18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hoa. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction able to indicate whether the M. W. and E. L. Rann and R. G. Dawson estate, near Pemberton, Western Australia, is to be acquired for the soldier settlement purposes]
– The Government has given approval to proposals by the Government of Western Australia for the acquisition of the property which the honorable senator has mentioned. I understand that it comprises an area of 226 acres and that it will be used as a single-unit tobacco-producing farm. In Western Australia approximately 380 properties have been approved for soldier settlement, and I understand that the total area of those properties is approximately 1,000,000 acres.
– In view of the Government’s announcement yesterday in connexion with the introduction of television in Australia, can the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate whether radio listeners will be required to pay a separate licence-fee in respect of television, as is the practice in Great Britain, where a licence-fee of fi is charged for radio receiving sets and another licence-fee of £1 is charged in respect of television sets ?
– At the moment I am unable to supply the information which the honorable senator has sought. I am awaiting a report from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on that and other matters, and as soon as I receive that report I shall supply the information to the honorable senator.
Victorian Legislative Council Election - Facilities fob PARTY Leaders.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral read the report in yesterday’* Melbourne press that the Premier of Victoria proposes to make a broadcast this evening over seventeen commercial stations in connexion with the Legislative Council elections in that State on Saturday next? Can he say how many commercial stations there are in Victoria and whether all of the commercial stations in that State are to be reserved for this broadcast) Wil he consult the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to see whether equal facilities can be made available to the leaders of the Australian Country party and the Labour party for a similar State-wide hook-up? Can he say what will be the cost of this broadcast, and who will pay for it? Did the Australian Constitutional League order the time for thu broadcast on all of the stations concerned ? Is the cost to be met out of the huge funds which Mr. R. G. Casey brought back upon his return from hi» recent visit to England ? Can the Minister supply any other interesting detail about this huge racket?
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me of his intention to ask his comprehensive and important question. I have seen the press report to which he has referred. There are thirteen commercial and two national broadcasting stations in Melbourne and six commercial and two national stations in the country areas of Victoria. That means that two commercial stations will not be included in the hook-up to which the honorable senator has referred. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has the responsibility to ensure that in such circumstances equal facilities shall be granted to the leaders of the Australian Country party and the Labour party. I am not is a position to say what the cost of the broadcast will be, or who ordered the time for the broadcast. All I know in that respect is “what I have read in the press report. The cost of the broadcast may be met out of funds which Mr. Casey brought back from England, or the huge war-time profits which have been amassed in this country may be used for that purpose. I cannot say how that cost is being met. I am not in the confidence of the Premier of Victoria or of the Australian Constitutional League and I am not able to supply other interesting details about the matter. Possibly, such details will be supplied later as the result of discussion and criticism of the broadcast.
– Can the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral advise me whether the defence power of the Commonwealth can be invoked to alter the legislation governing the franchise in respect of elections for the Legislative Council of Victoria so that all ex-servicemen and their wives shall be entitled to vote at such elections and not only officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force, as is the case at present? [n view of the fact that the Labour party and the Country party in Victoria support such enrolment, whilst the Liberal party in that State opposes it, can the Commonwealth Government compel the Hollway Government to do justice to returned soldiers under its repatriation or other legislation, so as to give to them an effective voice in the government of the State of Victoria, seeing that their services and those of the soldiers of other States saved Australia as a whole from defeat in two world wars?
– I rise to order, Mr. President. I understand that an honorable senator is not entitled, when asking a question, to seek a legal opinion. The honorable senator’s question is definitely of a legal nature and contravenes the Standing Orders.
– The honorable senator’s question is in order. However, when asking questions, honorable senators should endeavour to stick to the point and not introduce matters of opinion. The purpose of questions should be to elicit information about matters of public interest, but occasionally honorable senators wrongly express personal opinions before I can prevent them from doing so. Perhaps they do so because question time provides them with an opportunity to convey their thoughts to the public over the radio. I ask honorable gentlemen to try to confine their questions in future to matters of public interest and not to seek to introduce personal opinions.
– In deference to the thought expressed by Senator O’sullivan, I shall first tell a brief story and then proceed to answer the question that was asked by Senator Sandford. The story deals with a very young lawyer who approached a barrister in Selbourne Chambers, Melbourne, and, having obtained a legal opinion, said to the barrister, “While I am here I should like to know What you think about this set of facts “. The barrister replied, “ Well, my boy, what I think is so and so, but if you want to know what my opinion is you will send up a brief, you will mark it ‘ 10 guineas ‘, and you will get my legal opinion “. On this occasion I propose to say what I think and not give a legal opinion. I have given no prior consideration to the question asked by Senator Sandford. I suppose that there never is any legal proposition about which something cannot be said on each of two opposite sides. However, in this instance, I should find it rather difficult to discover anything in favour of the proposition that the Commonwealth could legislate as the honorable senator suggested. The defence power is very alastic, as we know, but, throughout federation, the High Court has very plainly taken the attitude that, in any exercise of that power, there must be a very clear relation to defence. Honorable senators will recall that, even at the height of the war period, the High Court disallowed the industrial lighting regulations, which one might reasonably have thought had a very direct relation to the stepping up of the economic effort of the country in support of war. Very recently, in the judgment pursuant to which it disallowed certain war service moratorium regulations, the women’s employment regulations and the petrol rationing scheme, the High Court gave a very clear exposition of the content of the defence power and re-affirmed the proposition that, in each case, there must be a direct relation to defence. Therefore, what I think at the moment is that the regulation of the right to the franchise for the Legislative Council in Victoria is so peculiarly within the domestic sphere of the State that the defence power of the Commonwealth would not extend to cover the matter. As to whether the Commonwealth can do anything to compel the Government of Victoria to legislate as the honorable senator suggested, my answer is “ No “. I should say that that matter must be left to the persuasion of circumstances and to an appreciation of the value of the services that were rendered by soldiers during the war period. Those services were rendered not only for the preservation of life in this country, but also very largely for the preservation of property. Surveying the field in Australia and eliminating Queensland, which has no legislative council, we find that all other States, except Victoria, have provisions whereby ex-servicemen at least have the right to vote for the legislative councils. One can only hope that the considerations that influenced the other States will in due course make a full impact upon the Government of Victoria.
– In connexion with the admission of the .State of Israel to membership of the United Nations, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs what action, if any, was taken by the Australian representative to ensure that places sacred to the Christian world by virtue of their association with the birth, life and death of Christ, would be placed under international control?
– This matter falls peculiarly within -the province of the Minister for External Affairs. The report of the proceedings at the recent conference at which Israel was admitted to the United Nations is not available to me at the moment. I shall refer the question to the Minister for External Affairs, who returned to Australia only on Monday, and will ensure that the honorable senator is advised of the attitude that was adopted by Australia in the matter. I appreciate the importance of preserving the holy places referred to by the honorable senator.
– In view of the fact that the Australian Government ha* set aside £50,000 for the provision of equipment and plant for the textile college at the Gordon Institute of Technology, Geelong, can the Minister representing the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction inform me of the stage that has :been reached in the purchase and installation of such plant and equipment?
– I understand that all plant and equipment for the tex tile college at the Gordon Institute of Technology has been placed on orde. with the manufacturers. A great deal of it has been installed, and the remainder is coming forward rapidly. I understand that no Australian technical institution is better equipped for textile testing thai is the Gordon Institute. Specialist officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, are in Geelong for the purpose of establishing new laboratories at the institute and they are available to help in wool research. The honorable senator may b<assured that as the result of the concentration at Geelong of two research authorities of that type, there will be no better research centre in Australia, and possibly the world, than will be functioning there.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether, in the event of celebrations being held next year to mark the fiftieth anniversary of federation in Australia, the Prime Minister will extend invitations to the five or six surviving members of the first Commonwealth Parliament to be the guests of the Government at such functions as will be arranged ?
– I shall bring th? honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Prime Minister and will supply his reply to- her.
– Has the Miniate; representing the Minister for Post-wat Reconstruction seen in the press a report that Professor Bailey, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Sydney, leading a team of physicists from the university and the New England University College, believes that he can shoot a beam of radio waves into the ionosphere 60 miles above the earth and create an artificial aurora which could light up a city at night and so obviate the need for street lighting? Experiments are to be carried out at Armidale, and the preliminary work will be financed by the university from its limited research funds. Will the Minister inform me whether the work that Professor Bailey is undertaking can be given the fullest assistance by the Commonwealth, either through the Commonwealth Scientific and [Industrial Research Organization or by a direct grant to the University of Sydney?
– I have not seen tho report relating to the claim by Professor Bailey. I can imagine that, in view of the present conditions in the cities, it would be a matter of vast convenience if light could be provided in the manner suggested, although I can conceive that in some instances the uniorm lighting of cities at night time might not be welcomed in some quarters. In the legislation that was recently before the Senate dealing with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, and with the new research activities of the Department of Supply and Development, the Senate will recall that it was decided that a liaison should be established between the research sections of the universities, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and the Department of Supply and Development, and that there should be an interchange of personnel and general assistance in research projects. That kind of co-operation is well in mind and has already been provided for generally. The Treasurer will be as intimately concerned as the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction about whether financial assistance will be required. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction so that he may confer with the Treasurer.
– Can the Minister for Social Services inform me whether, in connexion with the payment of age and invalid pensions, there is any discrimination between the inmates of old men’s homes and the patients in mental institutions? Is it a fact that the inmates of “ Sunset “ Old Men’s Home in “Western Australia receive from their pension 15s. a week pocket money, whilst patients at the Claremont Mental Hospital receive no allowance whatever? If so, will the Minister give favorable consideration to the payment of a pocket allowance to patients of mental institutions, particularly those who are not considered insane ?
– There is a difference of treatment of invalid pensioners in the two instances cited by the honorable senator. In the case of the aged or invalid pensioner in a benevolent institution the pension is split; 15s. is paid to the pensioner for his own purposes, and the remaining £1 7s. 6d. is paid to the institution, which very often is State sponsored. It is not thought that the extra £1 7s. 6d. paid to the institution adequately covers the whole cost of the maintenance of the pensioner in that institution, but it does go a considerable way towards providing the cost of his maintenance. In the case of a pensioner, whether aged or invalid, who goes into a mental asylum, the pension is suspended, not cancelled. In due course, when that person is discharged from the asylum for the insane, the pension is reinstated and paid for a maximum period of four weeks prior to the date of discharge, so that on the discharge of a pensioner he has a fourweeks’ accumulation - if he has been in there for that period - to start him off again. It has been traditional in Commonwealth and State financial relation* that the States should be free of Commonwealth influence entirely in the conduct of mental institutions and the maintenance of patients in those institutions. That is purely a matter of financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States. The recently enacted Mental Hospitals Benefit Act is operative in Tasmania and South Australia. Under that legislation the patients, their relatimes and estates are relieved from making payments for the maintenance of lunatic patients. That increase is a relief to the patients and does not affect the Commonwealth and State financial aspect of the mater. The Senate will agree that it is not appropriate to be making payments to people who have been certified as insane. If we were to pay the 15s. in such cases the Government would have to make the payment to the Master in Lunacy or to the person to whose care the particular insane person had been committed by the court. There are types of persons who have periods of lucidity and might be in a position to control the disposition of some funds in their hands. On the broad proposal that the care of insane people and people committed to asylums for the insane is a matter for the States and not the Commonwealth I should not at this stage, in the absence of further facts, be prepared to recommend that a change should be effected. However, I should be prepared to discuss the matter with the Treasurer because the relations between the Commonwealth, and States are primarily a matter for him.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel seen reports in the press of a telegram sent out by Mr. Leask, managing director of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, to distributing agents throughout Australia, urging them to increase petrol sales to the fullest extent? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether Mr. Leaski’s action was in accordance with the views of the majority of the shareholders of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? If not, will the Minister undertake to ensure that that company will follow a policy more in keeping with the best interests of this country?
– Although I have not seen the press report of the telegram that was sent out I was present in the House of Representatives yesterday when the Leader of the Australian Country party raised this matter in a question to the Prime Minister. I can only repeat what the Prime Minister said then, that although the Government holds 51 per cent, of the shares in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, the Government has no command over the directors and is not in a position to control or direct the affairs of the company. I am not acquainted with the manager who authorized the telegram. As the Prime Minister said yesterday, however, the general manager of that company, throughout the war period and afterwards, gave every assistance possible ir the matter of rationing, and is still prepared to help the Government in itf desire to assist Great Britain in connexion with that country’s economic struggle. A campaign is being waged ai present on the merits of rationing. Al] I can say is that the Government doe* not wish unnecessarily to continue the rationing of any commodity, especially when such rationing is unpopular. The present Government would not continue petrol rationing for one minute longer than necessary.’
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform the Senate whether any consideration has yet bees given to a suggestion that I made last November that an annual pilgrimage oi school children from the ‘States to Canberra be arranged, with a view to the cultivation of a national sentiment among the younger generation ? I understand that at that time the Prime Minister thought that the proposal had considerable merit, and that the right honor able gentleman undertook to raise the matter at the next conference of Com monwealth and State Ministers.
– I understand that the next conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers will be held in August. I shall again mention thi* matter to the Prime Minister with a view to it being discussed at that conference.
REPORT of Public Works Committee.
– As chairman, ] present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Erection of a multi-story block and associated buildings at the Macleod Repatriation Tubercular Sanatorium, Melbourne.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Senator Cameron) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Post and Telegraph Kales Act 1902-1!)41.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
This is a bill which it is hoped will commend itself to all honorable senators. It deals with the amendment of the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902-1941 to adjust certain postal and telegraph rates in order to provide an equitable return for the value of the services in the light of prevailing costs and conditions. No increase in the existing charges for letters, lettercards and post-cards is proposed, but the war postage of $d. per article will be included as part of the normal rates for all classes of postal articles. With the exception of Commonwealth and State Hansard, which will continue at the present concession rate of l£d. for each 12 oz., and parcels, which will also be accepted at the current rates, the charges for postal articles will be increased in some respects, namely -
Commercial papers, patterns, samples and merchandise. - The existing rate of Hd. for the first 2 oz. will be continued, but the charge for each additional 2 oz. will be increased from Id. to Hd.
Printed matter, including printed papers, circulars, catalogues and books, and publications not registered for transmission as newspapers or periodicals. - The existing rate of Hd. for each 4 oz. will be continued, but the rate for each additional 4 oz. will be increased from Id. to Hd.
Books, registered for transmission as such and also newspapers and periodicals registered for transmission but not posted in bulk - The existing rate of Hd. for each 0 oz. will be continued, but the rate for each additional 6 oz. will be increased from Id. to Hd.
Publications registered at a general post office for transmission as newspapers - The existing rate of 2d. for each 20 oz. will be increased to 2Jd. for each Ki oz.
The bulk rate of 2id. for each 16 oz. in respect of publications registered for transmission as periodicals will not be disturbed.
In connexion with ordinary telegrams, the bill provides for the base rate for fourteen words to be increased from 9d. to ls. 3d. where the offices are not more than 15 miles apart, and from ls. to ls. 6d. in other cases. As at present, urgent telegrams will be charged double the ordinary rates. The rates for press telegrams relating to parliamentary, Executive, departmental and other Com mon wealth proceedings, will not be increased, but the charges for other press telegrams will be raised by 50 per cent. Lettergrams, or letter-telegrams as they are named in the Post and Telegraph Rates Act, will be stepped up in rate from ls. 3d. to ls. 6d. for the first 30 words, but the existing charge of id. for each additional word will be continued.
Section 8 of the act prescribes that all Braille and Moon postal articles shall be conveyed without charge. As honorable senators are aware, these articles are essential to people who are blind or whose vision is seriously impaired. Other articles for the use of these unfortunate members of the community, such as special recordings, have been developed, and no doubt further progress will be made in designing items to assist the blind. Consequently, it is proposed to amend the act to provide for the transmission free of charge through the post of such other articles for the use of the blind as are prescribed. It is also proposed to increase the present registration fees and express delivery charges, but these fees are covered by the Postal Regulations, which will be amended suitably. The base registration fee will be increased from 3d. to 6d. and corresponding adjustments made in higher fees, and the express delivery charges will also be raised on the basis of a fee of 6d. instead of 4d. as a minimum. Some minor adjustments to correspond generally with the proposed domestic charges will be made in the postage rates for Empire countries and Ireland, and the rates for foreign countries will also be revised slightly to meet the requirements of the Universal Postal Union of which Australia is a member. These alterations can be effected, however, by executive action. As announced recently by the Prime Minister, telephone rentals and call charges are to be raised, and the adjustments will be made by amending the Telephone Regulations. I propose later in my remarks to indicate briefly to honorable senators the directions in which the present tariffs will be revised.
The proposal to increase postal charges has received careful consideration by the Government, which is naturally anxious to furnish postal, telephone and telegraph services to the community on the most favorable terms possible, consistent with present-day costs. Although it is a national enterprise, the Postal Department is a business undertaking and, as such, it must pay its way. If this course were not followed, the people who use the various services provided by the Postal Department would gain at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer, and the benefit would increase according to the demands made upon the departmental facilities by individual users.
Since the intention of the Government to increase the rates was made public, there has been some criticism of the proposal in the daily press, and issues have been raised which have clouded rather than clarified the true position. I am sure, however, that honorable senators will examine the matter dispassionately and will agree that the action of the Government is fully justified. The justification for the proposal to raise postal rates at this stage is quite clear. Stated simply, it is due to enormous increases that have occurred in expenditure, and will continue in the future, in providing and maintaining the postal and telecommunication services which, as all honorable senators are aware, extend to practically every settled part of the Commonwealth. Since 1912, in accordance with the express wish of the Parliament, the Postal Department has prepared its balance-sheets on a commercial basis, which takes into consideration the value of services performed for other Common- wealth departments such as the transmission of meteorological telegrams and the payment of pensions, for which it does not receive a cash payment.
Since 1941, when the Labour Government assumed office, the commercial balance-sheets of the Postal Department have shown substantial profits, the total amount in the six financial years ended on the 30th June, 1947, being £35,914,646. In 1946-47 the profit was £5,103,886. In 1947-48 the surplus was reduced to £1,849,781, but a loss of £3,500,000 is expected for the current financial year, and a deficit of £6,000,000 would probably occur next year if existing charges were continued. The highest surplus ever recorded by the Postal Department was £6,674,595 ‘in 1944-45, compared with the greatest pre-war profit of £3,625,371 in 1938-39. I cite those figures to show the effect on the financial operations of the department of the abnormal war-time conditions. When hostilities commenced, and particularly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbour, the Postal Department was placed on a war footing, and enormous demands were made on its resources by the Armed Forces and essential organizations on the home, front. To play its full part in the national war effort normal maintenance and expansion had to be severely curtailed with the result that all reserves of plant were absorbed and bio replacements could be made. Moreover, although the number of postal articles increased tremendously, a great portion of them was for members of the Forces which established their own postal units and also conveyed mail matter without expense to the Postal Department. Then again, wage pegging regulations stabilized labour costs during the war period. A further factor was that the department released more than 8,000 skilled men and women for service with the Forces or war organizations, and although some replacements were made, the department was able to carry on only by reducing the high quality of its civilian services. The combined effect of those abnormal conditions on the finances of the Postal Department was to create substantial profits which would not have been in evidence in ordinary circumstances.
Coming now to the post-war period, the change from a handsome profit in 1946-47 to a severe loss in 1948-49 may seem difficult to explain, but the explanation is simple. Since the beginning of 1947, direct labour costs alone, increases in the cost of living rates and the upward movement of wages coupled with the 40-hour week, have meant a very great increase of departmental expenditure. The additional cost of labour, quite apart from the wages of new staff, is now approximately £7,000,000 yearly. There has also been a heavy rise of costs, faced by all large employers of labour, due to the tremendous increase in the proportion of unskilled and untrained labour caused by the shortage of man-power and the unusual turnover of staff recruited for various activities of the Post Office.
I have mentioned the 40-hour week as one of the causes of increased labour expenditure by the Postal Department. Although it is not the major cause of the additional costs, the 40-hour week nevertheless represents 15 per cent, of the extra wages bill. The Postal Department must operate on a full day and night basis and thus any reduction of hours must be met by additional staff or overtime, notwithstanding improvements made in organization and techniques and a slight reduction in the hours of business at post offices. The Postal Department employs nearly 75,000 people, including mall contractors, and it will be obvious, therefore, that any rise in wage rates must affect departmental expenditure to a marked degree. Moreover, the department has been called upon to meet an increased payment of nearly £1,500,000 yearly in respect of mail services and non-official post offices and telephone offices. These costs are incurred in country districts, including many rural areas where settlement is scattered but where the residents are engaged in essential primary industries. Another item of great significance is that the costs of materials, of which enormous quantities are used by the department, have risen steeply ; there is not one commodity in general use by the Postal Department which has not increased greatly in price. On some items of material, the rise during the past two or three years, has been well over 100 per cent. In fact, the increase has exceeded 200 per cent, on some im portant items. The overall effect of this on an undertaking which uses millions of pounds’ worth of materials yearly in its operation and maintenance works will be quite obvious.
The end of the war saw the Postal Department facing an emergency without parallel in its history. Reserves of plant and equipment were practically exhausted, the suspension of the normal programme having built up a huge backlog of maintenance and new works. Now, when those arrears of maintenance and developmental works need to be overtaken, the department is faced with a period of high prices of material and much heavier wages costs than would have been the case had the works proceeded in the usual orderly way each year. Despite the accelerated programme, a substantial period must elapse before the department has restored its services to full efficiency and has provided adequate facilities and amenities for the public and staff.
The extra costs to which I have referred were inescapable, seeing that every possible means of effecting economies and re-organizing the department on a modern and decentralized basis has been explored. Special measures have also been introduced to check expenditure and to ensure that it covers essential needs only. Of course, the expenditure could have been reduced appreciably by withdrawing or restricting services provided for the community, but he would be a brave man who, in this modern age, would be prepared to withhold or reduce services for which local communities are clamouring and which it was not possible to supply fully in the war years. The Post Office serves practically every settled area in Australia and it has an obligation, which it has fully accepted, to provide facilities in rural districts and cities alike. Although a check was imposed in the war period, during recent years the department has expanded its services and effected improvements in a number of directions. Any one who has visited the cities and country districts of the Commonwealth should have no illusions regarding the value of the services performed by the department and the constant pressure which is being applied by local communities for further improvements in mail services, hours of attendance at telephone exchanges, and so on.
In raising the rates the Postal Department will follow the time-honoured practice of a well-run business concern to make a fair charge for the commodities or services supplied. Admittedly, the department has a monopoly over the postal and telecommunication services, but in exercising this monopoly it is fully conscious of its obligations and responsibilities, and in the interests of national development it has extended many services in outback areas, despite their unfavorable financial aspect. Australia, with its relatively small population scattered over a wide area, presents many problems to the postal authorities which do not exist in most other countries. Many mail services, for instance, traverse long routes where the volume of traffic is very small, and to serve settlers with telephone facilities means the erection of long and costly lines. Allowing for these factors, there would be every justification for making the Australian charges higher than those elsewhere, but due to prudent management, economical and businesslike methods, and the application of checks to guard against extravagant and unnecessary expenditure, this course has been avoided, and generally speaking, the rates compare favorably with those in force in overseas countries.
In considering the postage rates and the proposal to adjust them to meet prevailing costs and conditions, it is important to bear in mind that since the war ended, other countries, for example, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America, have been forced to adjust postal, telephone or telegraph tariffs but, apart from the war surcharge imposed in 1941, no increases have been made in the Australian charges for many years. It has been claimed by some critics, who are obviously afraid of the socialistic bogy, that increased postal rates could be described only as an extra charge on the community’s huge bill for socialism. This is not supported by the experience in the United States of America, which could hardly be regarded as the home of socialism. In that country the Postal Department is showing an annual loss of approximately 300,000,000 dollars and a bill was recently presented to Congress providing for increased rates totalling 250,000,000 dollars a year. Increased costs which are unavoidable must be met by higher rates as we now propose to do.
Reference has been made in the daily press to the many and varied services which the Postal Department is performing for other Commonwealth departments. It is true that the Post Office does undertake a large number of functions which do not come directly within the scope of communications, but it is fortunate for the community that this work can be carried out by an organization which has extended to practically every town and village in the Commonwealth. The post office is the focal point for the public and if other departments were compelled to set up separate establishments or agents, the over-all cost to the taxpayer would be much greater than it is to-day. The department takes credit in its commercial balance-sheets for the value of these services and is fully entitled to do so. It has also been advocated in the newspapers that the surplus funds of the Postal Department during past years should have been set aside for financing the capital works of the department. Revenue derived by the department, however, has been paid into Consolidated Revenue, and Paraliment has voted funds to meet expenditure from revenue or from what other source it thought fit. Even if all the profits of recent years had been set aside as a reserve, the amount would not have been sufficient to meet the expenditure of £42,000,000 which is involved in the initial three-year rehabilitation programme of the department. This programme must be extended on a yearly basis until the huge arrears of essential works have been overtaken.
As I have mentioned, it is proposed to increase the bulk postage rates on registered newspapers from 2d. for 20 oz. to 2§d. for 16 oz., the proposed charge corresponding with that already operating in connexion with registered periodicals. Even with the new tariff, the bulk rate will represent a valuable concession to the publishers of newspapers, which include those issued by non-competitive organizations, and will be far below the average costs incurred by the department in handling and distributing them. Few other countries offer similar concessions and in the United States of America according to information received recently, a loss of about 150,000,000 dollars is being incurred by the Post Office under the bulk rate system in that country. It is assumed that the tariff proposals now before Congress will cover the application of more equitable rates.
Although telephone charges are not covered by this bill, I should like to outline briefly the manner in which it is proposed to adjust the present rates in keeping with the increased costs to which I have referred. As honorable senators are aware, details of the proposal have been made public by the Prime Minister. Telephone subscribers’ rentals will be increased on a sliding scale ranging from 5s. yearly at small rural exchanges to £1 5s. in Sydney and Melbourne. The unit fees for local calls will be raised by in country districts and by £d. in the metropolitan areas. The charges for trunk-line calls will be increased according to the direct distance between the terminal exchanges, and the special night rates which now apply between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. will be abolished and the intermediate rate extended to embrace that period. The particular person fees on trunk-line calls will be raised on calls 15 miles and over. The charges for miscellaneous items, such as extension telephones, private lines, block type entries in the telephone directories and extension bells and the like, will also be increased. In common with the postal and telegraph charges, the proposed telephone rates will not be excessive, having regard to the value of the service provided and prevailing costs and conditions. Apart from the adjustment made in 1941, the rates have not been increased for many years, and they will still compare favorably with those in force in most overseas countries.
The combined additional revenue expected to be received from the revised postal, telephone and telegraph charges is approximately £5,500,000 representing a net increase of about 16 per cent, in the total earnings of the Post Office. It will be recognized that this is a moderate increase, bearing in mind the steep rise in costs of labour and commodities since the end of the war and the fact that the overall effect of the 1941 and the present adjustments involves an increase of less than 25 per cent, in revenue. It has been the policy of the Government to provide postal and telecommunication facilities in country districts at the lowest possible rates, and public necessity and convenience, rather than the financial aspect, have been the determining factors. This principle is being followed in connexion with the present revision of the charges and additional costs will be distributed appropriately with due regard to the need for applying specially low rates in country areas. The increase in telephone rentals, for example, will be only 5s. a year at rural exchanges; the extra mileage charges on lines beyond 2 miles from an exchange will not be raised; and there will be no increase in the rentals for additional telephones connected to services which are wholly or partly owned and maintained by subscribers.
No increase in the fee of 2d. for a call made from a public telephone is proposed. During the present period when the department is unable to meet all requests for subscribers’ services, public telephones are more important than ever from the standpoint of the general community, and as they are being used to an ever-increasing extent it is felt that the call fees should not be disturbed. In adjusting the postal, telegraph and telephone rates in Australia, the following considerations have been borne in mind: Relationship of present rates to present-day costs; the importance of providing relatively cheap service in country districts; corresponding rates in other countries; and the maintenance of efficient services to the public to meet expanding needs. It is unfortunate that the need for increasing the charges has occurred at a time when the services of the Postal Department have not been restored to full efficiency. The controlling officers and myself are the first to agree that there is need for improving the services. The long war years, when the department was forced to suspend its normal programme of maintenance, improvements and expansion, have been mainly responsible for the falling off in efficiency and the efforts to regain a high standard have been hampered by the post-war shortages of materials and labour. The Australian Post Office is not alone in this respect, however, as administrations abroad are suffering similarly. Despite these disabilities, a good deal has been accomplished since the war ended, and much greater progress will be made in the futureas the result of the action taken to order materials on a long-range basis, to effect re-organizations to meet the emergency, and to streamline and simplify procedures. The ideal of a completely efficient service cannot be achieved overnight; it will mean hard work, enthusiasm and clear thinking. These attributes are being displayed, and the great body of Post Office workers are fully alive to their responsibilities and all will continue to strive to achieve the objective of a prompt and dependable service at reasonable rates.
It will be appreciated that, in the light of the financial position disclosed, the Government was faced with three alternatives - (1) to allow the Post Office to continue present rates and meet the large deficit from taxation and other revenue; (2) to reduce expenditure drastically by seriously curtailing postal, telephone and telegraph services to the public at a time when there is a tremendous demand for these facilities in every city, township and village throughout Australia; or(3) to increase the rates to a reasonable degree to enable the Post Office to operate on a sound financial basis. The course proposed is the only logical and equitable one if the Post Office is to continue to play its full part in providing essential services for the community. I am sure that after hearing the facts honorable senators will have no doubts regarding the justification for revising Post Office rates and will approach the matter objectively when considering the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. upon notice -
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Debate resumed from the 9th June (vide page 768), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– When the Senate adjourned last week I was discussing the achievements of successive governments since the Labour party came into power in 1941. The first Curtin Government took office as the result of the fact that members of the parties previously in charge of the Treasury were more interested in personal advancement and aggrandizement than in the affairs of the nation. Because of disunity amongst themselves, they sacrificed the interests of the nation and the Labour party was called to the treasury bench in order to guide the country safely through the period of war and the post-war reconstruction era. It was necessary for the Government to impose irksome restrictions upon the people for the purpose of prosecuting total war, and many of those restrictions had to be carried into the post-war period. These included such controls as the rationing of goods that were in short supply, and, although many people grumbled because restrictions had to be continued, they would have had much more to grumble about if rationing had been discontinued and scarce goods had become available only to those who were best able to pay. Little, by little, the Government relinquished control of commodities as it became satisfied that supplies were adequate to meet the normal needs of the populace. However, one or two restrictions still had to be retained. One of these was petrol rationing. The Government was fully aware that a time would come when it could no longer control the distribution of petrol and other rationed commodities. During the prices referendum campaign, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) warned the people that these powers could be wielded by the Government only as long as the High Court permitted it to do so and that any appeal to the Court could prove fatal to Commonwealth control of scarce commodities. That warning has been justified. The decision of the High Court in relation to petrol rationing was not, as some people would lead the public to believe, a defeat of the Government. It was nothing of the kind. The Government was well aware of the likelihood of such a decision.
One of the most colossal achievements of this Government and previous Labour governments has been the financing of such stupendous undertakings as our total war effort, our enlarged and humane social services programme, and a vast plan of post-war reconstruction. That achievement has been effected in a way that must satisfy all right-thinking Australians. When war broke out, Australia was faced with serious overseas financial commitments, but this load upon the people has been greatly lightened by means of a wise financial policy. A comparison of the amounts of Australia’s overseas debts when Labour took office and to-day is extremely interesting. Before citing the figures, I remind honorable senators that anti-Labour governments had controlled the Treasury foi 21 of the 23 years from 1918 until 1941. When the Labour party took office it found that the total overseas debt of Australia at the 31st December, 1941, was made up of £475,039,094 sterling in London and £41,939,484 sterling in New York, a total of £516,978,578, which imposed upon the Australian people an annual interest liability of £18,174,269 in London and £2,071,224 in New York, a total of £20,245,993. The Labour government set out to provide finance not only for a total war effort but also for the reduction of that vast liability., and it met with a great measure of success. Between the 31st December, 1941, and the 31st December, 1948, our overseas debt was reduced by £82,276,271 in London and £1,283,160 in New York, an overall reduction of £83,559,431. Furthermore, huge sums have been paid in settlement of our lend-lease obligations to the United States of America. We incurred very heavy lend-lease commitments during the war, but our liability under that scheme was finally discharged by payments totalling £S,39S,339 in 1946-47 and £1,095,25S in 1947-48. That was a magnificent achievement for a country with such a small population as that of Australia. One might well ask how the Government obtained the money needed to prosecute a total war effort, to provide the social services that the people enjoy and to rehabilitate private citizens and industry in the post-war period. A study of the facts discloses that cash loans totalling £1,268,552,000 have been raised within Australia since October, 1941. The annual interest liability on those loans is £39,220,000. Honorable senators will readily appreciate the fact that that colossal interest bill is being paid, not to overseas banking institutions, but to the people of this country. That money is returning to circulation amongst the business people of this country and thus is helping the Government considerably to fulfil its obligations in connexion with the full employment and social and economic security of the people. T consider that the people of Australia are most fortunate to have in office such a capable man as the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). “We have heard quite a lot recently about price stabilization. It is unfortunate that the Opposition was successful in influencing the people of this country that it was not in their best interests that price stabilization should be centred in this Government. It has been claimed by the Opposition and in the State parliaments that the increased prices ruling to-day are attributable to the removal of subsidies by this Government. Although the Opposition has fooled the people of Australia for many years I am convinced that it will not be able to fool them on this issue. Undoubtedly the people were fooled in connexion with price stabilization. I point out that very few of the items that were subsidized have shown a marked increase of price since the subsidies were withdrawn. How can tho Opposition explain away the fact that prices of motor vehicles have soared since control was relinquished by this Government? Prior to that, as honorable members know, the prices of used oars were controlled. But what a racket is being practised in the used-car market in Australia to-day!
– It is daylight robbery !
– I could find a much stronger term to describe what if happening. There are many instance* of new cars being purchased and within a few weeks being sold for hundreds of pounds more than the original price. That is typical of the control that exists to-day under State’ administration. When the Commonwealth controlled the prices of motor vehicles the value of a car decreased as it became older. Now, however, it appears that the older a car gets the more valuable it becomes. The fact is that the State governments are unable effectively to control price stabilization.
– The Prime Minister told the people of Australia at the time that if there was no effective method of controlling prices, subsidies would be discontinued.
– That is true. There is no fairer method of computing the value of a motor car than by allowing depreciation according to its age.
The primary producers of this country are now in a much better position than ever before in the history of Australia. The policy of the Australian Labour party has ensured that the primary producers have shared equally with other sections of the community the prosperity that has resulted from the high prices that have been obtained for their produce, enabling them to enjoy a reasonable standard of living. I hope that nothing will happen whereby this central government will lose the power to ensure that the primary producers of this country shall be able to obtain on the markets of the world prices for their produce that will compensate them, adequately for their labour and capital outlay.
– Does that not depend on overseas buyers?
– To a considerable degree that depends on the state of world markets. With relation to wheat, however, a fair price has been guaranteed for a specific period. If that principle could be applied to other commodities the primary producers would be assured of profitable returns for a specified period. Although the prices of wool have risen to unprecedented heights, it is realized that those prices cannot continue. Ultimately they will decrease to a level that will ensure that all people will be able to buy manufactured woollen goods.
The ex-service men and women have been treated very fairly by this Government. No expense has been spared in the matter of training and education generally to equip them for return to civil life. Although the pensions payable to-day are not all that we should like them to be they are almost 100 per cent, better than the pensions that were payable when this Government assumed office.
– The highest increase has been 39 per cent.
– The pension scheme for ex-servicemen now in operation was recommended by an all-party committee. Although representatives of the Returned Servicemen’s League are endeavouring to convince the people of this country that this Government is unsympathetic in the matter of pensions to ex-servicemen the fact is that no protest was entered by any representative of any ex-servicemen’s organization when the scheme was announced, although they gave evidence before the committee that was appointed to inquire into such pensions. Even at this stage I am not prepared to say that adequate pensions are being paid, because I do not know what measuring rod was used by the committee when forming its recommendations. Whenever improvements have been effected with relation to the payment of pensions to other sections of the community, corresponding improvements have been made in connexion with exservicemen’s pensions. Altogether there has been a 39 per cent, increase of pensions over the amounts agreed to by the all-party committee. At all times the welfare of ex-service men and women is uppermost in the minds of the Government. If it were possible for a complete review of ex-servicemen’s pensions to be made I am quite sure that this Government would not be backward in making equitable adjustments. If it can be established that the pensions now being paid are inequitable the Government will do its best to see that the matter is rectified.
There has been a lot of criticism of the Government’s efforts to provide homes for the people. It is evident that honorable senators opposite who have complained frequently of shortages of materials have not given serious consideration to the heavy demands that have been made on the manufacturers in an effort to meet the present day needs of the people. It is indeed regrettable that previous governments made no serious attempt at more opportune times to supply homes for the masses at reasonable prices. Although previous Prime Ministers, including the late Mr. Lyons, from time to time promised the people decent housing schemes, nothing eventuated ; there was always an excuse why the schemes should not be proceeded with. As honorable senators are aware, when the depression hit this country in 1930 we were still very short of homes. Then, because people could not afford to pay rent during the depression years, homes were apparently more plentiful ; in many instances people were forced to live in caves, sheds, and any other accommodation of a like kind that was available. In the subsequent period the government claimed that it was unable to provide money to build homes. During the period of the recent war that position was reversed inasmuch as there was an abundance of money but insufficient material and man-power available for home-building. Why was that? The reason is that the Allied Works Council, which was established to construct the greatest possible number of defence works, was given priority in the use of manpower and materials, and the council utilized the resources of the country to the best advantage. No one could complain about that, because the possession of homes would not have availed us if we had lost our country. The paramount duty of the Government at that time was not to provide homes but to do everything possible to safeguard our security.
Attempts have been made by members of the Opposition to fix upon the present Government the responsibility for the delay that has occurred in the construction of homes. In order to demonstrate the falsity of that contention I shall outline some of Labour’s achievements in the construction of homes for the people. The statistics which I shall cite were compiled by the Minister for Works and Housing (Mr. Lemmon), and, since the implementation of the Government’s programme has involved the expenditure of many millions of pounds of public money, [ think that the people should be made aware of the Government’s achievements. Dealing first with war service homes, the statistics show that war service homes erected during the financial year 1948-49 cost £4,200,000, apart from the purchase and development of land for group home schemes which cost £250,000, making a total of £4,450,000. The purchase of existing properties and the discharge of mortgages involved the expenditure of an additional £3,700,000, so that altogether £8,150,000 was expended on the provision of war service homes. In addition, under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement, the Government advanced to the States in 1945-46 £6,800,000, in 1946-47 £11,000,000, in 1947-48 £13,300,000, and in 1948-49 £16,000,000. Altogether, approximately £47,000,000 was expended by the Commonwealth under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement during those years. It is estimated that during the current financial year the Commonwealth will have advanced £24,150,000 for the construction of homes throughout Australia. It is expected that under the War Service Homes Act the following advances will be made during 1949-50 : -
Under the Commonwealth and States Housing Agreement, it is estimated that advances up to £20,000,000 will be made to the five States that participate in the scheme during 1949-50. The total amount that will be advanced by the Australian Government for home construction throughout Australia during 1949-50 is estimated at £35,000.000. It is also inter- esting to note the progress made in the construction of houses by governmental and private authorities or persons, from September, 1946, until December, 1948. The figures which I shall cite include houses and flats but do not include dwellings attached to shops, or temporary dwellings. In September, 1946, 11,328 dwellings were commenced and 7,103 dwellings or 63 per cent, of those begun previously were completed. In December, 1948, 14,995 dwellings were commenced, and 15,116, or 101 per cent, were completed. From July, 1945, to December, 1948, 120,000 new homes were erected. When opponents of the Government complain that they are unable to obtain a piece of piping or some other article, it ought to occur to them that the reason for the shortage of such goods is that all materials which might be of assistance in the construction of homes for the people are being diverted for that purpose. It is little wonder, therefore, that many goods are still in short supply. As fast as homes are built for the people, the Government brings migrants into the country. The population of Australia has increased rapidly and will continue to increase, and as soon as we have overtaken the lag in providing homes for Australians, the Government will be obliged to turn its attention to providing homes for the thousands of migrants that it is bringing to Australia.
I have given a thumbnail sketch of some of the achievements of the present Government, and I have indicated some of the tasks that ‘the Government has set itself to accomplish. Bearing in mind the facts that I have mentioned, criticism such as that uttered by the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that the present Government has got the country into a frightful mess and that at the next election the people will change it, is nothing more than an empty parrot cry. The honorable senator and his friends are merely wishful thinkers. Apparently they forget that they have failed the people of this country for too long a period to be again entrusted with office. The anti-Labour parties governed this country for 21 years in a negative fashion. With the single exception of child endowment, they made no attempt whatever to provide social services, and the child endowment scheme that they introduced was at the expense of a large number of the workers of this country. Neither the Leader of the Opposition nor any other member of the political parties represented in the Opposition can point to one piece of social legislation that was enacted during their long periods of office.
– A non-Labour administration introduced age pensions.
– That is so; but I remind the honorable senator that the pension provided was the absolute minimum. The Leader of the Opposition and his friends in the two Opposition parties attempt to persuade the people that their respective parties can function efficiently as a unified political group if returned to power. How laughable that must be to t4e people of Australia, and particularly to the people of Victoria, who are being given a current demonstration of the “ unity “ of the two antiLabour political parties in that State! After all, what is the choice that will confront the electors of Australia at the next election ? Should they return to office the political parties which failed Australia in its darkest hour of peril-
– That is untrue.
– That is not untrue, as the people proved when they returned only three members of the Opposition to the Senate at the last general election. The prominent members of the Opposition parties who are now seeking to persuade the people that if their parties obtain a majority of votes at the next election they can combine to form a stable administration are those who were in office before and during the early stages of the recent war, and that is a fact that will not be forgotten by the electors. To indicate the prospects of unity between the anti-Labour parties, I shall read two extracts from the issue of the 8th June, of the Sunraysia Daily, which convey some idea of the contest that is now being waged by the two antiLabour parties in Victoria. An article written on behalf of the Country party states -
What is the use of our Liberal opponents rushing around quoting brave words, when their present weakness and inactivity fails to offset the “ burden on housewives “ because of a form of “ lawlessness “.
In a Melbourne dock a shipload of 7,000 tons of coal, imported from India, and. paid for by the Victorian Government, has been there for five months of this new so-called Labour-Country Government’s reign, while half a million housewives are told that no coal is available.
Now, read what the Liberal party states about the Country party. The article written on behalf of the Liberal party states -
Normally we should not make the mistake of arguing with people for whose opinion we have little respect, but when our opponents seek to include all “ urban “ interests in their parrot-like cry of “city controlled “, we suggest that it calls for some observation in the public interests. Apparently the old tag is becoming a little frayed.
My goodness it is I For many months Opposition supporters have been trying to convince the people of this country that the Government has been guilty of many misdeeds. Labour men have said so little in reply to these charges, that perhaps the people can be excused for believing them. However, I do not propose to let the Opposition get away with it. During the many years in which the anti-Labour forces held office in this Parliament, they had unlimited opportunities to improve the social and economic welfare of the Australian people, but they always placed their own interests before those of the nation. They failed lamentably and, in spite of the criticism that is offered so frequently by the Leader of the Opposition and his associates, I am confident that the people of this country will not oust the Government that has placed Australia in a sounder economic state than that of any other country in the world. Should the people be misled by Opposition propaganda into taking that unfortunate action, they would, I am afraid, have to pay the penalty of their indiscretion just as they are now paying the penalty of their misguided action in defeating the Government’s rents and prices referendum proposals. I am quite confident that whatever moneys are voted by this Parliament to enable the Government to carry out its programme of social and economic security for the people of this country will be wisely expended.
Senator O’FLAHERTY (South Australia) [4.53 . - The Senate is now discussing the appropriation of approximately £23,000,000 to carry on the services of the country until the annual budgetary provision is made later in the year. The purposes for which the appropriation is being made are so varied that the scope of the debate is very wide indeed. That is why the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) was able to give us a dissertation last week on so many subjects. Wo had his usual dingo wail. We have heard it before many times. Apparently the honorable senator believes the dingo menace to be greater now than it was when governments of which he was a supporter held office. The extermination of dingoes is purely a State matter over which the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction. The Leader of the Opposition is well aware of that, but he raises his howl in this chamber year after year. However, I have every sympathy with the honorable senator, and I hope that some day the dingo pest will be eradicated from this country.
Opposition members of this Parliament raise many issues, not with the object of having something done about them, but merely as avenues of propaganda aimed at undermining the solidarity of the Labour movement. Over the years, many attempts have been made to create dissension in the Government’s ranks, but they have all failed dismally. The press, of course, is prepared to support any antiLabour propaganda campaign. Typical newspaper tactics include the publication of half-truths, the removal of statements from their context, the colouring of statements by the infusion of personal opinions, and the omission of vital portions of statements. Such omissions place an entirely different slant on the utterances of Labour men which are then published in the press or broadcast as antiLabour propaganda. The Opposition parties in this chamber and in the House of Representatives are adept at such tactics.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed that the Government was not making financial provision for a “ rainy day “. That claim is sheer propaganda. The honorable senator knows quite well that under the Constitution, any surplus revenue that the Commonwealth may haveat the end of a financial year can be claimed by the States. Attention has been drawn to that fact by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and by leaders of earlier governments, but the Opposition parties choose to forget it. Another charge which has been made by the Leader of the Opposition is that potential surpluses have been squandered by the Government. That is not true. Both the present Government and the Curtin Administration have devoted revenue surpluses to special funds, the expenditure of which will develop this country or reduce governmental commitments in years to come. For instance, money was paid from revenue for lend-lease purposes. Provision has also been made for the extension of postal services.
– And, of course, Post Office profits have been appropriated to general revenue.
– That is quite true, but the honorable senator should point out also that, under the Constitution, all such moneys must be paid into Consolidated Revenue. The Government has made substantial contributions to the war gratuity reserve fund in an endeavour to avoid raising a loan when the payment of gratuity falls due in the near future. Substantial revenues are also being appropriated for post-war reconstruction work and for the rehabilitation of industry. After World War I., funds for these purposes were borrowed and a heavy interest bill had to be met each year. As time passes, it may be necessary for the Government to raise loans to meet certain commitments, but it is Labour’s policy that, whilst revenues are buoyant, loans should be avoided a? far as possible. The Government’s success in meeting its commitments from current revenue is a creditable achievement. This, of course, has been Labour’s policy for many years, but it has not previously been implemented because, in all the years of federation, Labour controlled both Houses of the Parliament for only three years, prior to 1943, and that was as far back as 1911. Other Labour governments have been in office, but not in power, because they have not controlled the Senate.
The Leader of the Opposition claimed also taxation is still too high and should be reduced. Substantial tax reductions could be granted if the Government was prepared to make up the revenue deficiency by borrowing, but it will not do that. Apparently the Opposition parties would take that action, and that is one of the fundamental differences between Labour’s policy and that of its political opponents. As Senator Finlay has pointed out, despite the formation of the Liberal-Country party, the Opposition parties are quarrelling amongst themselves in at least two States. As I have said, the Opposition’s propaganda consists mainly of half-truths aimed at creating disunity in Labour’s ranks. An examination of tax scales that will come into force on the 1st July show whether or not the Opposition’s claims for tax reduction are justified. Those who croak about high taxes are concerned only with the interests of persons in the higher income groups. “We do not hear any squeals from persons in the lower income groups. From the 1st July next a single person with an income up to £500, or £9 12s. 4d. a week, will not pay one penny income tax. Persons in those ranges of income are not squealing about taxation. A single person without dependants will not pay tax until his income reaches £501 as from the 1st July next. A man with a wife will not pay income tax until his income reaches £660, or £12 13s. lOd. a week, whilst a person with a wife and one child will not pay income tax until his income reaches £772, or £14 16s. 7d. a week. We bear a lot about the taxation of persons in the middle income groups, but, in fact, they are not squealing. For instance, after the 1st July next, a person with a wife and two children who has an income of £827, or £15 18s. Id. a week will not pay any income tax. Therefore, all the squeals must come from those in the higher ranges of income, that is, from investors in public companies who are obliged to pay 6s. in the £1 and from people with incomes in excess of £10,000 who pay income tax and social services contribution at the rate of 15s. in the £1. Those persons are squealing because at one time they used to receive an exemption of income tax at the company rate which is now 6s. in the £1 in respect of dividends from investments, whereas that income is now treated in the same way as is income from personal exertion or property. They are the people who are squealing about taxation. Yet, opponents of the Labour party are trying to create the impression that all sections of the community are overtaxed. Whilst there are other classes of taxes, income tax is the greatest direct tax levied on persons with incomes in excess of £10,000. However, the policy of the Labour Government is to tax income earners according to their ability to pay so that, instead of being allowed to exploit the country as the, have done for so long, they will contribute their share towards the cost of administering the country. After the 1st July next persons in the lower income groups to which I have already referred will continue to pay social services contribution but at substantially reduced rates. That contribution will not be payable bv h single person until his, or her, income reaches £105 a year, but such a person will not pay the full rate of ls. 6d. in the £1 until his, or her income reaches £500. or £9 12s. 4d. a week. A man with a wife will not pay the full rate until he earns £12 10s. a week, or £610 a year; a man with a wife and one child will not pay the full rate until his income reaches £14 18s. 6d. a week, or £750 a year, and a man with a wife and two children will not pay the full contribution until his income reaches £15 7s. 9d. or £S00 a year. In the last-named instance the taxpayer would receive 10s. a week child endowment so that his social services contribution of £1 3s. Id. a week would be reduced to 13s. Id. a week. I repeat that whilst persons in the lower income groups which I have mentioned will pay social services contribution, they will not pay any income tax at all. In return for their social services contribution they receive hospital benefits, maternity allowance and sick and accident benefits, all of which have been increased. Many people say that in return for their social services contribution they receive nothing and do not stand to receive any benefit. Propagandists for Labour’s opponents say that the primary producer, for instance, does not receive any benefits from his social services contribution. On the contrary, should a primary producer or any of his dependants require hospital treatment, benefit would be payable in respect of that person whether he, or she, entered a private or a public institution. The wives of primary producers are also eligible to receive the maternity allowance which has been increased from £5, with a means test, to a minimum of £15, without a means test. Those benefits are payable to all classes of persons. In addition, there are the age and invalid pension and the widow’s pension, whilst I know that the Government is hopeful of liberalizing its medical and pharmaceutical benefits. It is only because of a quarrel with some conservative elements that the Government has not yet been able to put that scheme fully into operation. I am still hopeful that saner counsels will prevail on the part of those who are opposing the Government in that respect and thus enable the Government to extend those benefits to the community as a whole. In respect of those benefits a single person does not commence to pay social services contribution until his, or her, income reaches £105, when the contribution is payable at the rate of one-tenth of Id. in the £1. The rate continues to rise until it reaches the maximum of ls. 6d. in the £1 in respect of the income levels which I have indicated. I do not wish to criticize unduly the Acting Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, but recently he asked and virtually answered for himself a question of certain advocates in relation to the taxation of overtime. I have heard the Leader of the Opposition say that anybody who works overtime is simply “working for Chifley”. According to press reports, the learned judge to whom I refer also took that view. I add that I do not accept press reports as being 100 per cent, accurate. However, should there be some truth in that report, I should like to answer for not only the people generally but also the learned judge the point which he raised so that he may not ask such a silly question again. The answer is provided in a table which has been circulated among honorable senators showing the amounts of social services contribution that will be payable from the 1st July next in respect of varying amounts of overtime. A man without dependants earning £6 for a 40-hour week would pay 5s. 6d. a week in tax and social services contribution. Actually this 5s. 6d. is entirely social services contribution. If he worked three hours overtime in any week he would earn, at the rate of time and a half, an additional amount of 13s. 6d. Of that sum only ls. 4d. would be payable as additional social services contribution. Thus, he would actually retain 90.1 per cent, of the extra amount that he earned. By no stretch of the imagination could he be described as “ working overtime for Chifley”. If the same man worked six hours overtime in one week at the same rate, he would be entitled to receive an additional £1 7s., of which he would be required to contribute 2s. lOd. to the revenue of the country. Thus, he would retain 89.5 per cent, of his extra earnings. Those examples alone should be sufficient to answer the inquiry by the Acting Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court. However, I shall cite further examples in order that there may be no doubt about the facts. If the same man worked nine hours overtime, he would earn an additional £2 0s. 6d., of which 4s. 5d. would be payable as tax and social services contribution. He would retain 89.1 per cent, of his overtime earnings. Those facts give a complete answer to people who declare that anybody who works overtime is “ working for Chifley “.
The figures that I have stated are arithmethically accurate but they might not concide with the amounts that would be deducted by an employer from, a worker’s overtime earnings. That would be due to the fact that deductions from wages are based upon a calculation of annual income. Thus, if a man earned extra money in one week alone, the amount of tax and social services contribution to be deducted would be calculated as though he were earning that amount of extra money every week throughout the year. At the end of the financial year, any amount deducted from the man’s wages over and above the amounts that I have stated would be returned to him. Admittedly he would not be paid interest on that sum. Because the society in which we live recognizes the principle of the payment of interest upon money that is owed to a person, that would be the only injustice that would be done to him. The examples that I have stated apply with reasonable accuracy to a single man on the basic wage, because the basic wage in all States today is only slightly over £6 a week. I shall now deal with the case of a single man receiving £10 a week for working 40 hours. He would be a little better off than a man on the basic wage. The normal weekly amount of his social services contribution would be 15s. 7d. He will pay no income tax. If he worked three hours overtime, he would earn an additional £1 2s. 6d. and the social services contribution payable from that would be 3s. 7d. He would not be liable for income tax. He would retain 84.1 per cent, of his overtime earnings. If he worked nine hours overtime, he would earn an additional £3 7s. 6d., upon which lis. 6d. would be payable. In this instance, he would retain 83 per cent, of his overtime earnings. He could not be said to be “working for Chifley”. The contradiction of the propaganda statement that has been published from time to time and repeated in the Arbitration Court is a little more striking in the case of a man with dependants. I refer first to the case of a man with a wife and one child. Very few such men would be earning as little as the basic wage. However, a man in those circumstances earning £6 for a 40-hour week would earn an additional amount of £2 Os. 6d. for working nine hours overtime. The social services contribution payable on that amount would be 3s. Thus he would retain 92.6 per cent, of his overtime earnings. A man with the same number of dependants and earning £10 a week would be entitled to £3 7s. 6d. for working nine hours overtime. The social services contribution payable on that amount would be 9s. lid. He would retain S5.3 per cent, of the additional earnings. Those facts show that the assertion that men who work overtime are only “ working for Chifley” is merely propaganda. A man earning £10 a week who has a w,ife and two dependent children does not pay income tax. If he worked nine hours overtime in one week he would earn £3 7s. 6d. That would involve an additional social services contribution of 9s. 5d. He would retain 86 per cent, of his overtime earnings. I have cited specific cases in detail simply because there has been a spate of propaganda against the Government’s taxation proposals from critics who have not dealt with facts. Unfortunately, their propaganda has had an effect upon some people. In fact it apparently caused a learned judge of the Arbitration Court to repeat the false statement that had been broadcast by the Opposition parties and the press. I hope that he will read the answer that I have given to-day and will comprehend more fully the uselessness of making such statements.
I have another table dealing with income tax that has been supplied to members of this Parliament and to other parliamentarians throughout Australia. Although it has been widely distributed, we rarely hear of the facts that it contains. It makes an interesting comparison between rates of tax and social services contribution under the present uniform tax system and the combined rates of Commonwealth and State taxes as they applied in various States before the uniformsystem was introduced during the war. The figures cover periods before and after the introduction of the uniform tax system. I shall quote only that portion which affects South Australian taxpayers. As I said earlier, a man earning £500 a year will not be required to pay income tax after the 1st July next, but will be subject to social services contribution at the rate of £37 10s. a year. Under uniform taxation, from the 1st July next, a man in South Australia with no dependants, earning £500 a year will be required to pay social services contribution of £37 10s. a year, compared with taxes amounting to £105 6s. a year prior to the introduction of uniform taxation. I am citing the incidence of uniform taxation on persons earning £500 a yea because that is the commencing point for payment of tax under the uniform taxation system as from the 1st July next. As from that date a taxpayer with a dependent wife, earning £500 a year, will be required to pay social services contribution of £25 16s., but will not be liable for payment of income tax. As from the 1st July next, income tax will only be payable by those who are in receipt of £501 a year or more. In 1941, in South Australia, a man in that category was called on to pay taxes of £80 4s. a year. No wonder that Mr. Playford, the Premier of South Australia, does riot want uniform taxation abolished ! Although at times he pays lip service to that suggestion, he knows full well that the people of South Australia are much better off under uniform taxation than ever before. As from the 1st July next a taxpayer with a dependent wife and one child, earning £500 a year, will be required to pay social services contribution of £17 18s. a year: in South Australia in 1941-42, a man in that category paid £67 16s. in taxes. If he has two children, he will be required, from the 1st July next, to pay £14 a year social services contributions, compared with State and Federal taxes aggregating £62 14s. in 1941-42. As honorable senators will see, in each instance that I have cited, the taxpayer will be required to pay much less than was the case immediately prior to the introduction of uniform taxation. [ point out that the amounts payable in 1941-42 were income tax, not social services contributions. . The amounts were paid into the revenue of both governments and the taxpayer received no direct benefit therefrom. The Senate is aware that provision is now made for payment from the National “Welfare Fund of child endowment at the rate of 103. a week for each child after the first ; the amount payable previously was 5s. a week. Maternity grants have been increased from £5 subject to the means test, to a minimum of £15 without the application of the means test. As I have already mentioned, hospital benefits at the rate of Ss. a day are paid to anybody in Australia who receives treatment at an approved hospital. It matters not whether the person receiving treatment is a maternity case in a private ward, or any other type of patient in other wards of a public, or private hospital, provided that the hospital has been approved. Hospitals which have been approved must indicate that fact on their account paper. I contend that that should be conspicuously done in coloured ink. Perhaps then, some of the propagandist statements that are made from time to time against this Government would be modified. Provision is also made for payment from the National Welfare Fund of sickness and unemployment benefits. If a person is unemployed he is entitled to unemployment benefits: should his loss of wages be due to sickness, he is entitled to sickness benefits. Since this Government took office, invalid and age pensions have been increased from £1 ls. 6d. to £2 2s. 6d. a week.
– The honorable senator has probably noticed that the newspaper representatives in the press gallery have not made notes of what he has just said about the benefits payable.
– The pres? does not usually publish anything in the Government’s favour. The application of the means test to age, invalid and widows’ pensions has been modified. In days gone by when a person reached 65 years of age, he became entitled to an age pension. There was a stipulation that if he owned property worth £400, irrespective of whether he was living in it or not, the Government should receive back from his estate after death the amount that was paid to him as an age pension. Although that provision for recoupment has since been abolished, the property qualification of £400 remained. Now, however, a pensioner may own a home of any value so long as he lives in it. His pension is not affected by the value of the home. In addition, the value of the property other than the home in which he is living, which precludes payment of a pension as been raised from £400 to £750. In bygone days a pensioner was permitted to earn only 12s. 6d. a week; if he earned more it affected his pension. To-day, 30s. a unit may be earned. Under the present provision a male pensioner may earn 30s. on behalf of his wife and 30s. on his own account, so that £3 a week is the permissible income of a man and his wife, both pensioners, without affecting the amount of pension payable. All of these benefits are paid out of the National Welfare Fund, into which social services contributions are paid. The Government hopes to extend social services benefits, so that people throughout Australia who need medical assistance will be able to obtain it on better terms than is possible to-day. It is intended, also, to further extend the pharmaceutical benefit* scheme. I heartily support the expenditure of £23,000,000 by the Government tinder this appropriation.
– I support this measure because I am quite satisfied with the apportionment of the money for the various appropriations. I was astounded that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) should express the opinion that the Liberal party would be elected to office at the next general election.
– That is the general opinion.
– Although I am not fully aware of the privileges of honorable senators in this chamber, if we are allowed to back our opinions I am quite willing to have a good wager with the Leader of the Opposition that the Australian Labour party-
– Order ! Betting is not permissible on the floor of the chamber.
– In that case I should be prepared to make a donation to charity if the Liberal party wins the next general election, provided that the Leader of the Opposition will do likewise if the Australian Labour party is returned. I think that I should be on an absolute certainty, if the good work that- this Government has done is compared with the very poor efforts of the Liberals in this chamber. Neither the Liberal party nor the Australian Country party has any policy other than to try to get the Australian Labour party out of office so that those parties may look after the interests of their friends, the wealthy classes. Those are the only people that those parties are concerned about. It is extraordinary that there should be any association between those two political parties, because from my knowledge of business methods, the merchants always rob the farmers. The city merchants pay the primary producers the absolute minimum for their produce, and charge the maximum for everything that they sell to the farmers. If a primary (producer buys goods from a city merchant on time payment he is charged very high interest, and, generally speaking, the city merchants ruthlessly exploit the primary producers. I cannot understand, therefore, why such an unholy alliance should exist between big city business men and the primary producers. The only explanation of the phenomenon which I can conceive is that prosperous graziers and farmers who harbour political ambitions believe that they cannot achieve their ambitions without the assistance of the city business men, whose political organization is the Liberal party. By contrast, the Australian Labour party has always been solicitous of the interests of primary producers, and one would imagine that the natural affinity of countrymen would be with Labour. Although members of the Opposition have repeatedly asserted that Labour will be defeated at the next election, my contact with the electors has convinced me thai Labour is certain to be returned to office-
I propose to deal now with the statement which Senator O’Sullivan made, by way of interjection, to the effect that the Liberals introduced age pensions. 1 wonder if the honorable senator is really aware of the circumstances that surrounded the introduction of age pensions.
– The introduction of age pensions was typical of the generosity of the Liberals.
– It is obvious that the honorable senator is not aware of the circumstances or he would not make such an assertion. Mr. Alfred Deakin was the leader of the Liberal party and Prime Minister at the time. The Leader of the Australian Labour party in the House of Representatives approached him with the request that his Government should introduce legislation to provide pensions for the aged. Mr. Alfred Deakin declined to do so. The leader of the parliamentary Labour party then approached Sir George Reid, who was Leader of the Opposition, and it was agreed between them that if the Government did not introduce the desired legislation Labour would combine with the official Opposition party to defeat the Government. Armed with thai assurance, the Labour leader then returned to Mr. Alfred Deakin and told hin> what would happen if the Government did not introduce legislation to provide for pensions for the aged. As Mr. Alfred Deakin was anxious to retain office he reluctantly agreed to accede to the request. Because of the circumstances that I have detailed, it is clear that the Liberal government of which Mr. Alfred Deakin was the leader does not deserve any credit whatever for having introduced that legislation. A review of the history of the Liberal party since that time, including the lengthy period when it functioned under other titles, does not reveal a single instance of that party ever having attempted to do anything for any section of the community other than big business. If Senator O’sullivan can tell me of any achievements of that party which were designed to benefit the people I shall be astonished. Admittedly, the members of the Liberal party in the Senate are not as narrow-minded as are the members of that party in the House of Representatives, who seem to spend all their time in attacking Labour. The Liberal portion of the Opposition in that House seems to be absolutely bereft of any constructive policy, and apparently exists for the sole purpose of criticizing Labour’s achievements. Fortunately the majority of people realize that fact, and I have no doubt that they will bear it in mind at the next general election. A statement made by Mr. Vanderbilt, the American millionaire industrialist, which I read in a book recently, seems to characterize the attitude of the Liberal party in Australia.. It appears that during an important industrial dispute which dislocated the railway systems in New York, a journalist approached Vanderbilt, who was then the president of the central New York railway system, and asked him whether he could furnish any information concerning the progress of the dispute. Vanderbilt declined to furnish any information whatever, and the pressman pointed out that the public were directly interested in the settlement of the dispute, which elicited from Vanderbilt the remark : “ The public be damned ! “ We know that the city merchants who are the backbone of the Liberal party are highly organized through trade associations and other bodies which fix the prices of goods and commodities, and that they always ensure that those prices will return a substantial margin of profit to them. Typical of the attitude of the big business men of this country is the remark made by Professor
Hytten, formerly economist to the Bank of New South Wales, who said -
Full employment is not only inconsistent with stability, but also with progress.
I do not know whether members of the Opposition would openly support that expression of opinion, but there is no doubt that they firmly believe it. However, at the present time they would probably express disagreement with that proposition because they know that they will have to confront the people at a general election before very long. That leads me to remark that if it were not for the policy of the proprietors of the press there would not be a Liberal party or an Australian Country party. The connexion between the newspaper proprietors, who are nearly all extremely wealthy men, and big business is so evident that I have no doubt that the public are quite aware of the reason for the hostile attitude which the press invariably adopts towards Labour. Indeed, it is almost impossible at present to pick up a newspaper, the leading article of which does not contain an attack on the Australian Government. Apparently they believe that freedom of the press-
– They do not want freedom of the press, but licence for the press.
– That is so, and they desire to remain free to exercise that licence.
Sitting suspended from 5.68 to 8 p.m.
– A few months ago I read in a weekly paper an article by an Australian journalist who had returned to this country after working for a conservative newspaper in London. The journalist said that he had written some articles for a Sydney daily newspaper which had been published. However, when he wrote one describing the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) as one of Australia’s greatest Prime Ministers, it was not published. That is an example of the absolute unfairness of the press. If it is within the power of the Commonwealth to pass legislation to ensure impartial reporting by newspapers, that should be done. We hear about the socalled freedom of the press, but there ie no real freedom amongst Australian newspapers. What they call freedom is
La fact licence; and licence, according to dictionaries means “ unrestrained liberty of action, abuse of privilege, or disregard of propriety”. Those definitions may aptly be applied to the Australian press. I have quoted before in this chamber a statement by Lord Baldwin, who, although he was a member of the Conservative party, apparently earned the disapproval of the newspapers. He described newspapers as harlots of the world”. I once invited Mr. Alfred Roberts, a former member of this Parliament and of the South Australian Parliament, to speak at an important meeting that had been called to discuss the protection of the Australian agricultural machinery industry against the severe competition of the Massey-Harris International Harvester Company interests. Mr. Roberts said, “ The newspapers will not report what I say”. He was quite right. They reported the remarks of other speakers, and merely added “Mr. Roberts also spoke “. Such treatment is most inequitable. I have heard Mr. R. ,S. Richards, Leader of the Opposition in the House of Assembly in South Australia, and leader of the Australian Labour party in that State, say frequently that when he writes a letter to the press he can hardly recognize it in its published form. But for the influence of the press upon the public mind in this country, I do not think that the anti-Labour forces would ever win a seat in the Commonwealth or State Parliaments.
One frequently hears the complaint that high taxes are robbing business’ people of incentive to work. I believe that to be an entirely wrong assumption. High taxes are the best incentive that business people have ever had. While taxes were low, business men could make substantial profits without making any real effort. However, when tax rates were increased they had to work hard to maintain their profit margins, and they managed to do so. Details of company affairs published in the daily press prove that statement. I say therefore, that high taxes are the greatest incentive to increased trade.
Senator GRANT (New South Wales)
British parliaments have had opportunities on occasions such as this to discuss any matter that they believed to be of importance. During the last two or three years, the Opposition parties in this Parliament have had many such opportunities, hut I regret to say that they have wasted most of their time talking about things of little consequence. Nobody in this Parliament or in any other legislature can object very much to a full-scale debate on communism occasionally; but I am sure that if the House of Representatives was considering a measure relating to penguins . at the south pole, before the discussion had been under way for five minutes it would have reached Moscow. The Liberal party, United Australia party, or Nationalist party - whatever it calls itself - is without a policy. It believes in the principle of laisser-faire. In domestic matters or in international affairs, it i» entirely hopeless.
– It is ignorant.
– I am not sure that members of the Opposition parties are entirely ignorant. If the press of this country desired to educate the people, it would have to educate the workers, and as soon as that had been done, to use a vernacular expression, the Opposition .parties would have “ reached the end of the section Not only are members of the Opposition parties ill-informed on international affairs, but also they are exceedingly dangerous. Our distinguished Prim* Minister (Mr. Chifley) may not have thebest diction in the world; his grammar may not be perfect; but his matter is magnificent. He is thoughtful and wise. Many people in the community believe that if a speaker does not split his infinitives, and does not say “ between you and I” instead of “between you and me”, he must be a very intelligent person, but I am really amazed at some of the statements that the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) has made. I intend later in my speech to deal with the black-outs which are worrying the people of New South Wales particularly at the moment, and I hope to be able to show that the black-outs are due entirely to the Liberal party in that State. In the meantime, however, I shall deal with one statement that was made by Mr. Menzies. We all know that Great Britain to-day is having a hard struggle to keep together as many as possible of the old elements of the Empire and one would imagine that an anti-Labour man would be interested in British capitalism at least. Recently the Prime Minister attended an Empire conference in London. That conference, by a masterstroke of statesmanship, managed to persuade Pandit Nehru to keep India within the Empire. But low and behold, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives stated that the decision was ridiculous, that the plan could not succeed, and that we should all be better off if it had not been adopted ! Anybody who has even a passing acquaintance with what is happening in Asia, knows that India has the choice between domination by or co-operation with Russia, and domination by or cooperation with Great Britain. The Communists, of course, have no time for Pandit Nehru. Personally I have the greatest regard for him, although I do not pretend always to agree with what he says or does.’ He is an aristocrat in the real sense of the term. He spent twelve years in gaol because of his beliefs. His wife and his father, an eminent lawyer, also served gaol sentences.
– We lawyers are always martyrs to our principles.
– The trouble is that the honorable senator has no principles. Incidentally, I may have something to 3ay later about a certain lawyer who uses the privilege that lawyers enjoy in this country to ruin people’s characters, although he has no evidence to support his charges. But enough of that for the moment. Pandit Nehru came of a great family. He was educated at the best schools in England. He has a western outlook, and although he has fought against British imperialism, he believes in the retention of India’s economic, financial and industrial links with the United Kingdom. He has fought the Communists in India. We hear now that Mr. Bose has been elected by a “majority of 14,000 as the Communist representative of a Calcutta constituency. Mr. Menzies speaks frequently about the need to fight communism, yet indirectly he has made an alliance with the Communist party of India against Pandit Nehru. A man who claims to fight communism in season and out of season should know something about international affairs. I do not know whether Mr. Menzies is foolish enough to go on with his proposed censure of the Chifley Government for having agreed to India retaining its association with the Empire, but it is extraordinary to me how members of the Liberal party can be so ill-informed. A similar situation was created over Indonesia, where the Indonesian nationalists are fighting the Communists. The Communists claim that the native bourgeoisie have united with the Dutch imperialists to sell out the people of Indonesia, but Mr. Menzies declared a couple of months ago that when the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) took his stand on Indonesia, he was acting in the interests of the Communists. It ia stupid of people to assume that because a person is a member of the Liberal party he is automatically an intelligent person. Pandit Nehru apparently knows the Liberals of India. I. have before me a quotation from Nehru’s autobiography which is entitled Toward Freedom. At page 261, Mr. Nehru states -
The Indian Liberals are not liberal at all in any sense of the word, or at most they are liberal only in spots and patches. What they exactly are it is difficult to say, for they have no firm positive basis of ideas and, though small in numbers, differ from one another. They are strong only in negation. They see error everywhere and attempt to avoid it, and hope that in doing so they will find the truth. Truth for them, indeed, always lies between two extremes. By criticizing everything they consider extreme, they experience the feeling of being virtuous and moderate and good. Thi? method helps them in avoiding painful and difficult processes of thought and in having to put forward constructive ideas . . . The old world is passing, and all the sweet reasonableness of which the Liberals are capable does not make any difference; they might as well argue with the hurricane of the flood or the earthquake.
That is what our friend’ Mr. Nehru said about the Indian Liberals, and I do not know of a more appropriate description of our Australian Liberals. They have no point of view, they take a course between two extremes hoping that they will find the truth, and then take up a position where they will not be obliged to do anything. That is what they have done. In the local arena they nay that they are in favour of taking the control of union ballots out of the hands of trade unions. They say that they want to ensure that such ballots shall be conducted properly. I shall say something about a couple of ballots with which the United Australia party, the Nationalists or the Liberals were concerned. I do not seem to be able to get used to the word “ Liberal “ in this connexion.
– That is the honorable senator’s Scottish instinct.
– I have a Scottish intelligence, too, backed by an Australian environment.
– Our opponents have used up all the other names.
– Yes; should they change their name again they will have to enlarge the alphabet in order to get sufficient initials. I shall deal with two ballots which were conducted by the Liberals. In New South Wales, they selected three candidates to stand at the next election for the Senate, and they did so just at the very time when all Liberals were saying that ballots in the trade unions should be conducted properly. Those three candidates were picked by eleven persons, seven of whom represented the State council and the remaining four the Federal council of the Liberal party. In the selection of the seven to whom I have referred, the secretary sent out not ballot-papers but papers that were not even initialled. On these the recipients were asked to vote. On the Friday night prior to the selection being made the party appointed a returning officer. No returning officer was appointed until the ballot-papers had been returned. Then the seven representatives of the State council and the four representatives of the Federal council, who were to make the selection, were chosen. En that election there were 38 candidates, each of whom had to deposit £5 as a guarantee of his bona fides. The ballot to select the candidates for the Senate was to be conducted on the preferential voting system, but there were only eleven persons in attendance, including the three candidates who were eventually selected: but instead of having one ballot in accordance with the preferential principle, those present decided by a show of hands, by a majority of six votes to five votes, to select the candidates in three ballots. In the first ballot the man selected received six of the eleven votes. Subsequently, a second and a third ballot were conducted and each of the other two men selected received six of the eleven votes. Under that system any three of the eleven who voted could easily organize a bloc of six votes in their favour. The successful candidates were Mr. Spooner, whose brother is president of the Liberal party, Mr. MacCallum and Mr. Tait. That is what the Liberal party called a preferential ballot. If that example does not convince honorable senators, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) and other honorable senators from New South Wales will recall that a few years ago the Liberals thought out a scheme to get complete control of the State of New South Wales. At that time the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang) was the Premier of that State. After the Liberals gained a majority in the Lower House they said that they would see to it that Lang would never get in again. In view of what the nationalists have done to him, it is a tragedy that that honorablemember should be known to-day as the de facto leader of the Opposition parties in the House of Representatives. The Liberals at that time said that they would gain control of the Upper House in New South Wales, but what did these people who profess to believe in properly conducted ballots do? They said, “Now that we have a tremendous majority of Liberals in the Lower House we will elect a new Upper House consisting of 60 members; but we shall not do so all at once. We shall have four separate ballots.” The preferential ballot is all right provided all candidates start off. on an equal basis. But the Liberals, having a tremendous majority in the Lower House, said, “ We will elect the 60 new members of the Upper House in four different ballots in lots of fifteen each. We will get at least a two-thirds majority among each fifteen.” In fact they succeeded in each instance in electing more than two-thirds of that number. After the first fifteen were- elected for a term of twelve years, the same politicians who now say that the wharf labourers and the coal miners cannot conduct ballots properly met again and elected the second fifteen, and those men were elected for a term of nine years. Then they held the third ballot to elect another fifteen for six years, and a fourth ballot to elect another fifteen for a .term of three years. In each ballot a least two-thirds of the successful candidates were Liberals. The fraud which the Liberal party perpetrated at that time became apparent when the Labour party gained a majority in the Lower House. The only ballot in respect of the Upper House that could be held was for the election of fifteen men for a term of three years. Even if all of the fifteen elected on that occasion were supporters of the Labour party that party could not (rain control of the Upper House in view of the terms for which the other 45 members had been elected.
has this to do with the cost of living?
– I know the honorable senator does not like to hear my story; but it is most appropriate at a time when the Liberal party has so- much to say about fair ballots. That is the way in which the Liberals gained their big majority in the Upper House in New South Wales and they said that they would thus retain control of any government in the lower House for all time. Those are the people who say that they believe in democracy. Since that time there have been three tremendous swings to the Labour party in New South Wales, but only recently, fifteen years later, ha« the Labour party succeeded in getting its nose in front. The facts I have given reveal the hypocrisy of the Liberal party when it says that it is in favour of controlling ballots in the trade unions in order to ensure that everything shall be fair and above board.
I now wish to refer to the black-outs that are taking place in New South Wales. Those black-outs are a disgrace to any community, and no honorable senator on this side of the chamber makes any excuse whatever for them. Unfortunately, however, the press does not tell the people all of the facts about the black-outs, although according to Mr. John Fairfax the press is always fair and reasonable. Since 1 last spoke in this chamber on international affairs, life generally has become worse, but the greatest contribution that the press has been able to make toward? a consideration of world events during the last few months has been a fulsome coverage of the marriage of Rita Hay worth to Prince Ali Khan, raising such queries as whether Rita will be a goddess, whether the Prince will throw out her bath water, and whether the new Prince will learn the alphabet on a golden typewriter. The press also reported it: similar strain the fact that Miss Hirst, the daughter of the great American press magnate, gave a luncheon at the King George V. Hotel in Paris to 20 people at a cost of £650 sterling. They are the only contributions which the press ha? made in recent months towards the consideration of world affairs. In Australia, the press refuses to tell the people all of the fact about the black-outs. It has not commented on the disgraceful event that happened in the New South Wale, Parliament a few days ago. Just imagine people like Mr. Treatt running this country! When Mr. Martin, the AttorneyGeneral in the New South Wales Government, was introducing a bill dealing with landlord and tenant rights he was so frequently interrupted that he said, “ Mr. Speaker, this is a most important bill. I do not mind answering any questions when I have finished my speech, but I would like to be heard in silence “. Because Mr. Martin made that statement, Mr. Treatt walked out of the Legislative Assembly and took his supporters with him. But the press did not make any comment on that insult which Mr. Treatt offered to democracy. The press is adopting a similar attitude in respect of the black-outs. It has remained silent about the facts to such a degree that most people believe that the Labour party is responsible for the black-outs. I shall give the facts. Having got control of the Upper House in New .South Wales, the Liberal party proceeded to ensure that the Labour party would never control the Sydney City Council. In order to do this the Liberals deprived many people of the franchise. They denied the right to vote to half of the lodgers whose name* previously appeared on the council’s rolls, and also denied that right to many persons who had fought in defence of this country. Due mainly to the initiative of Alderman Stokes, the Labour party was responsible for building the power station’ at Bunnerong in 1925. It was a mighty job, and space was provided for the installation of machinery in years to come. By rigging the franchise in respect of elections for the Sydney City Council, the Liberals got control of that body and so got control of the power station at Bunnerong. I am acquainted with the facts, because at that time I was a member of the Electric Light Committee of the council. That body did a great job and Sydney did not experience then anything like the black-outs it has experienced in recent years. I realize that as the result of the policy of Labour governments, a tremendous impetus has been given to industrial expansion and that consequently there is a greater demand for current now than existed in the days to which I refer. Nevertheless, again and again I, as well as my Labour colleagues on the Sydney City Council, which was controlled at that time by the Liberals, urged that the council should purchase machinery abroad for the station at Bunnerong. No attempt was made to obtain that machinery. Then the Nationalist Government in New South established what is known as the Sydney County Council by employing much the same methods as they employed in reconstituting the Legislative Council some years earlier. They said, “ We will take control of the electricity supply from the city council because the Labour “party might get a majority again in that body “. As soon as the Nationalist State Government attempted to put that scheme into operation, the American bondholders objected. They said that they would not be satisfied with the security of the Sydney County Council because they did not know what form that body would take or what its prestige would be. And Senator Cooper’s Government in New South “Wales-
– Not my government.
– Is the honorable senator denying the facts? Apparently he is not right in the head. He does not know whether the Liberals are his supporters or not. I will admit that he is in no worse a predicament than are the Liberals to-day in Victoria. The Liberal Government in New South Wales at that time said to the American bondholders, “ You will still have the security of the ratepayers of Sydney. They will guarantee that your interest shall be paid, but their representatives shall have no say in the matter “.
– That is like the Government they have in Russia.
– The honorable senator will not put me off the track. He reminds me of the following lines from Bobby Burns: -
Here’s freedom to him that wad read,
Here’s freedom to him that wad write!
There’s nane ever fear’d that the truth should be heard,
But they wham the truth wad indite.
If honorable senators opposite doubt my statements, they should ask members of the Liberal party in the House of Representatives to tell them the fact. The Liberals decided that the aldermen of the City of Sydney should elect two of their number to the county council and that Sydney should be divided into a north side and a south side, which would have one representative and two representatives respectively on the new council. That provided for a membership of five. The Liberals, having control of the Sydney City Council, chose two of their own members for appointment. Also having control of the county divisions, they secured the election of three more. Thus a county council of five Liberals was established. That body immediately appointed a chairman with a salary of £500 a year for doing what we in the City Council did for nothing. Ever since those days the Nationalists, or Liberals, have commanded a majority in the county council. They have had Mr. McElhone, Mr. Parry, and now Mr. Cramer as chairmen of the council. The Labour party has always been in the minority. This institution that they call a council reminds me of what Voltaire said about the Holy Roman Empire, that it was not holy or Roman, or an empire. The Sydney County Council is not a council, it does not represent Sydney, and it has nothing to do with a county. Incompetents have been elected to it. Mr. Cramer, known as “ Calamity Cramer “, knows nothing about electricity. None of the men who control Sydney’s electric supply system know anything about . electricity. I pointed out what would happen when the bill that transferred control of electric supply services to the county council was introduced in the Legislative Council. The bill was sponsored in the State Parliament by Mr. Spooner, who was then Minister for Local Government. He sent a note to Mr. Forbes Mackay, who was manager of the Sydney City Council’s electricity department, saying that his services were required by the Government for consultation in connexion with the supply of electricity. I knew that Mr. Mackay was a tory, but I suppose that I was suffering from national pride because I said, “ He is an old Scotsman. 1 do not think that he will do anything mli rosa.” But he was appointed manager of the new institution and given absolute power over all of its officials, even to the extent of determining their salaries. That institution that was appointed by an anti-Labour government is responsible for the disgraceful state of affairs in Sydney to-day. The shortage of coal has nothing to do with electricity black-outs in Sydney. Even if George-street were stacked high with coal, the power generating machinery could not cope with the demand for electricity. The Labour party could not take action to rectify the situation until recently because the McGirr Government lacked a majority in the upper house of the Parliament. Now the whole problem has been handed over to poor, unfortunate Mr. Conde. The equipment at Bunnerong is obsolete, and he is doing the best he can in adverse circumstances, lt is only right that I should point out that the present inconveniences suffered by the people of Sydney have been caused by the Liberals, who have always believed in a policy of laisser-faire. They could not see more than five minutes into the future. Consequently, a city of 1,500,000 people has become the laughingstock of- the world because of the state of its electricity services. The entire blame for that disgraceful situation can be laid at the door of Mr. Spooner, whose brother appears likely to be elected to the
Senate because he has been selected as No. 1 Liberal candidate for New South Wales at the next election.
The international situation has become steadily worse since we last discussed foreign affairs in this chamber. I am one of those who returned from abroad and said that, despite the tremendous efforts of the British people, they had no chance whatever of overcoming their economic and financial difficulties while they adhered to their present policy. I declared that the gulf of £400,000,000 sterling that they had to bridge was toe great an obstacle for them to overcome. Other people thought otherwise. To-day we can see that British policy in western Germany is creating a situation that i* full of contradictions. Although the British are trying to rebuild the German economy, at the same time they are terrified lest German goods push British products still further out of the market* of the world. There has been a great deal of talk about devaluing sterling so that British goods may compete with American goods. Should that be done, the United States of America, which hat at least 4,000,000 unemployed, will be forced to erect tariff barriers against British goods. So the cut-throat struggle goes on ! For the past ten years I have been trying in my humble way to warn people of the trend of events in the East Australia, whether we like it or not. is an Asiatic nation geographically. I visited China and Japan ten years ago and, upon my return, I pointed out id the Legislative Council of New South Wales that, although the Chiang Kai-shek regime was probably necessary while China was at war with Japan, it was not based upon the great mass of the people of China. Since I have been a member of the Senate, 1 have declared repeatedly that the nepotism of the Soongs, the Kungs and the other millionaires associated with the Nationalist Government has been becoming worse and worse from a liberal point of view, using the term in its real sense. I have also said that the United States of America backed the wrong horse and that communism, if it be communism that exists in China, cannot be checked with guns. But the United States of America went ahead with its plans in spite of the fact that General Marshall himself asserted that they were futile. Even “ Vinegar Joe” gave a warning, hut the United States Government ignored it. Instead of assisting Chiang Kai-shek as it hoped to do, it assisted his opponents. American arms are being used throughout China now, not by the followers of Chiang Kai-shek, because he has none, but by the followers of those who are fighting his regime. Those people fought the Japanese and they will not again submit themselves to the imperialist rule that existed in China previously. I repeat that if the British Empire, the Dutch Empire, or any other empire, thinks that it can put back the clock and resume its domination of Asiatic countries where it left off, the sooner H is disillusioned the better. I see no sign of the imperialists becoming educated. For instance, I notice that the Gordon Highlanders or some other regiment are being sent to Hong Kong. Anybody who thinks that Hong Cong can be saved by militarism alone is very foolish. If we want to save Hong Kong we must learn from the mistakes of the Dutch. If the Dutch had not deported hundreds of the best types of Indonesians years ago, they would have Deen able to avoid the difficulties that they are in to-day. The first thing that should be done in Hong Kong is to give the Chinese people some share in the government of the island. The Communists are succeeding not so much because of the dynamic force of communism as because of the disintegration of imperialism. Hong Kong is only a small island separated from the Chinese mainland by a stretch of water about a quarter nf a mile wide. At least 98 per cent, nf its residents are Chinese. Those people cannot be kept down with guns. Such a proposition is absurd. But, seemingly, the British are like the Bourbons; they learn nothing and they forget nothing. I do not think that Malcolm Macdonald is an appropriate representative for Great Britain at Hong Kong. Any person who ha9 changed ais allegiance from one political party to another is not likely to impress the pro- gressive elements in a foreign country, r. Macdonald has suggested a British alliance with Sarawak or some other place that does not count. I suggest that, when the Australian Prime Minister is discussing the formation of an eastern pact, the first thing he ought to do is to show that Australia can offer the Asiatics something at least as good as the Communists are promising to give to them. In China, the great cry is, “ The land for the people “. Throughout Asia, the cry is “ Asia for the Asians “. I have not the slightest doubt about what is happening in Japan to-day. Between 1925 and 1935, shipments of cotton goods from Japan to India increased from 7 per cent, to 31 per cent, of the country’s total exports. The British cotton goods trade with India fell from 30 per cent, to only 4 per cent, over the same period. Similarly, the British trade with the Dutch East Indie? decreased from 30 per cent, to 4 per cent, in that period, while the Japanese trade rose from 14 per cent, to 77 per cent We fought two wars for democracy, and eventually the Japanese were beaten in World War II. with the help of the atomic bomb. We were told that that weapon saved thousands of lives. Whether it should have been used or not is a question that philosophers will probably diecuss for centuries to come. When we defeated Japan, we said, “ Never again will these savages attack us. We shall ensure that Australia at least will be kept free from any threat of attack by the Japanese I do not know whether the Liberals think now that Japan will attack Russia. We read in the newspapers today the comments of one eminent gentleman, which were contradicted by those of another eminent gentleman. Despite such conflicting views, I have formed my own conclusions from evidence that I have secured after making a prolonged study of conditions in the East. We were told that we were to have democracy in Japan and that militarism in that nation would be abolished. In order to dispose of militarism, the first thing to do is ,to get rid of the militarists. We were also told that trade unionism would be resuscitated and that the Emperor would be shorn of his power. I am. sure that the Emperor is just as strong to-day as he ever was. Anybody who nas read the statement that he made when Japan surrendered must be aware that he did not refer to the act as a surrender. First, he said, “ If the war continued, it would not necessarily be to the benefit of Japan “. There was nothing about surrender or defeat in that ! Then he said, “ Having maintained the structure of our state, the Emperor has decided to effect a settlement “. If he had had nothing to do with the waging of war, he could not have made the Japanese lay down their arms. I am not prepared to dispute the wisdom of our treatment of the Japanese Emperor. But 1 do dispute the assertion that democracy exists in Japan now. It was suggested that the people in Japan who were responsible for the war should be weeded out. But a severe censorship has been instituted and we are not told what is happening. We talk about the “ iron curtain “ of Russia ; I should like to penetrate the “ MacArthur curtain “ in Japan. We are told that everything is proceeding satisfactorily, but, as far as the United States authorities are concerned, other powers do not exist. Australia, which represents the British Empire, and Russia are virtually ignored. General MacArthur dictates the policy from one end of the country to the other. It is interesting to consider what is happening in Japan to-day. The occupation force made a good start, on paper, and th«” Mr. Pauley arrived from the united States of America and told them not to dismantle more machinery than was necessary. When Mr. Strike arrived from the United States of America he went a stage further. Then Dean Atcheson said, “ The Japanese must be built up “ . To-day the Japanese are not treated as a conquered people but more as allies, so that they may be used for the purpose of attacking Russia. Nobody could accuse me of being a Stalinite. The same groups are still in control of various organizations in Japan. The gentleman who secured the most votes was the secretary of the Tanaka group. The Tanaka memorial laid down that the Japanese should first conquer Asia and then the remainder of the world. To-day the Japanese claim that the Emperor’s outlook is still basically what it was before the war. They pretended to destroy the Zaibatsu, which is a concentration of finance in Japan. At that time the American authorises said, in effect, “ We do not understand the
Japanese language; you dissolve yourselves”. Now that is abandoned altogether and it strikes from one end of Japan to the other. We are told that it. is due to the Communists. Of course, they get a terrific boost from the Liberals. What is taking place in Japan will have the same effect as American policy in China, as surely as night follows day. I do not want to be an alarmist, but “ where do we get off ? “ The population of Japan is increasing by about 1,750,000 a year. Birth control is taboo. Whilst some people advocate it, others refuse, to comply. About one-fifth of the country is of volcanic structure and will not grow anything. The population is enormous. The Japanese cannot go to China. If they could not conquer China before, they have no chance of doing so now. The Chuangtung army, the most barbarous army that the world has known, was fought to a standstill by the Chinese before the Russians came. A contributing factor was that about 1,000,000 Japanese in China had prevented them from coming down. If they were to go to India they would find that the Communist party is very strong there, the slogan being “Asia for the Asiatics”. Where can they go? It may be that they are looking towards Australia, a country of about 3,000,000 square miles and a population of only 8,000,000 people, and saying, “ We will try once more to go there “. Now is the time for us to consider this potential menace; it is of no use our being sorry afterwards. What is Australia’s position with relation to the policy adopted in Japan? The great story of history is the story of the struggle for food. Every great exodus recorded in history resulted from the struggle for food, not only among mankind, but also among the lower animals. Even the most timid of animals have existed by mutual aid. They were forced by climatic conditions to go where they could get food. I have a great admiration for all that General MacArthur ha* done. If it were not for the Americans, Australia would have been overrun; but history tells us that if it is desired to make a botch of a peace, a general should be put in charge. A general may be a great soldier; but as soon as the war if finished, because of his very training, he is unfitted for the task that follows. If Japan is to be democratized it cannot be done by the United States of America. General MacArthur must, by his very nature, give orders; the military cannot debate. I concede that that must be so in war-time, t am very fearful of what may happen in this country of ours, and [ shall make some further remarks in this connexion in the next debate on foreign affairs. Does any one in this country who is listening to the broadcast of these proceedings to-night imagine that if the Liberal party were to win the next general election all economic problems in this country would thereby be solved? One of the chief causes of discontent is that despite the assertions of the Opposition to the contrary, since the defeat of the rents and prices referendum prices have continued to rise. Generally speaking, wages have not kept pace with the rise of prices. Therefore the real wage - that is the purchasing power of the money that we receive - has decreased. No worker wants to go on strike merely for the sake of striking. Although at times the workers succumb to certain influences and express themselves in a way not in conformity with their economic interests, they do not want to see their wives and children hungry any more than the rich men would wish that such a calamity should overtake them. The workers remember that when the war was on they were told that everything would be all right, after the war had been won. The attitude in those days was “ Even if we lose everything else, we still have the country “. Last Sunday I perused one of the Sunday newspapers. After reading reports of the activities of the miners and wharf labourers I noticed that four pages were devoted to women’s fashions. The social column contained the names of those that had dined at Princes and Romanos the previous night. I am convinced that many of those mentioned did not contribute even a proportion of their wealth to the war effort. The frocking of many of the women was costly. Apparently some had worn garments made from leopard skins and having ermine sleeves. In some instances it was stated that the fingers of the women - mentioned by name - were “ smothered in diamonds “. This state of affairs still exists in our community. Honorable senators will doubtless remember the utterances of many wealthy men during the war. Their plea was, “ If you can only save the country you can have the lot “. During that period many women worked in aircraft production and other war-time factories because that was regarded as the correct thing to do. But how many of them gave a thought to the charwoman who had worked all of her life? Before the war they looked askance at her. During war-time it was regarded as bad form, and a sign of the bourgeoisie to be well dressed ; that that would not contribute to the defeat of the Japanese and Germans. In view -of the conditions and contradictions of the capitalistic system that existed when this Government was elected to office, I consider that a remarkable job has been accomplished. I realize, of course, that if the price of agricultural produce falls, social security will probably go by the board. On one occasion Senator O’Sullivan said that whilst prosperous conditions obtained the lot should go to the graziers.
– I said nothing of the sort.
– My rejoinder on that occasion was that it was better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I contend that while the going is good the working people should enjoy a fair measure of that prosperity. Although the Opposition has claimed that individual effort free of restrictions is required, I recollect a member of the House of Representatives saying on one occasion, “ Look what they are doing in America; it is an open go; we will never be able to keep pace with the machine development in that country “. I have been present in the Legislative Council of the New South Wales Parliament and also in this chamber when reference has been made to similar statements that were made by President-
– President Hoover, who was then the head of the United States . Government.
– That is so.
– Ask me if you want to know anything !
– That is about the only thing that the honorable senator does know, and he would not know that unless he had heard me mention the fact at some time. After World War I. President Hoover said, in substance, what President Truman is saying now. Wipe out the years, and we find the same arguments presented, except that they now bear different tags. After World War L. the catch cry was : “ Two chickens in every pot “. That was typical of American extravagance and of the people of that marvellous country. One of their favorite boasts was that there were so many miles of telephone wire in a certain building in one of their cities. Of course, they omitted to mention the natural corollary that there were probably more lunatics in that building than in any other building on earth. In that great country, where every one is pushing and rushing, each one of the 140,000,000 population hopes one day to become President of the United States of America. Six months ago I pointed out that President Truman was merely repeating the sentiments of President Hoover when he said, “How dare the world question eco.nomic stability? There will never be another depression “. It is not possible to overtake the economic loss caused by high
J rices and inadequate production. Toay the nations of the world are producing as much food as they did before the war. We are exceedingly fortunate to have an international agreement to regulate the supply, and hence, the price of wheat, and the so-called representatives of the primary producers in the Parliament, the members of the Australian Country party, can thank the present Labour Government for Australia’s share in bringing about that agreement. Indeed, the prospects for the world’s production and consumption of wheat are such that primary producers may be very hard pressed to meet their obligations in a few years’ time. President Hoover boasted that his administration was going to provide “ Two chickens in every pot “, but concluded his term by having the record of 13,000,000 unemployed in that country, and the United States of America now appears likely to suffer a recurrence of that disastrous situation. Fortunately, the Australian Labour party, under the very able leadership of the present Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) - and I am not a hero worshipper - has taken advantage of the good times that we are enjoying at present to put by-something for the future. It has ensured that should another depression occur as much as £1,000,000,000 will be available for the employment of pur people on reproductive works. We have in the United Kingdom credits of from £300,000,000 to £400,000,000, so that, if necessary, we shall be able to import machinery from Great Britain to implement that great works programme. Nobody but a fool believes that any human agency can prevent the occurrence of a depression but it is possible, by the exercise of prudence and foresight, to cushion the effects of a depression. If our friends opposite, instead of telling us constantly that they will undo the work accomplished by Labour, adopted a co-operative and constructive attitude we might get somewhere.
I remember when the anti-Labour parties in New South Wales declared thai they would put an end to all strikes and show the workers who struck what would happen to them. Unfortunately, Senator Large, who played an important part in the events which happened in New South Wales in 1917, is not present in the chamber at the moment. However, I recall that the present Prime Minister played his part in the great railway strike that ultimately developed. Incidentally, I interrupt my remarks to compliment the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) on the excellent work he has done in the last few years by pouring oil on the disturbed waters of industrial relationships. Frankly, he has done something that I could not do. and he deserves the praise of the Labour party and of the people as a whole for hi* efforts in keeping the wheels of industry revolving. To return to the attitude of the anti-Labour parties, I recall for their benefit that the anti-Labour party that was in office ‘when the railway strike occurred in New South Wales in 1917. and which had boasted before the preceding elections of what it was going to do to the agitators, plunged that State almost into civil war. Its actions precipitated the strike which ruined thousands of people, including not only workers and poor people, but also many successful business men and a number of rich people. The effects of that strike were felt in New South Wales for 30 years afterwards, particularly amongst the employees of the New South Wales railways commissioners, and the employees fought one another and called each other “ scabs “ and “ blacklegs “. When the Australian Labour party was returned to power in the Parliament of New South Wales, it reinstated the railway workers who had been punished for having gone on strike in 1917. When the anti-Labour parties later regained office they, in turn, reimposed the punishment originally inflicted upon the railway employees who had gone on strike. The bitterness that was aroused amongst railway servants during the original dispute became even more intense as the years passed. Does any honorable senator, or indeed, any sensible member of the community, imagine that if members >f the Australian Labour party, who have , been associated with trade unionists for so many years, cannot straighten out .the industrial difficulties that beset us the Liberals an succeed? Imagine what would happen if Senator O’Sullivan, or the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) were to confront an angry crowd of striking workers ? The workers would cry out, “ Here the come! Here are the money bags! Here are the representatives of the Bank of Sew South Wales and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Is any one going to listen to them ? “ But, apparently, some members of the Opposition *re sufficiently foolish to imagine that the workers will listen to them.
The economic slump that is being experienced overseas has not yet affected Australia, and, at the moment, we have virtually no unemployment. However, we have no guarantee that we shall not be affected by adverse conditions overseas. I should like members of the Opposition to tell the Senate what they propose to do to prevent unemployment. At present labour is in greater demand than jobs, and when the labourers are few and the demand is great, what happens! The inevitable result is the creation of a state of affairs such as that which we are now experiencing in this country. If honorable senators will take the trouble to read Thorold Roger’s book Six Centuries of Work and Wages, which I earnestly commend to them, they will learn that after the “black plague” had greatly reduced the population of Europe, manpower was so scarce that the workers found that it was necessary for them to work for only 13 weeks in the year and that they could have a holiday during the other 39 weeks. The reactionaries of that age decided to put an end to that situation. They resolved to place brands on the foreheads of any workers who demanded or received more than the fixed wage. Then, when that proved ineffective, they put offenders to death. My point is that the attitude adopted by the reactionaries of that time has its counterpart in the attitude of “ big business “ to-day. Imagine the presumption of the Opposition parties - which did such a great job during the war - aspiring to govern Australia in time of peace! Actually, it is proving far more difficult to govern the nation in peace than it did in war, because during the war politics was temporarily translated from the industrial to the military field - a fact which, of course, served to intensify the struggle.
I point out that the privilege which I have enjoyed this evening of addressing the Senate is a part of our common British heritage. On every occasion that I have referred to Great Britain and the British people I have tried to make that plain. Of course, there are two kinds of Britishers, just as there are two kinds of Australians. Some of my women friends say to me : “ Well, of course, Donald, you have to take the women’s point of view into account “; to which T reply: “ Which women ; the women in Woolloomooloo, the women at Potts Point, or do you refer to the female members of the Communist party? To the point of view of what group of women are yon referring?” Amongst the British people r we find reactionary imperialists, who are bitterly intolerant of all social progress; but we also find those who are responsible for my possessing the right to speak in the National Parliament this evening. That right which is a part of the British tradition of private members of the Parliament being free to speak on an appropriation measure has come down to us through the centuries. That right includes the freedom to say to a government :
We must have our grievances redressed before we shall vote supply”. One hears a lot of talk nowadays concerning trade unionism. How were the original trade unions formed? They were certainly not evolved in Russia, and we do not need to follow the example of the modern Russians. Let the Russians keep what they have for themselves. We are quite capable of solving our social problems. Trade unionism developed, not in Russia, but in Great Britain. As the result of the passage of the anti-combination laws in Great Britain men held secret meetings in fields in the dead of night to form trade unions. They were hounded and persecuted, and many of them were transported to Botany Bay and to other places. But what happened? After twelve years, the anti-combination laws were repealed. That is why to-night a man elected by the people presides over the deliberations of this chamber, and why I and every other member of the chamber have the right to criticize the Government. That is why the Opposition is not only permitted, but encouraged, to criticize the Government. I believe in a strong Opposition. After the next election there will probably be a few more members on the Opposition side of the chamber, but that will be a good thing. It certainly will not do a Labour administration any harm. Where there is no Opposition there can be no real liberty. How did the system of parliamentary opposition evolve? It, too, is part of the British tradition. It was evolved by those who fought for liberty-
– The honorable senator must be referring to our predecessors.
– Yes, but the trouble is that honorable senators opposite stopped thinking when their predecessors died. The present Government has done everything that it should have done, although, unfortunately, it is greatly hamstrung by the Commonwealth Constitution. E do not advocate that the Australian Labour party should introduce legislation that is in advance of the ideas of the average member of the community, but it has a duty to educate the people, and it can best discharge that duty by example and not by mere talk. The labouring people of this country - and in using the term “ labouring “, I do not restrict its meaning to those who work only with their hands, but include als<> those who work with their brains - ow«a deep debt of gratitude to Labour, and if they do not realize that debt, there must be something wrong with them. Although this country is better off to-day than is any other in the world, suggestions are constantly being made that we should pattern ourselves on the methods adopted in this or that country, and that we should borrow ideas from a variety of nations. I said a while ago that there are two kinds of Australians. There is the kind that continually asks: “How much will it cost?” That is the attitude which they adopt towards any proposal to extend the facilities for enlightening the people of this country. What does the cost of enlightenment matter, as long as thai knowledge is used for the benefit of the country? As Australians, we must admit that the outlook of many of our people is deplorably narrow. The Australian Labour party, which also suffers somewhat from that narrow outlook, is the product of an extraordinary tradition. However, that is another matter, and I shall not deal with it to-night. But leaving the subject, I emphasize that it is the belief of the ordinary people of Australia in the Labour party that keeps that party in office. As the Prime Minister said recently, when referring to industrial disputes: “These difficulties have to be solved, because Labour has more to lose than have even the people “.
I thank the Senate for the indulgent hearing that it has given me this evening, and in conclusion I urge members of the Opposition to abandon the negative attitude which has always characterized their approach to progressive social legislation. I appeal to them to refrain from promoting disharmony in the community by the use of such, tactics as those which they have recently adopted, when they advocated the Introduction of compulsory secret ballots amongst trade unionists. In any event, the imposition of legislation for the taking of compulsory secret ballots will not, of course, prevent Communists and disruptionists from infiltrating the unions. The only means by which we can eliminate the Communists from the control of trade unions is by beating them at their own game. Members of the Opposition should no longer delude themselves that it is not more difficult to defeat the Communists than it is for honorable senators to win seats in the Parliament. Much more is required than a little shouting and earnest protestations of goodwill towards the community. After all, we have nothing to fear from the Communists. I, for one, am not afraid of them. If we do our job as legislators, and as loyal supporters of the constitutionally elected government, then the Communists cannot succeed. The Communists have succeeded in the past because trade unionists, the majority of whom were also Labour supporters, did not attend their union meetings, and many of those who took the trouble to do so, knew nothing about the matters that were to be discussed or about Communist policy and tactics. Those unions that were administered by reactionary office holders were easy prey for the Communists, because it was easy for the Communists to take advantage of the ineptitude of those office holders to promote discord. In unions where that occurred the last state of their members was worse than the first. There is nothing better than democracy, and democracy will survive all vicissitudes because the history of the world teaches that nothing can kill it. I again appeal to honorable senators opposite and to the political parties that they represent to abandon the negative policy which they have pursued for so long and to co-operate with Labour in attempting to achieve something positive for this country. Let them cease moving motions for the adjournment of the House of Representatives to discuss matters of comparatively trivial importance, the significance of which is in many instances entirely partypolitical. Let them cease asking questions of interminable length, such as those which are frequently asked by the Deputy’ Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Harrison), and relate only to petty considerations and have no relation to fact. In short,let them change their negative policy to one of progress. Finally, 1 say that if the people of Australia as a whole are not satisfied with the administration of the present Labour Government they are as ungrateful as the coal-miners whom the Prime Minister recently had occasion to criticize. Ministers and supporters of the Government were elected to do a job, for the people, and they have done itv
– Whatever criticism may be made of the address that has just been delivered: by Senator Grant, it ‘cannot be said that it was lacking in variety. Whether that, variety was supported by accuracy is, of course, another matter. The honorablesenator appears to have had access te* matters which I should regard as being the private concern of members of the Liberal party.- 1 trust that his information concerning those matters is more reliable than are the views that he has expressed on foreign affairs. As we are all aware, the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) has just returned to Australia from abroad. Whether the Minister has come back to sit at the feet of Senator Grant to receive instruction on the conduct of foreign affairs, or whether the right honorable gentleman has re; turned to instruct the honorable senator, I do not know. Unfortunately, I lack the facility to obtain intelligence of the internal politics of the Australian Labour party, because I do not possess the flair displayed by the honorable senator for knowing what is happening in the opposite political camp. In the course of his lengthy and somewhat disconnected remarks, the honorable senator observed that unless I had had the good fortune to listen to him oh some prior occasion I would not have been able to remember the name of an historic personage whose name I assisted him to recall. I should imagine that any children who happened to be listening to the broadcast of these proceedings this evening, and had heard some of tha honorable senator’s previous utterances’, must inevitably have exclaimed, “ Mummy, there is that record again “. Apart from a change of names, the honorable senator’s speech was substantially the same as that which he delivered on the occasion when the Minister for External Affairs previously returned to Australia. However, I must congratulate the honorable senator on the excellence of his memory for detail.
Before passing on to detailed portions of the honorable senator’s speech, I shall deal with the assertion that he made that the present high prices of commodities is due entirely to the fact that the wicked Opposition senators and members of the House of Representatives advised the States to retain their sovereignty when the referendum on rents and prices was held. Of course, the seeds of the increases of prices that have since occurred were sown long before the referendum, and the present high cost of living is due in no small measure to the reckless extravagance of the present and preceding Labour Governments. The increases that have taken place since the power to control rents and prices reverted to the States are due entirely to the shoddy fashion in which the Commonwealth Government shed itself of its responsibilities. As I have stated on previous occasions, the attitude adopted by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) in the matter might very well be compared to that of the spoiled village boy who owned the cricket bat, the ball and the stumps. When his middle stump was clean bowled, he said, “ I am not out. If you insist that I am out, I shall take my bat, wick,its and ball home and the game will be over.” It is common knowledge that the Opposition would have supported without reservation, the retention by the Commonwealth of its full powers until the 31st December, 1948. The High Court at that stage had not expressed its opinion on the continuance by the Commonwealth of its war-time controls and there was no suggestion that the Commonwealth’s power would be tested in the High Court. But what happened? Regardless of the interests of the people of Australia, and of the inconvenience of the State governments, this churlish Commonwealth Government threw the entire burden into the unprepared laps of the States and said, “ Laugh that off “. However, in spite of increased wages and the introduction of the 40-hour week, the State* have shown their capacity to handle the difficult problems which were so abruptly and inopportunely thrown into their laps I have before me figures issued by the Queensland Statistician on the 6th May They are most interesting.
– There is a Labour government in Queensland, of course.
– I shall have something to say about that, also. I am not one of those who believe that nothing good can come from Labour. I concede that much good has come from Labour; but I contend that nothing good can come from socialism. The “ C “ series index figure for the March quarter of 1948 was 1193. By June, 1948, with prices still under Commonwealth control, it had risen to 1226. In September, 1948, it wa.’ 1251, and in December of the same year. 1291. Then - and mark this slight increase - in the March quarter of 1949. it was 1295. In that connexion the Government Statistician stated -
The index for Brisbane rose by only 5 point* or 0.3 per cent, in the March quarter which was the smallest rise since an increase of 0.21 per cent, in the June quarter of 1947 On that occasion the upward trend of price*was retarded by a reduction of the price, of meat.
Clearly, therefore, under State administration there has not been such a violent upward movement after all, in spite of increased wages and the 40-hour week. The foundation on which the inflation spiral rests is the extravagance of the Australian Government. Previous speakers have said that, in debating an appropriation measure, we enjoy the traditional British right to call our rulers to account. If that were a factual right and not merely a notional one, probably the Government would nol get the money that it seeks. However, fictionally, we can still deal with the Government according to its record. We can if we so desire commend that record, and in some respects, it can well be commended by the Australian people. On the other hand, we can criticize it. and oh what a criticism ! The people’s criticism, of course, will be given real affect in December next, or whenever the general election is held. It is our duty to deal with the Government’s administration as a board of directors would conaider the operations of a company, or perhaps better still, as the shareholders in a company would examine the conduct of the board of directors. I shall endeavour to forget for the time being that although Opposition members are also the elected representatives of the people, our voice is paid little heed in this chamber. For the purposes of the discussion, let us assume that we are attending a board meeting at which matters of vital moment to Australia and the Australian people are under consideration. What state of affairs has been disclosed? What propositions can be submitted for the correction of past mistakes and the prevention of their recurrence? What lines of policy can be pursued to bring the best results to our shareholders, the Australian people? That is a fair basis upon which to approach this matter. Unfortunately, speeches made by Government supporters so far have not been in further explanation of the Government’s activities. They have confined themselves mainly to abuse of the party of which I am a member. That party according to some members of this chamber, can be traced back to the days of Julius Caesar, and has world-wide ramifications. Everything that Government supporters do not like belongs to us; everything that they love belongs to them. It is difficult to get very far when people adopt that line of reasoning. The suggestion has been made that Australia is enjoying a state of full employment. We have also been told that the average savings bank deposit has increased from approximately £70 before the war to £105. We are assured that the Australian people have nothing whatever to worry about; that things are “ hunky dory “, and could not be improved. But I am confident that honorable senators opposite do not really believe that the position of this country could not be substantially improved and the people of Australia, too, must know that there is ample room for improvement. Instead of speaking of what happened in the early 1850’s or even in the 1700’s, government speakers would have been more to the point had they discussed what is happening here and now, what remedies can be applied to eliminate the ills that beset us, and what steps can be taken to guarantee that they shall not recur. Our Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) rather resembles a changing neon sign which first says, “ The golden age is here “ and then “A recession is just around the corner “. The only consistent feature of this sign is the red frame. Are we in a golden age or are we on the verge of a recession? Once a government has been elected, to Opposition iti cm be rs it is not only the Australian Government; it iB our government. We all owe it loyalty, and we are prepared to give it our cooperation, provided that it continues to act within the terms of its mandate. If it exceeds its mandate, it forfeits the right to the loyalty of the people.
– What is its mandate!
– Its mandate is the undertaking on which it is elected by the people. To the degree that this Government has acted within its mandate, it has received the support of the Opposition, and as long as it continues to act within that mandate, it is entitled to the loyal support and co-operation of every Australian. Mr. Chifley is not merely the Labour Prime Minister; he is Australia’s Prime Minister, and, in these difficult days, he is entitled to all the loyalty that the head of a tate needs and to the fullest co-operation of every well disposed member of the community. But, as he is so entitled, so are his responsibilities to his people to be measured. He should be most careful that neither he nor his Government exceeds, even in the slightest degree, the power expressly given to it by the people. We are examining the Government’s record. We are offering our compliments where compliments are due, and airing our complaints where we feel that there is room for complaint I shall mention a few instances in which this Government, drunk with power, and avid for still more power, has gone beyond the mandate expressly given to it by the Australian people. Honorable senators will recall that during the discussion of the banking legislation members on this side of the chamber urged that the views of the people be sought by means of 8 referendum. It would have been a simple and inexpensive matter to have added one more question to those put to the people in May of last year. I do not know ‘what legal expenses have been incurred in litigation over the banking legislation, but 1 should be most surprised if they did not exceed £100,000. In addition, there has been a long delay. I could almost feel sorry for honorable senators opposite were 1 not convinced that they are the authors of their own worries. Had h referendum been held, we should have known twelve months ago what the Government is now waiting anxiously to learn. The Government has exceeded its mandate also by operating shipping lines, and by nationalizing the control of broadcasting. How well has the Government Hooked after the interests of the people by ensuring full deliberation on matters affecting them? Tn other words, what “impact has this Government had upon the traditional deliberative character of the Parliament? Can it be truthfully that the Parliament to-day is a deliberative chamber which members enter with a free and open mind, prepared to be convinced by facts and figures, and to adduce matter to be debated, so that, finally, they make up their minds upon the merits, or demerits, of a particular proposition? Unfortunately, we know that that is not the position. The deliberative character of this chamber has been completely destroyed; and it is no consolation, or excuse, to say that the deliberative character of the I louse of Representatives also has been destroyed.
– The honorable senator abides by the decisions of his own party.
– I am an entirely free agent.
– The honorable senator has never voted against his party.
– I subscribe to the platform of the Liberal party and I stand by it, but my interpretation of it. is a matter for my own conscience. Can the Government be so vain that it believes that it is the _ sole, exclusive repository of all intelligence, enthusiasm, patriotism and constructive thought in this country? That is the conclusion which must inevit ably be drawn from the Government’s conduct. Not once during the seven years that it has been in office has it accepted one contentious amendment put forward by the Opposition. If the Government persists with that line of conduct, the Parliament may as well close up. The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition may as well come here with bottle tops and the former say to the latter, “ I have twelve bottle tops here, Bob, how many have you 1 “ And when the Leader of the Opposition replies “ I have four “, the Prime Minister may as well say, “ Well, I win that one “. If decisions of the Parliament are not to be influenced by debate what purpose can be served by debating matters in the Parliament? If its decisions are to be made by self-appointed people outside who owe no responsibility to the electors, and members of the Parliament, completely subject to party discipline or blinded by party loyalty, come here and merely echo the instructions they receive from cliques outside and remain entirely deaf to any suggestion or proposition put forward by the Opposition, the Government is doing a grave disservice to this democratic institution.
– If the honorable senator were a member of a cabinet, would he abide by the decisions of its majority ?
– If I were a member of a cabinet, I would either support it or resign from it. The prestige of the Labour party has declined. Perhaps I should apologize for describing the present ministerial party as the Labour party, because it is now selfstyled the socialist party. The Labour party died in 1921 when it passed a resolution favouring the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. Nobody can deny that Mr. E. G. Theodore was a militant fighter of the old Labour school, but he was forced to say -
Now that you have changed the platform of the party, you may as well change its name and call it the Communist party of Australia.
As yet, perhaps, I should not go quite so far as that. I understand that the method to be employed by the socialists is to go their way quietly and in an evolutionary fashion, whilst the Communists want to get to precisely the same spot through blood. Both having attained their ends, and assuming that there is a Communist state in one place, and a socialist state in another place, I defy a person coming from a third place to distinguish between the Communist state and the socialist state. The objective of both the socialist and the Communist is precisely the same, namely, the deification of the state and the denial of the natural rights of the people. I should like some informed member of the Labour party to explain what will happen once the socialist state is completely established.
I have no desire to discuss the termination of the services of Dr. Webster which has been mentioned in the House of Representatives. Governments have the same rights as anybody else to dispense with the services of their employees. [ know nothing about the merits of that matter, and, therefore, I make no comment with respect to the attitude adopted by the department towards Dr. Webster.
– Why raise the matter?
– I shall tell the honorable senator why I have raised it. The completely socialistic state necessarily implies that there is only one employer, namely, the state. If honorable senators opposite are serious about socialism and are not merely pulling the legs of the people they will admit that. Assuming that the socialists are serious about socialism, there would be only one employer in the socialist state, namely, the state. In this instance, an individual was employed in the sphere of medicine. But in every sphere the only employer would be the State. This instance offers a terrifying but practical illustration of what employment under socialism would really mean. In a completely socialist state where would Dr. Webster turn for employment, if the state were the only employer? He could go to Hades. And that would apply to any one employed in any other sphere of human activity. I am not even criticizing the action which the department has taken in this matter because I am not aware of all the facte. I cite that instance merely to warn the people against the inherent evils of socialism. If a man were sacked in a socialist state, where would he look for his next job? Would he go to thu salt mines?
– There are always appeal boards.
Senator O’SULLIVAN__ Appealing from Caesar to Caesar is as old as Caesar. If honorable senators opposite were really a little bit more curious-
– A little bit more decent.
– I do not confuse decency with political wisdom, or acumen. If the political acumen of honorable senators opposite were equivalent to their personal decency, I should have no necessity to address them as I am doing now; but if they were less regimented by their party, each of them would ask, “ How are these Estimates arrived at! What yardstick has the Treasurer been using? Mr. Treasurer, are you aware that you are about £60,000,000 out this year, and that in the last three years you have been £122,100,000 out in your Estimates?” Those amounts may not be much to a socialist Treasurer, but they represent a deuce of a lot to Australian taxpayers. What does that fact imply? Does it imply recklessness, an attitude on the part of the Treasurer that he is only a million pounds or so, out in his calculations? Or does it imply incapacity, or the attitude that it is only the taxpayers’ money and that the government can “give it a go”? The Treasurer was £60,800,000 out in his Estimates for the year 1947-48. That represents over two-thirds of the total budget produced in the Parliament in 1938-39, but that sum now is a mere trifle in the Treasurer’s budget. Unfortunately, that recklessness is characteristic of the manner in which the finances of the country have been controlled under Labour rule. It is characteristic of the Government’s complete disregard of the taxpayers’ interests. Government supporters have the most stupid philosophy; they think that that money comes from the wealthy. However, tho latest taxation returns made available to us reveal that there are very few wealthy people in this country, that the bulk of the taxes are collected from the battling people. Those people are entitled to a little more consideration from the Treasurer. During the last three years, he has been over £120,000,000 out in his calculations ; and that is the margin of error, not the total. Even the sum of £10,000,000 would mean an appreciable difference to Australian workers with incomes of from £600 to £700 a year, if they were relieved of taxes to that amount. Members of the Parliament, regardless of party, should ask the Treasurer to be a little more precise in drawing up his estimates. He is handling the money of the people whom we are being paid to represent. It is our duty to ensure that money is not squandered.
– Where is it being wasted ?
– It is being wasted in many ways, but as I have only a few minutes at my disposal, I shall not mention all of them. When I criticize government expenditure on public administration, I do not criticize what we term our regular Public Service. Our public servants probably have a record second to none in the world. Regardless of what party is in power, they serve the people. I feel very strongly that we are extremely indebted to our public servants.
– I heard the honorable senator call them bureaucrats.
– Some of them are bureaucrats, but our regular public servants have the tradition of the British public service and are second to none in the world. “ Bureaucrat “ is a term that is susceptible of many definitions. Prior to World War II. we had about 40,000 officers in the Public Service. Now we have about 180,000. Many of them have been appointed temporarily, to the detriment and the prejudice of our regular public servants. New divisions have been established. Quite clearly, this Government is not “kidding” when it says that it is a socialist government. Its members are not “ kidding “ when they say, “ We have signed a pledge committing ourselves to the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange “. From 1921 until the advent of this Government I know that many members of the Labour party said, “ On, this is only a pious, harmless resolution. We shall never be called upon to implement it”.
– Who said that?
– Many mem bers of the Labour party said it. Nov they are being told, “ There is your undertaking. We want complete socialism . Under the present Prime Minister w shall get complete socialism, as far as the Government can implement it between now and December. But. when December comes, the Government ami its supporters will have to give an account of their stewardship and they shall be stewards no longer. I shall quote briefly from an article published in the Reader’s Digest of June, which was written by Alfred Edwards, a member of the British House of Commons who was a very active member of the Labour party but was expelled because he opposed the nationalization of the steel industry. What he says I have said in different language on many occasions, and I take some comfort from the knowledge that a mau who was intimately and actively associated with the Labour party holds precisely the views that I hold. Mr. Edwards stated in his article -
The coal-miner will not produce more just because he is working for a socialist govern ment instead of a capitalist boss. Men will throw away their live* for a great ideal, but 11 i« clear thai they will work li.ore only for more wages - the profit motive. And th* socialist government professes not to believe in the profit system.
However did we come to suppose that a change of ownership from a group of people that had built up a business to a group of people who hart never built anything would advance the interests of the workers? W* made the mistake .of believing that the young economists would do better because they had a sense of social values while hard-bitten old industrialists had none. It dawned upon me gradually that we Socialists were talking’ as if nothing had happened in industry in the last fifty years. Most enlightened bosses now air ahead of the Labour leaders, and realize that their profits and dividends must, at some point, come through the worker’s pay envelope. Full employment is as essential to a prosperous boss as to the workers themselves. There was a time when I imagined I employed workers to make goods to sell to other kind’ nf people. Pint I learned that there is practically no one to sell most things to but workin- people. What made prosperity in America was high wages - -high wages for the workers, high earnings’ for the bogs. It must be profits for everybody or profits for noneModern business lenders know that.
This is as old as the hills. There are two reasons why people work. One is fear and one is hope. They work for fear of punishment or in the hope of profit. 1 ope that we shall never be degraded by having to work through fear. I hope that there will always be an honorable motive in our labour. Mr. Edwards also stated -
In 30 years of Socialist organization, Russia nas not learned how to produce abundance by force. With the whip and the concentration camp among her instruments of compulsion, she had at last to turn to the profit motive. She turned to incentives and, most curious spectacle of all, produced the hardest working man in the world - Mr. Stakhanov - such a miracle of drudgery that he was taken around Russia and exhibited with pride as the world’s most profit-driven wage slave.
The history of these years must be terrifying co any man who has dreamed the great dream if Socialism’s Brave New World. The abundance that we hoped to produce for all can be produced only by hard work. And apparently men will work hard under the spur of only two forces - profit and force.
Those remarks are well worthy of consideration. They draw a very accurate picture of the impact of socialism upon our economy.
I could subscribe to the trend that this Government has shown towards storing reserves while revenue is high and buoyant if they were kept for the contingencies that assuredly will arise in the event of a recession or a severe falling off in the prices of our primary products. During periods of buoyant revenue, the Treasurer is justified in reaping a nice harvest and putting it into reserves. But I pause at this point and ask honorable senators to ponder. Are our present high revenues being used for the purpose of swelling reserves or are they being garnered by the Treasurer in order to be squandered upon socialist enterprises? 1 am afraid that our reserves are not being built up and that too much money is being wasted on socialistic enterprises which, apart from squandering public money, compete with private enterprise in the seriously depleted man-power market.
– What enterprises has the honorable senator in mind?
– There are 1,400 people in the Commonwealth Employment Service, for instance. Not being on the treasury bench, I am. not able to say what is being done with our inflated Public Service, but I know that we were able to conduct the affairs of the country efficiently before World War II. when the Public Service had a nominal roll of about 40,000 persons. The number has since increased to about 180,000 and, with increases in State departments and statutory bodies and authorities, it is a sad fact that one person of every four in employment for wages is now a public servant. The load is becoming too heavy for the people to bear. Although I agree that an efficient Public Service is absolutely essential, it was not necessary for tens of thousand* of our citizens to be engulfed in government employment, not to relieve unemployment, but, on the contrary, in competition with private enterprise, which is shrieking out for workers.
– They were noi forced into the Public Service.
– The honorable senator’s interjection is very timely. It raises a point that I intended to mention. Many government jobs are being created and filled out of political patronage. They are not essential, unless we are to have the complete socialist state in which everybody will work for the government. We have enough public servants now to manage the affairs of a country twice the size of Australia. Does Senator Tangney suggest that this expansion of the Public Service is a means of softening the people gradually towards a frame of mind in which they will readily accept complete socialism? What an unhappy day that will be if it ever comes.
I refer now to some of the remarks that have been made by previous speakers in support of the Government. I am sorry that Senator Hendrickson is not here to hear my remarks. He is reported a? having said that a man earning £11 a week with a wife and four children - I thought that I heard him say five children - does not pay any social services contribution. I refer him to no less an authority than the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), who stated in his introductory speech, which doubtless would be strictly correct, that a person with a dependent wife and five children would start to pay tax at £451 a year. That income is just over £8 10s. a week. He also said that a person with a dependent wife and four children would start to pay tax at £401 a year. An income of £11 a week amounts to £572 a year. Senator Hendrickson’s statement was probably typical of the gross inaccuracies that run through the speeches that he has made. His speech was broadcast from this chamber and he had a vast audience. Unsuspecting listeners may have gained a thoroughly wrong impression from what he said. Whether the honorable senator just thought of a number and doubled it or whether he was just, careless I do not know, but statements like that are grossly misleading. There is a very big difference between £8 and £11 a week.
– Senator Hendrickson was not speaking of income tax as well as social services contributions.
– The contribution for social services by a person with a dependent wife and four children commences at £401 a year. A man with a wife and five children begins to pay social services contribution when his income reaches £451 a year. One is over £7 a week, and the other is over £8 a week. Neither is £11 a week.
– That is social services contribution, not income tax.
– “Social services contribution “ is what Senator Hendrickson said. I am not talking about income tax. Like Senator Hendrickson, I am speaking of social services contribution. Senator O’Byrne, in his very interesting address, referred of course to full employment, the healthy state of our savings bank deposits and the “magnificent” reductions that had been made in taxes. Whose money is it that the Government has given back to the people? Is it the people’s money or is it the Government’s money? How does the Government earn money? The mere fact that belated handouts are being made now indicates that the people have been overtaxed; that for long the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has been taking more than he needs from the pockets and pay envelopes of the workers of this country. There would be some merit in these deductions in taxation if the Government could point to where it had cut down on expendi ture, or if it could point to the achievement of efficiency and economy, or the liquidation of mushroom departments, which were necessary in time of war but which have outlived their usefulness. If that could be done I would say “Well done. That is the type of Treasurer we want”. But the Treasurer, in the overall basis of taxation, is now receiving substantially more than he received during the peak years of the war.
– That is because there are more people in employment.
– He is receiving more money now than at any time in our history. The overall taxation is increasing rather than decreasing.
– That is because of the prosperity in this country.
– Not one penny of the reductions of taxes has resulted from governmental economy. It simply means that more money has been taken from the people than was necessary, and it is a further illustration of bad budgeting, to which I shall refer later.
The honorable senator made a great deal of capital out of the substantial increase of savings banks deposits, which have risen from an average of about £70 a head to about £105 a head of the population. What Australian would prefer £105 worth of purchasing power to-day in preference to £70 worth of purchasing power in 1938? It is obvious that £70 would buy considerably more in 1938 than £105 would buy to-day.
– The party that the honorable senator supports helped to destroy the purchasing power of the Australian £1.
– I have already dealt with that aspect of the matter. I have pointed out that the high spiralling of costs has not increased substantially since the rents and prices referendum. The germ was laid long before that.
For a debating effort I should award the booby prize to Senator Aylett. The proceedings were being broadcast when the honorable senator addressed the chamber, and I would not like the people to believe that honorable senators thought that he was talking sense. By an extraordinary freak of tortuous logic, he concluded that because the Brisbane City Council runs trams and other municipal bodies conduct various undertakings, I support LOO per cent, socialism. I . could not follow his reasoning.
According to my recollection, Senator Morrow said during his address that at the hearing of an industrial case in which he was interested the judge, after the case was finished, pulled from under his desk a paper which had been written before the hearing of evidence had concluded, and proceeded to read the judgment. If that is true his duty was to report the facts to the Attorney-General. I am quite sure that no government, Labour or otherwise, would tolerate a man on the Bench so recreant to his official office as to write a judgment before the conclusion of evidence. I do not think that- Senator Morrow believes that that would be tolerated. However, if it did occur, whether in a State or Federal court, the matter should not be allowed to rest there. Nothing could be more destructive of arbitration than a criticism such as that, [f that is true the judge should be removed from his office. I assure the Senate that such a judge would not find sanctuary on this side of the chamber if those acts could be established against him. But I do not believe it to be true. Such a statement by a man in the responsible position of a senator is particularly serious at a time when arbitration is facing such challenges and going through such travail. I* commend the matter to the urgent inquiry of the Attorney-General, and if it is true I hope that appropriate action will be taken, in the interests of the preservation of arbitration. If the employers and employees are to have confidence in the arbitration system, that system must be worthy of confidence. If there is anybody occupying a judicial position in any arbitration court who is not worthy of the fullest trust and confidence of all who come before him, he should, on good cause being shown, be removed from office. It is vital to our industrial survival that arbitration shall work with the fullest confidence of all who may come before the courts.
Senator Finlay said that an antiLabour government had let’ our country down during its darkest hour. I should like to “ scotch “ that -comment. Senator Hendrickson, also, has on occasions made similar remarks, which have reverberated around the chamber and been re-echoed by other honorable senators. I assume that honorable senators cherish the memory of the late Mr. John Curtin, and have great regard for his judgment, sagacity, wisdom and truthfulness. This is what he said on the 28th May, 1941, only six months before he was in office.
– He was not in office then.
– This is what he said then as a critic of the previous anti-Labour Administration -
Notwithstanding that there are political parties in this country, I claim that the war has been prosecuted to the maximum of Australia’s capacity, and I doubt if any great improvement could have been made upon what has been done by the Government working in collaboration with the Opposition.
He entered office in the following October.
– That is correct.
– He entered office in October, 1941.
– That speech was made in May, 1941. In October. 1942, he is reported to have said -
I have to pay tribute to the governments which preceded my own for the constructive work that they have done in defence, and the foundations they have laid. The Labour movement accepted responsibility for not making preparations for war; it thought the world had finished with the determination of disputes in that fashion.
That shows that the late John Curtin thought that Australia had been geared up to the point of the highest efficiency by the governments which had preceded his Government.
It is unfortunately true not only of Queensland but also of most of the Australian States that there has been a drift away from the rural areas into the cities. Whether it be that the long hours and comparatively poor remuneration of workers on the land in comparison with the bright lights, shorter hours, and higher wages enjoyed by the city folk is the attraction or cause I know not. However, that is a matter that requires our most earnest and practical consideration.. [t will indeed be a sad day for us if our primary industries languish and perhaps die for the lack of a little appreciation, help and support. . In 1921, 491,000 people, or 23.8 per cent, of the total umber of employed persons in Australia were engaged in primary production. The 1947 census, however, disclosed that of a total of 3,167,000 people in employment, only 498,000, or 15 per cent., were employed in primary production. Those figures have dropped from 23.8 per cent, to 15 per cent, which is indeed tragic. In Queensland there are many primary industries some of them in the backward stages, but all with excellent prospects of becoming something vitally important in the economy of this country if given sympathetic support and encouragement. They are real dollar-savers and it appears that for some time to come our economy is to be substantially circumscribed by the lack of dollars. I shall refer first to the cotton industry. When Mr. J. D. Young, who recently resigned from the position of manager of the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board, appeared recently before the Tariff Board, which was enT quiring into assistance necessary to the otton industry, he said that the greatest number of growers in the cotton industry was 3,816 in 1932, and that this number had been reduced to 680 in 1948, a decease of 3,136 growers in what could really be a vital primary industry, which, if sympathetically fostered and developed, could save us millions of dollars a year is well as provide profitable employment for thousands of persons in Queensland.
– What is the reason for the industry languishing?
– It is a matter of price. The estimated output this year is 1,000 bales - the lowest on record. En 1934 the industry produced 17,500 bales. Mr. Young said that the Queensland Cotton Marketing Board considered a net return to growers of 9£d. per lb. for seed cotton was essentia] to re-establish the industry sud that the 1948 return was only h’.ld. per lb. That is over 3d. per lb. less than the cost of production. It is apparent that unless growers ma gat a guaranteed price tss produse far a definite term of years the industry will go out of existence. The position is thai at present it is more profitable for grower* to turn their attention to other crops or to dairying activities. Other industries in Queensland also, are capable of great development, provided that minimum prices are guaranteed. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are most sympathetic towards guaranteeing minimum prices for a number of years. In some respects I think that a guarantee of five years is often too short. Id determining the life of a mortgage five years is a very short period. I should prefer to see a period of ten years ob a fluctuating price with a minimum guarantee on a certain formula.
– I thought that honorable senators opposite regarded thai approach as an interference with private enterprise.
– By paying t> subsidy the Government would not b< interfering with private enterprise, but the operation by the Government of private firms would constitute an interference. By enabling individuals te enjoy the fruits of their labour, by providing incentives for ambition, and b.» rewarding industry and initiative we should be implementing the antithesis of socialism. I trust that reasonably commendable ambition will always be provided with some incentive, and thai honest endeavour and industry will always have its due reward. Of course, socialism is violently opposed to the provision of incentives for initiative and of rewards for ambition and industry. Under socialism reward does not necessarily go to the worthy, advancement to to the ambitious, or success to the industrious.
I take this opportunity to pay tribute to the splendid work done by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in fostering the production of high-quality tobacco in Queensland. Although the industry is still labouring under considerable difficulties and is struggling to keep its head above water, it has received, every consideration, not only from the Tariff Board, but also from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. Thanks to the magnificent co-operation of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, to which I have just referred, tobacco of as fine quality as any in the world can now be grown in Queensland. In the former days the value of a tobacco crop was evaluated solely by its weight, but now quality and texture of leaf are the criteria. I impress upon the National Government and upon the Government of Queensland that the industry should not be permitted to languish for want of proper encouragement and assistance.
I propose to say something now (:on.cerning the gold-mining industry, and my remarks should command the sympathetic support of the people of Western Australia. Indee. 1, all Australians probably have a sympathetic attachment to the gold-mining industry. The discovery of gold in Australia in the ‘fifties of the last century first attracted the attention of overseas peoples to this country. It was during that era that many of our demo.cratic principles were evolved, and the soubriquet “ digger “, by which Australian soldiers afterwards became so well known overseas, was introduced. The gold-mining industry has played a big part, not only in developing the economy of this country, but also in establishing the sentimental and emotional background of our people. In times of depression that industry has done more than any other to restore the economic stability of this country. In the very early stages «f the recent war before lend-lease was introduced, our gold production enabled us to equip ourselves with much of the munitions of war. However, when lendlease was introduced gold was no longer necessary to purchase goods from the United States of America, and that is one of the reasons why the production of :old in this country has declined so considerably. Another reason for the serious decline of the industry is that during the war much of its man-power was withdrawn for service in the armed forces. Most of the men who were formerly engaged in the industry have not yet returned to it, and are not likely to do so unless the returns from gold production are considerably increased. The production of gold in this country has declined to less than half of the pre-war out put. Because of that fact the spending power of people on the gold-fields ha* decreased very considerably. Since 1936 costs of winning and refining gold hare increased from £6 4s. 7d. to £9 16s. lOd. an ounce, although the price of gold hat not increased proportionately. Before the war gold was worth £3 13s. lid. per oz. but its price now is only £10 13s. 3d. as ounce. It has been suggested that our participation in the International Monetary Fund imposes legal difficulties which would prevent the payment of a bounty on production. However, I consider that some formula that would not infringe our international commitments, wherein a subsidy could be paid on production, could be devised. I urge the Government to devise and implement such a formula, because if the industry does not receive substantia) assistance it cannot continue to function. We should bear in mind that after all gold is the only permanent currency. While we are enjoying the present bigh prices for our primary produce I think that it is a most opportune time to accumulate economic and financial reserves, and gold is ideal for that purpose. If we had a substantial gold reserve it would buttress our economy against any chill winds that might blow from overseas in the event of the prices of our produce falling in the world’s markets. I therefore urge the Government to give serious consideration to the payment of a substantial subsidy to the gold-mining industry, and particularly to those mining concerns that are working low-grade deposits and are struggling to survive.
I take the opportunity presented by the discussion of this bill to vent a very serious complaint. Not only the National Government but also State governments are depriving local authorities of considerable revenue by withholding the payment of rates on the premises that they occupy. As honorable, senators are doubtless aware, the Commonwealth and State Governments are not required to pay rates on their properties. In former days that fact did not seriously affect the revenues of civic authorities because the number of buildings occupied by governments, and particularly the National Government, was not large. The information furnished by the Minister for the Interior recently, which is available vo. Ilansard for perusal by all honorable senators who may be interested, indicates the enormous change that has taken place during and since the wai. The local authorities in the capital cities are being deprived of tens of thousands of pounds annually. Although I understand that in those instances in which the Commonwealth Government has leased its premises to private concerns it makes an ex gratia payment to the civic authorities of an amount equivalent to the rates that would otherwise be payable, the civic authorities receive nothing whatever in respect of the properties occupied by Commonwealth departments and instrumentalities. The aggregate rateable value of those premises amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Those honorable senators who reside in the capital cities have to pay tribute to the Commonwealth Government and also to the civic authorities, and they should appreciate the injustice of governmental undertakings withholding any contribution to the revenue of civic authorities. Although I am as jealous of the sovereignty of the Crown, which is represented in Australia by the National and State Governments, as is any member of the Parliament, and for that reason am opposed to the passage of legislation to compel governments to pay rates, I believe that some means should be devised whereby Government authorities shall pay to the civic authorities the equivalent of the rates that would otherwise be charged for the buildings which they occupy.
– Has . any previous administration ever done so?
– No. The present situation has arisen largely because of the exigencies of war) and if the honorable senator had paid attention to what I said a few moments ago, he would have realized that prior to the war the Commonwealth Government did not own or occupy many buildings. I believe that the Commonwealth should either vacate the field of land taxation in favour of the civic authorities, because, apart from revenue which they receive from such undertakings as electricity and transport, they do not receive any other substantial income, or it should pay to the civic authorities the equivalent of the amount that they would otherwise receive in rates from the properties which they occupy.
With other members of the Public Works Committee I recently had the privilege of visiting Alice Springs and Darwin, and I endorse the remarks made by Senator Lamp, the chairman of the committee, concerning the kindness shown to us by the people whom we mei during our visit. Many conflicting views have been expressed concerning the developmental possibilities of Darwin, and whilst I believe that only experts are really competent to express an informed opinion on the matter, my own impression, which was gathered as a casual observer, is that Darwin has no real prospect of economic development. Experts informed us that a living area in the territory comprises from 5,000 square miles to 15,000 square miles, according to the carrying capacity of the country, and that the amount of capital that must be invested to establish a living area ranges from £15,000 to £40,000. Of course, one immediately asks oneself why any person who had £40,000 to invest would go to Darwin. The real importance of Darwin and the Northern Territory lies in its significance for our defence system. I repeat that from my observations, and the information which I gathered during my visit, I am reluctantly convinced that Darwin has very little prospect of successful economic development. However, as the result of a conversation that I had with a gentleman who was very well informed concerning Alice Springs, I formed an entirely different view concerning the future of that area.
I propose now to draw the .attention of the Government to certain defects in administration which were obvious to us during our recent visit. In passing, I mention that we experienced considerable difficulty in hiring taxi cabs in Alice Springs. Another matter’ which I mention is that the accounting officer in Alice Springs, who is an official of the Departs ment of Works and Housing, is also the senior accounting officer for that part of the Northern Territory where approximately 3,000 people live. There are quite a lot of works in project, and a large number of employees. I was amazed to learn that that senior official’s authority to incur expenditure without reference to Canberra is limited to £75, and that his authority to discharge a financial obligation does not exceed £1. Probably £5 worth of red tape and paper would be required to authorize the payment of a bill of £5. I do not blame this Government entirely. The case is typical of all governments, or perhaps of a particular type of public servant who likes to have everything under his own wing. But no government should tolerate the continuance of that state of affairs. If we have reliable senior public servants, let them have authority and responsibility . commensurate with their status. If they are not worth it, get rid of them. Senior public servants cannot be treated like office boys. When I was a boy scout of ten or twelve, I had more money to look after my troop than the official to whom T have referred is authorized to expend.
In the Northern Territory there is a most capable gentleman, Mr. Driver, whose title is Administrator of the Northern Territory, but he is no more the Administrator of the Northern Territory than I am. He is the senior officer of the Department: of the Interior. Seven or eight other departments are represented in the territory. They include the Department of Health, the Department of Works and Housing, the Postmaster-General’s Department, the Attorney-General’s Department, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Navy. One would imagine that the job of the Administrator would be to co-ordinate the work of those departments, but that is not so. The Administrator has no authority over the heads of the other departments. If he wants their cooperation he has to ask for it, and whether he gets it or not depends upon their goodwill or disposition. They are not under any obligation to the Administrator, and he has no authority or jurisdiction over them. In one sphere, however, the Administrator is supreme. He is the Commissioner of Police, and has a sergeant and a constable under his control. “ Administrator of the Northern Territory” is a misnomer.
– The honorable senator had better be careful. He may have the honorable member for the Northern Territory on his trail.
– The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Blain) is most active in the interests of his electorate. Probably no one in Australia knows the Northern Territory better then hu does, lie certainly travels around his electorate. He is probably one of the best authorities in Australia on the territory, its people, and its requirements. The Administrator of the Northern Territory should be authorized to act as an administrator. The senior officers of the other departments represented in the territory should be under his direction, subject, of course, to the overall supervision of the ministerial heads in Canberra. At present, there are about a dozen men of equal status and authority trying to get things done. The position is impossible. There must be a co-ordinator. Instead of an administrator of the Northern Territory there should be a co-ordinator-general for the Northern Territory, who should have the authority, subject of course, to ministerial approval, to requisition the services of such officers as he may require.
The final subject with which I wish to deal is a defence matter. I refer to the treatment of servicemen who became prisoners of war of the Japanese when our forces surrendered in Malaya. I understand that, according to military practice, a prisoner of war who surrenders under the instructions of his commanding officer is in a different category from the prisoner of war who is captured individually by the enemy. In the latter instance a court of inquiry is held to investigate the circumstances in which the man became a prisoner, whereas the serviceman who surrenders under instructions, remains a soldier under the command of his superiors. The men who surrendered when the Allied forces laid down their arms in Singapore, probably suffered most at. the hands of the Japanese and I contend that, in the event of reparations being obtained from Japan, the Government should give consideration to the claims of these men for the payment of a field allowance of 3s. a day while they were prisoners. That would not be a gratuity payment. The Government was saved the expense of providing tin se men with subsistence. Whilst it would not be right to say that they were fed by the Japanese, at least they were kept alive by the Japanese, without expense to the Australian people. Nobody suffered more than did those men while they were in the hands of the Japanese. I repeat that if any reparations are forthcoming from Japan, in the name of common decency they should be given their 3s. a day.
I have spoken for longer than I had intended to speak, but our problems may be approached from many angles. I do not believe that the final answer to our industrial difficulties lies in the award of a court or in an act of parliament. If we are to get anywhere at all, we must first create a better understanding between employer and employee. We must realize, ourselves and impress upon others that we are one people, and not a collection of classes. We have a common background, a common tradition, and a common future. We are indeed our brothers’ keepers, and we must be prepared to give practical effect to the belief that the joy and sorrow of one is the joy and sorrow of all. Anything that tends to create discord between employer and employee is a matter of concern to us all. There can be no permanent peace, prosperity, or security unless the masses of our people are happy, secure and prosperous.
Senator AMOUR (New South Wales) (10.39]. - I have listened with some interest to the remarks that have been made to-night by Senator O’sullivan. The honorable senator argued a lengthy case about which I do not intend to say very much at this stage. However, early in his speech, the honorable senator said that debates in this chamber had been debased. [ do not know just what the honorable senator had in mind. He and his supporters have had every opportunity to bring to the notice of the Senate matters that they consider to be of importance, but, the honorable senator has shown clearly that he has little political sense. He talks about debates being debased; but I remind him that when there was only one Labour representative in this chamber, Senator “ Jupp “ Gardiner, the 35 “ lily-whites “, opposed to him decided that it was wrong that he should be able to speak for eight hours. They amended the standing orders to limit the speeches to one hour, or one and a half hours on particular subjects. The result was that the 35 anti-labour senators had to listen to Senator Gardiner for only an hour or an hour and a half before proceeding to do just as they pleased with the legislation brought before this chamber. If Senator O’Sullivan will read the debates on that matter, he will know a little more about the subject. He has a lot to learn. At a later stage, I shall refer to the honorable senator’s comments on socialism.
The Government’s decision to introduce television broadcasts in this country is one of the most important that it has made. The broadcasting of television programmes will revolutionize entertain.ment and have a profound effect on family life. Transmitters are to be established in the state capitals. I recall that the committee of which ex-Senator Gibson was chairman, frequently called the Gibson Committee which inquired into broadcasting in this country, recommended that because of the limited time at its disposal, a new committee should be appointed to consider television, frequency modulation, and facsimile reproduction. That committee was established and it recommended that the Government should call tenders for the erection of television stations in the capital cities. Not long ago, I had an opportunity to examine television developments in Breat Britain and the United States of America. 1 discussed the matter with the governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and with officials at Alexandra Palace, the centre of television broadcasts in Great Britain. I was told the reason why Great Britain had continued 405-line television broadcasts, whereas America had adopted 525-line broadcasts. I had sufficient Australian understanding to realize that both countries had in mind an alteration of the frames. In my report to the Prime Minister, I suggested 625-line broadcasts, and I am glad to learn that the 625-line frame is to be adopted in this country. I trust that an assurance will be given to the public that no alteration will be made for at least ten years.
If that be done, I believe that the Australian public will purchase television -sets provided that manufacturers in this country will make them. I recall the efforts of the present Government to introduce frequency modulation broadcasting. I know something of the cost of the netting up of the antennae in every capital city, and also something of the cost of transmission of frequency modulation broadcasts; but the manufacturers, like the Communists, refused to make frequency modulation sets and thus deprived the people of enjoyment of that form of entertainment. The right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden) has described the Government’s proposals in respect of television as socialism. He has said that the Government intends to set up a monopoly in that sphere. I wonder whether the manufacturers will refuse to make television sets. The right honorable member for Darling Downs, apparently, speaks with lack of knowledge of television. In Great Britain, programmes are televised from the Alexandra Palace, in London, at a cost of £1,000,000 a year. The Government proposes to establish transmitting stations in every capital city with relay stations at other points. The cost of that undertaking will be tremendous. I challenge the right honorable member for Darling Downs and the commercial radio broadcasting interests to say that they could obtain sufficient backing from advertisers to enable them to operate television in this country. In making that challenge I have in mind the fact that the only commercial television station operating to-day in the United States of America is unable to obtain sufficient advertising revenue to cover the cost of its programmes. Practically the only programmes being televised in that country to-day are baseball matches. One sees baseball on television screens day and night. The British Broadcasting Corporation provides a first-class television programme, and I trust that any authority that the Government appoints to launch this new enterprise will follow the example of the British Broadcasting Corporation. I trust that the Government will appoint a board to control television, and that it will ensure that the line, or frame, shall not be altered for a period of at least ten years. In setting up such an authority, I commend to the Government the excellent services that have been rendered by Mr. Bay Allsop, not only in the sphere of radio but also in the sphere of television. Recently in the Senate club room, thanks to his efforts, we had the opportunity to view films depicting the advantages of frequency modulation broadcasting. The same gentleman has made a thorough study of television, and I doubt whether the Government could do better than utilize his services in this new sphere. Despite what has been said about the American “looking” public, I have no doubt that the Australian worker cas better afford to buy television sets than can workers in other countries. When television was first discussed in Australis we were told that “ lookers “ would have to put their lights out, that “ pop “ would not be able to read the paper and that “ mum “ would not be able to darn socks while a programme was being televised. That story was circulated by prominent people in the community who claimed to know what they were talking about I have witnessed televised programme! under lights as bright as those in this chamber. After the lights were turned out, I did not notice any difference in the picture that was being televised. To-day, the press is endeavouring to tell the people that they will not want television because in any event they will see only pictures of some boxer, or wrestler, chewing the ear of his opponent. In this sphere, press propaganda is designed to deprive the people of enjoyment of this new form of entertainment.
I now wish to refer to the independent news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Recently, I read in the press a statement by the chairman of that body, Mr. Boyer, to the effect that following a report by Mr. Harris on behalf of the commission that body intended to re-organize its news staff. It was proposed to change the present directorate and to appoint a national news editor and an administrator of news. Of course, to the ordinary public that proposition would appear to be all right, but we must have a look at the complete picture. Mr. Harris was a member of the Fitzgerald Committee which inquired into the operations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He was a retired public servant. He had been an accountant, not a journalist. He was given the job of reporting upon the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s news department and, apparently, he did that job to the satisfaction of those who want to sabotage that service. . At one time, there were many goings on about a news service that was proposed to be provided under an agreement between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and certain Australian newspapers, but the parties failed to reach a satisfactory basis. Eventually, however, both sides thought that they could reach agreement. The commission appointed Mr. Deamer and Mr. McCall to investigate the proposed agreement, and they recommended that the commission should enter into an agreement. However, the agreement was referred to the Postmaster-General of the day, who refused to countenance it. He referred the matter to the Broadcasting Committee for investigation. That body reported against the agreement and recommended that the commission should set up an independent news service. The committee based its recommendation upon evidence which it had taken from witnesses who controlled such news-gathering organizations as Reuters, respresentatives of owners of chains of newspapers in England and the publishers of a British monthly wireless periodical. The witnesses from whom the committee heard evidence included a Mr. Dixon, who at the time was the chief news editor of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He said that the commission could conduct an independent news service at a cost slightly in excess of what the commission was then paying for its news, plus the cost which it proposed to pay to the newspapers under the agreement which had previously been under consideration. The Australian Broadcasting Commission opposed that view almost unanimously, and the commission at that time was composed of its present personnel. Today the commission wants to get rid of Mr. Dixon. Ever since Mr. Dixon suggested that the commission could run its own independent news service he has been vilified by the newspapers, the commission and the general manager of that body. He has been victimized, and every effort has been made to discredit him. It has been said that he is incompetent; and that view has been accepted by the Liberal party. The Mr. Harris to whom I referred previously, although he has never been a journalist, decreed that Mr. Dixon was incompetent.” The commission’s activities against Mr. Dixon amount to sabotage and victimization, and I say that the commission together with the big newspapers in this country are determined to destroy the commission’s present independent news service. On a previous occasion in this chamber I explained how a Mr. Cotton was appointed news editor by the commission. After serving for a lengthy period in that position that gentleman went to England. He did such good work for the Communist party in this country that Communists have told me that while he was news editor of the Australian Broadcasting Commission news they did not depend upon the Tribune because they got better publicity from the Australian Broadcasting Commission. He was there to destroy the independent news service of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Now, the commission wants to appoint another news editor. Although I do not believe that they will re-appoint Mr. Cotton, it may appoint him in spirit if not in name, and thus continue its endeavours to destroy its independent, news service. I shall give some idea of how the commission is going about that task. It offers insults to the journalists of this nation. It appointed its acting general manager, Mr. Finlay, who was once a sporting instructor at some school, but never a journalist, to interview the news editors of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in every capital in Australia to ascertain their views about the commission’s proposed new set-up and victimization of Mr. Dixon. As Mr. Finlay had never been a journalist he was entirely incompetent to undertake such an investigation. Recently, in the House of Representatives the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether Mr. Harris, who also had never been a journalist, had been appointed to make an investigation concerning the commission’s proposed news set-up, and the Minister replied that Mr. Harris was not competent to undertake such a task. Yet the commission, which the right honorable member for Darling Downs says is a socialized undertaking, accepted Mr. Harris’s report and gave effect to it in order to victimize a man who had given loyal service to the commission. It did so despite the fact that Mr. Cleary, who had been chairman of the commission for a long period, had said that there would be no victimization of Mr. Dixon. I submit that this is a matter for the Government to take up with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, because it arose from an enactment of this Parliament which established an independent news service for the commission. If we believe in anything we believe in justice, and when that bill was introduced we did not dream for a moment that its enactment would lead to the vilification and victimization of a man who had been responsible for building up the Australian Broadcasting Commission news service. I believe that, but for men like Mr. Dixon and Mr. Denning, we should never have established an independent news service. Instead, the Australian Broadcasting Commission service would have been completely in the hands of the newspapers, and we all know how they treat the Labour party and this Government. Mostly they suppress news, but when they do consent to report something they distort it. As I have a great deal to say on other subjects, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at the next sitting.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following papers . were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, Ac. - 1949 - No. 40 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.
No. 41 - Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Defence - J. A. Macdonald.
Labour and National Service- J. M. Hitchcox.
Repatriation - R. Freak.
Shipping and Fuel - W. H. Geeves.
Supplyand Development - K. J. Fry, T.J. Mahony, J. R. Petrie.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for -
Defence purposes -
By ford, Western Australia.
Department of Civil Aviation purposes-
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired at - East Bentleigh, Victoria.
Senate adjourned at 11.2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1949/19490615_senate_18_202/>.