealth are making Herculean efforts to overcome the housing shortage. They are building more homes to-day than were ever built at any previous time in our history.
The complaint has been made in this chamber that Queensland is the Cinderella State of the Commonwealth, and that its potentialities have not. received adequate recognition. I agree with that to a certain degree. Certainly more attention should be paid to North Queensland, which includes some of the finest country in the world. I believe that, in the not distant future, Queensland will become the pre-eminent State of the Commonwealth, and that North Queensland will be the pride of the State.
– The Queenslanders recorded a very intelligent vote at the last Senate election.
– I do not know whether they did it intentionally, but I congratulate Senator O’Sullivan upon his election to this chamber. He has shown himself to be amenable to reason, and I am confident that, with a little coaching, he can be induced to join a real political party. The party of which he is a member has done many foolish things. For instance, it opposed the fiduciary issue during the regime of the Scullin Government, and it has opposed the social welfare legislation of the present Government. But I am reminded of Christ’s words, “ Eather, forgive them, for they know not what they do “. I am sure that when members of the Opposition really understand, they will set their feet on the right road by joining the only political party that has been of real service to the country. However, I give to Opposition members in this chamber full credit for their sincerity.
One hears consistent advocacy of the creation of new States in the Commonwealth. That would be a tragedy. Most of our troubles in the past have been due to having too many States. It is almost impossible to secure agreement amongst the existing States on many matters of national importance. The varying schools of thought have created political bedlam, and the creation of new States could only make matters worse. I am inclined to believe those who cry out that the Australian people have too much representation and are over-governed. I am a believer in unification. I agree with Sleeman, who in his book A Constitution for a Continent, published in 1911, advocated the abolition of the State parliaments and the setting up in their place of provincial councils to act in an advisory capacity. That of course would be a negation of the principle of creating extra States.
– The provincial councils would exercise powers delegated to them by the Commonwealth Parliament.
– They would have certain inherent powers, but their main task would be to make recommendations to the Australian Government, and those recommendations would be heeded because they would come from representative bodies which were in close touch with the interests of the localities under their jurisdiction. The only staff that the councils would require would be a full time secretary, possibly a chairman, and a typist. Unification has worked satisfactorily in South. Africa, and I am sure that it would eliminate many of our troubles.
Speaking in the budget debate in the House of Representatives, members of the
Opposition parties have dealt mainly with communism. They claim that the Government is not doing enough to curb the activities of the so-called Communists in this country. Obviously, the Opposition has not been able to advance any real arguments against the budget provisions, and that, I believe, is a matter on which the Government is to be congratulated. Communism has only been dragged in as a red herring.
– It is red all right.
– Yes, but no redder than the hideous “ socialist, tiger “ that was used in 1909 by the Liberal party as election propaganda. The Liberal party obviously is travelling in circles. Certainly that is so in- regard to names, because having gone through a whole series of appellations since those days, it has come back once again to its original title. The Liberal party has never fought an election on a real political issue. Always it has dragged in red herrings - and not only red, but also rather dirty, worn, and patched. To-day, 40 years after the days of the “ socialist tiger “, the same old bogy is being raised. I wonder how many of the people who use the word “ communism “ so freely, see it in its true form - a bogy to frighten the unthinking. I wonder how many people understand the basic principles of communism. Very few, I imagine. How many know that the fundamental’ doctrine of communism is “From each according to his ability; to each according to his need “? I should not like to be misunderstood on this matter. I am not referring to those individuals in this country who mas- querade as Communists. I call them “ Comrades “, and I use the term derisively. They have defiled one of the beautiful words of the English language. It is true that socialism is a basic principle of the Australian Labour party. I have never apologized for my belief in the principles of socialism, lt is a glorious ideal, and is not far removed from the Communist ideal to which I have just referred, but with this exception : Socialism stands for common ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange. Is there any objection to that? I can almost see people raising their hands and hear them saying “ You will destroy incentive”. But what is incentive? There is a common belief that the only incentive that is worthwhile is the incentive of personal gain - acquisitiveness. That is not so. Some of the world’s greatest achievements have had no relation whatever to pecuniary gain by those responsible for them. There is nothing wrong with socialism, and I am prepared to debate its principles at any time. The question is sometimes asked, “ In a socialized state who would do the objectionable jobs? Who would go down to work in sewers ?”. I could be flippant and say “ Who does those jobs now?” If some jobs are obnoxious, one would naturally expect that under the capitalistic system, those who do them would be well paid, and would enjoy shorter hours; but do they? Of course not. I shall refer to two more “ isms “. Anarchy is the negation of lawfully constituted authority. Many people who masquerade as Communists in this country to-day are really anarchists because they stand for the negation of all lawfully constituted authority. But there is one “ ism “ that Ls worse than any I have mentioned so far: I refer to Liberalism, which stands for the greasing of the fat pig, or the elevation of the already rich at the expense of the poor. That is what Liberalism stands for. It draws all its sustenance from the money bags, the vested interests in the community; whereas we of the Socialist Labour party depend on the zeal, energy and enthusiasm of the voluntary workers in our movement. Liberalism has behind it a particularly vicious and irresponsible press, which does not realize the importance of the duty which it is supposed to perform. The press is a medium through which the political opinions of the people can be influenced, and it can also be used to incite hysteria. Invariably we find the press of Australia solidly behind the vested interests. In conjunction with members of the Liberal and Australian Country parties in the House of Representatives, the press has made a concerted effort to belittle the Parliament and to lower it in the estimation of the general public. For proof of my assertion one has only to refer to recent utterances made by members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives and statements and articles which have appeared in the daily press. What purpose have the press and the members of the anti-labour parties in attempting to undermine our chief democratic institution? What is the alternative to a democratic government?
– No, fascism. After all, there is nothing undemocratic in socialism, whereas liberalism is essentially undemocratic. If Senator O’SulIivan cares to spend half an hour in private with me I shall endeavour to convince him of the truth of that assertion.
– Members of the chief political party opposite are not Liberals; they are conservatives.
– We know that the philosophy of both parties is essentially the same, and that they play the same music to different words. They are tories, and conservatives. I repeat that of all the “ isms “, I believe liberalism to be the worst. Some years ago a party known as the Industrial Workers of the World sprang into being and it obtained a lot of adherents. That party eschewed politics, and determined to achieve its objectives by industrial organization. Why did it eschew politics? That party was founded by a man named Walter Hayward, who was at the time president of the Western Federation Miners of the United States of America, and associated with him were the secretary, Mr. Pettybone and the treasurer, Mr. Moir, of that organization. Before very long they were thrown into gaol by members of the Pinkerton detective agency, and it was their illegal arrest which first drew public attention to them. They were left in gaol without being given a trial, despite all the efforts of Hayward to arrange for their trial. Before his arrest Hayward, who was a well informed and highly respected man, had conceived the ideal of a universal brotherhood. Throughout three long years he battled to obtain a trial for himself and his associates because he knew that they could immediately establish their innocence. Despite all their efforts, the government of the United States of America kept them incarcerated for three years before bringing them to trial. When they eventually appeared before the court they were promptly acquitted, but during that period Hayward became disgusted and brokenhearted, and when he decided to launch his party anew he resolved that he would eschew politics. I know of what I am speaking because I had the pleasure of meeting Walter Hayward in later years, when I discussed with him the views of his organization. At the time I met him, Tammany had lost much of its influence in American politics because of a general clean up which had taken place. As a result of the improvement in the ethics of American politics, and Hayward’s experience of British political life while he was in England, he realized that politics need not necessarily be bad. and that political action to improve, social conditions might be effective. For that reason he changed from a non-political to a political attitude, and when he founded a new International Workers of the World organization its policy included political action.
Some people in Australia have tried strenuously to raise the bogy that labour is under the domination of Communists, and they have tried by every conceivable means to associate the Australian Labour party with the Communist party. With the aid of the vicious, vile press of this country, and supported by the money-bags, and all the improper influence wielded by unscrupulous wealth, they have embarked on a determined campaign to undermine public confidence in the Labour movement. I said earlier that I would make my position clear. I propose to do so by recounting the story of Francisco Ferrer, and relating some of his philosophy. I was reminded of Ferrer by an article which recently appeared in a Sydney newspaper. Incidentally, although Ferrer is now deceased. I believe that he has a daughter now residing in Melbourne. Ferrer, was a Spaniard who believed himself to be an anarchist, but in his time anarchism as it manifested itself in Europe was not nearly so vicious as it later became. Although this man claimed to be an anarchist, he was, in fact, a great educationist. Because of his lecturing ability he became almost the Bernard Shaw of middle Europe and the authorities soon came to regard him as a thorn in their side. Consequently they decided to pin something on him. Later, Ferrer happened to be in Barcelona, when a riot occurred. He was arrested by the authorities, brought before a courtmartial, at which he was denied a fair trial, and later shot. Sometime before his death Ferrer wrote what I consider to be the finest political philosophy ever penned. He expressed this philosophy in the course of a newspaper controversy into which he entered with the French anarchist, Monsieur Magnet, which was conducted through the columns of L’Humanité. After the correspondence had proceeded for some time, the two protagonists were invited to summarize their arguments, and Nagnet’s summary was published before that of Ferrer. The substance of Magnet’s argument was that force in the hands of righteousness can alone overcome force in the hands of iniquity. Ferrer controverted this assertion, and in the course of his summation, which was a little more lengthy than that of his opponent, he said -
Time respects those stages of progress thai time lias played its part in building vtp. Thai which an act of violence gains for us to-day, a further act of violence may wrest from intomorrow. Those stages of progress are alone durable that have firmly rooted themselves in the mind and conscience of mankind before receiving the final seal of legislation. We shall achieve our purpose by education, propagated by example.
That is a truly fine peroration, and, to me it is the quintessence of a religion that should be good enough for any man. That philosophy is the basis of the Labour movement. We educate and we endeavour to propagate by example.
I have often been asked by Labour supporters why Labour has not a press of its own. Many members of the Australian Labour party believe that the party Gould satisfactorily conduct a newspaper of its own.
– Honorable senators opposite do not need a newspaper; they get a very good “ trot “ from the press.
– I shall deal with the honorable senator in a moment. The Australian Labour movement has made many attempts to conduct a newspaper, but all those attempts have failed. In England, the Council of Trade Unions launched a newspaper called the Daily Herald, and subsidized it by guaranteeing to purchase 30,000 copies of each daily issue. However, at the end of three years the unions were compelled to withdraw their subsidy, and the newspaper went down and down until its daily circulation fell to approximately 11,000 or 12,000. Of course, such a limited circulation was not nearly sufficient and the company was about to go into liquidation when some bright minds conceived the idea that the newspaper should be published by a commercial concern which would permit the Council of the Trade Unions to dictate the policy of the newspaper and to write the leading articles for it. Agreement was reached along those lines, and to-day the Daily .Herald has the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world. Its circulation now amounts to approximately 1,750,000 copies daily. Of course, the reasons why the Labour movement cannot successfully conduct a newspaper are obvious. Even in the clean Labour party which we have in Australia there are certain ambitious individuals, and careerists and opportunists who attach themselves to Labour. There are other individuals who, for reasons of their own, seek publicity, or desire to influence the Labour policy. Some of them want to write the leading articles for the paper, whilst others merely desire to obtain employment for their relatives on the staff of the newspaper. All our attempts to conduct a newspaper have been frustrated by such baneful influences, and our publications invariably suffered from too many bosses. Only when a Labour organ is conducted along commercial lines, with the party retaining control of the expression of policy, is it possible to’ publish a newspaper successfully.
In order to amplify what I have been raying I propose to recount briefly an interview which I had some years ago with the proprietor of a leading Aus tralian newspaper. I had occasion to interview him on business which was not in any way concerned with the matters which I have been discussing, and, at the conclusion of our interview, he detained me for the purpose of entering upon another discussion. He told me that one of the newspapers which he published was losing circulation rapidly. I said, “I wonder that the people who support the Opposition do not recognize the fact that there is a huge Ls. bour public which could be catered for. Why do not they turn that paper into a morning paper, and work along the same lines as the Daily Herald ? “ When he said, “ The Daily Herald was probably responsible for a Labour government in England”, I said, “I agree with you ; I think it was the work of the Daily Herald which was responsible for putting a Labour government into power in England “. He said, “ You are a trade unionist, and we have an association “. I said, “ Yes, the associated press, I am quite well aware of that. Is that not a gathering of people who believe in the principle of ‘ dog eat dog ‘ “. He then said : “ Can you really trust any one of that congregation of people? I made the suggestion to one of those people that there was a big public to be catered for and they could see money in their coffers as a result of ‘ ratting ‘ on their own fellows - to use the vernacular “ After some further talk he said, “ We are trade unionists, and must play the game “. Shortly after that one of the newspapers run by this man changed its policy and favoured Labour. I am not claiming any credit for that. .Six months afterwards the newspaper again opposed Labour and became almost as vicious as all the other daily papers. Its circulation dropped, but it is now expanding again. That man is one of the keenest businessmen in Australia, and I know that he wanted to see to what degree the newspaper circulation was due to his Labour sympathies, so he went away from Labour to see if his paper would lose circulation. It did. Gradually ho is coming back. Ultimately I believe wc will have a Labour paper which will enable us to find a Roland for every Oliver of those who oppose democracy.
Those people who, when confronted by a splendid budget, such as the one we are reviewing, cannot put forward any argument to oppose it, bring in outside issues, as they are doing this time. They are not new ones; they have not been able to get any new ones. A few days ago members of the Opposition thought they had a bomb to drop and they went to very low depths to get hold of that bomb, only to find that they got a “ wet squib “, and that they dirtied their hands when handling, it. Those people have never fought an election on a political issue; they are the same to-day as they were 40 years ago. They do not know what they are doing. Neither they nor their colleagues of the press realize howfoolish they are in attempting at any time to defeat a Labour government.
– The Government will defeat itself.
– For as long as I can remember, the Australian Labour party has stood as :a buffer between the people and red revolution.
– It is standing on a shaky foundation at the moment.
– Communism, or anarchism as I call it, thrives on empty stomachs. The depression of 1929 was its breeding ground. The Liberal party was responsible for that. Its members then called themselves Nationalists; the adoption of the name “ United Australia party “ came afterwards. They were the people who were responsible for making these rebels. “When those people see the Government’s comprehensive welfare programme being implemented, they should be honest and say, “ This is of benefit to the community and will ultimately defeat the red rebels “. I say, “Fill the workers’ stomachs and give them good working conditions, and they will not become rebels “. Instead of helping to pass that kind of legislation, members of of the Opposition parties behave like a lot of spoilt kiddies. They believe that as they are in Opposition their job is to oppose, irrespective of the quality of the legislation that is being considered. Supporters of the Government are in an awkward position. We have not to support the budget, because nobody has opposed it. All we can do is to point out how foolish and how futile the opposition to this party is. Knowing the weaknesses of their arguments honorable senators opposite are drawing “ red herrings “ across the trail by trying to make communism an issue, instead of helping the Australian Labour party to implement its social welfare legislation. When that legislation is operating there will be no work for the “ comrades “ to do. If the worker feels that his future is safe, and that he no longer has to fear to-morrow, he will be a better man, and there will be no need for rebellion. We will have achieved the purpose for which the so-called Communists came into existence.
– Does the honorable senator not agree that such people exist ?
– There will be no justification for their existence as a separate political entity. I think that argument should be convincing enough for even the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’sullivan). The crowd he is consorting with is a lot of rabble. Frankly, I think he is too good for the company he keeps. The honorable senator should be sincere and honest, and say, “ I believe this social welfare scheme of the Australian Labour party is good, and I refuse to oppose it “. He would then be doing the right thing, and there would be a halo around his head before he was much older. I again express my pleasure in speaking in support of this, the most comprehensive budget that has ever been submitted to English-speaking peoples in any part of the world.
– So much has been stated about the budget that I shall be brief, but there are a few subjects that I must bring before the notice of honorable senators, in view of world affairs to-day. One is a matter on which a question was asked by an Opposition senator this afternoon. We are desperately pressed for dollars to pay for newsprint imported into this country in order to keep essential industries going and so that the news of the nation will be distributed. I shall refer to a pamphlet called Hard Comment, by stating some hard facts. This pamphlet is subversive in its references to actions overseas and tends to undermine the economic position inside Australia. The author has not attached his name to it, probably because he is so ashamed of his foul misstatements. Or perhaps he was not game to do so, because his statements are libellous. It is a combination of extreme Liberalism and Communism. On page 7 appear photographs of certain Liberal members of the Parliament who are eulogized throughout the pamphlet. There are also photographs of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) with the caption “ Chif., Socialist, and his party satellites “. Since I am described as one of the “ satellites “, it is quite reasonable that I should offer my objections. This is what is said about the Minister for External Affairs, a man who has proved himself to be one of the leading statesmen in the world to-day -
No greater contribution to the desolation of the British Empire has been made in a hundred years than the External Affairs policy of the Australian Labour party, on the advice of Dr. Evatt.
Later, this appears -
Labour’s leaders mis-used Australia’s affairs in the Pacific, because they were thinking in terms of Australia, and not in terms of world strategy,
A little further down the article continues -
The whole of the activities in respect of his attack on Russia’s policy have had the effect of encouraging in Russia the feeling that the desolation of the British Empire is at hand, because there is insufficient co-operation between the various parts.
Pictures of the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) and several other members of the House of Representatives appear with paragraphs eulogizing them as great statesmen. Whether the Liberal party had anything to do with the publication of this pamphlet or not I do not know, but if it did such action conflicts with the question which was asked by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition today and his suggestion that the Senate should send a message of congratulate Dr. Evatt on his elevation to the high position of Chairman of the United Nations Assembly. He has done a magnificent job for Australia, and all political thought in this country will agree with what he has accomplished in his overseas mission. He has brought Australia’s name to the forefront at every conference that he has attended. He has held his own with the leading statesmen of the world. Indeed, he now ranks among them. Can any honorable senator justify the circulation abroad of propaganda of this kind in view of what the Government and the Minister for External Affairs have done in full co-operation with not only other members of the British Commonwealth of Nations, but also the United States of America, to assist distressed European countries in the task for reconstruction? This pamphlet refers to “ the Chifley Socialist Government”. It states that prior to the recent war a person could obtain a home on the day of arrival in this country at a rental of 7s. 6d. a week, and then it deplores the mess into which the Chifley Government has brought Australia by taking over the construction of homes from private enterprise. It states that as the result of that policy thousands of Australians cannot obtain homes. That is the sort of propaganda published in this pamphlet for circulation in countries from which we hope to attract migrants. What are the facts with respect to housing? Since the recent war ended no fewer than 91,000 homes have been constructed in this country. During the last financial year 43,000 homes were constructed, whilst under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement 15,261 homes were completed and another 10,000 are still under construction. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) complained about the failure of the Government to construct war service homes at a satisfactory rate and said that ex-service personnel were getting a bad deal from the Government. What are the facts? During the last financial year 1,244 war service homes were constructed whilst last month contracts for 480 homes were let. That is the equivalent to a rate of 5,000 homes a year. That is what “the Chifley Socialist Government “ is doing in that sphere.
There are two- forms of socialism and I am not ashamed to say that I support 100 per cent, the form of socialism based upon the fundamentals of Christianity. The other form is that in which the Communists and some members of the Opposition parties believe. It is based on the principle of tyranny. That is socialism at the point of a gun. That is the objective of some of the Government’s opponents. The first form of socialism I have mentioned stands for the uplifting of the people. I was pleased last week to hear the Deputy Leader of the Opposition say that he supported the Tuberculosis Bill, which is 100 per cent, socialization. The socialization of the nation’s medical services is a form of socialism based upon Christian principles. I defy anybody to describe it otherwise. On the other hand, if I were to advocate that the Government should deprive the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of his home in order to give it to somebody else, that would be socialism at the point of a gun, because such socialism could not be implemented in any other way. The Communist party and extreme Liberals wish to establish that form of socialism. Their propaganda is designed to encourage the spread of communism in this country and they are out to defeat a democratic Christian socialist government. I am prepared to support a policy of socializing any activity that militates against the economic, social or military security of the nation, so long as the measures taken are constitutional. I make no secret of the fact that I support that kind of socialism. One never hears the Opposition parties or the Communists advocating that State-owned railways, or public hospitals, should be sold to private enterprise. Reverting to the “ tripe “ published in the pamphlet to which I have referred, I do not give any marks to the Government for allowing newsprint to be used for that purpose, particularly when the purchase of newsprint involves the expenditure of dollars. That pamphlet is a subversive publication, and it is quite obvious to me that some members of the Liberal party in conjunction with the Communist party have circulated it. Probably another New Guard is responsible for it.
Propaganda against the Government is also emanating from the anti-Labour
Senator1 Aylett. parties in the parliaments of Victoria, South Australia and “Western Australia with the object of leading the people to believe that the Commonwealth is robbing the States and violating their sovereign rights under the uniform income tax scheme. That propaganda claims that the States would be obliged to tax the lower. income groups in order to bring the revenue they are receiving by way of reimbursement under the uniform income tax scheme up to the level of the revenue they received prior to the introduction of that scheme. I have in my hand a table of figures comparing the position of all States in that respect, but it will suffice to cite one example. To-day, under the uniform income tax scheme, a married man with a wife and two children with an income of £300 a year is completely exempt from- income tax, but before the war he would have had to pay the following amounts in tax in the respective States: New South “Wales, £4; Victoria. £3; Queensland, £7 10s.; South Australia, £6 14s. ; Tasmania, £6 7s. 6d. and “Western Australia, £8 2s. 6d. The Premiers of Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia want to establish double tax. They want to tax the basic wage-earner as they did prior to “ the recent war. For that reason- they are circulating propaganda to the effect that to-day the State governments are not receiving by way of reimbursement, under the uniform income tax scheme 25 per cent, of the collections of the revenue which they derived from that source before the war. In order to prove the falsity of this propaganda 1 am prepared to debate that question with the Leader of the Opposition in the Tasmanian Parliament, Mr. Campbell, or his lawyer-deputy, Mr. Wright, in any capital city of the Commonwealth, or in any town in Tasmania. I have never read more inaccurate statements. Yet, that is the sort of propaganda which anti-Labour interests are disseminating, and, unfortunately, they are “ getting away “ with it to some degree. They are misrepresenting the facts in an endeavour to hoodwink the people in order that they might regain the position they enjoyed in the income tax field prior to the recent war, and once more have the power to levy income tax on low incomes.
They call themselves democrats! I have also discovered that the Chamber of Manufactures has had a hand in the publication of this Fascist-Communist pamphlet, which is printed monthly. I am astonished to find that such an organization would be associated with “ a rag “ of this description to which the author is not prepared to put his name.
The Commonwealth Disposals Commission is still engaged in the disposal of goods which have been declared surplus by the armed forces and defence establishments. Recently mining machinery and certain materials at Mount Bischoff in Tasmania were declared surplus. About three weeks ago I wrote to the commission asking it to forward to me a catalogue of the goods which are to bo sold at the mine at the end of this month. I required the catalogue for private purposes because I am interested in a syndicate which would like to bid for some of the machinery to be offered for sale. The commission replied that a catalogue had- not yet been prepared and that it would forward one to me in due course. However, I have since discovered that 600 sheets of 7-ft. iron stacked at the mine have already been sold to Zinc Corporation Limited. Originally, that iron was allocated from Tasmania’s quota of iron for the purpose of re-roofing the mine. Zinc Corporation Limited has an option over the mine, but it has not yet exercised that option. It was reported in the press last Saturday that the commission had disposed of that iron to that company which intended to ship it to Port Pirie. Some time ago I made representations for the release of that iron for the roofing of hundreds of homes being constructed in Tasmania, but my representations were not acceded to. I was told that it was needed to re-roof the mine. It would appear, therefore, that while the construction of thousands of homes in Tasmania is being held up for want of roofing iron, the Commonwealth Disposals Commission sold that iron “ under the lap “ to Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited. I repeat that the iron originally was made available out of Tasmania’s quota of iron. If it be allowed to go out of Tasmania I can only say that such action will violate fundamental justice. The commission, before it was allowed to dispose of any machinery, or materials, at the Mount Bischoff mine, should have been obliged to supply to the public full particulars of the items to be offered for sale. The State government has been prepared to pay the full price for that iron at any time and has been endeavouring to get it. I protest strongly against the disposal of that iron outside Tasmania. If it is not required for the Mount Bischoff mine, it should be used elsewhere in Tasmania, where it is urgently needed.
I have asked a number of questions in this chamber about the effect of uniform taxation. Unfortunately, they have not been answered yet, but when I obtain the information I shall be able to disclose to the public the insidious nature of the stupid and vicious propaganda of Opposition members who champion the system of double taxation. Their untruths cannot disprove the fact that uniform taxation has given to the working-class and middle-class people the benefit of the lightest taxation in the history of Australia. Although the Government has been accused of obstructing home building with its socialistic policy, the fact is that most of the homes under construction now are being built by private enterprise. The efforts of private builders have been aided by State governments and State banks, with the result that in 1.947-48 more houses were built than in any other year during the last two decades.
– in reply - I congratulate my colleagues upon the excellent contributions they have made to the budget debate. Very little fault has been found with the budget by members of the Opposition, and, in fact, their attempts at criticism have been very feeble. In saying that, I do not wish to reflect upon the capacity of honorable senators opposite, because I consider that they are the intellectual equals of their predecessors. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator O’Sullivan) made many misstatements in his eagerness to make out a good case against the Government. I do not claim that he did so deliberately, but it is necessary for me to correct them; otherwise, I should not have replied to him. The honorable senator dealt with the effect of tax reductions and said that a man, with a wife and two children, who earns £500 a year “ will be granted the magnificent reduction of £8 lis. a year, a little more than 3s. a week “. I am surprised that a man with the intellectual capacity of the honorable senator should have made such a statement. The honorable, gentleman also said that a man, with a wife and two children, who earns £600 a year will pay £10 less income tax this year, a saving of almost 5s. a week. The facts are that a man earning £500 a year, with a wife and two children, paid £80 16s. a year at peak war-time rates. The proposed rate for this year is £21 9s., representing a reduction of £59 7s. That shows what the Government has really achieved. A man earning £600 a year, with a wife and two children, paid £118 12s. tax at peak war-time rates. Under the proposed new rates, he will pay only £38 lis. this year, a reduction of £80 ls. Thus the man earning £500 a year will pay approximately one-fourth of the amount of the war-time tax and the man earning £600 a year will pav less than one-third of the war-time tax.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition was rather parochial in his speech. He dealt extensively with Queensland and referred to the sugar industry, the cotton industry and the part that Queensland soldiers had played in the war. In fact, he implied that but for Queensland, we should not have won the war. The only fair way to compare tax rates is to refer to 1938-39 and the present year, and, as the honorable gentleman is so well disposed towards Queensland, I shall, for the purposes of comparison, refer to taxes paid by Queensland residents. In 1938-39, before the introduction of uniform taxation, a married man, with two children, who earned £500 a year paid £25 3s. in combined Commonwealth and State taxes. In fact, he paid approximately £4 more for the year than he is called upon to pay to-day. Furthermore, he did not receive child endowment in 1938-39. To-day the taxpayer whom we are considering receives £26 a year in endowment. Thus he is much better off now than he was in 1938-39. A man earning £600 a year paid £37 5s. in combined Commonwealth and State taxes in 193S-39. This year it is proposed that he shall pay £3S lis. Therefore, taking into account the child endowment that he will receive, he is £25 a year better off now than he was in 1938-39. As the Prime Minister said in the House of Representatives, there is a more equitable distribution of wealth in this country to-day than there was before the war. The cardinal principle that should always be observed in imposing taxes is that the burden should be placed upon the shoulders of those who are best able to bear it. This Government has observed that principle. The cases cited by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will not stand up under examination. In fact, I do not know where he obtained his figures.
– From the Sydney Morning Herald and other dailynewspapers.
– They are always wrong, and I am surprised that the honorable senator should follow them.
He discussed the relationship between taxation and the national income and declared that the Commonwealth’s share of the total national revenue was over 30 per cent. He said -
Leading world economists say that no government can take more than 25 per cent, of the national revenue without risking financial chaos.
In 1947-48, the national income was £1,635,000,000 and Commonwealth taxes amounted to £424,000,000, representing 25.9 per cent. That percentage is vastly different from the figure alleged by the honorable senator. In 1946-47, the national income was £1,359,000,000 and Commonwealth taxes amounted to £374,000,000, representing 27.5 per cent. Those figures show that the proportion of Commonwealth taxes to the national income is being gradually reduced, instead of increased as the honorable senator asserted. He also complained that “ private enterprise is fairly shrieking for man-power “. Those were his words. He added -
Whilst it may be a good thing in a time of depression or emergency for the Government to afford relief to the community by providing employment, that justification does not apply at present.
I hope that we shall never again witness the spectacle of unemployment relief queues in this country, which we recall vividly from the days when the parties now in Opposition were in power. People were expected to exist on a miserable dole. I challenge any member of the Opposition to interfere in any way with the social legislation which has been enacted by this Government to guard against unemployment and economic insecurity.
The answer to the honorable senator’s allegation about unemployment lies in the fact that, in June, 1945, 1,390,000 persons were in private employment. By June, 1947, the figure had increased to 1,705,000, and by June, 194S, it had increased again to 1,785,000. Those figures disclose an increase of 385,000 persons in private employment since the war. Recently Senator O’flaherty pointed out that, prior to the war, 200,000 men and women were employed in factories in New South Wales alone. To-day, 350,000 men and women are employed in the factories in that State. Those figures give an indication of the gradual increase of employment since the termination of hostilities. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also endeavoured to state the main reasons for the decline of production in Australia and referred to the figures for 1941-42. Obviously he had some reason for selecting that year. He said that the monthly production of pig iron in 1941-42 was 129,800 tons and that, in June of this year, production of pig iron amounted to only 89,000 tons. In 1941-42, he said, the monthly production of steel was 141,384 tons, whereas, in June this year, it amounted to only 101,000 tons. Those comparisons were very unfair. They referred to production for only one month as compared with average monthly production over a full year. Moreover, they compared a year of peak war-time production with this year of peace in which industry has not yet returned to normal and is still suffering from the lack of man-power and materials, transport difficulties and other essentials of production. It would have been fairer to compare present production with production in 1936-37. The following table presents a more reasonable comparison : -
That table does not indicate any decline in the production of pig iron and steel. It was unfair of the honorable senator to select one month in a particular year, five or six years ago, to try to bolster up his case. I believe that any member of this Parliament who cites figures in support of his arguments should ensure that they are correct. I do not suggest that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition deliberately tried to mislead the Senate, but apparently he was supplied with the wrong information.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition also said that between 1946 and 1948, industrial disputes had increased by 78 per cent., and that the number of establishments in which disputes had taken place had increased by 1,670 per cent. I contend that as the only figures for 1948 that are available are those for the early months of the year, no valid comparison can be made with 1946. Apparently the honorable senator took a monthly average, and calculated a total for the whole year. The following are the figures of working days lost through industrial disputes: -
That table shows a progressive decrease since 1945. Over the same period, the increase of civil employment was as follows : -
I could cite many more similar figures, but I shall not weary the Senate by doing so. Whenever Opposition members in this Parliament, or their supporters outside it, criticize the Government, they refer to the waterfront industry and the heavy industries, namely, the iron and steel industry, and the coal industry. I do not know what our opponents would find to talk about if they did not have those industries. In citing production figures, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was careful to avoid mentioning 1940. I asked him by way of interjection what the figures for that year were, but he said that he did not have them. I remind the Senate that the Menzies Government was in office at that time. I recall the events clearly because there was a strike on the northern coal-fields and 10,000 miners ceased work for ten weeks. The loss of coal was enormous.
Frequently, questions are asked about the Government’s proposals for settling industrial disputes. Only to-day I was’ asked a question about a dispute on the south coast. I remind the Senate that the Labour party fathered our arbitration system and has consistently supported it. We shall always support it. It is not Labour’s policy to interfere with the operation of industrial tribunals. As a matter of fact, this Government has created several new tribunals and has appointed a number of conciliation commissioners to hasten the settling of disputes. I have been criticized because I have played a part in the settlement of certain disturbances. I make no apology for that. If it were possible for me to settle the present dispute on the South Coast without interfering with the jurisdiction of the appropriate tribunal, I should do so, because I believe that to be my duty and the duty of any member of the Parliament. What solution did the Menzies Government offer for the coal strike in 1940? The then Prime Minister went to the coal-fields and pleaded with the miners to go back to work. The Liberal party had no solution for industrial disputes in 1940; it has no solution in 1948 ; ‘and it will have no solution in 1950 and 1953.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition referred extensively to the cotton and sugar industries in Queensland. I regret that my colleague, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice), is not present to-night because no man in this Parliament knows more about those in- dustries than he does. The honorable gentleman has extensive practical knowledge because of his long association with those industries, and the advice that he has given in this chamber from time to time has always been acknowledged by the Opposition to be of value, and has been appreciated by the Government. 1 point out that at the end of World War I., when cotton was bringing higher prices on the world’s markets, the Queensland Government, to encourage the industry, guaranteed a price for three years. As the result, the acreage under cotton increased rapidly from 120 acres in 1920 to 39,500 acres in 1925. When the downward trend began, the Queensland Government appealed to the Commonwealth Government to take over the burden of developing the industry. From that time, the Commonwealth has assisted cotton-growers, and the present Administration has not relaxed those efforts in any way. Only a few months ago, an increase of the price of cotton was granted to growers by the Government, and the negotiations are now taking place between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments on further assistance to the industry in Queensland.
I shall deal briefly with the sugar industry. Complaints have been made about a shortage of sugar in the southern States. Senator Lamp has said that in Tasmania housewives can only buy 2 lb. of sugar at a time. During the war, when the Commonwealth Government controlled shipping, sugar shortages were attributed to maladministration by the Government. That excuse cannot be offered to-day, because most of the ships have been returned to their owners, and the responsibility for transporting sugar from Queensland ports to the southern States lies with the shipping companies. Quoting from a journal that was six months old the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that 120,000 tons of last year’s sugar had yet to be shifted from Queensland ports. In actual fact, every pound of last year’s crop and a considerable quantity of this year’s crop have been shipped to the southern States.
– The journal that I quoted from was dated the 14th September.
– Then there is something wrong with the honorable senator’s figures because they related to the position that existed six months ago. Mr. Muir, from whom honorable senators opposite probably get much of their information, said over the air only last weak that there was every possibility that there would be no interruption of the production of sugar in Queensland because of the transport facilities that had been made available to remove sugar from Queensland ports.
Complaints about inadequate supplies are always directed at the workers. The s hipping interests say, “ If you want sugar in Tasmania and the other southern States, you must get the wharf labourers to work harder “. I point out that loading facilities at north Queensland ports are obsolete. At Lucinda Point, where 80,000 tons of sugar have to be loaded, the jetty is so small that vessels can load through only two hatches at one time. At other ports, the wharf labourers have to carry the sugar on their backs from the sheds to the ships, and push 26-ton rail trucks by hand. In these circumstances, it is impossible to speed up the transport of sugar. The methods employed on the wharfs in Queensland today are little different from those used 60 years ago. Another factor that should be remembered is that, when carrying sugar from Queensland ports, ships are not always filled to their capacity with sugar. Large quantities of mollasses are carried for the manufacture of spirits. Apparently there is more profit in the production of rum than from the sale of sugar, because the shipping and sugar interests make sure that no mollasses is left behind. Mollasses appears to be given priority by the shipping and sugar interests over sugar required by Australian and British housewives.
In conclusion, I congratulate honorable senators on the reception given to the budget. I said that little fault could be found with the budget, and I trust that any doubts which may still remain in the minds of honorable senators will be removed in discussion of the Estimates. I have always considered that the Standing Orders in relation to budget debates are somewhat harsh in that, although the Minister who introduces the budget in this chamber is permitted to speak for one and a half hours, his right of reply is limited to half an hour. That does not afford sufficient time to reply to inquiries and criticisms uttered by honorable senator’s during the debate. I believe that consideration should be given to amending the Standing Orders in order that more reasonable opportunity may be provided for the Minister who introduces the budget in the Senate to reply to speeches made by honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 13th October, at 3 p.m.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1948-
No.64 - Federated Ironworkers’ Association of Australia.
Nos.65 and66 - Amalgamated Postal Workers’ Union of Australia.
No.67 - Electrical Trades Union of Australia and Amalgamated Engineering Union.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Civil Aviation - J. Irvine, M. M. O’Halloran.
Labour and National Service - A. L. H. Carruthers, M. K. Gibson.
Supply and Development - I. H. Mather.
Transport - R. A. Bickley.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act-
National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (12).
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -
Applecross, Western Australia.
Gloucester, New South Wales.
Homebush, New South Wales.
St. Leonards, New South Wales.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory
Rules 1948, No. 116.
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administra-. tion Act - Ordinance - 1948 - No. 7 - Appropriation 1946-47.
Senate adjourned at 10.32 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 October 1948, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1948/19481006_senate_18_198/>.