18th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel any information to give to the Senate about the grave national emergency that will arise should the threatened general strike of Australian coal-miners occur! I am sure that all honorable senators would appreciate any information that could be made available to them on this matter.
– As the Leader of the Opposition is no doubt aware, the threatened strike is now entirely a matter between the coal-miners and the special industrial authorities in the industry. A joint statement on the matter has been made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the’ Premier of Kew South Wales, Mr. McGirr. ‘ The statement was plain, and I have nothing to add to it at present. However, if it is the wish of the Leader of the Opposition that a further statement should be made to the Senate to-morrow I shall give a factual review of what has taken place.
– Can the Minister for Shipping and Fuel inform the Senate how many coal mines are out of commission due to the floods, and how long itwill be before those mines will get back into production ?
– Offhand I am not able to say how many coal mines are out of commission as the result of the floods. A considerable number of mines have been affected. In addition, so much rain-water has accumulated in the open cuts that even despite the dry weather now they cannot be worked at present. I shall endeavour to get the information sought and include it in a statement that I shall make to the Senate to-morrow.
– Can the Minister for Health inform the Senate of the principles of the Mantoux skin test for tuberculosis which many members of the Parliament and of the parliamentary staffs have undergone in the last few days? Are similar facilities available to State public health bodies?
– I could not hope to put an explanation of the Mantoux test into technical terms. I speak purely as a layman, and subject to correction by the medical profession.I understand that the object of the test is to determine whether a person has ever had contact with tuberculosis. If, in the course of his lifetime, he has had such contact, a positive skin reaction in the form of a slight reddening and swelling will be apparent two days after the injection has been given. However, the mere fact that a test shows a positive result, does not in any way mean that the person concerned has tuberculosis. It merely means that sometime in his life, contact with the disease has been established, and that it is desirable that a further investigation should be made, first by X-ray examination of the lungs, and then, if necessary, by a bacteriological test made by pathologists. In that way, it can be definitely established whether a person is subject to tuberculosis or not. Positive reactions to the Mantoux test have created a lot of unnecessary alarm, and it is as well that the people of Australia should be told that there is no need for alarm. As I have said, it is merely an indication that a further examination is desirable. The test is well known, and it is in process of being applied by State authorities and other bodies that are active in the anti-tuberculosis field. Its general use and applicability will be fostered in the course of the campaign in which the Commonwealth is now engaged in conjunction with the States. I take this opportunity to thank members of the Parliament and of ministerial and parliamentary staffs who have set a good example by submitting themselves for a Mantoux test.
– In view of the disastrous floods that have already caused more than £1,000,000 worth of damage in the Maitland area, and of the fact that people living in centres adjoining the flooded areas, such as Newcastle, have shown their sympathy with the unfortunate flood victims by subscribing £10,000 in the last two days, will the Minister for Shipping and Fuel urge that further consideration be given by the Commonwnealth Government to the granting of a much more substantial sum of money for flood relief?
– Immediately the magnitude of the floods became apparent, the Prime Minister announced that the Australian Government would make a donation of £20,000 towards the relief of the victims. However, I am prepared to make further representations to the right honorable gentleman with a view to ascertaining whether an additional grant can be made.
Eviction of Ex-Servicemen
– Can the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral inform me whether the Commonwealth has any power to protect exservicemen from eviction from State housing centres? I have in mind an incident that was brought to my notice last week-end. An ex-serviceman who served throughoutWorld War II. and spent two years in a German prison camp has been living in the emergency State housing centre at Fishermen’s Bend in Victoria for eighteen months. On the 14th June he received a notice informing him that he would have to be out of the premises by the 25th June. The notice was signed by Mr. F. A. Frawley on behalf of the Victorian State Housing Commissioner, Mr. A. 6. Warner. The man had kept up his rent payments-
– Some time ago I drew the attention of the Senate to the difference between a lawyer stating what he thinks, and expressing an opinion. I am in that position in relation to this matter. A recent decision of the High Court of Australia, following a hearing by the six justices, declared invalid only a certain portion of the War Service Moratorium Regulations which relate to the protection of ex-servicemen and their dependants. The portion that was invalidated simply related to the Tight of a protected person, upon seeing a place vacant or about to become vacant, to apply to a court for an order for delivery and possession. That and the consequential provisions relating to it are the only ones that were recently pronounced against by the High Court. The balance of the War Service Moratorium Regulations, which are Commonwealth regulations extending to the protection of exservicemen and their dependants in the relationship of landlord and tenant, have not been declared invalid, and I say merely what I think when I say that I believe that the High Court might uphold those particular regulations for some period yet if they were questioned. “Nobody can say with complete certainty. I am unable to deal with the application of the regulations to the particular case that the honorable senator had in mind because he has not been able to elaborate his case fully.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Fuel aware that racehorses are being flown from Melbourne and Sydney to Brisbane? How many gallons of petrol are being used for that purpose? In view of the Minister’s repeated appeals for economy in the use of petrol in Australia, is the carriage of race-horses by air justified under existing conditions?
– Once again I fear that the Leader of the Opposition is not up to date. A few weeks ago thi High Court of Australia declared invalid the regulations under which petrol rationing- was enforced. The distribution of petrol is no longer controlled ind I am not able to regulate or prevent the transportation of horses from Melbourne or Sydney to Brisbane. Had the people not been advised against the Government’s proposals concerning controls during the referendum campaign, the Commonwealth probably would have the power to-day to control petrol. Liquid fuel rationing was continued for the sole purpose of assisting the people of Great Britain in their present economic struggle. The fact that horses are being transported to Brisbane or any other part of Australia is not now a matter for this Government. Controls can be exercised only by the State governments.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether it is a fact that the Department of Health has communicated by circular letter with dentists throughout the Commonwealth, or with certain dentists, setting out proposals for the provision of dental benefits under the Health Act. If so, as this is a matter of considerable public interest, will the Minister make available to honorable senators a copy of the letter circulated, together with any plans that the Government has for the nationalization of the dental profession?
– It is not a fact that the Department of Health has communicated with ‘ dentists formulating plans for the. development of national dental services. The Government has already decided that its approach to the provision of national dental services will be threefold - first, by education in hygiene and nutrition; second, by the provision of dental services for the outback areas of Australia; and third, by the provision of dental services for all children up to the age of sixteen years. There is to he a conference between myself and the Federal Executive of the Australian Dental Association in Melbourne at 3 o’clock next Monday afternoon, when the results of the observations of a recent delegation to New Zealand, consisting of representatives of the dental profession and the Australian Government, will be made known. I inform the honorable senator that it is not constitutionally possible for the Government to nationalize the dental profession or any other profession. The honorable senator will remember, when I remind her, that when the Government asked the people to give it power in relation to the provision of medical and dental services it added to its proposal the words “but not so as to authorize any form of civil conscription “. Therefore, there cannot be any form of nationalization in relation to the dental profession or any other profession. There is a great deal of misapprehension upon that point. Also a great deal of false propaganda is being distributed by certain professional people in the community. I have not taken the trouble hitherto to overhaul that propaganda. I am reserving what I have to say about “what I think of that propaganda for another occasion, when I may devote some time to it. The honorable senator may rest assured that the Government’s .approach to dental services is clear, as I have indicated. The Senate will be informed as soon as an agreement is reached with the dental profession concerning details.
– In view of the fact that many people have lost their ration books in the recent floods, will the Minister for Trade and Customs inform the Senate what action has been taken to ensure that they shall receive their rations of tea and butter?
– This matter has not been overlooked by the Department of Trade and Customs. Officers have been sent from Sydney to the areas that have been affected by the floods. They are working in conjunction with officers of other departments to arrange that traders and consumers shall not go short of butter or tea because of coupon difficulties caused by the disastrous floods. A representative of the Government is making inspections in the affected area, with a view to advising the Government upon what it can do in connexion with that problem.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Shipping and Fuel been directed to a statement by an official of the Commonwealth Tea Control Board that tea rationing in Australia could end immediately if the Communist-led Waterside Workers Federation lifted its ban on Dutch shipping, thereby enabling unlimited quantities of tea to come from Java? Can the Minister indicate what action, if any, can be taken towards lifting the ban on Dutch shipping?
– I saw some reference in a newspaper to the possibility of the removal of tea rationing if certain quantities of tea could be imported from Java. I have not given much attention to the item because many reports that appear in the press are unreliable.
– Not all of our requirements could be obtained from Java.
– Although the statement suggested that sufficient tea could be obtained from Java to meet all of our requirements, I am reminded that only a limited supply of tea would be available from that country. I shall ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to investigate the matter to see whether the statement is correct.
– As Chairman, T present the report of the Public Works Committee on the re-submission of the following subject: -
Erection of the Batman Automatic Telephone Exchange, Melbourne.
Ordered to be printed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What improvements are contemplated in the telephone service between Hobart and Launceston and Launceston and Melbourne?
– I regret, that the Postmaster-General is unavoidably absent, due to a bereavement in his family. Unfortunately he has suffered the loss of a son. The Minister has supplied the following answer: -
Since the end of the war five additional telephone trunk-line channels have been installed between Hobart and Launceston and six extra trunk-lines have been provided between Tasmania and the mainland. In order to furtheraugment the facilities, provision is included in the rehabilitation plans of the department for the installation of a modern twelve-channel carrier-wave telephone system between Hobart and Launceston, and it is expected that these circuits will be in operation within the next twelve months. It is proposed to provide more trunk-lines between the mainland and Tasmania by superimposing a twelvechannel carrier telephone system on the existing submarine cable and by installing a radiotelephone service between Wilson’s Promontory and Tasmania, via Flinders Island, by means of which three additional circuits will be made available. It is expected that these facilities, which involve certain complicated technical equipment to be obtained from the United Kingdom, will be provided towards the end of next year. The preliminary action associated with building requirements and other preparatory works is being undertaken with the object of expediting the proposals as much as possible. A project is now in hand to install two threechannel radio links, one between Stanley and Burnie and the other from Burnie to Devonport, thereby making available an alternative route between Stanley and Launceston to operate in conjunction with the existing MainlandTasmania trunk circuits. These facilities should be in operation in a few months’ time.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table the reports of the Tariff Board on the following subjects: -
Ordered to be printed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure provides for an appropriation of £13,694,000 to enable Commonwealth works in progress at the 30th June, 1949, to be continued pending the passing of the budget by the Parliament. The Government has adopted a policy of comprehensive long-range planning for capital works, covering from three-year to five-year periods, in departments such as Works and Housing, PostmasterGeneral, Civil Aviationand defence services. For the successful implementation of these programmes it is essential that funds shall be available without interruption to enable advance purchasing of materials in Australia and from overseas, and to ensure continuous employment on the many projects involved.. Therefore, the bill provides for approximately four months’ expenditure on works which were approved by the Parliament in the Capital Works Estimates 1948-49 and in proportion to the expenditure programme of £41,347,000 then authorized. The requirements of the several departments are summarized in the schedule to the bill. In accordance with the usual practice observed in submitting a Supply Bill, no provision has been made in this bill for any new service.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the hill is to provide £21,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. This measure is similar to that periodically submitted to the Parliament for the purpose of appropriating from revenue an amount for payment into a trust account to enable pensions to be paid at rates already approved by the Parliament. The balance of the amount of £19,000,000 appropriated in June, 1948, is sufficient only to meet war pension payments in mid-July Expenditure on war pensions is continually increasing as the following table indicates : - lt is estimated that expenditure from the proposed appropriation of £21,000,000 will be £11,000,000 for the 1914-18 war and £10,000,000 for the 1939-45 war. Increased expenditure is expected during the forthcoming year due to the pension rises approved last October being now payable for a full year. There is also a steady increase in the number of pensions to ex-service personnel of the 1939-45 war.
Debate (on motion by Senator COOPER’ adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Courtice read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the bill is to ratify the International Wheat Agreement which was drawn up at a conference held in Washington in February and March of this year. Honorable senators will remember that an international agreement on wheat was proposed last year, and that after that agreement was approved by the Parliament it lapsed because it was not ratified by the United States Congress. The present agreement has already been ratified by the United States of America, at whose instance the recent conference was convened. I do not propose to deal in detail with the agreement. It is attached as a schedule to the bill, and in form as well as in principle, it is similar to the agreement which was presented last year. I shall, however, enumerate the main points of difference between the provisions of this agreement and those of the previous one, and shall explain the reasons for those changes. The substantive provisions of this agreement, that is to say, those provisions dealing with prices and quantities, are intended to come into force on the 1st August. The agreement is for four years. If the participating governments wish, it may be extended for a further period.
The agreement takes the form of a multilateral contract for the sale and purchase of specific quantities of wheat. The exporting countries undertake to sell to the participating importing countries at a price not above a designated maximum, and the importing countries undertake to buy .from the participating exporting countries at a price not below a designated minimum. Within the stipulated range of prices, transactions between the participating countries may be freely concluded ; and the price may vary in accordance with market conditions. It should be noted, however, that exporters are not obliged to sell at less than the maximum price whilst importers are not obliged to buy at more than the minimum price. Putting the matter in another way, the exporters can call upon the importers to buy at the minimum, while importers can require the exporters to supply wheat at the maximum price. Thus, the agreement gives assurance of supplies to importing countries at not more than the maximum price while wheat is scare; on the other hand, exporters are assured of markets at not less than the minimum price in the event of a slump in wheat prices.
The agreement covers approximately 450,000,000 bushels annually. The parties to it will comprise five exporters, Australia, Canada, the United States, France and Uruguay, and 36 importers, if all of the countries who signed the agreement ratify it. The quantity which each country undertakes to sell or buy is specified in the agreement. Australia’s quantity is 80,000,000 bushels. This is about equal to the exportable surplus which we would obtain from an average crop of around 160,000,000 bushels. Should we have more wheat to sell, we may dispose of it outside the agreement at whatever price we can obtain. We should not have difficulty in selling some additional wheat. The United Kingdom and India have already indicated that they will wish to buy some wheat from us outside the agreement. In comparing the present agreement with the one drawn up last year, the significant changes relate to duration, quantities and prices. As regards duration, the agreement is to run for four years, that is until the 31st July, 1953. Last year’s agreement was intended to operate for five years, that is from the 1st August, . 1948, until the 31st July, 1953. This year the importers would not accept a five-year term. However, as I have mentioned already, the period of the agreement can be extended later.
The fact that the present agreement covers about 450,000,000 bushels compared with the 500,000,000 bushels in last year’s agreement is indicative of the improvement that has taken place in the world wheat supply position. A year ago, the importers jointly would have been prepared to guarantee to take about 560,000,000 bushels annually, but the exporters could not guarantee more than 500,000,000 bushels. This year, the total was only taken up to 450,000,000 bushels after the exporters had strongly pressed the importers to do so. The change in the position of France - from an importer of 36,000,000 bushels under last year’s agreement to an exporter of 3,000,000 bushels annually under this year’s agreement-^ was a major factor in the reduction of the total quantity from 500,000,000 to 450,000,000 bushels. Even more indicative, however, of the change in the relative bargaining positions of importers and exporters since last year is the reduction of the maximum price from 2 dollars to 1.80 dollars. Indeed, when the conference opened the importers proposed an even lower maximum. They pointed to the improvement in the supply position which had already taken place and the further improvement that appeared to be assured after this year’s crops, including another bumper crop in the United States, had been harvested. When last year’s conference closed the world price of wheat was about 2.70 dollars a bushel. When this year’s conference began it was fluctuating around 2.26 dollars. Since then the price has declined further. Last week it went down to 2 dollars.
The exporters agreed, only after strenuous and lengthy negotiations at the conference, to a. downward revision of the maximum price. When it ‘became clear that the importers would not accept a maximum higher than 1.80 dollars, it became necessary for the exporters to decide whether they were prepared to make an agreement on that figure. The alternative was a breakdown of the conference. The Canadian and United States delegates to the conference agreed at that point to accept a maximum of 1.80 dollars. The Australian position had then to be decided. Our delegate had previously been instructed not to agree to a reduction to less than 2 dollars, the maximum price. The Government was very loth even at that point to agree to a lower maximum, but after a careful review of all the circumstances and after consulting the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, it was decided to do so. The federation took the view that, whilst it was not satisfied with a maximum of 1.80 dollars, the
Government should accept that maximum and become a party to the proposed agreement. The maximum price under the agreement for each of the four years is the same, namely, 1.80 dollars. The minimum price will change each year, being 1.50 dollars in the first year, and then falling by ten cents each year to 1.20 dollars in the fourth year. If the minimum prices are compared with those set out in last year’s agreement it will he seen that the minimum is now 10 cents higher for each year. Thus, for 1952-53 the minimum is 1.20 dollars, whereas in last year’s agreement the minimum for that year was 1.10 dollars.
It may be asked why the minimum should change from year to year. The answer is that if the minimum were to he unchanged the importers would have pressed for a figure as low as 1.20 dollars. “When the idea of a declining minimum was first put forward by the exporters at the wheat conference in 194T. they considered that they needed protection against a possible sudden fall from the maximum price. The steps provided by a declining minimum mean that such a fall can be arrested and spread over four years in the event of a continued downward trend in prices. The maximum and minimum prices which I have mentioned are for Canadian wheat at Fort William. Those prices are expressed in Canadian currency; but, in order to meet a possible depreciation of the Canadian dollar, the value of the Canadian dollar, for the purpose of establishing the basic prices, is pegged at its present parity with the American dollar. This means that the basic prices are in effect, stated in United States currency. So far as the equivalent maximum and minimum prices for Australia are concerned, the significant rate of exchange is the rate betwen the Australian pound and the United States dollar. Thus, if we were to depreciate in terms of the United States dollar our equivalent in Australian currency would be higher; whereas they would be lower if we appreciated in terms of the dollar.
The Australian maximum f.o.b. price works out at about lis. 2d. a bushel for our near markets. In the case of more distant markets. such as the United Kingdom, where our landed cost has to be competitive with that of Canada and the United States, our maximum will be less, by a few pence, than lis. 2d. The actual price will be determined by the freight rate from Australia compared with the freight rate from Canada. When prices are on the minimum, the Australian price will also be dependent upon relative freights from Canada and Australia. Using present freight rates, the fourth year minimum would be about from 7s. to 7s. 3d. a bushel f.o.b. Australia.
I do not think I need say any more in regard to the actual provisions of the agreement. Those articles in it which concern its administration are clearly drawn and do not call for comment. In any case they closely follow the corresponding clauses in last year’s agreement. One point is perhaps worth noting. It is that in the administration of the agreement exporters and importers as two groups have an equality of votes, with Australia’s vote being proportionate to our guaranteed quantity. This means that we will have approximately IS per cent, of the total votes of the exporters.
There are a few points which I would make in concluding. The principle of an international wheat agreement has for a long time obtained general support in Australia and in other countries. Russia and Argentina, which are not parties to this agreement, have abstained, not because they do not agree to an international wheat agreement in principle, but because they wished for terms which other countries could not accept. Russia had indicated at the recent conference its wish to become a party to the agreement but it decided eventually to remain out because it stipulated for a guaranteed quantity which the other exporting countries regarded as excessive. In Australia, wheat-growers have supported the principle of an international agreement which would ensure markets at reasonable and stable prices. That is the purpose of this agreement; its objective is to prevent or to forestall a recurrence of the chaos which has so frequently been associated with the international wheat market and has repeatedly caused grevious hardships to wheat producers.
This agreementhas been approved by Australian wheatgrowers through their industrial organization. It is the outcome of efforts made over a period of nearly twenty years to reach an international agreement which would bring some stability into the world trade in wheat. Recently exporters have been benefiting from very high prices, but high prices in earlier periods have been followed by uneconomic prices. Already the world price of wheat has fallen by over one dollar, or by more than onethird, from its peak following the recent war. The agreement puts a floor under the price that will apply to a large share of the world’s trade in wheat, including the export surplus which we would obtain from an average crop. In return for that’ security, the exporters will give the importers some immediate reduction in price and an assurance that in the next four years a substantial part of their requirements of wheat and flour will be met at prices which cannot exceed a fixed maximum figure. Looked at in that light, this agreement is the product of balancing, and compromise in the interests of both exporting and importing countries. The Government and the big majority of wheatgrowers are satisfied that an agreement could not have been secured on more favorable terms. The endorsement of the agreement by the Senate is now sought.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide for the payment of additional special grants of £600,000 to South Australia and £100,000 to Tasmania in the current financial year 1948-49. These pay ments were recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in a report dated the 27th May, 1949. Under the States Grants Act 1948, provision was made for the payment of special grants amounting to £6,750,000 to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania during 1948-49. Those grants were made in accordance with the recommendations contained in the fifteenth report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The grant paid to South Australia was £2,250,000, made up of an amount of £1,656,000 based upon the audited figures of the State for the financial year 1946-47, and an advance payment of £594,000 which, under the procedure of the commission, will be taken into account in assessing the grant payable in the year 1950-51. The grant paid to Tasmania was £900,000 similarly made up of an amount of £717,000 based upon the audited figures of the State for the financial year 1946-47 and an advance payment of £183,000. Subsequently, applications for additional financial assistance in 1948-49 were received from South Australia and Tasmania.
Both the Commonwealth Grants Commission and the Commonwealth Government consider that there are objections of principle to a system of additional special grants paid to States towards the close of a financial year. Such a system might tend to undermine financial responsibility on the part of the recipient States. Nevertheless, the commission has recognized that, from time to time, it may be necessary to recommend additional grants to States to meet special circumstances. The matter is bound up also with the problem of the time lag between the year of review upon which the commission bases its assessment of the relative financial needs of States and the year in which grants are paid. This problem has been intensified by the retrogression which has occurred during recent years in the financial circumstances of the claimant States, mainly because of rising costs. A great deal of attention has been given to this problem by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the Commonwealth, and the claimant States themselves, in an effort to find a satisfactory solution. The request by South Australia and Tasmania for additional assistance this year and the recommendations by the commission upon these requests are related essentially to this problem of the time lag and the underlying financial difficulties of the claimant States. As already mentioned, the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its report made in September, 194S, recommended a grant of £2,250,000 for South Australia in 1948-49. This was based on an estimated deficit of £3,317,000 for that State in that year. After taking the grant into account, there remained a balance of £1,067,000 which represented the “ margin of safety “ allowed by the commission for possible improvements in the States finances during the year, and also for adjustments that might later be made according to the commission’s methods, on account of such items as standards of social services, severity of taxation, and charges of business undertakings. Information submitted to the commission at the Canberra hearings in May suggested that there had, in fact, been some improvement in the financial position of South Australia since the commission made its fifteenth report. It appeared that the balance of £1,067,000 just mentioned would be reduced to £800,000. Moreover, South Australia has recently increased its railway freights and fares by 10 per cent., and to the degree that this affects the finances of the State in 1948-49 an adverse adjustment will not be necessary, when the financial results of this year become the basis for the assessment of grants payable in 1950-51.
Beyond those factors, however, the Commonwealth Grants Commission now considers that further improvements in the finances of South Australia during 1948-49 are unlikely, and that a safety margin of £200,000 will be sufficient to cover any adjustments that may have to be made later. Accordingly, it recommends that a supplementary grant of £600,000 be paid to South Australia in 1948-49. Following the procedure of the commission, this amount will be regarded as an addition to the advance payment already made this vear, and will be taken into account when 1948-49 becomes the year of review. Similarly, the grant of £900,000 recommended by the commis sion for payment to Tasmania this year was based upon an expected deficit of £1,479,000. After deducting the grant, there remained a balance of £579,000 which represented the commission’s margin of safety. There has since been some improvement in the financial position of Tasmania also. It is now expected that the balance of £579,000 just mentioned will be reduced to £442,000, an improvement of £137,000. Having reviewed the position, the commission now considers that an amount of £342,000 will be sufficient as a margin of safety for this financial year. Accordingly, it recommends an additional payment of £100,000 to Tasmania in 1948-49, this amount to be added to the advance payment already made and to be adjusted in 1950-51. After fully considering the recommendations by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the Government has decided to seek authority from the Parliament for additional payments of £600,000 to South Australia and £100,000 to Tasmania in 1948-49. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator COOPER’ adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 16th June (vide page 1067), on motion by Senator
That the bill be now read a first time.
, - Already much ground has been covered in the course of this debate, and many subjects of importance have been dealt with by honorable senators. I should like to draw the attention of the Senate to one of the most pressing needs in this country to-day. I refer to housing. The deplorable conditions under which many of our people are living, and will have to continue to live for some time because of the slow progress that is being made by the States in relieving the housing shortage are a reproach to the nation and a grave reflection upon this Parliament. It is a pity that the various departments concerned with the compilation of statistics relating to this matter cannot keep their work up to date to enable a really comprehensive picture to be shown for discussion by honorable senators. I have taken some figures from issues Nos. 22 and 23 of Facts and Figures. If the dates vary a little, it is because they are the latest figures available in that publication. First I shall deal with population. In the Treasurer’s budget for 1948-49, the population of this country in 1938-39 was shown as approximately 6,934,000, whereas it is now approximately 7,792,0900, an increase of 858,000 in ten years. On the basis of one home for every five people, including children, 170,000 houses would have been required to meet our needs since 1939. Hom.e-build.ing statistics, however, show that 103,000 houses have been built in the last three and a quarter years. Therefore, we are from 60,000 to 70,000 homes short of meeting the expanding needs of the community even assuming that the people of Australia were adequately housed in 1939, which they were not. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has informed us of the increasing numbers of migrants who will be coming to this country, and I am sure that we all welcome these new Australians most sincerely. However, we look in vain for any sign that the Government is stimulating its building programme to cope with the accelerated growth of the population of this country due to immigration. We are on the verge of a large influx of new Australians, but what do we find? In at least two States most distressing incidents are occurring. I am sure that all honorable senators were as deeply shocked as I was to read recently in the press of a woman in New South Wales who was prepared to give away her unborn child to any one who would provide her with a home. We heard too of a mother who had offered a family of four children to any one who would give her a home. Surely those incidents indicate desperation. No mother should be driven to such straits as would makie her even contemplate surrendering her children for the sake of a home. What is this nation coming to when such despair can exist? I draw the attention of honorable senators to the situation of two family groups in Queensland whose conditions were brought to my notice by letter. One writer stated -
T live in a 12 by 14 tent with my husband and seven of my eight children. My children’s ages are 16, 14, 13, 10, 8, 7 and 4, and I cook in a stove in a galley away from the tent. Life is very hard.
It is deplorable that adolescent children should have to live with their parents in one tent. Surely this is not our vaunted post-war standard of living in this postwar Australia! The other letter that I received stated -
We were living in a room 10 by 10 with verandah 9 by 6. There was my husband and boy and married daughter with her baby 18 months old. She had to sleep on a mattress on the floor with her baby. We were all in one room.
Those facts surely must make honorable senators realize the ‘distressing conditions under which people are living because of the housing problem. Both of the cases to which I have referred are in Queensland, which is generally admitted to have done the best -job of all the States in providing homes. What must be the situation in the other States? The circumstances of the mothers who were willing to give away their children provide us with a clue. Probably the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) will tell me that housing L« a State matter. But at least the honorable gentleman will admit that the Commonwealth and States housing scheme is financed and supervised by the Commonwealth. Therefore, the ultimate responsibility rests with this Government.
I should like the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing to tell me whether there is any sign in any of the temporary housing camps anywhere in Australia of vacancies that would indicate that we are overtaking the lag or whether there are still long lists of. people awaiting admission. Can he give any indication of the number of years for which those camps will have to be kept open? Is it true that the Government of New South Wales is even now erecting additional temporary housing camps in which to place arriving immigrants ? Is it a fact that temporary wool stores are to be used to house some of these new arrivals in New South Wales? It seems to me that the true gauge of the lack of progress is the continued tenancy of housing camps. From the thousands of families living in these camps everywhere in Australia, from the absence of vacancies, and from the fact that additional accommodation has to he found for newlyarrived immigrants, it is obvious that we are not catching up with the lag, despite the reports that all is well. Does the system of grading applicants according to the number of their children still apply? I believe that not long ago a family had to have five children in order to qualify for a rented house in one of the States, and even then the waiting list was so long that applicants had to be prepared to wait for years. Four years have now elapsed since the war ended, but even after four years we do not seem to have got down to the real basic problem - the production of more building materials. In Queensland, it is stated openly that delays in the arrival of supplies on the job and the difficulty of securing all of the many types of materials are responsible for a fair proportion of the increased costs of home construction in that State.
We need more logs, more saw-milling capacity, more engine power, more trucks, more piping, more galvanized iron roofing, more cement, and more workers. All of those things are essential to an adequate housing programme. Cannot more be done to increase the production of builders’ supplies and to improve and expedite the distribution of available supplies? What is the use of claiming progress in housing when more and more temporary accommodation is being erected ? It is pitiful to think of the conditions under which many citizens are living, and it is disgraceful that mothers should be reduced to such desperation that they will give up their children in order to obtain a home. It is most alarming in this young country. We need a more comprehensive housing plan - a plan that will go right to the very root of the trouble and stimulate the production and distribution of building materials. The people of Australia know whom to blame for their troubles. They blame this Government because they have looked to it in vain for some relief from their desperate situation. Under present conditions they will not be deceived :by the statistics that are presented in such publications as Facts and Figures. They need homes, and it is the duty of the Government to ensure that they shall get homes. Why not employ all of the immigrants, who are subject to government direction and not just some of them, in employment, upon the production of basic materials for the building industry? This country is suffering to-day from broken marriages and unhappy family life. Such things do not make for a great and happy nation. Therefore, I urge the Government to do everything possible to increase the production of building materials and the construction of homes. Unless it does so, the lack of housing in this vast country may become a national tragedy.
– I listened with interest to the remarks of Senator Rankin and I noticed that she said that the people would not be deceived by facts and figures. Judging by her statement, the honorable senator herself might deceive them, though I do not believe that she really wishes to do so. However, by her mere ignorance of what has been achieved, she has laid a charge against this Government that is thoroughly unjustified. I agree with her that housing progress has not been so great as the Government would like. That has been due to physical difficulties caused by the war, such ‘as shortages of materials. At the end of the war, seasoned timber, for instance, was almost unobtainable because our reserves had been used for war purposes. The Government had to begin at a very unfavorable time to develop a housing programme that had been visualized and promised to the people by anti-Labour governments even before the depression. When building materials were plentiful and man-power was readily available because unemployment was at an all-time high level, those governments failed to give effect to the promises that they had made. People were homeless. Thousands of them, did not aspire to huy homes but were desperately in need of any sort of accommodation that could be provided for them under a “ dole “ system. A great national liability accrued during the regimes of anti-Labour governments, but they did not honorably discharge it. They promised to help the people, and money was allotted for the purpose, but the programme was never carried out. lt might almost he said with truth that government housing schemes accomplished nothing of importance in that era. Scanning the newspapers of the period, one can read that Mr. R. G. Casey obtained an excellent house for himself and a fine kennel for has dog. But the plan for the housing of the people was not implemented. In order to demonstrate what has happened under Labour’s administration, I shall cite facts and figures. I remind Senator Rankin that, if she could not find up-to-date statistics, a ‘remedy was readily available to her. As a member of the Senate she must know that questions on an important subject of that character would elicit the most up-to-date information.
First, I refer to the war service homes programme. In 1945-46, 420 war service homes were built. That was in the initial stages of the post-war period, when materials were particularly difficult to obtain. However, the rate of construction accelerated rapidly. In 1946-47, 2,263 houses were built, and in 1947-48 the number completed was 3,677. Between the 1st July, 1948, and the 31st May, 1949, the latest date to which figures are available for the current year, 5,204 houses were completed. I emphasize that those figures refer only to war service homes. AntiLabour governments were not called upon to face a task like that, which this Government has undertaken with considerable success.
– Can the honorable senator supply statistics for the construction of war service homes between 1914 and 1939?
– I think that they would compare more than favorably with the figures that the honorable senator has quoted.
– Then the honorable senator should have produced them. He and his colleagues did not provide any constructive suggestions or comparisons. As usual, they made bland statements without figures or facts to support them. I am quoting figures to rebut their assertion that this Government has not made progress with its housing plans. The facts refute their charge. Progress figures for house construction covering quarterly periods from 1946 to 1949 demonstrate the success that has attended the . Government’s efforts. In 1946, 11,328 dwellings were commenced and 7,103 were completed. The rate of construction was improved progressively, and in 1947, 10,828 homes were built, showing a 75 per cent, increase over the previous year. In the quarter that ended on the 30th June, 1948, 11,613 houses were built; in the quarter that ended on the 30th December, 1948, 15,116 were completed, and in the succeeding quarter the total, was 11,813.
– Not one house was built under the Bruce-Page scheme, although £20,000,000 was deposited in the Commonwealth Bank to finance it.
– I believe that that is correct, but I am concerned about the present housing programme. The figures that I have cited prove beyond all doubt that Senator Rankin spoke without knowledge of the facts. She said nothing about the progress of the great scheme that the Government is carrying out, not as quickly as it would like to do, but with commendably good results nevertheless, having due regard to all of the problems that confront it. We can say that it is a Commonwealth-State matter, in which the Commonwealth is responsible for the financial part of the project. I say advisedly that there has not been one instance of finance not being readily available when the physical part of the target, for which the States are responsible, could be carried out. The. finance has been readily available, and the States have assisted us in every way. In fact the States have actually thanked the Australian Government for the assistance that they have received from it, and1 the manner in which it has co-operated with them in this splendid programme. It is noteworthy that when a State Liberal government speaks of its housing programme it claims great credit. Strangely enough, however, when the liberal opposition in the Federal Parliament speaks of the Australian Labour Government which is responsible for financing the scheme, and of the general overall conduct of the scheme it uses an argument against this Government which is unsubstantiated by statistics and is contrary to the claims of the anti-Labour governments in regard to the success of . the housing programmes in the States which they control. The position is thoroughly ridiculous. The Opposition has criticized the Government for achieving surpluses over budget estimates, and because government revenue has been higher than expectations. It has been suggested that the Government should reduce the amount of its income by considerable reductions of taxation, but if that were done the Government would be reduced to a position of hand-to-mouth finance which was a feature of governments before the Australian Labour party was elected to office. This matter has given the Government great concern. The nation is wealthy and prosperous, and there is a good national income and full employment. We are handling those matters adequately. However, while income is buoyant and it is possible for us to draw from the community a certain amount of surplus money, which, if released, might embarrass the financial structure of the Commonwealth and precipitate such a debacle as occurred after the “boom and bust” period of the Bruce-Page Administration, we must make adequate ‘provision to withstand any recession. The conditions at present existing in the United States of America are not dissimilar to those that were observed prior to the last economic depression. Although production there has far exceeded the internal demand, it is not of sufficient magnitude to satisfy the demands for high profits and high interest charges, and the absorption of excess capital that was brought into industry because of the war. Although wages are high in the United States of America, costs also are exorbitantly high, and the local market is not sufficiently buoyant to maintain a satisfactory position. That country, although the wealthiest nation in the world, is now in a state of economic dis-equilibrium. Nobody could say that there is insufficient Liberalism in the United States of America; in fact that country boasts of its liberty, although that word is bandied about and frequently used as a synomym for freedom. There is no freedom in Liberalism, except for the few people who enjoy privileges denied to the great majority of people who have to suffer under Liberalism. In Australia, Government finances are certainly buoyant, businesses are progressing and being developed, and the country is on a satisfactory economic basis. If this desirable state of affairs is to be maintained we must husband our resources and make preparation for the time when the world’s economic position will be more balanced and more stable. An interesting article by Ian Jones was published in the Western Australian Daily News on the 31st March, 1949. It reads -
The U.S. prosperity boom has suddenly exploded, and there is now every indication that this country is headed for a sharp recession, if not an outright depression. Some people believe that the recession has been engineered by groups interested in embarrassing the Truman administration, which is thought to be too sympathetic .to labour and far too interested in promoting social reforms.
That is an extraordinary Statement to see in a Western Australian newspaper. Thu situation in the United States is not dissimilar to the position operating in Australia. The report continues -
His surprise win last year was popularly ascribed to strong Labour support. Whether or not the recession has been engineered, there has been an alarming fall off in the demand for all goods since the beginning of the year, and prices of virtually everything have been slashed as much as 50 per cent, by retailers in an effort to attract customers. The downward trend is reflected in the stock market, where stocks and grains have plummeted to new low levels. Even steel, tobacco, and car stocks, considered among the best, have suffered sharp losses in recent weeks, creating something close to panic among small investors. However, the break in the stock market, prices isn’t as bad as that of 1929, because there is now no margin trading. Stocks must be bought outright, so that investors can hang on to their stock and hope for a future pricerise. According to the Department of Labour unemployment has increased to about 3.000,000 during the past few months. Some of this is seasonal, but much of it is because lack of demand has led employers to sack employees.
I have also seen a more recent report with relation to the economic situation of the United States of America. The Government of that country had an assessment made among the business and financial people of that country, who were not perturbed with this downward trend of the nation’s economy. They stated that there was a big latent buying power in that country still available. During the war the working people enjoyed conditions of full employment which permitted them to save. Those savings are the latent spending power. The big financial magnates consider that things are not so bad because the workers still have small savings and some assets on which they could realize. They know, of course, that when the workers have spent that latent power the situation will become serious. In our opinion it is serious now, and we have set aside reserves to cushion anything of that nature that may happen in Australia. We have plans for big developmental works such as the Snowy River water conservation and power project, and the water conservation system in Western Australia to irrigate much of the Great Southern area of that State. About £5,50.0,000 will be expended on the latter project. We have given considerable thought to major projects that would absorb the slack of labour if we have to face the position that undoubtedly the United States of America is already facing. It is a significant fact that the number of unemployed is steadily rising in that country. Unemployment has extended from unskilled workers to skilled workers. I have received correspondence from a man who was trained in engineering works in the United States of America asking me to expedite the migration of him and his family to this country. For a period of sixteen years from the time of his apprenticeship he had been in permanent employment with a well known firm manufacturing farming implements. He was given excellent references when retrenched. The reason given for has retrenchment was a general reduction of staff. He stated that he was one of a considerable number of skilled men seeking and obtaining casual employment in “ small doses “. to use his own descriptive term. This is a grim warning, of which the Australian Labour party has taken full cognizance. We make no apology for the fact that we can run the country in such a manner that the national income is high. It is necessary that we put aside capital to meet eventualities and carry out the works approved by this Parliament. They cannot be carried out now for the same reason that other governments are unable to carry out desirable works. There is a physical restriction; the labour and materials are not available. We have more jobs to offer than there are workers to fill them. While that position obtains the Government does not propose to goahead with its extensive plans for absorbing skilled and unskilled workers. Professor Hytten, who is a strong Liberal party supporter, and was formerly economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales, said in Tasmania recently that we should establish a pool of unemployed so that there would be at least eight persons in every 100 unemployed. That will not occur. Despite any criticisms made by the Opposition about the financial management of this country, the manner in which the Government has husbanded moneys for utilization to stop or cushion off any depression has been admired by other countries. When the Opposition opposed our financial and economic measures it said that depressions come in cycles. We are ready to prevent such a cycle having much effect in this country. We have sterling credits overseas amounting to £320,000,000, which are practically frozen. We do not want to touch them. Britain is on the “ up “ and we will be able to utilize them for the development of this country in time to come.
In connexion with the expenditure of the national income, although we have been criticized all the way along the track, any curtailment of social service benefits to the people would be a most unpopular move. It would be taking liberalism in its true light. The doctrine of laissez faire is the attitude of the Opposition in this matter. When it cannot break down the argument of the Government in support of its humane and proper treatment of this subject, it leaves the subject alone and attacks the. Government about finance and expenditure. I am proud that the Government has been able to budget for an expenditure of £80,000,000 on social services. Each of those services is commendable and fully justified, but had it not been for the
Government’s sound economic management and husbanding of its finances during the war and in the immediate post-war period it would not now have a fund of £100,000,000 with which to finance social services and thus take the strain off the community in that respect. When the Labour party was in Opposition the standard of our social services was far behind that of other countries. When the Labour party urged past governments to liberalize existing benefits and to provide additional social services, those governments invariably raised the cry, “ Sufficient finance is not available. The country cannot afford such expenditure. Where is the money to come from?” To-day, opponents of Labour raise other cries. However, the Government has answered those arguments. lt has established a fund which is now sufficient to finance a social services programme involving an annual expenditure of £100,000,000. Faced with that fact, the Opposition parties now argue that too much money is being collected by the Government, that its revenue is too high. At the same time, the mouthpieces of those parties outside the Parliament advocate that at all times there should be in the community a pool of unemployed equivalent to 8 per cent, of the population. That is what the Opposition parties consider to be good economics.
– We cannot be held responsible for statements made by people outside the Parliament.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). Indeed, I do not think that he really supports statements of that kind. Nevertheless, the man who made that statement has had a large hand in the shaping of the policies of private banking and other financial institutions in this country which are out to beat the Labour Government; and I have no doubt that the Opposition parties, whether they remain in Opposition or again assume office, will have to subscribe to those policies. The fact is that those policies are espoused by the masters of the Opposition parties, who must listen to those masters. The Government’s finances are most buoyant. Indeed, I believe that its present surpluses are greater than they should be, but that is due to the shortage of labour and materials which has necessarily restricted governmental expenditure. I am sure that when those shortages are overcome, and the recession now being experienced in the United States of America and other countries is felt in Australia we shall be able to maintain our policy of full employment, because when such conditions arise we shall have sufficient money in reserve to keep our economy in a healthy state. The Government has already done an excellent job in that respect. In order to implement that policy fully, however, the States must be prepared to undertake developmental schemes for which the Australian Government will make finance available.
– in reply - In this debate honorable senators opposite have employed their usual tactics. They have condemned the Government for almost every incident which does not meet with. their approval. I was surprised to hear Senator Rankin complain that the housing needs of the people are not being met. However, she generously admitted that the provision of housing is the responsibility of the State governments. At the same time, she could not refrain from condemning this Government for the housing shortage. All honorable senators are aware that under the Constitution the Australian Government cannot undertake housing programmes for persons other than its own employees. That is the responsibility of the States, and the Australian Government is restricted to the financing of the State housing programmes. The honorable senator read several letters, the writers of which complained about the inconveniences they were suffering because they could not get houses. In the years immediately preceding the outbreak of the recent war hundreds of thousands of people in this country were unemployed. Anti-Labour governments of the day made no attempt to provide housing for the people despite the fact that at that time building materials were available in abundance and at prices much cheaper than those ruling to-day. It is recognized that building programmes are the best means of giving an impetus to the economy of any country. However, at that time tens of thousands of people were unemployed in each of the States. Those people were obliged to live in hovels and sub-standard houses. Many of them were forced to live in tents. I recall that when I was a member of the Opposition in 1939 I drew the attention of the Government of the day to the fact that many people engaged in munitions factories were obliged to live in tents. I produced photographs to prove my statements and those photographs were published in the press in New South Wales. I am sure that Senator Rankin will admit that the present shortage of houses is a legacy which this Government has inherited from Liberal and National governments, or governments of any other name under which the Opposition parties masqueraded in the past. It is significant that, to-day, spokesmen for the Australian Country party often criticize the Government’s present migration policy. However, the leader of that party, the right honorable member for “ Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), approaches that subject very cunningly. He gets the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Lang), who is the de facto leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives, to attack the Government on that score because he knows that he and his colleagues would not be too popular with primary producers were they to make such attacks. That right honorable gentleman is too well aware of the fact that primary producers benefit more than does any other section of the community from an influx of migrants because rural industries are crying out for labour. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) is doing a magnificent job in bringing migrants to this country.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) dealt with many subjects. Referring to war pensions he claimed that it was difficult to ascertain the basis on which the pension in respect of war disability was originally determined. I agree with that statement; but I do not agree with him when he says .that it would appear that the amount of the pension originally was related to the basic wage at that time. That is not correct. In 1920 the war disability pension was £2 2s. a week and the average basic wage was £4 9s. lOd. I should like to know how the Leader of the Opposition reconciles those two figures which he went to great pains to wed. He pointed out that since 1941, when the present Government assumed office, the age and invalid pension had been increased from 22s. 6d. a week to £2 2s. 6d., or an increase of 89 per cent., whilst, he said, no review had been made of the war disability pension for a period of 23 years. He was greatly disturbed over that fact. I remind him that during that period, with the exception of two years, anti-Labour governments were in office in this country. Therefore, he must lay the blame for the omission about which he complained at the door of governments which he supported. I also remind him that the present Government almost immediately it assumed office in 1941 appointed an all-party committee to review war pensions. During that period of 23 years, age and invalid pensions also remained practically stationary. That pension was not increased.
– Yes, it was.
– It was not increased except by way of adjustments corresponding with increases of the cost of living.
– Why does not the Minister speak the truth instead of indulging in propaganda?
– Mr. Deputy President, I do not wish to deny to the Leader of the Opposition the right to interject, but I do not think that he is entitled to say that I am not speaking the truth. However, I shall not press for a withdrawal of that remark. If the Leader of the Opposition cannot “take it” he should remain silent. In any event, I point out that I did not interrupt him while he was speaking. I remind the honorable senator, who poses as the champion of ex-servicemen, that although the anti-Labour parties which he supported were in office for over twenty years, they did nothing whatever to remove the disabilities suffered by ex-servicemen.
– What does the Government propose to do concerning my suggestion that an all-party committee should be appointed to review pensions for ex-servicemen and their dependants?
– This is not a duet. The Leader of the Opposition, who was permitted to make his speech without interruption, has been given very considerable latitude this afternoon and has been permitted to interject quite freely. I point out to him, however, that he. has enjoyed that treatment only because of the position which he occupies in this chamber.
– I can “ take “ all that the Minister can give me.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls) . - Order ! The Minister has the floor.
– The Leader of the Opposition complained that the Government had not increased war pensions sufficiently. I shall cite some facts which I have obtained from the Minister for Repatriation, so that honorable senators may compare the treatment given to, exservicemen by anti-Labour administrations with that given to them by the present Labour Administration. The general rate for 100 per cent, incapacitated ex-servicemen has been increased from £2 2s. to £2 15s. a week. The special rate to sufferers from tuberculosis has been increased from £4 to £5 6s. a week. The allowance paid for attendants on ex-servicemen who suffer from spinal injuries has been increased from £1 to £1 4s. a week. The special additional allowance paid to those who have had limbs amputated has been increased from a maximum of £1 18s. to a maximum of £2 lis. a week. The additional pension paid to single ex-servicemen who have been temporarily totally incapacitated has been increased from nil to £2 lis. a week, and that paid to married men from £1 to £2 lis. a week. The allowance paid to the wife of a member who receives the general rate for 100 per cent, incapacity or the special rate, has been increased from 18s. to £1 4s. a week, and the additional pension payable for each child has been increased from 7s. 6d. to 9s. a week. An examination of the scales of payment indicates that there has been an all-round increase, and I again invite honorable senators to contrast the liberal treatment given to ex-servicemen and their dependants by the present Government with the miserable treatment given to them by the anti-Labour parties when they were in office. It is correct, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition, that an all-party committee recommended general increases of repatriation pensions, but the honorable senator was incorrect when he stated that that committee was appointed by an anti-Labour government. I recall the circumstances which led the former Labour Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, to appoint the committee. Now, ‘the Leader of the Opposition claims that the anti-Labour parties had the matter in mind. Of course, they did ; but it remained in their minds, as did so many other ideas for the improvement of the social conditions of the people, to implement which no action was ever taken. The Leader of the Opposition complained about the state of the national finances. I realize that he. attends to his parliamentary duties conscientiously and studies all legislative proposals carefully. Whilst he usually makes useful contributions to the debates that take place in this chamber, at times he makes incorrect statements, and it is my duty to correct his misstatements. The honorable senator claims credit for having forecast some months ago that the actual expenditure would exceed the estimated expenditure by £14,000,000. Whilst it is true that the actual expenditure did exceed the estimate, that is not a novel occurrence. From the honorable senator’s remarks, however, one would imagine that this was the first occasion on which an administration had under-estimated the actual expenditure. The important thing is not that the estimate of expenditure was exceeded, but that the Government will have a surplus at the end of the financial year, instead of a deficit as was usually the case with anti-Labour administrations. The increase of actual expenditure over the estimate is accounted for by the fact that the social services contributions tax has produced more than was estimated. The net result is that an additional £15,000,000 will be transferred to the National Welfare Fund, as required by law. Although the item appears in the accounts on the expenditure side, as well as on the revenue side, it is really an addition to the general reserve. The Leader of the Opposition also complained that the Government had taken £35,000,000 more from the taxpayers than was warranted. The explanation of the surplus of revenue over actual expenditure is that because of the general prosperity which prevails under this Government, the return from the various taxes has been much greater than could have been foreseen. Incomes from various sources, including profits made by farmers, with which the honorable senator is particularly concerned, and wages and salaries have increased considerably. Customs revenue also increased considerably because imports have increased, whilst the proceeds from the pay-roll tax was much higher than estimated;, in consequence of wages having increased and the Government’s policy of full employment. Business turnover has expanded greatly, which increased the yield from sales tax. Those are all signs of a healthy economy. In addition, the arrears in the issue of taxation assessments have been partly overtaken because additional staff has been engaged by the Commissioner of Taxation. The continuing prosperity of the country is reflected by the statistics of expenditure on building construction throughout Australia during the last three years. In 1946, £31,517,000 was expended for the purpose; in 1947, the amount increased to £52,511,000; and in 1948, the expenditure totalled £76,661,000. That indicates the enormous increase that has taken place. The Leader of the Opposition alleged that the surplus of receipts from taxation over actual expenditure amounting to £35,000,000 should have been left in the pockets of the people, instead of being “ squandered “ by the Government. The plain fact is that money has not been “ squandered “. On the contrary, the surplus has enabled the Government to transfer a substantially larger balance to the National Welfare Fund, to avoid borrowing, and also, possibly, to make a further transfer to the reserve for the payment of war gratuity. Those are all highly desirable objectives. The Leader of the Opposition also alleged that during the last three years, £125,000,000 more had been extracted from the public than was needed to maintain governmental services. As I have already pointed out, the revenue exceeded estimates because of the continued .prosperity of the nation, which resulted in higher yields from the various taxes than could have been foreseen. The excess of receipts over expenditure has enabled the Government to refrain from borrowing money to defray current expenditure, and to build up large reserves in the National Welfare Fund. The honorable senator contended that whereas the Government received revenues of only £40 per head of population in 1942-43, it now received £70 per head. That contention ignores the fact that in 1942-43, huge sums had to be borrowed to finance the current expenditure, whereas no money has been borrowed by the Government during the current financial year. Furthermore, income per head of population in 1942-43 was only £170, whereas it is now £245. The Leader of the Opposition complained that the Government is now extracting £500,000,000 from taxpayers annually, which is more than five times the amount raised before the war. Whilst it is true that the Government is now receiving much greater revenues than before the war, I point out that, amongst other things, it is now providing: (a) £88,000,000 per annum for social services, compared with less than £20,000,000 before the war; (6) £80,000,000 for the States, compared with £18,000,000 before the war; (c) £60.000,000 for defence, compared with £8,000,000 before the war; (d) £50,000,000 for debt charges arising out of World War II., which is an entirely new liability; and (e) £40,000,000 for repatriation and re-establishment of ex-servicemen and women of World War II., which also is a new charge upon the revenues. I could continue enumerating the new and added liabilities which confront the Government in consequence of the recent war, but I shall not weary the Senate. In criticizing the Government’s financial policy, the Leader of the Opposition has obviously based his criticism upon bad advice. In conclusion, I invite the Leader of the Opposition and honorable senators generally to contrast the prosperity experienced by Australians under a Labour administration with the poverty, misery, and degradation which our people suffered under the administration of the anti-Labour parties before the war.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure included in the 1948-49 budget presented to the Parliament last September, totalled £492,800,000 and £510,500,000 respectively. Provision was made for the gap of £17,700,000 to be financed from loan fund. The Estimates have now been reviewed in the light of figures for ten months of this financial year and whilst conclusions drawn from them must still be tentative they suggest that instead of the expected deficit of £17,700,000 there will probably be a small surplus for the year. Actually the budget estimate of revenue is expected to increase by about £35,000,000, including £15,000,000 in respect of social services contributions, which are automatically appropriated to the National Welfare Fund. Expenditure is expected to exceed the budget estimate by about £14,000,000 comprising the above-mentioned transfer of £15,000,000 to the National Welfare Fund less an overall saving of approximately £1,000,000 on other votes. Improvements in revenue have been due principally to the income tax and the social services contribution and customs and excise, and also, in a minor way, to the sales tax and the pay-roll tax. All these items show the influence of higher employment, rapidlyrising incomes, a greater flow of imports and larger business turnover. On the expenditure side, the budget this year has felt, in many branches, the impact of rapid increases both in Australian wages and other costs, and in prices of materials and equipment obtained overseas. There has been some lag in expenditure on defence development projects, due to building difficulties and delays in getting equipment. On the other hand, expenditure on a number of defence works has proceeded faster than was foreseen last September, and expenditure on the armed services, has, in general, kept up to programme. Credits have been rather higher than expected.
Amongst items of post-war charges which seem likely to be somewhat lower than estimates are international relief and rehabilitation, reconstruction training and war service land settlement. Against this, the payment of certain arrears of price stabilization subsidies has brought expenditure on that item appreciably above the September estimate. The budget estimates of expenditure by the Postal Department will be exceeded, this being due in part to wage and salary increases and in part to faster deliveries and higher costs of equipment from overseas. As previously mentioned, there will be a substantially greater transfer to the National Welfare Fund than was estimated, largely because of the successful drive to accelerate tax assessments. Larger collections of the pay-roll tax will add to the amount transferred.
As already stated, there may be a small surplus on the financial results of the year. If a surplus occurs, it is proposed to appropriate the amount to the war gratuity reserve, a course for which approval was given by Parliament in the budget last year, under which, as honorable senators know, an amount of £23,400,000 was set aside to meet the. payment of war gratuities which fall due mainly in 1950-51. I mention here that although certain further advance payments of the war gratuity have been made this year, the total liability outstanding is still estimated at £75,000,000. It becomes necessary, however, to seek appropriation for certain additional revenues which will become available before the end of the year, and bills before the Senate are intended to cover a total amount of £22,900,000. Since defence and post-war charges will be lower than the budget estimate, it seems likely that all expenditure on these items can be met from revenue. Accordingly, it is proposed to seek revenue appropriation of a further £8,500,000 for this purpose. Additional appropriations are also being sought for £8,400,000 to cover other ordinary services. Capital works and services, for which appropriations amounting to £6,000,000 will be sought in a separate bill, include an item for purchase, in conjunction with the New Zealand Government, of the Christmas Island phosphate deposits. Legislation will shortly he introduced covering this transaction and the establishment, in conjunction with the New Zealand Government, of a commission to work the phosphate deposits. Further items relate to the long range weapons project, and the refitting of ships for transport of immigrants. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
– I do not propose at this stage to deal in detail with the appropriations proposed in this measure. The bill has already been fully discussed at the first-reading stage. Its purpose is to provide the finance necessary to carry on after the 30th June undertakings provided for in the 194S-49 budget. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) pointed out that in the budget for the current financial year provision was made for an expected gap of £17,700,000 to be financed from loan funds. Earlier to-day, however, he said that the Government did not believe in borrowing money. Those two statements are contradictory. Apparently the expected gap of £17,700,000 was closed by increased receipts from the income tax, and the many iniquitous indirect taxes that the Government persists in imposing. Apparently the Government underestimated the prosperity of this country when it budgeted for a deficit of £17,700,000. I do not criticize the Government for the fortunate position in which it finds itself. I am pleased that it is in such a position, but I maintain that as the budget gap was closed with the taxpayers’ money, that money should be refunded to the taxpayers in reduced taxes. After all, the taxpayers of this country are better able than is the Government to spend their own money advantageously. The expected deficit of £17,700,000 has not only been eliminated, but also it has been converted into a surplus of approximately £45,000,000, which means that there is a total discrepancy of £62,700,000 between budget estimates and the true position. Although there has been a prolonged discussion of this measure, the Opposition realizes that its paucity of numbers prevent it from influencing Government expenditure in any way. The
Government can appropriate money at will, and as I have said the intention of this measure is merely to finance the continuance in the early part of the forthcoming financial year of undertakings provided for under the 1948-49 budget.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales - Minister for Shipping and Fuel) [5.15”. - in reply - I thought that I had made the financial position clear to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper). Apparently he believes that the revenue that has been received in excess of the budget estimate could be more usefully . expended by the taxpayers. I remind him that that money is to be used for purposes that will benefit the country as a whole. The improved financial position has enabled a more substantial transfer of funds to the National Welfare Fund to be made. Any one who understands the finances of this country will admit that social services payments which, in the current financial year have reached approximately £88,000,000, are helping greatly to stabilize our economy. That money is circulating throughout the’ community, and is benefiting business people. I admit that the 1948-49 budget forecast that a deficit of £17,700,000 would have to be met out of loan funds. Provision for borrowing is always made when revenue is not expected to meet expenditure. The fact that it has not been necessary to borrow this year, seems to annoy the Leader of the Opposition. He has said that he is pleased with the financial position, but if he is pleased why is he so disturbed? Further transfers have also been made to the war gratuity reserve. Surely the honorable senator will not complain about that. The purpose of that reserve is to ensure that adequate funds shall be available when the payment of the war gratuity to ex-servicemen falls due. I cannot understand the honorable senator’s arguments. He has not made clear the basis of his criticism.
– I am criticizing the total expenditure by the Government.
– I have given a clear explanation of that expenditure, which I contend has been fully justified. At least the Government has met its commitments, which is more than can he said of certain past administrations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In my secondreading speech on the appropriation bill for ordinary services, I indicated that it was necessary to seek an additional appropriation of £6,000,000 for capital works and services. This bill will give effect to that appropriation. .
– This bill is consequential upon the measure that has just been passed by the Senate. Its object is to appropriate money with which to carry on works and services in 1948-49. The Opposition does not object to the passage of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 16th June (vide page 1065), on motion by Senator Ashley -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– The consideration of a supply bill provides us with an opportunity to raise matters that arc not specifically dealt with in the measure. Therefore, the Opposition now has the rightto answer some of the statements that have been made by Ministers and their supporters. When one realizes that there are only three members of the Opposition in. the Senate opposed to 33 members of the Government party, one can readily understand that Government supporters can freely criticize the Opposition, distort facts, and even make untrue statements about what honorable senators in opposition have said. Only by taking advantage of the opportunity for general discussion that this debate provides can we inform the public and have recorded in Hansard our replies to such statements. During a previous debate, many supporters of the Government attacked the Opposition for its criticism of the Government’s policies in relation to socialism generally, nationalization, and what we consider to be the unwarranted squandering of the taxpayers’ money. We can now reply to those verbal attacks.
In the first place, I wish to deal particularly with the referendum on prices, rents and charges that was held last year. Many supporters of the Government have attributed the increased cost of living to the fact that the electors last year, when they were asked if they would sanction the continuance of Commonwealth control of prices and rents, voted a very emphatic “ No “. They would now lead the people to believe that the decision at the referendum caused the Commonwealth to surrender controls immediately and that this, in turn, resulted in an increase of the cost of living. I point out at once thatthe question which the people were asked to decide was not whether Commonwealth prices control should continue. They were asked to decide whether control of rents, prices and charges should he handed over to the Commonwealth for all time.
– They were asked whether the power should be embodied in the Constitution.
– That would involve handing it over to the Commonwealth for all time. The Government is now trying to persuade the people that it sought only to continue prices control temporarily. In fact, it could have continued to control prices, rents and charges for two years because it already had the necessary power under the Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act. The Opposition supported that legislation and was prepared to support an extension of its term of operation. However, the Government was not satisfied with that, and it asked the people to embody the power permanently in the Constitution. The people rejected its proposal by a great majority. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) stated during the referendum campaign that, if the Government’s proposal were defeated, he would withdraw the Commonwealth subsidies on certain foods. Previously, he had made a statement which showed that he was fully aware that the withdrawal of subsidies would cause the cost of living to increase. That statement, which was broadcast about twelve months ago, was as follows : - if the Commonwealth Government were forced to abandon its subsidy plan, the price of tea would rise overnight from 2s. Cd. to Ss. 3d. a lb. Butter would go up by CJd. per lb., milk by 1/2 d. per quart and the price of potatoes would nearly double. An ordinary three-piece suit would cost another 35s., shoes would go up by 2s. a pair, and those who preferred kid shoes would have to pay 6d. more a pair. A farmer would have to pay nearly 50 per cent, more for his superphosphate. The Commonwealth Government is also paying subsidies on such items as coal and coastal shipping freights. These are indirectly keeping down living costs. At present the Commonwealth is spending about £40,000,000 a year on these consumer subsidies.
When the right honorable gentleman realized that the Government’s referendum proposals would probably be defeated, he said that, unless the people voted “ yes “, he would withdraw subsidies.
– So that the States could not squander the Commonwealth’s money.
– As the Commonwealth had been squandering it! As Senator O’Byrne’s interjection implies, the withdrawal of subsidies was decided upon because the Commonwealth could not control the spending power of the States. I remind the honorable gentleman and his colleagues that the Commonwealth Government provides funds for the building of houses in the States. The State Governments arrange for the building of the homes. The Government lias no hesitation in handing money to the States to enable them to carry out that undertaking. It would have been no more difficult for the Commonwealth to hand over to the States the funds that would have been needed to continue subsidies so as to keep prices down. The Commonwealth also hands over a proportion of petrol tax receipts to the State governments for use on main road works, and it also provides finance for national fitness.
There are many ways in which it subsidizes various organizations in the States. However, subsidies were withdrawn. According to the Prime Minister, subsidies on primary products in that year alone cost the Commonwealth £45,839,000. Disbursements in 1947-48, the last year in which subsidies were paid, were as follows: -
All of those subsidies affected the cost of living either directly or indirectly. That applied especially to potatoes, milk, tea, wool for home consumption, imports other than tea, shipping and coal. All of the subsidies except that on tea, butter, and cheese were withdrawn. Honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber have constantly alluded to the subsidies paid as assistance to primary producers. It has been pointed out that subsidies amounting to between £5,000,000 and £7,000,000 have been paid between 1943 and the present time to the dairying industry. Although this is quoted in the Treasury figures as assistance to primary producers, that is not so. It is rather a subsidy to the consumer. Although for budgetary purposes the subsidies on butter and cheese have been shown as assistance to primary producers, they are really subsidies to consumers. The claim that the Labour Government has for years past paid a substantial subsidy to the dairying industry is entirely wrong because the object of the subsidy was to keep the price of butter down.
– Did not that benefit the dairying industry?
– It could not benefit the dairying industry in any way. Had they sent all of their butter overseas they would have received less for the quantity sold in Australia. The £7,000,000 is to recoup the dairyingfarmers for the cheaper price paid overseas.
– The honorable senator should not talk such nonsense. It would be paid to the producers.
– I am relying on information supplied to me by the Treasury. This assistance to the primary producers is really a consumers’ subsidy. Probably Government senators are so full of their own importance and wealth of knowledge that they consider that that information is wrong.
– Is the honorable senator quoting from a secret document?
– Some of the subsidies, such as those paid on superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilizers have been maintained to assist the primary producers. Although in the past a subsidy was paid on wheat, there is no necessity for that now, because wheat prices are high. I shall make some comment in this connexion when another measure is being discussed in this chamber. Up to the 1947-48 period a subsidy was paid on jute products, apples and pears, field peas,’ and tobacco.
– “Would not the subsidy in respect of field peas be paid to ibo producers?
– The subsidy on field peas was paid only in 1944-45 and 1945-46. I presume that a certain amount of the subsidy was paid to the producers, although I am not certain that that was so. I suggest that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) is in a much better position than I am to secure that information. When the Prime Minister realized that the referendum would be defeated he became piqued.
– Prior to the referendum the Prime Minister told the people what would be the result if it were defeated.
– He told them that if the referendum were defeated he would withdraw subsidies1.
– The Prime Minister was not prepared to leave the cheque open.
– The Prime Minister used that as a threat. I point out that in fact subsidies come out of the taxpayers’ pockets. The Treasurer is the custodian of the taxpayers’ money, and therefore the people are entitled to those subsidies in order to reduce the cost of living, even though the referendum was defeated.
– That is a foolish contention.
– .When the referendum was defeated prices control was thrown into the laps of the States and the Premiers had to get together hurriedly to introduce legislation to provide for the control of rents and prices in the respective States. They have made a very good job of prices control.
– The public would not agree with that contention.
– I shall review prices control as exercised by the Commonwealth prior to the referendum, and by the States since then. I have before me a publication issued by the Bureau of Census and Statistics. The June quarter of 1948 was the last quarter that prices control was administered by the Commonwealth. In that quarter the “ C “ series retail price index for Canberra was 1313 and for the six capital cities 1278. In the September quarter of that year those figures rose to 1341 and 1311 respectively. It will be seen that there was a rise of 33 points in the six capital cities and 28 points in Canberra. In the December quarter, when control was exercised by the States, there was a rise of 30 points in the six capital cities, and in Canberra, which was still under Commonwealth control, there was a rise of 34 points. In the March quarter of 1949 the index rose 23 points in the six capital cities and 33 points^ in Canberra. The one city where prices control is still under Commonwealth control has had a greater price index rise than the average of six capital cities which are under State control. That shows that the States have been able to handle this matter efficiently despite the fact that control was foisted on them before they had had an opportunity to work out an efficient plan. Although prices control was passed to the States immediately after the referendum was defeated, the States have been able to handle this ‘ problem better than the Commonwealth did.
– Although the honorable senator may be able to convince himself along those lines, I do not think that the general public will be convinced.
– In Queensland, under State control, the prices of furniture, furnishings, hardware, glassware, and china have been reduced under State control. Great play has been made by honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber about the payment of subsidies. At the time of the referendum I thought that it was my duty to explain it to the people. Immediately following the referendum a number of subsidies were withdrawn. The Prime Minister admitted to the public that that was responsible for an increase of the cost of living. At the time that he withdrew subsidies he was fully aware that he was increasing the cost of living for thousands of people in Australia. Yet, after control passed to the States and the subsidies were withdrawn, the States were able to make a better job of control in the last two quarters than the Commonwealth has achieved in the City of Canberra.
– That is a ridiculous statement.
– Doubtless the vast majority of Government senators will have a lot to say about this aspect of the matter later, but the public can judge what is the real position in view of the figures that I have cited. It is particularly noticeable that honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber invariably claim that prosperity, progress, or any attainment at all is due entirely to the fact that the Australian Labour party is in office. I point out that that party has been in power for only seven years.
– The Australian Labour party has been in office for almost eight years.
– They are loath to give credit for the great progress that was made in this country by anti-Labour governments prior to 1941.
– “Will the honorable senator mention any progress that was achieved then?
– Anybody hearing that interjection would think that until 1941 the whole of Australia was run by black people, that no progress had been made in the installation of railways and tramways, that ports and harbours had not been developed, and that huge developments had not taken place both in the city and country areas.
– The country was run by “ bushrangers “.
– The foundations of our present prosperity were laid to some degree by previous governments, but mainly by the pioneers. I am not belittling any government in this matter. There is too much government control at present. Not sufficient encouragement is given to the people to use their initiative and to continue the good work which their predecessors accomplished during 150 years. Listening to honorable senators opposite, however, one might be led to believe that even the rising and setting of the sun and all bountiful seasons are duo entirely to the administration of the wonderful Labour Government. Much of the prosperity we are now enjoying is due to the high prices which we are receiving for our exports, both primary and secondary. The world is hungry not only for primary products but for all the goods that we can produce, and other countries are prepared to pay abnormally high prices for them. Australia is particularly fortunate in being mainly a primary producing country. To-day, we are able to supply food stuffs, wool, minerals and metals and goods of all kinds to countries which are not so fortunate as wc are, and therefore, arc forced to buy those goods from us at high prices. We do not ask for high prices. Many of our exports are purchased at auction, and the prices we receive for them are determined on competitive markets. I believe that even honorable senators opposite will admit that our present prosperity is not the result of increased production but rests primarily upon the’ enhanced prices which we are receiving for our products on the world’s markets. That statement is borne out when we examine the facts. The gross value of our primary productions for the current year is estimated at £600,000,000, which is an increase of almost 300 per cent, above the average annual figure for the five-year period immediately preceding the recent war. When we can speak in astronomical figures in money values, it would appear .that we must be prosperous, but I shall show that we have not increased our capital assets since 1938-39. For instance, the number of sheep in Australia to-day is 105,000,000, compared with the annual average of 111,000,000, for the five-year period immediately proceeding the recent war, whilst in 1947-48 the quantity of wool produced in this country was actually lower than the annual production in that five-year period.
– Does the honorable senator blame the Government for that?
– Supporters of the Government invariably claim that we blame the Government.
– Does the honorable senator suggest the primary producers were better off in 1938-39 than they- are to-day?
– I am dealing with the foundations of our present prosperity.
– The primary producers are better off to-day than they were in 1938-39.
– Any child would understand that] but, at the same time, we have not increased the value of our assets. Our present prosperity rests solely on the abnormally high prices we are receiving for our exports. The present production of dairy cattle is approximately equal to the pre-war production. In 1947-48, butter production totalled 162,000 tons, whereas the annual average for the five-year period immediately proceeding the war was 195,000 tons. In the interim we have increased cheese production, and taking butter and cheese together, production at present is about equal to that recorded before the war. All of us know that the wheat crop last year was a record ; but that was due to a bountiful season.. However, whilst our wheat production last year totalled 220,000,000 bushels, the acreage under wheat to-day is approximately equal to the area under wheat prior to the war. Meat production last year totalled 946,000 tons, whereas production in 3938-39 was 960,000 tons. Surely, the Government cannot ignore those facts. I do not dispute the statement made by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley), that in terms of money, the primary producers are better off to-day than they were in 1938-39.
Sitting suspended from 6 to S p.m.
– I turn now to a consideration of population trends. -Since 1938 our population has increased by from 700,000 to 800,000. All honorable senators doubtless desire that we should increase our population as quickly as possible, because unless we can substantially increase our population within the next ten years we shall find ourselves involved in serious difficulties. It should be borne in mind that any substantial increase of population will reduce our exportable surplus of primary produce, unless the annual rate of production can be increased considerably. A review of the location’ of our population and an analysis of the distribution between industries indicate that the number of people engaged in secondary industry is altogether disproportionate to those engaged in primary industry. The proportion of people engaged in rural industries declined from 19 per cent, in 1939 to only 15 per cent, in 1947, although during that period our total population had increased by approximately 600,000 or 700,000. The unbalanced distribution of our labour force between primary and secondary industries must give every thoughtful person cause for serious concern and it should engage the earnest attention of the Government. In 1939, 522,000 people were engaged in rural industries, but that number had declined in 1947 to 464,000, which was a serious decrease. I have often emphasized the undesirable consequences of the continued drift to the cities that has been evident for some years. That drift was accentuated by the war, when many thousands of young people of both sexes spent a great deal of time in the cities for the first time in their lives, and later, when hostilities ceased, decided to settle in the cities. Something must be done to induce some of them to return to the country. In any event, it is vitally important that inducements should be provided to encourage those who are still employed in rural areas to remain there. Undoubtedly many people would be better off financially in country areas than in the cities. The wages that are now paid to rural workers compare, in some instances, more than favorably with those paid to metropolitan workers, particularly when we realize that the cost of living in the country is lower than in the cities.
An alarming feature of the present situation is the state of disrepair of many country properties because of the inability of primary producers to obtain labour and materials to carry out essential maintenance work. The withdrawal of the labour force during the war, and the extreme effort made by primary producers to produce to the maximum, have left an accumulation of maintenance and general repair work which has not yet been overtaken. Whilst the lack of materials with which to effect repairs has contributed seriously to the .present situation, the principal factor is undoubtedly the scarcity of labour. Apart altogether from offsetting the serious decline of the rural population which has occurred, at least 100,000 more people are required in the country. I admit at once that the unpleasant facts which I have mentioned have given rise to problems which are not susceptible of easy solution. Nevertheless, if we are to maintain our present rate of production, both in primary and secondary industries, on which our economy so largely depends, the available labour force must be augmented very considerably. Only by increasing the national labour force can we increase the production of those goods, particularly building materials, which are so badly needed, not only for the maintenance and expansion of our present undertakings, but also for the establishment of new undertakings. Although the prices of our primary produce have remained high, and have, in some instances, actually increased since the war, the slight decline which has occurred in the prices of some commodities sounds a note of warning. I need hardly remind honorable senators of the disturbing recession which is taking place in the United States of America, which is one of the world’s major producing nations. That recession may very well affect the prosperity of this country.
In the course of my speech I have dealt at some length with our primary industries, and during the debate on the Supply Bill I discussed the position of our secondary industries. I do not intend, therefore, to make any extended reference to the future of our secondary industries, more so, since we are at present confronted with the threat of a grave disturbance in the coal industry. In any event, I do not think that I could usefully add anything to the very fine statement of the position that was made by the chairman of the Joint ‘Coal Board, Mr. K. A. Cameron, over the radio this evening. That statement was not only sincere, but, in my opinion, it was also quite unbiased. It was a most timely warning, not only to the miners, but to all members of the community. The extreme shortage of coal from which the community has suffered for some time past has -been responsible, apart from the present crisis, for the acute shortage of manufactured goods, particularly those wrought from iron and steel. Unfortunately, the coal-miners have now challenged not only the Australian Government but also the Australian people. I join with Mr. Cameron in expressing the hope that reason will deter the coalminers from proceeding wath their threat to stage a general strike on next Monday, the 27th June.
Recently, I asked the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether it was proposed in the near future to review war pensions. My question was framed courteously, and was devoid of political comment or bias. I pointed out that when war pensions were reviewed previously during the term of office of the Labour Government an all-party committee consisting of ex-service members of both this chamber and the House of Representatives, was appointed to investigate the entire matter. The recommendations of that committee were accepted almost in their entirety, and were subsequently implemented by legislation. I suggested that a similar course should be followed in any future review. This matter is, of course, of vital concern to ex-servicemen, and one in which their organizations are most interested. However, the Minister, in his reply to my question, did not say whether the Government would accept my suggestion or indeed’ whether it was prepared to review the situation at .all. In the ranks of all political parties in both Houses of the Parliament, there are ex-servicemen of World War I. and World War II. I hope that when the Minister replies to this debate he will indicate whether my suggestion will be accepted. 1 ask the honorable senator to dispel all thoughts of political propaganda when dealing with this matter. I arn not seeking any political advantage in raising it. I merely ask for a courteous reply from the Minister.
I have drawn attention to the unsound foundation upon which the present prosperity in this country is based, and I have pointed out that already there are signs of a drop in the prices of our primary products on the world’s markets. Admittedly, the drop has not yet been sufficient seriously to affect our economy. However, I feel most strongly on this matter. Australia is one of the fewcountries of the world that have large unoccupied spaces. This country can grow anything and produce anything. We have our own deposits of practically every essential mineral, except oil, and an extensive search for that valuable commodity is being carried on at the moment. Our country is second to none in the world-; what the future holds for us and for succeeding generations depends entirely upon ourselves. Although a government can be of great assistance to a community, the development of a nation depends upon the individual initiative and courage of its people. Vast development is possible in this land, but whether or not it will lake place depends entirely upon ourselves and the advantage that we take of the opportunities that are presented to us. We could make Australia a greater country and a powerful force for peace in this part of the world, but that will require courage, initiative, and the co-operation of all classes of society. Governments can give a lead. They can guide a community to higher and better things. I believe that Australia has a great destiny, but I regret to say that the present Government has not given to the Australian people the leadership and guidance that we have a right to expect of it. Australia is still in the pioneering stage, and present-day pioneers must be encouraged to discover fresh sources of wealth. Only by giving individuals in the community freedom and encouragement to use their initiative can we get the best from our land as a whole. Unfortunately, the present Government has not set the example of leadership that is so necessary at present to bring Australia out of the dangerous position ‘ into which it has fallen.
– It is extraordinary that a country such as Australia can produce such moaners and groaners as the Leader of the Opposition. (Senator Cooper). In his eyes everything that Labour does is wrong. But his remarks are full of contradictions, and I believe that it will be worth while to mention one or two of them. Earlier to-day, the honorable senator said that the people of Australia did not have enough initiative. To-night he has said that the lack of initiative is the fault of the Government. He cannot have it both ways. If the people as a whole have not sufficient initiative, surely that cannot be blamed on the Government. The honorable senator frequently accuses the Government of squandering the tax-payers’ money. I assume that in that connexion also, the honorable senator considers that the Government has not given a lead to the people of Australia. What an extraordinary belief! The Leader of the Opposition must be well aware that the Government has handled the finances of this country magnificently. Under Labour’s rule, our overseas credits have been increased from £100,000,000 to £360,000,000. The Australian Government has agreed with the Government of the United Kingdom that £150,000,000 of that money shall be held in reserve. It is not frozen, but it will not be used except in cases of emergency. No other government of this country has ever placed our overseas finances in such a sound position as they are in to-day. The policy of anti-Labour administrations has always been to finance such undertakings as tie re-establishment and rehabilitation of ‘ ex-servicemen by borrowing money overseas. Housing schemes too were undertaken on borrowed funds. This Government is using the revenues of the country to meet such commitments. Could anything he sounder than that? Our overseas debts have been reduced by more than £100,000,000 and interest payments on those debts has been reduced by approximately £32,000,000 a year. Incidently, I remind honorable senators that those interest payments are in respect of loan moneys borrowed and squandered in by-gone years by anti-Labour administrations.
– Our overseas debts have been reduced by sinking funds.
– Yes, but that does not alter the position. Sinking funds have been used before. AntiLabour administrations were always in financial difficulties because their rate of borrowing always exceeded their sinking fund payments. Now the position is quite different. Our overseas debts are being reduced rapidly. The honorable senator’s little side-track arguments are of no consequence. The fact is that our overseas indebtedness has been reduced by more than £100,000,000. We are drawing on current revenue to meet many commitments which, in years gone by, were met from loan funds. How can this be regarded as squandering money? By the end of this year, approximately £40,000,000 will have been paid into the war gratuity reserve. Can that be regarded as squandering money? Obviously not. That money is being put aside to meet a heavy future obligation. This method of financing the war gratuity will obviate the need to raise loans for that purpose. Further, the Australian Government has made a gift of £35,000,000 to the United Kindgom. There is no interest charge or any attachment of that kind. It was simply a gift made in Great Britain’s time of extremity. Would the honorable senator say that that was squandering the revenues of the country ?
– Naturally the Government must have some good points.
– I believe that he would say so. He has said also that production in Australia is not so great as it ought to be and that the Government is building our economy upon an unsound basis because, according to him, it has erected a price economy instead of a production economy. The honorable gentleman made that statement this afternoon and repeated it again this evening. In an effort to bolster up his case, he pointed out that the production of butter had decreased since 1938-39. I have here a copy of a booklet issued by the Institute of Public Affairs of Victoria-
– A Liberal organization !
– Yes, and a very tory one at that. The JanuaryFebruary issue of the booklet contains a large table of figures comparing the production, totals of numerous commodities for 193S-39, 1946-47 and 1947-48. It contains the figures that were cited this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition. He said that butter production amounted to 195,000 tons in 1938-39, but fell to 157,000 tons in 1947-48. Butter is a milk product. There are other milk products besides butter, and all of them are being produced in greatly increased quantities. The honorable senator did not refer to them.
– I did. I referred to cheese, for instance.
– That is the next item on the list that I have here.
– I quoted official statistics.
– The booklet to which I am referring acknowledges the Monthly Bulletin of Australian Production Statistics as the source of its information. That was also the source of the figures cited by the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable gentleman did refer to cheese, and he said that there had been a slight increase of production.
– I said that the increase balanced the decreased production of butter.
– Here are the figures: Australia produced 29,000 tons of cheese in 1938-39 and 41,200 tons in 1947-4S. The honorable senator also forgot to say that Australians are now consuming approximately 90,000,000 gallons more milk each year than they consumed before the war. The honorable senator conveniently overlooked such relevant, facts. In 1938-39, processed milk products, which include condensed milk, dried milk and that sort of thing, amounted to 29,700 tons. Last year the total output was 88,400 tons. The honorable gentleman was on very shaky ground when he referred to only one item of production in attempting to bolster up hia assertion that the Government was establishing a price economy instead’ of a production economy. The figures that I have cited show that the volume of milk products to-day is greater than it has ever been in Australia’s history. Obviously the Government is not building the nation’s economy on prices alone.
Looking further down the list on the table of statistics to which the honorable gentleman referred, I see other items such as food, drink, tobacco, bricks, terra cotta tiles, cement building sheets and Portland cement. Production of all except two of those items has increased considerably since 193S-39. The output of only a few unimportant products has fallen off. The production of coal, for example, has increased since 1938-39. I do not want to say much about coal, but I direct the attention of the Leader of the Opposition, who has moaned and groaned about production, to the facts set out in this booklet issued by the Institute of Public Affairs. It states the figures fairly and squarely. Production of black coal amounted to 12,200,000 tons in 1938-39. 14,000,000 tons in 1946-47 and 14,700,000 tons in 1947-4S. The honorable senator cannot get away from those figures. They are contained in the document from which he quoted this afternoon. The production figures for rubber goods, machinery, brown coal, gas and electricity also have increased.
– Thousands of people who want homes will be hard to convince.
– When the honorable senator tries to bolster his case by quoting statistics for only one article of production, he does a wrong to himself and absolutely insults the intelligence of the people of Australia. They know as well as the honorable gentleman does that production in Australia is greater than ever before. They know also that the number of persons employed in Australian industries has increased from approximately 450,000 to nearly 900,000.
– Then production should be much greater than it is.
– We cannot employ more men than are available. The fact is that all who can work are in employment. That was not so in 1938-39, or in previous years, as the
Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) pointed out. The facts that I have presented to the Senate prove that the economy of Australia is established on a sound production basis.
The Leader of the Opposition also complained that the number of persons engaged in rural industries had decreased. Good heavens, he must be living in a by-gone age ! Primary production has been mechanized from start to finish throughout Australia. Machines are being used for all phases of primary production. Where once a man with six horses drove a two-furrow plough, we see to-day a tractor pulling a plough that will cut twelve, fourteen, sixteen, or even more furrows. That means that fewer men are required now for the purpose of tilling the soil. Reaping and harvesting have been mechanized in the same way. Harvesters and drills are bigger than they were years ago and they are drawn by machines instead of by horses. Once upon a time, a man had to run up and down the plank to look after the drill, but to-day one man can stand on the back of the drill and drive the tractor and operate the drill at the same time by means of a long rod. Because of those improvements there is no necessity for the employment of large numbers of men on farms in order to maintain production. What is the use of moaning about men not being available for work in the country? Everybody is short of labour.
– The employers want to have men hanging about so that they can call on them at their own convenience.
– Yes, I know that. The review of the Institute of Public Affairs, to which I have referred, has published articles from time to time declaring that the full employment policy of the Labour Government is all wrong because it does not give employers a chance to discipline the men. Efficient management will discipline workers. There is no need for the sort of discipline that the bosses want. The Leader of the Opposition did himself an injustice and insulted the people of Australia when he referred only to one item of production in order -to boost his contention that the Government was fostering a price economy instead of a production economy. The statistics prove that production is increasing.
– I just want to have the truth.
– The figures that I have quoted are true. I have taken them from the leaflet that the honorable senator used.
– I quoted from a government publication.
– The table from which I quoted was a reprint of a statistician’s report, and it was published by the people whom the honorable senator represents. They financed the campaign to defeat the Government’s referendum proposals about which the honorable senator has talked so much. That brings me to another subject about which the honorable gentleman has groaned and moaned - the prices referendum.
– No. The honorable senator and his colleagues are the ones who moaned about that.
– The honorable senator moaned about it this afternoon. He complained that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) and the Government did not make clear that the withdrawal of subsidies would lead to price increases.
– He made it far too clear. He gave a broadcast talk about it.
– I have here a report of a statement on the subject that was made in the Parliament by the Prime Minister on the 23rd February last. He said -
I pass on to the matter of subsidies. Let us be clear about it, although there has never been any misunderstanding on the part of the Government. In the first speech that I made in the referendum campaign, I told the people, on behalf of the Government, that they had to decide the issue. In the eyes of the Government it was not a political issue. I pointed out that the Commonwealth did not have power to control rents and prices’ effectively, and I issued a warning that such power as we possessed might disappear at any time. I asked the people to decide whether they were prepared to vest in the Commonwealth full power to control rents and prices, otherwise that power would pass to the States. The Government was under no illusion about the matter. I also stated in that speech that if the Commonwealth lost the power to control rents and prices, it was inevitable that subsidies payable in respect of goods the prices of which the Commonwealth would no longer control would also cease.
I do not think that there is anything clearer to show that we asked for full control of prices. We are not complaining because the people turned it down, as the honorable senator says. It is their prerogative to approve or reject. On the advice of Opposition parties they said, “No”. The article continued -
On that occasion, we asserted that the Commonwealth could not continue to pay subsidies in respect of goods and commodities when the Government ceased to have direct power to regulate the prices of them. We have retained subsidies on the things over which we have reasonable control, such as tea, which we buy, and phosphate and butter, which we can control through the boards that deal with those commodities.
Everything was made clear so far as the Government was concerned, that the prices power was to be incorporated in the Constitution. It is probably because of the quibble of the Opposition that the people misunderstood it. Because they rejected the proposal the States have that power to-day. What is the use of growling about rising prices and saying that the Commonwealth is at fault because subsidies were removed, when it was made clear prior to the referendum that subsidies would be withdrawn from the things that the Commonwealth could not control ? The honorable senator said that there is no difference between the Commonwealth making an arrangement with the State governments and providing money for the building of houses by the States. He also said that we pay money to the States from the proceeds of the petrol tax for the construction and maintenance of roads, and that money is paid to the States to make provision for national fitness. That is a defence matter, which is an entirely different thing altogether. The building of houses is undertaken and supervised by the States. One government merely pays another government to supervise the work. It was agreed some years ago that the ‘Commonwealth, would collect the petrol tax and allocate money to the States for the purpose of building roads. The States control the expenditure of that money for the building of roads. Would the honorable senator say that we should take that away from the States, because we have reduced subsidies? We would not ha ve half of the roads that exist in Australia to-day if the Government had been niggardly in that matter. If subsidies were paid to private enterprise, that would amount to giving people money with which they could do what they liked, and allowing them to charge what they liked.
– It should be paid in the same way as other moneys are paid.
– No government would dare to do such a thing. If that were done, there would be real ground for saying that the revenue of this country was being wasted because it was being given to private enterprise as a subsidy, and that private enterprise could do what it liked with the money and charge what it liked for the commodity that it was selling. This Government has dealt with the matter in a sane and proper way. Before a subsidy is paid, the Government should be able to control the commodity from its source to the consumer. That is the only sound method that can be operated in .an economy built on production. Our economy is built on production, despite what Senator Cooper has said. I have studied carefully the facts and figures relating to the expenditure of the revenue of this country. Our economy must be stabilized so that if there i9 any chance of a recession of prices overseas, we shall be able to utilize reserve funds for the expansion and development of Australia. During the war years that development was held up because of the necessities of war; now it is held up because of man-power considerations. Before the war, although there was ample labour and material available, it was not used to the best advantage. Senator Cooper suggested that further development should take place because we need population for specific purposes. Actually we need more population to further develop this country. Although this may sound like a. conundrum, as a country is developed additional population is required to develop it further. That applies in all walks of life. If a man commences an enterprise with a great deal of confidence and assurance, inevitably he gains the confidence and assurance of other people, and is thus able to extend the venture. It is true that the more a country is developed, the greater becomes the necessity to further develop it. Additional population becomes necessary. That will be achieved in Australia, by natural increase in addition to large numbers of migrants from overseas who are being attracted to this magnificent country. I hope that these moaners and groaners will discontinue criticizing this Government’s sound methods and boost Australia, which is the best country in the world.
– “When speaking to this measure this afternoon, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) said that he welcomed the opportunity to address the Senate while the proceedings were being broadcast so that the people of Australia would be able to hear some of his criticism of this Government. Surely the honorable senator realizes that in view of its proud record, this Government is not afraid of criticism by a member of a party that has nothing tangible to offer to the people of Australia, and which is making frantic efforts to cover up its ineptitude when it was in office some years ago. I shall not deal at length with prices control because mention was made of the rents and prices referendum by Senator Cooper this afternoon, and Senator O’Flaherty has effectively dealt with the points that he raised. 1 shall, however, address my remarks to the erroneous and misleading statement of the Leader of the Opposition with relation to the authority that was being exercised by the Australian Government under the defence transitional powers prior to the referendum. Both the honorable senator and members of the Opposition in the House of Representatives have said repeatedly that there was no need for the Australian Government to conduct a referendum on this subject because the Opposition parties were prepared to agree to the Commonwealth continuing prices control for as long as was necessary. However they and people outside the Parliament who campaigned against the referendum knew very well that if at any time those powers were challenged before the High Court of Australia, it was practically contain that they would be declared..invalid. They were endeavouring to create the impression with the people of Australia that it was only necessary for the Opposition parties to agree to an extension of those powers to enable the Australian Government to continue to exercise them. That was not so. The Leader of the Opposition has criticized the policy and actions of this Government during the last few years. He said that Australia is enjoying a superficial prosperity. That is a direct insult to the intelligence of the people of this country, because if we were enjoying merely a superficial prosperity why would the people want to hold on to it? Why do they not run back to the socalled freedom and initiative that the honorable senator professes to support? At least the Australian Labour party lias instituted and is maintaining a policy of full employment. The party that the honorable senator supports does not believe in full employment.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), as well as Professor Hytten, formerly economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales, does not favour and generally support a policy of full employment.
– That is entirely wrong.
– Professor Hytten, formerly economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales, said in Tasmania recently that the ideal society is one in which there are between 6 and 8 per cent, unemployed. Apparently it does not matter what that mean? in terms of human suffering! All that the Opposition is concerned about i- bank profits and big business dividends. So that the people of Australia may know the full facts of this matter I shall take the opportunity now, whilst the proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast, to repeat what I said earlier. When the Scullin Government was in office during the depression, legislation was passed by the House of Representatives to provide extra money to enable people to be put back to work so that they could be decently fed. housed and clothed. At that time Senator Cooper was a member of the anti-Labour majority in this chamber that voted against that measure. This is a damning indictment, not only of the honorable senator himself, but also of the party and the policy that he has represented and supported throughout the years. Because that legislation was rejected by the Senate on that occasion, further hardships and suffering were inflicted on the people of Australia.
– That policy was approved by the people.
– If I had voted against a. measure designed to succour tens of thousands of people in this country, I should be ashamed to face the electors again. However, that is a. clear indication to the people of Australia of what they may expect in the future should the tory parties, now in Opposition, be elected to office in the future. This Government has achieved a record of which it can be proud. That fact is emphasized when we “study figures in relation to employment generally and the re-establishment of ex-service personnel. As at the beginning of this month, only 982 persons throughout the Commonwealth were receiving unemployment benefits. Of that number 705 claimants ‘ were in Queensland where a great number of people are engaged in seasonal occupations and become temporarily unemployed when transferring from one centre to another.- Exclusive of rural and domestic workers and members of the defence forces, nearly 2,500,000 people were employed compared with 1,730,000 people in employment in 1939. In that year, however, there were 290,000 persons unemployed in this country. I am quite certain that the people realize that this Government is largely responsible for Australia’s present prosperity which is unequalled in any other country. However, every proposal made by the Governis criticized by the Opposition merely with the object of making party political capital. I shall now show what this Government has done for ex-service personnel of the recent war compared with what anti-LaboUr governments did for exservice personnel of World War I. After that war practically nothing of importance was done to rehabilitate and repatriate exservice personnel. Land settlement schemes which were implemented after that conflict were complete failures. In contrast to that record this Government has already accomplished much in the interests of ex-personnel of the recent war. Properties comprising nearly 7,000,000 acres have been approved for acquisition for soldier settlement, and of that area 4,685,173 acres have actually been allotted to ex-service personnel. Grants already totalling £6,241,187 have been made by way of agricultural loans to nearly 12,000 ex-servicemen. That is something tangible. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that war pensions should be further increased. However, whilst nothing we can do in terms of pounds, shillings and pence can amply repay exservice personnel for their services in the fighting forces, we must draw the line somewhere, and I believe that the people realize that this Government has done incomparably more for ex-service men and women than previous governments ever attempted to do for them. In addition, the Government has instituted a system of rural training for soldier settlers, and nearly 9,000 ex-servicemen have been selected for such training under the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme. Of that number 2,915 have completed their training. The cost of that portion of the scheme to date totals £S46,603 which has been expended in respect of instruction and administration, allowances to trainees and the cost of buildings and equipment. Those facts show that the Government is not approaching the problem of rehabilitating ex-service personnel in a haphazard manner as anti-Labour governments did after World War I. It is instituting its scheme on a scientific basis. That fact is borne out by the success of its schemes up to date. It has also instituted university training for ex-service personnel. Nearly 39,000 ex-service men and. women have been selected for training under that scheme, the number taking full-time courses being 22,580 and those taking part time courses numbering 16,278. The Government realizes that ex-service personnel are entitled to the very best educational facilities that the country can provide for them. Of the 15,325 students now participating in that scheme, 9.295 a.re undergoing full-time courses and 0,032 are undergoing part-time courses, whilst over 6,000 full-time students and over 3,000 part-time students have completed their training under that scheme. A suan of £6,072,42S has been expended on living allowances to trainees at universities, whilst £1,351,025 has been expended on their tuition fees. Those facts show clearly that the Opposition’s criticism of the Government’s rehabilitation scheme is .unjustified. I, personally, appreciate the Government’s achievements in this sphere because as an exserviceman of World War I., I know that anti-Labour governments of the day did practically nothing to rehabilitate exservice personnel of that conflict. The Government is also providing technical and vocational training for ex-service personnel, over 274,000 persons having been selected to undergo that class of training. Of tha’!; number over 90,000 are taking full-time courses and more than 1S3,000 are taking part-time courses. Those figures are most illuminating and completely refute the claim of the Opposition parties that the Government has done no tiling to help ex-service personnel. Of the number of ex-service men and women who have undertaken technical and vocational training courses, 63,335 are undergoing full-time courses and 160,894 are undergoing part-time courses, whilst 13,672 have completed full-time courses and 21,789 have completed, part- time courses. The sum of £7,559,361 has been expended in living allowances for trainees under that “scheme. I am sure that the people will fully appreciate the import of those facts. and, consequently, will return this Government to office at the next general election. The people realize that they cannot expect anything better from the present Opposition parties, should they happen to be returned to office, than the treatment which was meted out to them in the past by anti-Labour governments which masqueraded under various names. The people know that those parties. when they were in office had ample opportunity to do what they now profess they will do if they are returned to office at the next general election, and I am sure that Australians will not fall into a trap and again trust a coalition government formed of those parties. All of us remember the squabbling which went on between the Opposition parties when they were in. office during the first two years of the recent war. Evidence that those parties are not capable of establishing unity among themselves in the future is provided by recent events in Victoria where only a few months ago a coalition government formed of the Liberal party mid the Country party fell out. At present they are describing each other in such terms as political “ rat bags “ and playboys “. flow can those parties be expected to establish real unity should they be returned to office in the Commonwealth sphere? Their records show that they are a political rabble. In order to indicate the hopelessness of ever expecting unity among the Opposition parties, I quote the following from a report published in the Melbourne Age of the 13th June last: -
Three Attempts to Destroy Country Party.
A charge that the Premier (Mr. Hollway) had three times tried to destroy the Country party was made by Mr. Fulton, M.L.A., addressing a Legislative Council meeting at Mornington.
Mr. Fulton is a member of the Victorian Country party, and, therefore, I warn the Leader of the Opposition that he should be careful of the two members of the Liberal party who sit in Opposition with him because they may be out to destroy him. Mention of Victorian politics reminds me that at the elections for the Victorian Legislative Council, which were held last Saturday, Labour candidates, although they contested only three seats, won them all with substantial majorities. One of those seats had been held by a member of a former anti-Labour ministry, who was defeated by a substantial majority. The success of the Labour candidates convinces me that the people of Victoria realize the mistake that they made when they defeated the Cain Labour Government at the Victorian elections in 1947. The undemocratic nature of the Victorian Legislative Council is evidenced by the fact that only one-third of the adultpeople of that State are entitled to vote for the election of members of the Council. Yet, we constantly hear members of the Opposition parties in this chamber prating of the importance which their parties attach to the democratic spirit of the Australian people and the need for the people to be properly represented in the parliaments of Australia. Why do those parties not do something to rectify the situation in Victoria?
– The Commonwealth Parliament has nothing to do with elections for the Parliament of Victoria.
– I know that the honorable senator represents the State of Queensland, whose people had the good sense to abolish the undemocratic second chamber which they had in that State. I hope that the people of other States will also abolish the second chambers that prevent proper democratic representation in their States. In spite of the lip-service which members of the Opposition parties pay to democratic representation, the solicitude which they express for the welfare of ex-servicemen, and the extreme patriotism which they continually profess, I remind them that when the Victorian Labour party suggested, in 1944, when so many of our young men were giving their lives for their country, that the franchise for the Victorian Legislative Council should be extended to embrace all ex-servicemen, that reactionary body refused to countenance the suggestion. The franchise remains now as it has been for many years past, and the only ex-servicemen who are permitted to vote at elections for the Legislative Council are those who held commissions during the war. The reason for that restriction is obvious. The reactionaries who control that chamber realize that if the franchise were extended they would be deprived of their domination of the legislative machinery of Victoria. The Victorian Legislative Council has always sprung to the defence of vested interests whenever those interests have been threatened. In conclusion, I commend the Government for its very real achievements, and I suggest that the criticism of it which has been voiced by honorable senators opposite may be dismissed as so much political windowdressing. They know that the present Labour Government has done a- great job for the Australian people, and I have no doubt that they also realize that the people will return the .present Government with an overwhelming majority at the next general election.
.- By contrast with honorable senators opposite, who have dealt somewhat heavily with a number of matters which they doubtless regard as of the utmost national importance, I propose to address myself to a few matters that may appear to be of minor importance. However, T consider that the adoption of my suggestions will benefit the Australian people as a whole. I believe in the truth of the old adage that man does not live by bread alone. I had the pleasure of hearing the broadcast of the very able address which was delivered by Miss Marjorie Lawrence, the well-known singer, over the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s network last week-end. Her address convinced me of the need for the Government to take the lead in fostering musical and dramatic talent amongst our young people. I believe that a national eisteddfod should he conducted in conjunction with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. Since the famous eisteddfods that were formerly held at South-street, Ballarat, were discontinued no national competitions for amateur artists have been conducted. As Miss Lawrence and many others have pointed out, there is no doubt that plenty of talent is available in this country. Now that adequate broadcasting and other facilities are available there is no reason why a national competition should not bo established. I add that the people of northern Tasmania hope to have a regional station of the national broadcasting network in the near future. That competition should encourage all types of voices and. embrace all the popular musical instruments. Later it could be extended to cater for choirs and bands. Whilst I do not consider that we are wasting money by importing singers and other musical artists from overseas, even at considerable expense, to entertain us because it is important that we should place the best talent before our people in order to improve the local standards, I believe that we have never made any really serious effort to foster local talent. The Commonwealth has ample funds to provide substantial inducements to successful amateur artists, and we could easily afford to send selected artists overseas for further training. The ramifications of the national broadcasting system could be availed of to promote the scheme. Whilst the present law provides that a small percentage of all music played by broadcasting stations must be Australian music, there is no reason why the present small percentage of 2-J or 5 per cent., should not be increased to 50 per cent. Undoubtedly, the conduct of big national competitions would encourage not only performances by Australian artists, but also the composition of songs and music by Australians. I believe that not nearly sufficient Australian recordings are broadcast at present. Recently, a lady wrote to me in the f ollowing terms : -
I am glad you have asked such practical questions. Recording is certainly the only way in -which Australian music and songs can be played repeatedly. Of course, the old idea of the song importers has been to block recording for that reason.
I am convinced that there is some basis for the criticism of Australian music publishing houses. Obviously it is cheaper and more profitable for them to import overseas sheet music and gramophone records than to encourage local composers. Any effort which the Government may make to encourage our own musical talent will earn the gratitude not only of the artists and composers but also of the people generally.
For some time past an effort has been made in Tasmania to promote the development of the vegetable industry. At Scottsdale, Dewcrisp De-hydrated Vegetables Limited has been dehydrating and packing vegetables for export. Although the company has already received a substantial order for the supply of vegetables for India, it has not received any encouragement from the mainland’ States of Australia. The company dehydrates, packs and cans all the well-known vegetables, including potatoes. At my suggestion it recently sent a number of samples to the Department of the Interior in Canberra for examination. The secretary of that department wrote to me and stated that whilst the samples were of excellent quality and consistently good flavour there was no market for the goods in Canberra because the people of Canberra already had an ample supply of vegetables. From my experience of the National Capital, I am convinced that 75 per cent, of the people of Canberra have never enjoyed a sufficient supply of good vegetables. There is no reason why the inadequate supplies of vegetables of indifferent quality which are at present available in Canberra should not be supplemented by the. importation of dehydrated vegetables from Tasmania. Dehydrated potatoes, in particular, would be most acceptable in Canberra, and the Government should give the company’s goods a fair trial by introducing them to their hostels and hotels and also to the community hospital. I point out that the percentage of water contained in potatoes is very high, and that the dehydration process merely removes the excess water without destroying the food value of the vegetables. The dehydrated potatoes prepared by the company are available in tins and in packs. Regular aircraft services operate between Tasmania and Canberra regularly, and there is no reason why the people of Canberra should be denied the opportunity to obtain regular supplies of dehydrated vegetables from Tasmania.
I turn now to another matter which is connected with the lighter side of life. Some little time ago I put forward in all sincerity the suggestion that the Australian Government should promote the playing of Australia’s national game of football in the northern parts of Australia, in the United .States of America, and in other countries by sponsoring, with appropriate publicity, a national, and later, an international, competition. Quite recently 80,000 people attended a football match in Melbourne, and that attendance indicates the popularity of the game. Since I mentioned this matter in the Senate on a previous occasion, Mr. Carl Delmuth, of the Swathmore College, Pennsylvania, United .States of America, has been in communication with me. He has seen a game of Australian rules football played and has made a study of the code. In consequence, he considers that Australian rules football is the greatest ball game in the world. He is doing his best to make the game popular in the United States of America, and if we assist him, we shall be helping Australia. I shall read several extracts from letters that I have received from people in support of my suggestion that a motion picture be made of Australian football. The first one - quite naturally - is from the Tasmanian Australian National Football League the secretary of which states -
The Tasmanian Football League notes with great pleasure your efforts on behalf of the Australian National football game. We certainly agree with you that the game, which is also a great industry in itself for Australia, needs publicity and to make a film with our game as the background is a wonderful idea.
We note also, with pleasure, your remarks regarding the game in New South Wales and Queensland. May we respectfully suggest that the Canberra Australian National Football League are deserving of every support possible. If the game can be made “ tops “ in Canberra a great deal of prejudice would be broken down in the other northern States, with advantage to all.
T believe that the Government should do something to assist Australian football in Canberra. In the Australian Capital, there are no grandstands, and dressing room accommodation is poor. I can see no reason why a temporary wooden stand could not be erected to give patrons of Australian football a little comfort. The following is an extract from a letter that I have received from Melbourne: -
Let me congratulate you on your efforts to have produced here a film written round Australian Rules football. Like yourself, I feel that it would make a first-class action picture, of intense interest overseas as well as locally.
The next letter is from a firm which claims already to have made a short film on Australian Rules football. The letter states -
We would like to congratulate you on your effort to assist this Cinderella industry by encouraging film production.
The following is a quotation from the Melbourne Sporting Globe : -
Discussing Senator Lamp’s suggestion^ Mr. Percy Page, secretary of the Australian National Football Council, says : “ Senator Lamp is right on the beam when he states that a film based on Australian football would have tremendous publicity value for Australians.
A letter from a Melbourne publicity firm states that it has a well known picture producer who would be pleased to take on the job of writing a story and scenario for the proposed film. The Australian National Football Council states that the suggestion is well worth consideration, and that the Government should do something about it. I have also received a letter from an airman who, during his stay in the United States of America tried to popularize Australian National football. He says that a picture showing how spectacular the Australian game of football is would have good publicity value overseas. I suggest that if the Government will not provide the prize money for a film story, the National Fitness Council should do so. It has plenty of funds in its coffers, and after all, it is concerned with games such as football.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) claimed that governmental expenditure in certain directions was inadequate. He also said that the Government’s housing programme was falling far short of its target. I recall that in 1926 I was a member of the audience in the Albert Hall, Launceston, which heard the then Prime Minister. Mr. S. M. Bruce, make his policy speech for the then forthcoming general election. Mr. Bruce said that if he were returned to office he would place £20,000,000 in the Commonwealth Bank for the erection of homes. There would be homes for all who wanted them, and that would be the end of communism. Mr. Bruce was returned to office, and £20,000,000 was placed in the Commonwealth Bank, but no homes were built. Since 1945, the Labour Government has made £31,000,000 available to the States for housing. In addition it has allocated £58,000 to the States for the payment of rem rebates. Of the £31,000,000 paid for the construction or homes, Tasmania’s share has been approximately £1,385,000. To the end of June, 1948, homes actually constructed under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement totalled 25,361. I was very sorry indeed when the Victorian Government cancelled its contract for Beaufort homes. In my opinion the Beaufort home is the best of the prefabricated houses. We have a “ Monocrete “ house in Canberra, and I hope that similar dwellings will be constructed in the States. I believe that they are suitable for erection in any part of the Commonwealth.
While extolling the virtues of the Opposition parties and criticizing the capabilities of the Labour party, the Leader of the Opposition pointed to alleged failures on the part of the Australian Government, but, as Senator O’Flaherty showed clearly, Labour’s record of administration is far better than thai of any anti-Labour government that has held office in this country. I regret very much that until Labour came to office, no attempt was made to provide a permanent home for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in Melbourne. At present the court is housed in rented property. Upon the receipt of a favorable report by the Public Works Committee, this Government has approved of the construction of a new building. Last year, or the year before, the Government’s rent bill waa approximately ‘ £1,000,000. That figure has been reduced, but I believe that it is still approximately £750.000 per annum.
In Sydney last week-end, several members of the Parliament were able, through the courtesy of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Riordan) to inspect the new aircraft carrier H.M.A.S. Sydney. I congratulate the Government sincerely upon having brought to this country such an efficient fighting ship. I had never previously had an opportunity to inspect an aircraft carrier, and I was very pleased with what I saw. The carrier is one of the newest afloat. It has the most modern radar direction-finding equipment in the world. Its displacement is 17,780 tons, and it has an overall length of 700 feet, a breadth of 80 feet, and a draught of 23 feet. Its engines develop 40,000 horsepower and give it a speed of 25 knots. Its armament consists of ten batteries of 40 mm. anti-aircraft guns. It has a complement of 80 officers and 920 men. At present, it has twelve Sea Fury and twelve Firefly aircraft. These can be increased to 44 if necessary in war-time. The mechanical services provided for the crew are thoroughly up to date. For instance, there is an all-electric laundry which can return clothing to its owner within five hours. There Ls also a machine which slices and butters bread - I should like to have one myself. An electric draught ventilation system ensures an adequate supply of fresh air throughout the vessel.’ Cold water fountains are provided, and hot baths are always available. I believe, that Sydney is the most comfortable fighting ship afloat and I am confident that this vessel, which bears such an illustrious name, will do a good job for Australia. I hope that it will be permitted to visit the various States when appropriate festivities are in progress. I have mentioned this matter to the Minister for the Navy, and he has assured me that Sydney will visit Western Australia, and will be in Tasmania for the next Royal Hobart regatta. I hope to see the vessel again on that occasion, and to renew my acquaintance with its officers and men. Again I congratulate the Government on the purchase of Sydney which I am confident, will, should the occasion arise, bring more glory to the fighting forces of the Commonwealth.
Senator MURRAY (Tasmania) [9.42J. - This measure provides for the allocation of £71,558,()00 for the maintenance of Commonwealth departments and essential services. I shall (refer to certain items of expenditure which I consider to be vital to the welfare of Australia. I am pleased .to note that, looking ahead, the Australian Government, in conjunction with the Government of New Zealand, has acquired the Christmas Island phosphate deposits for £1,724,000. There are two Christmas Islands. One is south of Sumatra, and the other is in the Mariannes, north of Nauru and Ocean Island, and about half-way between that group and Hawaii. I am informed that the Christmas Island in which the phosphate deposits are located, is the one in the Pacific. Administration of the island, no doubt, will be within the province of the Department of External Territories, and I assume that this task will be carried out by the organization that has been set up to- administer Nauru and Ocean Island.
I have devoted considerable study recently to world food supplies. I have had access to documents -prepared by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and I have gone to some trouble to compile some statistics relating to the quantity of food required to maintain the world’s population. The major food producing country of the world is Canada, which has a population of 12,000,000, and produces annually 3,817 lb. of basic cereals including wheat, rice, barley, oats, maize and millet, per head of its population. The second in order is the United States of America and the third is Argentina. The fourth, strangely, is Denmark, where intensive cultivation has boosted the production of basic cereals to 1,686 lb. per capita annually. Australia ranks fifth. Our population of approximately 8,000,000 produces 1,093 lb. of basic cereals per capita annually. Of the 28 countries that have been investigated by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the second-last, third-last, and fourth-last are countries with enormous populations but very little arable land. Japan is 26th on the list, Germany is 27th, and the United Kingdom, the homeland to which we owe deep loyalty and sympathy, is last. That is why the 50,000,000 people in Great Britain have to tighten their belts and turn for help to other countries which can produce surplus food.
The need for food guides all our actions. It gives rise to that primeval force without which we cannot exist. The world population at present, according to statistics that have been supplied to me, amounts to 1,840,500,000, to the nearest half-million. Of that number. 1,200,000,000 are Asians or coloured people and 640,500,000 are of European descent. The annual birth-rate is 21,900,000, which gives a monthly rate of 1,860,000, a daily rate of 60,000, and an hourly rate of 2,500. In the minute during which I have been citing these figures, 41 new citizens have come into the world. Consider those statistics in terms of food, requirements. There can be little wonder that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization is faced with a tremendous problem in trying to feed those hungry mouths and fill those empty bellies. In purchasing Christmas Island in order to increase the supplies of phosphates that are needed to fertilize our land, the Australian Government looked ahead to the part that must be played in populating this continent so that its resources could be employed to the utmost to produce food for the world. The acquisition of the island will help’ not only the man on the land, but also the world in general. We nave a considerable measure of responsibility for the feeding of the Asian races that live in countries to the north of Australia. Diets in those countries changed considerably during the war. Rice has always been the staple food of Asians, but their diets now include considerable quantities of meat and other foods to which formerly they had no access but which were introduced to them in the form of relief supplies distributed by United Nations organizations. Two of every three Australians live in cities and towns, leaving one-third of the population to carry the burden and responsibility of providing food for the others and building up export quotas to supply to the many millions of hungry human beings who are born into the world every year. Twenty per cent, of Australians are employed in factories, 21 per cent, on the land, 2.0 per cent, in mining or quarrying, 4 per cent, in building, and the remaining 51 per cent, in miscellaneous avocations, including public services, transportation and trade.
The death rate throughout the world has been steadily declining, in spite of the fact that famine, disease, disaster war and rebellion periodically wipe out millions of lives. If present trends are maintained, the present world population will be doubled within 100 years. But food production will not be doubled. That will create a very important and serious problem, to which underpopulated Australia must devote special attention. In China alone, during the period from 1850 to 1866, over 40,000,000 persons died other than natural deaths in rebellions or other forms of violence. Over 20,000,000 men alone lost their lives in the recent prolonged conflict with the Japanese. It is computed that over 10,000,000 men lost their lives in keeping the Chinese Nationalist Army in the field against the Japanese on the Burma Road, in North China and elsewhere. Asian countries have always been subject to disease, disaster and famine. Millions of Asiatics are killed periodically by flood, fire and earthquake. But in spite of such things, science has reduced the death rate to a point at which it is- only about 50 per cent, of the death rate 20 years ago. The death rate in
Australia also has been considerably reduced as the result of modern scientific research, and it is now about the third lowest in the world. This is very good, but the fact lends force to the statements that I have made about the growth of world population and the seriousness of the problem that arises from the necessity for producing sufficient food to satisfy the requirements of all countries. One of the principal difficulties encountered by the United Nations in supplying food to countries where it is needed is that of transportation. Often, when bumper crops have been harvested in primaryproducing countries, a great deal of valuable food has had to be destroyed in order to maintain a reasonable price level in the interests of producers. However, a bill was recently introduced in the House of Representatives for the purpose of ratifying an international agreement for the stabilization of wheat prices. I should welcome agreements of a similar nature covering other kinds of food so that, in times of plenty, it would be possible to sell surplus stocks to hungry countries at prices that would be profitable to the growers. Such agreements would do away with the recurrent anomaly of famine and disaster in one country while other countries are burdened with excess stocks of food.
I am keenly interested in the work of the Department of Immigration. The bill includes provision for an allocation of £107,460 to the department. This is only a very small part of the sum which the department proposes to expend in bringing to Australia the best types of citizens from countries that have been wrecked by war and subjected to all sorts of racial movements. We need such people. It is obvious that we cannot continue to hold an under-populated continent while hundreds of millions of Asiatics look enviously at the open spaces that we are not using. The department has brought people to Australia from Europe’ in an ever-increasing flow. Those who have arrived have settled down and are working particularly well in the various occupations to which they have been directed. I was pleased to notice recently that large numbers of immigrants had become naturalized Australians, having proved their worthiness to live and work in this country. The Opposition has complained during this debate about heavy governmental expenditure and what it has described as “ wasteful effort “. I shall not comment about those criticisms, but I point out that this Government is a “ do “ Government. It is continually doing something, and it has established a creditable record for its activities in connexion with international affairs and science, to mention only two fields. Australians have come to the fore in many parts of the world in many ways. As an Australian, I should like to witness the development of a sense of national pride. It is true that a democratic government has not the power to force people at, bayonet point to do certain things. It can only legislate and guide, and unless it has the support of the people, it cannot achieve very much. I am sure that the various departments for which this bill will provide extra funds will make use of the money as diligently as they have done formerly. I have much pleasure in supporting the bill.
– I, too, support the bill. I was greatly surprised this afternoon and this evening to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) criticizing Australia’s economy. Like myself, the honorable gentleman had the privilege last year of visiting the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. The living conditions of the peoples in the countries that we visited must have forced upon him, as it did upon me, a realization of the fact that in no other country are conditions as favorable for the majority of the people as they are in Australia. Therefore, I have great pleasure in supporting this supply bill. I should like to congratulate the Acting Minister for External Territories (Mr. Chambers) who recently visited Nauru. He is probably the only Commonwealth Minister that has visited that mandated territory. After he had discussed the problems of the people of Nauru with the natives themselves they applied to withdraw their appeal to the United Nations with relation to some of the difficulties that they were experiencing.
At first glance the vote for the Department of Immigration seems to be exces sive, until we realize the stupendous task that the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) has set himself. He is a tireless worker. During the last three years he has seen many of his plans come to fruition. In Fremantle I have the happy task, quite often on behalf of the Minister, of welcoming migrants. I have visited many of them afterwards in their homes and in the displaced persons’ camps in the various cities. I can say quite truthfully that of the hundreds of those people that I have interviewed months afterwards, I have not found any who were disgruntled or disappointed with what Australia had to give them. When I was in England and Scotland T was absolutely inundated with requests for more information about Australia and immigration conditions. The people making those inquiries were nor. trying to escape from the economic conditions of the Mother Country, but were trying to ensure for their children that they would never again go through the dreadful horrors of war. Until one has seen such scenes as I have witnessed in England and parts of Europe that I visited one cannot envisage the dreadful impact of war upon the people there. This country has not known any of the dreadful horrors that those people were submitted to for so long. If we can offer refuge to people from various parts of Europe, including the Mother Land, we should extend to them the hand of friendship. They are quite willing to come here to work, and to be absorbed into the Australian way of life. Whilst some of the migrants have returned to England I consider that they are types that would be disgruntled in any community. In the ship in which I returned to Australia from England there were quite a number of young people who, rather than wait for the huge lag in snipping to be overtaken, had applied their life savings to pay their own fares to Australia. They were very eager to get here. We must encourage that spirit. There are about 2S0,000 people waiting for passenger transport to Australia. All of the people who came out with me that I have since seen have been more than satisfied with living conditions in Australia.
I am very sorry that there is not some provision in the vote for the Department of Health for pocket-money for some of thu inmates of mental hospitals. Throughout Australia there are, unfortunately, about 20,000 people confined in such institutions. Quite a large number more, I think, have managed “ to get away with it “ so far. Of that 20,000 at least 17,000 are not visited by friends or relatives. They are really the forgotten people who receive no visitors and have nothing but what the institutions can give them. They get three meals a day, a bed, clothing of a sort, and that is that. Some years ago, together with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper), I was a member of the Social Security Committee which conducted a survey of the condition of patients in mental hospitals. At that time we recommended that some contribution should be made by the Commonwealth towards the maintenance of those mentally afflicted people. We have, of course, to get a re-orientation of public opinion towards mental health. Insanity is not a crime, lt is as much a disease as is tuberculosis, diphtheria, or any other physical disease. We have to educate people to realize that it is an illness, not something which should be punished by lifelong incarceration. The Commonwealth’s efforts to provide some relief by the payment of hospital benefits to mental patients has been retarded by a lack of action on the part of the States. Although in the realm of health the Commonwealth is powerless to act without the co-operation of the States, up to the present only two States have passed the necessary legislation so that the relatives of mentally afflicted patients will be relieved of the burden of paying for their upkeep. Whilst in Australia to-day there is so much talk about equality, at least 14,000 of our people are being deprived of hospital benefit payments because the State governments have not. yet acted in accordance with their agreement with the Australian Government and passed the necessary legislation. Even if something were done in the near future, at least three months will elapse during which the patients in those States will he at a disadvantage compared with the patients in States where payments are being made by the Australian Government. That is not the end of the story, because no matter how much the Australian Government pays to the hospital authorities for the upkeep of those patients that will not benefit the individual one iota. Inmates of the mental hospitals, like everybody else, are not mad all the time; they have occasional lapses of lucidity.
– We all do.
– Of course, some have fewer such lapses than others. During those times they find themselves absolute paupers. They have nothing except what the institution gives them. If we could give them a little pocket money, although they may not be able to make use of it at all times, surely the hospital authorities could bank it for them so that they would have a nest egg that they could use when they were able to go to the canteen or to get a little clothing which would make them appear not so institutional. I have taken a great interest in such matters for many years. Long before I was elected to the Senate it was my custom to visit the mental hospital at Claremont, the suburb of Perth in which I live. I was particularly struck by the lack of amenities provided for children in those institutions. The lack of decent hospitalization for mentally defective children throughout Australia is a crying shame. In that institution children were herded together, living, sleeping and playing in one room in the same institution as adults. When I went abroad one of my jobs after the conference was concluded was to visit institutions in the British Isles, and one in France, in order to see what was being done there for mentally 7-etarded children. I found the very best place of its kind in Ireland at Cabra, where there is a very fine institution run for mentally defective children of both sexes. It is more like a college than a mental asylum, and although the mental ages ranged from a few months up to about ten, the physical ages extended to nineteen. They were all being taught to do something, no matter how trivial it may appear to the ordinary adult. What can be done in one place can be done in another, and to-night I make this plea, not only to the Australian Government, but to all of the governments of Australia, that when they are discussing legislation with relation to hospital benefits for mental patients they will pay particular attention to the plight of mentally afflicted children throughout Australia.
I shall now refer to the Department of Social Services. Since the election of the Australian Labour party to office, a great deal has been done in the field of social services. I “was very happy and proud to be a member of the Social Security Committee which helped to frame the legislation. I regret very much that the Opposition withdrew from that committee, which has not been able to meet during the lifetime of this Parliament. lt was mainly as a result of the research of that committee that pensions were provided for widows. Before that, if a bread-winner died the mother had to go out to work generally to clean offices or schools because they were the only jobs which gave her some time at home to look after her children. The result was that many children appeared as delinquents before the children’s courts. It was society that was delinquent, rather than the children, because it did not give the mother economic help so that she would not have to go to work to support them. Although we have instituted widows’ pensions, they are most inadequate. Who is the person doing the most service to the community, a -woman attending a family and bringing them up to be good Australians, or a woman attending a machine in a factory ? We are talking about bringing greater numbers of migrants to this country, yet we have many young Australians here who are being denied a great deal of what they should have because the widows’ pensions payable to their mothers are not adequate. I ask the Government to try to do something to raise this pension at least to the equivalent of the female basic wage. Honorable senators should not think that in asking this I am asking for anything very difficult or outrageous. If we measure by the service that is given by two individuals, one in a machine shop and the other keeping a home going and helping to mould the character of children to make them into decent citizens, we must award the prize to the latter. Yet we pay the industrial worker much more than the widow doing this truly national work for Australia.
I regret very much that no agreement has yet been reached between the Government and the British Medical Association on medical benefits. My experience in this connexion in England may be of some value to the Senate. I have a cousin there who is a doctor. Through him I met many doctors, including specialists, and staffs working under the national health scheme in England. He said to me, “When the British Medical Association agreed to the British Government’s proposal last June I was one of many who thought that the British Medical Association had sold us out to the Government. In any scheme inaugurated to effect such a complete revolution in this way, there are usually quite a lot of defects, and that is true of this scheme. However, we would not go back to the old scheme for anything. This scheme has been working now for six months and we are quite satisfied with it. There are things which could be improved upon, which is only to be expected, because no man or woman has ever evolved a perfect scheme to suit everybody in all particulars.” On another occasion a specialist said to me, “Although my work has increased tenfold, it makes my heart bleed to see people coming to me now for medical treatment which they should have had six or ten years ago. They could not get it then because they could not afford it.” I hope it will not be long before an agreement is reached between the Government and the British Medical Association. We have industrial stoppages on our hands, God knows. This is a stoppage in another field. I hope that strong measures will be used to give the people of Australia the benefit of this legislation.
When I was coming to Canberra from Western Australia to attend this sessional period of the Parliament, I travelled on the Commonwealth Bailways. I should like to pay a tribute to the staff for the working of those railways. Many of them have been working on the trans-continental service since its inauguration. During the war years I travelled on that line frequently. The service has never deteriorated, and I have received more courtesy and general helpfulness from the personnel of that railway than anywhere else. The allocation that is made for the Com- monwealth Railways is one that will be well and wisely spent. Some years ago I raised the subject of the condition of cottages occupied by railway workmen on the trans-continental line. I was pleased to see recently that the improvements that were then discussed in the Senate are now accomplished facts. These people deserve the best amenities that the Government can provide for them, because they are living in a very exacting climate which is particularly severe in the summer. As the result of talks which I had with residents at points along the Trans-Australian line I am satisfied thai those people are much happier now in the better houses which the Government has provided for them, particularly as those structures meet the needs of the climate.
The proposed expenditure under the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department calls for considerable thought because so many people regard the Prime Minister, in his capacity as Treasurer, as an ogre, and look upon departmental officials as his henchmen. They believe that the department exists solely for the purpose of extorting the last penny from their pockets. Therefore, I suggest that every phase of the work of the Prime Minister’s Department should be publicized so that people generally will realize that this Government is not just a moneyfaker but is giving back to them an overall service which could not otherwise be given to them. In this respect, perhaps, I can not do better than mention some of the items which appear under the heading of the Prime Minister’s Department in respect of which expenditure must be allocated. These include “ Animal health and production, Plant industry, Food preservation and transport, Mining and metallurgy, Radio research, Research services, Industrial chemistry, Fisheries investigations, Aeronautical research, and National Standards Laboratory, In all, 26 branches of that department are engaged on scientific work; and very few people realize that that work is being carried out by the Government not only for its own benefit but also for the benefit of private enterprise.
When I was recently in South Africa I realized the need that exists for the establishment of a direct air route between that country and Australia. On my arrival in South Africa I was informed of the delay that occur® in the despatch of air mail letters to Australia. I found later that letters which I posted in that country arrived at Fremantle four days after I arrived at that city, although the ship on which I travelled broke down in the Indian Ocean. It took seventeen days for an airmail letter posted in Capetown to reach Fremantle. When I discussed this matter with Mr. Stirling, Australia’s Minister to South Africa, he told me that the reason for the delay was not at the Australian, or the South African end, but that the delay was due. to the fact that the mail planes had to go to Egypt where conditions were so unsettled that there was never any certainty of the mails being placed on connecting planes. During the war an excellent flying service was operated between Guildford, in Western Australia, and Colombo. That service contributed largely to the protection of Western Australia and the Commonwealth as a whole. I am pertain that the inauguration of a direct air route from Western Australia to South Africa continuing to England via Egypt would be of great benefit and would bring Australia and South Africa much closer together. South Africans evince great interest in Australia because the two dominions have a lot in common. The continuance of the present irregular mail service is retarding the development of mutual understanding between the two countries.
Within the last few weeks I heard criticism voiced against the Department of Labour and National Service in respect of the Commonwealth Employment Office. I am certain that the person who made that criticism has never been our, of work and has never been obliged to look for a. job. I recall the days of registry offices to which young girls were obliged to go in search of jobs. At that time, the workers were many but the jobs were few. To-day, fortunately, the reverse is the case. Girls of fifteen and sixteen years of age were obliged to depend upon registry offices, the proprietors of which usually charged half of the first week’s pay as the fee for that service. Very often those offices trafficked in that class of labour because quick turnover was essential to their success. Those days are gone. The Government has provided unemployment and sickness benefits, and I well recall the outcry on the part of the Opposition parties against the establishment of those benefits on the ground that they would lead to idleness. One very good feature of the present Commonwealth employment offices is that they afford means of making a check in that respect, because when people register for unemployment benefit they can be directed to jobs which are congenial to them. In Western Australia I have not heard any complaint about the treatment of people who have had dealings with those offices, except the complaint about the inadequacy of the accommodation provided for them. That problem, however, is common to all States.
I make bold to offer a suggestion to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Dedman) in respect of the treatment of certain members of the army and naval forces. 1 refer to the comparatively early age at which certain officers are obliged to retire after they have given a life- time of service in those spheres.’ Very often they join the naval forces at thirteen, or fourteen, years of age and are obliged to retire at the comparatively early age of 45 or 50 when they are thrown on the scrap-heap. As their knowledge and training are specialized, they are not equipped to earn a livelihood so late in life in other occupations. Therefore, I suggest that upon retirement from their ranks their services should be utilized in the civilian branches of the Army and the Navy, in which the retiring age is 65. Surely, the lifelong experience of such officers of service requirements would enable them to do a much better job in civilian branches than is now being done by ordinary civilians.
In December last I was privileged to bo present at the ceremony of naming Australia’s new cruiser Sydney. It was a great occasion. On the particular day the sun shone for the first time in three weeks. I attended the ceremony on behalf of the Australian Government in the company of Australian naval officers. I was proud not only of the ship itself but also of the bearing of the men who manned it. They had been in England for the preceding twelve months. The previous night I spent at Plymouth when I had an opportunity to learn from local people the high esteem in which the men of the Sydney were held during the whole of their sojourn in England. I do not give that merely as my own opinion. Subsequently, when I was talking to Lord Gowrie, whom we remember with affection as a former Governor-General of Australia, he told me the same thing. Naturally, he took a great interest m Sydney, as he still takes an interest in everything Australian. His heart, is «till in this country, although his body is at Windsor-. He told me of the wonderful character which had been given by the residents of Plymouth and London to all members of Sydney’s complement. As a tribute was paid earlier this evening to Sydney itself, I take this opportunity to pay a tribute to the men of that ship.
To-day, public opinion is aware of the dangers which threaten world peace, and people generally demand infinitely more of national and international statesmen than they have done at any other period in history. On my way from Calais toParis I met several American businessmen who. travelled in my compartment. They saw from the labels on my luggage that I came from Australia. Eventually one of them broke the silence by saying, “You come from Australia; that is where that great man ‘ Ee-vatt ‘ comes from.” It took me some minutes to realize that they were referring to our distinguished Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt). We talked about what Americans think of Dr. Evatt, and that conversation confirmed my opinion of the Minister which was further enhanced when I attended the meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations at Paris and saw him presiding over the. representatives of 58 nations. All of the delegates listened attentively to every word he had to say. That experience made me feel very proud to be an Australian. However, I left that meeting saddened by the feeling that the hope of the people of the world for the maintenance of peace seemed to be threatened by the fanaticism of the few who have made Communism their god. Although there are only eight nations within the Soviet satellitebloc their representatives delayed the deliberations of the assembly by proposing stupid amendments which had no earthly hope of being accepted. However, in the six hours allowed to those delegates in the discussion which I heard, they were able to publicize their Communist doctrines to the world. Two facts were borne in upon me. One was that practically every one of the delegations from Soviet satellite countries included women, whereas very few of the delegations from democratic countries included women. I was present only as a looker on. ‘Secondly, with the exception of Mr. Vishinsky, practically all of the members of those delegations were young, well-spoken and well-informed. One got the impression that they seemed to attract the youth of the world to them. They were good speakers and put over their points so effectively that unless listeners had their own convictions deeply engrained in their hearts they would very likely be persuaded that what those delegates said was right. I came away from that meeting convinced that a very big task confronts this nation and this Parliament to get the younger generation in this country interested in world affairs. We must get our young people who have had things made so easy for them to realize the struggle thiscountry has had to raise living standards. We must get them to take an interest in political affairs generally not party politics and try to educate them in democratic principles to the same degree as the governments of Soviet satellite countries appear to have succeeded in doing with the young people under their control.
In conclusion, I should like to read a tribute to the Minister for External Affairs. I do so because I am very galled when I hear people in Western Australia, who would still be third-rate or fourthrate journalists in this country but for the opportunity he has given to them, crying from the housetops and in the press against him. Several of those persons attended the meeting of the General Assembly at Paris where the Minister was held in high esteem by the representatives of 58 nations. I take the following from an article about the
Minister which was published in United Nations World -
The President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, Dr. Herbert Vere Evatt, and the SecretaryGeneral, Trygve Lie, have taken a historicstep-
The writer was referring to discussions on the situation in Berlin -
Their appeal was made directly to the chiefs of state of the United States, Union of Soviet SocialistRepublics, Great Britain and France. Failure may cost them their jobs; but success would give them unprecedented prestige in the eyes of the world.
Though temporarily rebuffed by the Powers, they have set precedent. Never before has an international official dared to intervene publicly in a most controversial issue at a critical moment. And they intervened, not with platitudes, but by taking a clearcut stand.
Drawing-room diplomats must he shivering in their boots at such heresy. Certainly they are congratulating themselves on having made their own careers by never taking any initiative. Our congratulations go to Messrs. Evatt and Lie on their great courage and unselfishness and, above all, on their devotion to the high responsibilities of their offices.
Both epitomise the type of United Nations statesman who sees beyond hisown person and his own country and identifies himself with the interests of mankind.
Debate (on motion by SenatorNash; adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment - J. M. Tanzer.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Health - E.H. Hipsley.
Defence (Transitional Provisions) Act - National Security (Industrial Property) Regulations - Orders - Inventions and designs (6).
Hospital Benefits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1849, No. 31.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for - Department of Civil Aviation purposes. - Wagga Wagga, New South Wales. Department of the Interior purposes - Cairns, Queensland.
Postal purposes -
Lyndhurst, New South Wales.
Port Augusta, South Australia.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules1949, No. 30.
Services Trust Funds Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 32.
Superannuation Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1949, No. 33.
Senate adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 June 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1949/19490622_senate_18_203/>.