19 October 1949

18th Parliament · 2nd Session

The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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– Can the

Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture inform the Senate whether the various State governments haveyet implemented legislation, as was made necessary by the defeat of the Government’s proposals at the prices referendum, to secure for dairy-farmers a just price for butter? If not, has the Government any power, or is any constitutional channel open to it, by which it can expedite the passing of the necessary legislation in the States? If so, is the Minister able to advise the Senate when dairy-farmers will receivethe price arrived at by an independent tribunal and based upon the actual cost of production?

SenatorCOURTICE.- Negotiations have been in progress for a considerable time between this Government, represented principally by the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and State authorities concerning the price of butter. The Government appointed a committee to investigate the cost of producing butter, and it made certain recommendations, but, after the committee had been appointed, the Commonwealth lost its authority to determine prices. The responsibility for prices control now rests entirely with the States. I understand thatseveral conferences have been held to deal with the subject and that negotiations are still proceeding. It is hoped that agreement will soon be reached so that dairy-farmers may receive the price that has been determined by investigation to he a fair price, allowingfor the cost of production. I emphasize that this Governmenthas no power whatever in relation to the matter. The States are entirely responsible.

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Salaries andWages.


-I ask the

Postmaster-General whether it is a fact that there are government restrictions that prevent postal employees from approaching their arbitration tribunal. Is it a fact that claims concerning salaries and wages of postal employees must be endorsed beforehand by the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organizations? Is it a fact that decisions already given in relation to salaries and wages have granted disproportionate benefits to the higher-paid officers?

Senator CAMERON:
Postmaster-General · VICTORIA · ALP

– In answer to the first question, I state unequivocally that this Government is strongly behind the arbitration system and has placed no restrictions of any kind upon the right of registered public service organizations to approach the recognized tribunals. Not only has the Government done much to strengthen and streamline arbitration procedure, but also it has been at pains continuously to stress to employer and employee organizations alike the value of and the need for a proper constitutional approach to the tribunals that have been appointed to deal with wages and conditions of work. It is quite incorrect to say, as the second question suggested, that it is necessary to have the prior endorsement of the High Council of Commonwealth Public Service Organizations before claims may be submitted by a registered Public Service organization to the Public Service Arbitrator. It is open to the federal executive of any such registered organization to approach either the Public Service Board or the Public Service Arbitrator on matters relating to wages and conditions of work. It is not necessary for any registered organization to lodge its claim with either tribunal through the High Council of Public Service Organizations or even to consult that body as to the nature and merits of its claim. I understand that the High Council does, if requested, interest itself in the wage claims of organizations affiliated with it, particularly if the basis ofthose claims is of common concern. I understand also that, although some unions are not affiliated with the council, it is open to them to link with it at anytime. Such affiliation would he welcomed by the council, which has the interests of all Public Service employees at heart. The final question asked by the honorable senator was equally misleading. The claims of every section of the Public Service have always been and still are carefully examined by the competent authorities; the decisions taken have had due regard to the merits of those claims. All claims presented by postal employees ave fully considered and, where necessary, represented by the Postal Department to the Public Service Board. In addition, the department takes all possible steps to supply whatever assistance is required by the board and the Public Service Arbitrator to reach the decisions for which those tribunals are solely responsible.

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Senator AMOUR:

– Has the Minister for Shipping and Fuel any knowledge that the Shell Company of Australia Limited diverted a tanker from Australia on the ground that it had nowhere to store its cargo of petrol ? “Will the Minister inquire from the Minister of Transport in New South Wales whether it is a fact that at most country centres, such as Goulburn and Cootamundra, railway yards are becoming congested with trucks containing petrol because the oil companies have insufficient storage space for the petrol that they have on hand?

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

– I am not aware that a tanker has been diverted by the Shell company, as the honorable senator has suggested, but I shall ascertain whether that statement is correct. I shall also have inquiries made regarding the statement by the Minister for Railways in New South Wales that congestion is occurring at railway centres in that State. Certainly, there is a shortage of petrol at present. Whether it is due to the fact that unduly large stocks are being held in store, or whether it is due to reluctance of retailers to sell or the reluctance of the oil companies to distribute it, I do not know.

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Senator ARNOLD:

– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs what stocks of wire netting are held in Australia at present? For what quantities have import licences been granted? In view of the fact that employees at Ryland’s works at Newcastle engaged in drawing netting wire are now working only one shift where previously they worked two shifts and the draw looms at those works are idle, will the Minister investigate this matter with a view to restricting the issue of licences for the importation of netting wire in the future?

Minister for Trade and Customs · QUEENSLAND · ALP

– No licences have been granted recently for the importation of netting wire, but licences previously issued were in respect of large quantities, and in view of the shortage of wire netting the Government waived import duty on such consignments in order that the urgent demand for wire netting might be met as expeditiously as possible. If the honorable senator is able to say that sufficient supplies are available to meet local requirements and that no need exists for the continuance of importations, I shall look into the matter. It is the policy of the Government not to grant licences for the importation of goods and materials that will compete with local production, and it is not likely that the Government would grant licences for the importation of wire from Japan, or from any other country, if such imports adversely affected employment in local industries. I shall furnish a full reply to the honorable senator’s question as soon as possible. 1 shall ascertain from the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what quantities of wire netting are held in stock at present. I shall be glad to have confirmed the implication contained in the honorable senator’s question that local industry is now able to meet the demand for wire netting and that no need exists to import further quantities.

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Senator LARGE:

– I understand the Postmaster-General now has available a reply to the following question that I asked on the 13th October : -

I preface a question to the PostmasterGeneral by saying that I have received an aerogram from friends on Orion at sea m which they complain bitterly about the lack of air mail services from Australia, and the complaint has been voiced by many other people and is in accordance with my own experience of air mail while at sea. Will the Postmaster-General investigate the complaint in order that the service to travellers may be improved?

Senator CAMERON:

– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : -

Four air despatches weekly are available for correspondence to connect with passengers on vessels en route to the United Kingdom, but as the ports of call are generally off the track of the direct air service it is necessary for mails to circulate via the connecting air services of other countries. In the case of sailings of Orient line vessels for the United Kingdom, the company is furnished with particulars of the closing time in each State capital city for air mail correspondence to be delivered to passengers at the several ports of call en route. These details are supplied some weeks in advance of tlie sailing date for each vessel and are set out fully in a brochure issued by the company to all passengers before the vessel leaves, with special notes emphasizing the need for letters to be posted in time to reach the relative general post office by the closing date shown. The closing times published permit of some delay occurring during the overseas air transmission, but occasionally connexion with a vessel is missed because of some extraordinary occurrence or irregular handling of the mail by another country. In this connexion, as I have already stated, the connecting point in each instance is off the route of air services operating direct from Australia and the mails must therefore be sent via an intermediary country. Correspondence for connexion at Colombo and Aden has to circulate through rather circuitous routes to reach those ports. According to the information available to the Postal Department, correspondence sent by the air despatches recommended to passengers generally reaches the vessel at the correct port. If, however, the honorable senator is aware of any specific case where this has not occurred and he will be good enough to furnish me with details, I shall have the circumstances investigated.

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Senator COOPER:

– I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel whether it is a fact that the Italian-owned ship Reynella will sail from Australia to Italy manned wholly by an Australian crew? Is it a fact that Italian maritime laws stipulate that not more than a quarter of the crew of a ship carrying the Italian flag shall be foreigners? If so, are not Australian seamen and the Maritime Transport Union’s Council flouting those laws in this h is lance? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Captain of Reynella applied for an Australian crew; and, if so, on what conditions has the crew been signed on?

Senator ASHLEY:

– I have no knowledge that Reynella is to leave Australia manned by an Australian crew. Although inquiries have .been addressed to me on the subject on behalf of the press, I am not aware that that is the position. During the last four, or five years, agreements have been in operation whereby the representatives of the maritime unions and the private shipowners have arranged that any vessel that is sold in Australia shall be taken to its destination manned by an Australian crew. So far as I know that agreement has invariably been carried out and, whether similar action has been taken in respect of Reynella is not a matter for my consideration. I do not know whether in this instance the law of any other country is being flouted. The parties interested appear to be following a custom that has been established for a considerable time. That is the position as I understand it.

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– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture been drawn to a statement that was recently broadcast over the air that importations of timber were to be reduced, or cancelled? Is that statement correct ? If so, what action is being taken to safeguard the interests of the users of timber ? Is any action being taken by the Government in conjunction with the States to meet the changed situation?


– Any impediment that exists to the importation of timber probably applies to Oregon or timber that is imported from dollar countries. In such instances expenditure of dollars must be carefully scrutinized. However, if the honorable senator will place his question on the notice-paper I shall obtain a detailed reply.

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Senator COOPER:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and

Housing, upon notice -

What Commonwealth finance has beer advanced to each of the States for lionising under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for the years 1945-46, 1946-47, 1947-48, 1948-49, and for the first three months of 1949-50?

Minister for Supply and Development · NEW SOUTH WALES · ALP

– The Minis ter for Works and Housing has supplied the following answer : -

Advances made under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement to the various States are as follows: -

Although South Australia is a party to the agreement it has not, so far, carried out any operations under it.

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Senator LARGE:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -

  1. Will the Minister investigate the suitability of Laura, north Queensland, as an all-weather aerodrome?
  2. Is it a fact that this area is high, level

And in a direct line between Brisbane and Singapore and, moreover, would serve an area of good cattle-raising country of about 150 miles radius?

Senator CAMERON:

– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers : -

  1. An aerodrome site at Laura has been inspected recently by an officer of the Department of Civil Aviation at the request of the Cook Shire Council. The council’s surveyor has supplied survey details of this site which are now being examined. The shire council will he informed as to the suitability of the site and recommended layout.
  2. Preliminary investigations indicate that the area is reasonably well drained. Laura is approximately 500 miles off the direct line between Brisbane and Singapore. Inquiries so far made have been related to the suitability of the site for aerodrome purposes and no detailed information has yet been made available to the department as to the cattle-raising potentialities of the district.

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Parliamentary Committee

Senator COOPER:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -

Is it the intention of the Government to reconstitute the all-party parliamentary com mittee of ex-servicemen with a view to obtaining recommendations on the question of determining some definite basis upon which war pension rates should be assessed; if not, why net?

Senator CAMERON:

– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answer: -

The all-party parliamentary committee appointed to examine matters related to war pensions and other repatriation benefits, and which had for its chairman the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, laid down general principles which have been given effect by the Government in various amendments of the Repatriation Act since 1943; and the Government has revised and increased war pensions from time to time. Because of the short remaining life of this Parliament the Government does not propose to reconstitute the committee at this stage, but, as indicated in a recent statement by the Prime Minister, the matter will be regarded as one for reconsideration at the earliest possible appropriate time.

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Senator LAMP:
through Senator Murray

asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -

What provision is being made to construct premises for the Australian Broadcasting Commissionin Tasmania?

Senator CAMERON:

– The Australian Broadcasting Commission has informed me that it has plans for building modern studios in all States, and awaits only the granting of priorities and the necessary funds for the erection of these buildings to be undertaken. The proposals of the commission have been considered by the interdepartmental committee on works but having regard to the prevailing shortage of man-power, materials, and technical staff, it is impracticable at this stage to indicate when the erection of the studios for the commission in Tasmania will be commenced.

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Senator COOPER:

asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -

  1. What is the total strength of the Australian Army?
  2. How many units are (a) at full strength; and (b) not at full strength?
  3. What is the extent of the deficiency of units not at full strength?

– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -

  1. The total strength of the Australian Military Forces on the 28th September, 1949, was 31,274.
  2. One hundred and twenty-seven units were at full strength, and 444 units were less than full strength on the 28th September, 1949. 3. (a) The average extent of the deficiency in the Australian Regular Army units not at full strength on the 28th September, 1949, if personnel undergoing recruit training and on the unallotted list were posted to units was approximately 4 per cent. (b) The average extent of the deficiency in Citizen Military Forces units not at full strength on the 28th September, 1949, as compared with the planned strength of the Citizen Military Forces at that date, was approximately 22 per cent.

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Motion (by Senator Courtice) - by leave - agreed to -

That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to approve an agreement amending the agreement approved by the Sugar Agreement Act 1946 as amended by the agreement approved by the Sugar Agreement Act 1947.

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Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -

That Standing Order68 be suspended up to and including Friday, the 28th October, 1949, to enable new business to be commenced after 10.30 p.m.


– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.

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Debate resumed from the 13th October (vide page 1391), on motion by Senator Ashley -

That the following papers be printed: -

Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, and Other Services involving Capital Expenditure, for the year ending the 30th June, 1950;

The Budget 1949-50 - Papers presented by the Right Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.P., on the occasion of the Budget of 1949-50;

National Income and Expenditure 1948-49.

Senator TANGNEY:
Western Australia

– It gives me great pleasure to support the proposal that the budget papers be printed. This is the fourth budget that has been presented by the Government since the cessation of hostilities, and the ninth successive budget presented by the present Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). We all know the conditions under which the right honorable gentleman presented his first budget in 1941, and we realize the remarkable progress that has been made during the intervening eight years. I shall not dwell this afternoon on the conditions that obtained in 1941, but I shall content myself with recalling the conditions under which Labour assumed office when the parties at present in Opposition had fallen by the wayside. At that time the Government’s task was further complicated because it had only a minority of supporters in this chamber. Within a few weeks of attaining office. Japan entered the war and Australia felt the full weight of the foreigners’ aggression. The first four budgets presented by the Treasure were budgets for war, but the last four have been budgets for peace. I say at once that no country to-day presents a better picture of national security and prosperity than does Australia.A great deal of our progress has undoubtedly been due to the occurrence of good seasons and favorable markets for our products, but the Government deserves great credit for the sound stewardship of the national interest that it has displayed during that time.

The present budget contains no extravagant promises. It would be easy for the Treasurer, on the eve of a general election, to introduce a budget promising all kinds of concessions if he were not a man of integrity and did not feel obliged to implement all the undertakings that he makes. The present Treasurer realizes that the proposals that he has put forward will have to be implemented, and therefore he has promised nothing that he cannot perform. The budget, is therefore, a realistic document, which contains no high-sounding promises and makes no fantastic claims, but is crammed with hard facts and is based upon the Treasurer’s integrity. We know that any promise that he makes will be honoured to the letter. Since Labour assumed office it has many fine achievements to its credit. Last year I had the privilege of travelling abroad and of comparing the conditions in various countries with those in our own country. I suggest that the prestige of this country has never before been so high as it is now. Although some of the countries that I visited had scarcely felt the impact of war, none of them is in a more prosperous condition than is Australia to-day, and I could not help but feel pleased that we had such a sound Treasurer. We have not experienced in this country the panic and post-war booms that have destroyed the economy of other nations. Four years of steady development have succeeded the end of the war in 1945.

I have not sufficient time now to deal with all aspects of the budget, hut I must congratulate the Government particularly upon certain phases of its policy and administration. The first matter that I desire to mention is the Repatriation Department. I have had a great deal to do with the hospitals and institutions maintained by that department, not only as a member of the Parliament but also as a relative of inmates of repatriation hospitals. In fact, I had the unhappy experience of being present at a deathbed in a repatriation hospital. From my experience of repatriation hospitals I realize how fortunate Australia is in having such a sympathetic and effective staff of doctors and nurses in its repatriation institutions. It always galls me to hear people suggest that medical officers will not do their best when they are employed by the Government. Among the medical officers of the Repatriation Department are a number of outstanding specialists, and they, like the other medical officers of the department, work just as hard for the Government as they would in private practice. They are not concerned about who pays them;’ their only concern is to render service to the suffering and needy. The same may also be said of the nurses employed in repatriation institutions. Nothing that we can do is too good for them. I am pleased that our repatriation hospitals, particularly those in Western Australia, are staffed by men and women who, fired with the zeal of service and willingness to work, devote all their skill and strength to provide the best medical and nursing attention for the patients. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) is to be congratulated, also, on extending tlie benefits available in the repatriation hospitals to war widows. This is a step forward on the provisions made by previous governments. I was recently associated with the War Widows Guild in placing a request before the Minister, to which he readily acceded. Until then I had not realized the extent of the difficulties facing some of the war widows who are desperately in need of medical attention, but cannot afford to pay the high fees demanded by private medical practitioners in private practice, and are unable to gain admission to public hospitals because of overcrowded conditions. It is indeed pleasing to know that the facilities in repatriation hospitals are now available to war widows. These hospitals have the very best clinics for the treatment of chest complaints.

The eradication of tuberculosis in Australia is vital. Although we have plenty to eat and our land is blessed with ample sunshine, many of our young men and women are at present languishing in sanatoriums throughout Australia. This is a legacy of the depression years when thousands of our young people did not have sufficient money to feed and clothe themselves adequately. People who were in their ‘teens during the depression period compose the majority of the patients in sanatoriums throughout Australia. This Government is to be congratulated on the efforts that it is making to eradicate tuberculosis, arrest its development, and rehabilitate sufferers from tuberculosis as useful members of the community. It is fortunate that so many qualified persons have volunteered to serve in this very important branch of medical science. It is difficult to understand why this appalling disease has been allowed to get such a hold on the people of this country. Of course one can readily imagine how it could spread in overcrowded communities where people are undernourished. It was not surprising to me to find in some of the countries I visited last year that the incidence of tuberculosis was much higher than in Australia. I consider that it is mainly an economic disease. Although good remedial work is being done we must take steps to prevent the development of conditions in this country which favour the spreading of this disease.

The Government has done much good in relation to housing, which is primarily the responsibility of the States. In many instances, however, the progress made in the States has not been commensurate with the demand. About two and a half years ago the people of Western Australia were assured by the then Liberal Opposition that if it was elected to office in the State Parliament all of the housing problems of that State would be overcome. The result was that that party was elected to office. What has been the result? The housing problem in Western Australia is now at least as acute as it was then. The one bright spot in this gloomy picture is the financial assistance that is being granted to the States by the Commonwealth. Recently I viewed the demolition of slum areas in Sydney, where the State Government intends to erect houses and flats. The question that arose immediately in my mind was, “ Why was not all of this work carried out eighteen years ago when plenty of labour and materials were available?” Why should the people have been compelled to live in these hovels for so long? When I visited Sydney during the depression years I saw a settlement called Happy Valley. There were similar settlements in many parts of Australia at that time. I remember teaching children who lived at the Black Boy Hill settlement and on the .banks of the Swan River in makeshift homes. Because they were underfed and not housed properly it was impossible

Sena tff>- 7’aii.giiry. for them to gain the maximum benefit from the teaching facilities that were provided for them. I also had the opportunity to visit Hobart at that time and I saw hundreds of men lined up waiting to receive soup from a soup kitchen. I am convinced that all decent men in Australia would prefer to work in order to provide their wives and families with reasonable amenities rather than live under those conditions. That is why this Labour Government has done its utmost in the four years since the war to ensure that such conditions will never again recur in Australia. The Government believes that the implementation of its policy of full employment will prevent a return to the conditions of those days. Labour does not subscribe to the theory that it is a good idea for 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, of the workers to be unemployed, as was recently suggested by an economist in this country. The Australian Labour party considers that it is the birthright of every Australian to be afforded the opportunity to work and not to have to rely upon receiving something for nothing.

Much has been done by the Department of Immigration to bring people to Australia from the devastated countries of Europe. I congratulate the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) on the splendid work that he has done to relieve the plight of people less fortunately placed than we are in this country. Although he has been the subject of much criticism in the newspapers of Australia, his sincerity and genuine Australian outlook are undoubted. On the Minister’s behalf I have met a number of migrant ships on arrival in this country from Great Britain, and the migrants have spoken eulogistically about him.

When I visited England last year I met many people who desired to migrate to Australia, not, as I have said before in this chamber, as a means of escape for themselves, but rather to ensure that their children would enjoy the opportunities that exist in this country. I should like to see additional family units brought here in order to achieve a redistribution of population. I do not consider that one portion of the British Empire should be denuded of young artisans in order to develop another portion. One aspect of this problem that must be considered is that in order to rebuild areas that were almost wholly destroyed by the enemy during the war Great Britain needs the very types of people that we are seeking. No one who has not visited Great Britain could have any conception of the extent of the devastation that was caused in that country by enemy action. I do not know how the British people withstood the onslaught. When it is realized that an average of one house in every three was either destroyed or badly damaged, the stupendous task facing the British people is apparent. Yet that country is proceeding by leaps and bounds with its housing policy. One important development in Great Britain has been that many of the big estates have been subdivided. The manor house on the Wythenshawe Estate near Manchester previously accommodated only a dozen people. That estate has now been subdivided, and houses to accommodate 5,000 families are being constructed. Furthermore, great strides are being made in that country to provide cottages and flats for the aged at rentals well .within the ambit of their pensions. That is a problem that must be faced in Australia also. I have had a great deal to do with pensioners in this country, and I do not know how many of them manage to exist in view of the exorbitant rents that they are called upon to pay even for back rooms. We shall soon be compelled to give adequate attention to the problem of housing the aged. This problem is assuming serious proportions in Australia, where the aged population is increasing rapidly. The group of citizens above the age of 60 years has grown out of all proportion to other age groups. I have visited many pensioners and taken tea with them in little back rooms for which they pay £1 a week. The people who talk most about the sufferings of the pensioners often are the people who exploit them most. I know of one person who was paying 22s. 6d. a week rent for a house and sub-letting rooms to pensioners for a total return of £9 a week. That is the sort of person who cries so loudly about the unfortunate pensioners. The care of our pensioners is a national responsibility, and we in this Parliament must acknowledge that responsibility. Our age pensioners helped to pioneer Australia. Many of them reared families and opened up our back blocks but were not able to save enough to provide for their own welfare. I have heard it said in this chamber that many elderly people are obliged to apply for pensions because they have been thriftless. How could they have saved money in their youth, when they had to support families on wages that were mere pittances? I know that my father could not put money aside for the future. There were nine members of our family and the breadwinner usually earned little more than the basic wage, if there was a basic wage at that time. He was a very careful person, but he could not save for the future. What happened to him has happened to thousands of Australians. I should like to see some scheme to house ageing citizens so that they would no longer be preyed upon by exploiting landlords who batten on their misery. I have visited pensioners who had not even a penny left in their purses on the day before their pension payment was due. They subsisted on a few cups of tea and a little bread and jam until they could visit the post office to draw their fortnightly pittance. They were in that situation not because they had been thriftless but because they had been forced to use every penny of the money that they received in order to keep body and soul together.

Many people declare that Australians are becoming pension-minded. That is not a fair criticism. Every person who has rendered years of service to the nation deserves to have security in the late years of his life. He should no longer be expected to struggle for existence but should be allowed to enjoy his age in comfort and security. We can help to provide such citizens with comfort and security if we establish an adequate scheme of housing for the aged at reasonable costs. The Labour party’s record in the field of house construction far outshines that of anti-Labour governments. In 1938-39, the last pre-war year, when man-power and materials were plentiful, only 29 war service homes were constructed under a United Australia party- Country party administration. From 1945 to 1949 such progress has been made that the total number of war service homes completed over that period has reached 6,084. Furthermore, 5,110 houses for ex-servicemen are in the course of construction. These achievements are distinct altogether from the assistance that the Government gives to the States under its agreement with them. I commend the Repatriation Department and the Department of Works and Housing for the aid that they are giving to war widows who need homes. Some unfortunate widows are now able to rent houses for as little as ls. a week. That is as it should be. We owe a great debt to the dependants of those who lost their lives in the service of the nation. The least that we can do for our war dead is to ensure that their widows and children shall not want. The pensions that are provided by the Repatriation Department and the Department of Social Services are inadequate by present standards and I hope that when the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) presents his next budget in 1950, it will include provision for substantial pension increases so that the less fortunate members of the community may be able to meet the high costs of living.

The Department of Works and Housing is engaged upon a major project of particular importance to Western Australia in the development of the north-western area of that State and the Northern Territory. Having visited the north-west of Western Australia, I am amazed that the rich hinterland behind the long coast line, particularly in the Kimberley region, has been allowed to remain under-populated and undeveloped. Much wealth has been taken out of that area, but very little of it has been returned for developmental purposes. I hope that the Government will give a great deal of attention to the adequate housing of the workers who will be employed upon the projects that it has planned in north-western Western Australia. The lack of proper housing and other normal amenities of life has been one of the chief factors that have militated against the development of that very important region. The importance of the north-western part of Western Australia was brought into national focus for the first time during the war. I visited the region in 1945, just after the cessation of hostilities, and I saw the bomb-damaged towns and the ships that had been sunk at anchor and I wondered what had stopped our enemy from proceeding south to Australia. We could have offered very little resistance to invasion in that sparsely populated area. Then, when I visited the towns and saw the conditions under which people were forced to live, I wondered why the population was as large as it was. Fabulous wealth has been taken out of Broome, the port of pearls, but the residents have to live in galvanized iron shacks and their district hospital is almost primitive. In Derby, the mangrove swamps reach almost to the doors of the cottages. After seeing those conditions, one realizes how little has been done to help the people to develop that very important region. I hope that the Government’s plans will not terminate with the construction of new roads in the area. I hope that its activities will include the building of schools, hospitals, and decent homes as a matter of the first importance.

Residents of those under-populated districts are greatly indebted to the flying doctor service. I was greatly interested in Senator O’Sullivan’s comments about that service. Some years ago I was privileged to visit the flying doctor centre at Broken Hill and see how it operated. The flying doctor service is not merely a medical service. It is the lifeline of the vast interior of Australia. Through it, people living in the far north, particularly the women folk, are assured of at least some measure of security. We cannot hope to develop our remote regions unless we give a fair deal to the women folk who are helping their men to open up the outback. Health services must be improved considerably. People in the north-west of Australia at present rely almost entirely on the flying doctor service. Recently we could not obtain the services of Australian doctors for- work in the outback, but fortunately some young English doctors volunteered for the work a few months ago and are now doing a fine job. The education of children represents another important problem in the north.- In discussing thi3 subject with women in. that aTea, I learned of one of the tragedies of the outback. Children have to be sent to school at Perth or other southern cities when they reach the age of about eleven years. They are removed from their environment and there is no chance of absorbing them into the life of the north-west. When they complete their education they remain in the cities and are virtually lost to their parents.

Unfortunately, education is not directly a function of the Commonwealth. This Government is able to deal with education only at the university standard and the pre-school standard, and it has no power or responsibility in connexion with 97 per cent, of the educational life of the average child. If the Commonwealth is to expend a. great deal of money in the north-west of Western Australia, as it must do if it is to carry out its plans to supply food to the United Kingdom, it should stipulate that proper, decent educational facilities and adequate hospitals must be established. We cannot simply dump the people in the wilderness and leave them to fend for themselves and, at the same time, expect them to be satisfied and happy and to raise families there. I wish that every member of this Parliament could visit the remote parts of our continent and see how the people there live and work. Every one of them would gladly pay tribute to the people who for so long have carried the burden of the north with very little recompense. Most of the vast wealth of that part of Australia has gone out to companies which have their head-quarters overseas. If even 3 per cent, of the profits that have been taken from the north had been returned to it for development, I should have a different story to tell to-day. This is very important not only from the point of view of the social security of the people who live there, but also from the point of view of national security. We have there a vast undeveloped coastal area that is completely unprotected. It is very close to Asia and if we do not do something to develop and populate it, other people, who may not be at all congenial, may do so. We received our warning during World War II.

The budget also contains provision for large payments to the States. Western Australia, in particular, has fared very well since the Commonwealth assumed financial responsibility for the States.

Some people object to paying taxes, but I can remember a time when I should not have minded paying taxes because it would have meant that I was earning enough to qualify for that responsibility. That indicates the great difference between the budget that we are now considering and the budgets that were presented by anti-Labour treasurers before World War LT. Very few people to-day are not in receipt of taxable incomes. The number is almost negligible. That cannot be said truly of the United States and some other countries with which opponents of the Government endeavour to compare Australia unfavorably. There is plenty of work to be done in Australia to-day. On Monday honorable senators were privileged to attend the official opening of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric project, the development of which will be of incalcuable value not only to the eastern States but also the remainder of Australia. Why such undertakings were not commenced before the Australian Labour party came into power goodness only knows. The trouble seems to have been that anti-Labour governments lacked the courage to embark upon such great works. The necessity for them has always existed.

Senator Cooper:

– The Commonwealth did not have the necessary power before the war.

Senator TANGNEY:

– The Commonwealth has always had the power .to assist in developmental projects. The only thing lacking was the will ‘to assist. It was left to a Labour government to decide what had to be done and then to start doing it. I am very proud to be associated with that project, realizing as I do what its value will be to the nation. The undertaking will provide employment for hundreds of Australian workmen and will give Australian engineers a chance to help their own country.

I have always been amazed and distressed by the fact that many university graduates are lost to the Australian community because of lack of opportunity to use their talents in this country. Every year university students leave Australia to continue their studies overseas. I have noticed that trend particularly in Western Australia. They usually succeed and then are absorbed in other countries. This Government is providing them with opportunities to return to their native land to use their skill and so reward Australia for the help that it has given them in its schools and universities. When I was in the United Kingdom, I visited the universities at Oxford and Cambridge and met many Australian graduates. One was engaged in research into atomic energy with the object of harnessing it, not for purposes of war, but for .the purposes of peace. She was spending long days and nights in a course of research designed to find a means of treating cancer. If that project is successful, it will be of incalculable benefit to people throughout the world who suffer from, that terrible disease. That scientist was a Western Australian. She had been unable to find employment in Australia but now she is hopeful that, with the establishment of a national university at Canberra, she will have a chance to return to pursue her research work here. I hope that many such students will return to continue their humanitarian work in their own country. That is why I am pleased and proud that the Government has undertaken the establishment of a national university in Canberra. Next week we shall witness the formal ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone of the university, which will be a memorial to a great man who was called upon to assume the responsibility of government at a very difficult period, not because the people had chosen him for that post, but because the chosen representative had failed to discharge his trust. At that ceremony next week, we shall witness something more than a tribute to a great Australian. It will be a tribute to a war casualty who went to a premature grave because of the terrific strain of the work that he undertook so unselfishly as the leader of the nation during the war. We shall honour his memory through the establishment of the national university and at the same time we shall provide research facilities for many young Australians who at present have to contemplate going overseas in order to pursue their chosen professions.

Before I conclude I should like to revert to the subject of social services, particularly the provision for the welfare of the widows of this country. I have dealt with this matter on previous occasions in the Senate. I hope that the next budget that the Treasurer presents will give to every widow with dependent children at least the equivalent of the female basic wage. Is it too much to ask that a woman whose family has been deprived of the breadwinner and who has to bring up children and, therefore, is doing a really national work in providing decent citizens for this country, should be recompensed at least to the degree that girls who are employed serving sweets or ice-creams over a shop counter are provided for? At present, the widow’s pension is equal to only 50 per cent, of the wage paid to females in unskilled occupations. I do not say that the latter are receiving too much. What I say is that the widows are receiving too little. I recognize that a Labour government introduced the widow’s pension and in recent years has liberalized that benefit considerably. I was a member of the Social Security Committee when the widow’s pension was investigated by that body. However, although this Government initiated the widow’s pension it must go ‘further and make certain that the pension shall be adequate to enable widows to meet their reasonable needs and those of their children. Whilst we are expending large sums of money, and rightly so, in bringing thousands of immigrants to this country, at the same time we must be certain that we do not leave so important a section of the community as the widows practically on the verge of starvation by failing to provide them with assistance sufficient to enable them to enjoy a decent standard of living. I trust that the Treasurer will act on ray suggestions when he introduces his next budget.

On the whole this budget is satisfactory. It makes no extravagant promises. lt is a simple statement of fact of the actual down-to-earth position of Australia to-day, and it also gives some indication of what the Australian economy can bear within the next twelve months. Since the end of the recent war the Government has paid off its huge commitments under lend-lease. The Government is solvent, and that cannot be said about many other governments in the world to-day. It has not incurred one penny of debt overseas, but has domiciled its debts within the Commonwealth. It has substantially reduced the national debt, which, of course, it inherited from anti-Labour governments that ruled this country for long periods in the past.

Senator MURRAY:

– The cardinal feature of the budget is that the Government has closed the gap between revenue and expenditure -without being obliged to raise loans to meet its current needs. Having regard to present conditions throughout the world, that is ii notable achievement. I am glad to note that the budget has been received with approval not only by Government supporters but also by some members of the Opposition parties in the House of Representatives. It is a typical Chifley Labour budget based on a wise and farsighted policy of insuring financial stability and, at the same time, providing for the maintenance of a high standard of living and social security as well as for the development of the nation’s natural resources. Whilst I heartily congratulate the Government upon the results now placed before us in the budget, I realize that we owe much of our present good fortune to the fact that we have enjoyed a succession of good seasons. Favorable seasonal conditions have contributed substantially to the prosperity that we have enjoyed since the end of the recent Avar. Overseas prices for our primary products have remained consistently high because of shortages resulting from the destruction caused by the war in other countries. Fortunately, Australia escaped such a fate. Since the end of the war the Government has maintained full employment. That is the most important single factor that has contributed to our present economic stability. Full employment is the key to our success ;md to our security. On the 12th January last I had the opportunity when in Hobart to listen to an address that was delivered by Professor Hytten, at that time economic adviser to the Bank of New South Wales. He addressed the Aus tralia-New Zealand Science Conference on economic conditions generally, and I was amazed at some of the statements that he made. For instance, he said -

In the twenties, the lost period of reasonably full employment Australia had unemployment varying from 0 to 11 per cent, of trade union membership

In the best of those years, when unemployment was ti to S .per cent., there was a period when employment was fairly easy for those who really sought it.

There was neither scarcity of labour nor need for any one to be nut of work long.

T contradict that statement. During that period I was a youth in Hobart and I and my brothers, although we possessed more than average qualifications, had to leave Tasmania because we could not obtain employment in that State. Professor Hytten continued -

Complete stability was neither attainable nor desirable.

Apparently, that is the only cure that the professor can offer for economic ills. Full employment, which is the policy of this Government, is the key to productivity which creates employment, whilst employment itself creates more employment. The truth of that statement is reflected in the aggregate amount of taxes now being paid by companies out of their profits. Like Senator Tangney, I should only be too happy to pay tax if I had the wherewithal to pay it, and after paying it I had sufficient to enjoy a decent standard of living. Full employment means greater purchasing power in the community. It also guarantees social security, but, above all, it means peace. When the people of any country do not Iia ve peace of mind they become frustrated and grow envious of others who are more fortunate. The world is seeking a formula that will perpetuate peace. Although some dark clouds have appeared on the horizon we are hopeful that by tolerance, restraint and clear thinking and the recognition of the rights of others by world leaders, the world will be delivered from its present uneasiness. A bitter controversy is now raging between high-ranking military officers and statesmen on the question whether war is inevitable. I do not place myself in either of those categories. As a representative of the Australian people in the Senate I deem it to be my duty to do everything possible that will help not only Australia but also every other country to avoid the mass destruction and misery that is war. That is not pacifism; it is plain common sense. In many countries major conflicts are

Still raging. In China, Greece and the Philippines peace has not yet been restored. At the same time, rumblings of war are again being heard in Germany and in Asiatic countries to our north.

In spite of those facts I am not pessimistic. The only policy by which Australia can be made a great nation is that of unswerving support of the United Nations. We cannot stand alone. Such a policy has been adopted by all of the British Commonwealth nations. In that respect we are acting in common with the United States of America. We have no alternative but to rely upon the collective strength of the democracies acting through the machinery of the United Nations. This Government is not ashamed to strive for peace and the maintenance of international decisions based on justice, full employment and the social wellbeing of all peoples. I do not apply that observation merely to ourselves but to the peoples of all countries and for all time. That is not the wishful thinking of a starry-eyed idealist but the hard-headed realism of one who has witnessed the horrors of war, including the destruction wrought by the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. Being realists we must not, ostrich like, bury our heads and leave the task of maintaining world peace to the United Nations. Under this budget the Government is providing a sum of £60,000,000 for expenditure on defence during the current financial year, whilst the total cost of its five-year defence plan, which was originally set at £250,000,000, has been increased to £295,000,000. Under that programme the sum of £9,000,000 will be expended overseas principally for the purpose of building up our fleet air arm which is represented by the third waterborne air group consisting of the aircraft carrier Sydney, which will be joined later by the aircraft carrier Melbourne. Those units will provide a strong striking force of aircraft that will be based in ocean areas where they can be used to intercept any possible threat to our shores. The sum of £6,000,000 is to be expended on research principally at the guided weapons range in South Australia, and on scientific research relating to atomic and cosmic development. I regard such defence expenditure as an insurance premium; it is the Government’s policy to be prepared for the worst whilst, at the same time, insuring that the development of our natural resources shall proceed unimpeded. In view of conditions existing throughout the world to-day, no sensible government would build up a defence force for purposes of aggression. Australia has no territorial ambitions whatsoever. However, this nation is the custodian of a large area, and we must ensure that our people and future generations of Australians shall be free from any threat of war. A strong defence force is our best protection.

Australia is a very large country with a sparse population. Consequently, one of the most important factors in our defence considerations must be the encouragement of immigration to this country. We must obtain the best possible human material that we can attract from Great Britain and other European countries. I am glad to note that thousands of migrants are being brought to Australia and are being quickly absorbed in the Australian scene. I have had an opportunity to see many of those migrants at work on some of the major projects being undertaken in this country, particularly on hydro-electric current works in Tasmania and in the building industry. To a great degree Australia’s future prosperity will depend not on numbers but on ability, that is, on brains and “know-how”. Although the population of the United States of America is only 6 per cent, of the world’s total population that country possesses 55 per cent, of the world’s manufacturing and industrial potential. That fact reveals the value of brains and their application to the development of natural resources. By that means the United States of America has built up its tremendous war potential which, to-day, is the envy of the world. I saw what the Americans did in the Pacific campaign during the war. I saw the enormous war potential, industrial wealth, and scientific resources that, were behind the American fighting man.

When we realize that the United States of America devoted only one-tenth of its major war production to the Pacific campaign, we can appreciate what was done in other war theatres. To-day, we are building up our own industrial potential. Earlier this week I attended a ceremony at which the GovernorGeneral fired the first charge in a gigantic hydro-electric project, the completion of which will go a long way towards eliminating our dependence upon coal for industrial purposes. In addition, the harnessing of the waters of the Snowy and other rivers will enable Australia to compete industrially with other nations. Australia has already proved that its people have intelligence in abundance. This country has produced scientists, surgeons and physicists equal to any in the world. Australia, too, has geographical and physical advantages. We have much to be thankful for. Our isolation in the southern seas protects us from the troubles of Europe, including the inter-racial disturbances that have been going on from time immemorial. There are no racial hatreds in this country, and we have no colour problem such as exists in the United States of America. Another advantage of our geographical position is the absence of extremes of climate. Australia, a young country, has profited by the mistakes of the older countries. It has assimilated the learning of the old world, but in addition it has established its own high standards of social welfare. Under the administration of the present progressive Government Australia’s economy has been greatly expanded in a remarkably short space of time, and I am confident that if the people, in their wisdom, continue to support governments such as this, there will be a rich heritage for our children and for posterity.

I have emphasized that economic strength is the most important factor in any struggle, in war or peace. Consider the assistance that Australia is giving to Great Britain. The budget includes provision for a further grant of £10,000,000 to the United Kingdom, making a total gift of £45,000,000 in the last three years. That, it is true, is little enough when one considers the austere conditions under which the people of the Old Country live to-day,- and the sacrifices that they made during the war when they alone stood against the fascist hordes of Europe after Dunkirk and kept alive for all who would maintain it the spirit of freedom. These same people, who during the war were harassed by the enemy, are now being branded by the Opposition parties in this Parliament as socialists. The British Labour Government is described as a socialist government, just as the present Australian Government is being described as communistic or some other “ istic “. The British people have not changed one iota since the war days. They have merely changed their minds as to the type of government that they want to rule them, just as the Australian people did during the critical war period, when they threw out the tories and Liberals and handed the administration of this country over to the Labour party. Those were the dark days of the war. The people had to choose between the Labour party and those who knew in their own hearts that they had no hope of carrying the war to a successful conclusion. Labour was elected to office, and has occupied the treasury bench ever since. History was repeating itself. In the depression days, the people of this Commonwealth called upon a Labour Government to rescue them from despair. With that lesson in mind, they took the same action in the critical war period. They have continued to adhere to Labour ever since, and I am confident that they will not forsake it in the near future.

I had an opportunity recently to meet some British immigrants who came to this country on Mooltan. I asked them their opinions on conditions in Great Britain. They admitted that the British people were passing through difficult times, and had been forced to draw in their belt3 a few notches. No other government would have dared to ask the people of the Old Country to stretch their endurance to further limits, but they have absolute faith and confidence in Labour’s administration. To-day, there is another war in progress. It is not a physical war of destruction and bloodshed, but a financial war between the dollar and sterling groups. Let us analyse the position. I have conducted a certain amount of research into this matter. I do not pose as an economist. I am merely a layman who takes an interest in history and world affairs. I have travelled around seeking information. I have taken advantage of every opportunity to talk with leading statesmen and others. The most obvious effect on Great Britain of the second world war, I am informed, is the manner in which the economic strength of the United Kingdom has been depleted. To finance the war, Britain was forced to realize on its overseas assets. In 1939, the value of Britain’s overseas investments was estimated at between £3,000,000,000 and £4,000,000,000 sterling. For almost a century, those investments had contributed a vital element to the national income. They brought in dividends. They provided credits in the United States of America, Argentina, Brazil, the Middle East, China, Europe, and elsewhere. They were a vital factor in Britain’s wealth. The Bank of England and other British banking institutions led the field in world banking and finance; but what is the position to-day? All those investments have gone. The great insurance companies such as the Prudential, and Lloyds, were forced to relinquish their assets in the United States of America and other countries because war materials sent to Great Britain had to be paid for. Huge soap combines like Lever Brothers, tea combines such as Liptons, and whisky manufacturing organizations which had accumulated substantial credits in the United States of America, also had to realize on their overseas assets. Britain is battling on in a hand-to-mouth existence, getting dollars wherever possible. Prior to the war, most railways and other transport organizations in Argentina and Brazil were British owned. They, too, have been sold. Thus, Britain’s invisible exports have disappeared. As half of Britain’s essential foodstuffs and raw materials have to be imported, and as agricultural prices have been rising sharply, frantic efforts have been needed to increase the flow of exports. All Britain’s post-war endeavours have been subordinated to the task of keeping its economy alive. That cannot be done out of its own resources. All this has contributed to the willingness of the British Government to accept the fact that it can no longer sustain its imperial role of the past. British forces have been withdrawn from IndiaThe United Kingdom can no longer carry out the role of the policeman of theEmpire. The war enormously stimulated industrial development in India. That country has been divided into twodominions, each of which has built upsubstantial credits in Great Britain,, whereas previously India as a whole wasa debtor country to Great Britain. India and Pakistan are concentrating on industrial development. The capture by the Japanese of South East Asia, and their advocacy of “ Asia for the Asiatics “, left a quickened sense of eagerness for colonial emancipation. As the French and Netherlands empires have found, it is now a matter of the greatest difficulty to maintain a hold on unwilling peoples. Partly for reasons of principle - respect for national aspirations - and partly because the United Kingdom could not, even if it would, spare man-power for large fighting forces, the British Government has withdrawn from India, Ceylon and Burma. Mr. Attlee has asserted the principle that “ No one is to be compelled to remain in the British Empire against his will “. An examination of the present situation shows clearly that not Britain, but Russia and the United States of America dominate the world scene. Both are “ waging world peace “. They are seeking to mould the world along lines acceptable to them. Europe and large parts of Asia have become buffer zonesbetween the United States and Russia Militarily, Russia has unchallengeable land superiority in Europe and Asia while the United States of America has air and sea superiority. In 1947, the United States Navy was six times the size of the British Navy. The United States of America also has industrial pre-eminence and, at least for the present, has a superiority with the atomic bomb. This is the new-style balance of power, which while it lasts prevents a third world war, but keeps the world in constant suspense. That has been shown by the frequent crises in Berlin, including that which led to the establishment of the Berlin air lift. In this situation Britain’s position is particularly precarious. The Normandy landing showed that a cross-channel movement in the reverse direction is no longer impossible. In a future war the Atlantic may be like the Mediterranean was in World War II. with Britain taking the place of Malta. No country could be more vulnerable to the atomic bomb than Britain with its highly concentrated areas of industry and population. Under the new conditions, world war would threaten Britain with annihilation. Therefore, Britain can no longer afford to incur a war. Looking at the matter broadly, it is obvious that Britain can no longer be thought of as a great power in the special sense of one which, in a world of power politics, is free to decide and carry through its own policy in every sphere. Before 1914, there were seven or eight great powers; to-day there are only two. It was the traditional British foreign policy to maintain the balance of power, using that balance at all times in the national interests. We saw a great development of the Empire or, as it is now known, the British Commonwealth of Nations, by the judicious use of the balance of power. I have dealt with this matter at some length because of its importance to Australia, and I feel sure that history will again prove that no one can conquer an unconquerable people who through the centuries have never lost faith or courage in adversity.

The equilibrium of the budget has been disturbed slightly by the devaluation of sterling, which took place after the budget had been prepared. However, such difficulties as have arisen can, no doubt, be overcome by the strength of our internal liquid resources and our credit overseas. Because Australia is a major primary producing and exporting country, it was the duty of the Government to maintain the relationship between £1 sterling and the £1 Australian that existed before the devaluation of sterling, otherwise we should have suffered considerable depreciation of our accumulated balance in London, which amounts to approximately £400,000,000 sterling. Indeed, following the devaluation of sterling, we should have lost about £50,000,000 if the Government had not voluntarily devalued our currency. It must also be borne in mind that most of Australia’s primary produce is exported to Great Britain, which purchases 51 per cent, of our total exports. Of the balance of our exports 9 per cent, goes to the United States of America and 2 per cent, to Canada, which are both, of course, in the dollar area, and 38 per cent, goes to France, Italy, New Zealand and South Africa, some of which countries are in the dollar area whilst others are not.

The present exchange rate of ‘2 dollars 24 cents to £1 Australian should be a great inducement to Americans, and even Canadians, to come to this country either as migrants or as tourists. I strongly recommend that a publicity campaign be undertaken in the United States of America to advertise the attractions of this country by film, story and song. One feature which should be emphasized to Americans is that they would benefit greatly by coming to this country and exchanging their dollars for pounds. By so doing Americans in every class of life would considerably raise their standard of living. Although the citizens of that great nation are very fond of referring to it as “ God’s own country “, it should not be forgotten that the cost of living in the United States of America is inordinately high, and that even when American workers receive wages of 2 dollars an hour, or more than £1 an hour, living costs are proportionately high. We should also impress upon the Americans the extraordinary attractions for tourists which this country possesses, and should make a determined effort to develop our tourist resorts. Despite the world-wide publicity given to such resorts as Waikiki Beach and Hawaii, those who have had an opportunity to compare them with such Australian resorts as the Barrier Reef and the beaches at Bondi, Manly and Coogee are emphatic that Australia possesses a tremendous advantage over the rival attractions of other Pacific countries. Furthermore, it should be borne in mind that our beaches are freely available to all and are not reserved for the fortunate few who can afford to lease luxury suites in palatial hotels, as is the case at Miami and other resorts in the United States of America. Properly publicized, Tasmania, could become the “ Switzerland of the Pacific “. It has the scenic attractions, the variety of sport and wild life, and everything else that is required to attract tourists. All that we need to do is to provide proper accommodation and amenities at our natural tourist resorts. In my opinion the Government should view the encouragement of the tourist industry in much the same way as it regards the generation of hydroelectric power and other national developmental schemes. If proper facilities were provided to attract tourists, there is no reason why Australia should not enjoy continuous visits from flocks of millionaires. The tourist industry is a clean one, and does not entail the erection of grimy smoke stacks. It is selfsupporting, and, furthermore, it distributes its profits impartially to all concerned from hotel proprietors and government managers down to waiters, barbers and hotel clerks.

The budget provides for the payment of considerable financial assistance to Western Australia to provide water for certain parts of that State. The proposal is that the Government should co-operate with the Government of Western Australia to develop a huge area in the eastern gold-fields and to open up large areas for closer settlement in the main mixed wheat and sheep belt. The capital expenditure required to complete the project is estimated at approximately £2,150,000, and it is apparent, therefore, that the scheme is ambitious and comprehensive. I wholeheartedly support the grant of money to Western Australia to implement the scheme because the prosperity of any single part of Australia must benefit the rest of the country. However, whilst I support the grant of money to Western Australia for the purpose mentioned, I take the opportunity to remind the Government and the Senate that Tasmania also needs, and deserves, substantial assistance. For some time the Tasmanian Government has been endeavouring to implement a vast, progressive scheme for the development of the south-eastern area of Tasmania, where there are large areas that are capable of closer settlement and great productivity. Since the Government has been able to provide substantial financial assistance to Western Australia, I submit that Tasmania is entitled to similar treatment. The governments of the less populous States have to approach the National Government every year for financial assistance and must submit the most complete details of their projects. The Tasmanian Government would be only too willing to co-operate with the National Government to implement the vast developmental scheme to which I have referred. The eastern side of the river Derwent has great possibilities, and during the past twenty years attempts have been made to develop that area. Unfortunately, Tasmania, which has not millions of pounds to play with, is gravely handicapped by lack of funds. If the proposed scheme were implemented it would provide an adequate water supply for Bellerive and Lindisfarne, which are suburbs of Hobart, and the country areas of Bridgewater, Richmond, Campania, Colebrook, Sorell, Oxford, Triabunna and Swansea. At present those important little towns enjoy the supply of hydro-electric power but lack sufficient water. Recently, the National Parliament approved of the vast Snowy Mountains scheme, which is intended, amongst other things, to provide millions of acrefeet of water for a huge area, and, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, it has also approved of a vast scheme of water supply to be undertaken in Western Australia. A million pounds is to be spent on Llanherne aerodrome to make it one of the finest air-ports in the world. However, even when that work is carried out water will still require to be supplied to the air-port. Since the construction of the new aerodrome is to be undertaken as a defence work, why should not the Government, in conjunction with the Government of Tasmania, provide water for the new airport and the surrounding district as part of the scheme to develop the country to the east of Hobart?

I listened with great interest to the speeches made by members of the Opposition during this debate, but they did not utter any constructive criticism’ of the Government or advance any progressive proposal. They uttered tens of thousands of words about communism, socialism and “ Liberalism “, but I did not hear one word about “Australianism”. I take this opportunity, therefore, to advocate that more emphasis should be placed upon our national identity. We should endeavour to foster the development of a typically Australian culture. We have tremendous national resources, and the Government has embarked upon a number of national projects designed to improve our culture, including the establishment of a national university. There is, therefore, no reason why we should not produce many more eminent scientists and artiste of the stature of Professor Oliphant and Madame Melba. Australia is also capable of producing men and women who could become eminent in many other avenues. To return to the utterances of members of the Opposition, I noticed particularly the conflict of views contained in the speeches of members of the Opposition parties. Indeed, it is rather difficult to make up one’s mind about the jockey who will ride the Liberal horse in the forthcoming electoral stakes. For instance, on the 15th August last, Mr. R. G. Casey, who is the federal president of the Liberal party, stated -

Two great conflicts are rending Australia - one between the Liberal-Country parties and the Labour party on the issue of socialism for individual enterprise; and the other between the moderates and extremists of the Labour party.

How Mr. Casey can pretend to know what is happening in the Australian Labour party, I do not know ; but it is high time that he learned something of what is happening in his own party. Contrast the statement made by Mr. Casey with the statement made on the same day by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Menzies) in the House of Representatives. Mr. Menzies said -

The principles adopted by the Government during the coal strike were not those of the Labour party, but of the Liberal party.

Who is riding this Liberal horse?

Senator Hendrickson:

– There is no horse.

Senator MURRAY:

– No ; all they have is a moth-eaten socialist tiger which they trot out every now and then. When the forthcoming election is over, I do not know whether members of the Liberal party will owe allegiance to the present Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives or to Mr. Casey. Unfortunately, I have not sufficient time to discuss further the proposals of the Government contained in the budget. In conclusion, I point out that whilst it is impossible for an administration to introduce a budget that will satisfy every one, there can he no doubt that the present Government has endeavoured to do the greatest possible good for all sections of the community.

Senator GRANT:
New South Wales

– As I have said before in this chamber, it is seldom that we have the opportunity to deal with matters about which we desire to speak. I agree with Senator Murray that during the last three years the Opposition has had ample opportunity to advance constructive criticism. All that it has done, however, is to produce a “ necklace of negatives “.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– What does that mean?

Senator GRANT:

– I know that Senator O’Sullivan has difficulty in understanding Scotch, although he can drink it with ease. In his wonderful address to the Senate several days ago, Senator Collings advanced the views of the old idealistic socialist. Unfortunately there is insufficient idealism in the world to-day.

We are considering a huge budget under which, it is proposed to expend money for the provision of many services to the public. Money is to be taken from people who can afford to pay, and given to those who need it most. During this debate the Opposition has not offered any significant criticism. Although honorable senators opposite claim that if an antiLabour government is elected at the forthcoming general election the 40-hour week will not be abolished, I am reminded of Madame Roland’s exclamation -

O Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name !

If, perchance, the political parties now sitting in opposition are elected to office I am convinced that they will destroy the measure of liberty that now exists in Australia.

Senator Rankin appears to be greatly concerned at the inflationary trend in this country. I point out that although there is a certain degree of inflation in Australia, it is much less pronounced here than in other countries in the world. The honorable senator referred to rising prices. I remind the senator that prior to the referendum on rents and prices, the Opposition parties advised the people that if they voted “No” and left the matter of prices control to the States, prices would decrease.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– Prices are higher in Canberra than in any capital city in. Australia.

Senator GRANT:

– Although that may he so, they are not higher in Canberra than in Broken Hill, in the far west of New South Wales. Even the genius possessed by Senator O’sullivan would not enable him to buy commodities as cheaply in Broken Hill as in Sydney. However, I am glad that the honorable senator has at least made this discovery. In another place reference has been made by a prominent member of the Opposition to what has happened in the United States of America. Prior to the referendum he claimed that if prices control was left to the States prices would fall.

Senator O’sullivan:

– But the Government has withdrawn subsidies.

Senator GRANT:

– My advice to Senator O’Sullivan is to listen carefully to what I have to say, because it will be worth listening to. Because of his meagre intelligence the honorable senator will have to concentrate. Even then I know that he will find it exceedingly difficult to understand. Senator Rankin claimed that if taxes were reduced prices would fall. The honorable senator did not, however, explain why prices would decrease if taxation were reduced. Although I have a reasonable knowledge of economics, I fail to see how that would necessarily be the case. We know that in the past when there was overproduction men were thrown out of work and prices eventually dropped because the workers did not have enough money to pay for the goods that they required. According to the bourgeois economist Keynes, laisser-faire capitalism is endeavouring to put the clock back. When the economic waves are rolling the only sensible thing to do is to rake in as much money as possible and put it out of circulation, causing prices to be lowered. Of course the lower-paid workers are not called upon to pay very much in taxes. Although Senator Rankin claims that prices would fall if taxes were reduced I contend that that result would, be quite the reverse. The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), by adopting a conservative attitude, has helped considerably to prevent prices from rising unduly in this country. I should like the Opposition to advance a convincing reason in support of Senator Rankin’s contention. It seems to me that the institution of Parliament is deteriorating.


– I, also, havenoticed that.

Senator GRANT:

– It has deteriorated very much since Senator O’Sullivan was elected to the Senate. In other days a censure motion aroused a great deal of interest amongst the people. One would often hear them saying, “ How do you think it will go ? Do you think that theGovernment will be defeated ? “ Since this Government has been in office, however, the Opposition has moved numerous censure motions for a variety of reasons of little or no consequence, because it hasno well-defined policy. I contend that question time should be devoted to the asking and answering of questions about matters of great importance to the people of Australia. However, not one question of a hundred asked by honorable senators opposite is of any significance. They are content to ask such ridiculousquestions as “Does the Government intend to develop a machine to take the wrinkles out of tripe ? “ I claim that this Parliament has deteriorated because its functions have been abused by the Opposition which has contrived to move a motion of censure on practically every new subject that has arisen. Let us takepetrol

Senator O’Sullivan:

– You cannot get. it to take. It is a good double - no petrol and no intelligence.

Senator GRANT:

– The Opposition in the House of Representatives had the audacity to move the adjournment of the chamber to discuss petrol. The Commonwealth controlled petrol rationing until it was invalidated by the High Court. Of course it was realized that this vital commodity would have to be rationed. The Opposition got a little fellow from the north to challenge the validity of petrol rationing before the

High. Court which, ruled that the Commonwealth’s power under the Defence Act has expired. Subsequently the appellant’s photograph appeared in every newspaper in the country under headings such as, “ This is the gentleman who has given us our petrol back again “, “ There will be no more rationing “, and “ There will be plenty of petrol overnight “. Just imagine the Australian Government being controlled by representatives of the political parties now in office in Victoria ! New South Wales and Queensland, where Labour is in power, were agreeable to the re-introduction of petrol rationing. The Government of Victoria does not yet know where it stands in this matter, and continues to make a mess of things, and Tasmania has not passed the required legislation to refer powers to the Commonwealth. Yet the Opposition lias had the audacity to move a censure motion against the Government because the people have not sufficient petrol. It claims that the Commonwealth should release stocks that are being held in reserve for defence purposes. If that wore done, the wealthy members of the community would buy the bulk of the available supplies, to the detriment of those people less fortunately placed. I venture to suggest that if Labour had not been elected to office in 1941 Admiral Tojo would now be occupying the President’s chair in this chamber, and there would be no fight between Mr. Menzies and Mr. Casey for political honours.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– Your last assumption is right.

Senator GRANT:

– As things are, one of them will have to get out. It will be a ease of “you can pay your money and have your choice “, because it looks like being a photo finish. Then, of course, the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) would have to receive a portfolio; he has a go at everything that comes along, and appears to delight in moving censure motions. The right honorable gentleman declared that plenty of petrol was available in Poland, but he omitted to mention that it had first to be obtained from Persia. As all enlightened people know, the two things that* cannot be got from Poland and Russia are gold and petrol.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– I should have thought that the honorable senator would have said freedom and truth.

Senator GRANT:

– The Prime Minister said that he would inquire whether petrol could be obtained from Poland on a sterling basis. It was found subsequently that not a pint of petrol could be obtained from there.

I am reminded of the following piece of poetry written by Dryden in relation to Lord Buckingham -

Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong, Was everything by starts, and nothing long, But in the course of one revolving moon, Was chymist, fiddler, statesman, and buffoon.

That is about the strength of the present Opposition.

The tory Opposition claims that it would do away with all socialistic enterprise. Not long ago there were several tragedies in this country involving aircraft belonging to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited. In my opinion the time has arrived when the use of the term “ National “ by private enterprise should be prohibited, because it creates the impression in the minds of the public that the venture is a government enterprise. I instance, also, the Bank of New South Wales and the National Bank of Australasia Limited, which are not government instrumentalities. I do not suggest that TransAustralia Airlines could not have suffered such disasters, or that the pilots of the aircraft were negligent; but the fact is that the aircraft did not belong to the government enterprise. Had the accidents occurred to Trans-Australia Airlines machines, the Government’s opponents would have said, “ Private enterprise is the thing. Look at the disasters that have occurred under government enterprise “. But those accidents showed up private control of enterprise, and we have heard very little about them. All that we have heard from the supporters of private enterprise is criticism of the amount of money that is being expended to maintain Trans-Australia Airlines. The government organization is much less likely to have disasters than is Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited because “safety-first” must be the policy .of every government enterprise. The object of such undertakings is to open up the country. I repeat that the time has come when private companies should be prohibited from- using the word “ national “ to advertise themselves.

The international situation to-day is the most important subject that we in this Parliament can consider. I make no bones about declaring my attitude towards the various international problems that plague us to-day. During this debate I have heard references to international affairs by various honorable senators, and I agree with most of the statements that they have made about the power of the United States of America, its domination of world affairs, and the Marshall plan. However, I did not hear them say anything about events in Yugoslavia. A few years ago I had an opportunity to talk to some prominent citizens in that country, and I suggested to one of them, the Foreign Minister, Kardeli. that the Yugoslavs had to do what the Russians told them to do. To use the vernacular, he almost bit my head off. He said, “Nonsense. We do what we like. Russia does not interfere with us at all “. I hope that honorable senators have taken the opportunity to read the published details of the corespondence that has passed between Kardeli and Molotov, of Russia. That correspondence provides an interesting study of the relative positions of the two nations and also of the interpretations that are given by the Communists to various words. For instance, democracy, as understood by the Communists, is entirely different from democracy, as understood by men who live in capitalist countries. The time has come when we must decide whether we can evolve by democratic means a form of society that will be much more equitable for all citizens than is the present form of society or whether we must have a revolution and a dictatorship. We cannot have things both ways. We cannot be vicious in our own administration and, at the same time, claim- to be lenient. We cannot commit acts that we claim to abhor.

We hear a great deal in Australia about the danger of communism. There is not the slightest risk of communism rising to a position of power in this country. One of the bogies to be raised by Opposition parties at the forthcoming election, I understand, is that of communism and socialism. The Communist world organization holds international congresses from time to time. So do other organizations. At Eucharistic conferences, for instance, delegates meet to consider common problems and to seek solutions for their mutual benefit. There is an interchange of views and information. Presumably, the Masonic Lodge, kindergarten organizations and other bodies arrange international meetings with somewhat similar objects. The Communists often hold conferences at which, usually, several delegates are present from Australia. I have no objection to that. They go to the conferences in order to discuss policies that they consider will be of benefit to all of the countries that are represented. It is of no use telling me that the Cominform does not direct the affairs of the Communist party in every country where the party exists, and that instructions are not given to delegates at those conferences. There is no difference between the Cominform to-day and the Comintern which existed years ago. That is as it should be. If the Communist party plans world revolution, then the Cominform, as the central organization of the party, should seek to achieve world revolution and it should not be ashamed of the fact. I know that it does so, and there is nothing wrong with that from the point of view of the Communists. No doubt representatives of the Australian Communist party who attend those periodic conferences are asked how the party is progressing in Australia and what are its prospects of success. Perhaps the conversation runs something like this : “ How many votes did you get at the last election ? “ “ Well, we lost our deposits.” “Did you? Why can’t you build up the Communist party in Australia? You gained only one vote in eleven at the Redfern election. Why was that ? “ The Australian representative would have to reply to that, “ What chance have we of spreading communism in Australia, where the Labour party has been in power in most of the States and in the Commonwealth for years, where mothers are looked after before their children are born, where baby bonuses, child endowment, widows’ pensions, compensation and many other such benefits are paid to the people ? “. The Communist party cannot make progress under enlightened governments. That is why it suffered a setback in Norway. It had eleven representatives in the Norwegian Parliament before the recent general election, but not one of them was reelected. The Communists were routed because the economic situation in that country had improved. It is significant to note that Social Democrats were elected to replace all of the eleven defeated Communists. Social conditions determine the success or failure of communism.

I heard various speakers in the House of Representatives recently declare that the economic hardships of the United Kingdom, which are constantly increasing in intensity, were fundamentally due to the socialist legislation of the British Labour Government. That is in line with Opposition propaganda in relation to the administration of this Government. Critics blame the Chifley Government for the shortage of petrol, just as they blame the Attlee Government for economic conditions in Great Britain. Anti-Labour forces were in charge of Great Britain for more than a thousand years. They governed the country from the time of Julius Caesar. Middle class people in England told me when I visited their country that they were ashamed that, although slums had existed there for hundreds of years, they had been destroyed eventually only by Hitler’s bombers. British capitalists drew tribute from abroad for hundreds of years, but did nothing for the people of their own country. Their coal mines were obsolete. They did nothing to reclaim agricultural land in order to produce more food. They did not use up-to-date machinery, and they did not develop hydro-electric projects such as the Labour Government has developed. They did not dream of providing milk or oranges for children. Had the Labour party been in office in Great Britain over the last 300 years and had a fair break, the United Kingdom to-day would be a vastly different nation.

We in Australia are in a very favorable situation compared with the people of Great Britain. We have goods that the whole world needs, such as wool and wheat.

But Great Britain has to buy dear and sell cheap. Personally, I do not think that it has a chance of rehabilitating itself. I have said so before and I have brought down upon my head the reproaches of many people. The United Kingdom has to make up an adverse balance of £400,000,000 before it can balance its ledgers and it is not in the race to do so. It has lost its markets abroad. The source of its tribute from overseas has gone. As I have said, its machines and its mines are obsolete. If it sincerely hopes to recover its former position, its debt must first be wiped out. Some people say that war produces good results. No war has ever done so. Great Britain has been victorious in two wars, and we can see the situation in which it now finds itself. In spite of the shocking facts, people continue to talk about the prospect of a third world war. In its present economic situation, Great Britain cannot retain its Navy, Army and Air Force. Efforts are being made to establish a western union in Europe with the backing of the United States of America, but Great Britain cannot afford to pay the cost of such an organization. It is a top-heavy nation. There are parasites at the top drawing £10,000 a year or more, yet the people get only 2 oz. of bacon each a week. The nation cannot rehabilitate itself under such conditions. There is no reason why it should do so. Can members of the Opposition be sincere when they blame the Labour party for the situation that exists in the United Kingdom ? Had they and their kind been concerned with the welfare of the people during the last 300 years, Great Britain would be an economic paradise to-day. Yet the British people are being told that they must pull in their belts still more. One of the poets has rightly said -

If blood be the price of admiralty,

Lord God, weha’ paid in full!

The people of Great Britain have no chance of rehabilitating their economy under present conditions.

I turn now to an aspect of international affairs that is of intimate concern to Australia. After all, Australia is the most important part of the world from our point of view. We are surrounded by Asiatics. Members of the Opposition are absolutely hopeless in their approach to foreign affairs. Everything that they say shows that they do not know the slightest thing about international relations. When they discuss Indonesia, they are unable to distinguish the Communists from the Indonesian nationalists. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) was opposed to India remaining within the .British Commonwealth. That was a most extraordinary attitude for him to adopt considering that the Prime Minister of India, Nehru, is bitterly opposed to communism. Apparently Mr. Menzies did not know anything about Nehru’s policies. Perhaps he opposed the inclusion of India in the Empire merely because Mr. Chifley was in favour of it. One-half of the people of the world seem to be opposed to everything that is suggested by the Communists. The others oppose everything that is suggested by the United States of America. American imperialism has made some tremendous mistakes. It is impossible to understand why a country like America, which has sufficient money to enable it to buy the best brains of the world, has made such errors as it has committed in China. It is about twelve years since 1 visited China, but it was as plain as the trunk on an elephant then that Chiang Kai-shek and Madame Chiang Kai-shek, the Soongs, the Kungs and the re6t of that family group of nepotists had no support from the people of China. The Americans wasted billions and billions of dollars in order to train the so-called “nationalist” armies. Then the “ truthful “ press told us of the terrific fight that was being made by the nationalists to save Peking and that the Communists had been driven out. Late: we heard that Peking had collapsed. The same false stories were repeated when Shanghai was attacked. Now the Communists are at the gates of Hong Kong. The Nationalist Government has no support from the Chinese people. The Communists are exploiting that fact.

The Chinese Communist leader, Mao, succeeded, not because he was supported by Russia but in spite of the fact that he was antagonistic towards Russia. Some Communists will dispute that statement, but I refer honorable senators to informative articles that have been written by

Edgar Snow, one of the protagonists of China, who wrote Red Star over China. A series of his articles was published in the Saturday Evening Post. He declared that Mao was expelled twice from the Politburo and that the Russians did not back him in Manchuria, but referred to his men as bandits, as they did when I was there. He also stated that when the Russians took all the machinery out of Manchuria they signed an agreement to back Chiang Kai-shek. He gave the date of the agreement, and he ought to know the facts because he was in Moscow at the time when it was signed. I believe his statement. He said that the Russians collaborated with the Americans in order to prop up Chiang Kai-shek. They considered that Mao had no backing from the industrial proletariat, and therefore they were opposed to him. They substituted Li for Mao, but Mao had him arrested and sent back to Russia. He is back in Darien now. It is true that the Russians, in the days of Lenin when they were wiser than they are now, wiped out extra-territoriality and the white domination of Asiatics came to an end. They wiped out all concessions in 1917. Since then China has taken a line of its own. It is one thing for Russia to dominate Czechoslovakia. It is a totally different thing for it to attempt to dominate China. Even Yugoslavia is proving to be a tough nut for Russia to crack. China is an agrarian country. The people of China were fighting for nationalism long before the revolution in Russia brought the Communists to power. It is quite true that the United States of America has lost face with the Chinese. The Americans cannot offer them very much. It is also true that Mao is now friendly with the Russians, or that the Russians are friendly with him. During the last year the Chinese republican forces have overrun an area larger than the continent of Australia. My point is, what do we intend to do about the position that has been created in China? If I had my way I should immediately recognize the Communists in that country. Chiang Kai-shek and his crowd have nothing to offer us. For months past we have been reading reports to the effect that

Chiang’s forces have been winning the conflict in China. We know now that he and his family have cleared out with about £300,000,000 to cut up amongst them. I believe that we shall have to recognize the Republican Government in China. That country presents an unlimited market for Australian trade. I do not believe that Mao and his followers will immediately establish a Communist state. The task of restoring government that confronts them will take decades to complete. I know the topography of China. Rivers have to be harnessed, and for the general work of reconstruction China will require millions of pounds worth of capital goods, including machinery. If we are wise we shall cultivate the goodwill of the Chinese people. It is time that we realized once and for all that the domination of the Asiatic people .by the white man is finished. The sooner we realize that fact the better it will be for us. If, twenty years ago, the Dutch had brought about reforms in Indonesia instead of deporting from that country so-called agitators they would not be in the bad position in which they find themselves to-day. It is clear now that sooner or later the Dutch will have to pack up their bags and get out of Indonesia. Similarly^ if reforms had been instituted in Malaya, the Malayans would not have welcomed the Japanese as they did during the recent war but would have defended their country. Following the recent war, the Malayans were told there was to be a new order but we find that those in control in that country are now trying to re-establish the old order.

I emphasize that Australia is in a precarious position by reason of the fact that as a white people we are surrounded by Asiatics. Therefore, we must increase our population as quickly as possible. I believe that if we fail to increase our population to the maximum within the next twenty years we shall lose this country altogether. Certain things are happening that are not conducive to the establishment of goodwill between Australia and the Asiatic peoples. Even in this country I hear people say that they are against Baits, that Australia does not want any more Bait migrants. Such people oppose the Baits because the latter are opposed to Stalin. That is the last card in the pack with which to stir up racial differences. It is our duty to welcome migrants and to educate them to the Australian way of life so that, should the necessity arise, they will be prepared to fight alongside us. We must get the best people in the world to migrate to this country.

We should recognize the Republic of China as soon as we can possibly do so, although, perhaps, we shall have to wait for a lead from Great Britain in that respect. By recognizing the new Government in China we shall open up markets for our products and, at the same time, cultivate goodwill. Otherwise, existing antagonisms will be worsened. In this respect we already have a tactical advantage. We showed by our activities in Indonesia that we were not going to be with the Dutch against the Indonesians. I have no doubt that had the Opposition parties been in power at that time, Australia would have been in with the Dutch, fighting and all. However, this Government has done a wonderful job in the international sphere as well as in the domestic sphere. Six years ago very few knew anything about Australia. I am not a hero-worshipper, but it is clear that to-day millions, including millions who cannot even read, have heard about the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) as President of the United Nations General Assembly. If the members of the Opposition parties were really good Australians they would be very proud of the fact that an Australian, regardless of his political colour had been so honoured. However, Labour’s opponents were not big enough to applaud that fact. Indeed, they hated to think that a Labour man should have been elected to a position of such great prestige. The Minister for External Affairs has led the fight on behalf of the smaller nations, and he is now regarded by many as one of the wisest leaders in the British Empire.

The mess in which the world finds itself to-day has not been brought about by Labour leaders. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) still keeps on saying that if the Treaty of Versailles had been put into operation the recent war would have been averted. I ask honorable senators to ponder over that statement. The Treaty of Versailles was impossible of implementation right from the very beginning. It contributed to the economic depression that occurred between the two world wars when, despite all the plans that were produced, there were 6,000,000 unemployed in Germany, 3,000,000 in Great Britain and 15,000,000 in the United States of America. At that time, to use an American expression, the world was on the “ bum “. Subsequently, Roosevelt had to implement his plan under which American farmers were paid to destroy their crops and stock and to restrict cultivation. That great depression was due directly to the intensification of capitalism brought about by the stupid Treaty of Versailles. Yet we still hear so-called statesmen say that if that treaty had been put into operation the recent war would have been averted. Can any one imagine what would have happened had the Opposition parties remained in office during the recent war? The workers had no confidence in them. I admit that much of our present prosperity can be attributed to the high world prices that we have received for our primary products. Labour has reaped the benefit of that fact, just as, in the same way, it would have been blamed for bad conditions had droughts occurred during the last few years. The fact remains that the people of this country have taken advantage of the wisdom of the Labour party to the greatest possible degree. Is there any reason why they should eject this Government from office? During the last six years the Opposition parties have moved censure motions against the Government for a variety of tin-pot reasons. The truth is that the Opposition parties have no policy and never did have a policy. To-day, they merely keep on telling the people, that if the Government is not ejected from office it will establish socialism in this country.

Senator COOPER:

– Is that not correct?

Senator GRANT:

– I do not know how the Leader of the Opposition makes that out. He must know that following decisions given by the High Court insurance is, perhaps, the only subject in respect of which the Australian Government has power under the Constitution to introduce nationalization. No industry or activity can be nationalized unless the Government is expressly given power to do so at a referendum; and I remind honorable senators opposite that such a proposal must be carried not only by a majority of votes but also by a majority of States. However, honorable senators opposite will not miss any opportunity during the next two months to tell the people that the Labour Government will socialize everything. When the Leader of the Opposition makes a statement of that kind he either does not know anything about the Constitution, or he deliberately says something that he knows to be untrue. Knowing the honorable senator as I do, I prefer to think that if he made such a statement he would do so because of his ignorance of the Constitution. The Government cannot nationalize the coal-mining industry or the steel industry. Under the Constitution, it is not permitted to nationalize any of the heavy industries.

Senator Cooper:

– It could do so under the Commonwealth’s defence power.

Senator GRANT:

– No, not unless another war broke out. That is clearly evident as the result of the judgment of the High Court declaring petrol rationing by this Government to be ultra vires the Constitution. The fact is that in both the domestic and international spheres Labour has produced the real champions of this country. It has a fine record in every sphere of government administration.

Listening to honorable senators talking about housing one would imagine that they think that the provision of housing can be treated as a completely isolated problem totally unrelated to the needs and difficulties of our economy as a whole. The Government has been wise in its approach to the housing problem. Members of the Opposition parties speak as though it could solve the housing problem by diverting 100,000 workers to that sphere. However, housing is part and parcel of our economy and unless industry generally is kept going the workers will not have the opportunity to earn even the rental for the houses they occupy and will not be able to save sufficient for the purpose of building their own homes. The Government’s first concern has been to maintain a balanced economy, and in order to do that it has placed full employment in the forefront of its policy. The man-power requirements of essential industries are gradually being satisfied. By implementing that policy the Government has made Australia not only the best but also the cheapest country in the world for the masses of the people. And it has achieved that record in spite of the antagonism of the Opposition parties and their endeavours to raise prices. If honorable senators opposite would point specifically to some action of the Government that they consider to be unsound, and make out a good case, the Government would welcome such criticism. However, they can do nothing but merely criticize. It is easy for any one to do that. This is a magnificent budget. It reflects the splendid job the Government has done, and, consequently, I have no doubt the people will return Labour with an even greater majority at the polls on the 10th December next.

South Australia

.- This is the ninth budget that has been presented to the Parliament by the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley). No other Treasurer has presented so many budgets. In spite of all the warnings that have been uttered by honorable senators opposite, the fact cannot be denied that never before in the history of this country has Australia enjoyed such universal prosperity as it is enjoying to-day. During the recent war the Opposition parties had very little criticism to offer of Labour’s policy. One would expect that now that we are at peace they would offer intelligent criticism if any grounds at all existed for criticism of the Government. They have failed to do so. This budget has been approved almost unanimously by the newspapers of this country which do not support the Labour party. Of course, we have heard much from the Opposition parties as to what the Government should have done ; generally they have implied courses of action in line with the opinions expressed by Viscount Bruce whom many members of the Parliament will remember when he was Prime Minister of this country. The only means that the could suggest to remedy the position in Britain were recession, deflation, the cutting down of social services, the increasing of hours of labour and other measures conforming to those adopted in this country when he and his political colleagues were in control of the treasury bench in this Parliament during the depression.

Senator Cooper:

– Labour was in office during the depression.


– I trust that the Leader of the Opposition will refrain from interjecting because I have to say some very hard things which will reveal to the Australian people the utter hopelessness of the Opposition’s attempt to condemn this budget and the Christian work of the Labour Government. The brutality and ruthlessness of the measures adopted by the anti-Labour forces to overcome the depression are still fresh in our minds. I do not suggest that members of the Opposition parties are any more devoid than we are of feeling for the suffering of humanity, despite the woeful political policy that they advocate, but they must know that what I am saying is true. The post-war policy of this Government has wrought a remarkable change in the Australian way of life. It has created a degree of prosperity unparalleled in our history. The Government has a heavy financial responsibility, not only under its social services plan which envisages full employment and full regard for the welfare of every section of the community, but also arising from war commitments. In addition, it is making a splendid effort to raise housing conditions in this country to a standard worthy of Australia. All these things are a heavy drain on the exchequer. While Senator Murray was speaking earlier to-day, the Leader of the Opposition pointed out by interjection that the Commonwealth to-day is the sole taxing authority. I challenge the honorable senator and his supporters to say that the States would return to the old system of taxation if they were given an opportunity to do so. The decision of only one State would be in doubt. Every member of this Parliament knows full well that even the most violently anti-Labour Premier in Australia would hesitate to seek the abolition of the uniform tax system, even if he were urged- by his political bosses to do so. I am confident that the time is far distant when any premier, Labour or Liberal, will seek a return to the old system of taxation. I remind the Senate that the States are in their present happy position largely through the good graces and the big Australian outlook of this Labour Government. Let me recount some of Labour’s achievements. Particularly in the last four years, the Labour administration has performed a wonderful Christian duty to Australia. Reductions of taxes represent, at present income levels, a total concession of £280,000,000 a year. Large outstanding war accounts including the lend-lease settlement have been met. The sum of £108,000,000 has been provided for the repatriation and re-establishment of exservice men and women. Here I digress for a moment to draw attention to the efforts that are being made by certain organizations to enlist the assistance of ex-service personnel in their campaign to decry the Government’s accomplishments in the repatriation field. In South Australia, and I believe in some other States, public meetings have been called in an endeavour to secure the support of ex-servicemen’s organizations for an anti-Labour political league. I shall show later the futility of meetings of this kind, and the absolute nonsense that we have had to put up with in connexion with them. A total of £1S4,000,000 has been provided to meet interest and sinking fund payments on war debts. Hearing members of the Opposition clamouring constantly for reduction of taxes, one would think that as the war is over and the Australian people have played a part second to none in the world, those who claim that they control the financial destinies in this country should be allowed to go scot-free of any obligation. Gifts totalling £35,000,000 have already been made to the Government of the United Kingdom, and this budget provides for a further grant of £10,000,000. In addition, contributions worth £30,000,000 have been made for the relief of wardistressed peoples. Social services ex- penditure has been increased from £39,000,000 to £89,000,000 annually, and the National “Welfare Fund has. been built up to nearly £100,000,000. Social services expenditure for the current financial year is estimated at £100,000,000. Annual payments to the States have increased from £48,000,000 a year to £79,000,000. Under this budget, they will reach £101,000,000. Subsidies amounting to £132,000,000 have been paid to keep down the cost of living and to assist primary producers. A post-war defence programme costing £295,000,000 is being pushed forward, and great national works are being undertaken in the fields of postal services, civil aviation, and hydro-electric power.

Government supporters are being branded with .all sorts of “ isms “, but nobody knows better than do members of the Opposition parties that Labour’s policy has not ‘been changed in the last 28 years. Earlier to-day, my South Australian colleague, Senator Ward, drew my attention to a cartoon that he had in his possession. It was published in the days of “ Georgie “ Reid. It depicts the then Labour Prime Minister, Mr. Andrew Fisher, riding on the back of the “ socialist tiger “. I hope that the Opposition will not spend the next 28 years or perhaps 38 years trying to think of some other way to belittle the great Labour movement. Ever since this terrible socialistic Labour party was born of the sufferings of a majority of people in this country, anti-Labour forces have been raising the bogy of the “ socialist tiger “. Let us examine Labour’s socialism. Most people realize that some activities at least are best carried on by a government or a governmental instrumentality. Private industry is better off out of those undertakings. The Opposition parties would have the people believe that it is the desire of the Labour Government to seize control of all enterprises. Many people accept that claim without endeavouring to ascertain whether there is any truth in it. They continue to run down the Government, whilst, at the same time, using services that no one else would have provided. Every tap that is turned on provides socialized water. Every switch provides socialized heat, light, or power.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– Sometimes.


– I wish that Senator O’Sullivan would be tolerant. He should be past the stage of impatience. If he is not, I am afraid that there is no hope for him. He should be prepared to listen to the views of others. I repeat that every water tap provides socialized water, and every switch provides socialized light, heat, and power. Roadways, trams, trains, and many ‘bus lines provide socialized transport. When a letter is posted, a telegram is despatched, or a telephone used, a socialized service is accepted. Children play in socially owned parks, and attend socially owned schools, and later socially owned universities. Garbage collections, sewage systems and other essential services such as public hospitals are examples of socialism in practice. In spite of the anti-socialist propaganda of the Opposition parties, if they were to secure control of the treasury bench to-morrow, our social services would continue. The object of this propaganda, therefore, is to get Labour out of office, but why cannot honest methods be used? I leave that question to be answered by the Opposition.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– The honorable senator would not understand.


– I cannot be responsible for the opinions of Opposition senators, but I am vain enough to think that the majority of electors in South Australia cannot be wrong.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– Not twice.


Senator O’Sullivan is again speaking out of his turn. On each occasion that Labour has approached the electors since 1941, its Senate candidates have received increasing support. To-day there is a full team of South Australian Labour senators in this chamber. I regret that the people of Queensland have not shown the same wisdom. I have heard it said that it takes a good dog to bite twice in the same place.

A special article by the finance editor of the Sunday Herald which appeared in that newspaper on the 16th October explained very clearly the reasons for the prosperity that the country has enjoyed under this Administration. Under the heading “ Exports again at record level “, the article states -

Australia seems to be on the way to creating yet another record for export income. Sales of goods abroad in the year ending June may exceed the unprecedented amount ot £547,000,000 realized in 1948-49.

I trust that members of the Opposition are listening to the matter that I am reading, because it is most informative. Further on the article states -

Wool already is realizing prices above the average of last year. With spirited bidding from America and Russia, together with orders from Japan and Germany, wool prices may go even higher.

This season’s average price may be just as high as for last year, and there are about 200,000 more bales to sell from an estimated clip of 3,423,000 bales.

Wool exports, therefore, could easily earn Australia more than the £231,664,000 for 1948-49.

On present indications, too, wheat and flour exports might bring in at least as much as the £101,854,000 for 1948-49.

Later the article states -

Flour exports, which have been steadily rising since 1945-46, might be expected also to bring in more than last year’s £35,000,000.

The article, which is a comprehensive review of our present economic situation and prospects, does’ not contain one black line against the present Government’s record. On the contrary, it furnishes irrefutable evidence of the soundness of Labour’s administration and of the activities of the workers of this country, who have contributed so much wealth to our national income. I get tired of hearing the Opposition complain that the Arbitration Court was wrong in reducing working hours, that the people do not work hard enough, or produce enough. Members of the Opposition are always repeating that cry. In spite of the absolute slavery endured by the workers of this country for ten or twelve years, not in order that the Liberal party should survive, but that Australia should survive, they do not receive the slightest appreciation from the Opposition or from the press. Yet the workers are continuing to produce abundant wealth, and, thanks to the merciful dispensation of Providence, we continue to be favoured with bountiful seasons. Those two factors have combined to produce the present prosperity enjoyed by this country, which has been the subject of such eulogistic comment as that which I have just read by financial authorities who are not directly concerned in the politics of the country. Instead of continually throwing brickbats at the workers of this country, members of the Opposition and the press should show some appreciation of the contribution to our present prosperity made by the workers, more particularly since those efforts were made in the face of most discouraging conditions between the end of World War I. and the outbreak of World War II.

I turn now to another aspect of the Government’s administration, which is the repatriation and re-establishment of Australia’s ex-servicemen. Not the least of the achievements of the present Government is the generous provision that it has made for the erection of homes for ex-servicemen. In 1945-46, £378,577 was allocated for that purpose, and in 1946-47 that amount was increased to £2,071,823. In 1947-48, £4,439,912 was provided for the erection of homes for ex-servicemen, and during the last financial year £8,551,901 was expended for that purpose. That is a fine record, and it contrasts sharply with the amount expended by anti-Labour administrations on the erection of homes for exservicemen prior to World War II. In fact, the total amount spent by anti-Labour administrations on the erection of homes for ex-servicemen between 1932 and 1940 was only £1,046,000. Of course, the Leader of the Opposition may say that the revenue received in taxes was much lower then, but he cannot deny that the National Government had a responsibility to discharge to ex-servicemen. A comparison of the treatment extended to exservicemen after World War I., when the anti-Labour forces were in office, with that extended to ex-servicemen after World War II., when Labour was in office, must favour Labour, and the truth of my observation is borne out by the official records of governmental activity during the periods that I have mentioned as well as by the actual utterances of Labour and anti-Labour members of the Parliament recorded in Hansard. It is interesting, for instance, to remind ourselves of the number of ex-servicemen who were evicted from their homes by anti-Labour administrations between 1932 and 1936. Eight hundred and nine ex-servicemen were turned out of their homes by the War Service Homes Commission during those years, and the commission also executed orders of the court for eviction in approximately 30 cases. In addition, 441 ex-servicemen had to vacate war service homes after the commission had obtained orders from the court. A great deal of other interesting information is also available in the official records of that period.

In view of the criticisms of the Government uttered by prominent members of the present Opposition parties it is interesting to recall just how many of them were associated with the antiLabour administrations of the depression years. I have stated previously that if, by any accident, Labour is defeated at the forthcoming general election, the Opposition parties will find it difficult to select leaders who can command the confidence of the people. For instance, amongst members of the Opposition who are now foremost in denouncing the present Government we find that a number were members of the first Lyons Ministry that was formed in January, 1932. First and foremost, of course, is the present Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) who was Attorney-General and Minister for Industry in that administration. Then we find that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was included in that administration as Minister for Trade and Customs. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Harrison) was Minister for the Interior, and the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) was Minister for Commerce. Amongst other prominent critics of the Government to-day who were members of the disastrous Lyons Administration we find the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then Minister for Health and Minister for Repatriation, and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis), who was Assistant Minister for’ Defence and Minister in charge of War Service Homes. What a magnificent record those honorable gentlemen have in their treatment of ex-servicemen! God forbid that they should ever again be entrusted with the destinies of the country. For any one who cares to refer to them, the utterances which they made during their period of office are permanently recorded in Hansard. During the depression, when every section of the community needed assistance, but particularly ex-servicemen, for whom the present Government has been so solicitous-

Senator COOPER:

– It was the Scullin Government that reduced their pensions.


– The Leader of the Opposition should hang his head in shame, because he was a member of the majority that the present Opposition parties then possessed in this chamber, and which was used to frustrate the Scullin Government. I defy the honorable senator to point to a single instance when he supported the Scullin Government.

Sitting suspended from 5.5S to 8 p.m.


– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was discussing how the budget affects the people of Australia, and I had been reminded by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that Labour had reduced pensions. That has been admitted. The Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Scullin, was forced to adopt that course because of the circumstances then obtaining. Apparently Senator Cooper is concerned that there was not a double dissolution. Whilst I cannot speak of that aspect, it is true that on more than one occasion the then Prime Minister caused supply bills to be presented to the Senate for concurrence but because of the weight of numbers against him in this chamber he was forced to take the consequences. It is indeed unfortunate that the then Prime Minister was not assisted to maintain the rates of the meagre pensions then being paid. I trust that as time goes on the Leader of the Opposition will be more generous in this matter and refrain from repeating his parrot cry about Labour reducing the amount of pensions. That has never ‘been denied. The Australian Labour party has already informed the people of Australia, of the circumstances that existed at that time. Senator Cooper’s repeated outbursts about this matter remind me of the story of a boy who was presented by his father with a cockatoo. His father told him that if he did not teach the bird to talk lie would wring its neck. After repeated efforts the boy taught the cockatoo to say “ pretty cocky “. Twenty years later, when the bird did not have a feather with which to fly, it still called out regularly “ pretty cocky “.

The political parties sitting in opposition are repeatedly telling the people of Australia that if this Government is returned to power at the forthcoming general election it will resort to any tactics to implement its policy of socialism, including the nationalization of the banks. In another place the other evening after the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had denied that assertion, the honorable member for Wentworth continued to aver that that would be so. How could the Prime Minister act unconstitutionally? The right honorable gentleman was outspoken when he said that he would not resort to unconstitutional actions. I often wonder about the inconsistencies of the opponents of Labour. At every opportunity the members of parties sitting in opposition in this Parliament condemn this Government for its legislative enactments whenever the Government, in the best interests of the country, attempts to take control of any concern. I remind the Senate that in 1933 the Parliament of South Australia attempted to have its period of office extended to five years. When that proposal did not meet with the approval of the electors it instituted a redistribution of seats, which was one of the most perfect pieces of gerrymandering of which I am aware. I doubt whether anywhere else in the world a Liberal government has adopted socialization to a greater extent than has the Liberal Government of South Australia. Although that action caused a division of opinion in its ranks, with the assistance of the Labour Opposition, the desired legislation passed through the lower house readily on the second occasion that it was brought forward, but, in the Legislative Council, which was composed of sixteen anti-Labour members and four Labour members, there was a little bit of “wangling”. After the measure was endorsed’ by the Upper

House the Government took over the Adelaide Electric Supply Company holusbolus, which, to use an expression favoured by the Opposition, was one of the greatest pieces of socialism ever implemented in this country. In addition, the plants of a great many local governing organizations, situated in widely dispersed parts of South Australia, were taken over. Some of those plants are fairly large, whilst others, of course, are only small. Yet the Opposition complains about Labour’s socialist policy! I trust that the anti-Labour political parties in South Australia will be more consistent than is the Opposition in this Parliament. At all times Labour endeavours to do the greatest good for the greatest number.

On Monday last I attended the inaugural ceremony connected with the Snowy Mountains project. It was most interesting to see the effects of soil erosion in various parts of the country between Canberra and Adaminaby, Unfortunately that is not peculiar to this area. It is happening throughout Australia. If this Government is returned to office - as, most assuredly, it will be - it will make every effort to obtain the most scientific appliances to counteract this destruction of the Australian landscape. In South Australia many land-owners have taken steps to counteract soil erosion on their properties. I do not know whether more damage is being caused by water than by wind, but both elements are having very damaging and destructive effects in various parts of Australia. It is a national obligation ‘ to preserve the soil of this country for future generations.

I was very interested to hear the sincere remarks of Senator Tangney in relation to her requests for the establishment of additional hospitals, and the provision of educational facilities and assistance for the erection of modern homes in the north-west of Western Australia. Whilst endorsing her remarks with relation to that area, I express the hope that general provisions will be made at no great distant date in connexion with these matters. Prom the point of view of the defence of this country it is essential that every inducement should be given to family life by providing modern homes, modern facilities /or education, and modern facilities for medical treatment. We shall be starting a long way behind scratch if we expect people to go into the remote areas of Australia that are at present devoid of the up-to-date appliances enjoyed in the cities, unless these improvements are provided.

The Opposition has asserted repeatedly that the people of this country are not as well off to-day as they were ten years ago. I shall endeavour to refute that assertion by citing statistics contained in the annual report of the Savings Bank of South Australia for the year ended the 30th June, 1949. During the depression years the people of South Australia, in common with those in other parts of this country, suffered a great deal of poverty and misery. Although the opponents of Labour assert that the value of the Australian fi to-day is not comparable with its value in 1939, I contend that the Australian £1 was not worth its full value in 1939, and it has certainly not decreased in value by 100 per cent, since then. I concede, however, that the value of the Australian £1 has decreased to a certain extent.

Senator O’flaherty:

– The people could not get £l’s in 1939.


– That is perfectly true. I remember seeing a man pick up a 6d. piece in a tramcar in Adelaide at that time and remarking “ To me, this is a lot of money “.

The following table shows how the number of depositors with the Savings Bank of South Australia has increased during the last ten years: -

I impress upon honorable senators the important fact that those statistics are exclusive of special services, school banks, and inoperative accounts. Those bold figures give the lie direct to the foolish statements that members of the Opposition have made. In spite of the heavy calls that are being made upon the workers by this Government in order that it may honestly meet the commitments arising from the war and from post-war undertakings essential to the preservation and development of the nation, the people have been able to make substantial savings. Notwithstanding all the false representations of the Opposition, it is clear that the Treasurer has once more presented a budget of which our citizens may justly be proud and which is certainly the envy of the rest of the world. In conclusion, I repeat the words of the late W. E. Gladstone, which Senator Collings quoted earlier in the debate. They are worth repeating because their truth is just as evident to-day as it was when they were first uttered. They are as follows : -

I painfully reflect that in almost every political controversy of the last 50 years the leisured classes, the educated classes, the wealthy classes, the titled classes, have been in the wrong. The common people, the toilers, the men of uncommon sense, these have been responsible for nearly all the social reform measures which the world accepts to-day.

Senator ASHLEY:
New South WalesMinister for Shipping and Fuel · ALP

. - in reply- The budget has had the usual hostile reception from the Opposition. That has been the unjust fate of every budget that has been presented to this Parliament by a Labour Government. There have been the usual carping criticisms and adjurations by the Opposition, not unexpected, but certainly undeserved. With only slight variations, they were the same as the objections that were expressed in the House of Representatives, but they lacked any suggestion of a constructive kind. I appreciate the view that members of the Opposition take of their mission in this chamber. Although numerically weak, they are very strong in their desire to destroy this Government. They are not concerned about the accuracy of their statements, provided that they contribute to that end. It was refreshing to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) associate himself with the Government’s action in making an additional grant of £10,000,000 to Great Britain. However, I am afraid that the honorable senator’s approval was prompted more by a desire to exhibit his party’s loyalty and to wave the flag than by any genuine appreciation of the Government’s decision.

Senator COOPER:

– That is untrue.

Senator ASHLEY:

– The Opposition never misses an opportunity to express its loyalty to the Empire. It does so on every conceivable occasion.

The Leader of the Opposition expressed great concern about the numbers of people who are awaiting homes and the increased cost of building houses. I remind him that the prosperity that’ the people enjoy to-day and the increase of Australia’s population have been major factors contributing to the housing shortage. I remind him also that for many years prior to the outbreak of World War II.. and for a brief period thereafter, the United Australia party and the Australian Country party were in control of the nation. Even when war broke out there were hundreds of thousands of unemployed in Australia, and tens of thousands of others were only intermittently employed. There was also an abundance of building materials at that time. Nevertheless, anti-Labour governments made no attempt to employ those physical and material resources, as they could have done, as a means of cushioning the prevailing depression. Had they done so, they would have made an important contribution towards the prevention of the housing shortage. No industrial activity gives a greater impetus to the economy of a country than does building. No service by any government causes greater happiness and industrial contentment than does the provision of homes for wage and salary earners. Before the war, the construction of houses was controlled by private enterprise. Only 29,000 houses were built in 1939. Since the war ended, the Labour Government has made housing its responsibility. Last year, as the result of the Government’s action, 50,000 homes were built despite competition for scarce building materials.

The Leader of the Opposition also referred in his speech to ex-servicemen’s pensions. I do not know any member of the Senate who should be more qualified than the honorable senator to speak on behalf of disabled ex-servicemen, and I am always reluctant to challenge any statement that he makes about their affairs. However, I am afraid that he was led astray in presenting to the Senate the figures that he quoted. He stated that in 1920 the maximum pension for a disabled ex-serviceman was about 80 per cent, of the basic wage, compared with less than 40 per cent, at present. The figures that I shall present to the Senate will prove that there must have been some miscalculation in the figures supplied by the honorable senator. In 1920, the maximum war pension, or special rate as it was known, was £4 a week. The average minimum wage then was £4 10s. a week. Therefore the maximum pension represented 89 per cent, of the basic wage. At present, the maximum war pension, or special rate, is £5 6s. a week. The average minimum wage is £6 7s. a week. Therefore the maximum war pension represents approximately S3 per cent, of the average minimum wage, not 31 per cent, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition. I emphasize the fact that the honorable senator selected a very small, though thoroughly deserving, group of ex-servicemen for the purpose of making his point. Records of the number of special rate pensions were not kept in 1920, but in 1924 only 1,309 of a total of 72,760 ex-servicemen received the special rate. That number represented 1.75 per cent, of the total. At present there are 9,260 special rate pensioners of a total number of 167,000 general pensioners. That number represents 5 per cent, of the total. In reply to the honorable senator’s claim that war pensions should be related to the basic wage and cost of living indexes, I assure, him that ex-servicemen’s organizations have never been in favour, and have indicated that they are not likely to be in favour in future, of relating those pensions to the basic wage. When an allparty parliamentary committee considered the repatriation law in 1943, the consensus of opinion amongst ex-servicemen’s organizations, which were questioned on the point, was that it would be inadvisable to relate war pensions to the basic wage or to the cost of living indexes. It must be borne in mind that the basic -ige is not fixed according to the needs of single men. It is intended to provide for family units. The special rate war pension of £5 6s. a week is for single men.

In making his contribution to the debate, the Leader of the Opposition painted a harrowing picture of the decline of primary production in Australia. We have heard similar speeches by his colleagues in the Senate and the House of Representatives and we have read such statements in the press. It is regrettable that Australia’s very fine record in supplying huge quantities of food to Great Britain and other countries should be so misrepresented in the eyes of the world for political purposes. That is a very poor reward for our hardworking farmers and for the equally hardworking men and women in the food processing industries. Their excellent achievements should not be decried in such a manner merely for the sake of gaining political advantage. The worst feature of political propaganda, of that character is that it is frequently cabled overseas to be read by prospective new Australians who do not know the facts. Great harm is thereby done to Australia. One would think that the Leader of the Opposition, bains* a representative of Queensland, would at least know something about the sugar industry. If he does not know the facts about it, he must be one of the few Queenslanders in that position because the figures have been published frequently in the journals of the sugar industry and in the daily pre?s. The facts are that in 1938-39 Queensland produced 944,000 tons of sugar, which was an all-time record. It is true that in 1947-48 the crop was light because of adverse seasonal conditions. In that year production was 135,000 tons below the average annual production for the five years ended 193S:39. But it is also true that the record crop in 1948-49 was more than 200,000 tons above the average annual production for that period. I should be interested to hear the Leader of the Opposition explain how an industry that he claims is languishing because of government negligence, or indifference, could produce a record crop last year. As a. matter of fact, the Government has been most helpful to the sugar industry. The Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) arranged for large numbers of new Australians to be made available for work in the industry. Indeed, it was due largely to government action that a record crop was produced and processed last year.

The Leader of the Opposition said that a crop of 210,000,000 bushels of wheat was harvested in 1939-40, and he admitted that the average annual production prior to the recent war was only 169,000,000 bushels. However, he said that the peak annual production in the immediate postwar period was 220,000,000 bushels or an increase of only 10,000,000 bushels compared with production in 1939-40. He could also have pointed out that production for 1948-49 promises to be substantially greater than the average annual pre-war production. However, if he had done so he would have presented the position of the wheat industry in this country not only truthfully but also in a more favorable light ; and I assume that he did not do so because the truth would refute his political propaganda. I admit that figures dealing with wheat production can be misleading. For instance, if I wished to blame the Menzies Government for adverse seasonal conditions I could make much of the fact that production in 1940-41 totalled only 82,000,000 bushels, or only half of the average annual prewar production. However, the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues invariably indulge in that kind of propaganda. In order to gain some party advantage, they accept every opportunity to paint the worst picture possible to the detriment of Australia.

The leader of the Opposition also referred to the decline of production in the dairying industry. He said that the total production of butter and cheese in 1947-48 was less than that in 1938-39, and that whilst cheese production had increased, butter production had declined. He did not mention the greatly increased production of processed milk or the greatly increased consumption of fresh milk by school children and other sections of the community who, under a Labour Government, find that for the first time in their lives they can afford to buy all the milk that they require. The only way to ascertain whether dairying production is increasing or declining is to examine the total production of milk. It is totally misleading when determining the production of milk to exclude the quantity of given commodities processed from milk. The Leader of the Opposition is as much aware of that fact as I am. In 1947-48 more milk was produced than was produced in an average year during the five years immediately preceding the recent war. During the current year it is estimated that, due to the increase of the number of dairy cows last year and provided that a normal season is experienced, dairy production should increase still further. In order to record the correct figures dealing with dairy production, I place the following table before the Senate : -

Corresponding increases have taken place in the production of other commodities in more recent years. Production of whole milk, including fresh milk, increased from 1,150,000,000 gallons in 1938-39 to 1,168,000,000 in 1948-49. One would expect that an honorable senator from Queensland would be well-posted on the subject of beef production, but, again, the Leader of the Opposition was twelve months behind the times. He admitted that production in 1947-48 was higher than in any pre-war year, but he said that the increase was only 4,000,000 lb. or 1,800 tons. The fact is that in 1948-49 the production of beef and veal was 10,000 tons greater than the production in the preceding year. Production has increased ‘by approximately 150,000 tons since 1945-46 in which year vital beef producing areas in Australia were in the grip of a drought. The Leader of the Opposition is aware of the fact that we have had very adverse seasons for pastoral pursuits within recent years. He also knows that it takes years to restore herds and to bring young stock to marketable condition. However, for party political purposes he preferred to paint a completely false picture of the position. The same observation can be applied to the statements that he made with respect to the production of mutton, lamb and wool. In 1943-44 there were 122,995,000 sheep and lambs in Australia. By 1946-47 that number had decreased to 92,723,000 or a decline of approximately 27,000,000. That loss was due to drought conditions in the four main producing States. Members of the Opposition parties when dealing with primary production barely stop short of blaming the Government for droughts and adverse seasonal conditions. In 1947-48 the number of sheep and Iambs increased by approximately 7,000,000 and in 1948-49 by approximately 6,000,000. However, honorable senators opposite did not make one reference to that increase of 13,000,000 in the number of sheep and lambs in this country. That increase has led to an increased output of mutton and lamb, although in 1948-49 the production was 4,000 tons less than the average for the five years immediately preceding the recent war. However, I point out that that decrease was due partly to the action that farmers took to restock and also to the fact that many farmers changed over to wool production, which they found to be highly profitable. The latter tendency is reflected in the fact that greasy wool production in 1948-49 totalled approximately 62,000,000 lb. more than the production in the preceding year.

Much can be said about the deplorable conditions that obtained in this country when the Opposition parties were in power. Labour took over from a discredited government at the most critical period in our history. It inherited bankrupt primary industries. The wool, wheat, meat, dairying, poultry, fruit, and other primary industries were “ down and out “. Leaving the war-time conditions out of the picture altogether, let us compare conditions existing to-day with those that existed in the ‘30’s when anti-Labour governments were in office. The Leader of the Opposition said that there was an urgent demand for fencing materials. In fact, he said that in some districts, fences were being pulled down to be rebuilt in other areas.

Senator COOPER:

– That is true.

Senator ASHLEY:

– When anti-Labour governments were in office, producers had no fences that they could pull down. Prior to the outbreak of the recent war, not only were fences in a deplorable condition, but farming implements also were in disrepair, whilst bankruptcies amongst the producers were numerous, many storekeepers were ruined, and unemployment was rife among rural and factory labour. That was the order of the day. Those facts were revealed by the royal commission which the Lyons Government appointed to inquire into the wheat industry. That commission reported that at that time the indebtedness of wheat-growers totalled £150,000,000. The present demand by farmers for fencing and building materials has arisen from the neglect of primary industries by anti-Labour governments and also as the result of war conditions. However, whereas the farmers in the past did not have sufficient money to purchase those requirements, they can afford to do so to-day, with the result that shortages are gradually being overcome. In the meantime, production has increased as is shown by the figures that I have cited. The Leader of the Opposition dealt with various matters in his budget speech. He said that as soon as the war ended, the Government should have made a survey of Australia’s likely coal requirements. I know that it will be most difficult for him to give the Government credit for anything; but that is precisely what the Government did. In the latter part of 1945, and the early part of 1946, the Government was serious disturbed by the coal position in this country. It realized that, as the result of its full employment policy and the expansion of secondary industries, there would be a need for a much greater supply of coal in this country. It regarded the matter so seriously, in fact, that it conferred with the Government of New South Wales in which about 80 per cent, of Australia’s black coal is produced. Finally, it was agreed that special and unusual measures should he taken to expand Australia’s coal production. To that end, the Joint Coal Board was set up in the latter part of 1946. Other States were given an opportunity to participate in similar joint schemes for the re-organization of the coal industry. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that whilst governments of which he was a supporter were in office, in spite of the fact that ample man-power, machinery, and materials were available, no attempt was made to improve coal production.


– Order! The Minister’s time has expired.

Motion (by Senator McKenna) put -

That so much of Standing Order 407a be suspended as would prevent Senator Ashley speaking in reply for more than 30 minutes.


– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.

Senator ASHLEY:

– In 1946, before the Coal Industry Act had been passed, the Commonwealth arranged for a detailed investigation of the possibilities of developing open-cut mining in this country. It also arranged for an investigation of the Blair Athol coal- deposits in Queensland. The Leader of the Opposition accused the Government of having failed to explore the possibilities of coal production at Blair Athol. As the result of those investigations, the Government offered to provide financial assistance to the Government of Queensland for the development of Blair Athol. However, the Government of Queensland finally decided that it preferred to develop the Blair Athol deposits with private capital from England. The honorable senator should have been familiar with those facts. In his endeavour to discredit the Government, he made a statement that was not true.

Senator Cooper:

– I mentioned Callide, not Blair Athol.

Senator ASHLEY:

– In the last few weeks, the Government of Queensland has announced that the English companies which were interested in Blair Athol have decided not to proceed with the development of those coal deposits, and there is now a possibility that both Blair Athol and Callide, to which the honorable senator referred a few moments ago, will be developed with Commonwealth assistance. The Leader of the Opposition also suggested that, as soon as the war ended, the Government should have calculated the amount of open-cut coal production that would be required to supplement the supply of coal from underground mines, and then proceeded immediately to order the necessary excavating machinery and to develop the opencut mines. It is all very well to talk. The honorable senator spoke as if manpower, machinery, and plant presented no problems at all. He knows, as the man in the street knows, that ever since the end of the war man-power has been a problem in the coal-mining industry. Men are unwilling to work in coal mines and even in open-cuts if they can get more congenial employment in other industries. More than 2,000 men have left the coal mines in recent years. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that, when the war ended, the only known large resources of open-cut coal were in Queensland, Victoria and South Australia. At that time, knowledge of the New South Wales resources was extremely limited. I have already referred to the offer by the Australian Government to assist in the development of the Queensland open-cut coal mines. Honorable senators will also recall that the Government provided £150,000 for the development of the Leigh Creek deposits in South Australia. The brown coal resources of Victoria are of course being energetically developed by the State Electricity Commission and there is no need for Commonwealth assistance. Why then has the Leader of the Opposition complained about a lack of aid to the States ? In New South Wales, the position was entirely different. Large open-cut deposits of coal were unknown until the Government arranged for the Joint Coal Board to investigate surface coal resources of that State. Since the board was appointed on the 1st March 1947 - a little more than two years ago - it has drilled 10 miles of bore holes and located 35,000,000 tons of coal suitable for mining by modern open-cut methods. It is likely that further drilling will raise that figure to 50,000,000 tons. I emphasize that prior to the appointment of the Joint Coal Board, nobody knew that those resources existed. Therefore, this authority appointed by the Commonwealth and New South Wales governments, has, in fact, by its investigations and prospecting, added 50,000,000 tons to the known coal resources of the Commonwealth.

The Leader of the Opposition also suggested that the Government should have purchased open-cut mining equipment before the Joint Coal Board was appointed. That was impossible. Not knowing the nature and the extent of our coal resources, nobody knew the type and quantity of equipment that would be required to develop them. As soon as the Joint Coal Board had an opportunity to assess the problem, it began to scour the world for open-cut mining equipment. It is true, as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that the American armed forces left a large quantity of earth-moving equipment in the South “West Pacific area when the war ended, but most of it was light plant for making light roads, and was quite unsuitable for modern efficient open-cut operations. However, the Joint Coal Board did obtain a number of heavy tractors and relatively heavy mechanical shovels from the American Army disposals authorities in the Philippines. Wherever such equipment was located, officials of the Joint Coal Board were sent to examine it, and if it were found to be suitable, it was brought to Australia for development of the coal industry. The board also placed substantial orders aggregating well over £2,000,000 for new opencut equipment from the United States of America ; an inquiry has been made about the actual figures. I shall cite them as I proceed. During the latter part of 1947-48, delivery of equipment of this type from the United States of America was difficult to obtain. Subsequently, however, the declining economic activity in the United States of America eased the delivery position considerably, and, in the early part of 1947, deliveries were accelerated. They should be completed this year. Every opportunity to obtain suitable open-cut equipment within a reasonable time has been seized by the Joint Coal Board. Orders have been placed not only in the United States of America but also in the United Kingdom. Since the accentuation of the dollar problem caused by the devaluation of sterling, the board has examined the possibility of obtaining open cut equipment from other countries. At present it is considering the desirability of ordering several electric shovels from Germany. The board has not been idle. ‘ It has examined every possibility and has purchased whatever suitable machinery has been available.

Orders placed for plant and equipment since the Joint Coal Board commenced its programme of modernizing the coal mines two years ago amount to a total of £2,000,000. In the course of his speech the Leader of the Opposition requested that he be supplied with details of the percentage of equipment purchased by the Joint Coal Board from various countries. The following tabulation sets out the information that he requires: -

The Leader of the Opposition in this chamber and the Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden) are always willing to bewail any industrial disturbance that occurs in any part of Australia, and during the recent coal strike the Leader of the Australian Country party was not very complimentary to the present Government. In fact, he referred to its members as being “ weak-kneed “ and as being “ under communistic dominance “. Some years ago, the right honorable gentleman was Prime Minister of Australia for six weeks, and his short term of office then must have sharpened his appetite for power, because he invariably seizes every opportunity that present:-! itself for an attack on the present Government. And he is not particularly concerned about the accuracy of the statements that he makes. In fact, he has bleated and bellowed around the country like a poddy calf at every green patch that he has come across. He professes to have a great knowledge of the petrol situation. He became greatly interested in petrol during the period of government rationing. His interests in petrol dates from the time that he sought a special allocation of petrol to enable a friend of his to bring a motor ‘bus overland from Victoria to Queensland. As the Minister administering petrol rationing, I refused to make a special allocation of petrol for that purpose-

Senator Cooper:

– Why does not the Minister tell the whole story ?

Senator ASHLEY:

– This is not a duet. 1 am telling the story now, and if the Leader of the Opposition wants to correct me later he should take the opportunity to do so. To return to the story of the interest in petrol displayed by the right honorable member for Darling Downs, I repeat that his interest in petrol was only aroused when I refused his friend’s application for a special allocation of petrol.

The right honorable gentleman also claims to have a profound knowledge of coal. The profound knowledge of the subject that he displayed during his term as Prime Minister, and his conduct towards those engaged in the industry, culminated in the appointment of a royal commission presided over by a justice of the New South Wales Supreme Court. The royal commission found that £300 of government money was paid to the late Charles Nelson, who was then president of the miners’ federation. The money was actually paid from a fund to finance the “ Australian Democratic Front “, which was in credit at the time to nearly £5,000. Of course, that fund was known more familiarly as the “ slush fund “, and was established by the right honorable gentleman and the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to corrupt the miners’ leaders. I do not need to make any further reference to the fund other than to quote from page 8 of the published report of the royal commission, which included the following statement: -

The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was AttorneyGeneral, made several mistakes. Mr. Fadden possibly made more. Their testimony as to matters incidental to the transaction cannot be relied upon.

What an indictment of the right honorable gentleman! Now he is telling the people that the present Government should be turned out in order that he may have an opportunity again to become Prime Minister.

Critics of the Government are making all sorts of allegations throughout the country now. Recently, it was suggested that if Labour were returned to power - and it will be returned to power - at the forthcoming elections it will “ stack “ the

High Court. In reply, I point out that, although Labour has been in office for eight years, it has made only one appointment to the High Court, that of Mr. Justice Webb, of Queensland. If Labour were intent upon “ stacking “ the High Court, surely it would have made more than one appointment in eight years. It is to be regretted that the high office of justice of the High Court of Australia should be aspersed by the suggestions made by the right honorable member for Darling Downs, who apparently judges members of the present Government by the same standards as he adopted when he was Prime Minister eight years ago.

I propose to say something now concerning the petrol situation, because members of the Opposition have endeavoured to turn that situation to their political advantage. Of course, we all remember that when petrol rationing was being enforced members of the Opposition claimed that there would be no trouble whatever if rationing were abandoned. I repeat now what I have said many times previously, namely, that no administration, even a Liberal administration, would impose upon the people any unnecessary restrictions, because the imposition of restrictions tends towards political unpopularity. It follows, therefore, that no administration ever willingly imposes restrictions upon the people other than those that are absolutely necessary. Although members of the Opposition seize every possible occasion to parade their loyalty to Great Britain, they are consistently attacking the Government for enforcing petrol rationing although they know that’ the principal reason for the re-introduction of rationing is the Government’s desire to assist the United Kingdom in its great struggle for economic survival. I remind honorable senators that petrol rationing was declared invalid on the 6th June last, and that since that date the Government has had no constitutional power to control the distribution of the available supplies of petrol. I particularly emphasize that fact. The next point that I make is that the net cost in dollars that is involved in the importation of petrol and petroleum products is the largest single items in the dollar deficits of the sterling area. Since the end of the war the over-all deficit of the sterling area has been the most difficult problem that has confronted the British Commonwealth. Notwithstanding the substantial loans that were made to the United Kingdom by the United States of America and Canada, and notwithstanding the dollar grants that were received by the United Kingdom under Marshall aid, there has been a serious drain on the dollar resources of the United Kingdom. Those resources, which are also the central reserve of the entire sterling area, are already lower than what is regarded generally as a safe level. Australia must play its part to check the continued drain and to restore the reserve to a safe level. Apart from our own interest in preserving the financial and economical stability of the United Kingdom as our main export market, we must remember that we do not ourselves earn sufficient dollars to pay for all our dollar imports, and that in consequence we must rely upon the United Kingdom to sell us the extra dollars that we need. Despite its own difficulties, the Government of the United Kingdom is willing to provide us with the dollars that we require to the limit of its ability to do so, but on the understanding that we co-operate fully in reducing dollar expenditure. Indeed, that is the only request made by Great Britain. The Australian Government must, therefore, impose a strict limitation on the importation of all goods that cost dollars. There is a substantial dollar element in all petroleum products, including those that are processed in British refineries. It is sometimes stated that because petroleum products are available in a British country they are free of dollar content. That is not correct. British petrol refineries operate in many parts of the world, but they incur .dollar expenditure in operating costs, in royalty payments, and in the purchase of essential plant. However, because of limitations of refinery capacity, the British petrol companies cannot produce sufficient petrol to meet the needs of the sterling area and to discharge other essential commitments. The net deficiency has to be made up by purchases from American companies, which cost dollars, wherever petrol is provided. Contrary to the claims that have been made by members of the Opposition and sections of the press, there is no alternative source of supply that can furnish us with sufficient quantities of petrol. The Polish Government has intimated that sufficient Polish petrol is not available for export, despite the allegations made a few weeks ago that ample supplies of petrol were in Poland awaiting shipment to Australia. Immediately the Government granted a licence for the importation of petrol from Poland a request was made to it to assist the Australian company concerned to obtain the petrol. Although we were willing to assist the company to do so, no petrol was available in Poland, and none has arrived in this country from Poland. Nor has any petrol been available in Russia for export to Australia. Incidentally, although those who were castigating the Government most severely at that time are obsessed by a fear of communism, they are quite prepared to put aside their obsession and seek petrol from Russia, thinking that the importation of petrol from Russia would embarrass the Government. However, the Government was willing to assist those concerned to obtain petrol from Russia if it were available, but they were unable to procure it. Any additional imports of petrol must ultimately impose a charge on dollar funds in the sterling area equivalent to the full value of the petrol imported. Immediately after the High Court decision invalidated the Commonwealth legislation it was pointed out to the State premiers that in view of the position that I have explained it would not be possible for sufficient petrol to be imported to meet the unrationed demand in this country. In these circumstances the premiers were urged strongly to take steps to reintroduce petrol rationing. It was pointed out that if that was not done, chaotic conditions could easily develop. Such a state of affairs has developed since. At a meeting of the State premiers held on the 28th September, it was decided that action should be taken for the reintroduction of rationing. The States of New South “Wales, Queensland and Western Australia have already referred powers to the Commonwealth to impose rationing, whilst the States of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania have agreed to introduce legislation to enable the Commonwealth to reintroduce a uniform system of rationing.

The Federal Parliamentary Labour party recently approved of the early introduction of the necessary Commonwealth legislation, and it is hoped that rationing will be re-instituted on the 15th November next. Owing to the considerable administrative and legal difficulties involved, that is the earliest date on which rationing can be resumed. The rationing scale will be the same as in June, 1949. It is proposed that on the 15th November, tickets covering the period of two and one-half months to the end of January, 1950, will be issued. In the meantime the Commonwealth cannot take action to ensure that petrol will be distributed equitably to meet the needs of any particular industry, or any class of customers or consumers. Until the new system of rationing becomes operative the distribution of available supplies will remain in the hands of the oil companies. Authorized imports of petrol are based on requirements to meet the rationing scale of consumption amounting to 440,000,000 gallons. In addition, provision is made for a special allowance of 5,250,000 gallons, which was the extra quantity of petrol consumed as a result of the recent coal strike, plus security stocks amounting to 50,000,000 gallons, and working stocks of 25,000,000 gallons.

Despite an assurance that sales would be restricted to the rationing basis plus the special allowance in respect of the coal strike, in July and August the oil companies oversold to the extent of 22,000,000 gallons, or 21 per cent. Preliminary figures for September indicate that over-sales in that month amounted to 2,250,000 gallons. As a result of these over-sales, stocks have been reduced to a very low level. The matter of security stocks was recently considered by a committee composed of the chiefs of staff of the three defence services, which recommended that in no circumstances should the stocks be allowed to fall below 50,000,000 gallons. Security stocks are located on the seaboard, while the stocks at inland centres, and those held by oil companies in bulk installations in provincial areas are required for day-to-day use and distribution. At present there is no government control over any of those stocks.

To sum up, until rationing is reintroduced the position could be remedied only by importing more petrol or releasing petrol from security stocks. The former procedure would involve the expenditure of dollars, whilst the latter would prejudice security stocks. Even if a release from security stocks were made there could be no arrangements by which equitable distribution could be assured until rationing was re-introduced. Furthermore, there would be no guarantee that, having regard to the Polish position, it would be possible for any depletion of security stocks to be restored.

In her contribution to the debate, Senator Rankin made some remarks in relation to the excess of revenue over estimates in the years 19441-45 and 1948-49. The honorable senator stated that the Treasurer had been overtaxing the people deliberately. That contrasts sharply with the position that obtained when the Opposition parties were in office. Governments that parties now sitting in Opposition support have always budgeted for a deficit. I point out that, because of the expansion of industry due to Labour’s policy of full employment, the revenue in recent years has exceeded the estimate. That is because incomes, especially farm incomes, wages and salaries, and the volume of trade have risen much more rapidly than could have been foreseen. National income rose by £59,000,000 in 1946-47, by £395,000,000 in 1947-48, and by £202,000,000 in 1948-49. Farm incomes rose by £42,000,000 in 1946-47, by £230,000,000 in 1947-48, and by £17,000,000 in 1948-49. Wages, and salaries rose by £128,000,000 in 1947-48, and by £151,000,000 in 1948-419. Imports rose by £31,000,000 in 1946-47, by £120,000,000 in 1947-48, and by £77,000,000 in 1948-49.

In other countries, also, revenue has exceeded estimates. In 1947-48 the revenue of Great Britain exceeded the estimates by £346,000,000, whilst in 1948-49 it exceeded the estimates by £242,000,000. In Canada, revenue exceeded the estimates in 1947-48 by 419,000,000 dollars and in 1948-49 by 104,000,000 dollars.

Ear from over-taxing the people, the Government has effected tax reductions of enormous value to them. In fact, the total tax reductions granted are estimated to be worth £280,000,000 a year. Tax reductions in the three years since 19416 Iia ve been -

Senator Rankin also criticized the Government for building up the National Welfare Fund, and stated that £100,000,000 had been taken from the workers unnecessarily. The position is that the National Welfare Fund has been established, first, as a guarantee that social services benefits will always be paid, not cut as in the depression; and, secondly, to meet the additional cost of new and expanding services. Some of the older members of the community will remember that during the depression years social services were cut, and the meagre allowances paid to pensioners reduced in an attempt to balance the budget. To ensure that that will not recur, this Government has built up a reserve which will enable a continuance of social services during any period of recession in this country.

The National Welfare Fund is financed from the pay-roll tax, which is not paid by the wage-earners, and from social services contributions, which are paid by all taxpayers, except public companies, not by wage-earners alone. I point out that the social services contribution is graduated from 3d. in the £1 to 18d. in the £1. The maximum rate of 18d. in the £1 is not payable by a single man until his income exceeds £500 a year, or by a married man with two children until his income exceeds £800 a year. A man with a dependent wife and two children earn- ing £600 a year pays £26 a year social services contributions, but receives back as child endowment £26 a year. He therefore pays nothing for any other social service benefit that he may receive.

Senator Rankin also stated that the Treasurer had borrowed the balance of the National Welfare Fund and, to use her own words “ put it in the till “. T point out that the surplus in the National Welfare Fund is invested. Interest received from that investment is credited to the fund. The amount so credited to the fund in 1948-49 was £672,000. It is estimated that the amount of interest that will be credited to the fund this year will be £750,000. It is therefore apparent that the fund is being built up by the process of investment.

The honorable senator also criticized the Government for not doing more for pensioners, widows, and families. I point out that the rate of age and invalid pensions has been increased from 21s. 6th, to 42s. 6d. a week, which has had the effect of increasing their permissible income plus pensions from 34s. to 72s. 6d. a week. The Government has established benefits for widows and increased the amount of the pension to £2 7s. 6d. a week for class A widows, and to £1 17s. a week for class B widows. The rate of child endowment payable has been increased from 5s. a week for all children after the first, to 10s. a. week in respect of those children.

Senator Cooper:

– What about soldiers’ pensions ?

Senator ASHLEY:

– I have already pointed out that a statement that was made in this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition in that connexion was inaccurate.

Senator Rankin contended that a supplementary statement should be presented to the Parliament showing the effects of devaluation of the national finances. An examination of the position has shown that the effect of devaluation on the 1949-50 Budget will be of a minor character. Any increase of incomes from sales of wheat and wool will not affect the revenue until 1950-51. Customs duty and sales tax collections from dollar imports may rise, but not sufficiently to have a major effect upon the revenue. The dollar costs of equipment and materials may increase somewhat. There will be some increase of the cost of contributions to the United Nations and similar bodies. The cost of interest payable in New York will increase. The extra cost to the Commonwealth will be about £450,000 a year, and the total extra cost to the Commonwealth and the States will be about £1,500,000 a year. On balance, the budget is not likely to be affected sufficiently to warrant its recasting.

Senator O’Sullivan never makes a speech in this chamber without referring to the coal-mining industry or the shipping industry.

Senator Murray:

– He knows nothing about either.

Senator ASHLEY:

– Very little, at any rate. I have noticed that the press has been very quiet in recent months about waterfront employment. There have been no stoppages to provide it with sensational reports to blazon across its pages. However, some time ago, a remarkably inaccurate statement was published by the Sydney Morning Herald, which I normally regard as being a rather reliable newspaper. On the 10th August it published a half-page article in a prominent position entitled, “ Our Ports Mean Slowness, Pillaging to World Ship Owners “. The article purported to give an account of the stevedoring of a United States freighter in Australian ports. Some of the allegations were so serious that I caused inquiries to be made by my officers with the result that a completely different state of affairs was disclosed. I had a statement of the facts submitted to the Sydney Morning Herald because the general manager of that newspaper had very graciously told me that, if my department was misrepresented at any time, the management would publish a correction. The statement was submitted to the Sydney Morning Herald over a month ago, but it has not been published yet. It was clear that the article referred to the ship Pioneer Reef, which was in Australia between the 14th February and the 27th April, 1949. The investigation disclosed considerable discrepancies between the account in the Sydney Morning Herald and the true position. The following table shows side by side the Sydney Morning Herald allegations and the true figures : -

Those figures show that the Sydney Morning Herald understated the cargo handled by 3,038 tons and overstated the working time by seven and three-quarter days. But other important facts were omitted from the article. For example, there was what is known as “ waiting time “, which includes smoke-ohs, rain delays, winch and gear breakdowns, stoppages through the non-arrival of cargo, &c. In some of the ports in which the ship worked, there were phenomenal losses of time. Disregarding smoke-ohs, the time lost was as follows : -

Brisbane, 18 per cent.

Sydney, 51 per cent. (including 21 per cent. lost through rain).

Melbourne, 46 per cent.

Port Adelaide, 43 per cent.

Fremantle, 27 per cent.

Port Pirie, 18 per cent.

Melbourne, 33 per cent.

Sydney, 50 per cent, (including 20 per cent. lost through rain).

Brisbane, 33 per cent.

Honorable senators may be astounded, as perhaps will the owners of that vessel, to know that it was idle for approximately one-half of the working time in four major ports. They will notice that, in the best ports, almost one-fifth of the working time was unproductive. How can any men be expected to give good results in such circumstances? I wonder in how many other industries in Australia1 today the workers are allowed to be idle for one-half of their working day. Honorable senators are perhaps unaware of the fact that, under the present system of contract stevedoring, all such waiting time is paid for by the ship-owners, not by the contracting stevedore. Therefore, the stevedore has no incentive to keep the ship moving quickly. One never hears members of the Opposition referring to that fact. They blame the waterside workers at all times. In many cases, stevedores make no arrangements for prompt delivery of cargoes. The result is that ships are often kept idle, or waterside workers are allowed to work at half-pace because cargo does not arrive in quantities sufficient to maintain continuous loading. Yet the stevedores have the effrontery to complain that the waterside workers adopt go-slow tactics. This is a rather important matter because, once again, a completely false picture has been presented to the world. I have a constant grievance because such untrue allegations made by members of the Opposition and by the newspapers are never properly corrected. If a newspaper has made a mistake in any of its articles, it should accept that correction and endeavour to rectify its error. As I have said, I sent to the Sydney Morning Herald a correct version of the Pioneer Reef operations, but so far it has not printed one word about the matter.

Senator Grant:

– How long ago was the correction sent to the newspaper?

Senator ASHLEY:

– Six weeks ago. I shall not delay the Senate further. I express my appreciation of the assistance that has been given to me by my colleagues during this debate.

There will be many political recriminations during the next few months. An election is in the offing, and the usual fight will take place. I venture to prophesy that there will be a cleavage between the Liberal party and the Australian Country party. We have already seen indications of it in the press, although advertisements that have been published assert that the leaders of the two parties will appear together on the same platforms. I remind members of tho Opposition that the Leader of the Liberal party (Mr. Menzies) has not forgotten what was said about him by the Leader of the Australian Country party (Mr. Fadden) during a previous election campaign, when he was supposed to have stabbed Mr. Fadden in the back. Mr. Menzies, too, has not forgotten the incident. The Liberal party is so much concerned about these matters that it recently held a convention at Gosford for the expressed purposes of condemning socialism and bringing together prospective political candidates in order to receive instructions from Mr. Menzies in deportment, platform technique, and so forth. In fact, so that the young aspirants to political honours would not be tainted in any way, they were told to travel, not by train, but by car. The result was that, in spite of the petrol shortage, over 50 cars were assembled at the camp. It was very interesting to learn what happened there. Honorable senators may have seen in the press pictures of the Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament washing dishes at the camp. The object of the convention was to get the candidates down to earth and meet the common people a little. Mr. Menzies attended to give them a lecture and, upon their arrival at the camp they were handed a card which informed them of the onerous duties that fell to the lot of Mr. Menzies. However, the right honorable gentleman was able to be present. As I have said, members of the Liberal party who attended the camp did try to get right down to earth. Mr. Jos. Francis was appointed “water joey “ and, in order to make him look like a real worker, they dressed him in bowyangs.

Senator O’Sullivan:

– It is rather tragic that the Leader of the Senate should descend to this sort of thing.

Senator ASHLEY:

– Perhaps I should not continue in this strain, hut it is a fact that the camp took place. Mr. E. J”. Harrison had a very important position there. By virtue of his experience in the New Guard he was appointed caretaker of the camp. However, I warn the Opposition that, no matter what may be said at their conventions or published in the press, this Government with its magnificent record will be returned to power at the general election on the 10th December.

Senator Cooper:

– Wishful thinking!

Senator ASHLEY:

– What I have said is absolutely correct. The Government will be returned on its record. Never before have Australians enjoyed such prosperity as they enjoy to-day. I am sure that the people will, in order to ensure a continuance of their present prosperity and happiness, return, the Government at the forthcoming general election.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

page 1581


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

First Reading

Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -

That the bill be now read a first time.

Senator COOPER:
Leader of the Opposition · Queensland

– It is indeed fortunate that this measure affords to my colleagues and me an opportunity to deal with any subject that we desire to raise. I mention that fact because as there are 33 Government senators and only three Opposition senators the opportunities afforded to us to express our views compared with those available to Government supporters are in the ratio of one to eleven. Consequently, for considerable periods my colleagues and I are obliged to listen to speeches of the type that the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley) has just delivered on the budget. It is true that during the last five years the Govern ment’s revenues have been extraordinarily buoyant and that it has been able on two occasions since the end of the recent war to show surpluses on its annual transactions. However, as I have pointed out repeatedly, that advantage is due mainly to the high prices that we have received during that period for our primary products overseas, and also to the unusually good seasons that our primary industries have enjoyed. Perhaps, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel will claim that it is more than a mere coincidence that those good seasons have occurred while a Labour government has been in office. I should like to take this opportunity to reply to comments that the Minister made this evening in reply to statistics that I gave in relation to primary production.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator nicholls). - The Leader of the Opposition will not be in order in alluding to remarks made in a previous debate during the current sitting.

Senator COOPER:

– I propose to deal generally with primary production. Supporters of the Government invariably claim that the dairying industry is now in a wonderful position. I trust that the farmers happened to hear the claims made by honorable senators opposite concerning what the Government has done to assist the industry. I emphasize that the dairy-farmers, especially those engaged principally in the production of butter are awaiting an announcement from the Government whether it intends to honour the promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) over a year ago that it would make up to them the increase that had occurred in the cost of production during recent years. The Government appointed a committee to investigate the costs of production in the dairying industry, and that committee reported that the cost of producing butter had increased during the last two years by 3d. per lb. Does the Government intend to honour that promise? A few days ago the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) said that the Government was making available to the dairying industry a subsidy of 6d. per lb. for butter. I join issue with him on that statement. He knows as well as I do that that 6d. per lb. is being made available in order to stabilize the price of butter to the consumers. Every sensible member of the Parliament, bearing in mind the rising cost of living and the increasing costs of basic foodstuffs including bread, butter and meat, recognizes the wisdom of making that subsidy available. However, the advisory committee to which I have referred reported that since that subsidy was made available the cost of production of butter had increased by 3d. per lb. The Government, in order to honour the promise that it made to the producers, must either grant an increase of 3d. per lb. in the price of butter or increase the price stabilization subsidy by that amount. It has no excuse for failing to honour that promise, particularly in view of the buoyant revenues and surpluses that it is now enjoying. In recent years it has been able to transfer to trust funds large sums of money that it has not desired to make available to the States. The Government cannot have it both ways. Either its revenues are unusually buoyant, or it has been misleading the people on that point. The increase of 3d. in the cost of production of butter consists of an increase of 2½d. per lb. in the farmer’s costs and an increase of a ½d. per lb. in the factory costs. However, as that committee’s finding was based on a 56-hour working week whereas a 40-hour week applies in secondary industries, the farmers themselves are carrying a greater increase. The increase of the cost of production to the farmer is actually in excess of 3d. per lb. I based the comparisons that I made previously with respect to overall production upon the latest Year-Booh and the latest statistical bulletins that I could obtain. I repeat that the number of dairy cows in Australia last year was 154,000 fewer than the number in this country in 1938-39. Apparently, the Minister for Shipping and Fuel has access to later figures than I have been, able to obtain. Nevertheless, the figures that I cited show clearly that there were fewer dairy cows in Australia last year than there were in 1938-39, and that during that period average annual production decreased. That is another reason why the Government should honour its promise to make up to the farmers the increase of the cost of production that has occurred during the last few years. However, I expect that it will pass the buck to the States by saying that as the States now control prices they can authorize an increase of the price of butter ‘by 3d. per lb. or, alternatively, make up that increase to the farmer from their general revenue.

Senator Courtice:

– Which method does the Leader of the Opposition favour ?

Senator COOPER:

– There is only one honest method that can be followed in this matter. As the Australian Government has the exclusive right to levy income tax and takes to itself full credit for having balanced its budget not only this year but also last year, it clearly has the responsibility to keep down the cost of living. The price stabilization subsidy that it now makes available to the dairying industry is designed primarily to benefit not the farmer but the consumer of butter. The promise made by the Prime Minister to which I have referred was made before prices control was transferred to the States. He then promised that the Government would make up to the farmer for a period of five years any increase of the cost of production that had occurred during the last few years. That rise in production costs has been ascertained by the dairying industry production costs advisory committee. The dairy-farmers want to know when they will get the extra 3d. per lb. in accordance with the committee’s findings.

I take this opportunity also to speak on the cotton industry. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Courtice) tabled in this chamber a few days ago the report of the Tariff Board on this industry. Glancing through the report, I find that it is not favorable to the growers. In fact it is most disappointing because it recommends that no further increase be granted in the price of cotton. However, I draw attention to the fact that, even if the report had been favorable to the growers, its presentation at this late stage would have prevented them from benefiting in the coming season. .Cotton has to be planted, at the latest, during October, and as the report has been tabled’ only within the last few days, the growers would have had little opportunity to prepare their land and plant their seed, even if the findings of the Tariff Board had encouraged them to do so. The inquiry by the Tariff Board was sought as early as May, 1948, and should have, been held last year. Then, had it favoured an increase of price, the growers would have had ample opportunity to plan their production accordingly. The report suggests that the Cotton Marketing Board should be relieved of the obligation to repay to the Commonwealth Bank the remainder of its loan for the construction of ginneries, &e., for the treatment of cotton in Queensland. I understand that £67,000 is still owing. It also recommends a reduction of production costs. On that subject, I point out that the decline of production has seriously affected production costs. Plant, machinery, and buildings capable of handling much larger crops than are being grown at present remain on the farms, with the result that overhead costs in respect of handling, ginning and marketing are inordinately high. At page 34, the report states -

When cotton production was round the level of 5,000.000 Jb. per annum, tlie costs of ginning less the sale of by-products averaged 093 of a penny per lb. In 1948, owing to lower throughput, the net cost hud reached, 7.83(1 pence per lb., with the result that the proposed guaranteed price of (fid. per lb. for seed cotton would not necessarily result from a (‘(instant price for raw cotton.

That shows clearly that a reduction of production costs cannot be expected unless some stimulus is given to the industry. In 1941, cotton-growers were guaranteed 1 5d. per lb. for raw cotton and 5¼d. per lb. for seed cotton. That guarantee was repeated in 1946 although production costs had increased considerably. In fact, the guarantee is still in force, although the price of cotton on the world’s markets is considerably higher. Admittedly higher prices have been paid for Australian cotton over the years, but even those prices have not been equal tn the average landed cost of American cotton in this country as the following table shows -

Clearly, since the war ended, Australian cotton-growers have not been getting world parity prices for their product. No encouragement has been given to the growers to plant cotton when so many other profitable avenues of primary production have been offering. The growers asked for a five-year agreement commencing on the 1st January, 1949, guaranteeing 34d. per lb. for raw cotton and 9£d. per lb. for seed cotton, with provision for an extension of the agreement for a further five years should an examination made two years before the expiry of the first period, warrant such action. The Cotton Marketing Board considered that such an agreement would enable the cotton industry to be rehabilitated. Cotton-growing in Queensland is not new. In fact, cotton is one of the State’s oldest crops. The industry has been tackled spasmodically over a long period of years and has had a varied career. Although it is a most important industry to this country, at present it is at its lowest level in history. Production has declined from a pre-war annual average of 12,000 bales to an estimated production of 800 bales this year. The weight of a bale of cotton is approximately 500 lb. In 1934, when peak production was reached, Australia produced 17,500 bales, and there is no reason why we should not again reach that figure, because the price of cotton is now much higher and the Australian consumption considerably greater. We are importing into this country large quantities of raw cotton as well as cotton piece goods. Figures for 1948-49 - the latest that I can obtain - show that in that year, 37,250,000 lb. of cotton was imported into this country at a cost of approximately £A.4,000,000. Our imports come mainly from India, Brazil, Egypt and the United States of America. Of these, India and Brazil provide the greatest proportion. In years gone by, the bulk of our cotton came from the United States of America, but dollar difficulties have forced us to purchase from soft currency countries wherever possible. There is now some danger of a reduction of supplies from those sources. Other nations in the sterling area are seeking more cotton, and competition for the quantities that are available from the soft currency countries is becoming fiercer. There is some difficulty about trade agreements between Brazil and Australia. We are able to get a considerable quantity of cotton from India at present, ‘but that country itself is an enormous consumer of cotton. Its 35,000,000 people require huge quantities of cotton for wearing apparel and this home demand may become even greater in the future. Clearly, therefore, we shall have difficulty in the years to come in purchasing our cotton requirements overseas. It is most advisable that we should stimulate cotton-growing in this country and so, to some degree, at least, become self-reliant. Cotton is in short supply throughout the world. The latest available statistics show that world stocks dropped between 1939 and 1949 by 70,000,000 bales, or approximately 3,500,000,000 lb. It does not appear, therefore, that there will be any great quantities of cotton available for some time to come. Australia’s consumption this year is estimated at 80,000 bales. Next year it will be 90,000 bales and in the following year, 100,000 bales. In addition, of course, we import approximately 200,000 ‘bales annually in the form of cotton piece goods. Our own cotton spinning and weaving industry is expanding rapidly, and there is not the slightest doubt that our own mills will be able to take all the cotton that can be produced in this country. It is estimated that, with a substantial increase of our population, our annual requirement of cotton will be approximately 300,000 bales, apart, of course, from cotton piece goods. Obviously, there will be a market for every bale of cotton that can be produced in this country. Then, of course, there are valuable “byproducts of the cotton industry. One of these is cotton seed oil which is used in the manufacture of margarine. We ‘ can export every pound of margarine that we manufacture. Another by-product is cotton seed cake which is of considerable value for stock feed. Those by-products are urgently required in Australia and there would not be the slightest difficulty in disposing of all the byproducts that can be manufactured.

Queensland is the principal cottongrowing State in Australia, and experience in that State has shown that the cultivation of cotton can best be undertaken in conjunction with dairying. Undoubtedly, to obtain the best results, irrigation facilities should also be available for the cultivation of cotton. I am pleased to say that in Queensland a number of exservicemen have been placed on irrigated areas, and it is expected that in another five years an additional 100,000 acres of land will be irrigated. Portion of that land could profitably be devoted to the cultivation of cotton. The most successful method of growing cotton seems to be to rotate grass and cotton. The growth of grass retains the soil in cultivable condition, and the succeeding, crop of cotton replaces nitrogen in the soil. During the war considerable difficulties were experienced by those who attempted to grow cotton. Labour was diverted to more essential tasks, and the higher returns paid for other crops discouraged farmers from growing cotton and attracted what labour was available for farming to the growth of other crops. Since then, the harvester method has been tried with some success, but the advantage of that method is not so much that it reduces costs as that it makes less demands upon labour.

Although the report of the Tariff Board does not advocate the provision of further financial assistance to the industry, it contains, on page 37, the following significant statement -

This opinion is based upon economic considerations, and takes no account of other reasons of policy that have, since 1934, caused successive governments to pursue courses not recommended by the Tariff Board.

On page 32 the report of the board deals with the future prospects of the industry, and the report states -

The future outlook for the industry is not a hopeful one and the answer to the question in the Minister’s reference concerning “ the nature and extent of any further assistance which should be afforded the industry “ depends upon the importance attached to the reestablishment of the industry.

Three major changes are claimed to be necessary to stop the current decline in production and to create an upward trend. The most optimistic forecasts suggest that, if all the needs of the industry were met, production would reach a level of 3,000,000 lb. per annum in three years - slightly more than half the average pre-war production. The changes suggested are, briefly -

Wider use of irrigation.

Mechanization of methods of culture and harvesting.

Guaranteed price to the grower of 9½d. per lb. of seed cotton.

It will be seen, therefore, that although the Tariff Board has not actually recommended the provision of direct financial assistance to the industry, it has deliberately left a loophole for the Government to provide assistance because it realizes the value of the industry to Australia. The decision whether the industry is to be promoted now rests with the Government. A sufficient supply of cotton is certainly essential during war-time, and during the recent war the only reason that we were able to obtain sufficient cotton, which was so badly needed, was that our sea-lanes were kept open. If those sea-lanes were closed in any future war the value of a firmly established cotton-growing industry in Australia would be almost incalculable. Now is the time to establish the industry upon a proper basis, The Government has previously indicated the importance of the industry, and I suggest that consideration should be given to basing the price of raw cotton on the actual costs of production, as is done with the products of other competing primary industries. The adoption of that method would provide some inducement to farmers to plant cottons either as a rotation crop or as a regular annual crop. I have no doubt that the Queensland Government would readily assist in providing irrigation to stimulate the development of the industry.

I regret now to have to refer to a matter that I have discussed on many previous occasions. I refer to the inadequacy of repatriation pensions. So many wrong and misleading statements have been made by honorable senators opposite that I feel it my duty to bring the matter before the Senate again. During the present Parliament I have frequently requested the Government to increase the rates of war pensions. The substantial surplus revealed by the present budget has again proved that the Government could easily meet the comparatively small commitment involved in rectifying an obvious injustice. Dur ing the debate on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill I quoted figures which indicated that over the years the increase of war pensions has not been commensurate with that granted to other recipients of pensions. I pointed out that although it was only right that invalid, age and other social service pensions should be increased to enable those deserving sections of the community to meet rising costs, the time had arrived when some consideration should be given to increased war pensions commensurately with the increased cost of living. At that time I quoted certain figures, and I repeat now that the figures that I quoted then were correct. I particularly mentioned that the figures which I quoted then applied to the pensions paid to exservicemen who were 100 per cent. incapacitated.

Senator Ashley:

– The honorable senator used the word “ maximum “ on the previous occasion.

Senator COOPER:

– I did not use the word “ maximum “.

Senator Ashley:

– I shall produce the Hansard record of the honorable senator’s statement. It is of no use for him to try to shuffle out of it. Furthermore, he is out of order in referring to something that was said in the debate on another measure.

Senator COOPER:

– I was not referring to anything that was said by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel this evening. The remarks to which I was alluding were made by another honorable senator.

Senator Ashley:

– The honorable senator has no right to reply to statements made in the course of another debate.

Senator COOPER:

– I maintain that the speech that I made on the 7th July last was correct. For the benefit of the honorable senators I shall repeat what I said on that occasion. It is as follows : -

In December, 1918, immediately after the end of World War I., the basic wage was £3 6s. 5d. a week and the pension payable to a totally incapacitated war pensioner was £2 2s. There was a difference of £1 4s. 5d. At that date, the basic wage was 57 per cent. higher than the full war pension. In December, 1943, the basic wage had increased to £4 17s. a week. In that year, the war pension was increased by 20 per cent, upon the recommendation of the all-party committee of ex-servicemen of this Parliament. That increase brought thefull war pension rate to £2 10s. a week, which was £2 7s. a week less than the basic wage. Between 1943 and 1949, the basic wage rose further from £4 17s. to £5 19s. a week, an increase of £1 2s. a week or 22.6 per cent. Over the same period, the full war pension increased from £2 10s. to £2 las. a week, an improvement of only 10 per cent. From 1918 to 1949 the basic wage increased from £3 fis. 3d. to £5 19s., an amount of £2 12s. 7d., or 80 per cent. In respect of 100 per cent, incapacity, the war pension payable in 1918 was 42s. a week. It has been increased to 55s. a week, which is an increase of 13s. a week, or 31 per cent., compared with an increase of 80 per cent, in the basic wage during the same period.

The war pension for 100 per cent, incapacity has been increased from 42s. a week iti 1 918 to 55s. a week in 1949. That is an increase of 13s. a week, or 31 per cent… compared with a basic wage increase of 80 per cent. As a result of a further rise in the cost of living, the basic wage is to be increased by 2s. a week in all States expect Queensland, bringing it to 122s. in that State and 121s. in the other States.

Since I last addressed the Senate on this subject I have received numerous letters from ex-servicemen’s organizations throughout Australia urging that higher pensions should be paid to exservicemen whose health was impaired in the service of their country. I shall read to the Senate extracts from many letters that I have received. In a letter from the Proserpine sub-branch of the Returned Sailors Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia this passage occurs -

Members of the sub-branch expressed opinions of the unfairness of the small increase in war pensions as compared with the increase of the basic wage. It is hard to understand why a body of men (the Government) could be so unfair in their decision.

A letter from the North Queensland District Council of that organization at Townsville contains this passage -

Judging from Chifley’s Budget very little consideration is likely to be forthcoming for the Digger.

A letter that I have received from Incapacitated and Wounded Sailors and Soldiers of Queensland contains this paragraph -

The members generally of my Association feel very strongly against the inadequacy of the rise in war pension rates. It is considered that war pension increases should be on a pro» rata basis brought up to the present basic wage.

A letter from the Commonwealth council of the Limbless Soldiers’ Association of Australia contains this paragraph -

The increase of 5s. granted last October brought the 100 per cent, rate up to £2 15s. per week which is considered most inadequate and should have at that time been increased by at least 20s. per week. Therefore we enter an emphatic protest against the small pittance granted, which is poor compensation to those who have made such grave sacrifices for the defence of their country.

The Federal Council of the Australia Legion of Ex-Servicemen and Women has written to me as follows : -

My Association appreciates your efforts to improve war pension conditions particularly. There seem3 to have been a measure of support from members of all parties to your proposal to again constitute the All Party Parliamentary Committee, and within the last few days I have directed a communication to Senator A. Finlay in South Australia, urging his support because of his reference to the fact that exservice Associations appeared before the committee when originally constituted.

I have always taken the view that this matter should be approached in a nonpartisan spirit. I am raising it now on that basis. I trust that Senator Finlay will see fit to assist me in this matter by pulling his weight with a view to reaching an equitable solution of these problems. In a letter to me dated the 6th September last the Diggers Association of Queensland, of which I have the honour to be a member, said -

We note that you recommended that an All Party Committee of ex-servicemen should review the Repatriation Act.

There is nothing unfair in that. The letter continues -

This is of particular interest to us because in January last we made representation to the Minister for Repatriation, the Honorable H. C. Barnard, on the same matter and a few days later he replied that the proposal put forward involved Government policy and for that reason he intended to first discuss the matter with the Prime Minister before giving a definite reply. On the 22nd June last the Minister for Repatriation advised us that he discussed the matter with the Prime Minister who “ did not think any good purpose would be served by appointing another Parliamentary Committee at this stage as no action could be taken during the remainder of the term of this Parliament to act on any recommendations which such a committee might make “.

However, we think, and we are sure you will -certainly agree, that seeing our recommendation was made in January last there would have been ample time for the Parliamentary committee to be set up, investigations made, report back to Parliament and their recommendations given legislative effect before the term of this Parliament ended.

I think that that is a very fair statement by the association. If it made representations in January last, and if the Government was sincere, there have been ample opportunities since then to make inquiries whether something could be done to improve the position of these men, which is a matter of paramount importance to them. At question time to-day I addressed the following question to the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation : -

Is it the intention of the Government to reconstitute the all-party parliamentary committee of ex-servicemen with a view to obtaining recommendations on the question of determining some definite basis upon which war pension rates should be assessed? If not, why not?

I hope that honorable senators will be convinced that there should be established a definite basis on which war-pension rates will be assessed. Sooner or later that will have to be done. I am not endeavouring to link that basis with the basic wage. The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) has supplied the following answer to my question: - . . Because of the short remaining life of this Parliament the Government does not propose to reconstitute the committee at this stage, hut, as indicated in a recent statement by the Prime Minister, the matter will be regarded as one for reconsideration at the earliest possible appropriate time.

Although the ex-servicemen’s organization to which I have referred made representations in this matter in January of this year the answer supplied to n w was only a repetition of the Government’s reply to that organization. Repeatedly during the life of this Parliament I have urged the Government to reconstitute the all-party parliamentary committee so that the war-pension rates could be related to some definite basis with a view to the proper evaluation of pensions for war-caused incapacity. However nothing has been done to implement that suggestion. Although I do not ask that the rates of war pensions should be related to the basic wage, I contend that they should be related to a definite basis so that we will know precisely where we stand. As honorable senators know, the cost of living is rising continually. It is not contended that the rates of war pensions should be increased proportionately according to the cost of living. The following statement appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph of the 15th September : -

page 1587


Disabled Diggers in Fruitless Move. Canberra :

Increased pensions for totally and permanently disabled ex-servicemen are out of the question this financial year.

The Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) told this to a deputation of seven from the Disabled Soldiers’ Association after they had sought a weekly increase of £1 14s. to £S 4s. in the rate for a. married man.

Later the deputation saw the. Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), who also said that any pension increase was “ out “ this year. “ If next year they put up some plan we might be able to do something,” Mr. Barnard said later.

At the time the Minister was apparently in a facetious mood because he said -

And we will be here next year, of course.

From what I can gather from the exservicemen’s organizations, it will be a tragedy if the Minister occupies his present portfolio next year. The following paragraph appears in the annual report of the Limbless Soldiers Association of Queensland for the year ended 30th June, 1949-

Early in October, 1948, a federal conference was held at Canberra. Two delegates from each of the six States attended, Queensland representatives being the president, Mr. P. Drummond, and the general secretary, Mr. W. C. Warne. The conference was ‘ ably presided over by the federal president, Mr. J. Harris. A long agenda was covered in three days, all subjects being keenly debated. A deputation, which comprised all delegates, had an interview with the Minister for Repatriation, Mr. H. C.,rd, M.H.R. Many matters affecting limbless soldiers were discussed, but without any satisfaction, and members left the interview with a firm conviction that the Minister was very unsympathetic.

I maintain that the sympathy or otherwise of the Minister for Repatriation, whether a Labour or anti-Labour government is in office, should not solely be the key-stone upon which the rates of war pensions should be based. In a letter addressed to me by the Federal Council of the Australian Legion of ex-Service Men and “Women on the 10th May, 1949, this paragraph appears -

It would appear that until such time as a decision is made that war caused incapacity bears some relation to earning ability, or to the cost of living or to the average income of the community, that any adjustments can only be secured through the personal advocacy of the Minister administering the particular department.

In my opinion it is not satisfactory that only one man should decide these matters. I consider that it would be preferable for a responsible body to consider factors relating to war pensions and the cost of living, so that a basis could be reached on which to determine the amounts of war pensions.

Senator COOPER:

– I agree that the Minister should not make decisions in such matters. I have demonstrated that pensions have not kept pace with the rising cost of living.

Senator Hendrickson:

– They are not supposed to do so.

Senator COOPER:

– I am aware of that, but they must be linked to something. I am trying not to get hot under the collar on this subject. Honorable senators opposite would leave it to the Treasurer to say, “ Yes, give them another ten bob a week not knowing whether the increase was justified or not. I want war pension rates to be associated with some standard. We should decide that 100 per cent, incapacity merits a pension of a certain level in relation to the general wage, or the degree of prosperity of the community. The rates should retain that relationship, and there should be no need for ex-servicemen and their representatives to make appeals to the Prime Minister for increases when they become necessary. The establishment of a basis such as I suggest can be effected only through the appointment of a responsible body of men. I maintain that the former allparty committee of ex-service members of this Parliament did a very good job. Its recommendations were acted upon by the Labour Government of the day.

Senator Hendrickson:

– What did the ex-servicemen get?

Senator COOPER:

– They were granted a 20 per cent, increase in 1943.

Senator Hendrickson:

– By a Labour government.

Senator COOPER:

– Yes. I am not trying to detract from the merit of that Government’s action. The committee’s recommendations in favour of an increase were made because the purchasing power of the £1 had been reduced. The Government therefore granted a 20 per cent, increase in order to restore pension rates to the approximate position in relation to living costs that they originally occupied. The newspapers announced recently that rates of pay for members of the armed services were to be increased. A very effective editorial article was published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph at that time. It is worth quoting -

Mr. Chifley appears to have overlooked veterans whose service is over but whose sufferings aren’t.

R.S.L. State President W. Yeo claims that requests which ex-service organizations have been presssing for two years have been ignored in the Federal Budget.

Ex-servicemen, he says, will demand a supplementary Budget to provide for them.

There is merit in his case.

The basic wage in Sydney is £6 10s. a week, varying according to rising living costs. But the war pension of a totally and permanently incapacitated ex-serviceman is fixed at only £5 6s.

Surely it is time that that gap, at least, was closed.

Replying to my second-reading speech on the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Bill on the 7th July the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron), representing the Minister for Repatriation, said -

I assure the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) that I shall bring this matter to the notice of the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Barnard) for his sympathetic consideration in the near future.

I have received no official reply from the Minister for Repatriation to the representations that I have made on this matter, which affects thousands of disabled1 ex-servicemen. The only advice relating to the subject that I have received was contained in the answer to the question that I asked about the appointment of an all-party committee of this Parliament. In the House of Representatives on the 22nd September, the Minister for Repatriation said that various ex-servicemen’s organizations had requested him, by deputation and otherwise, to increase the rates of war pensions. He admitted that war pensions had not been increased to the same degree as the cost of living had increased and that they had never been related to the basie wage. Had that been the case, he added, they would have been liable to decrease as well as increase in conformity with fluctuations in the cost of living.

Although the Minister admits that war pensions have never been related to the basic wage, he seems to be unable to inform the community of the basis upon which they are calculated. That is why I have repeatedly urged the Government to reconstitute the all-party committee of ex-service members of this Parliament. Its main function would be to relate war pension rates to some definite basis with a view to the proper evaluation of compensation for war-caused incapacity. As the Limbless Soldiers Association and other ex-servicemen’s organizations have informed me, there is no need, nor is there any desire on their part, for war pensions to fluctuate slavishly in accordance with the cost of living fluctuations, as is the case with age, invalid and service pensions. That would involve a colossal amount of adjustment each quarter. Instead of adjusting war pensions to coincide with each basic wage variation, the 100 per cent, incapacity war pension could be revalued periodically after the purchasing power of the £1 had varied, as it has done in recent years. All such variations could be the responsibility of the committee that I have suggested. I ask the Minister for Shipping and Fuel, in spite of his negative attitude so far, to use his endeavours so as to ensure that, at a later date, even if the Labour party is returned to power, a committee such as I have suggested shall be appointed for the purpose of relating war pensions to some definite basis.

Senator Ashley:

– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to reply to some of the statements that I had made during the debate on the budget but, realizing that his remarks were out of order, he shuffled around and said that he was trying to answer some other honorable senator. I had referred to the fact that he had used the words “ maximum pension” in discussing war pensions. He denied that. I have here a document, which, under the Standing Orders, I am not permitted to quote now, but I can show him in print what he did say. I do not make a practice of making incorrect statements in the Senate, and I reiterate now what I said earlier. The Leader of the Opposition stated that in the year 1920 the maximum pension for disabled ex-servicemen was about 80 per cent, of the basic wage, whilst a.t the present time the proportion was less than 40 per cent. The figures that I shall cite now will prove the incorrectness of the honorable gentleman’s statement. In 1920 the maximum war pension, or special rate as it is known, waa £4 a week. The average minimum wage was £4 10s. a week. The maximum war pension paid therefore represented approximately 89 per cent, of the average minimum wage. At present, the maximum war pension, or special rate, is £5 6s. a week. The average minimum wage is £6 7s. a week. The maximum war pension paid, therefore, represents approximately 83 per cent, of the average minimum wage, not 31 per cent, as stated by the Leader of the Opposition.

Senator AYLETT:

– As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Cooper) has just made a lengthy speech about ex-servicemen, it might be as well for the public to be informed that he sat mutely in this chamber for many years while returned soldiers were driven off their farms. He backed the policy of the Government of that period, which caused unemployment, starvation and misery for the exservicemen of whom the honorable gentleman spoke this evening. But he said not one word in their defence then. I shall not discuss now the merits or demerits of the proposal to increase war pension rates. That can be done when an appropriate measure is introduced in the Senate. As the Leader of the Opposition brought the subject into the debate, it is only just to compare the treatment that this Government has accorded ex-servicemen with the treatment that was meted out to them by anti-Labour governments. Those governments granted only meagre pensions to men who had been maimed in the service of their country. Those who were not seriously injured were established on farms purchased at inflated prices. The Leader of the Opposition then silently supported successive governments which inaugurated a policy of misery and poverty for ex-servicemen, and robbed them of their farms, their homes and even their furniture.

Senator Cooper:

– The honorable senator knows that that is untrue.

Senator AYLETT:

– It is perfectly true. There are, not 1,000, but tens of thousands of ex-servicemen who can back up every word that I am saying. I myself saw returned soldiers workless, homeless, and even shoeless, looking for jobs. I have given them lifts on country roads. That was the sort of treatment that the Leader of the Opposition and the parties that he supported gave to ex-servicemen after World War I. Before talking about the treatment of ex-servicemen, members of the Opposition would be well advised to remember how they and the governments that they supported treated returned soldiers during the ‘thirties. They offered them nothing but poverty, unemployment and starvation, not for one year, but year after year. The Leader of the Opposition sat dumb behind the Government that caused that misery.

The honorable senator also made a lengthy reference to the dairying industry. He claimed that the committee that inquired into costs of production in the industry had not reached an accurate finding and that the figures that it presented should have been considerably higher than they were. I remind the honorable gentleman that dairy-farmers were appointed to that committee. I do not know whether he is a dairyman or not, but he is scarcely qualified to challenge the findings arrived at by those gentlemen after exhaustive inquiry. Having supported the appointment of such a committee, he now tells the Senate that its findings were completely wrong and are worth nothing.

Senator Cooper:

– That is not so.

Senator AYLETT:

– That is the impression that the honorable gentleman conveyed to the Senate. He said that the committee had erred in compiling costs of production.

Senator Cooper:

– I said that the committee had compiled figures on the basis of a 56-hour week.

Senator AYLETT:

– Men engaged in the industry served on that committee. Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that coal-miners, or lawyers, should have been appointed to conduct an inquiry of that kind? That committee consisted of men who were directly concerned in the dairying industry, and if such a body is not the most appropriate to make such an investigation, I suggest that it is impossible to satisfy the Leader of the Opposition. I do not say that the dairying industry is receiving all the assistance that it should receive, having regard to the long hours for which the farmer is obliged to work. However, I agree with the view expressed by dairy-farmers with whom I was speaking last Sunday when they said that dairying is one of the best paying jobs to-day. Those farmers are extending their farms. What was the cause for the decline in dairy production to which the Leader of the Opposition has referred? After 1938-39 many dairyfarmers went in for cash cropping because that was far more profitable than dairying because anti-Labour governments had neglected the interests of the industry. It was not until the present Government took measures to prevent the industry from collapsing absolutely that it began to revive. But for the assistance that this Government has given to the industry the price of butter would probably be 8d. per lb. more than the present price. Under anti-Labour governments the dairyfarmer, although his industry was unprofitable, had no incentive to turn to agriculture because the price of wheat at that time was only 2s. a bushel and potatoes gave no return whatever to growers. He had either to stay on his farm or starve. That is the sort of treatment that anti-Labour governments meted out to the industry. For the dairy-farmer it was a case of hanging on to the few cows that he had and getting what he could, or starving. As soon as the present Government took steps to stabilize the wheat industry and other primary industries cash cropping offered a profitable avenue to dairy-farmers whose herds had been depleted for the reasons that I have already indicated. When the price of wheat rose to 5s. a bushel and the Government guaranteed a price of £10 a ton for potatoes the dairy-farmers changed over to those crops, until such time as the dairying industry had been rehabilitated. That was the reason for the decline in dairy production about which the Leader of the Opposition complained. However, the industry has now been revived and ‘placed on a prosperous basis thanks to the assistance that it has received from this Government in the form of subsidies and guaranteed payable prices.

Senator Cooper:

– Does the honorable senator agree that the Government should make up to the dairy-farmer the increase of 3d. per lb. in the cost of production that has occurred in recent years?

Senator AYLETT:

– Anti-Labour governments never gave the dairy-farmer a farthing, whereas the present Government is making available £5,500,000 annually to assist the industry. I advise the Leader of the Opposition, in that respect, to check up on the record of governments which he supported. He said that he hoped that dairy-farmers heard over the air the statements that were made this evening by the Minister for Shipping and Fuel (Senator Ashley). I sincerely trust that they did so, because the Opposition parties have as poor a case in respect of the dairying industry as they have in respect of the wheat, wool or any other primary industry. AntiLabour governments simply forced the farmers to abandon their holdings just as their attitude towards soldier settlers forced many of them to abandon their properties which, of course, were later taken over by the interests which the Opposition parties represent.

The Leader of the Opposition had much to say about the cotton industry. The statements he made may be correct, but I suggest that he could more appropriately address them to the Government of Queensland. Does the honorable senator suggest that the Australian Government must prop up all industries when they are confronted by difficulties due to neglect on the part of State governments? Does he suggest that the Aus tralian Government should take matters of detail of the kind to which he referred out of the hands of State governments? Does he suggest that this Government should say to the State governments in respect of any industry that gets into difficulties, “ We will carry this on ; you boys are not doing the job “.

Senator Cooper:

– The Australian Government has the exclusive right of levying income tax and, therefore, the States are deprived of revenue.

Senator AYLETT:

– The fact is that the States are now receiving revenues greater than they ever received’ previously. The cause of the trouble is not lack of revenue but rather the failure of the States to approach the solution of the problems of various industries in an intelligent manner. For instance, the Government of Queensland should ensure that cotton is grown only on suitable land. The Leader of the Opposition himself said that the price of cotton to-day is higher than it was in 1934, yet more and more growers are abandoning cottongrowing and changing over to more profitable crops. It is the direct responsibility of the State governments to foster primary industries. If lack of irrigation is the cause for the decline of cotton production the Queensland Government should make good that deficiency. The Leader of the Opposition, apparently, suggests that whenever an industry gets into trouble it is the duty of the Australian Government to take over control of it. I recall that when the Government submitted proposals to the people to give it greater control over marketing, the Opposition parties contributed to the defeat of those proposals.

The Leader of the Opposition has adopted a similar attitude with respect to petrol. He has joined in the chorus, claiming that the blame for the present shortage of petrol must be laid at the door of the Australian Government. When this Government wanted to continue the rationing of petrol the Opposition parties said that there was no need to do so. When the matter was tested in the High Court and that tribunal declared the petrol rationing regulations to be invalid the conditions that the Government had predicted immediately arose. Now, the Government is blamed for the present shortage of petrol. Any person who makes that accusation against the Government is anti-British and does not give a “hang” for people in any other part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Every person who is not a numskull knows that it is not merely a matter of the Government ladling out petrol. First, this country must obtain adequate supplies of petrol ; and, secondly, if the Government merely distributed the stocks that it is now holding in reserve for defence purposes it would imperil the nation in the event of an emergency arising. In addition, as members of the Opposition parties are well aware, the procurement of petrol involves dollar expenditure. It has been freely said that we could import more petrol. But the honorable senator knows perfectly well that if we import more petrol we will rob Great Britain of a portion of its present meagre supply of dollars. If we decided to sever our connexions with Britain and say that we would look after ourselves, where would we get the dollars to meet our dollar deficit? It is well known to honorable senators that last year Australia’s dollar deficit was about 90,000,000 dollars, and that we had to call on the British dollar pool to finance it. Can we go on importing petrol from anywhere we want, creating a bigger dollar deficit, and then call on Britain to meet that deficit, when we know that there are not sufficient dollars for it to be met? I know perfectly well that those people who say that we can have all the petrol we require simply by importing it just do not know what they are saying, because the time would come very soon when we could not afford to buy any petrol at all except from whatever sources we could find within the sterling area, and then only petrol that had no dollar content. We have not the necessary dollars to import more petrol and still pay for our other essential requirements as well. We would soon find ourselves running dry. Our essential industries and the harvesting of our primary products would be held up because we would have overspent dollars and would have to come to the point where we would not have any dollars left to buy more petrol. That would happen if we were to adopt the policy now advocated by the Opposition. I suggest that honorable senators opposite should throw off their anti-British and anti-Australian policy, and for once look at things in a true light, be true Australians and true Britishers, and help to pull us out of the mire that we are in at the present time, as well as give Britain a helping hand to recover from the very disastrous effects of the war from which that country is now suffering. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.

page 1592


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.

Second Reading

Senator ASHLEY:
New South WalesMinister for Shipping and Fuel · ALP

, I move -

That the hill be now read a second time.

The provision made in the 1949-50 estimates for expenditure on capital works and services is £68,293,000 from annual votes, and an additional amount of £592,000 from special appropriations. This measure, which should be read in conjunction with the Supply (Works and Services) Act 1949, provides the necessary parliamentary appropriation for expenditure under annual votes which may be summarized as follows : -

Details of the proposed expenditure will be found on pages 437-58 of the printed Estimates. The Government has adopted a policy of comprehensive long-range planning for capital works and services covering from three to five year periods. This procedure enables essential advance ordering of materials to be undertaken, as well as ensuring that any available labour force can be readily absorbed.

Cabinet sub-committees have been established to review and approve of all new works, particular attention being given to the priority to be allocated to each project. Accordingly, the works included in the Estimates now before the Parliament are those which, in the view of the Cabinet sub-committee concerned, are of an especially urgent and essential nature, and should therefore be undertaken with the least possible delay.

The bill makes provision for an estimated expenditure of £6,395,000 for capital expenditure required to implement the Government’s migration plan. The construction of reception, training and holding centres to accommodate migrants, as well as of hostels for migrant workers, has been allotted a high priority by the Government.

Expenditure in connexion with war service homes is estimated at £12,000,000. This provides for the construction of homes, the purchase of land, the improvement of existing homes, and the taking over of onerous mortgages.

The Estimates include an amount of £1,500,000 to cover initial expenditure on the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric power scheme.

The estimated expenditure by the Department of Supply and Development includes £2,000,000 for shipbuilding.

The amount of £4,209,000 for the Department of Civil Aviation includes £2,500,000 for the acquisition and construction of aerodromes as well as £1,400,000 for the purchase of modern electrical and other equipment.

The Post Office rehabilitation programme is now in its third year and it is estimated that £13,655,000 will be required to meet commitments during 1949-50.

The estimated expenditure of £3,435,000 by the Department of Shipping and Fuel includes £2,882,000 for capital expenditure By the Joint Coal Board in accordance with the Government’s announced plans to increase coal production.

Capital works expenditure on account of the defence services is estimated at £15,725,000. This is substantially higher than last year’s expenditure, due to provision being made for capital items such as armaments, naval construction, and purchase of aircraft, previously provided under ordinary services. This transfer is in accordance with the established budgetary practice in operation prior to the war. A further provision of £3,220,000 has been made to continue work on the guided missiles testing range project.

The continued development of the Northern Territory and of the Australian Capital Territory is estimated to cost £845,000 and £2,023,000 respectively in this financial year, mainly for the construction of cottages and hostels. Any further details which may be desired regarding specific works will be supplied by the Ministers concerned.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.

page 1593


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

Bill (on motion by Senator Courtice) read a first time.

Second Reading

QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs · ALP

.- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

This bill to amend the Customs Act 1901- 1947 is deemed advisable because of the detailed administrative work rendered necessary under present legislation in connexion with wastes arising in the manufacture of tobacco products. Since the procedure was first introduced in 1901 conditions have changed. Section 75 of the Excise Act, which was passed in 1901, gives authority for refunds of customs duty on tobacco wastes destroyed under official supervision. This amendment of the Customs Act is directed at simplifying the procedure in dealing with these wastes. Under the refund system, departmental officers have to check factory operations by means of elaborate accounting methods, but the provision of an allowance in lieu of refunds would make such detailed recording superfluous. Similarly, the present laboratory tests, made necessary because of fluctuating moisture percentages in tobacco, would be obviated. Refunds on the 3,808,339 lb. of tobacco wastes destroyed in the Commonwealth, during 1947-48 amounted to £1,131,735. In the majority of factories, imported leaf, liable to customs duty, and Australian leaf, duty free, are used together and this circumstance complicates the task of accurately assessing the amount of money to he refunded. Under the Excise Act, refund was granted to manufacturers based on the quantity of waste yielded and destroyed. The amendment proposes to dispense with such refunds and to substitute therefor an allowance arrived at in the light of past experiences at tobacco factories throughout the Commonwealth. It is considered that, under the proposed conditions, manufacturers would be subject to less inconvenience, and the Department of Trade and Customs would achieve the abject envisaged by the law as hitherto, but with greater facility. A point of interest to manufacturers is that the allowance will be made at the time of paying duty on the imported leaf, thus permitting the tobacco to be processed without the necessity of strict attention, for refund purposes, to exact quantities wasted and eliminating the delay in having claims dealt with.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.

page 1594


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

Bill (on motion by Senator Courtice) read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for Trade and Customs · Queensland · ALP

.- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

By this bill it is proposed, by repealing section 75 of the Excise Act 1901-1947, to do away with refunds of the customs duty paid on imported tobacco leaf which, in course of manufacture, becomes waste materia] and is subsequently destroyed in terms of the regulations. In place of the refunds, it is intended, by other legislation, to prescribe an allowance to be made to manufacturers so that, from the point of view of production costs, the position will not be altered because of the changed procedure. It is necessary, however, for the protection of the revenue, to retain authority to ensure that, before delivery from Customs control, all waste is effectively destroyed as an article capable of use for smoking purposes, even though it may be regarded as of such low quality as to be unsuitable for incorporation in tobacco or cigarettes for sale. The bill makes a provision to this end.

Debate (on motion by Senator Cooper) adjourned.

page 1594


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

Bill (on motion by Senator Courtice) read a first time.

Second Reading

QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs · ALP

.- I move-

That the bill be now read a second time.

The purposes of this bill are, first, to clarify the provisions of section 164b of the ‘ Commonwealth Electoral Act in relation to the prohibition of electoral posters exceeding the size prescribed, and secondly, to provide readily applicable means of effecting the removal of any electoral poster posted up or exhibited in contravention of the provisions of the section or the obliteration of any electoral matter written, drawn or depicted contrary to that section. Clause 3 (a) of the bill is designed to remove any doubt that might have arisen about the period of the applicability of section 1.64b (1.) and (2.) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act by specifically declaring that those sub-sections extend in relation to an election or referendum although the writ for that election or referendum has not been issued. There never was any other intention, and it is considered that there is not real justification for giving the sub-sections any contrary interpretation. Nevertheless, presumably because of the absence of a specific provision such as is contained in this bill, the extraordinary contention has been put forward that the prohibitions imposed by the sub-sections apply only after the issue of a writ. While it is held that there is no real substance in this contention, the declaration embodied in this amending bill will, if agreed to, remove any shadow of doubt whatsoever on the point.

Clause 3 (b) of the bill contains a provision expressly stating that nothing in section 164b shall prohibit the putting up or writing of asign on, or at the office or committee room of a candidate or political party indicating that the office or room is the office or committee room of the candidate or party, and specifying the name of the candidate, or the names of the candidates, or the. party concerned. However, any such sign must not carry any slogan or other matter soliciting support or votes for the candidate, for the candidates, or for the party, or in any other way advancing or attempting to advance, the claims of the candidate, the candidates, or the party. In effect the sign must be purely informative in character andnothing else.

Clause 4 provides for the inclusion in the law of two new sections, namely, 164ba and 164bb. Briefly, the first of these sets out that an authorized person, that is, a police or peace officer, may, and shall if so directed by an Electoral Officer, remove an electoral poster which appears to have been posted up or exhibited in contravention of section 164b, or obliterate electoral matter which appears to have been written, drawn or depicted in contravention of the section. The second of the new sections makes provision for the granting by a court, upon application by an officer, of an injunction restraining any apprehended contravention of section 164b or directing the removal of an electoral poster posted up or exhibited, or the obliteration of electoral matter written, drawn or depicted, in contravention of that section. AsI have already indicated the purpose of these new sections is to provide machinery whereby prompt action can be taken effectively to counter any contravention or attempted contravention of the provision of the Commonwealth law as expressly laid down in section 164b of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I commend the bill to honorable senators and urge its speedy passage.

Debate (on motion by Senator O’Sullivan) adjourned.

page 1595


The following papers were presented : -

Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1949 -

No. 72 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.

Nos. 73 and 74 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association ; and Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.

Nos. 75 and 76 - Australian Federated Union of Locomotive Enginemen, and others.

No. 77 - Transport Workers’ Union of Australia.

No. 78 - Commonwealth Public Service Artisans’ Association.

Canned Fruits Export Control Act - Twentythird Annual Report of the Australian Canned Fruits Board, for year 1948-49, together with Statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.

Commonwealth Bank Act - Appointment-J. Wittenoom.

Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Health - F. B. Powell, G. A. W. Pryor.

Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Postal purposes -

Highett, Victoria.

Preston South, Victoria.

Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Regulations - 1949 -

No. 7 (Police and Police Offences Ordinance).

Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) ActOrdinances - 1949 -

No. 8 -Adoption of Children.

No.9 - Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders.

No. 10 - Instruments.

No. 11 - Machinery.

Regulations - 1949 - No. 9 (Education Ordinance).

Senate adjourned at 11.33 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 October 1949, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.