19th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the choir at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether the Government, as evidence of the sincerity of its claim that its policy is to put more value into the pound, will take immediate steps to remove the postal surcharge of one half-penny, and thus benefit all sections of the community?
– The point that has been raised by the honorable senator concerns the revenue that is received by the Government. I shall direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the question and supply an answer to it as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport say whether the Standard Oil Company has promised to produce 62,000,000 gallons of petrol a year from shale ‘at Baerami, near Glen Davis in New South Wales, by means of the Renco retort process, provided that it can obtain a satisfactory lease of shale deposits? How much oil is now being produced from shale at Glen Davis? Can the Minister give the Senate any information about the Renco retort process? Can he say whether the Standard Oil Company is in a position to carry out its promise?
– I am advised by my technical advisers that the company is not in a position to carry out the promise that it has made. A Renco retort has been installed at Glen Davis and is now undergoing a three months’ trial. Our experience at Glen Davis has proved that the maximum production of petrol from the plant there is 2,750,000 gallons a year. The cost of production is 3s. 2d. a gallon. Prior to devaluation, we could import petrol at a cost of ls. a gallon and, after devaluation, at a cost of ls. 3d. a gallon. I have grave doubts whether the company can do what it has said that it can do.
– Will the Minister say whether Baerami is in the northern part of New South Wales and not near Glen Davis in western New South Wales, as was implied in the question asked by Senator McCallum?
– That is correct. According to my technical advisers, the production of petrol from shale is not an economic proposition.
– I direct the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation to the fact that Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited grants to blinded ex-servicemen a concession in the form of return tickets from Tasmania to Victoria at the rate for single tickets. I ask the Minister whether the Government will request Trans-Australia Airlines also to grant that concession to blinded ex-servicemen?
– I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Civil Aviation and obtain a reply for the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Civil Aviation has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate whether the Government has considered affording relief to persons who have suffered loss through devastating bush fires throughout a wide area of the south-western portion of Western Australia. If not, will the Government consider immediately the grant of financial assistance to the “Western Australian Government in connexion with this matter? If the Commonwealth has already decided to assist the persons concerned financially, will he inform the Senate of the basis of such assistance?
– Until I spoke to the honorable senator earlier to-day I was not aware of the tragedy that had overtaken Western Australia. I <lo not know whether representations have been made to the Commonwealth for financial assistance. However, even without consulting the Prime Minister, I assure the honorable senator that if application is made by the State for financial assistance, as is usual in connexion with such unfortunate happenings, the right honorable gentleman will deal sympathetically with it, in accordance with the practice that has been observed in the past, irrespective of the government in office. If the honorable senator will supply me with further particulars T shall pursue the matter for him.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister say whether it is true that the Commonwealth holds £425,000 £1 shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, whilst Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Limited holds £424,999 £1 shares in that company? Is it also true that the articles of association of that undertaking prescribe that the Commonwealth shall nominate three directors, and AngloIranian Oil Company Limited four directors? If the answers to these questions are in the affirmative, as the Commonwealth holds the majority of shares will the Minister take steps to amend the articles of association of that company in order to provide that the Commonwealth shall nominate the majority of members of the board of directors?
– I have no doubt that either the honorable senator or the persons who supplied him with his information have made a diligent search in order to enable him to state the position correctly. However, if he still entertains any doubt about the accuracy of his information I suggest that he should pay the sum of ls. to the appropriate registry and inspect the relevant file, when he will be able to ascertain the information that he is seeking.
– Will the Minister f or Fuel, Shipping and Transport state if it is a fact that the Australian Government owns the majority of share9 in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited? Is it a fact that the Commonwealth Government, has three directors on the board of directors of that company, and that Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited has four directors on the board? Can the Minister inform the Senate why the Australian Government has only a minority representation on the board of directors of the company?
– The honorable senator is correct. To find out the reason, it will be necessary to go back to the government of the day when that agreement was accepted. I was not a member of the Parliament at that stage.
– I ask the Minister f or Fuel, Shipping and Transport whether it is a fact that the Australian Government owns a majority of shares in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited; that the Government has three directors on thu board of directors of that company; and that the company itself has four directors on that board ? Can the Minister inform the Senate why the Commonwealth has a minority representation on the board?
– I cannot answer that question. If Senator Nash is so keen about the matter I cannot understand why he did not persuade the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, who is thi: leader of the senator’s party, to alter the position during the eight years that the Labour party had a majority in both Houses of this Parliament?
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport stated recently that as ships owned by the Australian Shipping Board were operating at a loss, they would be transferred to private enterprise. About a fortnight ago one of those vessels had to wait for five days for a berth at Devonport in Tasmania. The timber for which the vessel had called was not even then Available at the wharf for loading. Will the Minister have inquiries made to see why the vessels mentioned have incurred losses, and whether they are being Sabotaged ? I point out that waterside workers have not been responsible for the alow turn-round of government ships.
– I hope to have an opportunity this evening to answer this and several other questions that have been raised in connexion with shipping.
asked the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s question is as follows : - [t is not correct that a number of “ D “ class vessels nor in fact any vessels are being chartered to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited nor is any such transaction contemplated.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister state whether it is a fact that the Government has completed its plans to restore the value of the fi? If so, will he make a statement to the Senate at an early date so that honorable members may debate it and pass judgment on the suitability, practicability and value of the plans it contains for arresting and reducing the extraordinary rise in living costs since the Menzies Government took office?
– I acknowledge with all humility the great tribute the. honorable senator has paid to the ability of this Government. He may find consolation in the fact that his confidence in this Government is shared . by a majority of the people of the Commonwealth, hut this Government cannot do everything that is requisite to put the value back into the £1 without the earnest co-operation of all sections of the Australian people. By the implication of his question, I am glad to have his assurance that the honorable senator is sympathetically inclined in that direction.
– Will the. Minister representing the Minister for the Interior state whether it is possible to inaugurate a school bus service to Westlake, Canberra, where approximately 60 children of school age must walk up to a mile in all weathers to catch an irregular bus service to the various schools? Can a bus service for shoppers be inaugurated to the area at least once weekly to enable housewives to do their shopping in comfort?
– I will refer the questions to the Minister for the Interior and get a reply for the honorable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General yet in a position to reply to the question I asked recently regarding public telephones for Devonport?
– I have received an answer to a question asked by the honorable senator on the 26th March in regard to the provision of public telephone booths in the town of Devonport, Tasmania. The Postmaster-General states that four public telephones are provided at the Devonport post office and others are available at the Quoiba post office, the East Devonport post office and at the entrance to the wharf. A complete survey of the Devonport area was made some time ago and approval given for the provision of thirteen public telephones at various locations. Their installation has been delayed owing to the shortage of equipment and cabinets. Deliveries of the equipment are expected to commence within the next few weeks and the contractor for the cabinets has promised delivery at an early date. The matter is being followed up closely by the department in order to have -the services provided as soon as possible.
– In relation to the subsidy that the Government proposes to spend on the importation of coal, does not the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport consider that it would be better for the future development of the coal-mining industry in Australia in all States if the millions of pounds that it is now proposed to spend on subsidies to import coal into Australia were spent in developing coal production in the States which claim that they have huge coal reserves suitable for all Australian requirements waiting to be won ?
– The Government has examined that position and, if the coal is suitable, South Australia and Victoria will be able to take all that is produced in those States in addition to what is imported. The great problem in expanding these deposits promptly is the main problem in this country - shortage of man-power and shortage of materials. However, I can assure the honorable senator that the matter is under very close examination. As a matter of fact Queensland has been asked to submit to Victoria a firm offer of all the coal that it can produce this year and state a price. The same offer has been inside to Western Australia. Even if those States supply all that they can produce, that will not be sufficient and Australia will have to import large quantities to keep the steel works going at full capacity.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development whether, in relation to the developmental projects being considered by the Government, any cognizance is being taken of the north-west of Western Australia which is such a very important part of Australia both economically and strategically, and which has vast undeveloped potentialities?
– I have no doubt that the Minister for National Development has well in the back of his mind the potentialities of north-west Western Australia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-Genera! whether, as the shipping services to thenorthwest of Western Australia are very irregular, the Minister will consider the carriage of first-class mail by air without the usual surcharge levied in respect of air mail services being imposed?
– I shall be pleased to bring that matter to the notice of the Postmaster-General . and shall supply the honorable senator with an answer to her question or a report on the matter as soon as possible.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, I inform him by way of explanation’ that at the present time there is a considerable amount of confusion among the various interests engaged in Australia’s wool industry regarding the eventual fate of the Joint Wool Organization and in connexion with the organization that will be established to succeed it. Will the Government take the initiative in calling together the different factions concerned in the industry that appear to be at cross purposes over this matter with a view to achieving some unanimity in respect of plans for the sale of Australian wool overseas after the Joint Wool Organization has been wound up?
– I understand that representatives of the various industries concerned are at present conferring with other interests in London. I am sure that as soon as the result of that conference is known the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will communicate with the various other organizations concerned and submit the proposals, if any, to them for consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answers: -
The Government is at present considering its policy in regard to hospitals and has not yet reached a decision.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
- Will* the Minister give mi assurance that, if and when a form of compulsory military training is introduced (a) no minors will be sent to military camps where wet cant:w.ns are installed ; and ( 6 ) where wot canteens are installed, strict adherence to existing liquor laws will be observed?
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer -
The Defence Act, sections 123a and 12!Iaa, provides as under - 123a. No intoxicating or spirituous liquors shall be sold or supplied and no person shall have such intoxicating or spirituous liquors in his possession at any naval, military or air-force canteen, camp, fort, or post during such time as training nf persons as prescribed in paragraphs (a.), (ft), nml (c) of section 125 is proceeding in such naval, military or air-force camp, fort, or post, except as prescribed for purely medical purposes 123aa. No intoxicating or spirituous liquors shall be sold to any cadet whilst in uniform, nor shall any intoxicating or spirituous liquors, except by direction of a duly qualified medical practitioner, ho supplied to any cadet whilst in uniform.
The Government does not propose to make liny departure from these principles.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice - in view of the enormous number of informal votes cast at the recent election of senators (namely, one in nine), will the Minister consider the adoption of the Hare-Clark system of voting which provides that, where an elector expresses preference for at least three candidates, the vote is regarded as a valid one?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
While the adoption of the Hare-Clark system of voting might have the effect of reducing the present large number of informal votes, it would introduce the possibility of even a higher number of exhausted votes in the process of transfer. However, the matter will receive consideration when the Electoral Act is under review.
Senator GUY (through Senator Kendall asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Will the Minister give favorable consideration to the adoption of laws which apply in curtain States prohibiting canvassing on the day of parliamentary elections, especially the prohibition of canvassing in front of polling booths on the day of the election?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
The Commonwealth Electoral Act prohibits canvassing on polling day at Commonwealth elections in or within 20 feet of the entrance to a polling booth. This provision is generally similar to that contained in the laws of the several States, except that in some of the States the ‘distance from the entrance of the booth in which canvassing is prohibited is greater, e.g.. it is 30 feet in Victoria, nO feet in Queensland, and ;”>t> yards in Western Australia. In Tasmania the law provides that no person shall canvass for votes at or about the entrance of or within any polling booth on polling day. A joint select committee which examined this matter in 1020-27 expressed the belief that the practice of canvassing on polling day should not be interfered with, except to prevent its being carried out too close to the booths. The committee expressed the view that the issue nf “How to Vote” cards was a help and not a hindrance to electors.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Territories, upon notice -
– The Minister for External Territorieshas supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has supplied the following answer : -
The subject-matter of the inquiries comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for External Territories, who has asked me to inform the honorable senator that information is being obtained and that answers to the questions will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the vital importance of Dutch New Guinea, both strategically and commercially, to Australia, will the Minister give consideration to the appointment of a representative at Hollandia, Dutch New Guinea?
– The Minister for External Affairs has supplied the following answer : -
The answer to the honorable senator’s question is that the Government is conscious of the importance to Australia of Dutch New Guinea and of the need to keep in the closest touch with developments there. The Government does not, however, consider it necessary at this stage to appoint an Australian representative to Hollandia. The Government will, however, keep this matter under review and, should the circumstances warrant it, would consider seeking the agreement of the Netherlands authorities to the appointment of an Australian consul in Hollandia.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
I« it the Government’s intention (w) to extend television to commercial stations, and (6) to exercise strict control over the type of advertisement to be introduced into homes of people of the Commonwealth?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Postmaster-General give consideration to including the Newcastle district in the early plan of the Government setting up television stations in Australia?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
Yes, consideration will be given to the claims of Newcastle when the Government’s policy in respect of the provision of television services in Australia is being determined.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. It is the established practice to publish estimates of Australia’s dollar balance of payments only on an annual basis after the close of the year to which the figures relate. Dollar receipts and payments fluctuate widely from month to month because of seasonal and other considerations and publication of monthly estimates would therefore be misleading. Estimates for the past three financial years of Australia’s net drawings on the sterling area dollar pool (after allowing for sales of current, gold production to the United Kingdom) are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Pursuant to its election promises, the Government has considered the matter of payments to exprisoners of war. It is proposed to appoint a committee of investigation.
. - by leave - I desire formally to acquaint honorable senators with the details of recent changes which have been made in ministerial portfolios. The Right Honorable R. G. Casey has been sworn in as Minister for National Development, and will undertake these responsibilities in addition to those of his portfolio as Minister forWorks and Housing. Sena- tor the HonorableG. McLeay has been appointed Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport. The Honorable Howard Beale has been given the responsibility for the administration of the new Department of Supply.
I take this opportunity, also, to inform honorable senators of the changes that have been made in the organization of departments. On the recommendation of the Federal Executive Council the GovernorGeneral has been pleased to abolish the following departments: -
Department of Post-war Reconstruction,
Department of Transport, and to establish three new departments, namely: -
Details of these changes were pub lished in Commonwealth Gazette, No. 15 of the 17th March, 1950. The major alterations are -
Another major change is that, in future, the Minister for Labour and National Service will have added responsibilities in regard to conciliation and arbitration generally, long-service leave in the coal industry, regulation and control of stevedoring operations, industrial matters in connexion with these operations, and conditions of employment in the maritime industry. However, the appointment of judges to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other matters connected therewith, previously coming within the purview of the AttorneyGeneral will remain under his administration. During the absence of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Eric J. Harrison) the Minister for the Interior (Mr. P. A. M. McBride) will administer the Department of Defence. Following on the changes mentioned, representation in the Senate will be: Senator O’sullivan will represent the Prime Minister and the Minister for Defence; Senator McLeay will represent the Minister for the Interior, the Minister for Air, the Minister for Civil Aviation, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture; Senator Spicer will represent the Minister for External Affairs, the Minister for External Territories, the Minister for Labour and National Service, and the Minister for Immigration ; Senator Spooner will represent the Treasurer, the Minister for National Development, the Minister for Works and Housing, and the Minister for the Army and Navy; Senator Cooper will represent the PostmasterGeneral, Minister for Health, and the Minister for Supply.
Representation in the House of Representatives will be: The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) will represent the Attorney-General; The Minister for the Interior (Mr. McBride) will represent the Minister for Trade and Customs; The Postmaster-General (Mr. Anthony) will represent the Minister for Fuel, Snipping and Transport ; The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) will represent the Minister for Social Services; and The Minister for the Army and Navy (Mr. Francis) will represent the Minister for Repatriation.
Debate resumed from the 15th March (vide page 757), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania) vides for child endowment at the rate of 5s. a week for the first child in every family. The second-reading speech of the Minister for Social Services (Senator Spooner) contained an assurance, on behalf of the Government, that if the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration reduced the basic wage unit to a man and his wife, for the purpose of computing that wage the amount of endowment to be paid in respect of the first child in every family would be increased to 10s. a week. Broadly, that is the proposition to be considered in connexion with this measure.
I take this early opportunity to congratulate the Minister for Social Services upon the introduction of his first measure to this chamber. Immediately after entering the Parliament as a new member he was included in the Ministry. It is particularly pleasing to the Opposition that the first measure introduced in this chamber by the new Government should be a specimen of socialism. As the Minister pointed out, this bill foreshadows a redistribution of the national income in order to achieve a national purpose.
Having myself relinquished the portfolio of Social Services as a result of events at the end of last year, I take this early opportunity, also, to pay tribute to the Director-General of Social Services and his staff for their efficiency and loyalty in implementing the decisions of the government of the day in all circumstances. I remind the Senate that that department has a history of adherence to tradition as well as great experience. Whether the officers of the department agreed with the Government’s decisions or not, those decisions were always faithfully carried out during Labour’s regime. During that period the heavy strains and stresses imposed by the Government upon the officers of the Department of Social Services were withstood manfully by the staff. I am convinced that the good qualities that they displayed under Labour governments will be disinterestedly and loyally extended to the new Government.
Doubtless the present Government will claim that it has a mandate from the people for the introduction of this legislation. I point out, however, that rival political parties go before the people on a multiplicity of projects, and that the people are under no obligation to give reasons for their decision. It is a very difficult thing for any party, even when successful, to claim that it has a mandate in respect of every matter that it put before the electors. The highest level at which its claim can be put in my view is that it has a mandate to govern. There can be no argument about that. The people having spoken, the party returned is the Government of Australia to sit on the treasury bench, but it is purely a matter of speculation, with all the risks of speculation, whether the people have approved of this or that particular project and whether the electors’ minds were influenced more by one consideration than by another. However, that may be, there is an honorable obligation on the Government returned to endeavour to implement its election promises, and this bill is brought forward under that obligation. It is also the obligation of the Opposition to criticize. I am prepared to say at the outset that there is a base for the Government’s contention that the people of Australia having heard the arguments for and against, and having had the dangers of the procedure pointed out to them by Labour, have approved the Government’s proposal for the endowment of the first child, regardless of what risks may be entailed. The Minister, in the course of his second-reading speech, said in a statement printed on page 9 -
Each time progress is suggested, there are to be found some reactionaries who express the view that the nation cannot afford the expense involved.
I shall very seriously test the sincerity of the Minister and the Government in relation to that statement before I conclude to-day, but I have no doubt that when he made that statement, the Minister had in his mind the report on the royal commission appointed by the Bruce-Page Government in 1927 to deal with child endowment or family allowances. The commission brought in its report in 1929 by a majority. The late Mr. John Curtin, who was then Leader of the Opposition, and Mrs. Muscio brought in a minority report. The majority were the reactionaries. The commission held then that it was not proper to bring in child endowment. It made an extensive and useful survey of the influence of child endowment on the basic wage and the needs of a family and came to the conclusion that the introduction of child endowment was not justified. The point I wish to impress on the Senate is that in a minority judgment, Mr. Curtin and Mrs. Muscio, representing the Labour viewpoint, urged just the very point that the Minister had stated in his speech, that there would always be reactionaries who would say that the expense could npt be undertaken, and that it would impose too great a burden on the community. The minority report of Mr. Curtin and Mrs. Muscio in 1929 is the very basis of the system of child endowment operating in Australia to-day. I can agree with several statements made by the Minister for Social Services in the course of his second-reading speech. I can agree when he talks about the importance of the family unit to the nation. In the course of his speech, he said, speaking of the Government of 1941-
It was the view of the Government of that day, as it is the view of the Government to-day, that the family unit is the corner stone of family life.
I have, to confess that after devoting a great deal of attention to that statement I was not impressed by its profundity. I should say that there would he no family life without the family unit.
With, this bill wo ure, for the first time in the history of this country - except for the Maternity Allowance Act - writing into the statute book our realization of the national significance of family life. That is not a mere platitude - that means something. There never has been any doubt of the value of the services, ‘infinite in variety and extent, which the family renders to the nation. Primarily, it is the source of national continuance; it has supplied the human material indispensable for the production of the means of subsistence: it provides for the replacement of the old and the dead, and is the sole guarantee for the redemption, in the future, of those obligations which previous and present generations have found it desirable to incur in order to enjoy the fullest obtainable measures of security, comfort and civilization. 1 repeat the thought most beautifully and powerfully expressed by Labour’s great leader. I agree also with the proposition enunciated by the Minister when he said that this bill would, in effect, make a re-distribution of the national income. That is what Labour has been doing for the past eight years. The Labour Government lifted the expenditure on social services from £17,000,000 a year before the war to £100,000,000 a year, and it frankly avowed what the Minister admits in his speech - that it was taking money away from the national income and distributing it among the various classes where the greatest need existed and the greatest national good would follow from its distribution. I point out also that the Labour Government’s distribution of social service benefits, apart from the vast increase of £83,000,000, gave a strong bias to the family unit itself. If anybody traces the spread of the social services benefits, it will be found that running through the maternity allowances, child endowment, widows’ pensions, unemployment, sickness, hospital, pharmaceutical and medical benefits there is such a strong bias in favour of the family unit that I am in a position to say that far more than 60 per cent, of the total expenditure under the Labour Government’s administration was directed to the family unit. Various expansions of those .benefits which were contemplated by the Labour Government when the people interrupted its activity were designed to spread the benefits more and more to the family unit. The Labour party’s interest in child endowment itself can be appreciated by the fact that it gave two increases of that amount for the second and subsequent children, raising it first in 1945 to 7s. Cd. and again in 194S, I believe, to 10s. a child. With some of the reasoning of the Minister, I cannot agree at all. I notice that on page 2 of the printed copy of his speech be had this to say -
The need for child endowment arises from the fact that family expenses rise steeply with the birth of each child-
I emphasize the words “ rise steeply “ - and then decrease as the children reach an age at which they can earn an income.
If that proposition be true then it is most illogical for the Minister to say later on in his speech -
It is a logical development of the principle of child endowment to extend it to the child which is at present unendowed.
It is completely clear that if the Minister’s first principle is true and accurate then the proper approach would be to give endowment at increasing rates as the number of children in the family increases. That, however, is not the proposition that we are considering now. It is a proposition that, as a matter of social justice, will have to be decided upon before very long. To-day we are considering the proposition of endowing the first child. I suggest that either the Minister’s first proposition is wrong - and I am inclined to think that it is, because in my mind is the thought that as one child follows another in a family, all the plant, equipment and clothing, used for earlier children is generally available for quite a long period for use in connexion with succeeding children - or his second is faulty. I doubt whether the Minister’s statement that expensesrise steeply with the birth of each child, is in accord with actual facts.
In anticipation of arguments about the relationship of child endowment to the basic wage, the Minister devoted a considerable portion of his speech to dealing with that particular aspect. He developed a very elaborate and, I might say, a very specious argument, but he overlooked some very important statements made by the court-
In fact, even some of the statements by the court which he quoted, carry the very refutation of his proposition that child endowment and the basic wage stood in distinct and separate compartments. He advanced the proposition that child endowment was a matter purely for legislators and that the basic wage was a matter purely for the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration - in other words, there was no close interplay between them. The argument that he presented to us itself refutes that proposition, as I shall show. The honorable senator entirely ignored not only parts of the judgment from which he quoted, but also ignored several outstanding facts that would have completely wrecked the proposition that he advanced. Again and again in the course of his speech the Minister assured the Senate that the Government would take no steps whatsoever to seek to influence the judgment and deliberations of the court, yet in a later portion of his speech he intimated that governments do express their views upon the method by which, they submit, the basic wage should be computed. It is a fact that various State governments are represented before the court and are submitting views about the relationship of child endowment to the basic wage. Unless I am mistaken the Australian Government is also represented before the court. It is intervening in the basic wage case. I ask the Minister and the several governments why they have intervened in that case. Have they intervened
– What view is the Australian Government placing before the court? If it is not putting any view to the court, why is it represented? The Minister himself has pointed out that it is the function of governments - including, I suggest, his own Government, - to put views to the court. Will the Government intimate to the Opposition in this Senate that, in view of what the members of its component parties said on the hustings during the recent general election campaign, it will go into the court and argue against the case ‘being advanced on behalf of the States, which is that the court ought to take into account, when computing the basic wage, the Australian Government’s proposal to endow the first child in each family? Will the Government controvert that proposition and say that it is not its intention to affect the basic wage? I submit that, in view of all that members of the Government parties have said, they should be prepared to go and say to the court, “ We, as the Australian Government, do not desire that the payment of endowment for the first child should be taken into account during your consideration of the basic wage”. It is not sufficient for the Government to adopt a negative attitude in this matter and to say, “ We are intervening in the basic wage case merely to inform the court if the court desires information “. The Minister has been at great pains time and time again throughout his speech to explain that the Government would not influence the minds of the court. That reminds me of a very old French proverb, Qui s’excuse, s’accuse, which, being translated, means, “ He who excuses himself accuses himself “. As I shall presently show, I believe that before the last election the ‘ members of the anti-Labour parties in this Parliament had in their minds the very fixed idea of influencing the deliberations of the court in relation to the fixation of the basic wage. I shall develop that theme presently.
I mentioned earlier that the Minister’s speech carried its own refutation. I refer now to the quotation by the Minister of a statement from the judgment of Sir George Beeby, who was Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in .1941. I point out to the Minister that in the course of that quotation there occurred a rather unfortunate slip. The Minister advanced the whole of the latter portion of the quotation as having been uttered by Sir George Beeby, but it was, in fact, not a statement by Sir George Beeby at all. It was a statment which Chief Judge Dethridge and Judge DrakeBrockman made in the 1934 basic wage case, which Sir George Beeby quoted with approval in the 1941 judgment. I have referred to the slip as being unfortunate because it is a fact that secondreading speeches, made in this Parliament, particularly in relation to measures of this kind, circulate all over the world. They are of particular interest not only to industrialists but also to social workers and to the social service departments of all governments. They are expected to be completely accurate in their presentation of facts and are accepted as clear expositions of Government policy. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the latter portion of that quotation, said to have been made by Sir George Beeby, was, in fact, not his statement at all. I point out that the Minister has refuted his own argument that the question of needs is not taken into account by the court in computing the basic wage. I do so by citing two sentences from his own extract of the 1941 judgment. The first one lies in the opening words, which read -
The court has always conceded the “ needs “ of an average family should be kept in mind in fixing a basic wage.
Towards the end of the judgment the following words appear : -
There is no clear means of measuring the general wage paying capacity of the total industry of a country. All that can be done is to approximate, and one of the methods of approximation is to find out the actual wage upon which well-situated labourers are at the time maintaining the average family unit.
There, from the majority judgment in 1934, submitted with approval in the court’s basic wage judgment in 1941, is a clear refutation of the Minister’s proposal. I agree with him that a great deal of confusion regarding the basic wage has arisen out of Sir George Beeby’s statement in the court’s 1941 judgment when he said that in his view the basic wage was adequate for a man, wife and one child. I am prepared to concede that that view was not supported by Judge Piper or Judge 0’Mara who sat with Chief Judge Beeby on that occasion. At page 57 of that judgment, Judge Piper had this to say -
But in using a cost of living standard the Court has not specifically stated the exact size of the family unit that had to be provided for nor has it formed an opinion as to the “ needs “ portion of the wage upon any independent investigation of its own as to what should be regarded as the family unit or as to what the needs of that family unit are.
The result is, therefore, that the dominant factor in fixing the basic wage by this Court is the economic or productivity factor and that the basic wage must be the highest that industry as a whole can pay. The needs of a family are only a guide in determining that wage and are not an absolute guide and the Court has not enunciated its own standards either us to the needs or the size of the family to be provided for.
And at page 71 of that judgment, Judge 0’Mara also adverted to that position. With reference to the set-up at that time, he stated that he was not to be taken as determining the size of the average family unit. He said -
On the question of needs I wish to make it clear that I am not to be taken as having readied the conclusion one way or the other that the total basic wage is adequate to provide a suitable standard of living for a married man with a wife and two or more dependent children. If the Court is at any time asked to fix a basie wage on a true needs basis the question of whether such a method is correct in principle and all questions as to the size of the family to be selected are open so far as I am concerned.
Those quotations, I think, show that Chief Judge Beeby was not supported by hie colleagues in defining the average family unit in the way that he did. But in the course of those three judgments there are many passages by each judge intimating that child endowment was very much in his mind and would be taken into account if it were brought into force and the basic wage was again under consideration. I refer again to the judgment of Chief Judge Beeby at page 50. It is interesting to note that in the course of a judgment relating to the basic wage there is a section headed “ Child Endowment “ hy the judge himself. He continued the paragraph on that subject by saying -
Since the conclusion of the hearing the Commonwealth Government has announced its intention to initiate such a scheme.
That is a scheme of child endowment-
If and when this is done future fixations of the basic wage will be greatly simplified, but the announcement-
And he meant the mere announcement of the Government’s scheme - of the Government’s intentions does not of itself justify any departure from past methods.
There we have not only an implied, but also a clear statement by the judge that the task of the court will be greatly simplified once child endowment has been introduced. There could not be a clearer indication by a judge that the court would take child endowment into account once child endowment became an accomplished fact. I refer now to Judge Piper’s judgment at page 58. He is not quite so definite, but it would appear from this quotation that he might well take child endowment into account. He says -
Apart from and in addition to these considerations another reason why I think that the Court should adhere to the capacity principle is the announcement by the Commonwealth Government of its intention to introduce a child endowment scheme with an allowance for each child. If this Court were to enunciate that the basic wage was based entirely on the needs of a specific family unit, say two children, the Court, if and when the scheme is put into operation, will, it appears to me, have to take the amount of endowment into some account in fixing a needs wage. But by adhering to its present principle the Court will take such scheme into consideration only insofar as it, if at all, affects the assessment of the highest basic wage that industry can afford to pay.
The third judge, Judge 0’-Mara, at page 73 of the court’s judgment had this to say after devoting very considerable statements to another heading, “Family Wage and Child Endowment “, thus linking the two things in a judgment of the court with the basic wage -
It has been announced that a scheme for child endowment is likely to be submitted to the Commonwealth Parliament-
He was speaking about the mere announcement and not the actual legislation v but the fact has not influenced me in reaching my conclusion as to the fate of this application.
– He did not say it would in the future?
– No ; but I think that there is a strong implication in that statement that he, too, would join with the other judges in taking child endowment into account in relation to the basic wage. I suggest that when the Minister for Social Services was quoting from the judgments of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration he might have drawn the attention of the Senate to those three very relevant and powerful passages in those judgments.
I come now to the report of the royal commission that was appointed by the Bruce-Page Government in 1927 to in quire into child endowment and brought in its report in 1929. That commission gave the clearest indication to the government of the day that the basic wage as then determined had within it some very large elements of endowment, not only child endowment but also motherhood endowment. Should any doubt exist upon that point, I shall read the following quotation from paragraph 295 of the report which is headed “ The Family Unit “-
The Family Unit. - The family unit, as prescribed by Statute or adopted in practice by wage-fixing tribunals, varies as follows: -
That is not my statement ; it is the finding of the royal commission that I have mentioned. Further, that commission in paragraph 459 of its report quotes with approval the following interesting statement : -
The present position has been well stated by the New South Wales Industrial Commissioner (I.G. Vol. 30, p. 1441 ):–” Both in the Federal system of Arbitration and in the State system the employer does now finance Motherhood Endowment, but the fact is camouflaged. Motherhood Endowment is paid by the employers for two children in the New South Wales and Western Australian systems, hut for three children in the rest of our Arbitration systems. This is because the law now compels the employer to pay a wage to each adult employee, in which wage is wrapped up the Child Endowment to two or three children.”
In my final quotation from that very voluminous report, I draw attention to paragraph 787, which states -
In practice the relation between Child Endownment and wage fixation is very close, and there are inescapable interactions. (Para. 168.)
And in the following paragraph the royal commission stated: -
In Australian systems of wage regulation, apart from recent New South Wales legislation, the two have been blended into one, every basic wage containing unanalysed elements of endowment. (Para. 173.)
I do not think that the matter could be put better than that. The basic wage contains unanalysed elements of endowment. That view has been taken by the Labour party and was supported by the royal commission. It was also taken by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on the last occasion on which it considered the basic wage. I refer to 1941, when the court reached a conclusion and gave a judgment. The severest charge that I can level against the Government in relation to the nexus between child endowment and the basic wage, is that the Minister for Social Services completely ignored what the court itself said as recently as November, 1949. Immediately after the Liberal party, through its leader, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and with the concurrence of the Leader of the Australian Country party, Mr. Fadden, announced & scheme of child endowment, what did. the Arbitration Court do? It was engaged in the hearing of a basic wage application and had been so engaged for many months. There was great pressure on the court and upon the parties to reach a conclusion. In spite of these things, however, and in spite of the danger of industrial unrest, the moment that child endowment was made a political issue by the Liberal and Country parties, the court suspended the hearing for a month. The reason for the court’s action was the relationship of child endowment to the basic wage. Child endowment is not merely associated with or germane to the problem that the court was considering; it is of the very essence of that problem. Yet, the Minister for Social Services, . in his second-reading speech on this measure, put these things into separate compartments, entirely ignoring what the Arbitration Court had said as recently as November of last year. The reason why the Minister did not mention that matter to the Senate is obvious. Had he quoted the court’s statement, it would have refuted his entire argument. What’ the court had to say is contained in two brief paragraphs which I propose to read to the Senate. Speaking on behalf of the court, Chief Judge Kelly said -
At the basis of the problem of settling the disputes before the; Court concerning the basic wage for adult male and female workers are, as has been made manifest during these proceedings, questions relative to the amount and just and proper distribution of the national income and to the capacity of the economy to support such a distribution.
Since these matters have been raised for consideration in another field, since, in other words, they lie at the basis of an issue raised at the coming elections for the Federal Parliament by the references made to the possible supplementation of the basic wage by changes in the amount and incidence of child endowment, the court (which must not be taken to express any criticism of these references) has decided that it is its duty to proceed no further with the present case while the issue remains the subject of election controversy.
The case will therefore be adjourned to a date to be fixed.
I do not think that I need argue very much further the inseparability of child endowment and the basic wage. I have presented a case to the Senate out of the mouths of the Arbitration Court judges themselves. Prior to the elections the present Government parties announced that, if the basic wage unit was. determined on the basis of the needs of a man and wife only, endowment in respect of the first child of each family would be increased to 10s. a week. As a basic wage hearing was current when that announcement was made, I have no hesitation in saying that the Liberal and Australian Country parties were guilty of moral contempt of court, if not legal contempt of court. If there is no such thing as moral contempt of court - and I shall not argue that there is - at the very least, the announcement was in the worst of bad taste.
– It was dishonest vote-catching.
– The Menzies party, if I may use that expression, was just running true to form, in 1941, when the hearing of evidence in a basic wage case had been concluded, but before the court had given its judgment, the then Menzies Government made an announcement about child endowment. The significance of that was that, rightly or wrongly, the trade union movement of Australia believed that the announcement had been made to influence the court against granting any increase of the basic wage, or into granting a smaller rise than would otherwise have been given, with a consequent loss to all the workers of Australia, whether they were married or single or with or without families. All the workers would have benefited - and at much greater cost to industry - from an increase of the basic wage, whereas only some workers with dependants stood to benefit under the child endowment scheme then proposed. That had serious implications for the industrial movement. Now, we find history repeating itself. At the end of 1949, a basic wage hearing had been in progress for months. Relatively speaking it was nearing an end. The Liberal and Australian Country parties, led by Mr. Menzies and Mr. Fadden, made an announcement about child endowment. The trade union movement again suspected the motives of those people in making such an announcement when they did. Despite the protestations of the Minister for Social Services in his secondreading speech, I say that the workers felt that the announcement was designed to influence the court, either not to grant an increase of the basic wage, or to grant a smaller rise than it otherwise would have given. When one remembers how many times the Minister disclaimed any desire to influence the mind of the court, there is some point, I repeat, in the little French proverb, qui s’excuse, s’accuse If the announcement of the Government parties does influence the court, the effects upon all classes of workers may be serious. The unmarried male, the unmarried female, the married man without children, the widower with children and the worker whose children are more than sixteen years of age, will all be seriously affected. I may be wrong, but I believe that, this issue having been raised as acutely as it has been, the court should make a definite statement of how far it has gone in taking child endowment, particularly for the first child, into account in reaching its conclusion. I warn the Government that there will be room for grave industrial trouble if this bill, should it become law, does affect the fixing of the basic wage by the Arbitration Court. There is a duty upon the Government to go to the court, and to stress the contention that endowment for the first child should not be taken into account in reaching its decision. I believe, in fact, that to demonstrate its sincerity the Government should go even further. It should support an amendment that the Opposition will move to this measure at the appropriate stage providing that the court shall be directed not to take into account child endowment for the first child in reaching its conclusion in the basic wage case. That will be a test of the sincerity of the Government. I am prepared to concede that there may be constitutional difficulties in the way of doing what I have suggested, but at least let us explore the possibility of doing it. It is possible for the Parliament, having established a court and determined the scope of its jurisdiction, subsequently to expand or contract that jurisdiction. The Opposition believes that it would be possible to direct the court in the manner that I have suggested. If this be not the appropriate measure to achieve that objective, I invite the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) and the Government to consider the possibility of amending the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide that the Arbitration Court shall determine the basic wage upon the basis of the needs of a man, his wife and one child and that it shall ignore child endowment in respect of the first child.
I cannot resist the temptation to refer to the reversal of form by the Menzies Government in relation to endowing the first child. When child endowment was introduced by the Menzies Government in 1941, the present Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt), who was in charge of the measure, made the following statement: -
The Government has given a great deal of consideration to the provision of an endowment in respect of a first child … it has decided that payment for the first child is not warranted.
So that there would be no mistake about it, the honorable gentleman said further -
The presence of one child in the household does not put it at a serious disadvantage compared with the living standards of its neighbours. Inclusion of first children in the benefit would raise the cost of the endowment by over 80 per cent.
That was the view taken by the Menzies Government then, for reasons that appeared to it at that time, as a political party, to be good ones, but which now are probably causing it great embarrassment as a government. It has completely reversed the - attitude that it adopted when it sponsored child endowment.
Something may be said in the course of this debate regarding the attitude of the Australian Council of Trades Unions to child endowment. If an honorable senator opposite says that the Australian Council of Trades Unions has favoured endowment for the first child, he will be telling only half of the story. It is true that that body supported endowment for the first child, but simultaneously it advocated the imposition of a tax on industry to finance the payments. It also advocated the fixation of prices so that industry itself would bear the major part of the charge and iai order that the ordinary workers and “taxpayers of Australia would not be called upon individually to finance the scheme. Those qualifications must not be overlooked. Last Friday, when I was on my way to Tasmania, I read in the Melbourne Age the following report of the attitude of the Australian Council of Trades Unions to child endowment: -
The Australian Council of Trades Unions claims to be still suspicious of the Federal Government’s scheme to pay child endowment for the first child. Mr. Monk said the trade union movement was not opposed to endowment for the first child, but was very suspicious of the motives behind the scheme. The Federal Government’s action showed that suspicions were well founded. “ It is obvious that payment of child endowment for the first child is a well-conceived plan by the Liberal party, acting for employers’ organizations generally, to relieve themselves of added wage payments at the expense of the general taxpayer, through social service taxation,” said Mr. Monk.
– That is sheer nonsense.
– I am quoting the words of Mr. Monk. The report continues. - “ If the Government was honest and really wanted to do something to assist the family nian, it would have granted child endowment as an added benefit to wages, and not endeavoured to influence the Arbitration Court to reduce the standard of living of a large section of the community by assessing the basic wage on the unit system.”
– It has never done anything of the kind.
– In the interests of industrial peace and of the increase of production in this country - and honorable senators on this side of the chamber are just as interested in those objectives as are honorable senators opposite - the Government should support the amendment that we shall move. It should go to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and urge the court to take no notice of the payments that may be made under the provisions of this bill. Those will be the tests of the sincerity of the Government in this matter.
Before this bill is passed, the Opposition will ask for, and in fact will insist upon, an assurance that what was done in 194.1 will not be repeated. When child endowment was introduced, the taxation concessions in respect of the second child and subsequent children that were then in existence were withdrawn. It was announced that that was part of the plan. In effect, what was given by way of child endowment was, to an appreciable degree, taken away by the withdrawal of taxation concessions. It is quite true that the Income Tax Assessment Bill by which the concessions were withdrawn was passed by the Parliament when the Curtin Government was in office. That bill was prepared by a Liberal-Country party government in 1941, just before it was thrown out of office. Within six months, that position was corrected by Labour. Not only did Labour restore the concessional rebates for a second child and subsequent children, but it also increased the amount of those rebates from, in the case of a wife, £50 to £100, and in the case of a first child, from £50 to £75. In addition, it restored the concessions in respect of a second child and subsequent children.
I come now to what I believe will be, unless I receive some other inspiration, the final stage of my speech. I refer to the utter inadequacy, in the light of rising prices and the increasing strain upon family men, of an additional contribution of 5s. a week to a family budget. In order that this matter may be viewed m its proper perspective, I propose to discuss it from the standpoint of families of different sizes. There are some fourteenchild families in Australia. I know personally of one of them. Under this measure, it is proposed that a family unit shall receive 5s. a week in respect of the first child, irrespective of the ‘size of the family. No one pretends that a payment of 5s., or even 10s., .a week would he sufficient to maintain a child. Taking a fourteen-child family, the payment of 5s. a week that is proposed would represent a weekly payment of 4d. in respect of each child in the family. In a ten-child family, it would <be a weekly payment of 6d. a child, or less than Id. a day, and in a five-child family, ls. a child, or 2$ d. a day.
– That is the increase.
– The additional money would not .he appropriated solely for the first child. It would go into the family budget and be spread over the f family unit. I have given those examples to illustrate the meanness of the Government’s proposal to pay 5s. a week at a time like this. In a four-child family, an additional payment of 5s. a week would represent only ls. 3d. a week for each of the four children. The Minister has said that this proposal is designed to further the health and welfare of the children of Australia. How far would a weekly sum of lOd. in respect of each child in a sixchild family go towards improving the health and welfare of these children?
– The Government’s proposal will involve the expenditure of an additional £15,000,000 a year.
– I realize that. If the payment were to. be 10s. a -week, the additional expenditure would be £30,000,000 a year. I am very pleased that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has made that interjection, because in concluding my remarks I propose to quote the words that were used by the Minister for Social Services in his second-reading speech. I think that we all agreed with him when he said -
All these great national reforms need to be approached with courage. Each time that progress is suggested there are to bc found some reactionaries who express the view that the nation cannot afford the expense involved. There are always some who, perhaps timid, weak and apprehensive, fear that social reforms will weaken standards of living in some direction. I emphasize that this Government holds firmly to the view that the peace, contentment and ‘happiness of the Australian nation depends upon all sections of the community making their just contribution to higher standards of living. I say, therefore, to those reactionaries, or those who are timid and fearful, to accept the proposal with courage. I have no doubt at all that if they do this, they will in the future look back with satisfaction to the fact that they made their contribution to the joy .and happiness that this measure will bring to over 1,000,000 families in Australia who will benefit from it.
At an .appropriate time the Opposition will move that the amount of the endowment in respect of the first child be increased from 5s. to 10s. I invite the Government to approach that proposal with courage. I urge it not to be timid. I invite the Government to consider the excellent passage in the Minister’s second-reading speech to which I have just referred. The sincerity and courage of the Government will be judged upon the attitude that it adopts to the Opposition’s .’amendments. We shall watch it with great interest.
– The .Senate has just listened to a speech that I can describe only as a very remarkable one. It was designed to cloak the real attitude of the Labour party to this measure. We were told by Senator McKenna, who is Deputy Leader of the Opposition, that the operation of the measure was liable to affect the basic wage in a manner that would be detrimental to the workers of this country. One would have thought, from the arguments that he expounded when dealing with that matter, that it was the intention of the Opposition to oppose this measure because the payment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child-
– Was inadequate.
– No, because it was designed to undermine the basic wage structure of this country.
– Of course it is.
– If it is the contention of the Opposition that a payment of 5s. a week in respect of the first child will have such a dreadful effect upon the basic wage, it is astounding that Senator McKenna should have announced in his speech that the Labour party is .in favour of increasing the payment from 5s. to 10s. a week. If a payment of 5s. will have a terrible effect upon the basic wage, surely the effect of a payment of 10s. ‘Would be much more detrimental. Honorable senators opposite cannot have it both ways. I suggest in all seriousness that the proposition of honorable senators opposite that the .endowment with which this measure deals should be increased from 5s. to 10s. a week either exposes all their election propaganda on (this subject as nothing more than hypocrisy or proves that the proposal to increase the amount from 5s. to 10s. is designed to kill the bill. The Opposition is not prepared to come straight out and say that it will vote against this bill. It desires to kill the measure by subterfuge. In effect, honorable senators are saying, “We will kill it by pretending that we want the amount to be 10s. instead of 5s. Having made that pretence we know that the Government cannot accept that proposal. In that way we will achieve the object of destroying the bill that we set out to achieve in the first place “. I suggest that it is desirable that we should approach this subject calmly and dispassionately. That involves a careful consideration of the whole subject of child endowment. It has been suggested that child endowment is a danger to the basic wage structure of this country. If that is true to-day it was true .in 1941. When citing the judgment of the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration that was delivered in 1941, Senator McKenna contended that the method of assessing the basic wage would be affected by this measure. For the purpose of supporting that contention he read from the judgment of Chief Judge Beeby. In the 1941 decision the Chief Judge said -
Since the conclusion of the hearing the Commonwealth Government has announced its intention to initiate such a scheme-
He was referring to a scheme of child endowment -
If and when this is done future fixations of the basic wage will be greatly simplified, but the announcement of the Government’s intentions does not of itself justify any departure from past methods.
– The Chief Judge referred to the announcement.
– But it did not remain an announcement. The ‘announcement referred to at the time that the Chief. Judge -delivered his judgment was implemented by an act -of Parliament, and child endowment became a part of the established scheme of social services; in this country. It has remained so ever since. If anything is to be simplified, it is as the Chief Judge said, the fixation of the basic wage in the future, because of the system of child endowment which became a part of the established la-w of this country in .1941. When the child endowment measure was introduced into this Parliament in 1941 it was welcomed by every member of the then Opposition who owed allegiance to the same political party as the present Opposition.
– But that legislation excluded the first child.
– Whether that is so or not, it had nothing to do with this subject, if full credence is to be given to the statement of Chief Judge Beeby that the -method of calculating the basic wage would be simplified if such a system were introduced.
– What did he mean by “ simplified “ ?
– Honorable senators opposite have heard all of these arguments before. It was a system under which 59. was to be paid in respect of every child other than the first child. When that system was introduced the Australian Labour party did .not oppose it on the grounds that it would undermine the basic wage. On the contrary, that party supported it. The only complaint by the Australian Labour party was that the scheme did not include the first child.
It is well that we should consider this matter in its proper perspective and expose the hypocrisy of the claims now being made by the Opposition. T was a member of this chamber when Senator Keane commented on this subject.
– That was a misfortune.
– Perhaps it was a misfortune for me. Although Senator Keane was not then the leader of his party in the Senate, he afterwards became its leader. As reported in Hansard, volume 166, at page -612, Senator Keane said -
I should have liked the measure to have applied to all children up to the agc of sixteen years. Perhaps, at some future time, an amendment in that direction will he embodied in the scheme.
At that time he knew what the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration had said about it. I suppose when those words were uttered by the honorable senator in 1941 every .member of the Australian Labour party in the Parliament would have supported such an extension. Doubtless they would have supported any amendment proposal that child endowment should be extended to the first child. As reported in the same volume of Mansard, at page 617, Senator Aylett said -
I welcome the bill, although I consider that it is many years overdue. It does not contain all that I desire, but I regard it as the most important measure that has been introduced since I became a member of the Senate.
Surely .Senator Aylett must be accepted as one who expresses orthodox Labour opinions. Having regard to the history of recent months Senator Aylett would not now be a member of this chamber with a long future term of office ahead of him if he had not expounded orthodox Labour views. He continued -
Now that a start is being made with child endowment, Parliament will be able to enlarge the scheme in the near future . . . Although I am grateful to the Government for having introduced the bill, I hope that in the near future the scheme will be extended so as to provide endowment for all children under the age of sixteen years, or at least that payments will be made in respect of one child when the father does not receive the basic wage. Many young married couples are more in need of child endowment when the first child arrives than they are after the birth of the second or third child.
– That sounds very like my second-reading speech.
- Senator Aylett continued -
When the first child is born they are paying rent and probably meeting time-payment charges on furniture in an effort to establish a home.
– The Opposition is completely deflated.
– Yet we are told to-day, in all seriousness apparently, that this measure which will extend these benefits to the one-child family is going to undermine the basic wage structure in this country.
– It must not be allowed to undermine the basic wage structure.
– I shall read several other Hansard reports of statements by members of the House of Representatives, taken at random. They are very interesting, in view of the attitude of honorable senators opposite to-day. If honorable senators would refer to the records they would see that almost every member of the Australian Labour party in the House of Representatives at the time supported the contention that this benefit should be extended to the first child.
– We are not opposing it now.
– As reported in the same volume of Hansard, at page 515, the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Morgan) said -
I trust that in the near future favorable consideration will be given to the payment of endowment in respect of the first child.
At page 52.1, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), is reported as saying, in his inimitable style -
Within our own recollection of history, primogeniture involved .certain privileges, but now it is stigmatized in that the first child is not to be endowed, although it is perfectly true, ‘as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) said in his speech on this bill, that anything which helps the family after the arrival of the second and subsequent children, must also be an aid to the first child. That, in my view, is not sufficient.
I do not want to weary honorable senators by citing a series of quotations in order to strengthen my point. Having regard to the case that Senator McKenna has sought to make, I emphasize that the important thing is that all of those statements were made after the judgment of the court in 1941. Despite what Chief Judge Beeby said on that occasion, the Labour party supported the scheme of child endowment. Its only complaint was that the scheme did not include the first child.
– We want a basic wage fixed on the three-unit principle at least, plus child endowment.
– It is important that we should endeavour to clarify the issues that this proposition raises. As I understand it, child endowment is a system which is intended to give to those people who have the responsibility of rearing families, some relative advantage over those who do not carry that responsibility. It is designed to ensure that those who have the responsibilities of bringing up children shall enjoy, at any rate during the years when those children are likely to be a charge and burden on them, some relatively greater share of the national income than do the members of the community who do not carry those responsibilities. I suggest that the problems which arise in regard to the provision of a system of child endowment are quite distinct from the problems associated with the fixation of the basic wage. There is nothing in this bill which is designed in any way to affect the means whereby the basic wage of this country is at present fixed. I suggest that it is necessary to deal with this problem of child endowment quite apart from the problem of the fixation of the basic wage. In adopting that view I am doing no more than was done by Mr. Curtin, the revered leader of the Australian Labour party in 1941. In the very speech from which Senator McKenna. has quoted, Mr. Curtin had some things to say on. this subject. He said, for example, at page 418 -
There is no relevant relationship between the wages fixed by arbitral authorities in Australia and a system of family allowances.
– Should not be.
– He said there was no relevant relationship between them; not that there should not be. He was expressing the considered view of the Labour party of which he was the leader. He was aware of all the judgments to which Senator McKenna has referred. In another passage, on page 417, I think that Mr. Curtin indicated his approach to this problem when he said - lt is necessary to deal with the problem of family allowances, regardless of the wage determined by any arbitral authority. Whether the authority should fix the basic wage high or low, so long as it took into account the family which is accepted as the standard, or determined upon some special unit of its own selection, so long would it happen that families whose members were larger than the standard or the average would suffer some disadvantage in their own households. Therefore, what we arc faced with is not the problem of the minimum wage or what is the status of labour as a class, but what is the degree of disparity between the family life of this country, as wo find it in many instances, and that of the standard or average family in receipt of the wage which the courts or other authorities’ declare to be the minimum. So there is no relevant connexion between wage-fixing as such and a system of family allowances.
I accept that view which was the view of the Leader of the Labour party at that time. In accepting it, I suggest that the problem which arises is not one which is mixed up with the basic wage. It assumes that there will be a basic wage which will be paid to all workers in industry, and that that will be fixed by the Arbitration Court. It assumes also that over and above the basic wage that the Arbitration Court may fix, and on -whatever basis it may fix it, some relative advantage will flow by means of child endowment to those who have the responsibility of bringing up families. If this measure is accepted by the Parliament, as I am sure it will be, our scheme will include those who have the responsibility of bringing up a family of one child only
Some reference has been made to the attitude of the Arbitration Court in relation to this matter when it was announced in the course of the election campaign. Senator McKenna has read the statement which was made by the court on that occasion. The court adjourned for one month. I assume that it adjourned for that period of time merely because this matter was the subject of disputation in the course of the election campaign, and had been made the subject of such disputation, not by the present Government, but by the Labour party. In other words, I suggest that it was not the mere announcement that the present Government would introduce a system of child endowment for the first child which brought about the adjournment of the case. If that is the basis of the adjournment, I cannot understand why the court acted as it did. That view is not supported, either, by the statement read by Senator McKenna himself. What appears to have influenced the court was that the whole subject of the basic wage had become a subject of election controversy because the Labour party chose to drag it into the discussion on child endowment. If the mere proposal to introduce child endowment for the first child was the reason why the Arbitration Court adjourned for a month, I should like to know why it is not still adjourned because so far all that exists is a proposal to extend child endowment to the. first child.
– In the meantime the government has- been changed.
– A Government has been elected, but governments do not make legislation, as honorable senators have- been reminded frequently in this chamber during recent weeks. The Government has a majority in the House of Representatives, but not in this chamber. Therefore, I suggest that child endowment still remains a proposal and nothing more. It is in a bill but it has not become law. Whether it will become law or- not has not been made clear this afternoon because it depends on the Opposition in this chamber. If the Opposition persists in the course of attack outlined by Senator McKenna in his speech there will be no child endowment for the first child and the Labour- party will be responsible. Let me make that quite clear. The proposition in the Prime Minister’s policy speech was quite clear and unequivocal and that is the proposition, to which the Government gives effect in this bill. The mere announcement of the proposal Gould- not have been the basis upon which the Arbitration Court adjourned its proceedings. What Mr. Menzies said, was -
Itf the basic wage, whether increased in amount or not, remains on the same foundation as at present, we will give some extra, help to families by providing an endowment of 5s. a week for the first child under sixteen years, the second and subsequent children continuing: to- be endowed, as at present, at 10s. a WeeK
That is the first proposition, and it is being debated by the chamber to-day. It does not contain the slightest suggestion of any alienation of the basic- wage. The method of assessing- the basic wage has not been altered .und on that basis the policy speech was perfectly clear. It proposed: to add 5s. endowment to the amounts which; people receive on account of the basic wage if there should be no alteration of the method of its- assessment. Surely there was nothing in that announcement to create any difficulty for the court. The next proposal was purelyspeculative and’ did not ask the court to do anything: It merely had regard to the fact that some suggestion had’ been made before the court by some of the- parties’ who were being heard there that themethod of fixing the basic wage might be related-‘ to> a family unit of a man and his wife. In relation to that, all the policy speech said was -
If’ the foundation of the basic wage is altered-
And that is a matter for the Arbitration Court, not for governments, not for political parties, and not for this legislature - and its amount is calculated by reference to the need’s of a married couple without children (and we have noticed that such a basis has been suggested).-
That is, suggested in the court - then we shall, of course, provide endowment for the first child on the 10s. rate.
– In other words, he told the court, “‘Whatever you do we will alter it “.
– Nothing of the kind”.
– That is what caused the postponement.
– No. First of all, the right honorable gentleman said that if there was no alteration of the present method of fixing the basic wage, his Government would pay 5s. in addition, but if the court in its wisdom - and it is -a matter for the court - adopted a family unit of husband and wife alone, then the Government would increase the endowment for the first child to 10s.
– Alter it again !
– No. Surely those two statements are perfectly clear. There is no qualification. If the basic wage remained unchanged, 5s. extra would be paid to every family in which there were children. If the basic wage were altered in respect of the- means of assessment so as to be based merely on the needs of a man and his wife, something else would happen. I suggest that there was nothing in that statement which could possibly of itself have created any embarrassment for the court. If there was any embarrassment it was caused by the Labour party introducing this issue of the basic wage quite irrelevantly. That is demonstrated beyond argument by the fact that the court did not adjourn the proceedings to see what was- the ultimate upshot of these proceedings. If it had, it would still he adjourned. .It .’adjourned merely during the election campaign when this controversy raged among the people as to whether the child endowment payment would ‘interfere with the existing basic wage standard.
Senator McKenna envisaged another very strange amendment of this bill and I give him credit for knowing that such an amendment would be unconstitutional in this measure. As I understand it, he proposed that there should he included in the bill a direction to the court as to how it should fix the basic wage. This Parliament has no control whatever over the basic wage. It has not created the basic wage. It cannot amend that wage. I would be prepared to say without further consideration that it could not lawfully give directions to the Arbitration Court as to what it should do with the basic wage.
– This Parliament could express an opinion, could it not?
– It would be of no consequence whatever. What the Opposition is asking the Government to do is to go through the farce of including in a bill that, at present, is perfectly valid in nature, a clause that may have the effect of rendering the entire act and the whole scheme invalid. That clause in itself, even if considered alone, would not be upheld in the court. The reason for that is perfectly clear.
– It is a political reason.
– The reason is that constitutionally this Parliament has no control over wages and conditions of labour. The Constitution contains a power whereby we can provide the machinery of conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the bounds of one State. We have the power to create tribunals to deal with such disputes.
– And to declare a wage unit.
– I shall not admit that. This Parliament has no power to direct the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that it must settle the disputes that come before it by fixing a wage that has reference to a family unit.
– I said a “ wage unit “.
– If the court of its own volition decided that Australia “was to forsake the system of having a basic wage fixed by reference to the needs of a family unit, it would be perfectly free to do so, and nothing that this Parliament could do could affect the situation. I believe that Senator McKenna is as well aware as I am of the accuracy of the statements that I am making. I consider that the proposed amendment is just window dressing. It comes from a party that as far as I can gather, desires to destroy this bill.
– Oh no, we do not!
– Well, that is certainly the impression that I gained and it is certainly the impression which Senator McKenna himself conveyed in the last five minutes of his speech.
– ‘Only to the Attorney-General.
– The whole of his speech was directed to the -view that the introduction of this measure would lead to an undermining of the basic -wage structure of this country. Throughout the debate on the Address-in-Reply, during the last two or three weeks, honorable senators opposite have advanced the same propositions, merely repeating what the Labour party said in the course of the general election campaign. During that campaign the Labour party set out to confuse the public about this matter. But its members were not prepared to offer a proposal themselves to pay -endowment of 5s. or 10s. a week for the first child. They said not a word about such a proposal during the election campaign. All we heard at that time, and all we have beard so far, was that the present Government’s proposal was likely to undermine the ‘basic wage structure of Australia. I must be pardoned, therefore, if I entertain at least some .suspicions that honorable senators opposite desire to defeat this bill, and that by means of the amendment that ‘they intend to put forward, they hope to defeat the bill without the Labour party coming straight out into the open. But we can resolve that -issue very easily. There is one way in which the (Opposition can demonstrate the sincerity of its statements that it desires child endowment of as. a week to be paid in future in respect of the .first child in each family and that is by supporting this bill as it stands.
– Why does the Government object to doubling the payment?
– We object to doubling it at the present stage because the proposition that we put to the people during the general election campaign was that we would pay 5s. endowment in respect of the first child. That is the proposition that the people have endorsed. We are therefore proposing to give effect to the policy that the public endorsed. If the Labour party recognizes the fact that the public did endorse that policy, and if it sincerely desires effect to be given to the wishes that the people expressed by their votes at the general election, then it will support this bill as it stands. If it persists in the attitude outlined by Senator McKenna, the only conclusion that can be reached by any one who has heard the varied views expressed in this chamber on this subject is that the Labour party’s course of conduct is designed to destroy the bill. If the Opposition persists in that conduct it will destroy the bill and the public of Australia will know whom to blame for the result.
Debate (on motion by Senator Katz) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 16th March (vide page 866), on motion by Senator McC allum -
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to: -
May it please Youn Excellency :
We, the Senate of the Common-wealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– At the outset I desire to extend my congratulations to the Minis ter for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) and to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) on the fact that, as a result of the decision of the electors last December, they to-day occupy positions of great responsibility in this Parliament. Although honorable senators now in Opposition, who were then on the Government side of the chamber, often disagreed with the views .expressed by those honorable senators. I am sure that all of us admit that during the life of the last Parliament, when the Opposition consisted only of Senator Cooper, Senator O’Sullivan and Senator Annabelle Rankin, those senators worked untiringly and unceasingly for their party and according to what they considered right. I say without reservation that I, at least, offer them my congratulations. I cannot add to those sentiments a hope that Senator O’Sullivan and Senator Cooper will occupy their present positions for long, because up to date I am not satisfied that their occupancy of those positions for a long period would be in the best interests of Australia. Their appointment to their positions, however, is a reward for services well done according to their point of view, and my congratulations are sincere.
On the 10th December last the people of this great Commonwealth changed their Government under a system of election that is the envy of the world. Although the result of the election was not pleasing to my party, we nevertheless accepted it in the spirit in which the decision was given : we realized that the people no longer had confidence in us as a government. It cannot be denied that there are many countries in the world today which would give a great deal to have some semblance of our system of parliamentary elections. It is to the credit of this Parliament that it is the only Parliament in Australia in which both Houses are elected on an adult franchise. Members of the Government parties have had much to say regarding the success of the Liberal-Country League Government in South Australia in being returned to office at a recent State election. I am sure that the Minister for Trade and Customs will admit that although the anti-Labour parties in this Parliament have obtained a majority in the House of Representatives and have increased their representation in this chamber, in which they still have a minority, an .analysis of the aggregate votes cast in the last general election, on the principle of one vote one alue, would show that the Government’s majority is not as overwhelming as it appears to be, although the Government has such a large preponderance of members in the other House. It has been claimed that the South Australian elections are an example of a continued drift in favour of the anti-Labour parties. I give an emphatic denial to that proposition. There is no comparison between the form of democracy operating in the federal sphere and the form that obtains in South Australia. As a matter of fact, I regard the South Australian electoral system as a travesty of democracy inasmuch as onethird of the electors elect two-thirds of the representatives. According to statistics, approximately only 7,000 votes in South Australia were required to elect a Liberal-Country League member, but it took 11,500 votes to secure the return of a Labour party member. The Labour party has never been in actual power in South Australia. When the provision for a five-year’s parliament in South Australia was implemented by a LiberalCountry League Government, it did not find favour with the people, and so the government instituted what it termed an electoral reform. The electorates were so gerrymandered that the dice were loaded for all time against the Labour party. I defy contradiction when I say that in several industrial electorates, in the Adelaide metropolitan area in particular, the Labour vote is four or five times as large as the number of electors contained in some of the safe conservative seats held by the anti-Labour parties. The Premier of South Australia, Mr. Playford, is a shrewd man. He has done a tremendous amount of good for his State with the assistance, at all times, of the Labour Opposition. Mr. Playford is a man who, in many ways, sees the good in the Labour party’s policy, and he does not hesitate to act. with the assistance of the Labour party on what he sees. He has been successful in bringing about a number of reforms which constitute what the present Australian Government dubs socialism of the deepest dye. I know that unanimity has not always existed in the ranks of his party on proposals of that kind. It was touch and go whether the Playford Government would secure the passage of the legislation under which it acquired the Adelaide Electricity Supply Company’s undertaking. The party had to crack the whip in that instance. It would be interesting to learn what was the real attitude of many towards that proposal of the reactionaries in the Upper House in that State, which, of course, is elected on a limited franchise. Therefore, the position in South Australia is not identical with the position that exists here. The so-called democracy in South Australia about which we hear so much is but a fraud.
Many interesting and sincere speeches have been made in the course of this debate. I regret that weather conditions have prevented Senator Mattner from putting in an appearance in this chamber to-day. I was particularly perturbed by the look which he gave Opposition senators from South Australia when he referred to the subject of repatriation. His attitude implied that we have no sympathy with ex-service personnel. I assure Government supporters that we have nothing to be ashamed of in our record in the repatriation field. Three Opposition senators from South Australia and one South Australian member of the Opposition in the House of Assembly are members of the same sub-branch of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia in that State. During World War I., when the army authorities were looking for really ferocious men, my colleague Senator Finlay and I were drafted into the famous 10th Battalion which was the pride of the Australian Army in that conflict. Therefore, Senator Mattner’s implication against us was groundless. Indeed, all members of the Labour party hi this Parliament have given proof of their practical sympathy with ex-service personnel. I realize that the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) has a difficult job ahead of him, because it is generally admitted that the holder of the repatriation portfolio in any government has always been fair game for exservicemen’s associations. The record of the
Chifley Government in. respect of: repatriation far excelled, that of any of its predecessors.
The presence of Senator Hannafordin the Senate recalls many happy memories to> my mind. I was closely associated with the honorable senator’s father when both of uswere members of the Parliament in South’ Australia. Perhaps, if he werealive to-day he would be surprised to find that I did not take notice of the advice that he gave me. Senator Hannaford made a sincere speech.’ He said, in effect, that whilst he did not doubt our sincerity in respect of many problems^ he did not think that we would set the Thames on fire. If he had in mind the- Labour party’s attitude towards communism,. I can assure him that we- shall set the Thames on fire. However, while the honorable senator was speaking I was reminded of the biblical assurance that hope exists for even the most hardened sinner. I trust that Senator Hannaford ill soon see the light and join the Labour party. I shall be only too pleased to give him whatever assistance I can in that direction. It is unusual to hear a new senator in his maiden speech express views so favorable to hrs opponents as Senator Hannaford did.
The rising cost of living is causing greater concern to the Australian housewife to-day than any other problem with which she may be confronted. As I have said, om many previous occasions in this chamber, our opponents are insincere in. their approach to this matter, because they were mainly responsible for the defeat of the Chifley Government’s referendum proposals that the people should’ give power to this Parliament to continue to control prices on an Aus.traliawide basis. During that referendum, campaign honorable senators opposite in their propaganda over the air and in the press incessantly told the people that the’ States could control prices more effectively than the Commonwealth could. Our opponents must have known that that claim was unfounded, because a State can effectively control the prices of only those commodities that are manufactured within its boundaries. I long for the time when a future Australian government will again ask the people to give power- to the National1 Parliament to control prices. I regret that our opponents saw fit to play at party politicswhen that- issue was submitted to the people. The time is long overdue- when all parties should take concerted action to obtain for this Parliament adequatepowers to govern- in the best interests of the nation. Should such a referendum be taken. I trust that it will be free from the bitterness’ and insincerity that marked the campaign during’ the last referendum. Until the National Parliament has complete power to control prices, the Australian people can hope for relief from the- present rising living costs only through a fall in the prices we are now receiving for our primary products, and that state of affairs, of course, would be equally- disastrous. The position that has arisen as the result of the increased cost of living was summed up in the following report published in the Sunday Telegraph of the 26th February -
An executive of a firm controlling a large chain of Sydney theatres said: “Every suburban theatre in Sydney has a waiting list of women anxious to do casual night work, as ushers. This is a post-war phenomenon. Before the waT we sought casual ushers. Many of the women now on our waiting lists are married to men in the lower middle income group. They really need’ the 12s. 9d. they get for a night’s casual ushering to help spin nut the family finances. Nor does the fall in the value of the £1 apply only to married women. Before the war; office girls: left almost automatically on- marriage. Not now. The boss- with- the very efficient secretary no longer fears losing her as soon as she marries. Most of them continue working for some time. They have to. Most of the young men of the type wilora these girls’ marry simply cannot earn enough in an inflated’ economy to keep a home. In. the last five or six years, not one of my office girls has left as soon as she married “.
Silently, they have expressed, and will continue to express, through the ballot box, their anger against any Government or any political machine which does not ease their load by stopping the flight of the £1 and putting value back into their husbands’ earnings. Their problem also has an important medical’ aspect. A leading Sydney psychiatrist said this week : “ Poverty is- the modern tragedy of the lower middle income group, but the tragedy has fingers which reach right through society. The incomes of the menfolk in this group - the natural providers - have not kept pace with living: costs-. So their women go to work. This is unnatural. It leads to loss of companionship, wilfrd but unhappy avoidance of children, frustration, misery, divorce. And children left day by day in nurseries, no matter how kindly the care, cannot, fulfil their, emotional life. Many feel unwanted and insecure”. So this story adds up to this: Sydney’s homes and children must suffer while our women chase the vanishing £1.
The conditions described in that article exist in every city and town of any size in the Commonwealth.
Of the problems that confront the primary producer to-day, those that call most urgently for attention after the provision of a payable price for his productsare the provision of adequate water conservation and the prevention of soil erosion. I was interested to hear the remarks of new senators with reference to these problems. As- a layman, I should hestitate to say which of these two problems causes the greater loss to the nation. I should be happy if modern science, which has evolved most frightening weapons of destruction, applied itself with equal effectiveness to the invention of means of. preserving life and enabling man to enjoy Nature’s bounty to the fullest degree. I agree with Senator Hannaford that South Australia is a comparatively poor State. As one who was familiar with the conditions that existed in that State over a quarter of a century ago, I greatly deplore the havoc that lias been caused in the meantime by soil erosion. Land that was previously fertile has been stripped of forest and natural herbage. Over-stocking has contributed substantially to the inroads of soil erosion. A committee that was recently set up by the- South Australian Government’ to investigate the improvement of wheat areas reported that South Australian wheat lacked .strength because the soil bad been denuded of natural qualities. The result is that the wheat now being produced in that State is not of first-class quality for the production of flour for bread.-making.
– That is mainly because the wheat grown is not of the right variety.
– The honorable senator, should bring that fact to the notice of the proper authorities. However, it is fairly common knowledge that a strong wheat degenerates rapidly if sown in soils- that are deficient in the qualities- necessary to produce nutritious grain, and that crop yield is not necessarily, related to full nutritional qualities:
To-day, it is- admitted that. West Australian, soils produce the best milling wheat in Australia. This is probably because much of. the West Australianlands have not yet- had the hammering, that wheat-growing areas- in the eastern States have taken. When our soils contained organic matter in the correct proportions, they were neither blown away nor washed away, but the organic content of our soils has been burned out by continuous cropping, and it is necessary to train- men for soil conservation work. Organic matter has more than a mechanical purpose. The absence of organic matter means that there is no biological association with production used for food. Because of this, our food lacks life, and’ we’ get low strength wheat, sterilityclinics, and constant demands for bigger and better hospitals: When we1 abandon the- futile theory tff constant cropping of our lands and feed our soils, we shall be able to give our people food that is nutritionally complete, and poorquality wheat and flour will be just an historical reminder of our sins of ignorance and our greed, for which Dame Nature exacts- the penalty. I trust that proper attention will be given, to this problem by the Government.
I was interested to hear Senator Wood, a Queenslander, in his instructive speech to this chamber, comment on the petrol’ tax. In fairness to the Labour Government, it should be pointed out that the history of this impost goes back to a previous anti - Labour Administration. Wherever one travels in South Australia one hears protests such as that made by Senator Wood about the use of the revenue that is derived from the petrol tax-. I agree with some of the things that the honorable senator said, but I should not like to be misunderstood. I believe that the revenue from this tax should be distributed to the various States for the specific task of making and maintaining the arterial roads that are necessary for the development of this- country. Money should be granted without stint for this purpose,.bearing in mind, of course, manpower difficulties. On the 11th October of last year, I asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether thepetrol tax revenue allotted by the then Government to district council’s and local governing bodies for the maintenance and construction of country roads had been actually expended, and if so, whether the Government would consider a larger allocation in the current financial year. The reply was -
The distribution of this grant to local authorities is arranged by the States subject to the Commonwealth Minister for Transport approving of the proposed distribution.
The Minister added that the full amount of £2,000,000 had not been expended in the States by the end of the financial year 1948-49. I ascertained from inquiries that I made in South Australia that some local governing authorities had expended their full allocation, but that others had not done so for various reasons. The Government would be well advised, I consider, to investigate the possibility of making some arrangements whereby local governing authorities that had been able to expend the full sum allocated to them would be able to come to the assistance of others that had exhausted their grants. In that way mutual assistance could be given. That is most desirable.
I should like now to say a few words in rebuttal of the often repeated statement of Labour’s political opponents that we of the Labour party have something in common with the Communist party. Speaking personally, and, I am sure, on behalf of my colleagues, I say that communism is anathema to members of the Labour party. We claim, in fact, that the Labour party is the only political party which, in season and out of season, has fought the Communists. Senator Maher laughs at that statement. That is a change from his usual pessimistic appearance which sometimes make one wonder where the world is heading. He and his colleagues pose as the saviours of this country in the fight against communism, hut I deny their right to do so. However, we are mistaken if we believe that, but for the Communists, we should be enjoying the full advantages of democratic order and good government., When the Marxist says that capitalism has, within itself, the seeds of its own destruction, he speaks with a grain of truth, and what he says is not altogether rubbish when he talks of “ the fatal insanities spawned bv a dying social system threatening all mankind “. If there is - and I believe that there is - grim humour in the failure of the Communist to realize that his ideology, although it might mean the end of capitalism and all the abuses of a system that he hates, would really consolidate slavery in its worst form, there is just as much humour in capitalism thundering forth the banning of communism, because capitalism is the seedbed of communism. Mr. R. H. Tawney, made a vital point when he wrote -
A reasonable estimate of economic organization must allow for the fact that unless industry is to be paralysed by recurrent revolts on the part of outraged human nature, it must satisfy criteria which are not purely economic.
This, capitalism does not and cannot do, and, while it remains the sole determining system of society, we shall never be free from recurrent revolts and the like. Until society is re-organized in such a way that it no longer offers an insult to the dignity of Christian man, the advantages of democratic order and good government can never be secure for humanity which, after all, is the only part of the whole universe that really matters. Hence, the earnest appeal made bv Senator Cole of Tasmania, a newcomer to this chamber, for a transformation of our entire educational system, finds a very warm spot in my heart. Pope’s line -
Just as. the twig is bent, the tree’s inclin’d is most appropriate in this connexion. Only by a complete re-organization of our educational system on sound Christian doctrines and teachings, can we ever hope to banish forever from the present and future peoples of the world the dastardly teaching of atheistic communism and its unblushing illegitimate father, monopoly capitalism.
There is one final point that I should like to make and I hope that my words will receive the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator O’Sullivan) and his followers. I think that I know the honorable gentleman’s outlook on life, and his regard for human values, and I propose therefore to take this opportunity to mention a matter which I should already have raised in this chamber by asking a question, or by speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, had I known that my contribution to this debate was to be made at this late stage. I am positive that every decent parent and citizen in this country deplores the published articles on the shameless adulterous lives led by famous and glamorous stars of the motion picture world. I have never claimed to be .the sole custodian of public morals but, as a member of this National Parliament, I submit that, in the interest of national morality, we have a duty to perform. Not a small part of that duty is the preservation and, if possible, the elevation, of the morals of our own people. I ask this Government to render all the service that it can towards ending the publication of articles such as those that we have recently read about Ingrid Bergman and Rita Hayworth. Would the motion picture industry stop at anything in its attempt to boost box office takings ? Recently I read an advertisement in a South Australian newspaper for one of Ingrid Bergman’s pictures. In that advertisement were blazoned these words -
The Bergman you thought you would never see.
It is sad indeed that purveyors of the vilest and filthiest form of animal life should be publicly paraded in the press to a world in which so many outstanding leaders in all walks of life are working for a return to Christian standards. I agree with the bill “ to curb immorality and lewdness “ in films which was recently introduced in the American Senate by Senator Edwin Johnson who, sponsoring his measure, spoke in strong and scathing terms. I do not know just how far the Commonwealth Government has power to go in this direction, but I am sure that every member of this Parliament looks with utter disgust on articles of the kind that I have mentioned, and I hope that the Government will do everything in its power to ensure that we have read for the last time about the unsavoury lives of those who are supposed to be exponents of art and drama.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– I desire at the outset of my remarks to congratulate the newly elected members of the Senate upon the speeches that they have delivered on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech, although, needless to say, I do not agree with everything that they have said. It is a great ordeal to deliver a maiden speech in this chamber. I desire especially to congratulate the two new lady senators upon their excellent contributions to this debate.
One of the most interesting passages in the Governor-General’s Speech was that in which reference was made to the possibility that Their Majesties will visit Australia in 1952. It was most unfortunate that the Royal Visit that was planned to take place last year had to be abandoned. On behalf of all honorable senators on this side of the chamber 1 express our deep and sincere regret at the cancellation of that proposed visit, especially in view of the circumstances that caused the cancellation. When Their Majesties do visit this country they will be welcomed by those Australians who are represented by the members of the Opposition as warmly as they will be welcomed by those who are represented by honorable, senators opposite.
The announcement by the GovernorGeneral that the Government proposes to establish a parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs deserves examination and consideration by the Opposition; but if the committee is to function efficiently and intelligently there must be a relaxation of the present censorship of documents that are received by senior Ministers, especially the Prime Minister and the Minister for External Affairs. I do not suggest that that censorship is entirely wrong, but if the standing committee does not have access to all available information, including some documents of a secret nature, it will be of little value. The reference to this matter in His Excellency’s Speech was very vague, and I cannot indicate the manner in which the Opposition will react to the proposal until further information about it is given by the Government.
– Did not the honorable senator hear the statement on foreign affairs that was read in this chamber recently?
– I listened for an hour and a naif to the Attorney-General (Senator Spicer) while he read something.
– The honorable senator does not appear to have followed it.
– The Minister was engaged upon his task for an hour and a half. At the end of that time, he exhibited signs of tiredness. I do not think that he was well trained for the occasion.
His Excellency also referred to the intention of the Government to pay attention to the importance of achieving a well-balanced pattern of decentralization. The inclusion of that passage in the Speech was certainly a step in the right direction, but during the last 20 or 30 years the decentralization of industry in this country has been the political football of the conservative parties, and I fear that the reference to it in the Speech may have been only show and that nothing more will be heard of it now that the general election is over. I believe that any action that this Government takes to promote decentralization will not be comparable with that which was taken :by the Chifley Government in cooperation with the States. The factories that are now studded throughout the ‘Commonwealth are a lasting monument to the practical decentralization policy that was followed by the Chifley Government.
I noted with pleasure the statement by the .Governor-General that the Governmnent will not interfere with the carrying out of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme. That is another matter that has been the political football of all parties for many .years. The Chifley Government was the only government to take practical steps to implement the scheme. His Excellency said also that the Government hopes to secure in the carrying out of the scheme the statutory and administrative co-operation of the States concerned . I do not know whether “hat means that some constitutional difficulties have been discovered recently. The Snowy Mountains project is of great importance to the people of Australia, and if there is :any impediment to its implementation, the Parliament should immediately be informed of it. I ask the Minister to deal with that aspect of the matter when he replies to the debate.
I turn now to the subject of coal. It was reported yesterday in the press that Mr. Cramer, who represents the electorate of Bennelong in the House of Representa tives, told the Sydney County Council that this Government is doing much, although we do not hear of it, to increase the production of coal in all the States. I want to know what it is that the Government is doing.
– It is keeping its actions dark.
– The Government certainly is keeping them dark. Its efforts are not meeting with much success because many persons in this country are now out of employment as a result of inadequate coal production. In the policy speech that Mr. Menzies delivered on behalf of the present Government parties, he outlined a policy in relation to coal that closely followed that of the Chifley Government. He accepted the Joint Coal Board, which was established by that Government. He said further that open-cut mines would be developed as rapidly as possible, in collaboration with State governments, and that particular attention would be given to the transport of open-cut coal to the markets. The Chifley Government took practical steps to develop open-cut production in Australia. It made a grant of £150,000 to the Government of South Australia, for the development of open-cut mining fit the Leigh Creek coal-field, and last November a special committee was sent to Queensland to investigate the possibility of developing open-cut production at the Callide coal-field. In New South Wales, the Joint ‘Coal Board, -which was established by the New ‘South Wales ‘Government and the Commonwealth, is concentrating its ‘efforts upon open-cut coal production. The activities of the present Government to intensify the development of open-cut mining will probably prove to be futile, because insufficient man-power is available. The machinery that is necessary for .the ‘development of openrut production was imported or manufactured in this country as quickly as possible during the last two or three years. in 1941, which was the last -year of ioffi.ee of the previous Menzies .Government, 07,000 tons of coal was produced from open-cuts in Kew South ‘Wales. In 1948-49, which was the last year of office of the Chifley Government, the production of coal from open-cuts in New South Wales was 1,329,000 tons. Not only did cbe ‘Chifley Government encourage private enterprise to assist in the development of open-cut coal production, but the Commonwealth itself also developed an open-cut field. ‘During ‘the year 1948-49, 130 major units of open-cut equipment were put into production in New South Wales, and other equipment valued at £1,250,000 was ordered. In addition, the Joint Coal Board ordered eight standard screening, crushing and loading plants. Four of those ‘have ‘been installed. The New South Wales railways have undertaken a major expansion programme to enable them .to handle the increased supplies of coal that will be produced from open-cuts and underground mines. The programme provides for the acquisition of an additional 2,000 -40-ton coal waggons. An impediment to the transportation of coal in New .South Wales is the lack of plant.
– Does the honorable senator consider that “ go-slowism “ has anything to do with it ?
– The workers in that industry have been going very slow since the present Government assumed office.
– Labour trained them -during the last eight years.
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) would be well advised to listen carefully to what I am saying, because, unlike some of the answers that the Minister has made to questions in this chamber, it is factual. Some of the Minister’s answers^ - ;as I shall prove later - have been definitely untrue. The Prime Minister also stated that high priority would be ;given to the provision of -plant for the mechanization of coal mines, and that financial assistance would be extended to the industry where ‘required. I remind the Senate that that practice has existed since the Joint Goal Board was established. In many instances the imported plant has been admitted to this country duty free. Mining companies that required additional plant but were unable financially to .bear the cost involved, have been assisted by the Joint Coal Board. The right honorable .gentleman also said -
Mechanical extraction of -pillars would alone add millions of tons to our annual production. At June, 1049, the Joint Coal Board placed orders for underground equipment valued at £1,850,000. Of this equipment, -68 major units have been delivered. When installed - they should be in the course of being installed at present - this equipment will increase capacity hy about 12,000 tons a day.
This, however, is only the first instalment of what will ultimately be required. I point out that machinery of the kind ordered is already available for sale to or hire by any industry requiring it. Furthermore, the Joint Coal Board has also assisted financially any collieries that were unable to carry out mechanization from their own resources. I do not agree with the right honorable gentleman’s contention that the extraction of pillars would add millions of tons to coal production. It is ridiculous to make such a suggestion at present, because the installation of the necessary equipment mil take some years to accomplish. A report appeared in the press recently that the Government intended to force the miners to use machines for the mechanical extraction of coal in pillars. I emphasize that any show of force by the Government in relation to the mechanical extraction of coal would cause disruption and a major dispute in the industry. The right honorable gentleman also said -
Reserves of coal will be set up, even if in the first instance we .have to secure it from overseas. The .Commonwealth Joint Coal Board has given .every assistance to any -person and authority in Australia that wishes to import coal. During 1948-40, 206,000 tons of coal was so imported. At the beginning of the coal strike last year .the Joint Coal Board itself purchased 30,000 tons of coal from South Africa. This was afterwards made available to Victoria.
I know that the Minister is -inexperienced in the matter of coal production. Of course, I should -not expect that he would learn all of the intricacies connected with the coal industry in the short period he has been in officii. However, I presume that he is aware of the difficulties ‘associated with the importation of coal.
Frequently good-quality coal is not available for importation, and the cost is high when it is available. In any case it is uneconomical for a country possessing the vast resources of Australia to import coal. I suggest that a more positive course for the Government to follow would be to concentrate upon the development of the coal industry in this country. Doubtless the Minister has experienced difficulties similar to those that confronted me when I was Minister for Shipping and Fuel in the previous Government. I contend that it was a mistake for the present Government to remove the coal industry from the administration of the Minister in charge of matters relating to that industry. As we all know the production of coal is fundamentally important in connexion with all other industries in this country. In the course of his Speech, His Excellency the GovernorGeneral said that the Government had given attention to the necessity for increasing supplies of basic materials such us coal, steel, and building materials. Recently I asked the Minister a question in this chamber based on his failure to invite the miners’ representatives to confer with the coal-owners relative to maintaining continuity of coal production. The Minister replied that the suggestion that he had met representatives of the colliery proprietors before interviewing representatives of the coal-miners and shale-miners was untrue. That did not answer my question. I was not concerned about whom he had met first. I. wanted to know why the Government had not called into its conference with the colliery proprietors representatives of the men who produce the coal. The Minister also stated in his reply that he had consulted representatives of the employees before he conferred with the owners. That is perfectly true. I was present at that meeting, and introduced the Minister to the various representatives. I had been asked to do so by the secretary of his department. In addition to introducing the Minister to representatives of the coal and shale miners, I was responsible for him being introduced to representatives of other industries in which he was interested. Upon relinquishing office I considered that it was my duty to do so. The
Minister told me that he had gone down a coal-mine with Mr. Williams. In fact he went into a tunnel at the shale-mine at Glen Davis, not down a coal-mine. That indicates the Minister’ lack of knowledge of coal-mining. The Minister did not even know the difference between a coal-mine and a shale-mine. Of course, as I have already remarked, he has had little time in which to acquaint himself with matters relating to the coal industry. It is to be hoped that he will progress a little more quickly in the acquisition of that knowledge. He was driven into the tunnel in a carriage. He did not have to walk through dust and muck as the miners have to do. The comparison might be likened to a person walking into the blackhole of Calcutta, compared with walking into this chamber.
If the Government is serious in its announced desire to achieve increased production in the coal industry I suggest seriously that it should invite the representatives of the men who produce the coal to any conference that is convened. It is all very well for newspaper editors, sitting in their nice comfortable chairs, or members of the Government, to criticize and malign the workers in the coal industry. I remind the Senate, however, that there always exists a cause for stoppages in the industry. Government senators should not restrict their considerations to the effect of the loss of production. They should give some consideration to the underlying causes. The history of the coal-mining industry throughout the world since the days when women and children worked in the mines in Great Britain has been one of turbulence. Shortly after the present Government entered office a deputation of representatives of the workers in the mining industry waited upon the Prime Minister and senior Ministers, including the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, in connexion with matters relating to longservice leave. The Labour Government passed legislation granting long-service leave to workers in the coal and shale mining industries last year. Since that deputation the miners’ representatives have heard nothing more of the matter than what appeared in the press to-day, namely, that the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Holt) will also deal with the matter of long-service leave. The miners’ representatives are entitled to more than press statements. I read a report in the press last week that long service leave had been granted to employees of the flour industry. This matter will be of considerable interest to some honorable senators opposite who have grazing properties. I contend that if workers in the flour industry are entitled to long-service leave, so also are the men who descend into the bowels of the earth to produce coal. One factor affecting the production of coal today is the shortage of man-power. .Since the termination of “World War II., over 2,000 men have left the industry. In addition to ensuring continuity of production, steps should be taken to attract labour to the industry. And the only way it can be done is by providing the same amenities as those that are given to the workers outside in the open air.
I welcome the decision of the Government to continue the policy of the Labour Government in the development of opencut mining, because the men who work in open-cut mines are not subjected to the conditions that exist in the bowels of the earth. Conditions have improved somewhat in the course of the years through the activities of the Joint Coal Board, and I am pleased to note that the Government was sensible enough to retain the board. I regret that the chairman of the board, Mr. Cameron, has resigned, and I expect that the Government feels similarly. I pay tribute to the great work he did as chairman. His approach to the task was tempered by consideration for the men who produced the coal, and he did not lean to the mine owners all the time. The chief concern of the owners is not the production of coal but dividends for the companies and the shareholders. I hope that the Government will continue to develop open-cut mines and will give some consideration to those engaged in the industry who do not enjoy the amenities of most other workers. If sympathetic understanding is established between the Government and the employees, I am sure that the required production of coal will be achieved and that there will be no necessity to import coal.
– Why did not the Labour Government do something in the last eight years?
– I do not know what the honorable senator has been doing for the last eight years. He has been missing from the chamber for a day or two. He has not been able to do his job in the Senate and it is a pleasant one.
– The honorable senator has been in hospital. Be fair.
– I have noted the jubilation of some of the new members of this chamber at the defeat of the Labour Government. In the history of a nation the lose of an election does not loom so largely. How the nation fares after the election is of more consequence, particularly when the campaign is notable for a policy of fear and deception as practised by the conservative parties at the last general election. I noted in particular the speech of Senator Wright, who occupies a minor position in the Government. He said -
I have referred to the functions of this chamber and I should be sorry to he convinced that those functions were correctly indicated in the speeches of honorable senators opposite. I believe that this chamber has very definite functions to fulfil in the federation that the people of Australia 50 years ago decided in their wisdom to constitute. And I hope that in the next half century-
He is looking a long way ahead to the next 50 years - of this Senate’s existence it will recapture the leeway it has lost, regain its original purpose and reconstitute itself the chamber established to protect State rights.
That is a most amazing contribution by the honorable senator, delivered with the confidence of an experienced speaker and one who, no doubt, has had the opportunity of a good education. He was at some advantage, therefore, in addressing himself to the Senate and reflecting on my colleagues on this side of the chamber. He made some reference to himself as a back-bencher, and, while he was postulating with humility, he was scratching the Prime Minister’s back, looking for an improved position in the Ministry. The honorable senator’s position in the Government is comparable to that of a nipper boy in a navvies’ camp. The chamber heard the honorable senator advocating and pleading for an alteration in the conduct of the Senate. The honorable senator had been in the Senate 24 hours including. the present Parliament and acted like a Heaven-sent redeemer. Australia has had nineteen parliaments and 2.9 ministries, twelve of them Labour and seventeen non-Labour; I hope that in future, when the honorable senator desires to criticize this: side of the House, he will observe a sense of fairness and direct some of hi9 criticism at his colleagues because parties of their colour have been in government in this country for the greater part of the period since the establishment of the Commonwealth. The honorable senator pleaded on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) just as any advocate would plead for a client whom he knew to be guilty. The honorable senator said that the return of the right honorable gentleman as Prime Minister would- react tremendously to the benefit of. the people. One would think that this country was back in 1941, when the Prime Minister deserted Australia. Perhaps the honorable senator was engaged in the Parliament of Tasmania at the time and paid no attention to the happenings of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– And perhaps he was not.
– 1 said perhaps. I know that the honorable senator has had experience in the State Parliament of Tasmania, and I have been informed that he was pushed out so that room could be made for Mr. Townley. I do- not know if that, is correct. Honorable senators will recall the conditions in 1941 when the present Prime Minister- surrendered. The right honorable gentleman, said then that he had lost the confidence of the Parliament, of. the press, and of the people. He surrendered in 1941, in Australia’s greatest hour of peril, and walked out. What is the position to-day? The Governmenthas taken over the treasury bench of this country when funds are at their best. Never in the history of Australia has there been a treasury overflowing as it is to-day for the present Government to take over. Never before has this country enjoyed the prosperity that exists to-day. And never has Australia had such a bright future. That future has been dimmed only by the political Jeremiahs who made irresponsible statements- during the elections, and make critical statements in this chamber that do disservice to Australia. As some, evidence- of Australia’s prosperity, people are arriving, almost daily from every other part of the world, seeking a source of investment for their capital in Australia in. commerce, professions, manufactures and industry of all kinds. Those people have confidence in this country,, but some Australians- are doing a disservice to the country by their criticism in an endeavour to get political advantage. [ have made some reference to a policy of deception. Those arestrong words to use and no person should make an assertion like that unless he has evidence to support it. I have here, an advertisement which appeared in the Sunday Sun and Guardian of the 4th December, 1949. It depicts the Bunnerong power house without a shovelful of coal. It says -
Iso coal, no gas; no light, no power, no travel. Have your say on polling day, next Saturday. Vote Liberal.
Tt was published a few days- before polling day so that there would, be no opportunity to correct it. I knew this advertisement was incorrect, as the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport would know if he had been- in charge of the production of Goal because he would know where the coal was and where it. wassupplied. I checked on it the day this photograph was alleged to have been taken and found that on Monday, the 21st November, 1949, there- were 50,000- tons of coal at Bunnerong. The photograph shows a building or stage used, forthe handling of coal at Bunnerong. That structure was dismantled two years ago.. Immediately I saw this picture I ordered photographs to be taken of the same scene; I now hold them in my hand.. They show a stock of between 40,000 and 50,000 tons of coal. I am not blaming the Sunday Sun and Guardian for publishing the photograph of which I complain, but I consider that the agent responsible for its publication, is at fault. The advertisement containing the picture was signed, by- L. Carrick, 30 Ashstreet, Sydney, and I. understand that that address has some relation to the Liberal party. I suggest that some legislative action should be taken so that a deception of this kind could not be practised: by any political party during an election campaign. -Some amendment of the electoral’ laws should be made to prevent such actions..
During the last election campaign constant reference was made to socialization and to an alleged alliance between the Labour party and the Communist party. The only people whom the Communist party assists are the conservatives now on the Government benches, and the only people whom the conservatives assist are the members of the Communist party. I have here some evidence of a further deception, that also proves conclusively that our friends on the Government benches favoured the Communist party during the 1940 general election. I hold in. my hand a photostatic copy of a Senate “ How to vote “ card issued by the Liberal party, or United Australia party as it was called at that time. The card was authorized by H. W. Horsfield, 30 Ash-street, Sydney, the same address as that of the advertisement! The card advised the electors to place me and my colleagues, Senator Arnold and Senator Large, in the 19th, 20th and 21st voting order. It advised them to place Mr. Sharkey, a high official of the Communist party, in the 6th position. Tet the anti-Labour parties claim that they have no association with the Communist party ! With the concurrence of the Senate I shall incorporate in Hansard a copy of a “ How to vote “’ card issued by the anti-Labour parties in 1940.
I have already made some reference to- the prosperity of this country.. I am glad to say that a great deal of that prosperity is being enjoyed by returned soldiers who served us well dining the war. They, are enjoying a prosperity that they did not enjoy after World. War I. I refer particularly to the war service land settlement scheme that was implemented by a Labour Government in the federal sphere, in cooperation with State governments. I hold in my hand, a copy’ of a paper called Pix, which is produced by the same company as produces the Sydney Sun. Pix devoted an illustrated article to the soldier settlement scheme and dealt with the activities of a soldier named Heffernan and several of bis mates. Onepicture shows the soldier arriving at the land* that he was fortunate enough to win. in a ballot, carrying only a bag. Further’ pictures show that within twelve months the soldier’ had built a home. One picture is captioned -
First sheep bought by Heffernan had to be approved by a Lands Department official. Within six. months lie made £1,600 from their wool.
The article mentioned other soldiers working under the same favorable conditions, and prophesied that within fouryears they would’ have paid off their properties.
Another journal, Smith’s Weekly, only last week made reference to the “’ fabulous results that are being achieved by ex-servicemen who have been placed on farms under the new war service settlement scheme “. It said -
Scores of. former soldiers; sailors and airmen who- walked on to bare properties with empty, or almost empty, pockets have become wealthy within 12’ months.
They deserved it all. They bought for us the freedom that we enjoy to-day. The article continues -
Outstanding case is that of Mr. L. Treasure, Edgeroi Estate, near Narrabri, New South Wales. He received his block in March, 1949. In nine months flat he stripped 5,000 bags of wheat from 270 acres and made £7,500. A neighbouring serviceman settler made £8,000 from wheat and wool in 1949. On the Edgeroi Estate are a total of 65 new ex-servicemen settlers and most of them are not very far behind Treasure in their achievements.
Those facts are contained not only in Fix and Smith’s Weekly. I also possess documentary evidence with respect to them. I have had that evidence verified because I would not like to make any statement, or even quote from a newspaper cutting, if I knew it to be untrue. The Smith’s Weekly article continued -
The Edgeroi successes have been duplicated in other parts of the State. At Gragin, near Inverell, an ex-serviceman made £5,400 in 1949 from 3,600 bags of wheat off 240 acres. A Tamworth settler earned over £4,000 from wheat and wool.
I could give further evidence that the same remarks apply to soldier settlers in every State of the Commonwealth. I grant that we have had exceptional seasons and that the price of wool and wheat is high, and I am glad to know that these men are doing so well on the land. The fact that they are doing so well arises from the policy that was put into operation by a Federal Labour Government in co-operation with the States.
I turn now to the petrol position. I desire to clarify the position from my point of view and also from the Labour party’s point of view. During and prior to the last election campaign we stated that the availability of petrol for Aus tralia was entirely dependent on the dollar position, and I believe that that is the position to-day. The present Government made arrangements, through one of the Australian oil companies, to import petrol from France. The quantity of petrol normally handled by that company represents only 3 per cent of Australia’s total consumption. Other oil companies provide the remaining 97 per cent. In the middle of last year the gold and dollar reserves of the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth of Nations had deteriorated considerably, and a financial conference was held in
London about June last year. At that conference all the Commonwealth nations agreed that they would reduce their dollar expenditure by 25 per cent. Let me point out to honorable senators that our excess’ dollar expenditure last year was approximately 70,000,000 dollars and was about. 170,000,000 dollars the previous year.. During the Labour Government’s term of office we had a standing Cabinet committee and a committee of departmental officers that dealt with priorities involvingthe expenditure of dollars. We were very concerned about the position because we knew that any pressure on the British dollar pool by our unnecessary use of dollars would affect Great Britain’s food position. The people of Great Britain were then, and are to-day, fighting their economic Dunkirk, and the use of dollarsby Australia for the importation of such goods as additional petrol, particularly in view of the fact that that additional petrol would be provided for joy-riding in Australia, was not justified at the expense of Great Britain’s food supply.
– What about tractors that require petrol, and motor cars that have to travel hundreds of miles in rural areas ? What nonsense it is to talk about joy-riding!
– My friend from Queensland interjects, “What about petrol for tractors ? “ That is the point that I am coming to. Under the rationing scheme operated by the Labour Government no essential service in Australia went short of petrol. No tractors were thrown out of service because of the shortage of petrol and I defy the honorable senator to prove that any were. It is all very well for him to interject here. He gave me advice on the first day he arrived in this chamber.
– It was good advice.
– The honorable senator sat on the’ benches of the Queensland Parliament for 25 years. He did not get far there, and I am afraid that he will not get far here either. The honorable senator will need to give better advice to the Government than he gave to the previous government with respect to coal deposits in Queensland. In his maiden speech he immediately began to work the parish pump. The only thing that he could speak about was coal deposits in Queensland. He forgot that he was in the National Parliament. I have never heard such parochialism displayed in this chamber since I have been a member of the Senate. I have challenged supporters of the Government to indicate one essential service that went short of petrol when rationing was in operation. The only people who will benefit from the abolition of rationing will be the joy-riders and those who drive their cars to sports gatherings and the race-courses.
– Plenty of government cars were seen at race-courses when the Government which included the honorable senator was in office.
– During the period of eight years that I was a Minister, I did not use a government car when I was in Sydney. I always used my own car when I was in that city. My record as a Minister in that respect will compare favorably with that of any Minister in this or any previous government. While petrol was being rationed it was the Government’s duty to ensure that it was not wasted. The honorable senator’s interjection about my using government cars was unfortunate.
– I said “government cars”; I did not mention the honorable senator.
– The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport said that lie would have something to say later about shipping. I was about to describe him as the Leader of the Government in the Senate, but that honour has been bestowed upon the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan). However, I believe that the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport is fully capable of filling that position. So I have nothing to say on that score. Shipping is another subject upon which the Minister has been wrongly advised. In answer to a question last week, he said that the Australian Shipping Board had made a profit under the administration of the Menzies Government. The board was established early in 1941. From July of that year, after the Fadden Government went out of office, it requisitioned an increasing proportion of privately- owned vessels. During the first twelve months of its operations it made a profit. To that degree the Minister’s statement was correct, but that result was not due to better management compared with the administration of the board after the Chifley Government assumed office. The fact is that the entry of Japan into the recent war in December, 1941, and the Japanese invasion of the South- West Pacific area placed a very great strain upon our shipping resources. Some interstate passenger ships had been requisitioned at the outbreak of the war and the remainder had to be requisitioned after Japan entered the conflict. The Australian Government was not only confronted with the problem of transporting essential defence equipment from one part of the Commonwealth to other parts and to the Islands but also had to provide shipping to meet the requirements tff our defence forces in the north and in New Guinea. Shipping was required for the transport of not only large quantities of ammunition and equipment of all kinds but also approximately 2,000,000 tons of coal, 500,000 tons of sugar and 2,000,000 tons of ironstone. In many instances, vessels had to return empty or in ballast from their destination because no backward cargo was offering. That shipping had to operate under war-time conditions. I emphasize that fact because the “kite flying “ that has been indulged in by the press during the last few weeks in reports on this subject, is an indictaion that the Government intends to dispose of the Commonwealth shipping line.
A large number of what were known as refugee ships from Eastern waters which were sheltering in Australian porte. at the time were taken over. They were found to be unsuitable for Australian conditions and had to be altered and repaired. Inevitably, the cost of such work under war-time conditions was abnormally high. I hope that when the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport deals with this subject he will recognize all these factors. The running of those ships would not have been an economic proposition in normal times, but we had no other means of supplementing our shipping pool. The Australian Government was also forced to charter ships f rom Allied nations at high w.ar-time rates, and, in addition, was obliged to use overseas vessels for coastal transport. Those vessels were unsitable for that purpose but, in the circumstances, the government of the day had no alternative but make use of any vessel that it could obtain. I recall that at that time protests were voiced in this chamber by members of all parties about the lack of shipping services to Tasmania. As I have said, although losses were inevitable, the Government was obliged to arrange for the transport of all kinds of material in the prosecution of the war. I also recall that the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport, when he was previously .a member of the Senate, complained about the lack of shipping facilities for the transport of coal to South Australia, and that complaint was echoed by other South Australian senators as well as by Mr. Playford, the Premier of that State. That trade was uneconomic and, of course, private enterprise would not engage in unprofitable undertakings. The Government realized that it must perform that service in the interest of the people and, despite the huge losses that were inevitable, it did so. Those facts account for the shipping losses during the war that have been disclosed in the press during the last few weeks.
Early in 1942 the Labour Government pegged shipping freights and, by doing so, virtually subsidized consumers throughout the Commonwealth. However, that loss- was made good not by the Treasury but out of the funds of the Australian Shipping Board. Whilst losses were incurred -on coastal runs, the vessels engaged on overseas voyages showed a handsome profit. However, those vessels were diverted to the coastal trade on the 30th June, 1947, -and, as the AuditorGeneral’s report reveals, the Board’s accumulated funds amounted to £3,445;367. Therefore, in the circumstances the hoard did a very good job. The Australian Government was also obliged at considerable loss to give special assistance to certain States, particularly South Australia and New South Wales. In addition, it had to provide, again at a big loss, a shipping service to Darwin to assist in the restoration of that town. Freights were -not –unpegged -until privately-owned ships were returned to. their .owners in August, 1947. The Australian Shipping Board had to assume responsibility for the settlement .of wartime charter claims particularly in respect of refugee ships, but that transaction could not be finalized with the British Ministry of Transport on behalf -of the private owners until the vessels had been released from charter following the defeat of .Japan. I trust that when the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport deals with this matter he will give credit where credit is due, and will not ignore the circumstances that existed during the war which considerably increased shipping costs, including insurance rates. The .book cost of shipping was shown to be high, but the value of the ships and the services they rendered cannot be fully gauged from the bookkeeping record which would suggest that the position was much worse than it really was. I trust that the Minister will give a correct picture of that position and recognize the services that the Australian Shipping Board rendered under most difficult circumstances.
I have already said that -the Government has inherited a full Treasury and that Australians are now enjoying prosperity to a degree unprecedented in the history of this nation. Whether the Government remains in office for six months, twelve months, or three years, 1 sincerely hope that at the end of the period the people of this great country .will be enjoying a prosperity comparable with that which they enjoyed at the end of 1949.
– I am pleased to have this opportunity to make my first speech in the Senate since I entered upon my enforced retirement from this chamber three years ago. Before dealing with the matters that come under my ministerial control, I should like to refer to several other subjects. I congratulate the President upon the fact that he ‘has held his high position since I went into temporary retirement. He has carried out his duties with dignity and fairness; and, for similar reasons, I congratulate you, Mr. Deputy President. I also congratulate Senator McCallum and Senator Maher, who moved and seconded respectively the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I should also like to say how pleased honorable senators on this side are in being able to reinforce the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan), the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper), and Senator Annabelle Rankin, who comprised the Opposition in this chamber during the last three years. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Ashley) referred to the appointment of the Minister for Trade and Customs as Leader of the Government in the Senate. I congratulate the Minister upon his elevation to that position, because I believe that during the period of three years he was in Opposition he gave ample evidence of his qualities of leadership.
– What about the Minister for Repatriation?
– The Minister for Repatriation, as the Leader of the Australian Country party in the Senate, has always been held in the highest esteem by all honorable senators. I am pleased to note that the new senators include two experienced parliamentarians in Senator Maher, from Queensland, and Senator Reid, from New South Wales. I have a higher opinion of Senator Maher than the Leader of the Opposition has, but I am inclined to think that the latter is a bit sore and inclined to take the defeat of the Labour party at the recent elections in a spirit unbecoming a sportsman. The increase of the number of honorable senators from 36 to 60 has opened a new chapter in the history of this chamber. 1 am gratified to note that the new members cf both parties in this chamber and in the House of Representatives include many young youthful but skilful debaters. I trust* that during the next 50 years the< Senate will give a much better account of itself than it has given during the past half century.
– Speak for yourself.
– I am speaking for- myself,, for the Liberal party and, I am sure; for- a majority of the Australian people; This Senate has not lived up to its obligations’. It has not performed the functions that it was intended to per form when the Constitution was framed. I hope that, in future, we shall all do our best to raise our standards, and to understand what was in the minds of the framers of the Constitution. We have an unparalleled opportunity to do something worth while for this- country. The Senate is a house of review, a State’s house, and a house, I trust, in which national problems will be placed before party politics. I remind honorable senators, particularly the newer members of this chamber, of the wording of section 53 of the Commonwealth Constitution which sets out the powers of theSenate. This section states -
Proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys, or imposing taxation, shall not originate in the Senate. But a proposed law shall not be taken to appropriate revenue or moneys, or to- impose taxation, by reason only of its containing provisions for the imposition or appropriation of fines or other pecuniary penalties, or for the demand or payment or appropriation of fees for licences, or fees for services under the proposed law.
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.
The Senate may not amend any proposed law so as to increase any proposed charge or burden on the people.
The section continues - and these are the important words: -
Except as provided, in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.
I hope that the rigid caucus control that, is exercised over Labour members-
– And Liberals.
– And, to some degree perhaps, Liberals, will cease te play the part that it has. played in the deliberations of this chamber during the last 50 years. There is an opportunity for every honorable senator to play his part in the all-round development of. this, country by placing before Ministers the peculiar needs of the various States. I hope to have an opportunity to visit Western Australia during the Easter recess. Later, I shall go to Tasmania and Queensland in connexion with matters that come under my jurisdiction. While I hold office in this Parliament, there will be an open door1 to’ any honorable member or senator who wishes to discuss a problem with me.
I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition say that the Opposition welcomed the proposal to establish a parliamentary foreign affairs committee. It is in this field, and in the realms of defence and development, that the Senate can render its greatest service to this country. As far back as 1938 it was my privilege to suggest the appointment of a foreign affairs committee. Unfortunately other members of the Parliament were not as enthusiastic as I was on that occasion. However, we now have a chance to do something.
I take this opportunity also to deal in brief terms with petrol, shipbuilding, shipping, and cool-mining. I do not propose to speak at length on these subjects, but I should like to reply to some of the points that were made by the Leader of the Opposition, under whose control those matters came while the Labour Government was in office. Since I was sworn in as a Minister, I have investigated personally certain socialist enterprises in this country and when the people of Australia hear the full story of the losses that have been incurred by those undertakings they will realize that during the past eight years the socialists have been running true to form. There is ample evidence of what we may expect from the centralization of power at Canberra. Dealing first with petrol, I repeat the following figures that I gave to the Senate earlier: On the 30th November, 1949, sea-board stocks totalled 64,000,000 gallons; on the 31st January, 1950, sea-board stocks had reached 76,000,000 gallons. “We can add to each figure inland stocks estimated- at between 16,000,000 and 20,000,000 gallons. In other words, therefore, the Government in its first month of office was able to increase stocks by approximately 12,000,000 gallons.
– At the expense of the people of the United Kingdom.
– The honorable senator says, “ at the expense of the people of the United Kingdom “. Half of the extra petrol that has been brought to this country has come from British oil wells, end a substantial portion of the petrol that has been imported by American oil companies has come from American wells established in British territory. It is true that the Government had to use some dollars for this purpose, and for that I offer no apology. I say quite frankly that the Labour party’s socialist policy, dictated by socialists on the other side of the world, is not the policy on which the Liberal party was elected on the 10th December last. For eight years prior to the recent general election, the socialists in Australia, in their usual muddling manner, interfered with undertakings of which they had not had any previous experience. Socialism in this country and in Great Britain frightened away, not merely hundreds of dollars, but millions of dollars. One single action by the Minister for National Development (Mr. Casey) in securing tractors and encouraging overseas interests to invest dollars in this country, will save Australia more than the extra dollar expenditure that will be incurred in a year. By increasing the flow of tractors to this country production will be improved. If American business undertakings can be encouraged to establish branches in this country now that the socialists have been thrown out of office, that will be the most effective way to help the Mother Country in this dollar crisis.
Opposition senators interjecting,
– Honorable senators opposite are bad losers, but they will not get very much support from the public. They are moaning because petrol rationing has been abolished, thus saving Australia £600,000 a year in administrative expenses, making available office accommodation and equipment that is badly needed elsewhere, and releasing 700 people for more useful occupations.
I regret the personal element that has been introduced into this, debate. I resent the statement that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) “ sold out “ in 1941. It has been my privilege to serve under five Prime Ministers, two of whom gave their lives in the service of their country. I pay a tribute to the present Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Chifley), who, as war-time Prime Minister, did valuable work both in and out of the Parliament. I disagree, of course, with his politics, and I regret exceedingly that, even after his election defeat, he declared that he intended to continue his adherence to socialism to the bitter end. The right honorable gentleman’s task during the war and after was not easy. The responsibility of a Prime Minister is great. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in this country amongst some members of all political parties to become personal over political differences. It has been my privilege to be associated with the present Prime Minister for many years. Some years ago, I had an opportunity to visit other parts of the world with Senator N”ash and the then Minister for External Affairs, the right honorable member for Barton (Dr. Evatt). In the course of that trip, one of the things that made me feel proud indeed was to find that in London, Washington and Ottawa Mr. Menzies was held in the highest possible regard. There was general acceptance of the fact that no man had rendered greater service to the British Empire. When the right honorable gentleman relinquished office in 1941 he did so without loss of dignity. When he enters the House of Representatives, he immediately raises its standard, adds intelligence to its debates, and displays a dignity that many of us could well endeavour to assume. The great leadership that the right honorable gentleman has given to his party and, I believe, to this country, is something of which every Australian should be proud. He has the reputation of being unpopular with some people, but he possesses that great Scottish attribute, courage to say what he thinks. I believe that, had the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber displayed some of our Prime Minister’s spirit, and told the miners the truth, instead of saying the things that he thought would be popular, his endeavours would have been attended by far more success. If, as a Commonwealth Minister, the honorable senator had not invariably given preference to unionists in their conflicts with managements, our shipping losses would not have been so great or coal production so low. I say quite frankly, and not in a personal way, that the great tragedies in this country during the eight years of Labour rule were the spineless leadership of the Labour Government, and the policy of appeasement adopted by its Ministers. Over and over again, when a dispute occurred, and a strong management endeavoured to enforce discipline, the Government, for political reasons, let the management down, and gave the unions their own way. That was the technique of the Labour Government, particularly in high places. Until the fanatics are put in their places we shall never increase coal production, reduce shipping losses, or improve the output of the raw materials that arc required if we are to take full advantage of the opportunities that this country has to-day.
Perhaps honorable senators opposite would like me to recite the facts in relation to shipbuilding. The figures that I am about to give were compiled by officers of my department and myself after we had made a personal investigation of various industries. I do not intend to be personal when I say that I believe that the great weakness of the Australian Shipbuilding Board was that its members were selected, not because they knew something of the technical problems of shipbuilding, but because they were strong supporters of the Labour party. I do not like to say that, but, as the Minister concerned with shipbuilding in this country, I must speak the truth as I see it. I remind one honorable senator that the Australian Shipbuilding Board is meeting to-morrow, and I suggest that it is not proper for an honorable senator to be a member of this chamber and also the deputy chairman of the board. I consider that that state of affairs is bad for the Senate and bad for the board. Shipbuilding is of great importance to many Australian trade unionists, and also to the development of this country. Speaking on behalf of the Government, I am pleased to be able to report that our policy is to maintain a shipbuilding industry in Australia. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the Australian shipbuilding industry was established by the Menzies Government.
The last general election was fought mainly on the issue of socialism versus private enterprise. This debate affords a good opportunity to make an examination of the success or otherwise of some activities that were controlled by the socialists when they were in office.
– That .includes .the period of the war.
– I appreciate that, and I am fully aware of the difficulties that the Government encountered during the war. This country and other countries incurred huge losses then, but I hope to be able to show that those losses cannot be attributed entirely to war conditions. It is interesting to note the difference between the prices that were charged for ships built on a cost-plus basis when the Labour party was in power. Orders were placed in 1945 for “ A “ class vessels of 9,000 tons deadweight. One private shipbuilding yard charged £549,000 for a vessel of that ‘type and another charged £651,000, but the State-owned dockyard at Williamstown charged £720,000. In f future, tenders will be called for in respect of all vessels that are constructed for the Commonwealth. The policy of the Government is that the Australian shipbuilding industry must be efficient. Inefficient and poorly-equipped organizations will need to devote their attention to other work. During the last two years, the cost of shipbuilding in Australia -has increased by approximately 20 per cent. Members of all political parties must do all they can to persuade the people of this country that if our industries are to survive and make the headway they should make, they must achieve greater efficiency and that to achieve that state of efficiency we must have industrial peace and cooperation between governments, employers and employees. Although we produce steel in this country more cheaply than any other country can produce it, shipbuilding costs in Australia are much greater than in the United Kingdom. The latest price quoted for the construction in Australia of a vessel of 6,000 tons deadweight, specially designed for the Australian coastal trade, is £625,000, but shipyards in England are prepared to build a vessel of that type for £356,000 sterling, or £445,000 Australian.
Senator Armstrong interjecting,
– Senator Armstrong has bad so little experience of shipbuilding that he cannot prove anything except that he was sufficiently influential to appoint to the Australian Shipbuilding Board supporters of the
Labour party .who did not know anything about shipbuilding. That is an unfortunate feature of the shipbuilding industry.
I turn now to shipping. I shall deal: first with the Commonwealth-owned vessels that constituted what I refer to as. Senator Ashley’s fleet. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the system of chartering vessels that was in existenceprior to the Labour party assuming office. When the Liberal party went out of office we were engaged in overseas charters. Mr. John Thompson, the manager of the Australian Wheat Board, and a very capable man, was in charge of the chartering. He knew something about it because he had had a wide experience of chartering in other parts of the world. He was paid a reasonable salary, and he did a good job for Australia. When the Labour party assumed office, the credit balance in respect of chartering alone was £5,000,000. I ask honorable senators to keep that figure clearly in their minds. The estimated losses under Labour Governments up to the 30th June, 1949, were as follows: Requisitioned tonnage, £11,000,000; Commonwealthowned and chartered ships, £6,700^000; estimated loss on cost value of ships owned by the Australian Shipping Board, £5,400,000. Senator Ashley, as a socialist who is concerned that the Government should conduct shipping lines, has the satisfaction of knowing that during the period when he was in office Commonwealth activities in shipping cost the Australian taxpayers £23,100,000.
Some honorable senators have asked what the Government proposes to do with its ships. We have not completed our investigations, but when I have ascertained what profit or loss has been made in respect of Commonwealth-owned ships during this financial year I shall make certain recommendations to Cabinet.
– The period to which the Minister has just referred includes the war years.
– It covers the eight years- during which the Labour party was in power.
– Some of those were war years.
– A government cannot make a profit from a war.
– Some of my socialist friends could not make a profit from anything, and it is impossible to knock sense into their heads or to persuade them to keep -out of businesses about which they know nothing. In order to correct mis-statements that have been made from time to “time about the Commonwealth fleet ‘of ships that was established by Mr. W. M. Hughes in, I” think, 1916, I asked officials of the Treasury to supply me with information about it. The trading loss on the operations of that fleet between 1916 and 1928 was £3,700,000. The loss on the sale of the ships was £10;200,000. An overseas company contracted to buy five of the ships for £1,900,000, and the amount recovered from, the company, which went into liquidation, was £1,725,185. I want to put it on record that the ‘loss on the sale was £174,815, and that the interest awarded by the court but .not paid was £104,486, making a total loss of £279,301.
I propose now to compare the operations of private shipping companies with the operations of the fleet that was under the control of Senator Ashley.
– What did the Liberal Government get for the Australian ships that it sold?
– I have just given :the Senate that information. Apparently, Senator Ward was asleep and did not hear my statement. It is interesting to note that after derequisitioning, the Government increased freights by 15s. a ton in 1947, by 17s. a ton in 1948, and by 15s. a ton to June, 1949. After derequisitioning, Senator Ashley’s fleet was engaged in open competition with fleets operated by private organizations. Those private organizations had to pay company tax and insure their vessels.
– They were paid subsidies for a while.
– They were -not paid subsidies at that time. In the year ended June, 1947, Senator Ashley’s fleet lost £2,600,000. In the year ended June, 1948, it lost £2,000,000, and in the year ended June, 1949, it lost £2,400,000. Those losses were incurred despite the fact that freight rates had been increased. If that does not convince the Leader of the Opposition that socialism is a failure, I am afraid that nothing will ‘do so.
I propose now to deal with rising costs and to show how the influence of communism and other pernicious doctrines made it difficult for Senator Ashley’s fleet to be operated at a profit and also created a difficult situation for everybody else in the community.
– I am reluctant to interrupt the Minister,, .but I suggest that he should point out .that Commonwealthowned vessels were engaged in some forms of shipping activities that were not profitable but were .essential to the nation.
– -I ask the honorable senator whether he believes that that fact .alone was responsible for a loss of £2j400;000 in one year?
– It could he.
– The increases of freight rates are important, because I believe that they have a damaging effect upon our community. Between 1939 and 1949 the freight charges on potatoes sent from Tasmania to Sydney were increased from 17s. lOd. a ton to £3 15s. 6d. a ton. In the same period the freight charges on cement sent from Tasmania to Adelaide were increased from 24s. 6d. a ton to 81s. 9d. a ton. In 1939 the frieght charges on general cargo from Adelaide to Fremantle were 30s. Id. a ton and in 1949 they were £4 10s. a ton. “Between 1939 and .1949 the freight charges on cargo carried between Sydney and Darwin increased from 55s. a ton to £7 a ton. In 1939, the cost of loading cargo was 2s. lOd. an hour, and in 1949 it was 5s. 4£d. an hour. Between 1939 and 1949, the daily output per gang decreased from 25 tons to 12 tons. It is estimated that there has been an overall -increase of handling costs of 200 per cent. Senator Ashley will probably agree that one of the main reasons for that increase is that the waterside workers are controlled by the -‘Communists, as the coal-miners are. The ‘Chifley Government did not have “the courage to put the Communists in their place. After seven and a half years of appeasement, it decided -to take what I regarded as firm action against the Communists, because of the effect of their activities upon the economy of this country, but within a week it ran away from that position. The persons who had caused the trouble were released from a certain place, and on the day following their release they began again to indulge in pernicious practices. A spineless government continued to permit them to impose their will on the community.
– They were released by the Arbitration Court.
– That is so. Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, said he believed that communism was a political philosophy.
– What does the Minister think it is?
– I shall tell the honorable senator what I think of it a little later. That political cowardice did a great disservice to this country. After eight years of Labour rule the electors of this country decided that the Labour Government should go out of office because it was unfit to govern any longer. It went out unwept, unhonoured and unsung. What happened in Australia during that period should teach us to be sensible enough to take appropriate action in future. I admit readily that no man has ever tried harder to protect . the interests of the working people than did the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley. He gave them the sun, the moon, and the stars, and improved conditions in the coal mines and in numerous industries to a degree that the workers never imagined possible. It is obvious that the nonsense that the Leader of the Opposition spoke about amenities was merely a cloak to cover his lack of political courage. I remind the Senate that Labour governments have been in office both in the federal sphere and in New South Wales for a number of years. They have had ample power to provide whatever amenities they considered should be provided in industry. Although this Government has been in office only a short period, weak-kneed members of the Opposition criticize it for not doing what the Labour Government failed to do during its eight years of office.
– Can the Minister furnish the Senate with a comparison between coal production in Australia, the United States of America and Great Britain ?
– The interjection of Senator Large is evidently intended to detract me from my line of thought. I suggest that if the honorable senator were to spend more time in the Parliamentary Library he would be able to glean whatever information he seeks in connexion with that subject. I have my time cut out trying to handle the problems that I am at present dealing with.
I shall now deal with the matter of coal production in this country. I accept the cheap gibe of the Leader of the Opposition that I do not know the difference between shale and coal. However, I recall an occasion in this chamber when the Leader of the Opposition said that he had walked two miles down a coalmine, and three miles back. I am well aware that the Glen Davis mine is a shale mine.
– The Minister said the other day that he went down a coalmine with Idris Williams.
– If I said that, the explanation probably is that the honorable senator was interjecting so much at the time. If he thinks that I would not understand the difference between the two, particularly in the presence of his friend Idris Williams-
– Apparently he is the Minister’s friend.
– I made it my business to see him because he occupies an important position. For so long as I am a Minister representatives of the employees as well as representatives of the employers will have open-door access to me. If the trade unionists select such men as their leaders it is my duty to accept them. In view of the figures mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, I shall furnish the Senate with some statistical information. In spite of the fact that the honorable senator lived at Lithgow and went down into the mines frequently, he has displayed an amazing lack of practical knowledge about what happened in the coal industry during the eight years that he was a Minister in the Labour Government. The honorable senator referred to production from opencuts. Nobody should know better than he that the production of coal by opencut mining accounts for only a very small percentage of coal production in New South Wales. The selling price of coal, free-on-rail collieries, weighted average, in the northern fields in 1939 was 13s. 9d. a ton. In 1941, when the previous Menzies Government went out of office, the price was 16s. 6d. a ton. In 1.949 it was 34s. 5d. a ton.
– In England it is 124s. a ton.
– I wish that humbug could be put out. He never says anything intelligent and keeps on interrupting. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the production of coal during the eight years that Labour was in Office, particularly since the establishment of the Joint Coal Board. I agree with the honorable Senator that the Joint Coal Board, which was appointed by the Chifley Labour Government, has done very good work under difficult circumstances. As from 85 per cent, to 90 per cent, of Australia’s coal production is achieved in New South Wales, I shall confine my remarks to production in that State. It is interesting to note that 11,100,000 tons of black coal was produced in New South Wales in 1939, compared with 11,700,000 tons in 1941, and 10,700,000 tons in 1949 after eight years of appeasement, the establishment of the Joint Coal Board, and the improvement of the conditions of the miners in every conceivable way. The average number of employees in the coal-mining industry in New South Wales in 1939 was 16,144.
– And in 1949, 22,000.
– There is that “ rat-bag “ again. In 1941 the average number employed was-
– I rise to order. I draw your attention, Mr. Deputy President, to the fact that the Minister referred to an honorable Senator as a “rat-bag”. As that remark is offensive I ask that it be withdrawn.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Nicholls) . - I ask the Minister to with draw his remark, as it is offensive to an honorable senator.
– I withdraw the remark. However, Mr. Deputy President, 1 am sure that you appreciate my desire to place certain facts before the Senate. This is not a laughing matter. We are paid to come here to devote our energy and intelligence to these matters to try to solve them. In 1939, the average number of men employed in the coalmining industry in New South Wales was 16,144, compared with 16,812 in 1941. In 1949 the number so employed was 18,110. During the period of ten years from 1939 to 1949, the number of employees increased by about 2,000, whilst production decreased by 600,000 tons a year. That is a sorry state of affairs. The Joint Coal Board has presented a very comprehensive report about the possibilities of coal production throughout Australia. The report states that it is expected that by the end of this year production will be 3,000,000 tons less than demand. It is indeed grievous that, in order to keep the steel works going to produce steel for houses and other commodities so urgently required, we are compelled to import coal from Africa at a considerably increased cost. Furthermore, the quality of the imported coal is not so good as that of the local coal. That is a very worrying matter for the present, or any other, government. I take this opportunity to thank Senator Maher for keeping me well informed of developments in Queensland. I assure the Senate that Senator Maher is not half so bad as the Leader of the Opposition would have us believe. He is intelligent and co-operative, and has done considerable work to assist me. Victoria has agreed to purchase the surplus Queensland production of coal, provided that it is of reasonable standard. The Commonwealth has asked the Queensland authorities to furnish an estimate of the quantity of coal that will be available for purchase by Victoria during each month of this year, and the price sought. Technical officers will thoroughly test the coal on behalf of the Commonwealth, Victoria, and South Australia. Taking into consideration freight charges, the cost of Queensland coal would be between 60 per cent, and 80 per cent, more than the cost of the Newcastle coal. Information about coal production has also been received from Collie in Western Australia, and Western Australian senators have- been- very helpful in that connexion. The mines in that State have, been mechanized, and it is expected that, this year production in Western Australia will be 100,000 tons, in excess of the requirements- of that. State. The Western Australian authorities have been advised to offer that surplus to the. Government of South Australia. The Government has been working to the best of its ability on this problem. We should not have to ask: the miners in Queensland and other States to provide coal that should, and. could, be produced more quickly and at less cost in New South Wales. Furthermore, the New South Wales coal is of better quality than that in other States. There rests on the shoulders of the Government and of the Opposition a responsibility to take appropriate steps to rid industry of the “ red peril “. I refer to the Communists.
– That is the Government’s job.,
– A weak-kneed back-bench senator claims that that is the Government’s job. We will not get sufficient coal and have the ships turned around quickly unless we get rid of the Communists. who are fanatical and causing all the trouble. Of course, they have so far “ white anted “ the Labour party that that will not be easy. It has shocked me to observe that Labour members of the Parliament are .prepared to sit back silently when these matters- are being discussed. They are not prepared to say what they think Mr. Healy and Mr. Roach are doing in connexion with the tying-up of the ships, and what other people are doing to sabotage the economy of this- country. I cannot understand how Labour members of Parliament could sit back and tolerate this state of affairs for over eight years. People in. this country are- grieving over it. But, whenever it is mentioned, our political opponents say that we are attacking the workers and. the trade union movement. I deny the truth of that assertion, and assure the .Senate that the Prime Minister and every member of the Cabinet is just as eager to do- the right thing by 99 per cent, of the decent trade unionists’ of this’ country as is any Labour member of the Parliament.. The time has arrived in this- country when this issue must’ be solved. I hope that when the appropriate legislation that has been foreshadowed by the Prime Minister is introduced in this chamber, Labour senators will take their’ courage in their hands and co-operate with the Government to remove the “‘red menace “. This peril must be removed from our industries. We must solve the coal and shipping problems in order to be able to- solve the housing problems. When the legislation that I have mentioned comes before this chamber the Opposition must be prepared to accept the responsibility of making a serious decision. The acid test will be whether it is prepared to show courage and do the right thing to assist to root these people out of the trade union movement in order to permit that movement to carry on to the best of its ability. Labour has a majority in the Senate. On a- former occasion when I was the leader in this chamber of the political party to which I owe allegiance, I had that advantage. When this legistion comes before the Senate the acid test will, be whether honorable senators opposite are for their country or for the Communists. With, its numbers, the Opposition can make its decision. I suggest if honorable senators are not prepared to help the Government, if they intend to sit back like dumb cattle on this issue and deny the Government the right to pass legislation to outlaw communism, the electors will, decide the issue again, as they did. on the 10th December, 1949. I have no desire to lecture Senator Ashley on this issue, but as Leader of the- Labour party in the Senate I want him. to understand clearly that he has a majority only by a technical device. There might be constitutional suppport for the Labour Government’s action, but the greatest, disservice was rendered to this country when the previous Government increased the number of senators but. neglected to play the game by providing that all honorable senators should face the electors. Fifteen Labour senators, compared with, three Opposition members* did not face the electors. In spite of the fact that the people of this country gave the Liberal and Australian Country parties a mandate to govern, they are in the hands of the Opposition through that device of the Labour Government. I hope honorable senators on the other side will not apply the flattering unction to their souls that they were elected by the majority of the people. Every time they reject the legislation brought forward by this Government, they deny that the people gave a mandate to the Prime Minister to govern this country. I do not make this statement by way of a threat. I make it knowing fully my responsibility and the importance of that statement.
Honorable senators are familiar with the tactics of the ‘Communists. They know that in spite of all that the former Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) did they destroyed him and his Government. The Government now in power will not allow that to happen to it. I ask honorable senators opposite to help the Government. Honorable senators rise in this chamber and ask for coal, potatoes from Tasmania for Sydney and supplies for Western Australia. These problems will never be solved until the country is rid of the Communists. I have taken time to give honorable senators information on the increase of costs and the task of putting value back into the £1, and how it cannot be done unless some of these Communists are put into the “ pound “. I want to tell honorable senators something about tactics such as the darg, or the limitation of the day’s output. It is a sad and miserable story of people who are anxious to destroy our way of life.
– Tell us what started the darg.
– I am not concerned with the past, but with the effect on the future. A Labour government has had control in New South Wales and another Labour government held the power in this Parliament for many years. Those governments gave the miners and the waterside workers a fair deal. I will not misrepresent the position. The Communists do not comprise more than 1 per cent, of the unionists; but they have sufficient power to destroy the value of unionism. They are taking advantage of the unions at this time when Australia is short of men and goods. I quote the following newspaper report : -
Lithgow. - Miners at the State Coal Mines suspended for two weeks a miner who allegedly exceeded a darg - an output limit imposed by the union. This means that no miners will work with the man for the period of suspension. If the mine management tries to give him work, other miners will strike . . . The Lodge ruled that men working in these sections should fill six skips to water level every shift. The suspended man allegedly filled his six skips above water level . . .
A report has been received that where mechanical loaders have been installed at a cost of £11,000, and are capable of loading 350 tons per shift, the miners have -fixed the darg at 180 tons.
Mechanization in the Steel Industry’s Collieries - There has been a change from all handwinning methods in the mines of the Broken Hill Company Proprietary Limited in 1934 to 78 per cent, mechanical winning in 1949, coupled with an increase of 100 per cent, in output capacity.
That company has spent £4,750,000 since 1934 to try to improve the output of the mines by mechanical devices. These traitors destroyed that effort so that pro- duction in ten years with 2,000 more men has dropped by 1,000,000 tons of coal. This country will not tolerate that. The Chairman of the Central Coal Reference Board, Mr. E. Gallagher, is reported to have described the strike by South Maitland deputies as utterly wanton and irresponsible. Mr. Gallagher was appointed by the Chifley Government.
– And it was a good appointment.
– I am pleased to hear Senator Ashley say it was a good appointment. Mr. Gallagher is reported to have said when commenting on the strike of the South Maitland deputies : -
I do not think it is right that the community should allow such a state of affairs to continue without taking some action to punish wrongdoers. It may not result in coal being produced at the pits, but at least it should result in the people who are responsible for this utterly wanton strike being’ visited with the punishment they so richly deserve.
What is the latest challenge from the central council of the miners’ federation, the governing body of the union? The Daily Telegraph of the 8th February, 1950 stated-
The Miners’ Federation Central Council decided not to co-operate with the Federal
Government in the coal industry. It condemned the Federal Government’s proposals to ban the Communist party and called on the Government to recognize the Chinese Communist Government.
I will conclude ‘by making this appeal after a tour of those districts and meeting those interested, and after 37 years in the public and business life of this country as an employee and an employer. I appeal to all sections interested to get together. I ask them to substitute peace, cooperation and goodwill for the present class hatred, chaos, confusion, communism and civil war in industry. If this country can be rid of this “ red “ menace, there is some hope for it. Australia has a great heritage. Only the surface has been scratched in this great country with its population of 8,000,000 people. I believe that Australia is destined to play a great part; it can become the cornerstone of the British Empire. Close to our shores there are millions of people whose way of life is different from ours. Australians should realize that their country can be the great outpost of the white race and of the English-speaking people. If honorable senators opposite will co-operate in 1950 in attacking the problems before this Parliament, before 1951 the shipping, coal and housing difficulties will be solved and the country will be more prosperous. “Why should Australians not be a happy, peaceful, contented, co-operative people in one of the greatest countries the world knows ? They should thank the Almighty for tha heritage they enjoy and honorable members of this Parliament should be worthy of it.
– In speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply, I wish to congratulate the GovernorGeneral on the efficient and dignified way in which he presented the policy of the new Government to the Senate. I was pleased indeed to see the reference to the occasion in a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, which gave the GovernorGeneral his correct title of “His Excellency the Governor-General “. That was in direct contrast with the attitude of the press on the opening of the second session of the- previous Parliament, when a newspaper displayed ignorance with the headline, “ McKell opens Parliament “.
I was rather surprised when I heard one of the honorable senators opposite argue that an expression of loyalty on this side of the House was less sincere than th on the Government side. To demonstrate, I refer to a similar speech made in September, 1948, when the loyalty of th’: government of the day was expressed with a declaration that the nation would welcome affectionately the proposed visit of Their Majesties to Australia. Reference was made to recognition of the importance to Australia and, indeed, to all parts of the world of the efforts by the United Kingdom to overcome the economic and financial problems besetting it. An announcement was made that the Labour Government proposed to give £10,000,000 to the Government of the United Kingdom and legislation to give effect to that proposal was introduced. I consider that such a practical expression of loyalty is much more effective than lip service and that the claim that was made by honorable senators on this side of the chamber that their ‘ loyalty was more than skin deep had substance.
The reference in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to the formation of the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs was of great interest to me, but the subject has been well canvassed by previous speakers. I am quite certain that an exchange of views and co-operation be”tween both sides of the chamber will materially assist in solving the enormous problems that beset Australia, isolated in the Pacific away from the heart of the British Commonwealth and the Western democracies, and having for its nearest neighbours a vast number of people with whom it is essential to co-operate. I hope that the standing committee on foreign affairs will go into the matter on a sound basis. The politics of our near neighbours can be crystallized into one word - food. Our northern neighbours have for generations been underprivileged and exploited by some of the countries now known as the Western democracies ‘and by our own aristocrats. They have a legacy of bitterness and of deep hatred - not against the British people or the white races, but against the systems that perpetuated their poverty and hunger. I hope that the standing committee will bear in mind the very important point that we shall not achieve co-operation with these peoples by standover tactics. We are faced with the choice of co-operation or annihilation. We are a small nation of 8,000,000 people isolated in the Pacific, with the teeming millions of Asia nearby, and we must embark upon a policy of very close co-operation with those peoples. We must understand their aspirations and their needs and offer them what technical and practical assistance is within our power. I hope that those points will be borne very closely in mind in the formulation of our foreign policy, as is intended, on the advice to be given by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.
The expressions of loyalty that have come from the Government side during this debate could possibly have been given more concrete form on the occasion on which one of the Ministers of the Government which honorable senators opposite support, ,set a very sad example by refusing to pay to His Majesty’s representative in Australia the respect that is his due. I refer to the Minister for Defence (Mr. Eric J. Harrison), who is to go to London to represent Australia as resident Minister. He is the Minister in charge of the Australian defence forces, of which the Governor-General is CommanderinChief. In his position the Minister should have given a much better example to the officers under him in the departments and in the services that he administers. The Australian Military Regulations and Orders include provisions for the imposition , of heavy penalties on members of the services under the jurisdiction of this Minister, for conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline. Yet here we have this man who is going abroad to represent Australia, and should show qualities of tolerance and political impartiality, setting an example such as I have described. I thought that somewhere we could obtain a bigger man than he is to occupy the position of Australian resident Minister in London, and I consider that I am right in drawing attention to this example of bad taste, bad manners and complete disregard of his duty as a responsible Minister of the Crown to show respect to that Crown.
The Crown is the symbol to which we have been paying our respects and expressing our loyalty. However, I consider that, having given expression to my opinion on that matter, I can now pass on.
At this stage I should like to congratulate some of the new senators as well as some of the old senators for the contributions that they have made to this debate. I refer particularly to Senator Willesee, a young senator from Western Australia, and to Senator Ryan, a new senator from South Australia, who made very valuable and eloquent contributions to this debate. I should like also to express my deep appreciation of the magnificent sentiments that were expressed by Senator Collings. It was a great joy to me to know that a man of his calibre, who has spent a lifetime in the hurly-burly of politics, can, in the evening of his life, still hold on to his ideals about the finer things that we can strive for regardless of our disadvantages and disabilities. It was very refreshing to hear such thoughts expressed, and I am certain that honorable senators on this side of the chamber were glad to hear them expressed in such an able manner.
The Governor-General referred in his Speech to the Government’s concern about the increases that have occurred in the cost of living. Other honorable senators have already spoken on this matter and I shall add my comments to what they have had. to say. During the campaign that preceded the holding of the prices referendum in 1947 I took an active part in trying to educate, or at least to advise, the people of Tasmania and of other States of the difficulties and disabilities that they would face if the Government’s referendum proposals in relation to prices control were defeated. I even went to the trouble of publishing pamphlets at my own expense warning the people. I put the f ollowing proposition to them : -
What is this referendum for ? To keep prices down.
I asked them also, “ Do you want to risk your savings, your earnings or your war gratuity?” The point that I am making is that value of savings and war gratuities has depreciated as a result of a deliberate act, for political purposes, of the people now sitting on the -Government benches. They admitted that prices control was necessary, but in order to deprive the Chifley Government of one point in the political battle they were prepared to take away from it the ability to maintain stable prices in Australia.
– The people did that.
– They were advised to defeat the referendum by the present Government’s instruments of misinformation, by the radio and by every possible means of conditioning minds. It has been the prerogative over the last century of the people whom honorable senators on the Government side represent in this Parliament to condition the minds of the young, the middle aged and the old through the instruments that they control. There is a vested interest in the perpetuation of ignorance. Keep the people ill informed, condition them, and it is possible to lead them along like Goebbels did.
– The people heard both sides of the question.
– They did not hear both sides.
– The honorable senator issued pamphlets and so did his party.
– I spent £75 on the campaign. The fact is that the public was not informed of the real dangers that were ahead and I shall throw it back in the teeth of honorable senators opposite that in assisting to defeat the referendum proposals they have assisted - and this is an important point - in hastening the return of the unresolved crisis that existed in 1939 when we went into World War II. The crisis of 1929 was only partly resolved. It was still in existence in 1939. War production eased it and covered it over, and it was temporarily suspended, but the present inflationary tendency and the enormous and frightening rise of prices, are accelerating the return of that unresolved crisis that existed at the outbreak of the last war. We asked the people just a simple question to which they could give a simple answer, but the complications that were introduced into the issue for poli tical propaganda purposes, confused the minds of those conditioned people. An oft-quoted saying is “When in doubt say ‘ no ‘ “, and that was the principle upon which the people acted when they defeated the Government’s referendum proposals. We gave the people the example of what happened in the United States after abandonment of prices controls. Prices in the United States increased by 20 per cent, after that abandonment, but a more interesting fact is that profits increased by 60 per cent. Anyone who studies the pages of the daily press will find that profits have increased in practically every organization that publishes details of its activities. The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport said to-night that the previous Government had been spineless in its handling of industrial workers in Australia. But in America, the country that we are evidently approaching for assistance, we find that after three years of witch-hunting and of un-American activities committees, they have the same industrial troubles as we have. The claims made by those workers were just, and President Truman granted them. We did not hear the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport describe President Truman as spineless; but for ‘party political purposes he levelled that charge against the Opposition. One of the worst features of the process that is developing in this country is that it is likely to reproduce the conditions that we experienced after World War I. Ex-servicemen of that war, upon their return to Australia, went on the land, established businesses and built homes and undertook all sorts of commitments requisite to their rehabilitation as civilians ; but they were deprived of their possessions as the result of the slump that followed soon afterwards. I believe that a similar process was commenced by the defeat of the referendum on prices control that was held in 1947. We do not know when we shall reach the bottom of the slump. However, the responsibility for that state of affairs must be laid at the door of the present Government parties. They are to blame for the present spiralling of costs which the people had hoped they would not experience again after the recent war when they had every right to expect stability following the victory to which they contributed so much. However, we are again witnessing the same old cycle of boom and bust. It has been well said that those who uphold the capitalist system under which the democracies live have had 100 years to make it work. However, the facts prove conclusively that that system creates” cycles of boom, depression and war. Yet the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport asked, in effect, “ Why cannot the Government get some co-operation from the workers in this country? Why do they not come behind the Government ?” The answer is that the workers have no confidence in the system that the Government parties are trying to perpetuate. It has been said that we are witnessing the twilight of an epoch which is in its death struggle, and that the world is awaiting the birth of a new system. I am convinced of the truth of that observation, ,1.t is the real reason why the Government cannot win the co-operation of workers who believe that the system that it upholds has outlived its usefulness. Senator McCallum said that he believed that we had arrived at a point in human progress when one of the great watersheds in human history appears, and that those who go on saying that the fundamental thing to-day is to protect the ordinary man against the monopolist in business and the entrepreneur, are living in an age that is finished. Although I have different reasons for doing so, I believe that that is a profound truth. The honorable senator said -
We, who believe in using the State to protect the small man against the big man, should be very careful that we do not erect a Frankenstein monster that will destroy us.
Yet, Senator Maher had no hesitation in calling upon the Government to develop coal mines in Queensland. He asked for all kinds of assistance from this Government. Private enterprise never refuses Government assistance in the form of subsidies or tariff protection. Honorable senators opposite claim that the interests of private enterprise must be protected. But what about the individual ? Must we not protect his property and the individual as a human entity against exploitation? The individual is entitled to the same protection as the businessman and the privileged person have always held to be their prerogative. A position is now developing in this country similar to that which exists in the United States of America. I quote the following from a report that was published recently in a Tasmanian newspaper -
New York. - Unemployment in America is now believed to bc about 5,000,000 or maybe more. Latest total available, for January, was 4,800,000, an increase of 1,000,000 in a month. That was the highest total since the war ended.
The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport spoke about getting in the dollars. I remind him that there is overproduction in America and that in that country 5,000,000 workers are unemployed whilst another 8,000,000 are only partly employed. As long as prices keep rising, can the American economy absorb that workless army? Are we to open our doors to America’s surplus production? Those who helped in that production have been relegated to the industrial scrapheap. Are we to allow similar conditions to arise in industry in Australia ?
The Government claims that it has been given an overwhelming majority to govern this country. I remind honorable senators opposite that the Opposition also has a mandate to represent the minority. At the recent election the Opposition party candidates polled 49.8 per cent, of the total votes. Therefore, the grand majority that Government supporters claim is shown to be only .2 of 1 per cent, of the total number of people who voted at the recent general election.
I come now to the subject of petrol. According to a report issued by those who conducted a Gallup poll on the subject, of the 8 .per cent, of people who said before the last election that they would change their support from the Labour party to the Liberal party, six out of ten declared that they had considered petrol rationing when deciding how to vote. In answer to repeated questions, we have been able to wheedle out of the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport that the oil companies have sufficient stocks to supply all needs, and he declares that it has not been necessary to call upon defence reserves. This proves that the shortage of petrol in Australia was a gigantic political swindle perpetrated by the oil companies in order to put the Labour Government out of office. Events have proved that conclusively.
-It is a true one. Events associated with the derationing of petrol have proved that the patriotism of honorable senators opposite is only skin-deep. They were prepared to repudiate an honorable agreement entered into by the Dominion Prime Ministers in England regarding the allocation of dollars throughout the Empire. The fact that honorable senators opposite were prepared to break that agreement shows that they will go anywhere that the going is good, and that they are prepared to weaken the links that bind the British Commonwealth if they can thereby gain political advantage and profit.
Recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) raised the immigration policy of the last Government as administered by the then Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell). Mr. Menzies said - “There is one thing upon which we can all agree,” he said. “I can say this on behalf of my own colleagues in the present Government - and that is, that the attack made upon the problem of immigration in this country under Mr.Chifley and Mr. Calwell deserves the deep gratitude and warm praise of every Australian.”
Discussing the same subject, Mr. Chifley said -
We in this country were fortunate enough to escape, in the main, the great suffering and privation that was endured by millions of people in Europe during the war.
I enjoin you to show to these people the utmost kindness and to prove to them that we are anxious to absorb them as citizens of this Australia. My remarks apply equally with relation to migrants from the Old Country.
In the Speech of the Governor-General, the following passage occurs: -
Administration will be so carried out as to avoid as far as possible the aggregation of alien migrants into groups or colonies. It is believed that a proper distribution of such migrants will accelerate their assimilation into our community and will make it easier for them to accommodate themselves to Australian industrial and social standards. My advisers attach greatimportance to this matter, because they feel that new arrivals should be encouraged to regard themselves as Australians in the full sense and to realize that our community is delighted to receive them as fellow citizens.
The statement which I am now about to quote I regard as an example of the insincerity of members of the parties that support the Government. The article was written just before the general election and, under the heading, “Mowbray angry over camp “, the following statement appears: -
Intense feeling had been aroused by the Federal Government’s proposal to establish a camp for European migrants at Mowbray, Mr. Bruce Kekwick said in Launceston yesterday.
Mr. Kekwick, who is a Liberal candidate for Bass, said that at the request of a resident he organized a five-man team to conduct a poll of householders, who were asked two questions -
Are you in favour of a migrants’ camp being established at Mowbray?
If a public protest meeting were called, would you attend?
Mr. Kekwick said he and his assistants visited 200 homes, at 42 of which no one was at home.
I might say that the assistants were bank clerks. The statement continues -
Of the 158 interviewed, 154 answered the first question “No “, three people had no decided view, and one woman was in favour. All except one indicated that the household would be represented at any protest meeting.
Mr. Kekwick said people’s comments varied from disappointment and disgust to anger at the Federal Government’s “ high-handed action in foisting the scheme upon them “. “ Two residents said they would sell their homes rather than suffer the depreciation in value which proximity of such a camp would undoubtedly bring “, he said. “ The scheme is typical of the dictatorial attitude of the Federal Government”, Mr. Kekwick said. “ In view of the assurance given by the Minister for Immigration (Mr. Calwell) that city areas would not be used for European migrants’ camps, I feel the people of Mowbray have been stabbed in the back. The stealthy manner in which the residents of Mowbray were presented with a fait accompli was a complete violation of our democratic principles “, he added.
That is getting down to a pretty low level. I challenged the man who made that statement and condemned his attitude towards New Australians. I was pretty savagely dealt with by the local press, but I knew that time would demonstrate the stupidity of his statements. He did a grave disservice to his own party, as well as to those whom it is our duty to welcome to our shores. European immigrants can confer many benefits on Australia. They can bring with them their culture from Europe, the seat of culture. I commend the Government for continuing to assist these unfortunate people, who suffered so much in their own countries from reactionary dictatorships. Here they will bc able to rehabilitate themselves, and help to develop Australia.
The world to-day is passing through a grave crisis. Two powerful world groups stand opposed to each other under the shadow of the hydrogen bomb. The warmongers and sabre rattlers have their support everywhere, even in this Parliament, a fact which fills me with sorrow and disgust. I was in Europe during the war years and I saw the horrors of total war. In the early stages, I was at the “giving” end, but later, I was at the “ receiving “ end, and I know what ordinary high explosive bombs and “ blockbusters “ can do. Yet to-day, we find people who are quite unconcerned about the present drift towards a third world war. The manner in which the western democracies solve the present crisis will determine whether we are to have a third world war, or whether fundamental social changes are to be accepted. If we are to follow the pattern of selfish economic nationalism, ann am ents races, and war-like foreign policies, there is no hope for mankind. But man is resilient; there is hope for him if he can unite in a. common purpose and seek a common destiny. In our present state of society which fosters selfishness and other baser instincts, we have the seeds of an international conflict that may lead to oblivion. Our only hope is through co-operation. Thu under-privileged people of the world must be given a real opportunity to enjoy the four freedoms about which we heard so much until comparatively recently. Standards of living must be raised, and, in accordance with the terms of the Atlantic Charter, all peoples of the world must have the right of self-determination, and must be given access to the raw materials that are so necessary to their existence. If we are to perpetuate the present system which gives free play to local greed, national greed and international greed, there is no hope for us. Hope does not lie along the line that is followed by the present Government in this country, its political counterpart in the United States of America, and the Opposition in the British Parliament. If these people have the interest of the western democracies at heart they will realize that their system is wrong, and that we must devote all our endeavours to bringing about a new state of society that will hold out some inducement to mankind.
Again I congratulate honorable senators on both sides of the House who, although new to this chamber, have made such splendid contributions to this debate^ on the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. In conclusion, I say as the Leader of the Opposition has said, that if this Government can succeed in. maintaining in this country the level of prosperity that was achieved by the Labour administration, it will be doing remarkably well indeed. To-day, there is full employment throughout the Commonwealth, and continuing industrial development. I warn the Government, however, that if it permits a recurrence of what happened in pre-war days when our young manhood was denied, not only the right to work, but also, in some instances, the right to eat, its responsibility will be grave indeed. I can only hope that the Government’s efforts to avoid falling into the errors of pre-war days will be successful.
– I congratulate new members of this chamber upon the subject-matter that they have chosen for their contributions to this debate. Many honorable senators on both sides of the chamber give promise of being distinct acquisitions to the debating strength of the Senate. The standard of this debate has been high indeed. I also Congratulate some of the more experienced senators, particularly Senator O’Byrne, upon their thoughtful speeches. I believe that praise should be given where it is due, and I have no hesitation in saying that the tone of this debate has been exceedingly high.
I am prompted to speak to-night mainly because of my desire to help the Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) as much as I possibly can. Last week, the honorable senator asked me for some help on. the coal production problem, and I intend to make a few suggestions on that subject to-night. I trust that the Minister will take notice of what I say and that my remarks will be of use to him. As the result of the increased number of senators, this chamber is a much more interesting assembly, and I am sure that its proceedings will be conducted on an even higher level than they have been in the past. On both sides of the chamber, there are keen debaters who will be able to test thoroughly the arguments of their opponents. My mind goes back to the last Parliament when there were only three Opposition senators in this chamber. Those three did an excellent job, but naturally they were overwhelmed. The Government decided that the voting system for the Senate was unfair, and I believe that the then Opposition members agreed with that contention. Therefore, the system was changed and that alteration, together with the decision to increase the size of the Senate, have resulted in a much better balanced assembly. At present the Labour party, which is in Opposition, has a majority in this chamber. I recall that, in the la9t Parliament, the three non-Labour senators who then constituted the Opposition, constantly reproached us, stating that we we’re not prepared to accept reasonable amendments and that we were dogmatic and determined to force the passage of legislation with the least possible delay. The political wheel of fortune has since turned, and the Opposition parties in the last parliament have now become the Government. I take this opportunity to remind them of their repeated assertions that a government should give proper consideration to amendments proposed by Opposition senators. The present Government should not be dogmatic with its legislation, but must be prepared to listen to argument and reason. We members of the Opposition believe that we act in the best interest of the Australian people, just as honorable senators opposite believe that they act in the best interest of the Australian people, and we also consider that our responsibility to electors is no less than is the responsibility of honorable senators opposite. We are proud of Australia, and of the people who inhabit it, and we are determined that this country shall become a great nation. We are equally determined, whether we be the Government or the Opposition, to fight for the policy which we believe to be best suited to the interests of the Australian people. If that policy is challenged- by the present Government, members of the Opposition in this chamber will fight to retain it, believing that in doing so we shall be acting in the best interests of the people.
Having stated our intentions, I ask honorable senators opposite to remember that this chamber has its place in its bicameral system, and becomes a chamber in which legislation will be thoroughly considered and adjudged. If the Opposition feels that a bill can be amended with advantage, the Government should be prepared to accept the constructive proposal. It should not be thought that, because we disagree with the Government on any matter, we are being merely obstructive, or that if we agree to measures, we are timid. I make that position plain, because some honorable senators opposite have indicated their readiness to accuse us of obstructiveness or timidity. Our attitude may be described as a determination to ensure that this Government’s legislation shall be all that we desire it to be. Earlier, the Minister emphasized the need for co-operation between the Government and the Opposition. I remind him that co-operation must not be one-sided. If the Government accepts the advice that I have given, we in this chamber will do a most useful job for Australia.
The Government’s prospectus is, of course, the Governor-General’s Speech. Parts of the legislative programme that has been foreshadowed have been portrayed in a rosy light, but the details are not clear. I realize that we should not be critical on that score before we have had an opportunity to examine the bills that will be introduced to give effect to the policy forecast in His Excellency’s Speech. I propose to refer to the Government’s avowed intention to ban the Communist party. At the outset, may I say that I do not want the Minister to accuse me of being a supporter of the Communist party, or to believe that any person who disagrees with his views should automatically be labelled a Communist and shut away from his fellow men. The proposal to ban the Communist party requires careful consideration. It is easy to say before an election, “ We shall ban the Communists because the organization known as the Communist party is engaged in subversive activities “. But I warn the Government that the Communist party will not automatically disappear when it is declared an illegal organization. If any honorable senators opposite differ from that opinion, they are either hiding their heads in the sand, or they have no knowledge of history. Only a few weeks ago, a Sydney Communist, .Thornton, said that if he were displaced from his position in a certain union, there would be 100 others to fill the vacancy. The Government proposes to debar known Communists from holding positions in trade unions, and it hopes, by that means, that the Communists will disappear from industry. The Government appears to be under the illusion that the Communists have only to be hidden from sight in order to be rendered ineffective. The mere handful of Communists that have become prominent in trade union circles may be prevented from holding office in those organizations, but that action alone will not solve the problem of communism. The Government should be aware that the number of known Communists in Australia is between 15,000 and 16,000, and that in addition, many, other people who are not members of the party are attracted to the Communist philosophy. Those adherents exist in every stratum of society, and they will not disappear if the Communist party is declared an illegal organization. In Russia, where communism first gained power, the organization had been banned by the Czarist Government. Mussolini tried to destroy the Communist party in Italy, but as soon as he fell from power, the Communist party came into the open, 2,000,000 strong. The Communists were: banned for years in Czechoslovakia, Roumania and Hungary, but they have since gained control of the government in those countries. In Australia during the last three years, the Labour Government and the unions took certain action against the Communists that was causing them slowly to disappear from the community. There will always be a section of the people who will be radical in thought, whether they be Communists, I.W.W.’s, Bolsheviks or supporters of some other ideology. Provided we can fight the Communists in the open and make social conditions in this country so attractive that the workers will be able to lead a secure and comfortable existence, I have no fear that the Communists will ever gain substantial support in Australia. However, I shall not labour that point to-night.
The Government proposes to appoint a joint committee on foreign affairs. That committee may function quite satisfactorily, and I shall not attempt to prejudge it. However, I suggest that the Government should consider the advisability of appointing a joint committee for the national development of Australia. Unfortunately there is no continuity in national planning. One government may embark on developmental plans, but its successor may disapprove of them, and perhaps abandon them. Thus, valuable time is lost, and Australia’s progress is retarded. I believe that there could be agreement by all parties on developmental plans.
Honorable senators opposite have talked of decentralization. What is being done to achieve that desirable objective? The Government has appointed the right honorable member for Latrobe as Minister for National Development, but I suggest that national development should be the subject of a continuing policy. I believe that a longterm plan should be prepared and that it should be the subject of agreement between all political parties. I think my suggestion is feasible and I offer it to the Government for consideration.
I have been told that from time to time many persons come to this country from Europe who have small sums of money and who desire to establish themselves in business, but that on arrival here they do not know what to do or where to go. They are prepared to go to any place in Australia where they can invest their capital and make a living, but there is nobody to help them to make a decision. There is no scheme under which they could be advised to go, for instance, to a country town. The result is that they settle in Sydney or Melbourne, where perhaps they have one or two friends. Consequently the populations of Sydney and Melbourne are swollen, to the detriment of decentralization plans and to the disadvantage of Australia as a whole.
The Minister for Fuel, Shipping and Transport said to-night that he considered it to be wrong for a member of the Senate also to be a. member of the Australian Shipbuilding Board. I am happy to accept that view, but the Minister should at least have taken the trouble to inform his mind of the facts before he made a statement to which I take exception. I have acted as the deputy chairman of the Australian Shipbuilding Board for a considerable time. Towards the end of last year the chairman of the board was taken ill and was unable to perform his duties. Despite the fact that I am the only member of the board who acts in an honorary capacity, I considered it to be my duty, in the absence of the chairman, to act as chairman until another person was appointed by the Government to that position. I acted in the belief that I was co-operating with the new Government, and I carried on despite the fact that I would have been pleased to have somebody take my place. I did that in the interests of the board, of the Government and of co-operation. Unfortunately, the Minister, instead of accepting my services in the spirit in which they were given, has said to-night that they are not valued by the Government and that I should not occupy the position. I say to the Minister that I shall be happy to tender my resignation as soon as he is able to replace me. In the meantime I shall do my best to ensure the success of the job that the board is trying to do for Australia. I ask for leave to continuemy remarks.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator O’Sullivan ) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
. -On the 16th and the 21st of this month
I addressed questions to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In the replies that were given it was suggested that the questions were not designed to seek information and that I had an ulterior motive in asking them. In June of last year the High Court ruled that the regulations under which petrol rationing was being administered were invalid. Mr. Chifley, who was then Prime Minister, called a meeting of representatives of oil companies and requested them to co-operate with the Government by distributing petrol to retailers on the same basis as that on which it had been distributed under the rationing system. The representatives of the oil companies promised that they would do so, but almost immediately the companies began to sell large quantities of petrol in 44-gallon drums. Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited was the greatest offender. AsI had been told that that company was controlled by the Commonwealth, I thought it peculiar that the management should have been permitted to do such an outrageous thing. I addressed a question to the Prime Minister, but the Parliament was dissolved before he could reply to it. On the 30th November of last year the right honorable gentleman addressed the following letter to me : -
I refer to the questions which towards the close of the last Parliamentary Session you asked the Minister representing the Treasurer concerning the Commonwealth’s interests in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd.
The questions were: -
How many shares does the Common wealth Government own in the Company known as the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd?
How many shares do private com panies and private individuals own in the Commonwealth Oil Refineries?
How many directors representing the Commonwealth Government are on the directorate of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries?
How many directors representing private companies and private persons are on the directorate of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries?
Is it a fact that directors represent ing private companies and private individuals have the major control over the activities of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries?
If the answer to (5) is in the affirmative
how does this come about;
which Government madesuch arrangement ; and
will this Government take action immediately to alter such a position by a reorganization to provide that the Commonwealth Government will have a majority of directors on the Board of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries in accordance with the number of shares held?
Mr. Chifley thensaid ;
Out of a total issued capital of 850,000 ?1 shares, the Commonwealth holds a major interest of 425,001 shares. The remaining 424,999 shares are held by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company Ltd. or its nominees.
Under the articles of association of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Ltd., the Commonwealth has the right to appoint only three directors, the remaining four directors being appointed by the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. Ltd. The articles are drawn in accordance with the provisions of an agreement made between the Commonwealth and the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. Ltd. by the Hughes Government in 1920,and ratified by the Oil Agreement Act of that year.
The position, therefore, is that, although the Commonwealth holds a majority of the shares in the Company, it has only a minority representation on the Board of Directors, which is the body having control over the day-to-day affairs of the Company. This arrangement is not acceptable to the present Government, which has been negotiating with Anglo-Iranian Oil. Co. Ltd. fora variation of the existing agreement so that the Commonwealth shall have proper representation on C.O.R.’s Board.
I took action immediately I learned of this state of affairs, because I do not believe that ?425,001 of public money should he invested in. a company the activities of which are controlled by private enterprise. I believe that the authority that owns a majority of the shares of a company shouldbe empowered to appoint a majority of the directors.I asked my questions on the 16th and the 19th March in good faith. I had no alternative but to ask, in the interests of the people, that this outrageous agreement be amended so that justice could be done. I was surprised by the replies of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan). I assure him that my sole desire was to endeavour to correct an anomalous position. I trust that the Government will take notice of my re marks and endeavour to correct matters. No private company should have the right to use ?425,001 of the people’s money for its own benefit as opposed to the interests of the Government, as this company did during June and July of last year. During that period the company ignored the wishes of the Government and sold 44-gallon drums of petrol in unlimited numbers, thereby causing a run on the petrol stocks of this country.
. - in reply - In my two earlier replies to the honorable senator I gave him information that I was not obliged to furnish. As the honorable senator again appears to desire to give information and not to seek it, I draw his attention to one of the rules laid down for the guidance of honorable senators in asking questions. It reads as follows: -
The purpose of a question is to obtain and not to supply information.
I again point out to the honorable senator that the terms of the agreement about which he has so vociferously complained are precisely the same as those which have operated for a number of years. If they are iniquitous now they were just as iniquitous during the eight years when the party of which the honorable senator is a member exercised practically unfettered authority to negotiate for their alteration. The matter of the alteration of the articles of association of a company - and again I make a special concession for the benefit of the honorable senator, because I am not obliged to answer questions oflaw - is regulated by the Companies Act. In most of the States the law governing the alteration of the articles of association of a company requires that a three-quarters majority of the shareholders present at the meeting of a company shall vote in favour of the alteration. If there is any iniquity in the present agreement, or in the articles of association of the company, and I do not admit that there is, that state of affairs was tolerated and acquiesced in by the Labour Government during the eight years in which it was in office.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act- Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. - 1950 -
No.5 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
No.6 - Repatriation Department Medical Officers’ Association.
No. 7 - Professional Officers’ Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 8- Association of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors and Draughtsmen of Australia.
Commonwealth Public Service Act- Appointments - Department -
Commerce and Agriculture - N.G. Brown, E. J. Pinner.
Social Services - E. C. Cannon,K. B. Crisp.
Works and Housing - K. J. Dalgarno.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, No. 10.
Wool Use Promotion Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1950, Nos. 6, 9.
Senate adjourned at11.24 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 March 1950, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1950/19500322_senate_19_206/>.